What do Lutherans Believe?

In the early 16th century a German priest and professor suggested 95 ways the Roman Catholic Church could change and be better. His name was Martin Luther. He intended his suggestions as scholarly debate with other professors. It was never his intention to start a new church, but that was the end result of his initiatives.

Like other Christians, Lutherans believe that there is a life after death. We believe we can’t earn our way to heaven by living perfect, or even “good enough” lives. It’s all a wonderful gift! Jesus gives us life and more life, because God loves us.

Some good Christians emphasize that we humans have to make the “right decision” and “choose” Jesus. Lutherans, on the other hand, tend to emphasize the ways in which God has chosen us.

Lutherans also believe that life before death matters. The ‘marks’ of this life are faith, hope and love, grace, mercy, justice and truth. These override the voices of judgment, condemnation, retribution and revenge.

Today, there are several types of Lutheran churches. Grace Lutheran is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

Lutheran Emphases

Grace Alone: “Grace” is “God’s undeserved saving love”.  We teach that God is merciful, and because of grace, is yearning for the return of all prodigals.  “There is no distinction.  Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:22-24).  “Grace” usually comes as an unexpected surprise.   Living in faith carries the possibility that God may surprise us, at any time!

Faith Alone: We teach that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor.  It is not purchased; it is always a gift.  “By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).  Without faith (that is, when trust is gone) God’s gift remains “unopened.”  But when we do trust the promise of God’s grace, life becomes ‘pure gift’.

Scripture Alone: The canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of our proclamation, faith, and life.  The biblical message is summed up in the words “Law” and “Gospel.”  The law is the Word of God that serves as guide for human behavior in government & society. Law reveals truth, truth that is sometimes a “hard truth” and like a mirror, shows us our ‘fallen side’ as sinners.  The Ten Commandments are part of God’s law.  The gospel, on the other hand, is God’s Word of grace, reconciliation and forgiveness to sinners.  The starting point for Lutheran interpretation of the Bible is a careful distinction between law and gospel in the Bible.  The distinction between law and gospel is important because salvation comes through the gospel (i.e., through what God freely does for us) and not through the law (i.e., through what we are required to do for God and for other people).

How are Lutherans different from other Protestants?

In many ways – the most important ways – they are very alike. But while some Christians emphasize that we humans have to make the “right decision” and “choose” Jesus, Lutherans tend to emphasize the ways in which God has chosen us.

How are Lutherans different from Catholics?

In many ways – the most important ways – they are very alike.

Catholics observe seven sacraments, seven central rituals of the church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (Holy Communion), Penance (or Reconciliation), Anointing of the Sick (last rites), Holy Orders (ordination), and Matrimony. While Lutherans practice all those seven rituals, they only call two of them sacraments (Baptism and Eucharist).

Catholics enjoy the intercession of the Saints and the honoring of Mary. Lutherans aren’t against those, it just isn’t part of their daily practice.

Catholics acknowledge two authorities for their faith and life: The Bible and Church Tradition. Lutherans view the Bible as the only authority for our faith and life.

Catholics honor and obey the priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, and the pope who interpret Church Tradition; decisions come down from those in higher authority. Lutherans tend to view the local congregation, coming together in democratic voting, as the primary decision-making body