Lutheranism

 

Demographics


Over 70 million Lutherans exist worldwide, making it the third largest church body in the world. About 8 million Lutherans are in 8 denominations in the U.S.; The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the largest Lutheran denomination in U.S., with 5.1 million; the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) is second with 2.54 million in 6150 congegations; the Wisconsin Synod (WELS) is third with
400,000.

 

History / Origin


Lutherans trace their roots back to Martin Luther (1483-1546), a German monk, priest and theologian of the early Sixteenth Century. Luther’s personal search to find a gracious and forgiving God led him into an intensive study of the Bible and Church teachings. Luther discovered that the Pope and the hierarchy had for several centuries been teaching false doctrines about how a sinner is saved or justified, which is the main teaching of Christianity. The Church of his day taught that faith in Jesus was not sufficient for forgiveness before God and entrance into heaven. They directed sinners to trust in their own righteousness: the various good works that the Bible or church demanded, such as love, holiness, prayers, alms, pilgrimages, the visiting of relics, joining a monastic order, the purchase of indulgences, etc. Luther discovered that the Bible taught that a sinner is justified by God’s grace for Christ’s sake through faith apart from any good works. The Bible directed people to trust in what Christ had accomplished on the cross, rather than their own accomplishments: God declares a sinner righteous by grace alone through faith alone on the basis of Christ’s atoning death alone. Salvation is received as a gift not achieved by good works. The sinner finds certainty of salvation not by looking inside himself but outside himself to God’s mercy in the cross of Christ.

 

Luther also came to see that many of Rome’s false doctrines came from sources other than Scripture, such as the church fathers, the declarations of popes, canon law, Aristotle, and the writings of scholastic theologians. These sources and other human writings, the Church of Rome claimed, made up church Tradition, which was of equal authority with the Bible. On the contrary, Luther held that all Christian teaching must be based on Scripture alone.

 

When he began to publish his discoveries, he was accused of being a heretic by the church hierarchy and vehemently attacked. This drove him even deeper into the study of Scripture and church history. He concluded that the Church had strayed far from its essential teachings and was in desperate need of reform. Beginning with his 95 Theses posted on October 31, 1517, Luther set out to reform the church of his day, cleansing it from all doctrine and practice that contradicted the teaching of justification by grace alone through faith alone. When accused of introducing a new church or sect, Luther and his coworkers repeatedly pointed out that their teaching was not new, but was exactly what the Christian Church of the first centuries had taught. Both while he was alive and after his death, thousands of people came to call themselves Lutheran, not because they were following Luther the man, but because they agreed that what he had taught was faithful to Scripture and the ancient church. They confessed the same faith that he had. Today, millions call themselves Lutherans for the same reason.

 

Source and Authorities of Teaching


The source and norm of all Christian teaching is Scripture alone. Every teaching that claims to be Christian must be judged before the bar of Scripture. Any supposed Christian teaching, from whatever source, that contradicts the clear Word of God, and especially the Gospel, is rejected as Christian doctrine. No human writings, be they ever so wise or pious, must ever be put on the same level as God’s Word. All declarations and writings of Christians must never judge but always be judged by the Bible.Neither the decisions of Church Councils, declarations of the Pope, writings of theologians, direct or inner revelation, spiritual experiences, feelings and emotions, the conventional wisdom of culture, or human reason can ever be the source and norm of essential Christian teaching. Or as Luther put it, “The Word of God shall establish articles of faith, and no one else, not even an angel” (SA II.2.15; Luther had Galatians 1:6-8 in mind).

 

As highly as they treasure the Bible, Lutherans are not Biblicists or legalists. A Biblicist and legalist declares that it is sinful to allow any teaching or practice in the church unless there is an example of it or it is specifically commanded in the Bible. Luther’s Reformation held that customs and teachings and traditions that are not mentioned in the Bible may be gladly used by Christians in the church, as long as they do not contradict the Gospel of justification by grace through faith or are not forbidden by the Ten Commandments.

