Lutherans Look Like You
Lutherans look like people around the world – for indeed they are. They represent the world’s largest Protestant group. The 58 million Lutherans can be found on every continent. They worship in hundreds of languages.
In the United States, there are about 9 million Lutherans. They are African-American, Anglo, Asian, Hispanic, Indian.
Lutherans Know Jesus Christ
Lutherans build their lives on Jesus Christ. They believe Jesus Christ is the only, perfect, son of God. They believe that Jesus died for them and for every person in the world. And Lutherans believe that Jesus rose from the dead and lives for them—and for all people who believe in him as their Savior.
Jesus brings people close to God. Lutherans believe their lives –today, tomorrow and in eternity—depend on Jesus.
Lutherans live with a sure hope of eternal life because of Jesus Christ. They know they’re not perfect, that they stumble and fall in their daily walk with God. But they also know that their forgiveness has been won and paid for by Jesus, and when they repent and seek forgiveness, God will forgive them because of Jesus. And, they want to tell others about that hope!
Lutherans Are Christians
Lutherans hold beliefs that are shared by many Christians:
God is three persons in one: the Father, who created and sustains the world; the Son, who lived as a human being, died, and rose from the dead; and the Holy Spirit who works God’s will in the world.
- The Bible is God’s word, spoken through human writers.
- Sin exists in every person. It is the cause of the bad things people do to each other.
- Everyone will have existence after death—either in heaven or hell—forever.
- God has a plan to end the world, when he will judge everyone—both living and dead.
Lutherans proudly display the sign of the cross, a symbol used by all Christians. The cross symbolizes the terrible death that Jesus suffered as punishment for their sins. Some Lutherans prefer to use a cross that is empty—with no body on it. They see the empty cross as a symbol of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
How Lutherans Got Started
Lutherans take their name from Martin Luther. He was a German priest who sought to return his church, the Roman Catholic Church, to its apostolic roots. He failed in the attempt and was expelled from the church.
Through his study of the Bible, Luther helped the Christian Church rediscover the truth that God is loving and that he offers forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift because of Jesus Christ.
Luther taught that people—no matter how hard they try—cannot earn God’s forgiveness or a place in heaven. It is a gift that people receive through faith in Jesus Christ.
Lutherans Trust the Bible
Lutheran often refer to three “solas” (Latin for “alone”) as a summary of the faith that givers them hope.
- Grace alone—God loved the world, though we do not deserve his love. He sent his Son to love the unlovely and save the ungodly.
- Faith alone—Jesus has provided for our forgiveness and life; those who hear this promise and believe it, have what if offers. People don’t “get” faith; God gives it as he gives us his promises.
- Scripture alone—The Bible is the only source that shows God’s will and the only basis for faith.
Lutherans talk about Law and Gospel. The Bible gives the Law, showing God’s expectation of people and the terrible consequences for not following his commands. But the Bible also reveals the Gospel—the “good news” of God’s love and forgiveness.
Lutherans Are Congregation Based
Lutherans have other distinctive beliefs.
- They view Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as means by which God offers people his grace. They call them sacraments. Through them and the preaching of the gospel God gives forgiveness and eternal life.
- Local churches, or congregations, are the central community for faith and practice. Congregations choose a trained person to be their pastor.
- Christian education is important. Lutherans provide Sunday schools, Bible classes, home-study groups, preschools, elementary and high schools, and colleges.
- They share their faith with individuals. Collectively, they sponsor mission programs worldwide.
- They care about people in need—providing hospitals, help for children and families, and worldwide relief for the hungry, homeless, and helpless.
- Their worship style, which includes a lot of music and singing, if often “liturgical,” following the worship form handed down from the early Christian church. It is often expressed in contemporary forms.
The following Bible readings will tell you more about the “good news.”
- John 3:16
- Ephesians 2:8-9
- Romans 5:1-21
- Acts 2:38-42
- Romans 3:22-24
- Acts 4:12