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And again, departing from the borders of Tyre and Sidon, he came to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the borders of Decapolis. And they bring to him someone who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they implore him to put his hand upon him. And he took him aside from the multitude and put his fingers into his ears, and having spit he touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and says to him, “Effatha,” (that is, “Be opened”). And immediately his ears were opened, the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. And he charged them that they should tell no man. But the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal they published it, and were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” Mark 7:31-37

In Mark, chapter 7, we have the account of Jesus healing a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. But notice how Jesus healed this man. He didn’t just put his hand on him and heal him; Jesus took this man aside from the crowds of people where He could have his full attention. He put His fingers in the man’s ears so he would understand that Jesus was going to open his ears that he might hear. Having spit with His mouth, Jesus touched his tongue, indicating that He was about to take away the impediment in his speech. And Jesus looked up to heaven so that this man would know that Jesus was calling upon God to do this miracle and God would receive the glory.

Jesus then sighed and said to the man: “Effatha,” (that is, “Be opened”). And the Scriptures tell us that “immediately his ears were opened, the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly.”

The people who saw this mighty work of Jesus were astonished. Even though Jesus told them to tell no one, they couldn’t help themselves and told everyone what Jesus had done.

It was truly an amazing thing when Jesus opened the ears of one who was deaf or opened the eyes of one who was blind. But even more amazing is when Jesus opens the eyes and ears of those spiritually blind and deaf to see and hear with understanding His life-giving word!

It happens when Jesus takes us aside from the noise and distractions of this world and speaks and applies to us His life-giving Word, words of forgiveness and life through faith in Him and His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of all. And in the Sacraments, He does so in a very personal and descriptive way, washing away our sins in the waters of Baptism and giving us, in the Lord’s Supper, to partake of His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world.

Consider Jesus’ words in John 5:25-27: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and is now, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And those who hear shall live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has given to the Son to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of man.”

Though people close their eyes and ears to the Word of God and are often hardened in their foolish unbelief and without understanding (cf. Isa. 29:9-12), God, through the preaching of His Word, opens the eyes of those who are spiritually blind and the ears of those who are spiritually deaf. It is as St. Paul writes: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

Isaiah, in chapter 35, verse 5, prophesied of Jesus and His work, saying, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.” And, in Isaiah 29:18, we read, “And in that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.”

Through the preaching of the Word of God, our Lord Jesus opens the eyes of the spiritually blind and the ears of the spiritually deaf. He raises the spiritually dead to life. He creates faith in men’s hearts and unlooses tongues to sing His praise.

It is as the Bible says of Jesus in John 1:4: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

And, Jesus said in John 6:63: “It is the Spirit that revives. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life.”

So today, Jesus, through the preaching of His Word, calls people to repent of their sins and place their faith in Him as the Messiah and Savior of the world for pardon and forgiveness. He calls people to come to Him in faith and receive life everlasting; and the Holy Spirit, working through the Word opens blind eyes and deaf ears to see and hear.

Jesus calls, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Think of Luther’s explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “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.”

To most, the Bible remains a closed book — they may have read from it and studied it but do not understand its message. But, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of God’s Word, Jesus still opens eyes, unstops ears and gives understanding that people might see their utter sinfulness and repent, looking to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal.

God grant you eyes that see, ears that hear, hearts that understand and believe the message of His Word that you might obtain pardon and eternal peace through faith in Jesus’ name. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:15). Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version.]

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“According to the grace of God which is given to me, I have laid the foundation like a wise master-builder, and another builds upon it. But let every man take heed how he builds upon it. For no man can lay any other foundation than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-11

Upon what is your faith built? What is the central focus and teaching of your church? Is it on Christ and His innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world? Or is it out of focus, off-kilter, and built upon some other teaching or foundation?

The well-known hymn verse by Samuel Stone reads: “The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord; She is His new creation by water and the Word. From heav’n He came and sought her to be His holy bride; With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died” (The Lutheran Hymnal, #473).

The Church of Jesus Christ is built upon no other foundation than Jesus Christ and His cross. He created His Church by dying on the cross and making atonement for the sins of all and then sending out His disciples with the good news of forgiveness of sins and life eternal through faith in His name.

As believers in Christ and members of His Church, we “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone” (Eph. 2:20). The “foundation of the apostles and prophets” is none other than their teaching, which is recorded for us in the Holy Bible, the Word of God.

