This Month’s Frequently Asked Question:
QUESTION: What is the significance of Lent?
ANSWER: Early in the Church’s history, the major events in Christ’s life were observed with special observances, such as His birth, baptism, death, resurrection and ascension.
As these observances developed, a period of time was set aside prior to the major events of Jesus’ birth and resurrection as a time of preparation.
During Lent, the Church’s worship assumes a more penitential character. The color for the season is purple, a color often associated with penitence. The “Hymn of Praise” is omitted from the liturgy. The word “Alleluia” is usually omitted as well.
By not using the alleluia — a joyful expression meaning “Praise the Lord” — until Easter, the Lenten season is clearly set apart as a distinct time from the rest of the year.
Additionally, it forms a powerful contrast with the festive celebration of Jesus’ resurrection when our alleluias ring loud and clear.
Finally, the penitential character of Lent is not its sole purpose. In the ancient Church, the weeks leading up to Easter were a time of intensive preparation of the candidates who were to be baptized at the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday.
This time in the Church’s calendar was seen as an especially appropriate time for Baptism because of the relationship between Christ’s death and resurrection and our own in Holy Baptism (see Rom. 6:1-11).
This focus would suggest that the season of Lent serves not only as a time to meditate on the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf but also as an opportunity to reflect upon our own Baptism and what it means to live as a child of God
Source: LCMS FAQ
Q: What is the purpose of Christmas?
A: Christmas is when we celebrate the culmination of the Advent season and the miracle birth of Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary.
But more importantly, we must recognize the purpose and the person behind this joy-filled birthday celebration.
Jesus Christ was born so that He would die on the cross… for our sins.
Jesus Christ is true God whom through the birth of a `virgin, became fully man.
He lived a sinless life, but yet, chose to have our sins, and the sins of the whole world put onto Himself, and willingly died an agonizing death on the cross in our place.
He was placed into a dark tomb and rose three days later in triumph over death, hell and sin to live and reign evermore as our King and Savior!
By His suffering and death, as the substitute for all people, of all time, Jesus Christ purchased and won forgiveness of sins and eternal life for us.
Anyone who hears this Good News and through faith believes it, has this free GIFT of eternal life it offers!
Find out more about this free gift, contact Pastor Barnes any time.
QUESTION: What’s the Lutheran response to the Roman Catholic teaching of purgatory?
ANSWER: Lutherans have always rejected the traditional Roman Catholic teaching regarding purgatory because 1) we can find no scriptural basis for it, and 2) it is inconsistent, in our view, with the clear teaching of Scripture that after death the soul goes directly either to heaven (in the case of a Christian) or hell (in the case of a non-Christian), not to some “intermediate” place or state.
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).
Source: LCMS.ORG FAQ
QUESTION: The LCMS uses the “sprinkle” method of baptism, if you will. The people of the Bible, including Jesus, were baptized using the immersion method. Why doesn’t our church follow the way Jesus was baptized by John?
ANSWER: On the basis of the evidence provided in the New Testament, it is not possible to prove that the term “baptize” always refers to immersion, nor that the Baptisms mentioned were all done by immersion — implying (in the view of some) that only Baptisms done by immersion can be considered valid.
In fact, taken as a whole, the evidence suggests otherwise. In some cases the term “baptize” is synonymous with “wash” (Titus 3:5-6; see also Heb. 9:19; Eph. 5:26, Acts 22:16; and Mark 7:1-4 — a passage in which some earlier translators considered the term “baptize” to include the washing of “dining couches”), and it is highly likely that Baptisms were performed in the early church by methods other than immersion.
Three thousand were baptized on Pentecost in Jerusalem, where no river exists and no mention is made of other large quantities of water that would or may have been used.
In fact, the shortage of water supplies in general in many parts of the ancient world would have precluded Baptism by immersion.
As the Supplementary Volume of The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible correctly notes, “It is unlikely that in Jerusalem, Samaria, Damascus, Philippi, Corinth, Rome, or Asia Minor enough water was always available for a full bath” (87).
It should be noted that very early in Christian history methods other than immersion were used and allowed. The Didache requires the administrant of Baptism to “pour water three times on the head” (7:3). No mention is made of immersion.
Early Christian art depicts Baptisms of persons standing in shallow pools with water poured on the head (see David Scaer, Baptism, 96-101).
