We believe that the Bible Old and New Testaments are the inspired word of God for his people. The Bible is our source for teaching and preaching. Jesus, God’s only Son, we believe to be the Word of God in person. Jesus’ teachings and interpretations are our final and best authority. While the Bible is holy to us, we do not worship it. The Bible is the means God uses to give, bring us to faith and speak to his people. We also believe that the Holy Spirit continues to “lead us into all truth” and to help us interpret the spirit of ancient teachings for our times.
The Holy Scriptures
God and Creation
We believe that God is the creator of all that exists. The account of creation in the first book of the Bible reveals important truths about the nature of that creation and how God relates to us, but is not necessarily intended as science. Though members are free to hold creationist views, such views are not taught as essential to saving faith.
The very first sin recorded in the Bible was human beings wanting to be “god:” to be independent from God and each other. Such a desire is the ultimate definition of sin. Jesus came to bring us back into a proper, interdependent relationship with God and our neighbors. What he described as the “kingdom of God.” Through our Baptism and simple trusting faith, we are made part of that kingdom now. Inspired and powered by the Holy Spirit we can offer glimpses of that coming age of forgiveness, healing, justice, and peace. Someday, we are promised, Christ will bring that kingdom to full reality. In the meantime, we live as signs and ambassadors of that kingdom.
Human Beings and Sin
The “gospel” or “good tidings” is God’s message to the world, delivered by Jesus Christ. You are loved, Jesus proclaims, turn from selfishness and sin to me. Jesus teaches in Mark 16:16, “The one who believes (trusts) and is Baptized, shall be saved.” Our salvation, or place in God’s good graces now and forever, doesn’t come from anything we do. We are saved by being joined to Jesus death and resurrection in Baptism, and by a simple trusting faith in that promise. That’s why the church’s message is “good tidings.” It’s not about how good you’ve been, but how good God is!
Gospel and Salvation
As stated above Holy Baptism is being joined to Christ’s death and resurrection through water and promise. It is not accepting God, but God accepting us. Like parents taking their newborn home from the hospital, God chooses us (no matter what age) to be his children and then takes us to his “house” (the church) to care for us, feed us, and teach us. That is why we baptize infants – it is God’s choice, not ours. Of course, just like any parent, the Heavenly Father hopes that someday we will return that love and choose to stay close to him. We Lutherans believe God initiates the relationship. It depends on God’s faithfulness not ours – that’s good news!
What we often call Holy Communion is our obedience to Jesus’ command that his disciples break bread and share the wine whenever they come together to worship. Jesus took the Passover meal on the night before he was crucified and transformed it into a New Covenant (agreement). He would pay the price of our sins. (If you don’t think humanity has sins worthy of the death penalty just turn on the evening news). Jesus would pay that price once and for all on the cross. That means ANYONE can turn to him in simple trust, be baptized and have a totally restored relationship to God. The Lord’s Supper is a physical reminder of that new covenant or reality. Jesus also promises that he is truly present in the bread and wine we share in his name. Thus, Lutherans believe in the real and powerful presence of Christ in his supper. We take him at his word when he promises, “this is my body . . . this is my blood.”
Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice for sins, all who turn to God for forgiveness are forgiven. A new way of living is to follow confessions, for to confess is to express a desire to live with and for God now. When a Christian confesses it is like pushing a spiritual “reset” button. Christ gave his church the authority to forgive sins and we believe that when the pastor declares our forgiveness, all our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.
Confession and Absolution
As Jesus clearly teaches, “No one knows the day or the hour (of the end of the world) neither the angels in heaven, nor the son (Jesus), but the Father only.” So, Lutherans do not try to speculate or read the signs of his second coming. We simply trust that through our Baptism and simple trust we are saved and have nothing to fear at the end of time. In fact, we welcome it!
The End Times
Martin Luther was a Catholic priest and monk who lived in the early part of the 16th Century. As he studied his Bible he realized that the Catholic Church of his time was not preaching the gospel. They were depending on their good works rather than faith in Christ for salvation. (Sadly, many have fallen back into that way of thinking.) Martin Luther, and like-minded Christians, sought to return to gospel message of the Bible. When his reforms were not accepted by the Roman Catholic Church, Luther had to form his own church. By the way, he was very upset with the name “Luther-an.” He felt that the church should only bear the name of its Lord, Jesus Christ.