WHAT IS A LUTHERAN?
Naturally, a Lutheran is a follower of Martin Luther. Wrong! We are followers of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther as well as you and I are earthen vessels to carry the treasure of the Gospel to the world. We are of common, sinful clay with the surpassing glorious treasure being redemption in Jesus. We believe like Martin Luther that we are saved:
By Grace Alone,
By Faith Alone,
By Christ Alone,
By the Word Alone.
We merely use Luther’s name to differentiate us from the other Christian churches. And to further differentiate us from others who bear the name of ‘Lutheran’, we call ourselves the Church of the Lutheran Confession.
We are saved by Grace Alone.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2:8-9
Grace is unmerited favor or undeserved love. It is bestowed on us in Christ Jesus and the salvation He has worked out for us. We can’t do anything to gain heaven. It is a free gift to us in Christ. He willingly came to earth and lived the perfect life that we never could. When He did this, He fulfilled the perfect Law of God. God says, “You shall be perfect for I the Lord your God am perfect.” Obviously we are imperfect. So our Jesus came and lived the perfect substitutionary life for us.
God also demands punishment for sin. If you offend in one point of the Law, you are guilty of all. The soul that sins, it shall surely die. Not only did Jesus live the perfect life in our place, but He died taking our punishment upon Himself. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed.” Is. 53:5 He did this for those who did not deserve it. What love He has for us lost sinners!
When He died upon the cross saying, “It is finished,” His work of saving this lost world was finished. God demanded perfection and Jesus was the perfect Lamb of God. God demanded punishment for sin and sent His only-begotten Son to bear that punishment.
Now as Paul wrote, “It is the gift of God,” this salvation won by Christ. What if someone came to your door with a million dollars? You did not know he was coming. You were lazy and were not working at the time. The money comes directly to you. You did not work for it. You certainly did not merit it. Such is salvation in Jesus. It is a gift pure and simple. It comes from the gracious hand of your loving God. If you were to work your whole life, you never could merit it.
Tragically today there are those who teach that we do merit it, that we can work for it and earn it, at least in part. The reason for the Lutheran Reformation was that the church was held captive by the papacy which taught that you are saved by grace and works. The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace, and if by the grace of God then not by works. Therefore God used the Reformation to return to His people the true teaching of salvation by Grace Alone. “They are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 3:24
The Roman Catholic Church taught then and teaches now that Mary and other believers had accumulated enough merit for themselves in life to cancel out the sin committed in life. As a matter of fact, they say, these had accumulated more than enough merit for themselves. You can apply to have some of their merit! What utter nonsense! Scripture puts all mankind together as sinners in need of salvation, not in need of part of salvation from God and the other part to be worked off by man. “For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:22-23
Because of the Roman Catholic departure from the teaching of salvation by Grace Alone, we remain separate from that church. We call ourselves ‘Lutheran’, because we believe, like Luther did, the Word.
We are saved by Faith Alone.
“For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” Rom. 3:28
It was through his study in particular of Romans and Galatians that Martin Luther grasped by the power of the Spirit that we are saved by Faith Alone. We are just and righteous in the Father’s eyes through the merit and satisfaction of the Son. Christ’s righteousness covers us over and makes up for our sin and unrighteousness. When the Father sees us through Christ, our Savior, He sees His own children. We have Christ’s righteousness by faith, “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” Rom. 3:22 “They are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by His blood, to be received by faith.” Rom 3:24-25 We receive the gift of salvation by faith. We do not work for it or merit it. We could say that faith is the receiving hand that receives the gift of salvation. It is that and nothing more, like the earth receiving the rain.
The false teaching has crept into the church that faith is not an act of God upon man, but at least partially man-inspired. We believe as stated in Luther’s Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, nor come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; in like manner as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith…” If it is by any reason or strength within myself that I believe, then it is no longer by Grace Alone. Faith is simply the receiving hand empowered by the Spirit.
As Lutherans we separate ourselves from various Christian churches which give the credit to man for believing. Some talk of their ‘decision’ for Christ, as if it were a work of theirs. The fact is, as Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose me, I chose you.” Others say that the reason why some believe is that they were ‘inclined’ to believe, or that they resisted the Holy Spirit less than others. This is of course giving part of the credit for conversion to sinful man. Was the apostle Paul ‘inclined’ to believe? Or did he resist the Holy Spirit less than some others? Of course not! One could not find a man who was more bitterly opposed to the Way. He breathed out threats and murders. “But Saul laid waste the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” Acts 8:3. It was by the power of God that Saul, the persecutor, became Paul, the apostle and missionary.
