What We Teach About Sin
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.
Sin was brought into world when Satan lured the first people God created (Adam and Eve) into temptation through their own free will and weakness, breaking the perfect relationship between God and us. From that point on, sin became part of our very existence. Because God also demands perfect obedience, our ultimate punishment became death.
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 never sinned – not even once – and then He took our sin upon Himself and died on the cross, on our behalf. In return he gives us his righteousness as a gift. Through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we receive this gift of salvation (Genesis 3:8-10, Genesis 6:5, Romans 8:7, 1 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 2:1).
What We Teach About Salvation
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. That means that, on account of Jesus, everyone who believes is “justified,” or declared innocent by God. God has done justice to the world’s sins; because of Jesus, all who believe are forgiven and will live eternally.
We do not cooperate in our salvation and there is nothing we could ever present to God to make our way into eternal life with Him-not money or even good works. Neither can we really feel it or prove it. We cannot reason our way to salvation, nor can we earn it. All we can do is to believe in Him, trusting that all that is necessary has been done for us through Jesus (Psalm 49:7, Galatians 3:13, Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18-19).
What We Teach About Faith
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 (Genesis 15:6, Romans 1:17, Romans 3:21-22, Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 6:11).
What We Teach About Grace
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. (Ephesians 2:8-9) God has provided tangible ways through which He delivers His grace to those who believe, assuring us that the sins we commit are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. These are called the “means of grace” and are God’s Word, holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion). Through these means, 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 (Genesis 16:3, Mark 16:6, John 6:53-56, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9).
What We Teach About Holy Baptism
What is Baptism? The Reformer of the Church explains it in this way, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.” Without God’s Word, Baptism would be useless. With God’s Word, however, Holy Baptism is a soul renewing flood of grace and washing of new birth in the Holy Spirit. We hold the apostolic teaching concerning Baptism’s power to grant the forgiveness of sins, eternal salvation, and the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. All these benefits come through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ at the cross (Mark 16:16, John 3:5-6, Romans 6:4-14, Galatians 3:26-29, Colossians 2:11-12).
What We Teach About the Administration of Baptism
We hold the apostolic practice of baptizing infants, children, and adults. In the Book of Acts, the apostles baptized whole households in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because the gift of Baptism is dependent upon the Word of God and not the abilities or performances of people. We faithfully carry on the same practice as our spiritual forefathers. Infants and children are baptized when they are brought to the Church by their parents. These parents must know that it will be their responsibility to continue to nurture the faith of their child after Baptism. Adults are baptized after a period of instruction called catechesis (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38-41, Acts 8:26-29, Acts 16:13-15, Acts 16:25-33).
What We Teach About Holy Communion
What is the Lord’s Supper? Martin Luther summed up the Biblical doctrine concerning the mystery of the Lord’s Supper with the following words. “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink.” It is much more than a symbolic act or a mere remembrance for Christ says Himself in John 6:55-56, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me, and I in him.” This takes great faith for we must take Christ at His Word when He says in Matthew 26:26, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And when he says in verse 27, “He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” We believe, teach, and confess the blessed mystery of the Lord’s Supper and the blessings offered in it by Christ Himself to His redeemed people (Matthew 26:26-28, Luke 22:14-21, John 6:53-57, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Hebrews 10:19-24).
What We Teach About the Administration of Holy Communion
The Bible tells us (1 Corinthians 11:23-29) that it is vitally important that we understand and believe that the Lord’s Supper is a participation in the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. To receive the blessings of this Sacrament to our benefit it is necessary that we examine our hearts and our lives. As members of Jesus’ family, we have a responsibility to teach and admonish one another so that we receive the blessing intended for us in this Sacrament. For this reason, St. John Lutheran Church, as a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, follows the early Church’s practice of the administration of the Lord’s Supper. This means that out of sincere love, we do not knowingly give the Lord’s Supper to those who have not been instructed in the way of our Lord. Those who have not been instructed and confirmed in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod should speak to our pastor before attending the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 1 Corinthians 10:21, 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, Hebrews 9:11-15).
What We Teach About Good Works
Since there is nothing we can ever do to earn salvation, we do not do good works in order to be 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 (John 15:15, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Hebrews 11:6).
What We Teach About Society
We believe in the sanctity of human life. We believe that every life is sacred and that we are called to preserve and care for all life as God’s Word declares. We hold that abortion, euthanasia, and cloning are not moral options for the Christian. We also honor Christian marriage as God’s precious gift. It is the lifelong union of one man and one woman which gives us a picture of the very communion of Christ and His bride, the Church (Genesis 9:6, Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:16, Mark 10:6-9, Hebrews 13:4).
What We Teach About Life After Death
When a believer dies, their soul immediately goes to eternal rest with Jesus even though the body remains here on earth. Those who die who do not believe in God’s means of salvation through His Son go to hell. On Judgment Day, Jesus Christ is going to return. No one knows that day or hour except the Father. 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 and separation from God, while those who believe in Jesus as Savior will have eternal life in the restored creation with God and each other. The Church’s mission is to spread the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ so that all may be saved (Matthew 24:44, Matthew 25:31-32, Mark 13:32, Titus 2:13, Revelation 1:7).