The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod believes, teaches, and confesses that in Christ alone is there salvation: by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Scripture alone. To share this message with the world is the mission of the Church and the reason for its existence.
GOD IS TRIUNE
There is one God: infinite, eternal, almighty and perfect in holiness, truth and love. In the unity of the godhead, there are three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, co-existent, co-equal, and co-eternal. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit, yet each is truly Deity. One God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — is the foundation of Christian faith and life.
GOD THE FATHER
God the Father is the Creator of heaven and earth. By His word and for His glory, He freely and supernaturally created the world out of nothing. Through the same word He daily sustains all His creatures. He rules over all and, together with the Son and the Spirit, is the only Sovereign. His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted. He is faithful to every promise, works all things together for good to those who love Him and in His unfathomable grace gave His Son Jesus Christ for mankind's redemption. He made all things for the praise of His glory and intends for man, in particular, to live in fellowship with Himself.
Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is the eternal Word made flesh, supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. He is perfect in nature, teaching and obedience. He is fully God and is fully man. He was always with God and is God. Through Him all things came into being and were created. He was before all things and in Him all things hold together by the word of His power. He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation and in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily. He is the only Savior for the sins of the world having shed His blood and died a vicarious death on Calvary's cross. By His death in our place, He revealed the divine love and upheld divine justice, removing our guilt and reconciling us to God. Having redeemed us from sin, the third day He rose bodily from the grave, victorious over death and the powers of darkness and for a period of 40 days appeared to over 500 witnesses performing many convincing proofs of His resurrection. He ascended into heaven where, at God's right hand, He intercedes for His people and rules as Lord over all, awaiting His return. He is the Head of His body, the church, and should be adored, loved, served and obeyed by all.
The Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. Through the proclamation of the gospel, He persuades men to repent of their sins and confess Jesus as Lord. By the same Spirit a person is led to trust in divine mercy. The Holy Spirit unites believers to Jesus Christ in faith, brings about the new birth and dwells within the regenerate. The Holy Spirit has come to glorify the Son who in turn came to glorify the Father. He will lead the church into a right understanding and rich application of the truth of God's Word. He is to be respected, honored and worshipped as God the Third Person of the Trinity.
We accept the Bible, including the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament, as the written Word of God. The Bible is an essential and infallible record of God's self-disclosure to mankind. It leads us to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Being given by God, the Scriptures are both fully and verbally inspired by God. Therefore, as originally given, the Bible is free of error in all it teaches. Each book is to be interpreted according to its context and purpose and in reverent obedience to the Lord who speaks through it in living power. All believers are exhorted to study the Scriptures and diligently apply them to their lives. The Scriptures are the authoritative and normative rule and guide of all Christian life, practice and doctrine. They are totally sufficient and must not be added to, superseded or changed by later tradition, extra-biblical revelation or worldly wisdom. Every doctrinal formulation, whether of creed, confession or theology, must be put to the test of the full counsel of God in Holy Scripture.
God made man — male and female — in His own image, as the crown of creation, that man might glorify Him through enjoying fellowship with Him. Tempted by Satan, man rebelled against God. Being estranged from his Maker, yet responsible to Him, he became subject to divine wrath, inwardly depraved and apart from a special work of grace, utterly incapable of returning to God. This depravity is radical and pervasive. It extends to his mind, will and affections. Unregenerate man lives under the dominion of sin and Satan. He is at enmity with God, hostile toward God, and hateful of God. Fallen, sinful people, whatever their character or attainments, are lost and without hope apart from salvation in Christ alone.
Jesus Christ is the gospel. The good news is revealed in His birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. Christ's crucifixion is the heart of the gospel; His resurrection is the power of the gospel and His ascension is the glory of the gospel. Christ's death is a substitutionary and propitiatory sacrifice to God for our sins. It satisfies the demands of God's holy justice and appeases His holy wrath. It also demonstrates His mysterious love and reveals His amazing grace. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man. There is no other name by which men must be saved. At the heart of all sound doctrine is the cross of Jesus Christ and the infinite privilege that redeemed sinners have of glorifying God because of what He has accomplished. Therefore, we want all that takes place in our hearts, churches and ministries to proceed from and be related to the gospel.
MAN’S RESPONSE TO THE GOSPEL
The proper response to the gospel is faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a faith that is naturally accompanied by repentance from sin. Biblical repentance is characterized by a changed life, and saving faith is evidenced by kingdom service or works. While neither repentance nor works save, unless a person is willing to deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Christ, he cannot become His disciple.
THROUGH THE GOSPEL
Salvation, the free gift of God, is provided by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone. Anyone turning from sin in repentance and looking to Christ and His substitutionary death receives the gift of eternal life and is declared righteous by God as a free gift. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to him. He is justified and fully accepted by God. Through Christ's atonement for sin an individual is reconciled to God as Father and becomes His child. The believer is forgiven the debt of his sin and, via the miracle of regeneration, liberated from the law of sin and death into the freedom of God's Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the active agent in our sanctification and seeks to produce His fruit in us as our minds are renewed and we are conformed to the image of Christ. Though indwelling sin remains a reality, as we are led by the Spirit, we grow in the knowledge of the Lord, freely keeping His commandments and endeavoring to so live in the world that all people may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. All believers are exhorted to persevere in the faith knowing they will have to give an account to God for their every thought, word and deed. The spiritual disciplines, especially Bible study, prayer, worship and confession, are a vital means of grace in this regard. Nevertheless, the believer's ultimate confidence to persevere is based in the sure promise of God to preserve His people until the end, which is most certain.
