We don’t know where you are in your faith walk, but we understand that questions are worth answering. We hope this overview will provide a start.
About the Bible
Everything Lutherans believe comes from the Bible, God’s message of love and hope for everyone. The Bible is the written word of God, handed down to us in order to point us to the truth that we are saved from our sin and eternal death by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is in the Bible that we learn everything we need to know about God’s love and gifts to us.
There is only one true God – the Triune God – who exists in three separate but equal persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God the Father is our maker and the creator of all things. By the Father’s word, all things were made, and we are his most beloved creation; we are closest to his heart. The Son is Jesus Christ, who came to earth as the perfect “go-between” between God and humanity. He has redeemed us and is the voice to the Father on our behalf. The Holy Spirit calls us to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, keeps us in the one true faith, and equips us for living out our faith. He is the whisper in our heart’s ear.
We believe Jesus is God’s own son, sent by God to become human. As the son of God, Jesus is divine, but he was also a human being who lived among us on earth, over 2,000 years ago. Followers of Jesus are part of God’s people, whose heritage includes the Jewish people and the Christian Church throughout the world today.
Who was Jesus?
As a person, Jesus of Nazareth, was a Jew who lived and died in biblical Israel under Roman rule in a province the Romans called Palestine. He spent his adult life in ministry with his disciples, traveling around the region, teaching about God and spreading a message of God’s love, peace, hope and forgiveness. He healed the sick and fed the hungry. He gathered many followers who were passionate about his teachings. As his following grew, some of the religious leaders became more and more distrustful and angry with him, until he was eventually turned over to the Roman government by Judas, one of his own disciples. The Roman governor Pontius Pilate then sentenced him to execution. He died by being nailed to a cross in the outskirts of the city of Jerusalem.
But death did not contain him. On the third day after his crucifixion, the day Christians call Easter, Jesus appeared among his followers as the risen, living Lord. He continued to teach, spreading the Good News, sharing the story of his life and resurrection to people here on earth for forty days before returning to heaven. His story and teachings are depicted in the New Testament of the Bible.
As Christians, we believe that Christ lives among us today by the power of God’s Spirit, present when the Good News is preached and the sacraments are administered.
We all fall short of God’s expectations because we are all born “sinful.” Sin can be summed up as all the things we say, think, do, and don’t do, that fall outside of God’s holy will for our lives and end up separating us from God.
Yet God is a loving God whose will is not for us to live in eternal punishment. That’s why he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to live the perfect life he requires and to become our substitute. Christ took our sin upon himself and died on the cross, on our behalf. When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, he bears our sin and gives us his forgiveness.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
About “being saved “
There is absolutely nothing we can do to “be saved” — Jesus Christ has already done everything necessary. In his death and resurrection, everyone who believes in Jesus as Savior has been brought back into a right relationship with God and everyone who believes is “justified,” or declared innocent by God.
It is through faith in Jesus that we receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life — by believing that he has freed us from the guilt, punishment and power of sin. Faith is a gift worked in us by the power of the Holy Spirit; it doesn’t come to us through anything we are capable of, but through what God does for us. We simply receive what is already being offered out of God’s great love.
Lutherans often refer to grace. The word itself might remind you of the grace period you are given when paying bills — when your debt can be paid without further penalty. God’s grace is even more wonderful; that’s why it’s called “amazing grace.” While we deserved to pay the penalty for our sins, God had a different plan. Christ paid the debt and we receive forgiveness and eternal life from him that is offered out of unconditional love. That’s why it’s called grace because it is truly undeserved.
God delivers grace to those who believe, assuring us that the sins we commit are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Through God’s Word, holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) — the “means of grace” — God makes himself known to us in a very personal way: God’s word reveals his faithfulness and love; Baptism is our rebirth and renewal in Jesus; the Lord’s Supper is our closest communion with Christ as we receive his body and blood.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
About good works
Since there is nothing we can ever do to earn salvation, we do not do good works in order tobe saved; good works are done out of praise and thanks because we are saved. Such good works include, but are certainly not limited to, serving and caring for the needs of others, honoring and giving respect to those in authority, honoring our vows and commitments, and generally doing what is considered by many to be good and right. It’s often said that Martin Luther expressed it this way: God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does.
About life and death
On Judgment Day — we don’t know when — Jesus Christ is going to return. On that day, everyone who has died will be raised and those who are still alive will be bodily transformed. At that time, the final judgment will take place. Those who do not believe will go into eternal damnation in hell and all those who believe in Jesus as Savior will have eternal life in heaven.
Our faith tradition is based on a life-transforming story, a story both ancient and timely about a powerful and patient God who has boundless love for all people of the world, who brings justice for the oppressed. It’s a story of Jesus Christ, changing lives. It’s a story that brings comfort and strength to people who today live in modern, often unsettling times. Learn more about our beliefs — and become a part of our story.