by Rev. Alex Klages
Trinity (Winkler, Manitoba) and Zion (Morden, Manitoba) Lutheran Churches
A Lutheran is…
1. Someone who trusts in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. Lutherans believe Jesus’ Word. So when Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) we take Jesus at His Word. For this reason we do not accept the common opinion that God has had different ways for people to be saved at different times. We believe that the church, properly speaking, consists of all believers in the true God who trust in Him, whether in the Old Testament era (trusting in the promise of the Messiah) or the New Testament era (trusting in the revealed Messiah).
2. Someone who believes that God is the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, according to the Scriptures and the historical creeds–the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creed. We accept these creeds as being true and trustworthy explanations of who and what we believe God is according to the Bible.
3. Someone who accepts that God’s Word is God’s Word.We believe that the holy writers of Scripture were inspired directly by God to write, and that the Word of God, which is the 66-book library we call the Bible, is inerrant (without error) and infallible (unfailingly true) in its original languages–Hebrew and Aramaic in the Old Testament and Greek in the New. We also teach that God’s Word is authoritative (it is our source of all doctrine) and efficacious (it does what it says). The English translation which is currently used in our public worship is the English Standard Version, although there are many good and worthy English translations available.
4. Someone who studies the Bible by looking for Law and Gospel.By Law we mean any passage which tells us what we are to do or not to do, or any passage which tells us about our sin and its results.
The Law always accuses. So while the Law tells us what is right and wrong, Lutherans believe that if we are truly honest with ourselves and with God, we will always find ways in which our best efforts to keep God’s Law will fall short. Since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all people, regardless of age or background, have been born in original sin, and therefore die. All people are, as a result, by nature dead in sin and unable to choose the things of God in any way. As such, we need a Saviour from the effect of the Law, which is death and eternal damnation.
We hear the news of the Saviour in the Gospel. By Gospel we mean any passage of Scripture which describes God’s gracious actions on behalf of His people, whether in creation, ongoing care of His world, redemption through Christ Jesus, or sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit. But most central to the message of the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the second Adam, died on our behalf for our sins, so that we can live eternally with God. We believe that the Holy Spirit draws people to faith through the Word of God rightly preached as Law, showing our sin, and Gospel, showing our Saviour.
So the Gospel is not limited to the New Testament, nor is the Law limited to the Old Testament. Rather, the entire Bible is an interweaving of passages describing our sinfulness and describing Jesus Christ, our Saviour from sin.
5. Someone who thinks highly of Baptism.The Lutheran Church thinks very highly of Baptism. Drawing from passages such as 1 Peter 3, Acts 2, and Romans 6, we believe and teach that in Baptism the believer is regenerated–that is, that Baptism itself effects the forgiveness of sins and causes a person to come from the kingdom of death to the kingdom of life; that is, that Baptism actually saves us by applying Jesus’ death and resurrection to us, personally, by the power of the Holy Spirit. As such, we believe that Baptism is the action of God, not the response of a believer. So it is that the Lutheran Church, as a testimony to this belief, follows the historic Christian practice of baptizing all ages–from infant to adult. Lutherans point to Baptism as objective evidence of salvation, apart from our changing feelings about our faith.
6. Someone who thinks highly of the Lord’s Supper. As Jesus only shared the Lord’s Supper with His apostles on Maundy Thursday, so our church practices communion only after a period of instruction, in keeping with the historic practice of the church. This is not done to cause offense to visitors but because we believe that Jesus’ words, “This is my body” and “This is my blood” are to be taken at face value. We believe that Jesus is really and truly present in the Lord’s Supper to strengthen our faith and forgive our sins–a blessed mystery (sacrament). As Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 11, we ought not treat the body and blood of Christ with disrespect or we will eat and drink judgment on our heads. So we train our members in the Lord’s Supper before communing, and members of Lutheran churches with whom we are in fellowship are welcome to our altar as well.
7. Someone who thinks highly of worship.Worship in the Lutheran understanding is perhaps better called the Divine Service. It is where God serves us with His Gospel, both through the reading of the Scriptures and their application in the sermon, and also in the practices of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As such, we believe in God’s real presence with us in worship, because of Jesus’ promise to be wherever “two or three are gathered” in His name. As such, our worship style is respectfully traditional, drawing from the best of the Christian worship tradition over the past two millennia. We use orders of service which are built around the pattern of the historic liturgies of the Church.
8. Someone who serves God with their whole life (vocation).One of the more important teachings of the Lutheran church is that all our responsibilities in life are gifts from God and to be treated as such. So a mother taking care of her child has as much of a vocation as a pastor does preaching to the congregation–and as important a vocation, too. We believe that all people have different callings, and that the most important thing for a Christian to do with their life is to be faithful to God in whatever they do. Not every Christian is called to a job within the church, but every Christian is called to serve Christ with their whole lives.
9. Someone who lives under the freedom of the Gospel.The Lutheran church has always taught that we are freed from the power of the Law, in Christ, to serve Him. As such, we do not impose non-Scriptural rules on things such as dancing, drinking alcohol, playing cards, and the like. We simply remember that regardless what we may do, our freedom in Christ is not to serve as a license to sin, but rather to serve Christ by serving our neighbour.
10. Someone who loves to share the good news of Jesus.Our church is proud of its teachings and its heritage, and for nearly 500 years the Lutheran church has consistently proclaimed salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus. What better reason do we need to be excited about our Lord, our faith, and our church?
If you’re curious about learning in more depth about what the Lutheran church teaches, the Small Catechism of Martin Luther is a good and thorough summary of the basics of the Christian faith. The Book of Concord of 1580 is the official doctrinal statement of the Lutheran church. Pastor Klages, and Pastor Fritsche at Redeemer, are always willing to discuss the Lutheran faith.
Note:Although the Lutheran church is named after Martin Luther, and makes use of some of his writings, we do not worship Luther. Rather, the name “Lutheran” was given to those churches which adopted the Augsburg Confession, a statement of faith prepared in 1530 by Philip Melanchthon, as a true and trustworthy statement of what they believed and where they believed the Roman church of the day had obscured the truth of the Word of God. These churches had Luther as their best-known spokesman, and so used his name to identify themselves.
Rev. Alex Klages is pastor of two LCC churches in southern Manitoba, Trinity (Winkler) and Zion (Morden). He writes: “The pamphlet from which this was taken is something I put together many years ago for an open house day; it was meant to be shared and distributed. I still use it annually when the local high school sends a class on a church tour as part of their ‘Mennonite Studies’ curriculum; they look at a handful of non-Mennonite churches for comparison, and we are one of them!”
We publish this, with Pastor Klages’ permission, because we find it a remarkably direct, readable and useful summary of what we as LCC Lutherans believe. Eminently shareable too—please consider passing it along to other Christians, as well as unchurched people you may know, for clear answers on the questions most important to us. Use it too, of course, as a refresher and reminder of the truths on which we stand.