We don't know where you are in your faith walk, but we understand that some folks have questions- ones that are worth answering. While it's impossible to address every question that you might have about the Lutheran understanding of the Christian faith in such a short space, we hope and pray that this brief overview will at least provide a start.
About the BIBLE
- Everything Lutherans believe comes from the Bible, God's message of love and hope for all people. The Bible is the written Word of God, handed down to us in order to point us to the Truth- that we are saved from our sin and eternal death by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lutherans who are members of the Missouri Synod believe that the Bible is completely reliable and without error. In it we learn what we need to know about God's love and will for us and about the gifts that He gives to us.
About GOD - There is only one God - the Triune God – One Being who exists in three separate but equal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the Father is our maker and the creator of all things. By the Father's word, all things were made, and we are His most beloved creation; we are closest to His heart. The Son is Jesus Christ, God from all eternity, come to earth in human flesh as the perfect "go-between" between God the Father and all other human beings. He purchased our salvation by His holy life and sacrifice on our behalf. He is the voice that speaks to God the Father on our behalf. The Holy Spirit is the person of God who calls us to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. He also guides us in the faith and comforts us in our troubles, even as He teaches us to understand God’s word and will for our lives. He works always to make believers holy and for this purpose, He empowers believers to boldly live out the Christian life.
About US – As human beings, we all fall short of God's expectations because we are all born "sinful" (Rom. 3:23). Sin can be summed up as “all the things we say, think, do, and don't do, that fall outside of God's holy will for us.” These end up separating us from God and even each other. Sin was brought into the world when Satan lured the first people God created (Adam and Eve) into temptation, and through their own free will and disobedience, they broke the perfect relationship between God and mankind. From that point on, sin became part of our very existence. Because God also demands perfection to live in His presence, our ultimate punishment became death (Rom. 6:23). Yet God is a loving God who does not want us to die eternally. That's why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live the perfect life He requires and to become our substitute in His death. Christ never sinned - not even once - and then He took our sin upon Himself and died on the cross, all on our behalf. When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, He takes all of our sins and gives us forgiveness. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
About "BEING SAVED" - There is absolutely nothing we can do to "be saved" - Jesus Christ has already done everything necessary. In His death and resurrection, everyone who believes in Jesus as Savior has been brought back into a right relationship with God. That means that, on account of Jesus, everyone who believes is "justified," or declared innocent by God. God has done justice to the world's sins; because of Jesus, all who believe are forgiven and will live eternally. (See: The Gospel of John 17:1-3) There is nothing we could ever present to God to make our way into eternal life with Him - not money or even good works. Only by God’s gift of faith – given by grace – are we saved.
- It is through faith in Jesus that we receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life - by believing that He has freed us from the guilt, punishment, and power of sin. Faith is a gift - worked in us by the power of the Holy Spirit; it doesn't come to us through anything that we are capable of, but through what God Himself does for us. We simply receive what is already being offered out of God's great love.
About GRACE - Lutherans often refer to “grace.” The word itself might remind you of the grace period you are given when paying bills - when your debt can be paid without further penalty. God's grace is even more wonderful; that's why it's called "amazing grace." While we deserved the penalty for our sins (eternal death), God had a different plan. Christ paid the debt and we receive forgiveness and eternal life from Him- offered out of unconditional love. That's why it's called grace (or a gift) - because it is truly undeserved. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” God's amazing grace can also be better understood by this acronym: G.R.A.C.E. = God's Riches At Christ's Expense.
(Read what the Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:6-10)
God has provided tangible ways through which He delivers His grace to those who believe, assuring us that the sins we commit are forgiven for Jesus' sake. These are called the "means of grace": God's Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion). Through these means, (or “ways of doing things”) God makes Himself known to us in a very personal way: God's Word reveals His faithfulness and love to us, Baptism is our rebirth and renewal in Jesus, the Lord's Supper is our closest union and communion with Christ as we miraculously receive His very body and true blood for forgiveness and life. These bring us good things in this life and heaven's blessings!
About GOOD WORKS - Since there is nothing we can ever do to earn salvation, we do not do good works in order to be saved; yet good works are done out of praise and thanksgiving to God because we are saved. (See: Ephesians 2:10) Such good works include, but are not limited to: serving and caring for the needs of others, honoring and giving respect to those in authority, honoring our vows and commitments, and generally doing what is considered by many to be good and right. It's often said that Martin Luther expressed it this way: “God doesn't need our good works, but our neighbor does.” And so, our good works are offered to God in loving service to Him and His kingdom, as well as for the good of the people that we reach out to in Christian faith, hope, and love.
About LIFE AFTER DEATH - On Judgment Day - we don't know when - Jesus Christ is going to return. On that day, everyone who has died will be raised to life and those who are still alive will be bodily transformed. At that time, the final judgment will take place. Those who do not believe will go into eternal damnation in hell and all those who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be granted eternal life in heaven. What we believe and do in this life, will be accounted for on that last day- and influence all of our eternity.
Hopefully this overview has answered some of your questions about Lutheran Christians. If it has prompted even more, we invite you to visit us or give us a call at Redeemer Lutheran Church - Pensacola at: 850-455-0330. You may also check out more about the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod at: www.lcms.org You can also find out more about what Lutherans believe and do by visiting Lutheran Hour Ministries at: www.lhm.org .
Scripture quotes in this section are from the ESV (English Standard Version) Bible.
For information on specific life issues, FREE pamphlets are available for download in PDF format from Lutheran Hour Ministries’ Project Connect website.
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