I have often been told: "You are a Lutheran because your parents were Lutherans." There is some truth in that. Yet there are people who were raised in the Lutheran Church who are not true Lutherans and there are Non-Lutherans who are true Lutherans. I am persuaded that I am a Lutheran today not merely because of my early training, but rather because of a Conviction that has grown with the years. The knowledge and insights gained in many and varied experiences of life have made it increasingly clear to me that the Lutheran faith is the only Christian Persuasion in full accord with Holy Scripture and consistent with true divine worship. "For Thine is the glory" is the summit toward which all Scripture and all creation strives. "Glory to God in the highest" is the consummation of all true worship. Any debit in the perplexities of life is not on the side of God but on the side of man. "O Israel thou hast destroyed thyself, but in Me is thine help" (Hos. 13-9) is the divine answer to all our problems. There is no other cosmic answer. The Lutheran church in her confessional writings is consistently faithful to this truth.
There are Protestants and there are Lutherans who do not accept all words and statements of Holy Scripture as divine truth but only what their "enlightened reason and Christian experience" tells them is the truth. Not "What is written" but their interpretation of "what is written" is divine truth. They reject what they please and accept what they please.
A true Lutheran does not judge the Written Word. He lets himself, his heart, mind, and conscience be judged by the Word. He rejects his own thoughts and conclusions if they militate against the Written Word. He stands in awe of the Word. He trembles at it. The Written Word of Scripture is to him as absolutely holy as God Himself. I hear the reverberation: "You make a god out of the Bible; you worship a book." That does not perturb me. If the Bible is the oracle of God spoken through the mouth and pen of men whom He chose, then the words of the Bible are worthy of divine honor and respect. Who would dare gainsay a word spoken by the Most High? To do so would be folly, treason, and rebellion.
Where the words of Holy Scripture are not regarded as the oracle
of Almighty God, there the awe for the Holy and the Absolute is gone, there
the Rock which faith must have for its foundation crumbles into a quick
sand of doubt and confusion in which faith must perish. "God has spoken,
let all the earth keep silence before Him!" Any other course would enthrone
the human mind over the mind of God. There can be no true reverence and
faith toward God without this attitude toward Holy Scripture. The Lutheran
Confessions uphold and affirm the inerrancy and divine character of every
word of Holy Scripture as they were originally given; and they assert the
authority of Scripture over the human mind.
All human books teach salvation by works, the Bible, the oracle of God, teaches salvation by grace, that is, by the free unmerited favor of God toward man in Christ His only Son, our Lord. "Grace," in the Bible sense, is a disposition of good will in God toward men. Many Christians and some Lutherans have made "grace" a disposition in man (greeted by God) to enable man to earn God's favor and thus to save himself. Such a definition of "grace" makes salvation, to a certain extent, dependent on man and detracts from the glory of God. Shall God share His glory with man? "My glory will I not give to another." Is. 42,8. It is His glory, not our work, that we are redeemed from sin and death. The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, by His suffering and death changed the heart of God toward us and gave us a gracious God who forgives iniquity and transgression and sin. It is on this disposition of God toward us in Christ that our salvation rests in its entirety. To inject a human element here would be to mar the glory of the Most High. "All glory be to God on high."
We cannot truly adore God as our gracious God unless we ascribe
to His grace alone our full salvation. There are those within Christendom
who would restrict the grace of God to a certain class of people. That
is wholly unbiblical, for the Scriptures declare plainly: "The grace of
God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to ALL men."Titus 2,11. If the
grace of God is not there for all, then it cannot be said with certainty
that it is there for any. There is no comfort or assurance for me in the
fact that God is gracious to some. I must be sure that He is gracious to
me, and that I can be only if He is gracious to all as His Word declares.
The Lutheran Confessions uphold and affirm the all-sufficiency of divine
grace to the exclusion of any human merit; and they assert emphatically
the universality of grace.
From "grace alone" follows "faith alone," for "grace," "pure grace," can be apprehended only by faith, and "faith" is simply the apprehension of grace, nothing more and nothing else. If "faith" were a work that man must do or possess to obtain "grace," then "grace" would not be "pure grace" but a grace of the bargain counter, for man could then bargain for grace by showing faith. That would land us on heathen ground where salvation is sought by one's own works. Such seeking for self approval would prevent any genuine worship of God. Full adoration and true worship demands the total abandonment of all self-seeking and self-glory. Therefore "faith" must stand alone as the God-given hand that takes what God in His grace offers. Faith alone obtains salvation. Good works never are and never can be a contributory cause of our salvation. They are the natural fruits of faith and therefore also a work of divine grace in us for which no man can claim any credit. Can a tree claim credit for bearing fruit? Let us not be foolish. "It is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Phil. 2,13. "Faith alone" leaves the cause of our salvation in God's hand, "to the praise of the glory of His grace." Eph. 1,6. The doctrine of "faith alone" leaves God supreme and untouched in the glory of His grace, and this doctrine alone affords poor sinners abiding comfort and assurance. The Lutheran church so teaches and believes in agreement with Holy Scripture.
Men in all ages have reached out for God. They have endeavored to know Him and to find Him with their thoughts. But all their efforts have ended in futility. God is above observation and beyond all human research. If He were not, He would not be God. We cannot know God or establish contact with Him by our own selves. No man can build a ladder that reaches into heaven. If we are to know God in this life, as far as we are able to comprehend Him, then God must reach down to us from heaven and tell us about Himself and deal with us in a manner that we can understand, or we shall never know Him. For this reason God has spoken to us by the prophets and given us the Bible and the two sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The Bible is His oracle by which He speaks to men, and the sacraments are His acts through which He deals with us. In Word and sacraments God offers, conveys and seals His grace to us and brings us salvation. Through Word and sacrament God deals with men and draws them into fellowship with Himself. There is no other way of finding God and having fellowship with Him. The Lutheran church so teaches and believes.
The Lutheran Church, in accord with Holy Scripture, stands on "Scripture alone," "grace alone," and "faith alone." All truly Lutheran doctrine is a symphony on the theme which alone constitutes true worship; "Glory to God in the highest!"
These are the reasons why I am a Lutheran.
My Church, My Church, my dear old church!
My father's and my own!
On prophets and Apostles built,
On Christ the corner-stone!
All else beside, my storm or tide,
May yet be overthrown!
But not my church, my dear old church,
My father's and my own.
Peter Krey, Christian News, June 13, 1966