 

Special to Lutheranism is our understanding of reason as tool in understanding Scripture. Reason (human intellect and learning) is a great gift of God. Since God committed his words to human writing, reason is essential to understanding the text of God’s Word. Reason, however, must remain a servant of the Biblical text, and not become master of it. When we reject a teaching of Scripture (such as a miracle, or the teaching of the Trinity, or the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper) because it flies in the face of human intellect and learning (the so-called scientific laws of nature, for example), or because it just doesn’t make sense to me, reason has become the master of Scripture, and all Christian theology is in danger of being lost. Our attitude toward Scripture is well expressed by God’s Word in Isaiah 66:2, “But to this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at my word.”
 

Doctrinal Standards


The official statements of Lutheran teaching are the Lutheran Confessions, ten statements of faith that are found in the 1580 Book of Concord. These Confessions are: (1) The Apostles’ Creed; (2) The Nicene Creed; (3) The Athanasian Creed; (4) The Small Catechism; (5) The Large Catechism; (6) The Augsburg Confession; (7) The Apology of the Augsburg Confession; (8) The Smalcald Articles; (9) The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope; (10) The Formula of Concord. Lutherans do not believe that these Confessions are of equal authority with the Bible. They believe them to be correct interpretations of the Biblical doctrines of which they treat. The LCMS and WELS (as well as the smaller Evangelical Lutheran Synod - ELS) both require their Pastors and congregations to subscribe to the the Lutheran Confessions as true and faithful expositions of God’s Word. The ELCA requires a qualified subscription only to the Augsburg Confession, which they refer not as a correct exposition but as “a witness” to the Gospel.

 

God


Along with Scripture and the ancient church, Lutherans confess that God is triune, the holy Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three divine Persons in one divine Essence. Each of the three Persons is equal in power, majesty, and eternity. Each Person is fully God. Yet they are not three gods, but one God (Deut 6:4; Is. 43:10-11; 1 Co 8:4; Mt 28:19; 2 Co 13:14; Mt 3:16-17). The triune God is revealed only in Jesus Christ and the holy Scriptures. This God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing by His almighty Word (Genesis 1; John 1:1-3). The Father is especially the Creator, the Son the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier.

 

Jesus Christ - Person


Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. The one Jesus Christ has both a divine nature (John 1:1-3; 20:28; Rom 9:5; Col 2:9; Heb 1:3; 1 Joh 5:20) and a human nature (1 Tim 2:5; Lk 24:39; Joh 1:14; Mt 4:2; Heb 4:14-16). The eternal Son of God became incarnate in the Virgin Mary, that is, he took to himself a sinless human nature and was born in Bethlehem (Luke 1:31-35; 2:7; John 1:14; Is 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2-4. Only by being both God and man could our Savior have saved us. To die for us and keep the Law on our behalf, Jesus had to be man (Heb 2:14; Rom 5:18-19; Gal 4:4-5). For his atoning death to be sufficient to take away the sins of the world, Jesus had to be God (Ps 49:7).

 

Jesus Christ - Work


“Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15). By his perfect life of obedience to God’s Law (Rom 5:19; 8:3) and by his all-sufficient atoning death on the cross, Jesus Christ has fully atoned for the sins of the world (1 Joh 2:1-2; Joh 1:29; Is 53:4-6; 2 Co 5:15; Heb 9:25-28; 2 Co 5:21). When he died on the cross as our Substitute, every sin was paid for and every punishment removed (1 Pet 1:18-19; Mk 10:45; 1 Tim 2:4-6; Rom 3:23-25a; Rom 8:1). On the basis of Christ’s death, God justified the world (Rom 5:18), reconciled it to himself (2 Co 5:19; Col 1:20), and forgave it fully (John 1:29; Acts 10:43). On the cross the righteous died for the unrighteous to bring us to God (1 Pet 3:18). Everything needed to bring us to heaven when we died, Christ has already accomplished (Joh 19:30; Gal 2:21). Since Jesus fully paid the price for our redemption, God offers eternal life to us as a gift (Rom 6:23). Christ died for all (2 Co 5:15; 1 Joh 2:2).

 

Man


Of all God’s creatures, only Man (both male and female) was created in the image and likeness of God, that is, in perfect righteousness before him (Gen 1:26-27). God gave human beings dominion and authority over the earth and told them to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28-30). Man was made to worship, honor, and glorify God, and when he does he realizes his reason and purpose for living.