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit empowers believers for Christian witness and service. The promise of the Father is freely available to all who believe in Jesus Christ, thereby enabling them to exercise the powers of the age to come in ministry and mission. The Holy Spirit desires to continually fill each believer with power to witness, and imparts His supernatural gifts for the edification of the Body and the work of ministry in the world. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the church of the first century are available today and are to be earnestly desired and practiced in an orderly manner. The gifts are essential in the mission of the Church in the world today.
God by His Word and Spirit creates the Church, calling sinful men out of the whole human race into the fellowship of Christ's Body. By the same Word and Spirit, He guides and preserves that new redeemed humanity. The church is not a religious institution or denomination. Rather, the Church universal is made up of those who have become genuine followers of Jesus Christ and have personally appropriated the gospel. The Church exists to worship and glorify God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It also exists to serve Him by faithfully doing His will in the earth. This involves a commitment to see the gospel preached and churches planted in the entire world for a testimony. The ultimate mission of the Church is worship and the means by which this is accomplished is the making of disciples through the preaching and embracing of the gospel. When God transforms human nature, this then becomes the chief means of society's transformation. Upon conversion, newly redeemed men and women are added to a local church in which they devote themselves to teaching, fellowship, the Lord's Supper and prayer.
All members of the Church universal are to be a vital and committed part of a local church. In this context, they are called to walk out the New Covenant as the people of God and demonstrate the reality of the kingdom of God. The ascended Christ has given gift ministries to the church (including apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) for the equipping of Christ's body that it might mature and grow. Through the gift ministries, all members of the church are to be nurtured and equipped for the work of the ministry. In the context of the local church, God's people receive pastoral care and leadership and the opportunity to employ their God-given gifts in His service in relation to one another and to the world.
MEANS OF GRACE
God offers and communicates to men the spiritual blessings purchased by Christ, namely forgiveness of sins and the treasures and gifts connected therewith, through the means of grace ordained by Him. These means of grace are the Word of the Gospel, in every form which it is brought to man, and the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and of the Lord’s Supper. The Word of the gospel promises and applies the grace of God, works faith and thus regenerates man, and gives the Holy Spirit. Baptism, too, is applied for the remission of sins and is therefore a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the object of the Lord’s Supper, is none other than the communication and sealing of the forgiveness of sins, as the words declare: “Given for you,” and: “Shed for you for the remission of sins.”
The consummation of all things includes the future, physical, visible, personal and glorious return of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the translation of those alive in Christ, the judgment of the just and the unjust, and the fulfillment of Christ's kingdom in the new heavens and the new earth. In the consummation, Satan with his hosts and all those outside Christ are finally separated from the benevolent presence of God, enduring eternal punishment, but the righteous, in glorious bodies, shall live and reign with Him forever, serving Him and giving Him unending praise and glory. Then shall the eager expectation of creation be fulfilled, and the whole earth shall proclaim the glory of God Who makes all things new.
What is Christian Baptism? Christian Baptism is how God adds His promise to ordinary water and uses a Christian (ordinarily a pastor) to apply that ordinary water to another person in any fashion from sprinkling all the way to immersing as that Christian speaks for God the formula of these words, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
This Baptism is not a symbolic ritual Christians just made up. Nor do Christians have the freedom to change it. The Word of God says this Baptism is a sacrament Jesus Christ instituted. Matthew chapter 28 – 18 [Jesus said,] “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 [In your going then] make disciples of all the nations – baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 [and] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This means Father, Son, and Spirit are active in every Christian Baptism. And that Christian Baptism is God’s commitment to a person not a person’s commitment to God. And God does not fail to keep His commitments nor does He need to renew them.
Why did Jesus institute Baptism? He instituted it as a means of giving God’s grace to sinners. The Word of God says all people are conceived in sin and, no matter their age, remain sinners throughout their lives. (Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 51:5, Isaiah 64:6, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 3:12,23) And while God can and does save sinners apart from this Baptism (Mark 16:16, Luke 23:43), in His abundant love He commands this Baptism as an added means of forgiving sinners. Acts chapter 2 – (verse 38) in Baptism God forgives sins ... (verse 39) – The promise [of Baptism] is for [adults] and ... children [of any age].” 1Peter chapter 3 – (verse 21) “Baptism now saves you.”
In fact, this Baptism is intended for so much spiritual comfort that in John chapter 3 Jesus taught where being born physically is a pure act of God so being Baptized is to be ‘born again’ spiritually as a pure act of God. The Apostle Paul echoed this in two places: In Romans chapter 6 (verses 3-6) describing the outcome of Baptism as being united with Jesus’ in His death and resurrection. And in Titus chapter 3 calling Baptism a spiritual ‘washing’ – 5 “[God] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”.
This means saving faith in Jesus Christ and intellectual understanding about Jesus Christ are two different things. Intellectual understanding can know about Jesus Christ. Only saving faith can believe in Jesus Christ. John chapter 3 – 16 [Jesus said,] “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This means the Lord’s gift of saving faith is about how He knows people and it can be received at any stage of life from conception to the moment before death (2 Samuel 12:23, Psalm 22:9-10, Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:15, Luke 1:44, Matthew 11:25, Matthew 21:16/Psalm 8:2). And that, as God uses Baptism today to make people a part of His community just as He used circumcision to do the same in the Old Testament (Colossians 2:11-12), the Lord’s gift of saving faith at any age qualifies a person of any age to forgiveness of sins and eternal life.