While it is difficult to summarize what any church believes in a format that most people would want to read on a website, and impossible to answer every question someone might have who is reading this, the following is a brief explanation of what we believe and teach at Bethany Lutheran Church. Of course, if you have any questions or would like to know more, please feel free to contact Pastor Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We believe that there is one God [Deuteronomy 6:4 and I Corinthians 8:4]. However God is triune in nature, meaning there are three persons in the One God: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit [Matthew 3:16,7; 28:19]. While there are three distinct persons of the Triune God, there remains only one divine being. This God has made Himself known to all people through conscience and nature (natural knowledge of God) [Psalms 19:1 and Romans 1:19-20], but most importantly through the Holy Bible (revealed knowledge of God) [John 20:31 and II Timothy 3:15].
We believe that the entire Bible (the 66 “books” of the Old and New Testaments) is God’s Word [II Timothy 3:16-17 and II Peter 1:21]. The Holy Spirit inspired men to write each book of the Bible, therefore the entire Bible is without error and the only source for our teachings and beliefs.
Law and Gospel
In the Bible we find two main ideas: the Law and the Gospel. The Law tells us how God wants us to live our lives toward Him and one another [Matthew 22:36-40], as well as remind us that we have not always done what He wants [Romans 3:20]. We call this disobedience to God sin [I John 3:4]. The other part of God’s Word is the Gospel, that not only shows us what God has done in order to save us from our sin [Romans 1:16], namely sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross, but also actually does things like bring people to faith in Jesus and strengthen them to keep the Law [Romans 10:17 and I John 4:19]. Christians must not confuse the Law and the Gospel as they read and study God’s Word.
Because of our sin against God, everyone faces both a physical and an eternal death in Hell [Romans 6:23]. But out of His love for ALL PEOPLE God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die a sinless death on the cross [John 3:16]. Because He endured the punishment of sin when He had no sin [Romans 5:19], Jesus’ death was a sufficient sacrifice or payment for our sin [Mark 10:45]. This forgiveness and salvation is for the whole world, but made our own through our faith in Christ as our Savior [Romans 3:28 and Galatians]. However, if we fail to believe or trust in Jesus for our salvation, there can be no forgiveness for that person [John 3:17-18]. Therefore, we believe that salvation is through faith in Christ alone.
In the Lutheran Church we believe that a sacrament is a sacred act that Jesus has told His Church on Earth to do [Matthew 29:19-20 and I Corinthians 11:23-24]. In these acts the Word of God is combined with a visible element so that God may actually do something through them, namely forgive our sins [I Peters 3:21 and I John 1:7] and strengthen our faith [John 6:37 and I Corinthians 11:26]. There are two acts that meet these criteria: Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Because of what God does through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we often refer to the sacraments, along with the Word of God, as the Means of Grace. That is, the things that God uses to give us His grace today.
This is an area where it is really easy to get the Law of God and the Gospel confused. However, simply put, we believe that a person cannot be saved by their own works or keeping of the Law [Romans 3:20 and Galatians 3:10-11]. Rather, Christians (that is people who have faith in Jesus and therefore are forgiven their sin) keep the Law of God not only to avoid sinning, but also out of thanks to God for saving us from our sin and giving us the free gift of forgiveness and eternal life through our faith in Jesus [I Corinthians 6:20 and I John 4:9, 11]. Thus we see how it is the Gospel that truly helps us to do good works and live holy lives.