I have this youthful desire to make Lutheran into a hashtag or trending topic or something like that. It’s a silly desire, but its partly rooted in being proud that I’m Lutheran! “Why are you pumped about being Lutheran?” you might ask. Why aren’t you content with being known as a Christian? Aren’t denominations divisive?…
Short answer: No.
Denominations should help us more clearly understand our identity as Christians. Denominations are (or should be) birthed from a desire and commitment to faithfully interpret and hold to the Word of God. I’m proud to count myself among Orthodox Lutheranism (I’m even a Lutheran pastor) because I honestly think, with regards to faithfully interpreting and holding to God’s Word, they’ve got some important things right!
Here are a couple important things I think Lutherans (among others) have right, and more specifically, that I particularly appreciate (in no particular order).
There is a very high regard for the Word of God in Orthodox Lutheranism. It’s all about The Bible; it’s the final authority, and it’s how God does His work. God’s Word says what it does, and it does what it says. Lutherans seem to get that, and not add to it or say much more.
The Lutheran Confessions.
Because the Bible is the final authority, Lutherans have one collection of confessional writings–summarizing the teachings of Scripture–that most (if not all) orthodox Lutherans adhere to/confess together. Jesus asked his disciples to confess rightly who He was. He asked them to summarize their knowledge and understanding of who Jesus was: “who do you say that I am? (Mark 8; Matt. 16)” Peter gave a confession, and Jesus told Peter He would build His Church upon that confession, upon the apostle’s teaching about Jesus in Scripture. Having a confession is important, and confessing together as one body is important too (ask the Apostle Paul how he feels about the Body of Christ!)–All orthodox Lutherans confess this same understanding of Christ and the Scriptures with me. This is a good thing!
Makes sense I guess, I can’t help it! The more I read what Luther wrote, the more I am encouraged in the Faith and enriched in my understanding. Many other folks probably feel the same way reading other “old dead guys” (to put it bluntly), so you know how I feel!
Law and Gospel.
This is a lens through which all Scripture can be read, understood, and applied. How is God’s Law being communicated in any given passage? How is the Gospel communicated in that same passage? How do they work together? How are they working together on you as you read them? To look at Scripture through the lens of Law and Gospel, of how God shows me my sin and what Christ did for me on the cross, is theologically sound, intellectually stimulating, and practically very helpful.
Salvation by Grace, through Faith.
Oh boy, oh boy, is this ever my favourite part–I’m redeemed from sin and death by God’s grace, through faith, none of which is from me, but is a gift of God!
Lutherans emphasize this above all else. They (I believe very rightly) understand that everything with regards to the Christian Faith finds its foundation in the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith–of justification. This is partly where Law and Gospel finds it importance too–because it forces us to consider any given portion of God’s Word first at its foundation–salvation by grace through faith, which is not your doing, but a gift of God, not a result of works. Luther once said “God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbour does,” which leads finally to…
The Mission of God to bring about salvation, to bring about His kingdom, to redeem all things to Himself, is firstly the proclamation of salvation by grace through faith, which is not of yourself! Furthermore, Law and Gospel gives a framework to do this Mission! We proclaim the Law in all of its terror, and we proclaim the Gospel in all its beauty! Because how is faith given? The Word of God! We have a wonderful confession, and it needs confessing! We have neighbours who need the Gospel and, according to Luther, our good works too.
All in all, that’s why I’m Lutheran!
by pastor nick.
(If you’re reading this and are interested in my particular synod’s doctrinal statements, they can be found here!)