Evangelical-Lutheran Church “Concord”

Taste and see that the Lord is good! (Ps. 34:8)

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church “Concord”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church “Concord” is a conservative Christian church which faithfully holds to the Bible as the highest authority. The church also accepts the Book of Concord, in which the teachings of the Bible have been laid out and explained.

Below you will find a short, thematic presentation of our faith:

I. God and His Revelation

II. The Creation of the World, Mankind, and Sin

III. Christ and the Payment for Sins

IV. Justification by Faith

V. Good Works and Prayer

VI. The Means of Grace

VII. The Church and its Ministry

VIII. Church and State

IX. Jesus’ Return and the Judgment

X. How we Differ from Other Lutheran Churches

I. God and His Revelation

1. We believe, that there is only one true God (John 17:3; Isaiah 44:6). He has revealed himself as the Triune God, one God in three persons. This is clear from the fact that Jesus commanded his disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Everyone who does not worship this God worships a false god, who in reality does not exist, for Jesus said, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him” (John 5:23).

2. We believe, that God is revealed in nature, for “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). Paul adds, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power an divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). The atheist, therefore, has no excuse. Since the requirements of God’s law are written on the hearts of people, their very conscience testifies to them that God exists and that they are accountable to him (Romans 2:15). But nature and our conscience only give us a limited knowledge of God, and that knowledge by itself is not enough to show us the path to heaven.

3. We believe, that God has revealed himself to us in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18). God revealed himself in Jesus as the Savior God, who “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

4. We believe, that in addition to this God has given all people his written revelation in the Holy Scriptures. His revelation in the Bible contains two messages – the law and the gospel. The law announces what is morally right and wrong, and it threatens punishment for sin. The gospel announces God’s love, which he has shown especially by giving salvation from sin through Jesus Christ.

5. We believe, that Christ is the center of the entire Bible. In the Old Testament God promised many times to send a divine rescuer from sin, death and hell. The New Testament announces that this divine rescuer is Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus himself said about the writings of the Old Testament, “[they] testify about me” (John 5:39).

6. We believe that God gave us the Scriptures through people chosen by him. They wrote in the languages they knew and in their own style. God used Moses and the prophets to write the Old Testament in the ancient Hebrew language (a few parts were written in Aramaic), and he used the evangelists and apostles to write the New Testament in Greek.

7. We believe that in a miraculous way which is beyond human understanding, God the Holy Spirit moved these people to write God’s words. “…men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). And they spoke “not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Every thought they expressed, every word they used was given them by the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). The church calls that miraculous process “inspiration,” which means “breathed into.” Since every word of the Scriptures is inspired, we can call this process “verbal inspiration.” It would be wrong, however, to compare this process to dictation, since the Holy Spirit guided the authors to use their own writing styles and vocabulary.

8. We believe that the Scripture is a single whole. It is the truth and is without mistakes, for our Savior said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Therefore we believe that it is an infallible authority and guide in everything that relates to what we believe and do.

9. We believe that the Bible gives us a perfectly clear and sufficient knowledge of what we need to know for salvation. It makes us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15) and prepares us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). Since God’s plan of salvation is completely revealed in the canonical books of the Bible, we don’t need to expect any other revelations (Hebrews 1:1,2). The church is built on the teachings of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).

10. We believe and accept the Scripture as it is. That which it presents as history, we accept as factual history. Where it uses figurative language, we interpret it figuratively. We believe that Scripture alone should interpret Scripture. With clear passages it sheds light on those passages that are more difficult to understand. We believe no authority can be placed higher than Scripture, be it human reason, science or scholarship. Sensible readers should sincerely and without bias seek out its true meaning.

11. We believe that the original text of the Old Testament, written in Hebrew, and the Greek text of the New Testament are God’s inspired word. Translations from the Greek and Hebrew which accurately convey the meaning of the original text also carry God’s truth to people, and so may rightly be called God’s word.

