What does it mean to be Lutheran?
First and foremost, to be a Lutheran means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus. To say, “I believe,” taught Luther, is the same as saying “I trust.” He stated, “Show me what you trust, what your heart clings to, and I will show you your God.” He wanted us to understand that ultimate trust belongs to God. He taught us that the only thing our hearts should cling to is Jesus Christ, who brings God’s love to us in person.
Being a Christian is not just about being “saved.” God has already taken care of that through the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. Now God asks us to be followers and disciples of Jesus. We do this by reaching out to others and showing God’s love in the lives we lead and the commitments we make. To be a Christian means that I surrender myself to God’s will as shown in the life & teachings of Jesus Christ.
The Lutheran Church takes its name from the Martin Luther who called for the reform of the Roman Catholic Church in 1517. Luther was concerned about the Church’s teaching that good works “earned” someone salvation and a place in heaven. He taught that God’s Grace and Love as revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus were a free and undeserved gift from God. Lutheran teaching still places great emphasis on our redemption by God’s Grace.
THE FOUR “ONLYS”
Lutheran Theology is built around the four “onlys” which Martin Luther first spelled out in 1520:
- SOLA GRATIA (Grace Only) – Only God’s grace, which is a gift God gives out of generous love, can save us. Moreover, grace is not a thing we possess, it is a state in which we live.
- SOLA FIDES (Faith Only) – Only Faith can bring us to God’s grace. Remember, faith equals trust. When we trust God in every aspect of our lives, we enter into God’s grace.
- SOLA SCRIPTURA (Scripture Only) – Only the scriptures of the Bible can serve as the standard and norm for our doctrine, the boundary lines of our faith.
- SOLA CHRISTI (Only Christ) – Christ brings us God’s grace in person. Christ is the object of our faith. Christ is the Living Word of God and all the Scriptures point to him.
We emphasize Baptism as the promise of God’s saving power in our lives. We believe that the real presence of Jesus is found in the bread and cup of Holy Communion. All baptized Christians are invited to Holy Communion.
Martin Luther interpreted the seal he designed in a letter to Lazarus Spengler, dated July 8, 1530.
“Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology.
“The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. For one who believes from the heart will be justified” (Rom. 10:10).
“Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Rom. 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27).
“That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matt. 28:3; John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed.
“And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal.This is my compendium theoligae [summary of theology].
“I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.”