 

Sin


Sin is lawlessness, that is, breaking of God’s commandments (1 Joh 3:4). Because of Adam’s disobedience, man was separated from God (Gen 3:23-24; Is 59:1-2; Rom 5:10; 8:7-8), died spiritually (Gen 2:17), and was sentenced to physical and eternal death (Gen 3:19; Ezek 18:4; Mt 13:40-42; Mt 18:8; 25:41; Joh 3:17-18; Rev 20:10-15). Because of Adam’s original sin, all human beings are conceived and born in sin, sinful by nature, spiritually dead and blind, and are under God’s wrath and condemnation (Ps 51:5; Rom 1:18; 5:12; 5:18; Joh 3:36; Eph 2:1-10; 2 Co 4:4; Joh 6:44; Rom 8:8). Because they are spiritually blind and dead, human beings do not have a free will to choose God or things spiritual. They have free will to make choices in the things of this world, but not concerning the things of God. Only by God’s grace are they able to believe. Lutherans teach that apart from Christ all sin is equally damning - one sin is not worse than another in terms of its damnability (no mortal and venial sins). For the sake of clarity they do distinguish between original sin (the corrupt sinful nature) and actual sin (the specific sins committed) on the one hand, and sins of commission and sins omission on the other.

 

Justification - Salvation


“Furthermore, it is taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God through our own merit, work, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God out of grace for Christ’s sake through faith when we believe that Christ has suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness in his sight, as St. Paul says in Romans 3 and 4” (Augsburg Confession, Article 4, Kolb-Wengert edition; see Acts 10:43, 13:38-39, 15:7-11; 16:30-31; Rom 3:20-28, 4:1-5, 5:1-2; 9:30-32, Gal 2:16, 21, 5:3-4; Phil 3:4-9; Titus 3:4-7; Eph 2:8-9). Justification is not a ongoing process inside of us. Justification is a forensic act that has already occurred outside of us when Christ died for us.

 

Faith


Saving faith is not a good work or virtue. It is not a decision we make to turn our lives over to God. Scripture repeatedly says that faith and good works are polar opposites (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16). We are not saved because of our faith but through faith because of what Jesus has done for us. Faith is created in us by the Gospel of grace and is a gift of God (Acts 10:43-44; 1 Co 12:3; Eph 2:8-9). Faith involves the intellect. But it is primarily that through which we receive the gift of our salvation (John 1:12). Faith is simple trust in God’s gracious promises (Rom 4:16).

 

Grace


Grace (from the Greek word charis), is God’s undeserved favor and kindness toward us. To say that we are “saved by grace” means that God offers us salvation and justification “as a gift” because of what Jesus did for us (Acts 15:11; Rom 3:23-24; Eph 2:5, 8-9; 2 Co 8:9; Heb 2:9). Saving grace is not a quality or gift that God infuses inside of us. Grace cannot be earned or merited for then it ceases to be grace (Rom 11:6; Gal 2:21; 2 Tim 1:9; Titus 3:4-7). Saving grace doesn’t happen inside of us, rather, it already happened outside of us. Grace means that we don’t get what our sins deserved (Psalm 32:1-2; 2 Co 5:19; Psalm 103:10; Psalm 25:7). Paul speaks of God’s grace toward him when he writes: “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim 1:16). The Scriptures also teach that, once converted, God gives gifts of grace to believers (Rom 12:3,6; 1 Pet 4:10).

 

Grace is not irresistable, according to Lutherans. In other words, they teach that it is possible for a believer to fall from grace and lose their faith. The Bible does not teach “once saved always saved.” For example, in the Parable of the Sower, our Lord tells us that the seed that fell on the rocky ground, “are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” St. Paul also issued a stern warning to the Galatian believers, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4).

 

Scripture


Lutherans believe the canonical Bible to be the verbally inspired Word of God. We believe that though the books of the Bible were written by apostles and prophets, God so guided them that every word that they wrote is the true, infallible and authoritative Word of God. (2 Tim 3:15-17; 2 Pet 1:20-21). The key to properly understanding Scripture is Jesus Christ, who is the heart and subject of the Word of God. All Scripture in some way points to him as the source of our salvation (2 Tim 3:14-15; Joh 5:39; Acts 10:43; Luk 24:25-27, 44-47).

