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The issue of which is the correct teaching, Objective, Universal Justification or Justification by Faith Alone, can be answered quite easily by simply looking at the Scriptures which are cited and used as proof texts for these two positions.

And to clarify the issue, it should be pointed out that though Calvinists deny the universal atonement of Christ, neither side in this controversy among Lutheran churches would reject the universal atonement of Christ. Both sides agree that Jesus Christ fulfilled all righteousness in the stead of all and that He suffered and died to satisfy God’s just wrath and atone for the sins of all. — John 1:29; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 Timothy 2:6.

Nor is there dispute among Lutherans that God desires all to be saved and commands that the Gospel be preached to all. — John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47.

Lutherans also agree that the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation are received by faith which God works through the preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments. — John 1:12-13; 3:5-6; 6:63; Romans 1:16-17; 10:17; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:19-21.

Where the real difference exists is in regard to official doctrinal statements of the Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Synod and others which teach an objective and universal justification — that apart from and prior to faith in Christ, God has already absolved all sinners (believers and unbelievers) and declared them justified, forgiven and righteous in His sight. This is usually stated to have occurred either when Christ died upon the cross or when God raised Him up again on the third day.

Official doctrinal statements of the Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Synod state:

1. “Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod” adopted in 1932 and still the Synod’s official position.
Scripture teaches that God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ, Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 4:25; that therefore not for the sake of their good works, but without the works of the Law, by grace, for Christ’s sake, He justifies, that is, accounts as righteous, all those who believe, accept, and rely on, the fact that for Christ’s sake their sins are forgiven….

2. 1983 CTCR “Theses on Justification” adopted and affirmed by the LCMS
By “objective” or “universal” justification one means that God has declared the whole world to be righteous for Christ’s sake and that righteousness has thus been procured for all people. It is objective because this was God’s unilateral act prior to and in no way dependent upon man’s response to it, and universal because all human beings are embraced by this verdict. God has acquired the forgiveness of sins for all people by declaring that the world for Christ’s sake has been forgiven. The acquiring of forgiveness is the pronouncement of forgiveness. (Rom. 3:24; 4:25; 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:19–21; Ap IV, 40–41; SA II, i, 1–3; FC Ep V, 5; FC SD XI, 15) It is contrary to Scripture and the pure Gospel to teach: That God’s acquisition and establishment of forgiveness in objective justification is a conditional verdict, depending on faith or any other human response or activity; That it is not Biblical to speak of “objective justification.” — Par. 23

It is contrary to Scripture and the pure Gospel to teach: That forgiveness of sins and justification for all have not been declared by God when He raised His Son from the dead, but have merely been acquired or made a possibility through Christ’s atonement. — Par. 22

It is contrary to Scripture and the pure Gospel to teach: That God’s verdict of justification or forgiveness is a conditional verdict which specifies that justification occurs only when a person believes…. — Par. 34

3. WELS Doctrinal Statement “This We Believe”
We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for “the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18).

4. ELS Statement of Faith: “We Believe, Teach and Confess” adopted in 1992
By His perfect life and His innocent sufferings and death Jesus has redeemed the entire world. God thereby reconciled the world to Himself, and by the resurrection of His Son declared it to be righteous in Christ. This declaration of universal righteousness is often termed “objective justification.”

The Lutheran Confessions, however, teach this regarding justification:

Augsburg Confession, Art. IV — “Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.”

Augsburg Confession, Art. V — “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.”

Smalcald Articles, Part II, Article I — “That Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins, and was raised again for our justification, Rom. 4:25. And He alone is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world, John 1:29; and God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all, Is. 53:6. Likewise: All have sinned and are justified without merit [freely, and without their own works or merits] by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood, Rom. 3:23f. Now, since it is necessary to believe this, and it cannot be otherwise acquired or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us as St. Paul says, Rom. 3:28: For we conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law. Likewise 3:26: That He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Christ. Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, Is. 53:5. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.”

Luther’s Small Catechism, Apostles’ Creed, Article 3 — “…in which Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers….” (Note: Why would Luther say that Christ “daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers” if all sins were actually already forgiven when Christ died on the cross and rose again?)

Looking to God’s Word
The best and only way to rightly judge the doctrine and be sure we teach and confess only the revealed truth of God’s Word is to examine the Scripture passages which are often cited and touch on this issue:

• John 3:16-18, 36 — “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God … He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (Note: Christ was sent into the world to save the world, but it is only the believers who are not condemned and who are justified, forgiven and saved. Those who do not believe remain under God’s wrath.)

• John 8:24 — “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (Note: Jesus says that those who do not place their faith in Jesus will die in the guilt of their sins.)

• 1 John 5:11-12 — “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (Note: Forgiveness and eternal life are in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Those who trust in the Son have life; those without faith in Christ do not.)

• Romans 3:21-26 — “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Note: Part of this passage is often used in support of objective justification, but justification is connected with faith in Jesus Christ throughout. It makes clear that God justifies those who have faith in Jesus. The “all” in verses 23 and 24 is the “all them that believe” in verse 22. Those justified are those who believe in Jesus.)

• Romans 4:23—5:2 “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Note: The fact that Jesus was raised for our justification is often used in an attempt to teach that Christ’s resurrection is the justification of all. The context, however, makes clear that our justification is by faith in Jesus Christ and not apart from faith. Christ was raised that we might be justified through faith in Him and His atoning sacrifice and have peace with God.)

• Romans 5:16-19 — “And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Note: This passage is also used by those who teach objective justification, but it is those who “receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness” by faith who “shall reign in life.” Adam’s sin brought death to us all. Through faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice “shall many be made righteous.”)

• 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 — “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (Note: This is often viewed as the key passage teaching objective justification — “that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” — but the present participles indicate that, in Christ, for the sake of His atoning sacrifice, God was and still is reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. God reconciled the Apostle Paul and He still reconciles us today by the sending of His Son to atone for our sins, sending men to preach the Gospel which offers and gives to us God’s mercy and forgiveness won for us by Christ and by sending his Holy Spirit to work through the Gospel to create and sustain faith in Christ which believes that God forgives sins, justifies sinners and gives eternal life to all who believe.)

• Genesis 15:6 (cited in Romans 4) — “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Note: How was Abraham justified, long before Christ’s death and resurrection? It was through faith in God’s promise of a Savior to be born of Abraham’s descendants.)

• Psalm 32:1-6 (also cited in Romans 4) — “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.” (Note: Since the one who confesses his sins and receives God’s forgiveness in faith is counted blessed, it is understood that those who do not acknowledge and confess their sins remain under God’s wrath and condemnation until they repent.)

• Colossians 1:19-23 — “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister….” (Note: By making peace through the cross of Christ, God is reconciling all things to Himself in order to present us blameless in His sight; but we are reconciled to God by faith in the message of the Gospel and are not reconciled or justified apart from faith — “ if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.”)

• Galatians 2:16 — “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Cf. Galatians 3, especially verse 22. (Note: St. Paul, in his letter to the churches in Galatia, speaks only of justification by faith in Christ Jesus who redeemed us from the curse of the law by His death on the cross.)

• Luke 18:9-14 — “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Note: Jesus is quite clear than only one of these two men went down to his house justified — it was the tax collector who humbled himself and pleaded for mercy. If both were objectively justified, Jesus would have had to say both were justified but only the tax collector was subjectively justified.)

• 1 John 1:7 — 2:2 — “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (Note: Though Jesus Christ the righteous is the propitiation (or atoning sacrifice) for the sins of the world, who is forgiven and justified? It is the one who acknowledges and confesses his sins and looks to Christ and His shed blood for forgiveness.)

• John 20:23 — “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (Note: How can ministers of the Gospel forgive and retain sins if God has already forgiven all? Would it not be a lie, according to objective justification, to tell an unbeliever his sins are not forgiven? And what’s the point of absolving sinners who repent if the real absolution already took place some 2,000 years ago?)

• Matthew 16:19 — “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Note: How can ministers of the Gospel forgive and retain sins if God has already forgiven all? Would it not be a lie, according to objective justification, to tell an unbeliever his sins are not forgiven? And what’s the point of absolving sinners who repent if the real absolution already took place some 2,000 years ago?)

• Acts 3:19 — “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord….” (Note: If the doctrine of objective justification were true, wouldn’t this passage and others like it need to say: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, because your sins were already blotted out 2,000 years ago?”)

• Acts 22:16 — “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Note: If all our sins are already forgiven, what is the point of being joined to Christ in Baptism and washing away via God’s means of grace what has already been forgiven and washed away?)

• Matthew 26:26-28 — “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Note: What would be the point of partaking of the Lord’s Supper regularly if all our sins are already pardoned and forgiven? Doesn’t the objective justification doctrine make of the Lord’s Supper nothing more than a reminder of what God already did for us centuries ago? And, perhaps, that’s why the Lord’s Supper has been celebrated with less frequency in the synods which teach objective justification than in the ancient church.)

Summary

On the basis of Scripture, we believe that Jesus Christ, true God and true man, fulfilled the righteous demands of God’s Law in our stead and then suffered the just punishment for our sins and the sins of the entire world when He was crucified and died on the cross. He propitiated God’s just wrath against our sins and the sins of all by His atoning sacrifice on the cross, and His resurrection on the third day is proof that God accepted His sacrifice as full payment for the sins of all mankind.

