Outside Lutheran circles the name “Lutheran” has very little respect. The lack of respect is largely die to a lack of understanding. Because of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) some associate “Lutheran” with the tenets of liberal theology or social gospel. Therefore we are compelled to explain what it means to be Lutheran and what our connection is to the man whose name we incorporate into the identity of our church.
The place was 16th century Germany. The man was a troubled monk, searching so desperately for peace and assurance. Luther spent years of his life trying to conform to the mandates of his church. Unfortunately he and the church of his day were trapped in the darkness of error. More than anything Luther wanted to be sure that he was saved, that he was truly right with God. So he turned to the only source of religion that he knew. He even tried to appease God by devoting his life to the work of a monk and a priest. But none of these efforts would quell the pangs of his conscience. At the end of each day he came face to face with the reality of his sin. And that sin only condemned him continually.
In the midst of a desperate situation, the Lord was working a tremendous change, not only for Luther himself but also for many others who would follow in his steps. Luther’s quest to become a priest and a theologian gave him the chance to do what most people of his day could not do. He had the chance to study the Bible in its unaltered form. The Bible showed him things that he never realized before. It showed him the real Jesus, the Savior who died for all of his sins. In the Bible he found the meaning of grace. Luther discovered, much to his delight, that God had given salvation to all people as a free gift. When the truth sank in, he finally found relief. To hear God’s own testimony that all of Luther’s sins were forgiven! T know that he was acceptable to God because of Christ! To know for sure that he would have eternal life by simply trusting in the work and merits of Jesus!
God At Work
We look back on history and see that God was quite active in the life and work of Martin Luther. When the message of salvation was mired in the darkness of human error and neglect, God unveiled the Gospel light for one man who in turn would bring that light to many others.
Consequently the Lutheran Church was born–born out of necessity more than anything else. The Roman Church would not part from its error. The people were in desperate need of unconditional Gospel preaching. Luther and his followers would have to become their own separate fellowship of believers, dedicated to the cause of preaching, teaching, and defending the truth. From that struggle would come the forging of the Lutheran Confessions, the spread of Lutheranism to many other countries, and the planting of the Lutheran Church here in America.
From Martin Luther we have received a spiritual heritage that is truly a blessing from God Himself. Though many years have passed we still agree with Luther’s teaching because his confession conforms completely with the Word of God. We echo Luther’s appreciation for the Gospel, because we too have received the same liberation that the Gospel brings. We take up Luther’s cause of preaching, teaching, and contending for the truth, because the struggle is not yet over.
Our link to Luther is more than the practice of using his name. It’s the timeless link of “grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone.” It’s the precious connection of fellowship and unity. We are linked to Luther by the doctrine that he passed on to us. And through that doctrine we are linked forever to the same God who works mightily to bless all believers with the same grace, the same faith, and the same hope in Christ.
— Pastor Steven Sippert