The Lutheran Difference

Does it really make a difference if you are a Lutheran or something else?

In a day and age when a lot of Christian churches talk about ecumenism and church mergers and look at how their church is just like other churches, Lutherans, particularly of a more conservative stripe, tend to look at how they are different. Lutherans are a confessional church, which means that we stand on a body of theological documents that explain what Lutherans believe. We hold those confessions very dear. We believe they correctly and accurately explain what God's Word teaches. We are very reluctant to compromise our confessional base. 

We believe it does make a difference believing what Lutherans believe. 

  1. We are committed to JESUS CHRIST as Lord and Savior and believe that He died once for all men and women that through Him we are saved. There is no other way to heaven. There is no other Savior. Other religions teach other systems of salvation that are doomed to failure because Jesus Christ is not part of them. And even many Christian groups preach more strongly about social justice and peace on earth. Apart from Jesus Christ there can be no peace or justice, there is no hope. Unless a church preaches Jesus Christ clearly, boldly, and profoundly, it does not live up to its commission to proclaim the love of God nor can it truly share the blessings God would give His people. 
  2. We Lutherans have a profound respect for GOD’S WORD. We believe that the Bible is the true, accurate record of God's will for his people. We believe that it makes no mistakes. We believe that the Scripture tells us what God wants us to know. This is especially true in matters of salvation. God's Word is reliable and trustworthy because it is God's Word not just the product of human thought. 
  3. We proclaim the teaching of JUSTIFICATION, that is, man is saved solely by the grace of God. There is absolutely nothing a person can say, do, or think to earn salvation or help it on its way. There is no decision you can make; there is no cooperation you can give. GOD SAVES PEOPLE. He wants all men to be saved and guarantees that salvation through Christ Jesus. Salvation is God's work. When someone asks you if you have made a decision for the Lord or if you have found Christ, a Lutheran answers God has saved me. God found me. I am saved, because the Bible tells me so. 
  4. Lutherans understand BAPTISM as God's sin-washing away, faith-giving action in people by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is not just a rite or ceremony. It is not something you do. It is God's seal on His people. It is God saying through water and Word that the baptized person is His own person. To that end, we baptize children. The child does not need to make a decision to be baptized because Baptism is something God does to and in a child. Absolute certainty of salvation is based upon God's baptized action not some subjective life experience. There is no “age of accountability." 
  5. SANCTIFICATION is another Lutheran hallmark. We believe God's Spirit is active and working in the lives of believers, helping them to live as God's people. We realize living a Christian life can be a challenge and struggle but we know God daily and richly guides and blesses us and forgives us when we fail. While we strive to live a God-pleasing life, we do not suggest that sanctification leads to helping along our salvation. 
  6. The LORD'S SUPPER is the second sacrament through which the Christian receives the forgiveness of sins. God nourishes His people as He reassures and reminds them of His love for them. In the bread and wine, we receive Christ's body and blood, through which we are renewed and refreshed. The Lord's Supper is not just a ceremony and it is not a magic act in which bread and wine are changed into body and blood. Our Lord does not explain how the bread and wine are His body and blood. He just says it is expecting and commanding faith in His word - and faith takes Him at His word and receives what He promises - the forgiveness of sins. It is God's gracious way of renewing His people. Lutherans believe that they should participate in the Lord's Supper often. 
  7. Lutherans understand God's FORGIVENESS to be generous, unmerited, and without condition. We don't work to earn forgiveness because we'd never make it. Rather, when we confess our sins, we know God, in His love and mercy forgives and puts those sins behind us. The record is erased. This, in turn, moves us to live life confidently and hopefully. 
  8. Many church people say you have to feel your faith and look for the emotional highs. Lutherans are careful to understand that emotions are tricky things and that as human beings we are subject to highs and lows - sometimes like a roller coaster of feelings. Consequently, if we are always looking for religious highs or mountain tops, we may easily be disappointed. Therefore, Lutherans stress the need for knowledge and understanding of God's word and what it has to say to God's people. We stress that we ought not rely on our emotions as a barometer of our faith. We give thanks to God that even in down times, when we are not feeling particularly close to God, we can still know that we are saved, despite our failing emotions. Our faith is not dependent on the way we feel. 
  9. Lutherans don't spend a lot of time trying to figure out when Jesus is going to return or exactly how it’s going to happen. We believe that Jesus will return. We believe that He will welcome His believers into heaven. There are a lot of Christians who talk about the millennium, the rapture, Armageddon and other eschatological jargon. But trying to figure out the date and time is a waste of time. The Bible tells us Christ will come as a thief in the night. No one knows the day or hour except the heavenly Father. It serves no purpose to worry about when He's coming. We need only know that He is coming. To that end, we want to make sure we are ready and by the power of the Holy Spirit, guiding and directing our lives, we shall be. 
  10. Lutherans have been traditionally and historically careful about with whom they are in fellowship, meaning with whom they share the Lord's Supper and who may preach from their pulpits. This is not because we believe that only Lutherans will go to heaven. Rather, it is to present before the world a clear testimony of what we believe. Our understanding of the teachings of Justification and Sanctification, the Sacraments of the Lord's Supper and Baptism could be compromised if we are not so careful. If, for example, I receive the Lord's Supper as a Lutheran, understanding that in the Sacrament God is nourishing me personally, touching me personally with His love and the person next to me, from a Reformed church background believes that communion is just a ceremony to demonstrating unity, are we not doing and believing two different things? - and what unity is there in that? Both beliefs are compromised and a clear witness is given to no one. It is not that Lutherans think of themselves as superior to anyone else. It is rather that we want to make a bold and clear confession of our faith in Jesus Christ and our understanding of how God works in the lives of His people.

- Adapted from Dittmer, Terry K. ed., "Wings of Faith," Board of Youth Services, page 74, 1988.