Therefore, it is right to say that Christ has purchased and won (or procured) the forgiveness of sins and justification for all mankind and that God reaches out to all in the Gospel with His offer and promise of forgiveness and pardon in Christ Jesus. Those who look in faith to Christ and His atoning sacrifice are forgiven by God, justified and counted righteous. Those who do not believe the Gospel remain dead in their sins and do not have God’s pardon and forgiveness and are not justified and counted righteous by God. Cf. John 3:16, 18, 36; 8:24; Mark 16:15-16; Col. 1:19-23; 1 John 5:11-12.

The LCMS, WELS, ELS and others err by using the term “justification” — which the Scriptures use in connection with those to whom God imputes righteousness through faith — in connection to a universal declaration of God prior to or apart from faith which is not taught in the Scriptures. They err by teaching that all people are already declared forgiven, righteous and justified in Christ apart from God-wrought faith in Christ. This is similar to the WELS error of using the term “saint,” which the Bible uses only of those who are believers, and saying that all are saints because of Christ, including Judas and those in hell.

This error causes confusion in the church for the following reasons:

1) It directs people to place their faith in a declaration of God not found in the Scriptures rather than trusting in Christ and the atonement He accomplished by His sacrificial death on the cross for the sins of all;
2) It takes from the Church the binding key given by Christ since, according to the objective justification, all are already justified and forgiven prior to and apart from repentance and faith;
3) It takes from the Church the loosing key since, according to the LCMS teaching, all are already justified and forgiven prior to and apart from repentance and faith;
4) It gives false security to those continuing in sin and disobedience since, according to objective justification, all sins are already forgiven for the sake of Christ’s death and resurrection prior to and apart from faith;
5) It would seem to require that God again imputes sin and the condemnation of the Law to those who do not believe that God has already forgiven them.

The error is divisive of fellowship for the following reasons:

1) It relates to the central and chief article of the Christian Faith and directly to the salvation of lost souls, meaning erring teaching on this article could result in the eternal ruin of souls.

2) Since it relates to the chief article of the Christian Faith, error in this doctrine affects and infects almost all other articles of Christian doctrine (as seen in This error causes confusion in the church… above).

3) The Word of God does not permit us to add to or take away from God’s Word in any way (Deuteronomy 4:2; Matthew 5:17-19) and commands Christians to mark and avoid false teachers (Matthew 7:15-21; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Galatians 1:8; 2 John 8-11; Isaiah 8:20).

4) Those holding to universal objective justification also clearly reject the true Scriptural doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ and His atoning sacrifice (as seen in the CTCR antithetical statements).

5) Church bodies holding to universal objective justification have removed and suspended pastors and teachers for questioning this erring doctrine on the basis of sound Scriptural exegesis.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Some would argue, “But Pastor, this is a minor issue and I know of plenty of pastors in the LCMS, WELS, ELS, etc., who don’t teach “objective, universal justification.” They just teach justification by faith.

To that I must answer that I’m glad it is so, but does that mean we should ignore an error in official teaching and allow it to continue to be taught and spread until more and more hold to it and teach it?

The Bible commands us: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). And it warns against adding human opinion to God’s Word, saying: “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith” (Jeremiah 23:31).

I titled this section “Where the rubber meets the road” because I would like you to see how important this issue is and how the error infects almost every other article of faith. Not only does it affect how I as a pastor teach and what you as a believer believe in regard to justification and the central article of the Christian faith, it affects so much more. I give you some examples below.

1) Is the Gospel, which I am to preach and we all are to believe, God’s offer and promise to forgive you all your sins and give you eternal life when you look in faith for mercy and forgiveness to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world (John 3:14ff.)? Or is it simply the announcement that God has already forgiven the sins of all (including unbelievers) because of Christ’s sacrifice, therefore one must believe it or it won’t benefit him?

2) Do I tell the unbelieving that they remain under the wrath of God and will be condemned to hell unless they repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Or do I tell them that God has already forgiven all their sins and they simply need to believe and accept that fact in faith to be saved?

3) Do I use the Law of God to point out that no one is or can be counted righteous under the Law because all have sinned, and the Gospel to point out that God provided another way to be counted righteous in His sight — through faith in the perfect righteousness and innocent sufferings and death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world (Romans 3:9-28)? Or do I tell people that God’s Law and His Gospel and contradictory, with the law saying all are sinners and condemned and the Gospel saying all are justified and forgiven?

4) In Sunday services, or in private confession and absolution, do I proclaim to the penitent and believing that I, as a called servant of Christ, in His stead and by His authority, forgive them all their sins (John 20:23; Small Catechism)? Or do I say God already forgave all sins to all people 2,000 years ago; therefore just believe all sins are already forgiven?

5) If it becomes necessary to retain the sins of one who is impenitent and continuing on in his sinful ways (John 20:23), do I say to the impenitent that his sins are not forgiven unless and until he repents and looks to Christ in faith? Or do I say that God already forgave his sins objectively but they are not forgiven subjectively because of his impenitence?

6) When people are troubled over their sins, do I point them to Christ and His sacrifice for the sins of the world? Or do I tell them to believe that God has already absolved them of all sins and declared them just, righteous and forgiven when Jesus rose from the dead; just believe? Perhaps I should add, “Oh, by the way, the Bible doesn’t ever actually say God has absolved the sins of all; it’s just the teaching of our church body.”

7) When people come for Baptism, do I tell them that God, in Holy Baptism, washes away all their sins, regenerates them and makes them children of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:26-27; Titus 3:3-7; John 3:5-6)? Or do I tell them that God has already forgiven and washed away all their sins and that Baptism is symbolic of God’s action which has already taken place?

8) When people come to the Lord’s Supper, do I tell them that Christ gives them to partake of His very body and blood which were sacrificed for our sins that we might have and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness (Matthew 26:26-28)? Or do I tell them that the Lord’s Supper is simply a reminder (or symbol) of the forgiveness God already imputed to the whole world when Christ died and was raised again?

My point is that this “little error,” like leaven mixed into a lump of dough (Galatians 5:9), affects everything. To allow it to stand or to ignore it and just point to the good things said of justification by faith even among those who teach objective justification becomes a danger to souls and it changes everything we believe, teach and practice.

Therefore, if we wish to hear and believe the truth, if we wish to hear God’s true absolution for our sins, if we wish to carry out church discipline as God commands, if we wish to rightly partake of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, if we wish to rightly proclaim Christ’s Gospel to the world, we need to reject universal, objective justification and hold to the justification taught in the Bible, that which is by faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.

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Martin Luther preaching to the faithful

Why do we at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church practice “closed” (also called “close”) Communion? This practice may be troubling to some, especially if we must turn someone away from communing with us at our altar, but it is based on Scriptures and the historic practice of the Christian church.

In our day, many churches no longer believe in the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. And, if the bread and wine only serve only as symbols of Christ’s body and blood which were given and shed for us on the cross, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to allow all to partake of those symbols. Whether they believed or not, it wouldn’t really matter since it is counted as nothing more than a reminder or symbol of what Christ has done.

But, as the Scriptures plainly teach in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and 1 Corinthians 11, Christ does offer and give to all who partake of the Supper His true body and blood which were given and shed for us upon the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. As God’s people under the Old Covenant ate of the Passover lamb which was sacrificed and its blood smeared upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes (Exodus 12), so we are given to partake of the sacrificial Lamb of the New Covenant. We partake of the body and blood of Christ, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

It may be helpful to note who was permitted to partake of the Passover meal. As we read in Exodus 12, the Passover meal was closed to all those outside of the Old Testament (or Old Covenant) faith.

We read in Exodus 12:43ff.: “And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: but every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof … All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you….”

When we remember that the Lord’s Supper replaced the Old Testament Passover as the New Covenant meal and that Baptism replaced circumcision and is called a “circumcision made without hands” (Colossians 2:11ff.), it may help us to understand that reception of the Lord’s Supper is reserved for those who are baptized and instructed in the Christian faith. As strangers were not permitted to eat of the Passover meal until they were instructed and circumcised into the faith of the Old Testament Church, so also attendance at the Lord’s Supper is restricted to those who have been baptized into Christ and have been instructed and confess the true Christian faith.

We might note also in regard to the Old Testament sacrifices, that God said in Leviticus 22:10: “There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing.” It wasn’t enough to be a family member or friend.

If it was a serious offense for one outside the faith to partake of animal sacrifices which pointed ahead to Christ, how much greater an offense it must be to allow those outside of the true Christian faith to partake of the true body and blood of Christ Jesus!

And, in some cases, the Word of God included a stern warning: “And when the tabernacle setteth forward, the Levites shall take it down: and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death” (Numbers 1:51; cf. 3:10; 3:38).

Ezekiel 44:9 says, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.” Those who did not hold to the faith confessed by the Old Testament Church, even if outwardly circumcised, were not permitted to enter into the sanctuary of the LORD to serve.

