We believe that God exists and that He created all things by the power of His Word. All human beings are accountable to Him. He Himself has accomplished our salvation. God also is what He is. Human beings do not make Him what He is. God has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ as the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We believe, teach and worship God as one divine Being in three persons, as has always been taught by Christianity and is expressed in the Christian Creeds. The revelation of God is centered in God the Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ or Messiah. Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. In Jesus, God the Son was born as man, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead to win our forgiveness and peace with God and to be the way we know God and enter into life with Him. Jesus now reigns as Lord forever.
Grace Alone (Sola Gratia)
Since God exists and we are accountable to Him, we need to know the basis upon which He loves, forgives, and accepts us into eternal fellowship. Is it on the basis of obedience to His Law? Is it because of some goodness in us? The problem is that if we have disobeyed God's Law in the least, we deserve His punishment and are estranged from Him and do not deserve any good thing from Him. (James 2:10) Every human being, except Jesus Christ, has violated God's law. The only way to be "right" with the One we have offended is to be forgiven by Him. Forgiveness, however, comes at a price. God's grace means that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into our flesh to pay the price in our place so that God could forgive us as a gift. God's grace is demonstrated in God giving Jesus Christ as atoning sacrifice without our having first deserved it. (Romans 5:8) We deserve God's punishment. But God loves us because He is love. His love is rooted in Himself, not in what we have done. Out of His eternal love, God sent forth His holy, innocent Son to become a human being, though without sin. As such, He took our sin upon Himself in our place and gave us His righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus is now our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30) Salvation is God's gift, centered in Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:8-9) This is grace, God's salvation given to us who do not deserve it simply because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.
Faith Alone (Sola Fidei)
How then do we receive God's grace?: sola fidei, Latin for by faith alone. This means that we are saved or "right" with God when we believe what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us. Whoever believes in the Son [Jesus Christ] has eternal life. (John 3:16) Faith is a living and active belief, trust, and confidence in Jesus and God's promise of forgiveness and eternal life in Him. Through Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection, He won our forgiveness before God. Through forgiveness, we have life, peace, and joy with God. Now God proclaims and declares what Jesus has done and that we are forgiven in His Name. When we believe and trust God telling us that we are forgiven for Christ's sake, God views us as holy and righteous in His sight. Thus, we are "right" with God when we believe we are forgiven by Him because of what Jesus has done for us. This faith is created in our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the proclamation. Faith trusts and holds fast to Jesus as Savior. Faith is ours, but it is also the power and work of the Holy Spirit within us. Faith is therefore distinguished from obedience to the Law and any "work" on our part. (Romans 3:21-22; Galatians 3:7-14; Ephesians 2:8) When we believe in Jesus' forgiveness through Word and Sacrament, God considers us to be holy and righteous before Him as a gift on account of such faith in Christ.
Scripture Alone (sola scriptura)
Sola scriptura has to do with the question of authority in the church. By what authority do Christians determine what must be believed and practiced to be true to God and to be "right" with Him? Lutherans declare that Scripture alone, the Holy Bible, is the authority to be followed. Scripture is God's Word, inspired by God the Holy Spirit in the whole and in each part. Scripture is the teaching of the Apostles and Prophets as the Holy Spirit gave them the words to write. (John 14:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21) Thus, the words of the Scripture are God's own words in human language. Since Scripture consists of the Holy Spirit's own speech, its truth does not change since what is true for God could never change. It alone tells us about Jesus Christ and who God truly is. It tells us what sin is before God and how we must be saved from it. Since faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Christian agrees with what the Holy Spirit says in the Scripture. When church tradition, the teaching of the Pope, the teaching of any theologian, church leader, or laymen, the dictates of human reason and society, or the decision of any church council or other church organization, contradict Scripture, Lutherans follow Scripture by faith. Our job is to understand and then humbly believe what the Scripture says not whether what the Scripture says is possible, because nothing is impossible for God. Scripture must be understood according to the distinction between the Law and the Gospel, as described below.
The Difference Between Law and Gospel
As a result of the things discussed so far, there is a huge difference between God's Word of Law and God's Word of Gospel. God's Word of Law concerns who we are and what we think, feel, desire, say, and do in relation to God and our neighbor in light of God's eternal, unchanging moral standards. These standards are summarized in the Ten Commandments but can also be found elsewhere in Scripture and in conscience. God's Law is summarized in loving God above all things----even more than ourselves----and loving our neighbors as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:8-10) Sin is revealed in that we have the internal tendency to want and to take what does not belong to us or what God has not given and to think of ourselves first. God uses the Law to show us our sin and to pin us down before Him so that we do not argue with Him but agree that we have violated His standards and deserve His punishment. (Romans 3:19-20) God is holy and just and must punish the transgression of His Law. (Exodus 33:20; Hebrews 9:22) If He did not do so, He would deny Himself and cease to be holy and just. God pins us down so that we agree that we need His forgiveness. By pinning us down regarding sin, He prepares our hearts to receive by faith the forgiveness, life, peace, and fellowship with Him He gives by grace in the Gospel. God's law, therefore, cannot be the means by which we become "right" with God, for by the Law comes the knowledge of sin. If God did not do something about our sinful condition, we would be lost forever. He loves us and decided to do something about it. He gave us Jesus, His Son, to live a perfectly obedient life in our place as a true human being under the Law and to bear God's punishment for our sin in our place so that His wrath against our sin could be satisfied. God's Word of Gospel tells us about Jesus and the forgiveness and life we have in Him. The Gospel, contrary to the Law, shows us God's love, Jesus our Savior, God's forgiveness, and eternal life with God. Thus, when we read the Scripture and hear preaching and teaching, we must think about whether we are reading and hearing something about our conduct or God's saving action on our behalf through Christ. If it has to do with our conduct, it is God's Word of Law which is meant to lead us to repentance and to seek forgiveness. If what we are reading or hearing is the Gospel, it is to be believed and trusted as God's power to save us. (Romans 1:1) If we hear preaching and teaching that is telling us that we can be "right" with God and win His love because of our own behavior, that is false teaching and must not be believed.
