The central belief of the Lutheran Church is that God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to die and rise for the forgiveness of our sins. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” By believing in Jesus Christ, you will live with God in heaven for all eternity.
Our church also believes, teaches and confesses the following:
The Bible is God’s inspired Word. It contains no errors and is the only source for all Christian teachings and beliefs – not the human heart, tradition, other religious books or teachers. The purpose of the Scriptures is to testify that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
We believe the Bible contains 66 books and do not regard the extra books added to some Bibles (“The Apocrypha”) to be inspired.
The Bible testifies to the existence of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (three distinct persons as one divine being). We subscribe to the explanation of the Trinity as expressed in the three historic creeds of the Christian faith – Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian.
We believe that God created the heavens and the earth in just six days. These days are not symbolic of millions or billions of years. They are literally six days.
We hold that man and woman are unique creatures originally created in the image of God. They are not products of an evolutionary process that occurred by chance.
The devil appeared in the Garden of Eden in the form of a serpent. He tempted the man and woman to break God’s Law and sin. Of their own free will, they gave into the devil’s temptation and sin entered God’s creation and the heart of man.
Sin and Death
The Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden led to the corruption of our human nature. This corruption caused Adam to lose “free will” in spiritual matters. After the fall, his will became enslaved or bonded to sin. He lost the ability to perfectly do God’s will and was no longer capable of choosing to love anyone except himself. In addition, death became a new reality for man and everything else in creation (Rom 5:12). Prior to the fall, there was no death.
The sin introduced by Adam and Eve was passed on to their descendants. The Scriptures reveal that such sin is present within us before we are even born (Psa 51:5). We refer to this as Original Sin.
Original sin gives birth to thoughts, words and deeds contrary to God’s will. We refer to this as Actual Sin.
Sin is broadly characterized as the breaking of God’s Law. The Law is summed up in the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Lutherans hold these commandments in very high honor. As corrupted human beings, however, we cannot keep them perfectly.
Our sin separates us from God. We are born outside of a relationship with Him and are helpless to save ourselves or bring about restoration. This is only possible through a Savior.
Jesus Christ came to save us from sin, death and hell by dying on the cross. He is God’s plan of salvation. Jesus takes the punishment of our sins upon Himself and pays our penalty of death (Isa 53:4-6). He is our Savior. The forgiveness of sins is found in no one else and there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12).
Our relationship with God is restored through believing in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the actual message that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. When we hear the Gospel, the Holy Spirit moves us to believe in the person and work of Jesus. We do not believe faith is the result of a personal decision (John 1:12-13), but a gift of the Holy Spirit (cf: Eph 2:8-9 “This not from yourselves, it is a gift of God”).
Since the Holy Spirit works through means which are resistible (words), those who hear the Gospel may refuse to believe it and reject the forgiveness of sins offered to them in Christ.
We believe that every Christian has a calling to share the message of Christ’s forgiveness with his family, friends, neighbors and strangers (Philemon 1:6). It is through the hearing of this message that people become Christians and are brought into a relationship with the God of the universe.
Mary, the Saints and Prayers for the Dead
While Lutherans honor and esteem Mary as the mother of Christ, our Lord, we do not pray to her or worship her in any way. We worship and pray to God alone.
Lutherans believe that a “saint” is anyone who believes in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:1, Col 1:2). We sometimes observe special days in worship which praise God for the witness to Christ made by certain saints (i.e. former believers), but we are only acknowledging God for their witness to the Christian faith. We do not pray to saints or seek them as intermediaries between ourselves and God.
Finally, Lutherans offer no prayers for the dead. Those who have passed on have entered into either eternal judgment or eternal glory. Prayers are intended only on behalf of the living.
The role of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in an unbelieving heart (“No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” 1 Cor 12:3). The Spirit seeks to create faith whenever the Gospel is heard by an unbeliever.
The Scriptures testify that the Holy Spirit is also present in Baptism to unite a person to the salvation won by Christ.
Jesus answered, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:5-6
“…He saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” Titus 3:5
“Rise, be baptized and wash away your sins.” 1 Cor 12:13
“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal 3:27
Lutherans believe that the Gospel is present in baptism. We do not look at baptism primarily as obedience to a Law, but as a means through which God delivers His grace to us. In baptism, we are literally brought to Jesus and His work of salvation. Baptism is not a ritual performed by man, but it is spiritual “circumcision done by Christ” (Col 2:11). We maintain that an infant can believe in Jesus. To us, faith is not a matter of an intellectual decision or cognition, but a gift bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit. To believe is not to decide, it is to trust. Infants are capable of trusting in Christ (cf. Psalm 8:2, “ From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”). The faith of infants and small children is consistent with the concept of “universal grace,” which means that God’s grace is available to every person alive regardless of age or mental status.
If a person is baptized as an infant, that person can later grow up and reject their faith. Peter lamented those who resisted the Holy Spirit in Acts 7:51. God is gracious, however, and He continues to reach out to all those who deny Him and even persecute His followers.
We believe that in, with and under the bread and wine the true body and blood of Christ are also given. The Lord’s Supper is not symbolic. Christ is literally present in communion (also called the sacrament) for the purpose of forgiving sins and nourishing our faith. Just as the ancient Israelites ate the body of the lamb during their Passover, we continue to eat the Lamb’s body to receive God’s “passing over” of our sins today. We do not believe the bread and wine turn into the body and blood, but that all four elements (bread, body, wine and blood) are present when the Supper is given.
Communion comes from the same root word as “community.” It is intended to be more than an act between the individual and God. It is intended to be a communal meal that proclaims fellowship and unity among the congregation.
The scriptures call for there to be no divisions among those who commune together (1 Cor 11:17-18). This common understanding of Christ and the Christian faith ensures that the Supper is received according to the Lord’s Word. We ask everyone who receives the Lord’s Supper to first complete a period of instruction or study. Youth and Adult classes are available.
As those who believe in Christ, Christians do good works as an expression of thanks and praise to God. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that Christians are able to do works with the right motivation.
Temptation, the Old Adam and the New Nature
As stated above, man is born with a human nature enslaved to sin. We sometimes refer to this nature as “The Old Adam.” Upon becoming a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within man and he receives a new nature. This new spiritual nature now fights against the sinful nature, which still tempts man to sin (Rom 7:18).
Through meditation upon the Word, prayer, the reception of the Lord’s Supper and fellowship with other believers, the new nature is nourished and strengthened by Christ in man’s battles against temptation and the devil.
The Last Days
Jesus first came in humility as a baby born in a manger. He died and ascended into heaven. The Bible tells us He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Lutherans believe the day upon which Christ returns to judge the world is incapable of being predicted (Mk 13:32). It will consist of a single moment in time in which Jesus visibly appears (2 Thes 1:10) in the clouds and returns with His angels. He will not come in humility, but in glory. This day will be obvious to all and leave no room for any doubts that Jesus is indeed returning to the earth (Rev 1:7).
We do not believe the modern nation of Israel plays any role in the return of Jesus or in the plans of His return. We believe the church is the “New Israel” founded upon the new covenant foretold of by Jeremiah (Jer 31:31) and inaugurated at the Last Supper.
As the end draws near, the church (the new Israel) will suffer increasing persecution throughout the world. On the Last Day, Christ will rapture all believers to Himself so that we may descend with Him in a victorious proclamation of victory. We will then live with Him in a new heaven and new earth for all eternity (Rev 21:1).