In Ezra 4:1ff., God’s people were approached by their heterodox and syncretistic neighbors, asking if they could help in rebuilding the temple of the LORD, and the answer of God’s people was no because these neighbors held to a mixed confession.

And whom did Jesus welcome to the first Lord’s Supper? It was His disciples who had traveled with Him and had been instructed in the true doctrine over a period of three years. They were familiar with His doctrine and professed to believe it as Jesus’ disciples.

Some may object because Jesus certainly knew Judas would betray Him and Judas is listed in Luke’s Gospel as still being present when the Lord’s Supper was instituted (Luke 22:19ff.). If Judas did partake of the Lord’s Supper, we must keep in mind that the public confession of Judas was still one of discipleship. He had not stated to Jesus or anyone else among the disciples his plans to betray Jesus; and, had Judas repented as did Peter who also denied Jesus that same night, Jesus stood ready to forgive him. It was when Judas saw that his betrayal would lead to Jesus’ death by crucifixion that he despaired of God’s grace and went out and hanged himself (Matthew 27:1ff.).

As I mentioned earlier, when considering who is welcome to partake of the Lord’s Supper, it is important to remember that the Lord’s Supper is so much more than just a reminder or symbol of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. Jesus actually gives us to partake of His sacrifice for the sins of the world by giving us to eat and to drink (called sacramental eating and drinking because it occurs only in the Sacrament) of His body and blood which were given and shed upon the cross for the sins of the world. In this Supper, Jesus offers and conveys to us the forgiveness of sins and salvation He won for all when He suffered and died upon the cross.

In all four accounts of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians), Jesus clearly and plainly says of the bread, “This is My body,” and of the wine, “This is my blood.” And, if there remains any doubt about what those who commune receive, the Scriptures declare: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16). Thus, when we eat of the bread and drink of the cup in the Lord’s Supper, we partake of and share in the body and blood of Christ Jesus, the Son of God who took on human flesh and blood and was sacrificed to redeem us.

And, as St. Paul points out, “whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). Such are not guilty of abusing a symbol but are guilty of not recognizing and using aright the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Hebrews 10:28-29).

We consider also St. Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian congregation for not observing the Lord’s Supper as instituted by Christ. He points out that because they did not recognize the gravity of what was being offered and given in the Sacrament, many were weak and sickly and spiritually asleep (1 Corinthians 11:30).

The Scriptures admonish us in 1 Corinthians 11:28-29: “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” Therefore, for the spiritual wellbeing of those who attend Christ’s Supper, we ask those who wish to partake of the Lord’s Supper to examine themselves, confess their sins and receive God’s absolution or forgiveness through faith in Christ. Since rightly partaking of Christ’s Supper requires a right knowledge of what Christ gives us in the Sacrament and the Scriptural knowledge and ability to examine oneself, we admit to the Lord’s Supper only those who have been instructed in the Christian faith and who can examine themselves in accord with God’s Word.

Secondly, the Scripture says: “Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” (1 Corinthians 10:18). It is for this reason that we say and teach that partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a profession of agreement with the doctrine taught and proclaimed from that altar. And, since the Scriptures go on to say, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils” (v. 21), we believe it is wrong to commune where doctrines introduced by the father of lies (John 8:44) are also proclaimed.

In fact, the Scriptures clearly tell us to mark and avoid those who teach falsely (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 6:3-5), to come out from among them (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Matthew 7:15-23), and to have no fellowship with them (2 John 8-11; Ephesians 5:11). Certainly, communing together with those of a mixed confession (part truth and part error) is not doing what God tells us to do in His Word.

So, why do we at Good Shepherd, only allow those from our own congregation to commune with us at the Lord’s Table? Let me explain.

1) We care about the spiritual wellbeing of those who come to God’s services among us, and our pastors are to be good and faithful stewards of the mysteries of God entrusted to them (1 Corinthians 4:1ff.). Therefore, we do not wish to have someone who is not baptized and instructed in the true Christian faith or who is not able to examine himself come forward to partake of Christ’s true body and blood to his damnation. We seek to instruct first and to be of aid in helping people to examine themselves before partaking of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper.

2) We desire to uphold the truth of God’s Word and not compromise that truth by acting as if it doesn’t matter whether one holds to all that Christ taught and commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). Therefore, we receive at the Lord’s Table those who have had the opportunity to hear and learn the teachings of Scripture and who profess their agreement with us in accepting the true doctrine of God’s Word. And, since we cannot look at the hidden faith in the heart, we must look at the public profession of believers — do they profess to believe all that is taught in the Holy Scriptures?

A big part of one’s public profession is one’s church membership. If one is a member of a congregation or synod which persists in a doctrinal error, he or she shares in that error unless he is admonishing the error and leaves if the erring church body or congregation refuses to repent and preach and teach in full accord with the Bible. If we welcome to the Lord’s Supper in our congregation members of churches and synods which are less than faithful to all that God has revealed to us in His Word, we become partakers of those same doctrinal errors.

3) Not to practice closed or close communion is to disregard the real presence of Christ and treat the Lord’s Supper as no more than a symbol and reminder, and it is to disobey God’s commandments regarding practicing fellowship with the truth and rebuking and avoiding false teachers and erring doctrine.

4) While historical precedent alone cannot be our basis for doctrine, it can help assure us that we are in agreement with the church catholic’s understanding of the Scriptures when we review the practice of admission to the Lord’s Supper in congregations from the first century onward.

The Scriptures tell us that the believers in Jerusalem (immediately following Pentecost) “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). They continued in the apostolic teaching which we now have recorded in the Bible and summarized in the creeds. They practiced fellowship with those who continued in this same apostolic doctrine. It is in this fellowship and connected with this teaching where they broke bread (an early name for Holy Communion), and it is in this fellowship where they joined together in prayer and worship.

And, it is clear from historical records that churches did not practice open communion. In fact, those who were not baptized and confirmed members of the congregations were asked to leave after the service of the Word, and the doors were closed before the service of the Lord’s Supper began.

The Lutheran Confessions, contained in the Book of Concord — confessional statements to which you have placed me under oath before God to uphold — teach the practice of closed Communion. For example, The Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV: Of the Mass, states: “5] The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public 6] worship. For none are admitted 7] except they be first examined. The people are also advised concerning the dignity and use of the Sacrament, how great consolation it brings anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe God, and to expect and ask of Him all that is good. 8] [In this connection they are also instructed regarding other and false teachings on the Sacrament.] This worship pleases God; such use of the Sacrament nourishes true devotion 9] toward God. It does not, therefore, appear that the Mass is more devoutly celebrated among our adversaries than among us.”

Luther in his Large Catechism explains: “In the same manner as we have heard regarding Holy Baptism, we must speak also concerning the other Sacrament, namely, these three points: What is it? What are its benefits? and, Who is to receive it? And all these are established by the words by which Christ has instituted it, 2] and which every one who desires to be a Christian and go to the Sacrament should know. For it is not our intention to admit to it and to administer it to those who know not what they seek, or why they come.”

Closed Communion is still practiced today among those churches and church bodies that hold to the real presence. The pastors of ELDoNA practice closed communion, allowing only communicant members of their fellowship to partake of the Lord’s Supper in their congregations.

Though upheld in varying degrees of strictness, the larger synods which still uphold the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture practice or uphold the practice of closed communion in their congregations. Though one can find a variety of Communion practices in the LCMS, the synod’s official position is to allow only members of LCMS congregations, or of church bodies in formal fellowship with the LCMS, to partake of the Lord’s Supper in LCMS churches.

I might add here the fact that being a member of one of these more conservative church bodies includes an agreement not to take Communion outside of one’s church fellowship. Thus, a member of an LCMS, WELS or ELS congregation would be breaking his or her agreement with his own church body by taking Communion in our church or another congregation outside of his or her own fellowship. And, at least historically, pastors respected those fellowship commitments and would not commune those of another fellowship (except, possibly, in the case of an emergency) but would direct these members to their own congregations and pastors.

A difficulty we face in our congregation at the present, since we are not in any formal fellowship with other churches or church bodies, is that practicing closed Communion limits us to welcoming only our own members who have been instructed and professed the true faith. Should we enter into fellowship with another church or fellowship of churches, those allowed to commune at our altar would include communicant members of these other congregations, as well.

With all of this said, practicing closed communion is not always easy to do. It is painful for a minister of Christ to have to turn someone away from the altar and ask for the opportunity to first instruct so that both the minister and those desiring to partake of the Lord’s Supper can be assured of a right understanding of the Lord’s Supper and a common confession of the true faith.

And, as I indicated above, there might be exceptions, such as giving Communion to one who is on his deathbed and cannot be served by his own pastor, even though he has not been able to be fully instructed and make a public profession of his faith, or to one who is admonishing his church or church body in regard to error and has temporarily suspended fellowship until the outcome of his attempt to correct is known. We don’t, however, wish to go against God’s Word and make emergency exceptions into the general rule or practice. Where there is no emergency, we seek to instruct first and be sure that those coming to the altar know what is being offered and given there and that they also accept and agree with the doctrine proclaimed among us.

