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What Does it Mean to be a Lutheran?

(For a printable pdf version click HERE)

AN INTRODUCTION

THE CROSS
All human beings are born into a sin-filled world where we are separated from our Creator.  Sin not only describes how we fall short from living the way God intended us to live.  Sin also means “separation from God.”

- “for there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  – Romans 3:23

The cross symbolizes Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin.  By his death on the cross, he took the sin of the world upon himself and saved us.  Salvation is not something that is earned or deserved.  It is God’s great gift to us through the sacrifice of Jesus.

- “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing.  It is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”  – Ephesians 2:8-9

The cross represents the gift that is ours as we receive it in faith and trust in the promise that God gave us.

- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  God did not send the son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17

THE SACRAMENTS
A sacrament is a means by which we receive God’s grace.  According to Martin Luther, sacraments include three basic things:
- a common element (water, bread, wine)
- the word of God which is combined with the common element
- the command of Jesus (do this . . .)
In the Lutheran tradition, there are 2 sacraments:
Holy Baptism
Holy Communion

BAPTISM brings us into life with God through:
Water (common element)
The Word of God (“The one who believes and is baptized will be saved” – Mark 16:16)
The Command of Jesus (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 28:19)

BENEFITS OF BAPTISM INCLUDE:
- Forgiveness of sin
- Freedom from death and the devil
- Eternal salvation
- Acceptance into God’s family
- Becoming a “child of God”

HOLY COMMUNION (The Eucharist) renews our life with God, as we receive Jesus Christ in, with and under:
The Bread and Wine (Common Elements), the Word of God (“This is my body . .  this is my blood.” – I Corinthians 11:24-25) and the command of Jesus (“Do this in remembrance of me.” – I Corinthians 11:24-25)

BENEFITS OF HOLY COMMUNION INCLUDE:
- forgiveness of sins
- God’s love and grace received
- renewal of my relationship with God
- remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for me
- participation in the community of faith

THE WORD OF GOD
The word of God is a living and life-giving word, which empowers us to live our lives as God intended us to live.  It is a written word which comes to us through the Holy Scriptures, written by human beings, but inspired by God.  It is our norm for life and faith.  It is a spoken word that is proclaimed in preaching and in teaching.  It is a holy word in that it comes to the church and to us from God and reveals to us the Good News that Jesus is God’s son and through him we have eternal life.

- “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” – John 1:1

- “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient and equipped for every good work.” – II Timothy 3:16

- “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God and what is good, acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

THE HISTORICAL CREEDS and CONFESSIONS
The confession of a common faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit comes down through the centuries through such statements of belief as the Nicene Creed, the Apostle’s Creed, the Athanasian Creed.

The Nicene Creed was adopted by the church in 325 A.D. and focuses on the unity of God, manifested in three separate but equal persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Creator, Savior and Sanctifier.

The Apostle’s Creed is an earlier expression of this fundamental belief in the Trinity, and is commonly used as part of the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

The Athanasian Creed is a longer and more detailed theological expression of the nature of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) focusing on a description of the qualities of each part of the Trinity.

The Confessions of the Lutheran Church include such writings as the Augsburg Confession (1530), the Formula of Concord, Luther’s Small and Large Catechism.  These historical confessions form the context from which the continuity of faith has been carried on through the centuries.

Confessions and creeds keep us true to the meaning of Scripture and also help in our continuing dialogues with other churches, denominations and religions.

CATHOLIC CHURCH
Catholic refers to the one, universal church of Jesus Christ.  We are part of that “catholic” church.  There is diversity within the Christian church, but there is a unity as expressed in the one church of Jesus Christ.

APOSTOLIC CHURCH
Apostolic refers to being “sent out” as apostles to preach, teach and reach out to others with the Good News of the Gospel.  Just as the early apostles were “sent out” with God’s Good News, so are we “sent out” with that same Good News.

EVANGELICAL CHURCH
The “evangel” is the Gospel.  By saying that we are an evangelical church, we are saying that we are centered on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our mission is to spread the Gospel to all the world so that all people might be brought into fellowship and unity with God.

REFORMING CHURCH
Our mission is to constantly reform our lives and our ministry, so that we are not conformed to the culture but are continually transforming the world, the church and ourselves more and more into the image of God.
Our church grew out of the Reformation of the 1500′s, but that reformation continues today as we seek to continually re-form our church as the true “body of Christ.”