 

Lutherans emphasize that all Scripture is either Law or Gospel (John 1:17; Rom 1:16-18). No one can properly interpret the Bible unless they can rightly distinguish between these two (2 Tim 2:15). The Law tells us what we must do or not do in order to please God. The Law commands or forbids; the Law threatens us with punishment when we fail to obey (Rom 4:15). The Gospel tells us what God has done and continues to do for us in Christ Jesus. The Gospel commands or forbids nothing, but gives everything freely as a gift. The Gospel does not threaten but promises God’s grace. The purpose of the Law is to show us our sin (Rom 3:20) so that we repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and help. The purpose of the Gospel is to show us our Savior and the forgiveness and eternal life that we have in him (Rom 3:21-22). The Law shows us how God wants us to live. The Gospel empowers us to so live. The Law is for complacent sinners; The Gospel is for penitent sinners. The Law rebukes the wayward sinner. The Gospel comforts the sorrowing sinner. The Law shows what good works are truly God pleasing. The Gospel empowers us to do such works (Acts 20:32; 1 John 4:19).

 

Conversion


The word conversion means “to be turned.” It refers to the 180 degree turn from damnation to salvation, from unbelief to belief in Christ, from spiritual death to spiritual life, from the kingdom of the devil to the Kingdom of God (John 5:24; Col 1:13; Gal 2:20; 2 Co 5:17; Acts 26:18). Another word for conversion is regeneration, or being born anew (John 3:3-5; 1 Peter 1:23-25. It is the Holy Spirit alone that converts or regenerates through the preaching of the Gospel and Baptism (John 3:5;Rom 10:17; Titus 3:5; 1 Co 12:3 - Divine monergism). Man does not cooperate or contribute anything to this process (synergism). How does a Christian know for certain that he has been converted? Lutherans answer, “Because I have been baptized and believe the Gospel.” We are not to look inward to spiritual progress and sanctified feelings, nor outward to works that we have done for certainty of conversion.

 

Means of Grace


The cross is the source and cause of our forgiveness and eternal life. Faith is that which receives it and makes it our own. In his wisdom God established a delivery system of grace so that what Christ accomplished on the cross would be delivered to people throughout the world and across the centuries. Without such a delivery system, no one would have benefited from Christ’s death (Rom 10:13-17; also Rom 1:16; Acts 20:32; 1 Pet 1:23-25; Titus 3:5; Joh 3:5; Matthew 26:26-28). We call this delivery system the means of grace that comes to us through office of the Ministry (Pastoral office). In the words of Article 5 of the Augsburg Confession: “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments [Baptism and the Lord’s Supper]. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel.”
 

Sacraments


Lutherans maintain that there are two Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They hold that a true Sacrament (Lutherans also call them “mysteries of God”) must bestow grace, be commanded by God in Scripture, and have a visible sign. Sacraments are means of God’s grace and are the visible Gospel. Baptism is a powerful means of grace that gives salvation to those who receive it in faith (Joh 3:5; Rom 6:2-4; 1 Pet 3:21-22; 1 Co 12:13; Titus 3:5; Acts 2:38, 22:16). Infants also are baptized for God grants them faith and salvation through this Sacrament (Luk 18:15-18; Eph 2:1-5). The Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of Jesus Christ given in and with the bread and wine (Mt 26:26-28; 1 Co 10:16). Lutherans believe that four things are simultaneously received in the mouth of the communicant: Christ’s body/bread and Christ’s blood/wine. All communicants receive Christ’s body and blood, believers as a blessing and unbelievers as a judgment (1 Co 11:23-30). The Lord’s Supper also is a powerful means of grace that gives forgiveness and the strengthening of faith. It is the most intimate communion with the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Lutherans tend to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, or at least frequently, because they believe that through it they receive the treasures of forgiveness and eternal life.

 

Christian Living /Sanctification


Christians are justified by faith alone. True justifying faith, however, is never alone. As a healthy tree brings forth fruit, so true faith brings forth love and good works (Eph 2:8-10). When a Christian is converted they are born anew and become new creations (2 Co 5:17). Therefore they should have a changed life: new impulses, new desires, new priorities and new activities. The Christian always strives for perfection, to avoid sin, to keep the Ten Commandments, and to be like Jesus (Eph 4:1). The Christian loves his fellow Christians and wants to be with them, loves God’s Word and Sacraments and worship. The Christian understands that the greatest love is to share the message of eternal life through faith in Jesus.