Not to practice closed or close Communion is to treat the body and blood of Christ as a common thing, to elevate our own opinions and preferences above what God has revealed in His Word, to disregard the Word of God regarding the practice of church fellowship, to fail in truly caring for souls by instructing them in the true doctrine of the Lord’s Supper before communing them and to be dishonest and unfaithful to our own profession and subscription to the Lutheran Confessions as a pastor and as a Christian congregation. In so many ways, not to practice closed Communion would be not only unLutheran but unChristian.

May God help us to be faithful to His Word and to treasure the Lord’s Supper and all that He offers and gives to us by means of this Sacrament!

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A SHORT EXPOSITION of Dr. MARTIN LUTHER’S SMALL CATECHISM.

In the translation authorized by the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America.

Copyright, 1912, by CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE, St. Louis, Mo.
(Now in Public Domain)

ENCHIRIDION.

The Small Catechism of Dr. MARTIN LUTHER.

FOR PASTORS AND PREACHERS.

PREFACE.

MARTIN LUTHER TO ALL FAITHFUL, PIOUS PASTORS AND PREACHERS: GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE IN CHRIST JESUS, OUR LORD!

The deplorable destitution which I recently observed, during a visitation of the churches, has impelled and constrained me to prepare this Catechism or Christian Doctrine in such a small and simple form. Alas, what manifold misery I beheld! The common people, especially in the villages, know nothing at all of Christian doctrine; and many pastors are quite unfit and incompetent to teach. Yet all are called Christians, have been baptized, and enjoy the use of the Sacraments, although they know neither the Lord’s Prayer, nor the Creed, nor the Ten Commandments, and live like the poor brutes and irrational swine. Still they have, now that the Gospel has come, learned to abuse all liberty in a masterly manner.

O ye bishops! how will ye ever render account to Christ for having so shamefully neglected the people, and having never for a moment exercised your office! May the judgment not overtake you! You command communion in one kind, and urge your human ordinances; but never ask, in the meantime, whether the people know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or any part of God’s Word. Woe, woe unto you everlastingly! Therefore I entreat you all, for God’s sake, my dear brethren who are pastors and preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office, and have pity upon the people who are committed to your charge. Help us to inculcate the Catechism upon them, especially upon the young. Let those who are not able to do better take these tables and forms and set them word for word before the people, in the manner following:

First, the minister should above all things avoid the use of different texts and forms of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Sacraments, etc. Let him adopt one form and adhere to it, using it one year as the other; for young and ignorant people must be taught one certain text and form, and will easily become confused if we teach thus to-day and otherwise next year, as if we thought of making improvements. In this way all effort and labor will be lost. This our honored fathers well understood, who all used the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments in one and the same manner. Therefore we also should so teach these forms to the young and inexperienced as not to change a syllable, nor set them forth and recite them one year differently from the other.

Hence, choose whatever form you think best, and adhere to it forever. When you preach among the learned and judicious, you may show your art, and set these things forth with as many flourishes, and turn them as skillfully as you wish; but among the young adhere to one and the same fixed form and manner, and teach them, first of all, the text of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, etc., so that they can say it after you word for word, and commit it to memory. But those who are unwilling to learn it should be told that they deny Christ and are no Christians; neither should they be admitted to the Sacrament, accepted as sponsors at baptism, nor be accorded the exercise of Christian liberty; but they are simply to be remanded to the pope and his officials, yea, to the devil himself. Parents and employers should also refuse them meat and drink, and give them to understand that the prince will drive such rude fellows from the country. For although we cannot and should not force anyone to believe, yet we should lead and urge the masses to perceive what those consider right and wrong among whom they live and find their sustenance. Whoever would live in a city and enjoy its privileges, should know and observe its laws, whether he believe or be at heart a rogue or knave.

Secondly, when they have well learned the text, teach them the sense also, that they may know what it means. Again take the form of these tables or some other short fixed form of your choice, and adhere to it without the change of a single syllable, as was said of the text; and take your time to it; for it is not necessary to take up all the parts at once, but take one after the other. When they well understand the First Commandment, proceed to the Second, and thus continue; otherwise, they will be overburdened, and be able to retain nothing well.

Thirdly, after you have taught them this short Catechism, take up the Large Catechism, and impart to them a richer and fuller knowledge; dwell on each Commandment, Petition, and Part, with its various works, uses, benefits, dangers, and harm, as you may find these abundantly pointed out in many books treating of these subjects; and especially give most attention to the Commandment or Part which is most neglected among your people. For example, the Seventh Commandment, which forbids stealing, you must particularly enforce among mechanics and merchants, and also among farmers and servants; for among such people all kinds of unfaithfulness and thieving are frequent. Again, you must urge the Fourth Commandment among children and the common people, that they may be quiet, faithful, obedient, peaceable, always adducing frequent examples from the Scriptures to show how God punished or blessed such persons.

Especially should you here urge civil rulers and parents to govern well and educate children for service in schools, showing them their duty in this regard, and the greatness of their sin if they neglect it; for by such neglect they overthrow and destroy both the kingdom of God and that of this world, and show themselves to be the worst foes both of God and man. Dwell on the great harm they do if they will not help to educate children for the ministry, clerkships, and other offices, etc., and on the terrible punishment God will visit upon them for it. It is necessary to preach of these things; for parents and rulers sin unspeakably in them, and the devil has a horrible object in view.

Lastly, since the people are freed from the tyranny of the pope, they no longer desire to go to the Sacrament but despise it. It is necessary to be urgent on this point, remembering, however, that we are to force no one to believe, or to receive the Sacrament, nor to fix any law, time, or place for it, but so to preach that they will be urged of their own accord, without our law, and will, as it were, compel us pastors to administer the Sacrament. This is done by telling them that if a person does not seek nor desire the Lord’s Supper at least some four times a year, it is to be feared that he despises the Sacrament and is not a Christian, just as he is not a Christian who refuses to believe or to hear the Gospel. For Christ did not say, Omit this, or, Despise this; but, “This do ye, as oft as ye drink it,” etc. Truly, He wants it done, and by no means neglected or despised. “This do ye,” is His command.

Whoever does not highly prize the Sacrament, thus shows that he has no sin, no flesh, no devil, no world, no death, no danger, no hell; that is, he does not believe that they exist, although he is in them over head and ears, and is doubly the devil’s. On the other hand, he needs no grace, life, Paradise, heaven, Christ, God, nor anything good; for if he believed that he has so much that is evil, and needs so much that is good, he would not thus neglect the Sacraments, by which such evil is remedied and so much good is bestowed. Neither would it be necessary to force him to the Sacrament by any law, but he would hasten to it of his own accord, and constrain himself, and compel you to administer it to him.

Therefore you need not make any law in this matter, as the pope does; only set forth clearly the benefit and harm, the necessity and use, the danger and blessing, connected with this Sacrament, and the people will come of themselves, without your compulsion. But if they do not come, let them alone, telling them that they are of the devil, as they do not regard nor feel their great need and God’s gracious help. Should you, however, fail to urge this matter, or make a law or a bane of it, it is your fault if they despise the Sacrament. How could they be otherwise than slothful if you sleep and keep silence? Therefore look to it, ye pastors and preachers; our office is a different thing now from what it was under the pope; it has now become earnest and salutary. Hence it involves much more trouble and labor, danger and trial, and secures but little reward and gratitude in the world. But Christ Himself will be our reward if we labor faithfully. To this end may the Father of all grace help us, to whom be praise and thanks in eternity, through Christ, our Lord! Amen.

The Ten Commandments,

AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH THEM IN ALL SIMPLICITY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD.

The First Commandment.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

The Second Commandment.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

The Third Commandment.

Thou shalt sanctify the holy-day.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

The Fourth Commandment.

Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear and love God that we may not despise our parents and masters, nor provoke them to anger, but give them honor, serve and obey them, and hold them in love and esteem.

The Fifth Commandment.

Thou shalt not kill.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body, but help and befriend him in every bodily need.

The Sixth Commandment.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear and love God that we may lead a chaste and decent life in word and deed, and each love and honor his spouse.

The Seventh Commandment.

Thou shalt not steal.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear and love God that we may not take our neighbor’s money or goods, nor get them by false ware or dealing, but help him to improve and protect his property and business.

The Eighth Commandment.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, nor defame our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.

The Ninth Commandment.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear and love God that we may not craftily seek to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, nor obtain it by a show of right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

The Tenth Commandment.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

What does this mean? Answer:

We should fear and love God that we may not estrange, force, or entice away from our neighbor his wife, servants, or cattle, but urge them to stay and do their duty.

What does God say of all these Commandments? Answer:

He says thus: I the Lord, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

What does this mean? Answer:

God threatens to punish all that transgress these Commandments. Therefore we should fear His wrath, and not act contrary to them. But He promises grace and every blessing to all that keep these Commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him, and willingly do according to His Commandments.

The Creed,

AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH IT IN ALL SIMPLICITY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD.

The First Article.

OF CREATION.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean? Answer:

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them; also clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life; that He defends me against all danger, and guards and protects me from all evil; and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which it is my duty to thank and praise, to serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

The Second Article.

OF REDEMPTION.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

What does this mean? Answer:

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

The Third Article.

OF SANCTIFICATION.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean? Answer:

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith: in which Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all sins to me and all believers, and will at the last day raise up me and all the dead, and give unto me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.

