Since earliest times, the Christian Church has used statements of faith to summarize Biblical teachings. The earliest of these statements is called the Apostle’s Creed. It is witnessed as already being in common usage by A.D. 325. While certainly not written by the Apostles it is called the Apostle’s Creed in that it accurately reflects what these first preachers of the Church taught about God. “Creed” comes, from the Latin word “credo” meaning “I believe.”
With the universal Christian Church, Lutherans teach and respond to the love of the Triune God: the Father, creator of all that exists; Jesus Christ, the Son, who became human to suffer and die for the sins of all human beings and to rise to life again in the final victory over death and Satan; and the Holy Spirit, who creates faith through God’s Word and Sacraments. The three persons of the Trinity are coequal and coeternal, one God.
Here is the text of the Creed with each statement accompanied by some of the Scriptural texts that the creedal statement summarizes.
Luther’s Seal is easily the most recognized symbol for Lutheranism, and for good reason. In Luther’s day it was a common practice for prominent members of the community to have a personal seal or coat of arms. The symbolism on the seal would tell others something about the person, what they did or believed. Through his bold preaching and teaching about the Word of God, Martin Luther had become well-known. So it was that in the year 1530, while Luther was at the Diet (meeting) of Augsburg, Prince John invited Luther to personally oversee creation of a seal that was meant to be expressive of his theology. Luther’s seal is rich with symbols and color. In a letter to a friend, Luther explained the symbolism of his seal
The Meaning of Luther’s Seal
Grace and peace from the Lord. As you wish to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, let me answer you in a most friendly way some of my thoughts about my seal that I want to fashion as a kind of symbol for my theology.
The first element should be a black cross within the heart, which retains its natural color, so that I would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. ‘For one who believes from the heart will be justified’ (Romans 10:10). Now about the black cross which puts the flesh to death and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural [red] color. The cross does not kill of the human nature altogether, rather keeps alive and preserves human nature in a new life. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17) but only by faith in the Crucified.
This heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12).
This rose stands in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed.
Around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in heaven lasts forever and has no end. It is more precious than all other kinds of joy and wealth, just as gold is the most noble, most precious of all metal.
May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.
The Solas of Lutheranism
Being “Lutheran,” our congregations accept and teach the Bible-based teachings of Martin Luther that inspired the reformation of the Christian Church in the 16th century. The teaching of Luther and the reformers can be summarized in three short phrases: Grace alone, Scripture alone, Faith alone.
Scripture alone The Bible is God’s inerrant and infallible Word, in which He reveals His Law and His Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is the sole rule and norm for Christian doctrine.
Grace alone God loves the people of the world, even though they are sinful, rebel against Him and do not deserve His love. He sent Jesus, His Son, to love the unlovable and save the ungodly.
Faith alone By His suffering and death as the substitute for all people of all time, Jesus purchased and won forgiveness and eternal life for them. Those who hear this Good News and believe it have the eternal life that it offers. God creates faith in Christ and gives people forgiveness through Him.
Adapted from A Week in the Life of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, copyright 1996, Concordia Publishing House.
The Lutheran Confessions
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod accepts the Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and subscribes unconditionally to all the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God. We accept the Confessions because they are drawn from the Word of God and on that account regard their doctrinal content as a true and binding exposition of Holy Scripture and as authoritative for all pastors, congregations and other rostered church workers of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
- The Three Ecumenical Creeds
- The Augsburg Confession
- The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
- The Large Catechism
- The Small Catechism
- The Smalcald Articles
- Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope
- The Epitome of the Formula of Concord
- The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord
- Catalog of Testimonies
|A series of 27 pamphlets that address doctrinal topics, moral issues and concerns in the church to help Christians grow in their understanding of these important questions. These documents are made available in PDF format.|
What is Lutheran Worship?
The Lutheran Confessions teach that worship is a spiritual act, not an outward act. This spiritual worship is a trusting in God and a desiring of the forgiveness, grace and righteousness of God. The righteousness of faith truly honors and obeys God for through the Gospel (Word and Sacrament) the Holy Spirit overcomes distrust and creates faith. The Spirit does not come directly (subjectively), through an inner experience or by one’s own efforts, but through this ministry of the Gospel in teaching the Word of God and rightly administering the sacraments (objectively). Reliance on one’s own works as a way of making peace with God has no place in this kind of faith; Christ has earned salvation for us and God freely and graciously gives it to us. Without faith there can be no worship nor can there be any fruits of faith.
