What is a Lutheran?

Lutheranism is a movement within Christianity that seeks to preserve the best of the Catholic and Protestant traditions by holding to Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation and by remaining faithful to the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God.

Lutheran beliefs are summed up in a document called the Augsburg Confession. (The complete text can be found here.) Below is a brief description of each of the 28 "articles" of faith:

  • Article 1: God. The true God is "triune" (three-in-one), existing as three Persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) in one divine Essence.
  • Article 2: Original Sin. All human beings are born separated from God by their sin and must be saved.
  • Article 3: The Son of God. Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity and the son of the Virgin Mary, so He is both fully God and fully human. He suffered and died on the cross to take away all sin, and He rose again to life and ascended to heaven. He will return one day in judgment.
  • Article 4: Justification. We are not justified (made righteous) by anything we do, but only what Jesus Christ has done for us, which is received through faith.
  • Article 5: The Ministry. Faith comes through the Word of God (the Bible, the Gospel) and through the Sacraments (Baptism and Holy Communion).
  • Article 6: The New Obedience. We are to obey the Law of God and do good works, but not to earn salvation, rather because it is God's will for our lives.
  • Article 7: The Church. The church is not a building or an organization, but rather the assembly of believers gathered around Word and Sacrament.
  • Article 8: What the Church Is. The authority of the church does not depend on the holiness of ministers but on the Word of God and Christ's institution of the Sacraments.
  • Article 9: Baptism. Baptism is our entrance into God's kingdom and is not to be denied to infants and children.
  • Article 10: The Lord's Supper. The body and blood of Christ are truly present in the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion), which nourishes our faith.
  • Article 11: Confession. The emphasis on confession is not listing all sins but the assurance of forgiveness (absolution).
  • Article 12: Repentance. It is possible for sins committed after baptism to be forgiven when there is contrition (sorrow over sin) and faith (trusting God's promise). Good works are the result of repentance, not the cause of forgiveness.
  • Article 13: Use of the Sacraments. Sacraments do not work merely by an outward act, but they are effective when combined with faith.
  • Article 14: Public Ministry. Only called and ordained pastors should preach and administer the sacraments.
  • Article 15: Church Traditions. We observe as many church traditions as we can (ensuring they do not contradict Scripture), but not to earn forgiveness or merit anything from God.
  • Article 16: Civil Affairs. It is acceptable to be involved in the secular world (including government, etc.), unlike some denominations who say otherwise.
  • Article 17: Christ's Return to Judgment. All people will be raised on the Last Day when Christ returns; those whose sins are forgiven will receive eternal life and everlasting joys, while those who are unrepentant will be condemned to be tormented without end.
  • Article 18: Free Will. Human beings have free will in certain matters concerning this life, but we are not free to choose eternal salvation until the Holy Spirit regenerates us.
  • Article 19: The Cause of Sin. God created us but is not responsible for our sinfulness.
  • Article 20: Good Works. It is necessary to do good works, but "good works" are best understood as following the Ten Commandments in showing love for God and for our neighbor, not in performing invented rites and rituals which have an appearance of "holiness."
  • Article 21: The Worship of the Saints. The memory of saints may be set before us to follow their faith and good works, but not to pray to them or ask their help.
  • Article 22: Both Kinds in the Sacrament. Laypeople receive both the body (bread) and blood (wine) of Christ in Holy Communion.
  • Article 23: The Marriage of Clergy. Lutheran pastors may be married.
  • Article 24: The Mass. We generally follow the liturgical order of worship that has been handed down through the centuries, but we are careful not to give the idea that Christ is being "re-sacrificed" in Holy Communion.
  • Article 25: Confession. Confession is retained because it provides the opportunity for absolution, but listing all one's sins is not necessary.
  • Article 26: The Distinction of Foods. We do not require fasting or avoiding certain foods, as though such fasting were commanded by God or brought us closer to Him. (Fasting can be an important spiritual exercise, but those who do not fast cannot be told they are doing anything wrong.)
  • Article 27: Monastic Vows. We believe that a Christian can serve God equally well in whatever calling ("vocation") he or she has in life, and there is nothing "holier" about being a monk or a nun. (In addition, at the time of the Augsburg Confession, there were numerous abuses, including holding young people to vows that they had been compelled to make at a very early age, which are repudiated here.)
  • Article 28: The Power of Bishops. Bishops may hold ecclesiastical ("churchly") power, but they do not have any secular ("worldly") power by divine right. (This article also addresses many 16th-century abuses.)

Pastor Young is preparing a list of our church's stand on a number of issues of our day. In the meantime, you may email him with your questions, or visit the FAQ page of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (of which we are a part).