The Lord’s Prayer,

AS THE HEAD OP THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH IT IN ALL SIMPLICITY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD.

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean? Answer:

God would by these words tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that we may with all boldness and confidence ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.

The First Petition.

Hallowed be Thy name.

What does this mean? Answer:

God’s name is indeed holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be holy among us also.

How is this done? Answer:

When the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God also lead a holy life according to it. This grant us, dear Father in heaven. But he that teaches and lives otherwise than God’s Word teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, Heavenly Father.

The Second Petition.

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean? Answer:

The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.

How is this done? Answer:

When our Heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life, here in time and hereafter in eternity.

The Third Petition.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

What does this mean? Answer:

The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.

How is this done? Answer:

When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow God’s name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh, but strengthens and preserves us steadfast in His Word and faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will.

The Fourth Petition.

Give us this day our daily bread.

What does this mean? Answer:

God gives daily bread indeed without our prayer, also to all the wicked; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What, then, is meant by daily bread? Answer:

Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

What does this mean? Answer:

We pray in this petition, as the sum of all, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, property and honor, and finally, when our last hour has come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.

Amen.

What does this mean? Answer:

That I should be certain that these petitions are acceptable to our Father in heaven, and heard; for He Himself has commanded us so to pray and has promised to hear us. Amen, Amen, that is, yea, yea, it shall be so.

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism,

AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH IT IN ALL SIMPLICITY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD.

FIRST.

What is Baptism? Answer:

Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s word.

Which is that word of God? Answer:

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

SECONDLY.

What does Baptism give or profit? Answer:

It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Which are such words and promises of God? Answer:

Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

THIRDLY.

How can water do such great things? Answer:

It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water, and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter third:

By the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

FOURTHLY.

What does such baptizing with water signify? Answer:

It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written? Answer:

St. Paul says, Romans, chapter sixth: We are buried with Christ by baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

The Office of the Keys,

AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH IT IN ALL SIMPLICITY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD.

What is the Office of the Keys? Answer:

It is the peculiar church power which Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of penitent sinners unto them, but to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent.

Where is this written? Answer:

Thus writes the holy Evangelist John, chapter twentieth:

The Lord Jesus breathed on His disciples, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

What do you believe according to these words? Answer:

I believe that when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, especially when they exclude manifest and impenitent sinners from the Christian congregation, and, again, when they absolve those who repent of their sins and are willing to amend, this is as valid and certain, in heaven also, as if Christ, our dear Lord, dealt with us Himself.

How the Unlearned Should be Taught to Confess.

What is Confession? Answer:

Confession embraces two parts: one is that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor,* as from God Himself, and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

  • or pastor.

What sins should we confess? Answer:

Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even of those which we do not know, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer; but before the confessor we should confess those sins only which we know and feel in our hearts.

Which are these? Answer:

Here consider your station according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any person by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted aught, or done other injury.

Pray, give me a brief form of confession. Answer:

Say to the confessor, Reverend and dear Sir, I beseech you to hear my confession, and pronounce forgiveness to me, for God’s sake.

Proceed!

I, a poor sinner, confess myself before God guilty of all sins. Especially do I confess before you that I am a servant, etc., but, alas! I serve my master unfaithfully; for in this and in that I have not done what they commanded me; I have provoked them to anger and profane words, have been negligent and have not prevented injury, have been immodest in words and deeds, have quarreled with my equals, have murmured and used profane words against my mistress, etc, For all this I am sorry, and implore grace; I promise amendment.

A master or mistress may say:

Especially do I confess before you that I have not faithfully trained my children and household to the glory of God; I have used profane language, set a bad example by indecent words and deeds, have done my neighbor harm and spoken evil of him, have overcharged and given false ware and short measure; and whatever else he has done against God’s Commandments and his station, etc.

But if anyone does not find himself burdened with such or greater sins, he should not trouble himself on that account, nor seek or invent other sins, and thus make confession a torture, but simply mention one or two that you know, after this manner: Especially do I confess that I have once been profane; I have once used improper words; I have once neglected this or that, etc. Let that suffice.

But if you are conscious of none at all, which, however, is scarcely possible, then mention none in particular, but receive absolution upon the General Confession which you make before God to the confessor.

Then shall the confessor say:

God be merciful to thee, and strengthen thy faith. Amen.

Furthermore:

Dost thou believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?

Yes, I believe.

Then he shall say:

Be it unto thee as thou believest. And I, by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive thee thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Depart in peace.

Those, however, whose conscience is heavily burdened, or who are troubled and tempted, the confessor will know how to comfort and incite to faith with more passages of Scripture. This is designed merely to be a general form of confession for the unlearned.

The Sacrament of the Altar,

AS THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY SHOULD TEACH IT IN ALL SIMPLICITY TO HIS HOUSEHOLD.

What is the Sacrament of the Altar? Answer:

It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.

Where is this written? Answer:

The holy Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul, write thus:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.

After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Take, drink ye all of it; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?

Answer:

That is shown us by these words, “Given, and shed for you for the remission of sins”; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Answer:

It is not the eating and drinking, indeed, that does them, but the words here written, “Given, and shed for you for the remission of sins”; which words, besides the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily? Answer:

Fasting and bodily preparation is, indeed, a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, “Given, and shed for you for the remission of sins.” But he that does not believe these words, or doubts, is unworthy and unprepared; for the words, “For you,” require all hearts to believe.

How the Head of the Family Should Teach His Household to Pray Morning and Evening.

Morning Prayer.

In the morning, when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may also say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee that Thou wouldst keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Then go joyfully to your work, singing a hymn, like that on the Ten Commandments, or whatever your devotion may suggest.

Evening Prayer.

In the evening, when you go to bed, make the sign of the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may also say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day; and I pray Thee that Thou wouldst forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Then go to sleep at once and in good cheer.

How the Head of the Family Should Teach His Household to Ask a Blessing and Return Thanks.

Asking a Blessing.

The children and servants shall go to the table reverently, fold their hands, and say:

The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord, and Thou givest them their meat in due season; Thou openest Thy hands and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.

Then shall be said the Lord’s Prayer and the following:

Lord God, Heavenly Father, bless us and these Thy gifts which we receive from Thy bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Returning Thanks.

Also, after eating, they shall, in like manner, reverently and with folded hands say:

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endureth forever. He giveth food to all flesh: He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse. He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy.

Then shall be said the Lord’s Prayer and the following:

We thank Thee, Lord God, Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for all Thy benefits, who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.

Table of Duties;

OR, CERTAIN PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE FOR VARIOUS HOLY ORDERS AND ESTATES WHEREBY THESE ARE SEVERALLY TO BE ADMONISHED OF THEIR OFFICE AND DUTY.

To Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers.

A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; not a novice; holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. 1 Tim. 3, 2. 3. 4. 6. Tit. 1, 9.

What the Hearers Owe to Their Pastors.

Eat and drink such things as they give; for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Luke 10, 7.

Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. 1 Cor. 9, 14.

Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Gal. 6, 6. 7.

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward. 1 Tim. 5, 17. 18.

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 1 Thess. 5, 12. 13.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief; for that is unprofitable for you. Hebr. 13, 17.

Of Civil Government.

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou, then, not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same; for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Rom. 13, 1-4.

Of Subjects.

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. Matt. 22, 21.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honor, to whom honor. Rom. 13, 5-7.

I exhort therefore that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, our Savior. 1 Tim. 2, 1-3.

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work. Tit. 3, 1.

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. 1 Pet. 2,13.14.

To Husbands.

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered. And be not bitter against them. 1 Pet. 3, 7. Col. 3, 19.

To Wives.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord. Eph. 5, 22.

Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 1 Pet. 3, 5. 6.

To Parents.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Eph. 6, 4.

To Children.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Eph. 6, 1-3.

To Servants, Hired Men, and Laborers.

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. Eph. 6, 5-8.

To Masters and Mistresses.

And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening, knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with Him. Eph. 6, 9.

To the Young in General.

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. 1 Pet. 5, 5. 6.

To Widows.

Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. 1 Tim. 5, 5. 6.

To All in Common.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Here in are comprehended all the commandments. Rom. 13, 9. And persevere in prayer for all men. 1 Tim. 2, 1.

Let each his lesson learn with care, And all the household well shall fare.

CHRISTIAN QUESTIONS, WITH THEIR ANSWERS, DRAWN UP BY DR. MARTIN LUTHER FOR THOSE WHO INTEND TO GO TO THE SACRAMENT.

After confession and instruction in the Ten Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Supper, the confessor may ask, or one may ask himself:

1. Do you believe that you are a sinner? Answer:

Yes, I believe it; I am a sinner.

2. How do you know this? Answer:

From the Ten Commandments; these I have not kept.

3. Are you also sorry for your sins? Answer:

Yes, I am sorry that I have sinned against God.

4. What have you deserved of God by your sins? Answer:

His wrath and displeasure, temporal death, and eternal damnation. Rom. 6, 21. 23.

5. Do you also hope to be saved? Answer:

Yes, such is my hope.

6. In whom, then, do you trust? Answer:

In my dear Lord Jesus Christ.