And what is their teaching? It is Christ and His cross! It is the teaching that we are sinners who have come short of God’s holy demands but that we have been redeemed by the shed blood of Christ Jesus, the only begotten Son of God made man. It is the teaching that through faith in the crucified and risen Christ, we sinners have forgiveness for all our sins and everlasting life in heaven.

In John 3:14-16, Jesus said: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only-begotten Son, so that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life.”

Are other foundations ever laid? Most certainly! But, when other foundations are laid, and Christ and His cross are no longer the foundation and chief cornerstone, those who are built upon those other foundations are not Christian and their assemblies are not the Church of Jesus Christ in that place. Rather, their assemblies are cults — man-made organizations which lead only to destruction!

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). And, the Bible also says, “There is not salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Apart from Christ and His blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world, there is no salvation for sinners like you and me! No works which we can do, no religious acts or ceremonies of man, nothing but the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Jesus Christ in our stead can atone for our sins and save us from the wrath of God we so deserve on account of our sins. That is why it is so foolish for man to build upon any other foundation than Christ and His Word.

This is why St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: “According to the grace of God which is given to me, I have laid the foundation like a wise master-builder, and another builds upon it. But let every man take heed how he builds upon it. For no man can lay any other foundation than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:10-11).

St. Paul preached “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2; cf. 1:23-24). He taught that all of us “have sinned and come short of the glory of God” but that all who believe are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood” (Rom. 3:23-25; Cf. v. 19-28).

St. Paul also taught that we receive this salvation in Christ through faith and not by any merit or work of our own.

He wrote to the believers in Galatia in 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 so that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”

When we simply believe that, in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His cross, we sinners obtain pardon and have forgiveness of God, God’s forgiveness becomes our own and we have eternal life in heaven (cf. Rom. 3:28; 5:1-2).

This is the foundation he, by the gracious working of God, has laid. And, this is the only foundation upon which the Church of Jesus Christ can be built and upon which we can rest securely and be saved!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may trust in You alone for our salvation and build upon You and Your cross as the chief cornerstone of all our teaching. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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9 And he spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray: one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not as other men are: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his chest, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself shall be abased, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

Are you justified in God’s eyes? Does God count you just and righteous and holy in His sight? Or, are you guilty and condemned, headed for eternal damnation because of your sins? The Bible tells us in Romans 3:19-20: “Now we know that whatever things the law says, it says to those who are under the law so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law, no flesh shall be justified in his sight, for by the law comes the knowledge of sin.” And, in verse 23, it says, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

So, how can we be justified before God and acceptable in His sight? Look at the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Who went to his house justified?

Was it the Pharisee who counted himself righteous before God because of his outward obedience to the commandments of God? Did God count him righteous because he gave alms to the poor? Was he really justified because he fasted twice a week and gave tithes of all he possessed? No, but he shall be abased, brought low, condemned, because even his best works do not measure up to God’s standards (cf. Isa. 64:6).

How about the tax collector? He collected taxes for the Roman government. And, to make a living, he had to charge even more than what the Romans demanded. He was viewed as both a traitor and a thief. Certainly, he did not deserve to be justified by God and counted righteous.

But, how did he pray? In verse 13, we read, “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his chest, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’”

And what does Jesus say? “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself shall be abased, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (v. 14).

Note that the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican was told by Jesus “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (v. 14). And, from this parable, we can learn much.

When we feel that God will accept us, hear and answer our prayers, regard our worship, or receive us into His everlasting kingdom because of who we are and what we have done — because we have been faithful Christians and are not unfaithful sinners as so many others are, we are praying in a similar fashion as the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. The pharisee may have counted himself as just, but he was not counted just and righteous in the sight of God!

Rather, we should come to God as did the humble tax collector who knew of his own sinfulness and unworthiness before God. When we come before God, we should come humbly, acknowledging our sin and looking to Him for mercy and forgiveness. With the tax collector, we join in praying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

Again, Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself shall be abased, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (v. 14).

We are all unworthy sinners according to God’s holy commandments. We have no grounds to view ourselves as just or righteous in God’s eyes. Thus, if we exalt ourselves and count ourselves righteous and worthy before God based on our own works or merits, we will be abased and find ourselves cast into the eternal fires of hell.

But if, on the other hand, we humble ourselves and acknowledge our utter sinfulness and look not to our own righteousness but to the perfect righteousness of Christ and to His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world, we shall be justified before God and given the eternal joys of heaven! Cf. Romans 3:21ff.

In Psalm 34:18, we read: “The LORD is near to those who are of a broken heart and saves those who are of a contrite spirit.”

