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What’s In A Name?

This month we celebrate the Lutheran Reformation, celebrating what the LORD God accomplished through a man named Martin Luther.

At Luther’s time the Roman Catholic Church had obscured the free gospel of salvation through faith in Christ alone. Instead, they focused man’s attention on man’s own works for salvation. Through Martin Luther God restored the proclamation of the free gospel of God’s grace to sinful men.

We belong to the Church of the Lutheran Confession. We are Lutheran Christians. But what are we saying to the world by our name? Whom do we seek to glorify?

About ten years after Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, people began to call His followers “Christians.” We are told that “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). The intent of this term originally was to insult the followers of Christ. But the name fit. While the term has become watered down in our day, Christians in the true sense of the term are those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and, in fact, worship Him as God.

Concerning our Lutheran name the president of our church body has written, “[Our congregations] confess the creeds of the Lutheran Church without qualification, as they are found in the Book of Concord of 1580. Scripture itself is the source and foundation of Christian teaching and faith — The Lutheran Confessions are a faithful setting forth of what Scripture teaches. The name of our church body is a witness to what we believe; it is a continual reminder of our responsibility to be truly Lutheran, and therefore Scriptural in our teaching and in our practice. This principle holds true among us: ‘If it is not Scripture, it is not Lutheran!'”

Of the term ‘Lutheran’ Martin Luther himself wrote, “I ask that men make no reference to my name and call themselves not Lutherans, but Christians. What is Luther? After all, the doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. . . . I neither am nor want to be anyone’s master. Christ alone is our Master. He teaches me and all believers one and the same doctrine.” (What Luther Says, Vol. 2, p. 864). But he does go on to say, “Whether Luther personally is a scoundrel or a saint means nothing to me. His doctrine, however, is not his but Christ’s own. . . . Let the person go. But the doctrine you must confess.” (Ibid., p. 857)

All Glory To God

As Lutherans we don’t worship Martin Luther or any other man. We Lutherans have not exchanged a Catholic pope for a Lutheran pope. To worship anyone or anything other than the Triune God is contrary to God’s will (Rev. 19:10). Rather than directing people to himself, we have heard Luther try to downplay his role in the Reformation. Luther–and we–have recognized that it was the hand of God directing the events of the Reformation.

We worship only the one true Triune God, for God is our Creator and

Redeemer. When man fell into sin, God our Father had mercy on us, His creation, and sent His only begotten Son into the world to suffer and die to pay for sin. On account of His Son, Jesus Christ, there is forgiveness of all sins for all people.

Through Martin Luther the Lord cleared away the teaching of work

righteousness that had obscured the gospel. In the place of man’s works, God redirected sinners to their Savior. Luther translated the Bible into the common language of the people so that they could read God’s promises and God’s forgiveness for themselves rather than depend on their priests to tell them the truth.

This Reformation Day–and every day–we worship and give glory to God for what He has accomplished for all people, sending His Son to give His body and shed His blood that we poor sinners might have everlasting life. We praise God that through the Reformation He has revealed His saving gospel once again to the salvation of sinners “of every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6f).

To God alone be the glory, forever and ever.

–Pastor Joel Fleischer