12. In spite of the fact that the original manuscripts themselves have been lost, we believe that the Lord by his providence has exactly preserved the Hebrew and Greek texts by means of scribes who meticulously copied the texts by hand. Although there are some small differences and variant readings among these copies, the variants don’t raise a single doctrinal issue.

13. We believe that the three ecumenical creeds – the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian, which can be found in the confessions of the Lutheran church in the Book of Concord of 1580 – express the true teaching of Scripture. Since the teachings which they confess are drawn from Scripture alone, we are bound by them in our faith and life, and therefore all preaching and teaching in our churches and schools should hang in agreement with these confessions. We also reject all errors, which they reject.

14. We reject any worship which is not connected with the Triune God as he is revealed in the Bible. When addressing God we reject the use of feminine pronouns or names, since in Scripture God reveals himself as the Father and Son. We reject the opinion, that all religions lead to one and the same God.

15. We reject any intention to consider only part of Scripture to be God’s word, which opens the door to the possibility of factual errors in Scripture when it comes to so-called non-religious questions (for example, historical or geographical questions). We likewise reject all points of view which see the Bible simply as a record of God’s revelations written by people, a record, therefore, which has been exposed to human imperfections.

16. We reject any special meaning given to Jesus as the word of God (John 1:1), if that meaning lessens the role of the Scriptures as the written word of God (Romans 3:2).

17. We reject any attempt to reduce the confessions contained in the Book of Concord to historical documents which in our time have no confessional meaning for the church. We likewise reject any claims that the church is bound only by those teachings of Scripture which are expressed in these confessions.

II. The Creation of the World, Mankind, and Sin

1. We believe that the universe, world and mankind came into existence in the beginning, when God created heaven and earth and every living thing (Genesis 1 and 2). Additional testimony to this event is found in other places of the Old and New Testaments (for example Exodus 20:11 and Hebrews 11:3). All this was completed in a period of six consecutive ordinary days by the power of God’s almighty word [when he said, “Let there be”].

2. We believe that the Bible presents itself as the true and historically grounded account of the creation of the world.

3. We believe that God created Adam and Eve in his own image (Genesis 1:26,27), that is, holy and righteous. Their thoughts, desires and wills were in full harmony with God (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24). Besides this, the opportunity was given to them to possess God’s creation (Genesis 1:28), and they were obliged to take care of it (Genesis 2:15).

4. We believe that God created many good angels. At some point in time after creation some of these angels rebelled against God. They were led by an angel by the name of Satan, or the devil (2 Peter 2:4). After this the fallen angels always opposed God and God’s people (1 Peter 5:8).

5. We believe that Adam and Eve lost the image of God when they fell to Satan’s temptation and disobeyed God’s command. This brought upon them God’s judgment: “…you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Since that time all people are conceived and born (Psalm 51:5) with a tendency towards everything evil (Genesis 8:21), because “flesh gives birth to flesh” (John 3:6). On account of sin, people are spiritually dead and separated from God (Ephesians 2:1), and they are unable to reconcile themselves with God by their own efforts and works.

6. We believe that God by his merciful providence daily and generously satisfies the needs of all people (Psalm 145:15,16). In addition, he protects believers from all dangers, guarding them from all evil (Psalm 121:7) or turning that evil into good (Romans 8:28).

7. We reject all evolutionary theories as explanations of the beginning of the universe and mankind, and we also reject all attempts to reconcile what is written in the Scriptures about the creation of the world with such theories.

8. We reject interpretations which reduce the first chapters of Genesis to myths, proverbs ,or poetic musings, which are not factual history.

9.We reject all theories which blur the differences between people and animals, since only human beings have immortal souls and are accountable before God.

10. We reject all theories which blur the differences between God and his creation (pantheism).

11. We reject all views which assert that people are born with an innate goodness, which suppose a person’s natural inclination to be only a weakness and not sinful, and which do not acknowledge a person’s absolute spiritual corruption and inability to please God.

