We believe that the Bible is the true Word of God (Romans 3:2). The different books of the Bible were written by men who wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21, 3:2). Because the Bible is the Word of God, it is completely true and reliable (Numbers 23:19). The Bible is God’s final word in all matters of life and faith. Therefore, we are forbidden to add to its teachings or ignore some of them (Galatians 1:8). The Bible is a great blessing to us, because without it we would never know that we have been saved—we would only know death (2 Timothy 3:15).
As Lutherans, we confess our faith according to the creeds and confessions contained in the Book of Concord. We don’t believe these are superior to the Bible, or that they are also God’s inspired Word. However, we do believe that these are the proper explanation of the Bible and the Christian Faith.
In the Bible, God speaks of Himself as three persons (Matthew 28:19) in one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). So, when we say that we believe in the Triune God, we mean that we believe that there is one, Triune, God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equally God. God is; eternal (Psalm 90:2), unchangeable (Malachi 3:6), almighty (Genesis 17:1), all-knowing (John 21:17), holy (Leviticus 19:2), loving (1 John 4:8), faithful and just (Deuteronomy 32:4). God created all things and still continues to watch over and care for His creation (John 1:3, Psalm 104:14). The greatest way God has shown us His love was in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to save humanity from sin and eternal death (John 3:16-17).
Humanity and Sin.
The Bible teaches that God made the first people, Adam and Eve, in His own image, which means that God made them with souls, reason, and the knowledge of God and His will. God also made humans to rule over and care for creation (Genesis 1:26-28). When God made Adam and Eve, they were sinless and perfect. This perfection was lost when they were tempted by the Devil to disobey God (Genesis 3:1-7). Because they sinned, Adam and Eve were no longer perfect or immortal. Now, they and all their descendants would die (Romans 5:12). Sin is something that people cannot get rid of. We are born with it, and if it weren’t for God bringing us to faith, it would control us and consume our lives (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:10-12).
The Devil is a fallen angel who rebelled against God. He, along with those angels who fought with him against God were thrown out of heaven and cast into hell. (Revelation 12:9). The Devil is not God’s son, nor is he Jesus’ brother (2 Peter 2:4, John 3:16). We are warned that the Devil is constantly looking for ways that he can harm us both physically and spiritually, to keep us away from the saving truth of the Gospel (1 Peter 5:8, John 8:44). The Devil has been defeated, because as many as believe on Jesus as their Savior from sin and death are promised eternal life (Acts 16:31)
Even though the Bible is not a “book of rules,” there are many rules God gives us in the Bible. God didn’t need to give these rules to our first parents, Adam and Eve, because they were created perfect, and still had a perfect knowledge of God’s will for how they should live their lives. We still have this natural knowledge of God’s law in our consciences. (Romans 2:14-15). But, because of sin, our knowledge of God’s law is not 100% reliable. In order that the people could know His will for them, God gave them the written law through Moses (John 1:17). Even though, because of sin, we cannot keep all of God’s laws perfectly, He still demands perfection of us, and threatens to punish those who, by their sin and unbelief, desire to be judged on the basis of their own lives (Galatians 3:10)
The Law and the Gospel are not the same thing. The law shows us our sin, but the Gospel shows us our Savior, Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has lived perfectly and died innocently to pay for our sins (John 3:16, Romans 1:16). Unlike the Law, which we naturally know in our consciences, we don’t naturally have any knowledge of the Gospel. The Gospel is something which God has to reveal to us, which He does in the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). For our forgiveness and salvation, the Gospel directs us away from ourselves, towards only Christ our Savior (Matthew 1:21). In the Gospel, Jesus is described as being both true man and true God—two natures in one person. (Hebrews 2:14, Matthew 3:16-17). Jesus had to be true man so that his life and death would be the right kind of payment to save us, and He had to be true God so that His life and death would be a great enough payment to atone for the sins of all people (Hebrews 4:14). By His life and death, Jesus fulfilled God’s law in our place. By His resurrection, we are promised that what Jesus accomplished was enough—that it had been accepted by God. (Romans 4:22-25). The credit for Jesus sinless life, innocent death, and victorious resurrection is counted for us and made ours by faith alone (Galatians 3:8, Titus 3:5).
The Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who creates saving faith in people’s hearts. Sinners cannot bring themselves to faith. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to do this (1 Corinthians 2:14, 12:3). The Holy Spirit is not just a Holy Messenger. The Bible calls the Holy Spirit God—equal to the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19). The Holy Spirit is the one who makes us Holy in God’s sight by giving us faith in Christ and forgiving our sins (John 3:3,6). The Holy Spirit does this for us through the Means of Grace: God’s Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper (Romans 10:17, Acts 2:38, Matthew 26:26-28). In summary, The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Godhead who brings us the benefits of what Christ has done and makes them ours by faith.
The Means of Grace.
God has promised in the Bible that there are certain means, or vehicles, through which He promises to give and strengthen faith. These means by which we received God’s grace are; the Word of God, Baptism, and Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper.
The Word of God is not just how God has revealed Himself and His truth to humanity. It is also how God brings us to faith and saves us. The Holy Spirit works through the Law to drive us to repentance in despair over our sin. The Holy Spirit then works faith in our hearts through the Gospel.
Baptism is the special, God-ordained washing of water and God’s God by which our sins are washed away and we are reborn into the Christian faith. (Titus 3:5-7) Baptism is something babies and small children need, and can receive, just as much as those who are grown. This is because even babies are sinners (Psalm 51:5) who can believe (Mark 9:42), and Jesus said to let the little ones come to Him, because the kingdom of God is meant for them as well (Matthew 19:14).
The Lord’s Supper (also known as Holy Communion) is Christ’s true body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine (Luke 22:19-20). This is given and instituted by Christ for believers to eat and to drink in faith for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26-28). The Lord’s Supper is intended for believers who are able to both spiritually examine themselves and understand what they are receiving in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). As an act of worship, the reception of the Lord’s Supper is a way in which we express unity of belief with those communing with us. Because of this, Christians should only desire to commune with those who have the same confession of faith (1 Corinthians 10:17 , Romans 16:17).
Good works are things that Christians do in service to God and other people. We are only able to do good works by faith, which means that only believers can do things that are truly pleasing in God’s sight (Hebrews 11:6). The relationship between good works and faith is that good works are a natural result and out-flowing of the Christian faith (James 2:18). This is why, for example, the Bible says that we should be able to identify other Christians from their works. Good works are acts of service that Christians do out of love, not fear, because the Bible tells us that there is nothing we can or need to do in order to finish or add to the salvation which Christ has fully won for us (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 19:30).
Prayer is a special privileged which God has given to believers (1 Peter 3:12). God promises to always hear and answer our prayers (Psalm 145:18-19). However, God does not always give us what we ask Him for right away, and sometimes He gives us something else altogether. This is because God knows what is best for us, more than we do (1 Timothy 2:1-3, Luke 22:42). Even though prayer is the way in which we speak to God, prayer is not how God speaks to us. God speaks to us in His Word. The “model” prayer for Christians is the prayer Jesus prayed, the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:7-13).
The Christian Church is the whole body of believers (Ephesians 1:22-23). We speak of the church specifically as the “Christian” church, because Jesus Christ is the only foundation and source of life for those in the church (1Corinthians 3:11). What sets the true Christian Church apart from other religions is that the Christian church believes in the Triune God and accepts only the Bible as the authoritative Word of God.
Membership in the Christian church is not limited to membership in a single, visible, external, “Church organization.” It has to do, primarily with the faith in one’s heart — which only God can see (1 Samuel 16:7, 2 Timothy 2:19). Even though the true Church is invisible, we also do speak of visible churches or congregations, because these are where Christians gather to receive the Means of Grace. Where the Means of Grace are present, we know believers will be too (Isaiah 55:11).
The reason why there are so many different Christian churches (we refer to them as different denominations) is because not everyone has remained true and faithful to God’s Word. The Bible commands Christians to not be united with those who, by the confession of faith, believe and teach things contrary to the Word of God (Ephesians 4:3-6, Romans 16:17).
Hope Lutheran Church, as an individual congregation, is organized and run differently than LDS wards and stakes. Hope Lutheran Church is self-run and self-sufficient. The members of Hope Lutheran Church donate money to the congregation, and then they, as its members, decide how the money is spent. The members of Hope Lutheran Church call qualified men to serve them as their pastors (1 Timothy 3:1). They pay him a living wage so that his primary responsibility can be to see to the spiritual care of the congregation and the community (1 Timothy 5:17-18).