So how are Lutherans different than all the other Christian groups out there? As the Reformers struggled with the Roman Church, they set forth their public confessions in several documents, which are collected in the Book of Concord of 1580, also called the Lutheran Confessions. It addresses the doctrinal differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed Churches, which came later. But above all, Lutherans rely on the revealed Word of God as found in Scripture to guide us. No popes or new age prophets, no spirit messages in angel tongues. God spoke and we believe, even the hard parts. That's what faith is: Trust. Trust in His Word, trust in His promises, trust in His gifts to us.
Emmaus (em-MAY-us) Lutheran is a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). There are three large Lutheran bodies in America: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the largest, most liberal and the newest, being formed in 1988 out of several other bodies. The LCMS and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) are both confessional church bodies (which means we actually hold to our doctrines or confessions). Don't be confused by the word "evangelical"... it's not the same as the very recent self-proclaimed "Evangelicals" in America. Evangelical was what the first reformers called themselves in the 1500's. It was the Roman Church who called them "Lutherans" as a pejorative. Eventually they took both titles and so you find many Lutheran Churches with "Evangelical Lutheran Church" in the name. But that doesn't mean you're going to find rock bands and altar calls inside.
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
Credo... I believe... with these words, Christians define who they are and what they believe. The Christian faith is not a grab-bag of ideas that we get to pick and choose. The faith delivered to the saints has persevered for millennia despite repeated attempts to redefine it. It is true that you can find self-described "Christians" who believe in just about anything, but that doesn't mean they have it right.
This is not a new problem. Already in the decades after the death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord, there were many controversies over what Jesus "really meant". These controversies are recorded in the New Testament in the Epistles of Paul, Peter and others and show that there has never been a Church without problems. Time and time again, they had to correct the errors that attempted to draw people away from Christ to the "quick fix" of works righteousness.
As an answer to these false teachings, the creeds were written. The word "creed" comes the Latin "credo", which means "I believe", the first word of these definitive statements of the orthodox ("right teaching") faith. As Lutherans we acknowledge the Three Ecumenical Creeds: The Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. People who say they "have no creed but the Bible" don't know what they are saying; that is itself a statement of belief, and a not very good one. Those who say they believe in "deeds not creeds" don't realize that is not a Christian belief at all. We do not look to our own works for our righteousness before God. We look only to the cross.
The Gospel (euangelion or "Good News") is the message of salvation for all mankind: That God sent forth His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins and make us His children. This was accomplished by Jesus, fully God yet fully man, dying for our sins on the cross as the final propitiation of our sins. This is a free gift, given by grace, received by faith, with no worth in us. He does all the work.
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