Some others say that man ‘cooperates’ with God in his conversion. The unspiritual man is totally ignorant of spiritual things. The unconverted is dead in sin. “And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins.” Eph. 2:1 “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Cor. 2:14 Just as on the last day it will be completely by the power of God that the dead will be raised, so in conversion it is alone by the power of God that the spiritually dead are made alive in Christ.
No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit. It is He whose tool is the Word, the Sword of the Spirit. It is the Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies. As Lutherans, we believe from Scripture that faith is Spirit-wrought. And this faith is a gift of God just as surely as salvation itself is. Through faith, this Spirit-wrought faith, and not works, we are saved.
We are saved by Christ Alone.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
All Scripture testifies that Jesus is the Redeemer of the world. He fulfilled Old Testament prophecy from Genesis 3:15 to Malachi 4:2. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He it is who is our Immanuel, God with us.
Even though Scripture is so clear, yet the largest Christian denomination, Roman Catholic, has a mediatrix, Mary, to intercede with he son. The Savior is THE Savior. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Tim. 2:5 Jesus has won for us salvation, the Lord having laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Mary was no different than any other sinner, except that by pure grace the Lord picked her to bear the Son of God. She has no avail before the throne of God unless it s through the blood and merit of her son, our Savior. This is the same with us. The Lamb of God is alone worthy to take away the sins of the world. The true Lutheran church teaches in Luther’s day and now that Jesus alone is salvation. He is THE only one through whom we address our Father in heaven.
In these last days there are many cults who have their supposed “christ.” Jesus in His Olivet Address warned that this would come about. “And if these days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. Then if any one says to you, ‘Lo, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Lo, I have told you beforehand.” Matt. 24:22-25 John calls these ‘antichrists’ because they try to stand in the place of Christ. 1 John 2:18-25, 4:1-6 We Lutherans believe, teach and confess that there is no other name given among men by which we must be saved than Jesus Christ. He alone has made peace for us with God by the blood of His cross. Col. 1:20, II Cor. 5:18-21 Read Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 and John 1 and see that there can be no sharing of His Saviorhood with any.
It took the work of God to save man. Jesus is true God and performed perfectly man’s salvation. We teach our children from the Small Catechism, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord; Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold and silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent sufferings and death; that I should be His own…”
We are saved by the Word Alone.
“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb. 4:12
We are not saved by believing in ‘traditions’ as handed down by men. We are not going to heaven because of what popes and church councils have said. We do not have the free forgiveness of sins because some group of men in an assembly voted it to us. We are saved by believing the Word, which makes us wise unto salvation. An old hymn says that the arm of man will fail you, you dare not trust your own. Leaning upon man is like leaning upon the point of a spear. If men will speak the Word of God, then it is the Word of God that saves and not the men.
The Bible is the Word of God. The Moslem Koran is not the Word of God, nor are any of the other so-called holy writings of various religions. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:16-17 With this passage and many others we see that the Christian Bible is truly God’s Word and discloses the true way of salvation. If you were to study any other so-called holy books of different religions, they all have the same way of salvation, namely through works. It is alone in the Word of God that the Way is by grace, by faith, by Christ. “And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” 2 Pet. l:19
The Bible is the Word of God because in it we have revealed to us the Redeemer, Jesus. The Bible is truly His Story. From the very first Gospel promise in Genesis 3:15 we have Jesus revealed. He is the seed of woman who bruises satan in the head. Satan was able to bruise Jesus in the heel in that Jesus was crucified at the hands of sinful men. But after He died, He arose from the dead.
Jesus is even called the Word of God so much so as the Bible is His Story. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” John 1:1,14. When we read the Word we behold the glory of the Word made flesh. Our Lord encourages us to study the Word because “It is they (the Scriptures) that bear witness to me.” John 5:39
We live in such a sin-darkened world. It is through reading and studying the Word that we have the true Light of the world. The Bible is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, because the Way of salvation is revealed in it for us to believe. And the Word is clear in this regard. All of Scripture as with one voice testifies to, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31
What is a Lutheran? A Lutheran is a Christian who believes that we are saved:
BY GRACE ALONE
BY FAITH ALONE
BY CHRIST ALONE
BY THE WORD ALONE
To God alone be all praise!