Lutherans have therefore held that the manner of Baptism (that is, immersion, pouring, sprinkling, etc.) does not determine whether a Baptism is valid, any more than the manner of distributing the Lord’s Supper (common cup, individual glasses) affects the validity of this Sacrament. Only the Word of God and the “element” (water), according to divine institution, makes a Baptism valid.
QUESTION: Why does the church year begin at Advent, what is the history of Advent, and what is the history behind the Advent candles and wreath?
ANSWER: The word “advent” is from the Latin word for “coming,” and as such, describes the “coming” of our Lord Jesus Christ into the flesh.
Advent begins the church year because the church year begins where Jesus’ earthly life began — in the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation. After Advent comes Christmas, which is about his birth; then Epiphany, about his miracles and ministry; then Lent, about his Calvary-bound mission; then Easter, about his resurrection and the sending of the apostles; and then Ascension (40 days after Easter) and Pentecost, with the sending of the Holy Spirit.
The first half of the church year (approximately December through June) highlights the life of Christ. The second half (approximately June through November) highlights the teachings of Christ. The parables and miracles play a big part here. That’s “the church year in a nutshell,” and it should help reveal how Advent fits into “the big picture.”
Advent specifically focuses on Christ’s “coming,” but Christ’s coming manifests itself among us in three ways — past, present, and future.
The readings which highlight Christ’s coming in the past focus on the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation at Bethlehem. The readings, which highlight Christ’s coming in the future, focus on his “second coming” on the Last Day at the end of time. And the readings that highlight Christ’s coming in the present focus on his ministry among us through Word and Sacrament today.
The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in eastern Germany even prior to the Reformation. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle.
The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle was the third candle to be lit (not the fourth) on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” means “Rejoice!” in Latin, which is taken from Phil. 4:4.
(“Rejoice! … the Lord is near”). Hence a “pink” candle was used to signify “rejoicing.” Some also included a white “Christ candle” in the middle to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas (Dec. 25 to Jan. 5).
The concept of giving each candle a name, i.e., Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherd and Angel, etc., is a relatively novel phenomenon and probably originates with certain entrepreneurial publishers seeking to sell Advent candles and devotional booklets.
There are many beautiful customs and traditions surrounding Advent as well as a load of history concerning its development. These matters would be better found in books than here.
Here are a few:
- Lee A. Maxwell, The Altar Guild Manual, Lutheran Worship Edition (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1996).
- Lee A. Maxwell, The Altar Guild Manual, Lutheran Service Book Edition (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2008).
- Fred L. Precht, Lutheran Worship: History and Practice (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1992).
Q: What can Christians do for the families of homosexuals?
A: It is tempting to ignore the problems and challenges associated with homosexuality. As God’s people, we are able to take actions that demonstrate love and concern for homosexuals and for their families. While clearly affirming the sinfulness of homosexuality, we will also want clearly to affirm God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ Jesus.Often families of homosexuals are embarrassed and ashamed.If Christian friends and relatives treat them in ways that increase this shame,it is little wonder that they will attempt to rationalize or otherwise explain away a son’s or daughter’s sinful lifestyle. Christians should reach out in compassion to these families,expressing their love and concern,offering the encouragement that is ours in our Lord Jesus Christ. To the person caught up in the homosexual life,Christian friends and family members should continue lovingly to share their convictions with this person, reaching out with the forgiving love of Christ and the hope that is found only in Him.
If you have questions, confidential help is just a call away. Contact Pastor Barnes today for understanding, truthful, and compassionate help.
Source: LCMS FAQ
Attention church shoppers! Don’t be fooled, all Lutheran Churches are not the same! Just because they have Lutheran in the name, doesn’t necessarily mean they adhere to biblical truths and doctrine, or practice.
QUESTION: What are the main differences between the Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)?
ANSWER: In terms of the official position of our two church bodies as reflected in formally adopted statements of belief and practice, the three main areas of difference between the LCMS and the ELCA are the following:
1. The doctrine and authority of Scripture. The LCMS believes that the Bible is without error in all that it says. The ELCA avoids making such statements, holding that Scripture is not necessarily always accurate on such matters as history and science.
