Our churches teach that every man born in the natural way is born in sin, and is therefore under the wrath and judgment of God. But there was one Man who was born in a most unnatural way.
Our churches also teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God became flesh. He did so by being conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of His miraculous conception and birth, in the person of Jesus are two natures—divine and human. These natures are inseparably joined, though distinct from each other.
This one Christ, who is both God and man, was truly born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. He did this to reconcile us with God, not only for original guilt, but also for the actual sins of mankind.
What’s more, He also descended into hell in triumph, rose again in His body, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. There He continues to reign—in His risen and glorified body—by way of grace. He sends the Holy Spirit to grant faith, to comfort, renew, and sanctify those who believe in Him and receive His gifts. This same Christ will come again on the Last Day to judge both the living and the dead.
The Lutheran confession of faith is that God is Three Persons and one Divine Essence. But then, what is man’s relationship with this God?
Lutherans confess that since the fall of Adam, ever person that is born in the natural way is born with sin. This means that the natural state of mankind is without fear of God, without trust in God, and with an inclination to sin.
This inclination to sin is called concupiscence. It means that man is not an inherently good person who occasionally sins, but is a person who inherently desires evil over and against the will of God. It is a disease, an original vice whose consequence is eternal death.
We deny that there is any power within man to effect His own salvation. This original sin is truly sin. If there were something within man, some reason or strength, to make him right before God, then the Christ’s glory and merits are obscured and unnecessary.
The only solution to this disease is the new birth of Baptism and the Holy Spirit. Baptism is the application of the Divine Name of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—with water. It is a new birth from above, a true washing of regeneration.
October is the month in which we Lutherans celebrate the reformation of the Western Christian Church. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, which set in motion a rediscovery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Years of teaching that man can merit God’s satisfaction by his works had obscured this Gospel, but the writings of Luther and other Lutheran Reformers shone with a particularly brilliant light in the darkness of the medieval Church. Beginning today, this column will explore what makes the Lutheran confession unique among the Christian churches.
To begin, to be Lutheran is not to have a different faith. To be Lutheran means to have a confession of the Christian faith. Lutherans hold to and confess the creeds of the ancient Church—namely the Apostles,’ the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds. Lutherans confess the same faith handed down by the Apostles, faith in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three persons; one God. The Apostles’ Creed sets forth the simple, baptismal faith in the Triune God. The Nicene Creed expands on the person and work of Christ—that He was and is true God and true Man—as well as on the work of the Holy Spirit through the Christian Church. The Athanasian Creed is the final word on the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity.
At the outset, Lutherans make these ecumenical creeds their own, and therefore are not a Church that is founded on Luther, but a Church that is founded upon faith in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as taught and passed down by the Lord’s own Apostles.
We worship one God in Trinity
and Trinity in Unity.