A Statement of our Faith
On the basis of Holy Scripture and in unity with the one holy, catholic faith, we believe, teach, and confess that:
- The only true God is the triune God, the holy Trinity. He is three equal and eternal Persons (Matt. 28:19; 2 Co. 13:14; John 15:26) within one divine Essence (Deut. 6:4): God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This teaching was revealed most clearly by Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father (John 1:18).
- Since the fall of Adam into sin, every person is conceived and born with original sin (Romans 5:12ff.; Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3). This original sin results in both total corruption of human nature (Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-18) and condemns one before God. It renders the person spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 2:13) and blind (2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 Corinthians 2:14) and totally unable to love, trust, or fear God above all things or to love one's neighbor as himself (Romans 8:7-8). Because of this all people are sinners before God (Romans 3:23).
- Jesus Christ is true God, eternally begotten of the Father, and also true man, born of virgin Mary, and is the only Savior from sin and Mediator between God and humanity (John 1:1-3; John 20:28; Luke 1:26-38; Matthew 1:20-23; 1 Timothy 2:3-6a; John 14:6; Acts 4:12). This same Jesus
- by his perfect life and sacrificial life death on the cross, won complete forgiveness for all sins and eternal life for every human being who has ever lived and will live (Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 10:45; 1 John 2:1-2; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Hebrews 9:26-28; 1 Peter 2:24-25);
- rose bodily from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-5);
- ascended into heaven and reigns at the right hand of God as Lord over all (Acts 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:20-23); He will come again on the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead (Matthew 24:30-31; 25:31-46).
- We cannot get forgiveness of sins or righteousness (sinlessness/what every person needs to enter heaven) by our own good works, love, or holiness. We become righteous before God by His grace, for Christ's sake, through faith when we believe that Christ died for us and that for His sake righteousness, forgiveness, and eternal life are given to us. This is what the Bible means when it says that we are "justified by faith apart from the works of the Law" (Romans 3:21-28; 4:5; Galatians 2:16-21; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:7-9). Faith is not a good work that we do, but the empty hand that receives the gift of righteousness and forgiveness that Jesus won for us. Faith itself is a gift.
- By God's decree, the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation are offered and given through the preaching of the Gospel and the Gospel in all its forms (the written Word of God, Baptism, Absolution, Lord's Supper). In other words, God not only saw to it that our sins were atoned for through the cross of Christ; He also arranged a delivery system to bring that blood bought forgiveness across the centuries and throughout the world. The Gospel (preached, read, Sacraments) is that delivery system. Through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit creates saving faith in Christ, when and where He pleases (1 Corinthians 12:3). For this purpose, Christ has instituted the Office of the Ministry and sends pastors to preach and administer the holy Sacraments in His stead and name (John 6:63; 16:12-15; Luke 24:47; Matthew 28:19-20; John 20:21-23; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 4:1).
- Good works, love, and holiness of life are the fruits of saving faith in Christ, not the cause of such faith (John 15:1-5). We are saved for good works not by good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). We must do all good works that God has commanded but not in order to be saved by them.
- The one holy Christian Church, properly speaking, is all those who truly believe in Jesus Christ, among whom the Gospel is preached purely and the Sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. Thus the Christian Church is found wherever these things are present, even if hypocrites and unbelievers are present (Matthew 16:16-19; 18:20; 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-27).
- Holy Baptism, water applied in the Name of the Triune God according to Jesus' institution (Matthew 28:19), truly saves (1 Peter 3:21), causes one to be born again (John 3:5; Titus 3:5), delivers and applies grace and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Ephesians 5:25-26), unites the one being baptized to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:11-12), gives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and causes one to become a member of Christ's body (1 Corinthians 12:13).
- Holy Communion, or the Holy Supper, instituted by Christ Himself, is the true body and blood of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, given under the forms of bread and wine, for Christians to eat and drink, for the forgiveness of their sins (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 10:14-21; 11:23- 26).
- Holy Absolution is a great and precious word of forgiveness to the troubled sinner. Holy Absolution, the forgiveness of sins spoken by the Pastor to a penitent sinner in Jesus' name, truly gives the forgiveness of sins with the full authority of the resurrected Christ (Matthew 16:19; 18:18; John 20:21-23). This word of forgiveness is to be heard and believed as the word of Christ Himself speaking to us (Luke 10:16).
- The Christian life is one of continual repentance (sorrow over sin, then belief that our sin is forgiven for Christ's sake; Mark 1:14-15). That one has truly repented who turns away from the sin and brings about changed behavior that is pleasing to God (Matthew 3:8).
- Jesus Christ will return visibly on the last day for judgment, will raise up all dead, and will give everlasting life and joy to all believers, but will condemn unbelievers and the devil to everlasting punishment (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 1:7; Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:28-29).
- Though man possesses freedom of the will to choose and decide in earthly matters, he does not have freedom of the will in spiritual matters, but is spiritually blind and dead. Only when the Holy Spirit creates faith in His heart does he again have freedom in spiritual matters (John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:1-10).
- Holy Scripture, the Bible, is in every word the God-breathed (inspired) and inerrant Word of God, the only source and final authority of all doctrine and life claiming to be Christian. Its main purpose is to proclaim the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:21).
- The key to understanding Holy Scripture correctly is the distinction between Law and Gospel; that is, all Scripture is either Law, which shows us our sin, commands good works, threatens us with punishment, and Gospel, which shows us our Savior, offers us forgiveness, promises, comforts, and strengthens. Both are necessary throughout the life of the Christian (Romans 3:21- 22; 2 Corinthians 3:6-11).