How Do Lutherans Worship?
Because of our sin, we cannot come to God, but God must come to us. This is what takes place in the Divine Service. Through the Word and Sacraments God speaks to His people. He reminds us of our sinfulness and failure to love completely and He then forgives us and assures us of the grace we have in Jesus Christ.
This grace is central to our lives as Christians and we must treat it with all reverence and respect. It was not of our doing and it is not ours with which to tamper. Therefore worship is not a matter of novelty or entertainment, much less a matter of attempting to please the masses. For this reason we choose hymns that are doctrinally sound and theologically significant to round out our worship. Hymns, like the Divine Service, must reflect this Christo-centric “God coming to man” theology or else they are unfit for the service. May our worship always be pure and always emphasize this Biblical Christo-centric attitude.
A Summary of Christian Faith
These are the most important texts that every Christian should learn, know, and believe.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments show us our sin and our need for a Savior.
You shall have no other gods.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. [Deuteronomy 5:6-21]
“I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.” [Ex. 20:5–6]
The Apostles’ Creed
The Apostles’ Creed helps us confess the God who has done everything to save us from sin through Jesus Christ and to make us members of His Church.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
In the Lord’s Prayer we call upon God, the only source for all we need.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen. (See Matthew 6:9–13)
In Holy Baptism we are united with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Baptism the Holy Spirit gives to us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” [Matthew 28:19]
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” [Mark 16:16]
“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” [Titus 3:5–8]
“We were buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glow of the Father, we too may live a new life.” [Romans 6:4]
Confession and Absolution
Confession and Absolution daily returns us to the promises and hope given to us in our Baptism.
Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” [John 20:22-23]
The Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper, also called the Sacrament of the Altar, is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink to strengthen faith against the temptation of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh.
The holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul write:
Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.”
In the same way also He took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.
Guide to Essential Teachings in Scripture
These references are presented to encourage the study of, and the meditation on, the essential teachings of Scripture. This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor are all the great topics found in Scripture listed here. You’ll be able to hover your pointer over the Bible reference and the text will pop up.
Creation and the Doctrine of Man
Job 10:8–12; 38:8–9, 19–20
Justification by Grace through Faith
Ephesians 2:16; Romans 8:6–8
2 Corinthians 5:21
1 Corinthians 15:20–23
1 Peter 1:3–4
Romans 6:3–4; 8:1–4
Philippians 4:4, 8
One God in Three Persons
Deuteronomy 4:35; 6:4–19
1 Corinthians 8:6
Baptism of Jesus; Transfiguration of Jesus
1 John 4:13
1 Corinthians 12:3
2 Corinthians 3:18
The Nature of God
Psalm 40:11, 51:1; 54:1; 85:7
Psalm 10:15; 59:5; 80:4
Psalm 53:2–3, 5
1 John 4:8–10
Jesus Christ: the God-man
John 1:1–4, 14, 16
Hebrews 2:14–18; 4:15
1 Peter 2:22–24; 3:18
The Means of Grace
2 Corinthians 5:19
1 Corinthians 12:12–13
1 Corinthians 10:14–22; 11:17–34
The Church of Jesus Christ
2 Timothy 1:9
Ephesians 1:18; 4:11
1 Corinthians 6:11
1 Peter 2:9–10
Reading the Work of Martin Luther
Eventually, when you want to learn more about Lutheranism, you will want to read the work of Martin Luther. For those of us who don’t necessarily want to add the American edition of Luther’s Works to the library, it is fortunate that a number of websites that have the writings of Martin Luther for the reading. Here are some I have found.
• The first place to go to read Luther are his most beloved texts: the Small Catechism (sometimes called Luther’s Little Instruction Book) and the Large Catechism. These can be readily found within the Book of Concord. You will also find here Luther’s Schmalkald Articles.
• Project Wittenberg is probably the most extensive and well-known on-line collection of Luther’s writings.
• Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) page for Martin Luther mirrors some of Project Wittenberg content but also has a few more writings.
• GodRules.net has a great collection of Luther’s sermons along with a few other writings.
• The Internet Sacred Texts Collection features a collection of nine of Luther’s sermons.
Two site of note don’t have content of their own, but point to primary source document elsewhere on the Web:
• Beggars All has aggregated a great list of Luther’s writings.