Differences between the LCMS and the ELCA on the authority of Scripture also help to explain why the ELCA ordains women to the pastoral office, while the LCMS does not (based on 1 Cor. 14:33-36 and 1 Tim. 2:11-14).
Similarly, on the basis of what Scripture clearly teaches (Rom. 1:18-28; 1 Cor. 6:9), the LCMS position on homosexual behavior is unequivocal: homosexual behavior is contrary to God’s will, while the ELCA has declared that it lacks a consensus regarding what Scripture teaches about homosexual activity.
Consequently, those who disagree with one another in the ELCA have been called to respect the ‘bound conscience’ of the others. The ELCA has also determined to allow the ordination of practicing homosexuals as long as they are in a life-long, committed relationship.
2. The commitment to Lutheran confessional writings. The ELCA, while affirming its commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as witnessed to in the Lutheran Confessions, also tends to emphasize the historical character of these writings and to maintain the possibility of dissent to confessional positions that do not deal directly with the Gospel itself understood in a narrow sense.
All LCMS pastors are required to affirm that the Lutheran Confessions are a correct explanation of the teachings of Scripture.
3. The level of agreement necessary to join together in one church body. While the LCMS believes the Bible requires agreement in all that the Bible teaches, the ELCA holds that disagreement in some matters of doctrine, such as the mode of Christ’s presence in Holy Communion, do not prohibit church fellowship.
QUESTION: What are the major differences in doctrine between Baptist churches and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)?
ANSWER: While unlike the LCMS, Baptist churches do not require subscription to a creedal statement or “body of doctrine” as such. However, one of the major doctrinal differences has to do with what the Bible teaches about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Lutherans regard Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as divinely instituted sacraments. Our confessional writings describe them as the Gospel in “visible” form. They are, therefore, at the heart and center of the Lutheran faith.
Baptist churches do not regard Baptism as a means of grace through which the Holy Spirit works to create and strengthen faith. Therefore, they reject infant Baptism. They also place great emphasis on the mode of Baptism (immersion required).
Likewise, the Lord’s Supper is generally regarded by Baptists as merely a commemorative meal, not a sacrament in which the body and blood of Christ is truly present in and with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins.
Baptist churches also typically stress the role of “free will” in conversion, and (accordingly) speak of faith in Christ as being attained through a person’s “choice” or “decision.”
Lutherans, on the other hand, believe that faith itself is a gift of God’s grace and is brought about not by the “free will” of human beings but by the power of God’s Spirit working through God’s means of grace, the Word and Sacraments.
QUESTION: A friend of mine claims that, other than being a 4th commandment violation, marijuana smoking is not biblically prohibited. I can’t help but feel it’s not okay biblically but have not been able to come up with verses to refute him. An obvious implication is that if marijuana were made legal that there would be absolutely no problem in its use. Would you be able to offer me any assistance in disputing his claim?
ANSWER: Your question is a very important one and it touches on a matter that ought to be of much concern to Christians as they seek to live in a way that pleases God.
We must remember, of course, that the Scriptures do not always specifically address many issues that Christians confront today. Nothing specific is said about the use of marijuana. However, this is not to say that the Bible provides us with no guidance regarding the use of a drug such as this.
Quite the contrary, the Scriptures speak quite directly to the general moral question involved in drug usage.
Take, for example, Gal. 5:19-21 where Paul provides a sample list of “acts of the sinful nature.” Included at the end of the list are things such as “drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
Common to all of the items in the list is self-indulgence, the pursuit of pleasure, euphoria, and happiness through acts that serve our fleshly desires.
Those who cave in to a lifestyle ruled by such acts endanger their own spiritual welfare and may even through impenitence jeopardize their inheritance in the kingdom of God. Note, too, that in the list of the “fruit of the Spirit” in the verses that follow is the quality of “self-control.”
It is not difficult to see that the use of drugs falls into the category of self-indulgence, which is the characteristic of all “acts of the flesh.”
It may be important also to note that not everything that is legal is morally permissible. For example, that abortion is legal does not mean that it is morally permissible in God’s eyes.
God promises to those who believe in Jesus Christ the gift of His Holy Spirit so that they may live on a higher level. St. Paul provides a great summary of this lifestyle when he says in 1 Corinthians, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (10:31).
Q: Why do Lutherans baptize infants?