7. Who is Christ? Answer:

The Son of God, true God and man.

8. How many Gods are there? Answer:

Only one; but there are three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

9. What, then, has Christ done for you that you trust in Him? Answer:

He died for me, and shed His blood for me on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.

10. Did the Father also die for you? Answer:

He did not; for the Father is God only, the Holy Ghost likewise; but the Son is true God and true man; He died for me and shed His blood for me.

11. How do you know this? Answer:

From the holy Gospel and from the words of the Sacrament, and by His body and blood given me as a pledge in the Sacrament.

12. How do those words read? Answer:

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it unto His disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.

After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Take, drink ye all of it; this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

13. You believe, then, that the true body and blood of Christ are in the Sacrament? Answer:

Yes, I believe it.

14. What induces you to believe this? Answer:

The word of Christ, Take, eat, this is my body; Drink ye all of it, this is my blood.

15. What ought we to do when we eat His body and drink His blood, and thus receive the pledge? Answer:

We ought to show and remember His death and the shedding of His blood, as He taught us: This do, as oft as ye do it, in remembrance of me.

16. Why ought we to remember and show His death? Answer:

That we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins but Christ, true God and man; and that we may learn to look with terror at our sins, and to regard them as great indeed, and to find joy and comfort in Him alone, and thus be saved through such faith

17. What was it that moved Him to die and make satisfaction for your sins? Answer:

His great love to His Father, and to me and other sinners, as it is written in John 14; Rom. 5; Gal. 2; Eph. 5.

18. Finally, why do you wish to go to the Sacrament? Answer:

That I may learn to believe that Christ died for my sin out of great love, as before said; and that I may also learn of Him to love God and my neighbor.

19. What should admonish and incite a Christian to receive the Sacrament frequently? Answer:

In respect to God, both the command and the promise of Christ the Lord should move him, and in respect to himself, the trouble that lies heavy on him, on account of which such command, encouragement, and promise are given.

20. But what shall a person do if he be not sensible of such trouble, and feel no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament? Answer:

To such a person no better advice can be given than that, in the first place, he put his hand into his bosom, and feel whether he still have flesh and blood, and that he, by all means, believe what the Scriptures say of it, in Gal. 5 and Rom. 7.

Secondly, that he look around to see whether he is still in the world, and keep in mind that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say, in John 15 and 16; 1 John 2 and 5.

Thirdly, he will certainly have the devil also about him, who with his lying and murdering, day and night, will let him have no peace within or without, as the Scriptures picture him, in John 8 and 16; 1 Pet. 5; Eph. 6; 2 Tim. 2.

NOTE.

These questions and answers are no child’s play, but are drawn up with great earnestness of purpose by the venerable and pious Dr. Luther for both young and old. Let each one take heed and likewise consider it a serious matter; for St. Paul says, to the Galatians, chapter sixth: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.”

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WORD OF GOD

We believe that each and every word, as well as the entirety and whole, of the Holy Scriptures was given by inspiration of God and is therefore the true and unerring Word of God (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:13; John 10:35; 17:17; 2 Samuel 23:1-2). We also believe that the Word of God has not been lost or corrupted, but has been faithfully preserved by God down through the centuries as a witness to all the nations (Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:8; I Peter 1:25; Matthew 24:14,35). We believe that it is still accurately recorded in the Hebrew and Greek texts and manuscripts commonly used and accepted by the Church down through the centuries and that it can be read and studied in faithful Bible translations such as the King James Version and the New King James Version. We reject and discourage the use of texts and translations of the Bible which are unfaithful and corrupt the Word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; Jeremiah 23:28; Matthew 5:18-19; Revelation 22:18-19).

Since all of Holy Scripture is God’s true and unerring Word, we teach that the Bible is to be the source and judge of all Christian doctrine. What is not in accord with God’s Word is not to be taught as Christian doctrine (Isaiah 8:20; Jeremiah 23:28-32; Psalm 119:128; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Acts 17:11).

The Bible is also its own interpreter; thus, passage interpretations which are not in agreement with other clear passages of Holy Scripture are to be rejected (2 Peter 1:20-21; Isaiah 8:20).

We teach that the Bible is to be diligently studied and heard; for it reveals to mankind the only way of salvation, which is through faith in Christ Jesus, and it guides the Christian in living according to God’s Holy will (John 5:39; 20:31; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Psalm 119:105).

GOD

We believe that there is only one true God (Isaiah 44:6; 1 Corinthians 8:4). This God (called the LORD or JEHOVAH) is one divine Being or Essence, but three distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (thus the name, Triune or Three/One God), each being eternal and equal in power and majesty, because each Person is the LORD God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19; 1 John 5:7; Isaiah 48:16-17; John 1:1; Colossians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 4:14).

We believe that no one can worship or serve the Triune God except he believes that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God and the Savior of mankind from sin and its consequences (John 3:18,36; 5:23; 14:6; 1 John 2:23; 5:11-12). Hence, all who deny the Trinity of God (that God is three Persons) or the Unity of God (that God is one divine Being), or who do not trust in Jesus Christ, the Son, for salvation, do not worship and serve the true God.

CREATION

We believe that the LORD God created the heavens, the earth, and all things in six normal-length days; that this occurred only about six thousand years ago (ca. B.C. 4,000) rather than millions and billions of years ago; that all things were originally created good and without sin; and that God created and still preserves all things by His almighty Word (Genesis 1-2; Exodus 20:11; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 33:6; 139:13-16; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2-3; 11:3; Old Testament genealogical records). We, therefore, reject all teaching and theory which contradicts the Biblical record of creation, including atheistic and theistic evolution and other (falsely called “scientific”) theories which suggest that the earth and life came to exist by chance over millions or billions of years.

ANGELS

We believe that the LORD God, when He created the heavens and the earth, also created a great number of angels to carry out His commands and do His will (Nehemiah 9:6; Exodus 20:11; Colossians 1:16; Psalm 104:4; 103:20-21; Daniel 7:10). These angels are spirits of great power and strength (Psalm 103:20; 2 Kings 19:35). We believe that a large number of these angels sinned and fell away from the LORD God shortly after creation and that the devil and the other evil angels who fell away with him are reserved unto the judgment of eternal torment in hell (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Matthew 25:41). Until the last day, these evil spirits continue to oppose God and His will and seek the destruction of God’s works (Genesis 3:1ff.; Revelation 12; John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8-9; Job 1-2; Matthew 4:1-11). The great number of angels who remained faithful to the LORD God are now confirmed in their holy estate and continue to carry out God’s commands and serve the needs of Christians (Hebrews 1:14; Matthew 18:10; 25:31; Psalm 91:11-12; 103:20-21).

MAN

We believe that the first man and woman were created by God (Adam’s body from the dust of the ground, and Eve’s from the rib of Adam); that they were given a rational and immortal soul (not being unintelligent or brutish) and were created for eternal life; and that they were created in the image of the LORD God, having a knowledge of God and His will and being righteous and holy in thoughts, desires, words and deeds (Genesis 1:26-28,31; 2:7,18-25; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).

We believe that Adam and Eve sinned as described in Genesis, chapter three; that, as a result of this sin, all men are conceived and born in sin and are inclined to evil (having lost the image of God); that, as sinners, all of mankind stands condemned by God’s holy Law to eternal suffering in hell; and that all people, as they are by nature, are unable to do God-pleasing works or reconcile themselves to God and thus escape His wrath and punishment (Psalm 51:5; Genesis 6:5; 8:21; Romans 3:10-20,23; 5:12,18-19; Galatians 3:10; James 2:10-11; Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23; Isaiah 64:6; John 3:6; 15:5-6; Psalm 49:7-9).

JESUS CHRIST AND REDEMPTION

We believe that Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God from eternity, and also true man, being conceived by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless and holy life under God’s Law in the stead of all mankind and then suffered and died upon the cross, paying the just penalty for the sins of all people, and rose again from the dead on the third day (John 1:1,14; Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25; Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:21-24; 3:18; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We believe that Jesus Christ, by His holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead, has redeemed and made atonement to God for the sins all people (Hebrews 2:14-17; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Colossians 1:19-22; Galatians 3:10,13; Romans 3:23-26; 4:25; 5:6-11,18-19; John 1:29; 1 John 2:1-2; Isaiah 53).

JUSTIFICATION

We believe that, for the sake of Jesus Christ’s holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for the sins of the world, God’s just wrath is propitiated and satisfied and God offers pardon and forgiveness to all in the Gospel (1 John 2:1-2; Ephesians 1:6-7; 2 Corinthians 5:19,21; Romans 3:23-26; 4:25; 5:18-19). God justifies people, forgives them, reconciles them and counts them righteous in His sight when they receive in faith the Gospel promise offering forgiveness and life eternal in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:28; 4:5; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 10:43). We reject as false all teachings which would make a man’s justification dependent upon his own works and merits, his own will or decision, or any justification apart from God-wrought faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus for the sins of all (Ephesians 2:8-10; Galatians 2:16; John 1:12-13).

