What Does It Mean to be a Lutheran Christian?
Lutheran Christians are Christians—people who follow Christ.
Christians believe in
One God, who we know in Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Jesus Christ, who was fully human and fully divine
The Bible as God’s Word for us
The Gospel: We are saved by Christ alone through faith
Study the Bible
Pray our thanks, praise, and requests to God
Tell others about God’s love in Jesus
Serve our neighbors
Give our time, talents and treasure
No Generic Christians
The most important point is that we are Christians—one with all believers in Christ. Yet, there is no such thing as a “generic” Christian. Every Christian has “roots,” a particular history which shapes
theology (thoughts about God),
piety (the style of worshiping God),
discipline (how we live out faith).
.…to claim our “roots” as Lutherans is to know who we are, what is important to us, and how we can share our strengths with the whole Church.
Being a Lutheran Christian is a Christian with a particular history, theology, and worship.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a monk in Germany who wanted to reform the church. He didn’t want to leave the Roman Catholic Church. He insisted that reforming people be called “Christians”—their opponents called them “Lutherans” as an insult.
Luther and other reformers struggled to maintain (1) unity with Rome and (2) faithfulness to the Gospel.
The Augsburg Confession was written in 1530 to try to agree on the essentials with Rome. They thought the first 21 Articles were not controversial, but they were wrong. Article 4, “Justification,” proved to be too much. Article 4 is the key to what Lutheran Christians believe:
We are saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection,
not by good works.
The Book of Concord contains the Augsburg Confession, and other documents like Luther’s Small Catechism and the Formula of Concord.
A Lutheran Christian believes that these historical documents accurately describe Christian faith.
“Theology‟ is the language we use to talk about God. For example:
God is all-powerful.
Jesus died for our sins.
These are theological statements. They express our faith in words. Fallible, limited human language will never fully be able to express the truth of the perfect and infinite God. How we communicate always changes. So, we have to change our language to communicate timeless truths about God.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Rom 1:17)
Faith in Christ is everything! No good deeds, social status, job title, training, intellect, trip or punishment will make us right with God!
Jesus died on the cross for your sins and was raised so you will have a new life. That’s enough. In fact, that’s everything. All you can do is say, “I trust Jesus!”
Lutheran Christians emphasize the Gospel. We call ourselves “Evangelical” (from the Greek for “good news”).
Sin = the fundamental corruption of human beings and creation
= the desire to be gods, to control others and to save ourselves by our own works
= “curving in on ourselves”
= self-preoccupation and self-centeredness
= No one is free from sin. Even when we think we’re doing good we’ve decided what’s good (usually what’s good for me and mine)
= Only Christ can free us. In Christ, we can truly do good, which is love of God and love of neighbor.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4-5)
Law & Gospel = God’s Word comes in two ways, Law and Gospel (notice capitals)
Law = Rules for ordering and protecting life temporarily (civil use, external, temporary)
= Shows us Our Sin. The Law condemns, judges, crushes our pride and arrogance. (theological use, internal, eternal)
Gospel = Shows us Our Savior. Brings Jesus to us
= Forgives, saves, gives eternal life
= Shows us to love God and neighbor
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (Gal 3:10-11)
Word of God = Jesus, the Son of God, second person of the Trinity
= Anything which brings Christ to us, namely
= The Bible is God’s Word as it records God speaking in the past and speaks Christ to us today
= Sacraments (Baptism, Holy Communion)
= Church, which is the Body of Christ in the world
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Jn 1:1)
Theology of The Cross = Jesus on the cross shows us that God’s power is revealed in weakness, not strength
= Seen without faith, Jesus’ death is humiliation
= Hidden and seen only by faith, Jesus’ death and resurrection conquers sin, death and the devil
= The theology of glory looks at temporary human success and triumph and calls it glory
= The theology of the cross looks at God’s forgiveness and new life in Jesus death and resurrection and calls it grace.
I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:1-2)
Priesthood of all believers = If all have sinned and need forgiveness, then everyone is equal before God
= Clergy no better than lay people before God
= Priests are those who talk to God for the people. Now we are all priests
= We do not need any mediator between us and God. Christ is the only mediator
= Christians have a vocation, a calling from God
= Every Christian is called to love God and neighbor at home, school, work and play
= Christian parents are bishops in their homes
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet 2:9)
Two Kingdoms = We are saved by Christ alone. Human government is ultimately unable to save the world.