 

However, on this side of heaven, Christians will always remain simul iustus et peccator, “at the same time saints and sinners.” Though our sins are covered and not counted against us in Christ, our sinful nature remains until the resurrection on the last day - as does the devil and the world. There is a constant struggle between the old man and the new man, the flesh and the Spirit (Rom 7:14-8:1; Gal 5:16-17). This struggle, though it grieves the Christian, is actually proof that we are Christians, and is normal in this life. Therefore, Christians live in a cycle of repentance and absolution; they are in constant need of God’s grace and forgiveness, which is found in the Gospel in all its forms (Preaching, Scripture, Baptism, Lord’s Supper, Absolution, Liturgy). Finally, it must be said that God’s acceptance and forgiveness of us never depends on our sanctified life, but only on what Christ has done for us. Lutherans stress justification more than sanctification because it is through justification that Christians are empowered to live the sanctified life (1 John 4:19).

 

The Church


The holy Christian Church is the communion of saints, the total number of those who believe in Christ. All believers in Christ, but only believers, are members of the church (invisible church). But the church can also be viewed visibly, as the total number of those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and gather around Word and Sacraments, though many of these do not actually believe.

 

Church Government /Polity


The New Testament does not command any particular church polity or government: episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational. Therefore Lutherans believe that Christians have freedom to choose a polity that glorifies God and serves the Gospel. Some Lutherans have a congregational polity (as we do in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod); others have an episcopal form of government (such as the Lutheran Church in Sweden).

 

Church and State How Christians are to Relate To the World


On the basis of Scripture, Lutherans teach that Christians are simultaneously citizens of two distinct kingdoms or authorities: the spiritual authority (Christ’s kingdom, the holy Church) and the temporal authority (secular government and authority). Both of these kingdoms have been established by God and given to mankind as the highest of gifts. God has not only established the spiritual kingdom (“I will build my Church” Mt 16:16) but also all the temporal or secular kingdom (“for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God . . . for the authorities are God's servants” Rom 13:1,6) Therefore Christians are to submit not only to the laws of God’s kingdom but also to the laws of the State. “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (1 Pet 2:13-14). Only when the laws of the State command the Christian to sin are they free to disobey such laws (Acts 5:27-29). Therefore individual Christians please God through a secular vocation as much as do those through a spiritual vocation, for God created both realms. Christians are not sinning by serving, but are encouraged to serve as soldiers, fight in just wars, run for political office, engage in social action, vote, or work in the proper forums to change society for the better, when such vocations are necessary for loving one’s neighbor as oneself.

 

The two kingdoms should stay within their respective bounds and not do the God-given work of the other. The kingdom of Christ is spiritual (“my kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36). Its focus is proclaiming the forgiveness of sins and eternal life through Christ. The Church, as Church, has no business controlling or commanding governments, overthrowing or undermining governments, setting up rival governments, having standing armies and going to war (The Crusades were a travesty), or establishing new secular laws. Contrariwise, the State has no business dictating to the Church what it should teach or practice, or in any way controlling the spiritual affairs of the Church.

 

Worship


Lutherans believe that in Christian worship, as contrasted with nonChristian worship, the emphasis is not on what we give God, but what He gives us in His Word and Sacraments. It is a “Divine Service,” because in it God comes to serve us with his grace and forgiveness. The emphasis of Lutheran worship is justification by grace through faith. In the words of Lutheran Worship, “The rhythm of our worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives his body to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our calling, where his gifts have their fruition.”
 

End of the World /Christ’s Second Coming


Lutherans believe that the following events will happen at the end of the world in rapid succession. On the Last Day (a day known only by God, Mark 13:32; 1 Th 5:2), Jesus Christ, for the second and final time (Heb 9:28), will visibly return on the clouds of heaven in glory, and every eye will see Him (Mt 24:26-27; Lk 21:27; Acts 1:11, Rev 1:7). All the dead will be raised, and, along with the living (Dan 12:2; John 5:28; 1 Th 4:13-18; 1 Co 15), will be judged by Christ on Judgment Day (John 5:22-23; Mt 25:31f; John 12:48). The heavens and the earth will be destroyed and recreated (Is 65:17; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Rev 21:1). Believers in Christ, with new resurrected bodies (Phil 3:21; 1 Co 15), will enter the glory of the new heavens and the new earth and will dwell with God forever (Mt 25:34, 46; John 17:24; John 3:2-3). Unbelievers will be cast into eternal torment away from the presence of God (Mt 13:40-42; 25:41,46; 2 Th 1:9). Lutherans believe that the thousand years (Millennium) mentioned in the book of Revelation is not to be understood as a literal thousand years, but refers in picture language to the spiritual age of the Church, in which we are living now (Lutherans are amillennialists).