FAITH IN CHRIST

We believe that it is through faith alone – and not of works – that a sinner receives the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation which Christ Jesus won for all by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross. Such faith, which is also a gracious gift of God worked by the Holy Spirit, is to believe and apply to one’s self the Gospel promise, the good news that God is gracious to us and forgives our sins for the sake of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work (John 3:16; Galatians 2:16; Romans 1:16-17; 3:20-28; 4:3-8; 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:8-9,11-18; Philippians 1:6,29; Colossians 2:12). We also believe that no one can be saved without such faith in Christ, for all who do not believe the Gospel message and trust in Christ alone for their salvation remain guilty in their sins and will be condemned to eternal suffering in hell, having rejected the only salvation provided by God – that won by the atoning sacrifice of His Son for the sins of the world (John 3:18,36; 8:24; Mark 16:15-16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

CONVERSION

We believe that conversion is the turning of a lost and condemned sinner from unbelief to faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. This occurs when a man, condemned by the Law of God, is brought to faith in the Gospel and believes that God, for the sake of Christ’s redemption, is gracious to him and forgives all his sins (Acts 2:37ff.; 3:19; 11:21; 16:29-34; 26:18; Titus 3:3-7; Isaiah 55:7). We believe that conversion is entirely the result of God’s gracious working in us; for man, as he is by nature, is spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God and, therefore, cannot by his own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ as Savior or come to Him (Ephesians 2:1-10; Romans 3:10-18; Genesis 6:5; 8:21; John 1:12-13; 3:3-6; 6:44,63,65; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 12:3; Colossians 2:11-15; Philippians 1:29; Jeremiah 31:18; 1 Peter 1:2-5, 23-25). We, therefore, reject as false all teaching which attributes a man’s conversion to his own will or decision rather than to God’s grace alone, and also any teaching which would limit God’s gracious desire and working for the salvation of all men.

REPENTANCE

We believe that true repentance consists of a troubled conscience (godly sorrow) over one’s sins and sinfulness and of faith in God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross for our sins and the sins of the whole world. It is a coming to the knowledge and conviction of one’s utter sinfulness and of the punishment of God justly deserved; and it is a turning to God in faith, trusting that He will mercifully forgive our sins and accept us as His own dear children for the sake of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross (Psalm 51; Psalm 32; Romans 3:9-28; Mark 1:4, 15; Acts 2:36ff.; 3:19; 20:17-21; 26:20; Isaiah 55:6-7; Luke 24:45-47; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10; Ephesians 1:3ff.; 2 Peter 3:9). We also teach that a fruit of genuine repentance is a new and amended life lived for our God and Savior (Luke 3:3, 7-17; Acts 26:20; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Romans 6:1ff.; 1 John 1:5-10; 2:1-6; Isaiah 1:16-20; Ephesians 2:8-10).

We believe that a true Christian lives his life here in this world in continual and daily repentance; that is, acknowledging his sins and failures to the LORD God and receiving His mercy and forgiveness for Christ’s sake – as well as the needed help and strength to amend his life and live for the LORD God (1 John 1:8 – 2:2; Psalm 32; Psalm 51; Psalm 86:5; Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 4:13). We, therefore, reject the false teaching that true believers do not sin and thus do not need to continue in repentance, or that God cannot bring a fallen believer back to repentance or will not forgive the sins of those who have fallen and returned to repentance.

GOOD WORKS

We believe that, while good works cannot justify a man in the sight of God or merit God’s grace and favor, good works are commanded by God in the Holy Scripture (Romans 3:10-20,28,31; 10:4; 12:1-2; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-14; Psalm 119:1-5,35). Good works are those things a child of God does, speaks or thinks as a fruit of saving faith in Christ Jesus which are in accord with God’s commandments, are for the glory of God and the benefit of his neighbor, and are motivated by love for God and neighbor (Psalm 119:9,133; Psalm 19:14; Proverbs 12:5; Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Matthew 15:9; 22:36-40; John 14:15; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 13:1-3; Luke 10:25-37). We believe and teach that no man can perform such works unless he first has faith in Christ as Savior and is regenerated by the Holy Spirit (John 15:1-5; Hebrews 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 2:11-14; 3:3-8). Good works of believers are acceptable in God’s sight only for Christ’s sake – because God, for the sake of Jesus Christ’s innocent sufferings and death, pardons the sins and impure motives of His children (Isaiah 64:6; 1 John 1:7ff.).

MEANS OF GRACE

We believe that God offers, gives and assures to men the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation which Christ won for all by His innocent sufferings and death on the cross through certain means: namely, the Word of the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Through these means, God the Holy Spirit graciously tells us of Christ Jesus and the salvation He won for us and all people by His atoning sacrifice upon the cross; and He assures us that, for Christ’s sake and through faith in His name, we are forgiven of all sins and have everlasting life in heaven (Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Romans 1:16-17; 10:15; Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Colossians 2:11-15; 1 Peter 3:21; Matthew 28:19; 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29; 10:16-17). We believe that it is through these means of grace that the Holy Spirit creates and sustains saving faith in men’s hearts (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:2,23-25; 2:2; John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5; Colossians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 11:23ff.; Philippians 1:6).

GOSPEL

We believe that the Gospel is the good news of man’s redemption in Christ Jesus. It is the proclamation that Christ died for all sins and rose again and that God, for the sake of Christ’s innocent sufferings and death upon the cross, forgives sins and offers and gives everlasting life through faith in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 1:16-17; 10:15; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; Luke 24:46-47; Colossians 1:19-23; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 Timothy 1:15; 2:3-7; John 3:14-16). We reject the teaching that the Gospel is a new law requiring love and good deeds for our fellow man.

BAPTISM

We believe that Baptism has been instituted by God to be a means whereby He offers, gives and assures to an individual the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation which Christ won for all by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross (Colossians 2:11-15; 1 Peter 3:21; Galatians 3:26-29). In Christian Baptism, water is applied (by sprinkling, pouring or immersing) in the name of the Triune God (Matthew 28:19); and through Baptism, the Holy Spirit works to create and preserve saving faith in Christ Jesus, thus washing away sins and giving eternal salvation to all who believe (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16; Mark 16:16).

We believe that all people are to be baptized – including infants and children, for they too can be brought to believe – and that those who reject Baptism forfeit the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation which God wills to give them through Baptism (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38-39; Luke 18:15-17; John 3:5-6; Matthew 18:6; Luke 7:30).

LORD’S SUPPER

We believe that, when the Lord’s Supper is observed according to Christ’s institution, Jesus offers and gives to those who partake of the bread and the cup (wine) in His Supper His body and blood which were given and shed upon the cross as the atoning sacrifice for the remission of all sins – indeed, the Scriptures say in 1 Corinthians 11:23ff.: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (Cf. Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-29; 10:16.)

Those who partake of Christ’s Supper with a penitent heart and faith in Christ’s words receive through this new covenant meal the forgiveness of sins and the eternal salvation won for them by Christ’s atoning sacrifice, but those who partake of Christ’s Supper in impenitence and without faith in Christ and His words partake of the Supper to their own condemnation, not discerning the Lord’s body and treating the blood of the covenant by which they were redeemed as an unholy thing (Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Hebrews 10:29). Therefore, we receive at the Lord’s Table only those who profess the true Christian doctrine and are able to examine themselves; and we exclude others who have not yet been instructed in the true Christian Faith or who continue to live in open disobedience to God’s Word (1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Romans 16:17; Ephesians 5:11).

PRAYER

We believe that prayer is an act of worship in which Christians call upon the LORD God with their hearts and voices, offering up praise and thanksgiving to God and making request of Him (Psalm 5:1-3; 19:14; 103:1; 95:1-6; 96:1-13). Though prayer is not a means of grace, it is a great privilege which God gives to those who trust in Christ Jesus for their salvation (1 John 5:11-15; Romans 8:15; John 16:23). Since God commands His children to come to Him in prayer, and promises to answer the prayers of those who have saving faith in Christ Jesus, we believe that every true Christian should pray regularly and in all things (Matthew 7:7-8; Psalm 50:15; Philippians 4:6; Isaiah 65:24; Psalm 65:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH

We believe that there is only one Holy Christian Church and that this Church is made up only of true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, of those who have despaired of their own righteousness before God and trust that God is gracious to them and forgives all their sins for the sake of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work (Matthew 16:16-18; Ephesians 2:8-22; 4:4-6; 5:23-32; 1:22-23; Romans 12:4-5; 8:9; Philippians 3:8-9). We believe that this Church is invisible, in that God only and not man, can see faith in the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Luke 17:20-21; 2 Timothy 2:19). Nevertheless, the Holy Christian Church does and will continue to exist in this world wherever the saving Gospel is still in use and the Sacraments are rightly administered (Matthew 16:18; 1 Kings 19:8-18; Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 1:16-17; 10:17). We reject as false the claim that Christ’s Church in this world is to be identified with any particular denomination or church body.

