What is a Lutheran?

A Lutheran is a Christian who believes and confesses the teachings of the Bible as explained by Martin Luther and other theologians during the early 16th century. These theologians sought to correct errors which were being taught by the Christian church during this era, with the hope of having a more biblical, Christ-centered, and unified church. The foundations of their teachings stemmed from a few guiding principles.

Basic Lutheran principles: A Lutheran believes in…

 Scripture alone:

The Bible is God’s inerrant and infallible Word, in which He reveals both His Law (His commands and expectations) and His Gospel (His gift of salvation in Jesus Christ). The Bible is the sole rule for Christian  teaching and practice.

 Grace alone:

God loves the people of the world, even though they are sinful, rebel against Him and do not deserve His love. However, because of His love, God sent Jesus—His Son—to love the unlovable and save the ungodly. The word “grace” simply refers to the undeserved gift that God gives to sinful, rebellious people—the free gift of love, forgiveness, and salvation that comes through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection.

 Faith alone:

By His suffering and death as our substitute, Jesus purchased and won forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life for us. Those who hear this Good News and believe it have this forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. By making this claim, a Lutheran is saying that these things are not matters of performance or about “being a good person.” Rather, forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life are simply the result of faith.

 Christ alone:

Fundamentally, there are only two kinds of religions in the world. The one kind of religion looks to what we do or don’t do as a way to earn God’s favor, forgiveness, and eternal life. This kind of religion essentially says, “If I am a good person, if I pray enough, if I submit enough, if I am sincere enough, if I follow the right path, if I do enough good things, then God will love me, be pleased with me, and give me good things.”  

The second kind of religion recognizes that we are sinful people, and that we will never be able to do enough good to earn God’s favor. For how can a perfect, holy, sinless God be in fellowship with flawed people? And yet, as stated above, Christianity states that God loved His creation so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life, to die an undeserved death, and to rise from the dead. In this way, Jesus did what we could not do ourselves, and He became our substitute, the one and only mediator between God and us. This is what is meant when a Christian says that Jesus is the only way to forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life with God.

 Faith comes by “Means”:

The Lutheran Church believes that faith in Jesus doesn’t just come “out of thin air.” Rather God tells us about His love and gives us Jesus’ forgiveness through “means of grace.” These means include 1) God’s Word, the Bible, and 2) the sacraments.

 The Sacraments:

Lutherans believe that God provides His grace through two sacraments: Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. The word “sacrament” is defined as something that is 1) instituted by Jesus during His ministry, 2) has a physical component to them, and 3) carries God’s promise of forgiveness of sins.

What is the “Missouri Synod?”

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod traces its origins to 750 Saxon immigrants who came to Missouri in 1839 seeking freedom from religious persecution in Germany and originally settled in the St. Louis area. The first official meeting of the synod was held in Chicago from April 25 to May 6, 1847. The twelve original congregations included about 3,000 persons. One hundred years later, in 1947, the Synod officially changed its name to The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The word “synod” means “walking together”, indicating that we as a denomination have agreed to “walk together” in the same confession of faith.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod includes about 2 million members in 6,000 congregations. The Synod also has eight universities, two seminaries, nearly 100 high schools, and the nation’s largest Protestant elementary school system, reporting 1,400 early childhood centers, 945 elementary schools. The Synod has nearly 9,000 pastors,18,000 school teachers, and numerous other workers serving congregations, schools, and other supporting organizations.