A: Lutherans baptize infants because of what the Bible teaches regarding:
1.) God’s command to baptize (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). There is not a single passage in Scripture which instructs us not to baptize for reasons of age, race, or gender. On the contrary, the divine commands to baptize in Scripture are all universal in nature. On the basis of these commands, the Christian church has baptized infants from the earliest days of its history. Since those baptized are also to be instructed in the Christian faith, (Matt. 28:20), the church baptizes infants only where there is the assurance that parents or spiritual guardians will nurture the faith of the one baptized through continued teaching of God’s Word.
2.) Our need for Baptism (Psalm 51:5; John 3:5-7; Acts 2:38; Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:3-4). According to the Bible, all people–including infants–are sinful and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). King David confesses, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). Like adults, infants die–sure proof that they too are under the curse of sin and death. According to the Bible, Baptism (somewhat like Old Testament circumcision, administered to 8-day-old-babies – see Col. 2:11-12) is God’s gracious way of washing away our sins – even the sins of infants – without any help or cooperation on our part. It is a wonderful gift of a loving and gracious God.
3.) God’s promises and power (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21; John 3:5-7; Titus 3:5-6; Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:1-4; Col. 2;11-12; Eph. 5:25-26; 1 Cor. 12:13). Those churches which deny Baptism to infants usually do so because they have a wrong understanding of Baptism. They see Baptism as something we do (e.g., a public profession of faith, etc.) rather than seeing it as something that God does for us and in us. None of the passages listed above, nor any passage in Scripture, describes Baptism as “our work” or as “our public confession of faith.” Instead, these passages describe Baptism as a gracious and powerful work of God through which He miraculously (though through very “ordinary” means) washes away our sins by applying to us the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection (Acts 2:38-39; Acts 22:16), gives us a new birth in which we “cooperate” just as little as we did in our first birth (John 3:5-7), clothes us in Christ’s righteousness (Gal. 3:26-27), gives us the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6), saves us (1 Peter 3:21), buries us and raises us up with Christ as new creatures (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:11-12), makes us holy in God’s sight (Eph. 5: 25-26) and incorporates us into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). All of this, according to the Bible, happens in Baptism, and all of it is God’s doing, not ours. The promises and power of Baptism are extended to all in Scripture – including infants – and are available to all. Parents and sponsors then have the privilege and responsibility of nurturing the baptized child in God’s love and in His Word so that he or she may know and continue to enjoy the wonderful blessings of Baptism throughout his or her life.
If you would like to know more about Baptism, please contact Pastor Barnes.
Question: What is the significance of Lent?
Answer: Early in the Church’s history, the major events in Christ’s life were observed with special observances, such as His birth, baptism, death, resurrection and ascension. As these observances developed, a period of time was set aside prior to the major events of Jesus’ birth and resurrection as a time of preparation.
During Lent, the Church’s worship assumes a more penitential character. The color for the season is purple, a color often associated with penitence. The “Hymn of Praise” is omitted from the liturgy. The word “Alleluia” is usually omitted as well. By not using the alleluia — a joyful expression meaning “Praise the Lord” — until Easter, the Lenten season is clearly set apart as a distinct time from the rest of the year. Additionally, it forms a powerful contrast with the festive celebration of Jesus’ resurrection when our alleluias ring loud and clear.
Finally, the penitential character of Lent is not its sole purpose. In the ancient Church, the weeks leading up to Easter were a time of intensive preparation of the candidates who were to be baptized at the Easter vigil on Holy Saturday. This time in the Church’s calendar was seen as an especially appropriate time for Baptism because of the relationship between Christ’s death and resurrection and our own in Holy Baptism (see Rom. 6:1-11). This focus would suggest that the season of Lent serves not only as a time to meditate on the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf but also as an opportunity to reflect upon our own Baptism and what it means to live as a child of God.
Q: Why is the Old Testament important even today? Hasn’t the New Testament completely replaced the Old?
A: Both the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God (Heb. 1:1), authored by the one and same Holy Spirit. No one can discard either one without incurring the wrath of God. Essentially the two are the same in that they both contain the same moral law and the same Gospel message that sinners are saved alone by grace in His Son, the Messiah, who was to come.
The Gospel of Christ is the central message of the entire Bible, essential for our salvation. Jesus affirmed that He is the Christ of the Old Testament (Luke 24:25-27). Above all, we need the Old Testament to see Jesus in it and to know what He fulfilled for us.