LOCAL CHURCHES

We believe that the Holy Scriptures speak, not only of the Holy Christian Church, which is made up of all believers in Christ; they also speak of local churches or congregations of believers and command Christians in every locality to gather together with other faithful Christians and form congregations where they may establish the public ministry and mutually care for and encourage their fellow believers in the true and saving faith (2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; Revelation 1-3; Acts 2:41-47; 14:23; 20:28; Titus 1:5; Jeremiah 23:3-4; Hebrews 10:23-25; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 4:1-16; Matthew 18:15-20). Though the Bible speaks of one Church, made up of all true believers, and of local churches, there are not two kinds of churches; for even in the local churches, only the believers are truly members of Christ’s Church in that place (1 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 1:7). On the Last Day, the unbelieving and hypocrites who are outwardly connected with Christ’s Church in this world will be separated from the believing and cast into the fires of hell (Matthew 13:24-43, 47-50).

CHURCH FELLOWSHIP

We believe that God commands all Christians to discriminate between churches which are faithful to Christ and that which is taught in His Word (orthodox churches) and those which are not faithful to Christ and His Word (false and heterodox churches), and to practice church fellowship (joining together in those things which one would do with fellow believers, such as, worship, prayer, reception of the Lord’s Supper, evangelism, mission work, etc.) only with those who are faithful to Christ and His holy Word (Matthew 28:18-20; 7:15-23; John 8:31-32; 1 John 4:1-6; Acts 2:42; Romans 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 John 7-11). We, therefore, condemn as sin the syncretistic and unionistic practices of our day, in which church fellowship is practiced and church union is sought without regard for full adherence to the Scriptural Doctrine.

A church’s faithfulness to Christ and His Word is to be judged, not only by its acceptance of and subscription to an orthodox creed or confession but by what is actually taught and practiced in the church. Errors in both doctrine and practice will continue to trouble churches in this world (Acts 20:28-32; 1 Corinthians 11:19); but those which are faithful to Christ and His Word will, through Scriptural admonition and discipline, continue to combat and remove such error from among themselves (Matthew 18:15-18; 2 Timothy 3:13-17; 4:1-5; Titus 3:10-11).

OFFICE OF THE MINISTRY

We believe that Christ has given to His Church, the congregation of all true believers, the office of the holy ministry and has commanded that faithful men be called and ordained to preach God’s Word, forgive and retain sins, and to administer Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. (1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:21-23; Jeremiah 23:3-4,28; Hebrews 10:19-25; Acts 14:23; 20:28; Ephesians 4:11-12; Titus 1:5-9; 2 Timothy 4:2). Only men meeting the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 are to be entrusted with this office.

Though the public ministry of Word and Sacrament exists by the will and command of God, those holding this office have no authority and power but the Word of God (1 Peter 4:11; Hebrews 4:12; Romans 1:16-17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Thus, obedience must be rendered to the public ministry only when the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed and applied (Hebrews 13:17; Luke 10:16).

We reject as contrary to God’s will, and as sinful, the current practice of placing women into the public ministry or other positions or offices where they must teach or exercise authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11-15; 1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

CHURCH AND STATE

We believe that both the Church and the State are ordained of God – the Church for the eternal salvation of men, and the State for the maintenance of external righteousness and order among men in this world (Matthew 16:16-19; Ephesians 2:8-9, 19-22; Colossians 1:18-24; Acts 2:41-47; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14; 1 Timothy 2:2). In order that men might be saved, the Church has been commanded to preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16; Romans 1:16-17; 10:15,17). To maintain civil order and righteousness in this world, civil governments have been given power and responsibility to enact just laws, to punish evildoers (including the use of the death penalty), and to wage just wars (1 Peter 2:13-14; Psalm 82:1-4; Genesis 9:6; Romans 13:3-4).

We reject as contrary to the Holy Scriptures attempts to confuse the powers of the Church and the State; such as, attempting to enforce the practice of a particular religion with the powers of civil government, or attempting to usurp the powers of civil government by a visible organization of the Church (John 18:11,36; 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:10-18).

GOD’S GRACIOUS ELECTION

We believe that God desires the salvation of all men and has already, in His divine foreknowledge and from eternity, chosen those who believe and persevere in the faith to obtain eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and that this election and choosing of God is entirely of God’s grace and mercy in Christ Jesus, without any merit or worthiness on the part of men (2 Timothy 1:9; Matthew 22:14; Ephesians 1:3-14). We take comfort in the Bible’s promise that all those whom God has graciously chosen before the creation of the world and brought to saving faith in Christ through the Gospel will be preserved in that faith unto life everlasting (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-14; Matthew 24:22-24). This doctrine of Scripture gives to believers the assurance “that He who has begun a good work in [them] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

We reject as contrary to the Holy Scripture the teachings that God does not desire the salvation of all men; that He is the cause of unbelief and damnation in those who do not come to faith; or that God’s election is based upon some merit or quality in men (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 33:11; Matthew 23:37).

As to why some are saved and others are lost, we can only say with Scripture that God’s elect are saved entirely by God’s grace for Christ’s sake, and that the lost are so entirely of their own fault because they have “not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18; 12:48; Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 7:51).

FINAL JUDGMENT

We believe that, at death, the souls of believers are taken to be with their Lord and Savior in heaven, and the souls of unbelievers begin suffering the eternal torments of hell (Luke 16:19-31; 23:43; Philippians 1:23; Revelation 14:13; 1 Peter 3:19; 2 Peter 2:4-9). On the Last Day, Jesus Christ will return to judge the living and the dead; and on that Day, all the dead will be raised up (John 5:28-29; Job 19:25-27; Revelation 20:11-15; Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10). The wicked and unbelieving will be cast, both body and soul, into the everlasting torments of hell; but those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation will, according to both body and soul, dwell with Christ forever, enjoying the blessings of heaven (John 5:29; Matthew 10:28; Luke 16:23-24; Isaiah 66:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 John 3:2; John 3:36; 17:24; 14:1-3; Psalm 16:11). We believe that the Day of Christ’s return is known only to God and not to man (Matthew 24:29-42; Mark 13:32; 2 Peter 3:10). Therefore, we also reject as false all contrary doctrines, such as purgatory or limbo, an earthly millennial kingdom, a secret rapture, and attempts to predict the time of Christ’s return.

ANTICHRIST

We believe that though there have been and are many antichrists who oppose Christ and the true Word of God with their lies and false teaching, there is also one Antichrist, the son of perdition, whose coming was foretold in the Scriptures (1 John 2:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:3). We also believe that this Antichrist is none other than the Roman Papacy, for all the marks of this Antichrist have been fulfilled in the papacy of Rome (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 13 & 17; cf. Galatians 1:6-9).

SABBATH DAY

We believe that the Old Testament observance of the Sabbath and other holy days has been abrogated by God and is not required of believers under the new covenant (Colossians 2:16-17; Romans 14:5-6). The Commandment regarding the Sabbath Day does still require us to regularly take time to hear and learn God’s Word and to worship Him (Exodus 20:8; Isaiah 58:13-14; Acts 2:42; Colossians 3:16; Psalm 119:15-16; 26:8; 111:1; 95:1-6; 96:1-2). For this reason, we have set aside Sundays and other feast days for the hearing of God’s Word and for our gathering together to worship the LORD our God (Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:42). However, the observance of these certain days is a church ordinance made in Christian liberty rather than a divine command binding upon the conscience (Romans 14:5-6).

MARRIAGE AND BEARING CHILDREN

We believe that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, that marriage was instituted by God and is entered by mutual consent and promise (Matthew 19:3-6; Genesis 2:18-24; Romans 7:1-3; Luke 20:27-38; Matthew 1:18-25; Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Therefore, we teach that it is sin to violate the marriage union by unfaithfulness or desertion (Matthew 19:3-9; 5:31-32; Mark 10:6-12; 1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Hebrews 13:4; Exodus 20:14; Malachi 2:14-16). With Scripture, we also condemn as sin: fornication (sexual relationships outside the bonds of Biblical marriage), sodomy, homosexuality and bestiality (Leviticus 18:1-30; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

We believe that children are a blessing of the LORD and that the conception and formation of a child in the womb is the result of God’s creative working (Genesis 1:27-28; 25:21; 29:31; 30:22-23; Ruth 4:13; 1 Samuel 1:5,10-11,19-20; 2:21; Psalm 127:3-5; 128:1-6; 139:13-16; Ecclesiastes 11:5), and that it is God’s will and command that a husband and wife seek and desire to have children (Genesis 1:28; 9:1,7; 1 Timothy 2:15; 5:14).

We also believe that human life begins at conception and that it is murder to kill or destroy the life of an unborn child (Psalm 139:13-16; Ecclesiastes 11:5; Genesis 25:21-23; Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20:13). Therefore, we condemn as sin abortion – in all its forms – and reject as contrary to God’s will and intention the modern views and practices which would limit and discourage Christian parents from conceiving and bearing children.

SANCTITY OF LIFE

We believe that every human life is a creation of God and that every human life is precious to God, for God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7,21-22; 9:5-6; Psalm 139:13-16). We also believe that, except in the cases of punishing evildoers and waging just wars or taking just actions to protect life and property, God has reserved for Himself the right to end or destroy a human life (Genesis 9:5-6; Romans 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:14; Exodus 20:13; Psalm 31:15; 39:4-5; 90:1-3; Job 14:1-12; Acts 17:24-28). Therefore, we must condemn as murder and sin the practice of abortion, euthanasia, self-inflicted death (suicide) and all other unjustified taking of human life.

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