What We Believe
Traditional Christian Faith and Life for Today’s People in Today’s World
No one can live in the past. We rejoice that the truths of God do not change, but we want to apply them to the lives of people today. We try to keep the focus in our worship life and in our Christian education on the issues people face today.
Congregations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are “confessional,” holding to the Lutheran Confessions as the correct interpretation and presentation of Biblical doctrine. Contained in the Book of Concord, The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the statements of belief were put into writing by church leaders during the 16th century.
What’s Lutheran Christianity All About?
Lutherans are well aware that we’re only one of many versions of Christian identity. The two large groups are sometimes characterized as Evangelicals and Catholics. Roman Catholics are the largest group of Christians, comprising about half of all Christians throughout the world. The fastest growing segment of Christians other than Roman Catholics are the Evangelical Christians (this includes, among others, Pentecostals and most “nondenominational” Christians). Sometimes Roman Catholics and Evangelicals see themselves as so different from each other that they are pretty suspicious of one another, wondering if the other group really is Christian at all.
Where do Lutherans fit? Well, we’re both! In a very real way Lutheran Christians share the most important characteristics of both the Evangelical and the Roman Catholic varieties of Christianity.
These Five Points Are Especially Helpful To Consider:
- The BIBLE is our final authority. Together with Evangelicals, Lutherans accept the full authority of the Bible as the deciding vote in every question of what Christians should believe and practice (2 Tim 3:16). The Bible is the infallible rule for Christian faith in the Lutheran understanding
- The GOSPEL gets the last word. The Gospel is “Good News” and it refers, specifically, to the fact that God came to us in Jesus Christ, to bring life, salvation, and hope to humanity (Rom 1:16). Even though the Bible has lots to say about lots of things – the best thing (the last word) is the message of Jesus Christ. This is also a central emphasis of Evangelical Christianity.
- Only FAITH in Christ saves. The Bible’s Gospel message is a call to faith. God promises to save those who believe. Only faith saves because faith just means trusting in the Savior, Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9). While we emphasize good works as part of Christian responsibility, the salvation of us personally is not based on what he had done, but on faith in what Jesus has done. That’s another mark of Evangelical Christianity.
- BAPTISM means belonging. Unlike Evangelicals, and just like Roman Catholics, Lutherans emphasize Sacraments, starting with Baptism. Baptism is our promise from God that we belong to him (Acts 2:38-39; Gal 3:27). When Jesus gave His command to make disciples, He said the first thing has to happen is to baptize (Matt 28:19).
- COMMUNION is necessary nourishment. Again, unlike Evangelicals and like Catholics, Lutherans believe the regular reception of the Lord’s Supper is an essential part of Christian life. We
believe Communion really is just what Jesus says it is: His body and blood, for forgiveness and nourishment in faith (John 6:53-54; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:24-26).
Basically what all this means is that Lutherans are evangelical-catholic Christians, accepting core beliefs of each of the two great groups of Christians without rejecting either group. We’re kind of stuck in the middle, but we’re there by conviction: “Here we stand.”
by the Rev. Larry Vogel, former pastor of the Martin Luther Chapel and Christian School, Pennsauken, NJ. Used by permission.