And, we have it spelled out for us in 1 John 1 and 2 (1:8-9; 2:1-2): “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 our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. … My little children, these things I write to you so that you do not sin. And if any man sins, 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.”

Since Christ died for our sins and rose again (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3ff.), we can come before God in faith and with the assurance that He will forgive our sins and hear and answer all our proper prayers (cf. 1 John 5:11-15). One might even say that we come to the LORD God in humble boldness — humble because we are unworthy sinners, but in boldness because Christ died for us and redeemed us (cf. Heb. 10:19ff.).

And, when our last hour comes, we can have the assurance that we are counted just and righteous and have eternal salvation entirely of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.

It is as we read in Ephesians 2 (1,4-10). We “were dead in trespasses and sins. … But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), and has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. It is not by works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Before Thee, God, who knowest all, with grief and shame I prostrate fall. I see my sins against Thee, Lord, the sins of thought, of deed, and word. They press me sore; I cry to Thee: O God, be merciful to me! O Jesus, let Thy precious blood be to my soul a cleansing flood. Turn not, O Lord, Thy guest away, but grant that justified I may go to my house at peace with Thee. O God, be merciful to me! Amen. (“Before Thee, God, Who Knowest All,” The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn # 318, Verses 1,3. By Magnus B. Landstad, 1861; Tr. Carl Doving, 1909.)

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version.]

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And he [Jesus] said, “That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts: adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile the man.” Mark 7:20-23 (Read v. 14-23)

It is not enough to be cleansed on the outside. And, certainly, cleansing one’s hands before eating will not make a person clean before God. Our real problem is not the dirt on the outside but the uncleanness and sinfulness on the inside — in our hearts.

Jesus explains in Matthew 15:17-20: “Do you not yet understand, that whatever enters in at the mouth goes into the belly and is cast out into the latrine? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart evil thoughts proceed: murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

Our sinful nature, inherited from Adam, is the cause of our uncleanness before God and it moves us to commit all sorts of sinful acts.

St. Paul, quoting the Old Testament Scriptures, further explains man’s sinfulness in Romans 3:10ff.: “As it is written, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. They have all gone out of the way. They have together become unprofitable. There is no one who does good, not even one. Their throat is an open sepulcher. With their tongues they have used deceit. The poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways. And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”

In Jeremiah 17:9, God’s Word says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Or, as David wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”

That is why we need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus which was shed on the cross to atone for the sins of the world (cf. Hebrews 9:22). Because of our sin-infected hearts, we cannot be clean of ourselves and we cannot cleanse ourselves. The only way to be counted clean before God is to have our sins washed away in Jesus’ blood.

Again, God’s Word says in 1 John 1:8-9: “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 our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And how can this be? How can a just and holy God pardon us and forgive our sins? God’s Word provides the answer in 1 John 2:1-2: “If any man sins, 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.”

It truly is as the 1876 hymn of Robert Lowry states in its opening verse, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

O dearest Jesus, grant that I not attempt to be clean by my own outward works but rather acknowledge the sinfulness of my heart and trust in You and Your shed blood for pardon, forgiveness and cleansing. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version.]

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The summary statements which follow are not offered as a new confession of faith. We have a public confession of faith in our unqualified subscription to the creeds and confessions contained in the Book of Concord of 1580 as a true and right exposition of the teaching of God’s Word. Nor are they offered to replace the use of Luther’s Small Catechism for instruction in the Christian Faith; we continue to use Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms for instruction and edification in our study of God’s Word. The statements which follow are offered only as an outline and summary of the teaching of the Bible on various subjects so that we may be clear on what we believe and teach and that we might provide the Scriptural basis for these teachings.

As such, it is hoped that the following statements will be read and studied with a Bible in hand to diligently search the Scriptures and verify that these things are indeed so (Acts 17:11).

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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, Webster’s Common Version, the Revised Common Version, and the New King James Version. We discourage the use of texts and translations of the Bible which are unfaithful and would change, add to or take away from 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 that 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 work 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 Scriptures (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 requests 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 that 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 and administer the Sacraments (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Romans 1:16-17; 10:15,17; John 18:11,36-37; 20:22-23; 1 Cor. 11:23-29; 2 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:10-18). 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).

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 which hath begun a good work in you will perform 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 to be repented of all lewdness and fornication (sexual acts and desires outside the bonds of Biblical marriage), including pornography, course sexual speaking or jesting, rape, sodomy, homosexuality, bestiality, transgenderism, etc. (Matthew 5:27-32; Leviticus 18:1-30; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Ephesians 5:3-8; Deuteronomy 22:5).

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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