= Government has an appropriate role in protecting life and keeping order (see the Law)
= Church has the role of proclaiming salvation through Christ, administering the sacraments, and guiding people to live holy lives of love towards God and neighbor (see the Gospel)
= Christians live in both “kingdoms‟: we are called to be citizens and saints
= Lutheran Christians, then, serve in the military, as government officials, etc. as true callings.
= A Christian may disobey government only when government claims to be a way to salvation, prevents the preaching of
The Purpose of Worship
For Lutheran Christians, the primary reason we gather is
to hear God’s Word for us
Secondarily, we praise God, thank God, ask God for what we need, provide for the needy and the work of the church, and be with other Christians in fellowship.
This flows from our emphasis on justification by grace through faith. If our salvation is not based on our works, then our primary interaction with God is not our giving God something. Instead, we receive what God wants to give us: his Word, Jesus Christ, who is forgiveness, life, and salvation.
The worshipers’ primary role is passive—receiving, listening, open to hearing God.
With such an emphasis on the Word, the words of hymns are more important than the music.
Scripture is the basis for the words spoken and sung
God may speak to us in the confession and absolution, the reading of scripture, the sermon, the hymns, prayers, and even in our fellowship. Our job is to look and listen for God speaking to us. It may be a different source every Sunday.
The sacraments (baptism and Holy Communion) are the one place we can guarantee Christ’s presence.
God’s work is Sacramental
God does not come to us directly, but uses means received by faith—water in baptism, wine and bread in holy communion, words in the Bible, people in Christian community.
With faith, we see, hear, and receive Christ.
Without faith, we see only words on a page or spoken, water, wine, bread and sinful people.
A Sacrament, rightly administered, has three parts:
Ordinary things (water, bread, wine)
God’s promise (making a child of God and one in Christ, forgiveness, life, and salvation)
Christ’s command (Go…baptize—Matt 28:19, Do this—1 Cor 11:24-25)
When God uses means, he doesn’t have to change them. Instead, God adds his Word, Christ, which makes the Sacrament a Sacrament:
Water doesn’t stop being water
Bread and Wine don’t stop being bread and wine
We believe Sacraments are BOTH/AND:
Water AND the Word which is Baptism
Bread, wine AND truly the body and blood
of Jesus which is Holy Communion
Good Order Helps Worship Happen
Good order in worship is about FOCUS: helping people focus on Christ:
Using scripture as the basis for the words we say and sing
Eliminating distractions (too many people walking around, conversations during worship, peeling paint)
Providing familiarity (avoiding novelties that draw attention to the novelty and not the point)
Consistent visual and auditory symbols which provide layers of meaning
Good order is also about the WHOLE CHURCH: helping people experience God’s church that is bigger than the congregation
Using an order of worship rooted in a common history
Using a common series of readings (the Revised Common Lectionary)
Using seasons of the church year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost) and calendar of holy days
Using common translations of the Bible, Lord’s Prayer, and Apostles’ Creed
Good order is about worship being an expression of the KINGDOM OF GOD: helping people experience heaven on earth
Worship has a TRANSCENDENT dimension, meaning it lifts us out of time and space and connects us to the Big Picture of what God is doing
We remember that our praises join the angels and all the saints in heaven
We use texts (especially from Revelation) which focus us on the end of time, when God’s Kingdom is fully revealed.
Adiaphora = matters of freedom
The word “adiaphora” refers to things that are not essential for salvation but are matters of freedom. If the proclamation and reception of the Gospel is the primary focus of worship, there are many matters that are issues of freedom:
What language we use
What instruments support our singing
Wearing vestments (the white robe, etc)
Having an stone or wood altar
Having an altar at all!
Using pews or chairs
Using setting 1, 2 or maybe not using the ELW (the abbreviation for our hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship)!
What else can you think of?
Just because these are matters of freedom, does not mean they are unimportant! Remember the point is to proclaim the Gospel and since everyone speaks different languages, has different customs, and are distracted by different things, then we must be serve the whole community by discovering how they hear the Gospel best. We use our freedom for the sake of the Gospel and for our neighbor.
For more information, please call, write or e-mail
St. John’s Lutheran Church
7205 N 51st Ave, Glendale, AZ 85301