Means of Grace
There is a special way God brings His promised salvation in Christ to us today. He does so through His written and spoken word of Gospel and through the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. We call these things "means of grace," because they deliver God's grace to us. We can think of these things as a delivery system by which God brings the salvation Jesus accomplished for us long ago to us today. For example, the TVs we watch are made in a factory, often times in places across the sea. We could not make use of such a TV unless it is delivered to us where we can find it. So also Jesus Christ won our forgiveness and salvation when He died for us and rose again two thousand years ago in a land far away. None of us were there. God now brings forgiveness and salvation in Christ to us here today through His word of Gospel and the Sacraments. In the word of Gospel, God tells us about Jesus and what He has done for us. He declares that our sins are forgiven as a result of what Jesus has done. (Luke 24:46-47) God the Holy Spirit works through this word of Gospel to create and sustain faith in Christ, to believe in God as He truly is, and to comfort our hearts and minds. The Sacraments are special means by which God connects the salvation He provided in Christ to an earthly element we can relate to in order to apply forgiveness and salvation to us personally. In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, God connects us to Christ through the application of water to the person being baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Water is the earthly element. God's Word connected to it makes it a Sacrament. Baptism is God's act by which He makes us Christians. (Matthew 28:19) Baptism also connects us to Christ and gives us the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-11; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 5:26) Baptism is the Sacrament of new birth into Christ's Kingdom. (John 3:5; Titus 3:4-5) The Lord's Supper, otherwise known as the Sacrament of the Altar, the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is the Sacrament by which Jesus Christ sustains our faith. It is the sustaining Sacrament. This is a most profound mystery. According to his own words, the resurrected and ascended Jesus gives His entire true body and true blood, in, with, and under consecrated bread and wine, to every communicant to eat and to drink to assure them of the forgiveness of sins and promise of eternal life. He gives that forgiveness and eternal life He won in the death and resurrection of His body. (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark14:22-24; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 1 Corinthians10:16) This is not cannibalism. Yet, in a mystery, Christ does give His true body and true blood in the bread and wine for Christians to eat and to drink. He does not do this for bodily nourishment, but for spiritual nourishment. He does this to provide a concrete and tangible assurance of forgiveness and salvation to each communicant personally. And since this Sacrament is a deep mystery that makes no sense to human reason, it requires faith to believe that what Christ promises is true, in spite of the fact that what He is saying seems impossible. This is consistent with being saved by faith alone. Taking Christ at His word as to what He says this Sacrament is exercises and strengthens saving faith which trusts Christ's Word and rests in His forgiveness and power alone. We receive this Sacrament in sorrow for sin, as God defines it, in a desire to turn away from it, and in faith in Christ and in His words regarding what this Sacrament is and what he gives through it. People are not ready to participate in this Sacrament until they have been baptized and instructed in this Sacrament and the Christian faith through Luther's Small Catechism.
Lutheran Church Services
Lutheran church services are shaped by the beliefs described above. Lutherans come to church as individuals and community to hear and be taught God's Word of Law and Gospel, to receive the Lord's Supper, and to give thanks and pray. In the Lutheran church service, we believe God is the primary actor as God comes to meet us in Christ and the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. We then give thanks and praise to God the Holy Trinity for His grace and mercy in Christ, and bring our needs, cares, and anxieties to Him in prayer. The service is structured so as to bring us Christ in the means of grace. Everything in it is centered in Christ, not our own feelings and devotion. What is appropriate for hymns, songs, liturgical texts, and preaching is shaped by faith alone, grace alone, Scripture alone, the means of grace, and the difference between Law and Gospel. Doctrinally sound and substantive hymns play a big role.
Lutheran churches are communities of faith. They exist to be places where Jesus Christ and forgiveness in Him are found through the means of grace. Becoming a member of Our Saviour, so as to be admitted to the Lord's Supper and to be able to hold offices and teach in Sunday School, is predicated on becoming united with us in what we believe and teach. We gather around and are committed to a common faith. The process of becoming a member involves instruction in the Christian faith through the Scripture and Luther's Small Catechism. If you are interested in beginning this process, please speak with or send an email to our Pastor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your interest in Our Saviour Lutheran Church. We look forward to meeting you.
Additional Sources of Lutheran Teaching
This page does not contain a complete description of Lutheran teaching. It provides only an introduction. Luther's Small Catechism and the Augsburg Confession of 1530 are additional sources. The Augsburg Confession is found in the Book of Concord. You can find links to the Book of Concord and the Small Catechism on the "Lutheran Confessions" page, the link to which is found on Our Saviour's home page. Our Pastor also provides more in depth teaching through God's Word and Luther's Small Catechism.