 

Leadership in the Church


According to Scripture, all Christians are members of the priesthood of all believers, and they equally possess all the rights and privileges that Christ has given His Church (1 Pet 2:9; Rev 1:5-6; 1 Co 3:21-22). At the same time, God has established the holy Ministry (the Office of Pastor). From the priesthood of believers, God calls certain men to exercise the Office of the Keys: to publicly preach the Gospel, absolve sin, administer the Sacraments, teach God’s Word, guard against heresy and sinful living, and lead God’s people in worship (Eph 4:11; Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1 Tim 3:1-7; 4:14; Titus 1:5-9; Joh 21:15-17; 1 Pet 5:1-4; 2 Tim 4:1-5; Mt 28:19-20; 2 Tim 2:2). As they faithfully carry out their Divine Ministry, and teach pure doctrine, Pastors represent Christ (Lk 10:16) and they should be obeyed and submitted to (Heb 13:17). Pastors should not lord it over the congregation but serve as examples (1 Pet 5:1-2).

 

Basis of Unity-Fellowship Relation w/ other churches


Agreement in the essential doctrines of the Christian Faith (the Gospel and the Sacraments), as presented in the 1580 Book of Concord is the historical the basis of pulpit and altar Fellowship (Unity) for Lutherans. Unfortunately the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is one of a few Lutheran bodies that still strive to follow this basis today.

 

Election


Lutherans teach that before the foundation of the world, God chose (predestined, elected) believers in Christ to be saved eternally, purely out of his grace. This is the clear teaching of Rom 8:28-30 and Eph 1:4-14. God’s election of some to salvation is not the same as God’s foreknowledge. God’s foreknowledge means that before time began he knew everything that would happen in the future. God’s election means that before time began he decreed that certain people would be saved eternally. Does this mean that God predestined the rest to be damned? This Scripture does not teach, therefore we dare not teach it! Rather Scripture teaches that those who will be condemned will be condemned through their own fault, because they were unwilling to believe (Lk 13:34; Acts 7:51; Mt 22:1-10; Lk 14:16-24). Though this seems contradictory to human reason, Lutherans are content to go only as far as Scripture does on this subject. Where Scripture is silent, we are silent. The entire purpose of the teaching of election by God’s grace is, in the Words of the Formula of Concord,

 

to give the beautiful and glorious comfort that God was so deeply concerned about every individual Christian’s conversion, righteousness, and salvation and so faithfully minded about it that “even before the foundation of the world was laid” he held counsel and ordained “according to his purpose”how he would bring me thereto and keep me therein. Furthermore, God wanted to insure my salvation so firmly and certainly — for due to the weakness and wickedness of our flesh it could easily slip from our fingers, and through the deceit and power of the devil and the world it could easily be snatched and taken from our hands — that he ordained my salvation in his eternal purpose, which cannot fail or be overthrown, and put it for safekeeping into the almighty hand of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, out of which no one can pluck us (John 10:28). For this reason, too, Paul asks, Since we are called according to the purpose of God, “who will separate us from the love of God in Christ?” (Rom. 8:35).This doctrine will also give us the glorious comfort, in times of trial and affliction, that in his counsel before the foundation of the world God has determined and decreed that he will assist us in all our necessities, grant us patience, give us comfort, create hope, and bring everything to such an issue that we shall be saved. Again, Paul presents this in a most comforting manner when he points out that before the world began God ordained in his counsel through which specific cross and affliction he would conform each of his elect to “the image of his Son,” and that in each case the afflictions should and must “work together for good” since they are “called according to his purpose.” From this Paul draws the certain and indubitable conclusion that neither “tribulation nor anguish, neither death nor life, etc. can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:28, 29, 35, 38, 39) (Formula of Concord 44-49).

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