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Lutheranism

A LUTHERAN RESPONSE TO ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS
presented by

Rev. Gary C. Chenoweth
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer

WHO IS JESUS CHRIST?

Jesus is God’s son, sent by God to become human like us.  The man, Jesus of Nazareth, lived and died in Palestine. His relationship to God, however, was not one of sin but rather of perfect obedience to the Father’s will.  For the sake of a sinful world, Jesus was condemned to death on the cross.

Death could not contain him.  On the third day after his execution – the day Christians observe as Easter – Jesus appeared among his followers as the risen, living Lord.  By this great victory God has declared the good news of reconciliation.  Thus, Christ lives today wherever there are people who faithfully believe in him and wherever the good news of reconciliation is preached and the sacraments administered.

 

WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

 The Christian church is made up of those who have been baptized and thus have received Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world.  Sometimes, the church is referred to as “the Body of Christ.”  The Christian church began with the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Regardless of the form it takes, the church is the fellowship of those who have been restored to God by Christ. Indeed, to be called into fellowship with Christ is also to be called into community with other believers.  The church is essential to Christian life and growth.  Its members are all sinners in need of God’s grace.  It has no claim on human perfection.  The church exists solely for the hearing and doing of God’s Word.  It can justify its existence only when it proclaims the living Word of Christ, administers the sacraments, and gives itself to the world in deeds of service and love.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recognizes a wider fellowship of churches and is eager to work alongside them in ecumenical ministries and projects.

 

WHY A LUTHERAN CHURCH?

Martin Luther, a 16th Century Roman Catholic monk, had hoped that the church would reform its practice and preaching to be more consistent with the Word of God as contained in the Bible.  However, there was not a reformation of the church but a separation. “Lutheran” was a name applied to Luther and his followers as an insult but adopted as a badge of honor by them instead.  Lutherans still celebrate the Reformation on October 31 and still hold to the basic principles of theology and practice espoused by Luther:

  • We are saved by the grace of God alone and not by anything we do;
  • Our salvation is through faith alone – we only need to believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake; he died to redeem us;
  • The Bible is the only norm of doctrine and life — the only true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged.

Luther’s Small Catechism, which contains teachings on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, Holy Communion and Morning and Evening Prayers, is still used to introduce people to the Lutheran faith, as is the Augsburg Confession.

 

WHAT SACRAMENTS DO LUTHERANS ACCEPT?

 Lutherans accept two Sacraments as God-given means for penetrating the lives of people with his grace.  Although they are not the only means of God’s self-revelation, Baptism and Holy Communion are visible acts of God’s love. In Baptism, God freely offers his grace and lovingly establishes a new community.  It is in Baptism that people become members of Christ’s Body on earth, the Church. In Holy Communion — often called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist — those who come to the table receive in bread and wine the body and blood of their Lord.  This gift is itself the real presence of God’s forgiveness and mercy, nourishing believers in union with their Lord and with each other.