We also need the Old Testament, because, being God-breathed, it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). It can be used for edifying and encouraging one another. Without the Old Testament we would not understand much of the New Testament, especially why God sent Jesus. History, examples of those who had faith and of those who rejected God’s promises, wisdom for life, etc. would be missing. We need the Old Testament!
And that’s what the ancient Christian Church said when they established the list of authentic books of God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible is to be used as a whole for our justification and sanctification.
To learn more about why the Old Testament is still important, please consider taking our informative, short overview classes for the curious where you will gain an insightful look into what Missouri Synod Lutherans believe, teach and confess. Just contact Pastor Barnes for times and locations.
Q: Why do bad things happen to good people? Does God cause bad things or does he just let them happen? Does he punish or discipline? And what could be the purpose–such as when you lose your Mom at the age of 11 and she suffered so with cancer?
A: We live in a world permeated with sin. It’s a sinful world. Because of that and since the devil is the prince of this world, as the Bible says, bad things happen to good people. But consider this, a lot more good has happened to people who love God in Jesus than bad. Read Psalm 90 and 91. And consider how
God can turn the bad things into good for those who love God (Romans 8:28).
God does no evil. Yes, He can cause and allow bad things to come to us, but always for our good.
Scripture also gives witness to God punishing the wicked (Proverbs) and punishing individuals and even whole nations for evil (Egyptians, Israel for their wickedness and idolatry, etc.). But when it comes to sin, we Christians know that God has punished Jesus in our place for our sins, and that we are not punished.
God disciplines those whom He loves. Read Hebrews 12. We know God is Good and Gracious and Loving in giving us the Way, the Truth and the Life for our
salvation, our Savior Jesus. We know that He works all things for our good. And that must be the purpose in your and your mother’s case, although it may be a bitter pill to swallow. We must always turn to God in His Word and prayer for answers, never away from Him. Sometimes the answers He has are not evident right now, but later. It may even be in heaven that we see and understand His purposes.
Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with a difficult situation, there is help and there are answers. We encourage you to contact Pastor Barnes for a confidential discussion.
Source: from http://www.lcms.org/faqs
Question: What is the stance on abortion within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod? And what about those recent Planned Parenthood videos?
Abortion has been a very controversial subject in our country. Even more so, as recent videos have surfaced. This is an official statement from the LC-MS on July 15, 2015 that address both of the questions above.
LC-MS Denounces Planned Parenthood
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We logged on to the Internet and Facebook yesterday only to be hit with a sickening story: undercover video footage seemingly implicating Planned Parenthood in the sale of the body parts of aborted children.
In the video, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, discusses how she adjusts abortion procedures to procure certain parts of a child’s body, even as she notes that “we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver.”
Listen long enough, if you can handle it, and you’ll hear her suggest that such items could eventually be listed on a Planned Parenthood “menu” for affiliate organizations to purchase for a price.
Later in the day, Planned Parenthood released a “nothing to see here” kind of statement, asserting that the discussion was merely one revolving around a patient’s right to donate tissue, as with any medical procedure. But why does Nucatola then mention the costs of body parts (“Thirty to one hundred dollars,” she says)?
Lord, have mercy.
If what Nucatola says is, in fact, the truth, we as Christians cannot allow this story to go untold or be buried by the media. We simply cannot remain silent while the reprehensible act of killing a child in the womb is made even worse by selling portions of that child’s dismembered body simply because there is a market for them.
Speaking up about the shameful act of killing children — as well as harvesting their body parts — may be uncomfortable. We may lose friends and create awkward tension at work. Our professors may mock us, and our family may roll their eyes at us. If that is the case, so be it. Because as Lutherans, as Christians, we are for life, no matter the cost.
As Lutherans, we confess that every life has value, that it has worth, that it matters … from the moment of conception until natural death occurs. We confess that what Nucatola calls “17-weekers” are actually children — with beating hearts and little moving fingers and toes.
We confess that even the tiniest of humans are just that — regardless of what scientific term the culture uses to make them seem like something less. We confess that they are created in the image and likeness of our Lord Himself. And we confess that because of Him, their hearts and lungs and livers matter, no matter how small they might be.
