The simple answer to what we believe is this: we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We base this belief on the witness of the Holy Scriptures, of which our constitution says: “This congregation holds all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God and the sole rule of faith and life.”
Our beliefs are in alignment with the historic creeds of the Christian Church. They are also in alignment with our fellow Lutherans in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. See the LCMS website (lcms.org) for more information on our Synod’s particular beliefs.
One could also describe our beliefs at St. Paul’s as Bible-based, Christ-centered, Sacramental and Confessional. Read on for a more detailed description of what this means to us.
A BIBLE-BASED CHURCH
At St. Paul’s, the Bible isn’t merely a source of spiritual inspiration or one among many collections of writings about God; it is the one true revelation from God to humankind, given so we may know of His love and His plan of salvation for all people through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit directed the writing of these words. The same Spirit moves today as this Word is proclaimed.
We hold the Bible in the highest regard, and yet we do not worship the Bible. The Bible points beyond itself to the God who is revealed as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The Biblical writings are a complex blend of history, poetry, and exhortation. They tell a story of a human people—the Israelites, the Jews and the followers of Jesus. They teach us about God through recalling the actions of God in history. At other times, they teach us very directly through descriptions of God and prescriptions of how to live as His people.
A CHRIST-CENTERED CHURCH
Lutherans believe that all Scripture ultimately points to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Through Jesus Christ, humanity is saved from sin, death, and the power of the devil. By the love and good favor of God, the sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross is regarded as payment in full for all of our sin. Having once been dead in our sin but now made alive in Christ Jesus, we spend the rest of our lives living to his glory.
The church proclaims this Gospel (“good news”) in all it does. “We preach Christ crucified,” said the apostle Paul. Ours is not a theology of glory (we will be happy and successful) but a theology of the cross (we will have trials, but we are saved).
Even so, we are Good News people. We know the joy of salvation. This Good News is simply given to us. We don’t earn it. We cling to it as if all eternity were at stake – and so it is!
A SACRAMENTAL CHURCH
God has promised that we would be saved through Jesus. We are connected to that saving event of Jesus’ death and resurrection through things that we can see, touch, taste, smell and hear; namely, the sacraments of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and the “Office of the Keys” (Confession and Absolution). In these, God attaches his Word to physical elements of water (Baptism), bread and wine (Holy Communion), and human touch and voice (Confession and Absolution). In receiving these, we are receiving his Word, which rescues us through its proclamation of forgiveness.
Our church places a high value on these “sacraments” (sacred acts). We seek baptism for those coming to faith, and we remember our own. We hunger and thirst for God’s gifts given in Holy Communion. We rejoice at God’s forgiveness announced in Holy Absolution. We are grateful that in these acts we participate as members of Christ’s body, the Church, and are connected with our fellow believers in one eternal fellowship. Through these acts, Christ’s ministry is made visible in us and reaches out to the world.
A CONFESSIONAL CHURCH
Our constitution at St. Paul’s also states: “This congregation accepts all the Symbolic books of the Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord of the year 1580.” Among these Symbolic books (the word here means “to be identified by”) are the Augsburg Confession, the Formula of Concord and the three “Ecumenical Creeds” (the Nicene, Apostles’ and Athanasian). We speak one of these Creeds at every Sunday service of worship. They are called “ecumenical” because they were at one time (and to a large degree still are) recognized by most Christians in the world.
The Augsburg Confession and the rest of the Lutheran Symbolic books are uniquely Lutheran and are held as confessional standards in most Lutheran congregations. These writings by Martin Luther and others in the 16th Century attempted to bring reforms to the Roman Catholic Church. In time, they became identifying documents for the many Christians who agreed with the reforms and proceeded to break from Rome. Today, Lutheranism continues to see itself as a reforming movement within the greater Church Catholic (meaning “universal”). We pray for restored unity, even as we cling to the Biblical truth as we have been led to confess it.
The teachings of Lutheranism are perhaps best summarized by Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism (another of the Lutheran Symbolic books). Following the ancient tradition, Luther’s catechism contains questions and answers based on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Holy Baptism, the Office of the Keys and Confession, and the Lord’s Supper.