What We Believe

An Outsider Visits a Lutheran Church

Lutheran churches, including the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), are creedal churches. We subscribe to creeds (or “confessions”) which state what we understand to be the teachings of the Bible.

The Lutheran church derives its name from Martin Luther (1483–1546), an Augustinian monk whose posting of the 95 Theses on October 31, 1517 sparked the Reformation. The documents presenting what Lutherans believe, teach and confess as Christians were assembled and published in 1580 in the Book of Concord. We confess the teachings of the Book of Concord because we believe them to be a faithful exposition of what the Bible itself teaches.

The Gospel—the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world—is at the core of everything we believe and teach. We Lutherans believe that sinners are justified (declared right) with the Creator God by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), on the basis of Scripture alone (sola scriptura). These three great “Reformation solas” form a handy outline of what Missouri Synod Lutherans believe, teach, and confess.

A Brief Introduction to the Book of Concord

The Book of Concord contains documents which Christians from the fourth to the 16th century A.D. explained what they believed and taught on the basis of the Holy Scriptures. It includes, first, the three creeds which originated in the ancient church, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. It contains, secondly, the Reformation writings known as the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, and the Formula of Concord. The Catechisms and the Smalcald Articles came from the pen of Martin Luther; the Augsburg Confession, its Apology, and the Treatise were written by Luther’s co-worker, the scholarly Phillip Melanchthon; the Formula of Concord was given its final form chiefly by Jacob Andreae, Martin Chemnitz, and Nickolaus Selnecker. For more information, click the image on the left. Scroll down this page for videos about what we do during the Divine Service.

Is Lutheranism the true catholic church?

Grace Alone

At the heart of what we believe is the conviction that salvation is the free gift of God’s grace (undeserved mercy) for Christ’s sake alone.

Our fallen, sinful nature makes us rightful objects of God’s wrath. But God loves us and forgives our sins freely out of pure grace, though we cannot do anything ourselves to earn forgiveness.

The basis for the grace of God that alone gives hope to sinners is the perfect life and subsequent death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus was both truly God and truly human, able as man to fully identify with all our temptations and tribulations on earth while as God still having the power to lead a perfect life.

God’s plan of grace used the innocent death of Jesus as atonement for the sins of everyone on earth, embracing all people of all times and all places.

An Outsider talks to a Lutheran theologian

Faith Alone

We believe that the Scriptures teach that by His suffering and death as the substitute for all people of all time, Jesus purchased and won forgiveness and eternal life for them. However, only those who believe this Gospel have the eternal life that it offers. That God’s universal grace can be appropriated by human beings only through faith in Jesus Christ and His resurrection, apart from any meritorious human actions, is the point where Luther’s decisive break came with the Roman Catholic Church.

The implications of justification “through faith alone” permeate everything we Lutherans believe and teach. One important example of this is that we teach that faith itself is a gift of God and not the result of any human effort or decision to believe. “Through faith alone” also implies that it is only through the proclamation of the good news of God’s salvation in the Gospel that we come to faith. The proclamation of the Gospel Word in public preaching therefore occupies a central position in our Lutheran theology. Missouri Synod Lutheran churches are preaching churches. But we are also sacramental churches, for the sacraments—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper—are the Gospel made visible to us.


Word Alone

Luther’s insight that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone cannot be divorced from “on the basis of Scripture alone.” For it was directly as a result of his commitment to Scripture that Luther came to rediscover justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Luther's Small Catechism does NOT ADD to God's Word, but helps to SUMMARIZE God's Word for us.

While maintaining a deep appreciation for the church catholic (catholic means “universal”), Missouri Synod Lutherans believe that Scripture alone—not Scripture and tradition, Scripture and the church, Scripture and human reason, or Scripture and experience—stands as the final standard of what the Gospel is. This belief sets us apart from most Christian denominations today, and even sets us apart from the official teachings of many modern Lutherans.

The key to understanding Scripture properly, we believe, is the careful distinction between the Law and the Gospel. The whole Bible can be divided into these two chief teachings. The Law tells what God demands of sinners if they are to be saved. The Gospel reveals what God has already done for our salvation. The chief purpose of the Law is to show us our sin and our need for a Savior. The Gospel offers the free gift of God’s salvation in Christ.

It is in the proper distinction between Law and Gospel that the purity of the Gospel is preserved and the three solas of “grace alone,” “faith alone” and “Scripture alone” are united.

—adapted from An Introduction to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod by Dr. Samuel Nafzger


Want to "brush up" on your Small Catechism but can't find yours?  To review small, managable weekly readings that follow the schedule Hosanna uses, use the schedule in the picture, and  the links below: 

Introduction to Luther's Small Catechism 

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper

The Lord's Prayer    

The Ten Commandments

The Apostles' Creed   

The Sacrament of Baptism  

Christian Questions and their Answers