We also admit our own failings in this regard. Where we have failed to speak and act for life, we repent. Where we have not cared for mothers in crisis-pregnancy situations, we ask for forgiveness. Where we have thought more of ourselves than giving to an organization that can assist those moms and babies, we are sorry. Where we have been apathetic to this pandemic of death, we grieve.
But we are not without hope, because our Lord is for life too.
He is so pro-life, in fact, that He has given His own life for us, even as He has laid it down for these tiniest of children. Where their short lives are taken, He offers up His willingly. Where their little bodies are sold, He gives His freely to us at His holy table for the forgiveness of our sins.
Today let us confess life with renewed vigor — to our friends over supper, through letters to the editor of our local paper, by writing our congressmen, in tweets and emails to Planned Parenthood, on our Facebook pages.
Let us pray that our Lord would bring an end to abortion altogether and that He would stop the horrible sale of infant bodies.
And let us pray that He would forgive us, renew us and bolster us to make a good confession in season and out of season: one that is always, no matter what, for life.
Rev. Bart Day, executive director
Life and Health Ministries
LCMS Office of National Mission
Watch the whole video here. VIDEO
Full written transcript here. TRANSCRIPT
From the congregation of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church of Warsaw…
There is forgiveness of our sins… all of them… in Jesus Christ. He took our sins onto His sinless self and died on the cross as a penalty for our sins. He did this because He loves us. If you are looking for forgiveness for your sins, even that of an abortion, it can be yours. Contact Pastor Barnes if you would to talk in confidence.
Question: Lutheran Churches are often confused with being the same as Roman Catholic Churches. What are the main the main theological differences?
Answer : At the risk of oversimplification, and keeping in mind that individual Lutheran (and Catholic) theologians would undoubtedly disagree about the success of recent Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogues in lessening or even “resolving” historic doctrinal differences between these two churches, listed below are what the LCMS would regard as some of the major theological differences between the Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church:
- The authority of Scripture.
Lutherans believe Scripture alone has authority to determine doctrine; the Roman Catholic Church gives this authority also to the pope, the church, and certain traditions of the church.
- The doctrine of justification.
Lutherans believe a person is saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The Roman Catholic Church, while at times using similar language, still officially holds that faith, in order to save, must be accompanied by (or “infused with”) some “work” or “love” active within a Christian.
- The authority of the pope.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, Lutherans do not believe the office of the papacy as such has any divine authority or that Christians need to submit to the Pope’s authority to be “true” members of the visible church.
- Differences remain about both the number and the nature of the sacraments.
Roman Catholics speak of seven Sacraments while Lutherans tend to speak of only two (or three). More important than number is how the Sacraments are understood. To take a single example, Lutherans believe that in the Sacrament of the Altar (Communion) Christ’s body and blood are truly present in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, but they do not accept the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which teaches that the elements are permanently changed from the substances of bread and wine to the substances of body and blood. Transubstantiation is rejected for several reasons: It is a philosophical explanation for a work of Christ’s almighty Word which we can only believe, not explain. In seeking to explain a mystery it changes the plain and simple meanings of God’s Word (Scripture refers to the elements as both bread and wine and body and blood, 1 Cor. 11:26-27). Transubstantiation leads to the assertion that the body and blood of Christ remain present “even apart from the administration of the Supper” and so encourages veneration of the elements apart from their sacramental use and detracts from the use Christ commands: “Take eat … drink … for the forgiveness of your sins.” Lutheran rejection of transubstantiation should not in any way be taken to mean a denial that Christ’s very body and blood are truly present in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins.
- Differences remain about the role of Mary and the saints.
Unlike Catholics, Lutherans do not believe it is proper or scriptural to offer prayers to saints or to view Mary as in any sense a “mediator” between God and human beings.
While Lutherans believe any doctrinal error has the potential to distort or deny Scripture’s teaching regarding salvation, we also believe that anyone (regardless of denominational affiliation) who truly believes in Jesus Christ as Savior will be saved.
FAQ answer provided by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod: http://www.lcms.org/faqs/denominations#catholic
More information in depth: St. Peter’s offers introduction and instruction classes for anyone curious about what we believe, teach and confess as Lutherans. There is no obligation to join our church after instruction and as always the classes are free. Just contact Rev. Barnes to arrange times and locations.