Statement on Baptism
The Bible teaches that a person is saved by God’s grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
The Bible tells us that such “faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). Jesus Himself commands Baptism and tells us that Baptism is water used together with the Word of God (Matt. 28:19-20).
Because of this, we believe that Baptism is one of the miraculous means of grace (another is God’s Word as it is written or spoken), through which God creates and/or strengthens the gift of faith in a person’s heart (see Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 12.13).
Terms the Bible uses to talk about the beginning of faith include “conversion” and “regeneration.” Although we do not claim to understand fully how this happens, we believe that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant.
We believe this because the Bible says that infants can believe (Matt. 18:6) and that new birth (regeneration) happens in Baptism (John 3:5-7; Titus 3:5-6). The infant’s faith cannot yet, of course, be verbally expressed or articulated by the child, yet it is real and present all the same (see e.g., Acts 2:38-39; Luke 1:15; 2 Tim. 3:15).
The faith of the infant, like the faith of adults, also needs to be fed and nurtured by God’s Word (Matt. 28:18-20), or it will die.
Lutherans do not believe that only those baptized as infants receive faith. Faith can also be created in a person’s heart by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s (written or spoken) Word.
Baptism should then soon follow conversion (cf. Acts 8:26-40) for the purpose of confirming and strengthening faith in accordance with God’s command and promise. Depending on the situation, therefore, Lutherans baptize people of all ages from infancy to adulthood.
The LCMS does not believe that Baptism is ABSOLUTELY necessary for salvation. All true believers in the Old Testament era were saved without baptism. Mark 16:16 implies that it is not the absence of Baptism that condemns a person but the absence of faith, and there are clearly other ways of coming to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit (reading or hearing the Word of God).
Still, Baptism dare not be despised or willfully neglected, since it is explicitly commanded by God and has His precious promises attached to it. It is not a mere “ritual” or “symbol,” but a powerful means of grace by which God grants faith and the forgiveness of sins.
The Lord’s Supper-Sacrament of the Altar
By participating in the Lord’s Supper, we receive in, with, and under the bread and wine the true body and blood of Christ shed on the cross, Jesus Christ Who is now risen and ascended and sits at the right hand of God the Father.
He is the same Christ, and when he gave us the Sacrament, as the Lutheran Confessions affirm, “he was speaking of his true, essential body, which he gave into death for us, and of his true, essential blood, which was poured out for us on the tree of the cross for the forgiveness of sins” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VII, 49).
In the Sacrament, our Confessions further teach the same Jesus who died is present in the Sacrament, although not in exactly the same way he was corporeally present when he walked bodily on earth.
With Luther, the Formula of Concord speaks of “the incomprehensible, spiritual mode of presence according to which he neither occupies nor yields space but passes through everything created as he wills … He employed this mode of presence when he left the closed grave and came through closed doors, in the bread and wine in the Supper.
The LCMS also believes Scripture teaches the Lord’s Supper is a precious gift of God in which Christ gives us His true body and blood (in a miraculous way), together with the bread and wine, for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith.
Because the Bible teaches that this Sacrament may also be spiritually harmful if misused, and that participation in the Lord’s Supper is an act of confession of faith, the LCMS ordinarily communes only those who have been instructed in the teachings of our church and who have confessed their faith in these teachings.
Perhaps no other question has been given more attention in our Synod, especially in the last 25 years, than the question of Communion practice.
You may be aware it is the official practice of the LCMS to not extend an open invitation to the Lord’s Supper to all who share our belief in the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament.
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod practices close[d] Communion for two main reasons.
First, we are a close fellowship. We all believe and confess the same things, especially about Holy Communion. We express and celebrate that close[d] Communion with each other when we commune together.
The second reason is more serious. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:29 make it important for us to teach people about Holy Communion, or at least be sure they have been taught, before giving it to them.
St. Paul wrote, “For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
St. Paul gave instructions in this regard to the Christian congregation at Corinth (1 Cor. 11) regarding their responsibility to make certain people receive the Sacrament to the blessing and not to their harm.
It would be very irresponsible to let anyone and everyone receive Communion when they may very well be eating and drinking judgment on themselves. So as you can see, Christians commune not only as individuals, but also as persons who share the same confession of faith as formally confessed in the host church.
It is important to emphasize that God has given to Christian congregations the responsibility of administering the Lord’s Supper properly and to exercise spiritual care toward all those who desire to commune.
This, of course, means the congregation has a responsibility to do what it can in Christian love and concern to help people understand the nature of the Sacrament and why they come to it.
What happens when we die?
Scripture teaches that at the moment of death the souls of believers enter the joy of heaven (Luke 23:43; Acts 7:59; Rev. 14:13; Phil. 1:23-24), while the souls of unbelievers at death are consigned to “the prison” of everlasting judgment in hell (1 Peter 3:19-20; Acts 1:25).
The departed souls remain in heaven or hell until the Day of Judgment, when they shall be reunited with their own bodies (Matt. 10:28; John 5:28-29; John 11:24; Job 19:26).
Therefore, “The Last Judgment is the grand finale of this present world, in which the sentence pronounced in death over the individual will be publicly confirmed and extended to the body, which till then has returned to the dust, from whence it came. He who continues in the faith unto the end has nothing to fear for his soul after death or for his body and soul on the Day of Judgment (Rev. 2:10; 14:13)”
What Scripture teaches concerning the death of the Christian is summarized as follows by Lutheran theologian Edward Koehler in his book, A Summary of Christian Doctrine:
In the moment of death the souls of the believers enter the joy of heaven. Jesus said to the malefactor: “Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Stephen said in the hour of death: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Whoever dies in the Lord is blessed “from henceforth” (Rev. 14:13). Paul desires “to be with Christ,” and adds that this is “far better” for him than to continue in the flesh (Phil. 1:23-24). For this reason we pray that finally, when our last hour has come, God would grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.
On the day of the final judgment, the redeemed souls in heaven will be reunited with their own (now glorified) bodies and will begin to enjoy the bliss of heaven in both body and soul (John 5:28-29; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15).
The Lutheran church has always rejected as unscriptural the idea that the soul “sleeps” between death and Judgment Day in such a way that it is not conscious of heavenly bliss.
On what should we base our assurance of Salvation?
Faith is created and strengthened not by looking inside of one’s self (to one’s own faith and/or doubts) but by looking outside of one’s self (to God’s Word and promises in Christ).
Therefore, assurance of salvation is to be sought by looking to God’s Word and promises in Christ (which create and strengthen the faith through which one is saved), not by looking inward at the strength or weakness of one’s own faith (which creates either pride and false assurance or doubt and lack of assurance).
Anxiety regarding doubts, strength of faith and certainty of salvation are signs of faith (however weak it may be), not signs of unbelief, since the unbeliever has no concern or anxiety about doubts, faith or salvation.
To whom do we pray?
According to Scripture and the historic teaching of the Lutheran Church, Christians may offer their prayers to any or all of the three persons of the Trinity, each of whom is “true God.”
This is a clear and indisputable teaching of Scripture and of the Lutheran Church.
The Sacred Scriptures teach that in the beginning the blessed Trinity instituted marriage to be the life-long union of one man and one woman (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-6), to be held in honor by all and kept pure (Heb 13:4; 1 Thess 4:2-5). God’s Word assures us that each time one man and one woman join themselves together in the union of the marriage commitment and relationship, God himself has joined them as one. It is important to see that marriage is not only a grace-filled institution of the church, but part of the very fabric of God’s creation which extends to every time and place on earth and includes every man and woman who are joined together in this “one flesh” commitment and bond. Marriage is created by God and is not simply a social contract or convenience.