Summary of Beliefs
We believe that:
The Triune God - The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - is the only true God. He has created all things by His own power and wisdom, and continues to sustain and direct all things.
Humanity was created by God as the pinnacle of His creation. They were made to be stewards of the rest of God's creation. Most importantly, humanity was created to live in perfect trust toward God. They were made to listen to God's Word, and carry out His loving will for creation perfectly, willingly, and happily.
The first humans turned away from God and sinned by disobeying His Word. By doing so, they completely destroyed the relationship of trust that humans were to have toward God.
As a consequence, every human being is now conceived and born a sinner. In other words, all humans are in a broken relationship toward God, in which no human being loves, trusts, or serves God in the way he or she is intended. The result of humanity's rebellion against God is that every human being deserves complete separation from God and condemnation from God (everyone deserves death and hell for his or her sin).
God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, who became a human being - Jesus the Christ. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man - the Son of God who took on our humanity in order to restore the broken relationship between God and humanity. Jesus did this chiefly by living as a perfect human being in our place, and dying on the cross in order to endure the condemnation we deserve. He also restored our relationship to God by rising from the dead in order to overcome the death our sin brings to us. By doing all this, Jesus has reconciled the Father to us. God now forgives the whole world because of what Jesus has done.
The way people receive this gift of forgiveness from God is through faith. In other words, people receive forgiveness and all the benefits of being forgiven simply by trusting that Jesus is the Son of God, and that God freely forgives all our sins because of what Jesus has done for us. Those who will not trust that God forgives them for Jesus' sake are rejecting and refusing God's forgiveness, and so they also refuse and reject the benefits of God's forgiveness such as peace with God and eternal life with Him.
The Holy Spirit creates this faith in us. As sinners, we cannot trust God's mercy unless the Holy Spirit creates this trust in us. The Word of God and the sacraments are the tools the Holy Spirit uses to create this faith and trust in us. In other words, the Holy Spirit creates faith in us through the preaching and hearing God's Word. God's Word convicts us of our sins in order to show us our need for God's mercy, and His Word also communicates the promise of that God forgives us our sins through Jesus. In the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, God also communicates and applies His promises and mercy to us in a very direct way through actions like applying water or feeding us with the body and blood of Jesus.
When the Holy Spirit brings a person to faith in God's mercy given through Jesus, the Holy Spirit renews that person. This means that he or she begins to love and trust God from his or her heart. Faith necessarily results in the believer wanting to live by God's Word and do what God commands. Nevertheless, so long as we are in this life, our new obedience struggles against our old disobedience and with our old desires that go against God's will. Therefore, this new obedience to God is always imperfect, but it is genuine. A believer in Jesus will always strive against his or her own sinful desires, and constantly needs to pray for strength to overcome them as he or she strives to follow God's Word day by day.
After His death and resurrection, Jesus resumed His place with the Father and the Spirit, and now rules and directs all things.
Jesus will return to earth at a time known only to God. When He returns, He will raise up all people from the dead, whether they had faith in Him or not. At that time, He will judge everyone who has ever lived. All who died trusting in the forgiveness Jesus has given will be brought to live with Him forever under His grace. All who died rejecting the forgiveness and grace Jesus has given will live separated from His grace forever in hell.
Baptism has been instituted by Jesus in specific commands and promises. Christ intends baptism as a means of applying His grace to us. The Spirit is given in baptism and works through baptism to forgive our sins, create and strengthen faith, and make us children of God.
The Lord's Supper (or communion) has been instituted by Jesus in specific commands and promises. Jesus has assured us that when we celebrate the Lord's Supper, Jesus gives His own body into the mouth of all who eat the bread, and His own blood into the mouth of all who drink the wine. Christ intends this to confirm His covenant with us, to reassert the forgiveness of our sins, and so to strengthen the faith and ease the consciences of all who eat and drink the Lord's Supper. Both believers and unbelievers who receive the Lord's Supper are eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, since the Supper is based on Jesus' Word and Promise, not on the faith of the recipient. As St. Paul has instructed in 1 Corinthians 11, only those who trust Jesus' Word should partake of the Lord's Supper. That is, people should only eat and drink the Lord's Supper if they know their sin and trust that Jesus offers forgiveness in His Supper and if they recognize that what they are approaching and eating and drinking is the body and blood of Jesus.
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the inspired, inerrant, written Word of God. The Bible is thus only the source and norm for all Christian teaching and practice.