III. Christ and the Payment for Sins

1. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was with the Father from eternity (John 1:1,2). At the time appointed by God, he was conceived by the virgin Mary as a holy child by a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). He took on a true, full, but sinless human nature (Galatians 4:4). The angel Gabriel testified: “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Jesus Christ is the unique person, in which true God and true human nature are indivisibly united in the one, holy God-man. He is called Emmanuel, which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

2. We believe that he at all times had the fullness of the deity, all divine power, wisdom, and glory (Colossians 2:9). This was obvious when he did miracles (John 2:11). But when he lived on earth, he took the form of a servant, lowering himself in this way, that he willingly chose not to make full and constant use of his divine attributes. During this time we see him as a man among people who endured suffering and lowered himself even to a shameful death on the cross (Philippians 2:7,8). We believe, that Christ descended into hell in order to pronounce his victory over Satan (1 Peter 3:18,19). We believe that he rose again from the grave in a glorious body, ascended and was exalted in order to rule as he exercises authority over the world, grace in his church and glory in eternity (Philippians 2:9-11).

3. We believe that Jesus Christ, the God-man, was sent by the Father to redeem all people, that is, buy them back from the guilt and punishment of their sins. Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), so that through his perfect obedience all people would be counted as righteous (Romans 5:18,19). He came to bear “the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6), redeeming all people by his sacrifice for sin on the altar of the cross (Matthew 20:28). We believe that he is the substitute for people chosen by God: his righteousness, or perfect obedience, is accepted by the Father as our righteousness; his death for sin is accepted as our death for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). We believe that his resurrection gives us full confidence that God has accepted the payment which he gave for all (Romans 4:25).

4. We believe that God “was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19), that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). God’s grace and compassion includes all; reconciliation with Christ is universal; the forgiveness of sins was attained as an accomplished fact for all people. Thanks to the vicarious work of Christ, God has justified all people, that is, he has pronounced the verdict “not guilty” to all humanity. This makes a solid, objective foundation in order that sinners might believe in salvation.

5. We reject any teaching which limits the act of Christ. We reject any teaching which affirms that Christ paid only for the sins of some people. We reject any teaching which affirms that Christ only paid for sins in part.

6. We reject any opinions which suppose that the gospel is a pious fantasy invented by early Christians in order to express their opinion about Jesus Christ, as well as any which do not consider the gospel to be a true account of what actually happened at this point in history. We reject attempts to evaluate the historicity of events in Jesus life, such as his birth of a virgin, his miracles or his bodily resurrection, as if they are not important or even doubtful. We reject attempts to emphasize the importance of “a meeting with the living Christ today,” as if the act of redemption done by Jesus in his own time, as it is written in the Scriptures, has begun to lose its meaning.

IV. Justification by Faith

1. We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, that he has declared them righteous in his sight for the sake of Christ. This is the foundational message of the Scriptures, on which the very existence of the Church depends.This news is addressed to people of all times and nations, races and social strata, for “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18). All need justification before God, and the Scripture announces that all are justified, for “the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18).

2. We believe that everyone receives this free gift of forgiveness through Christ not by earning it by one’s own deeds, but only through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). Justifying faith is trust in Christ and his act of redemption. This faith justifies, but not because of some kind of power within itself, but only because of the salvation prepared by God in Christ, which it includes in itself (Romans 3:28; 4:5). But in spite of the fact that Christ died for all, the Scripture tells us that “whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). The forgiveness won by Christ is taken away from the unbeliever because of his lack of faith.

3. We believe that a person cannot create this justifying faith, or trust, in his own heart, because “the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (1 Corinthians 2:14). In fact, “the sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7). It is the Holy Spirit who moves hearts to a believing understanding that “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Holy Spirit creates faith by means of the gospel (Romans 10:17). We believe, therefore, that a person’s conversion is wholly the work of God’s grace. However, a person is himself guilty if he rejects the gospel (Matthew 23:37).

4. We believe that sinners are saved only by grace. Grace is the undeserved love of God towards sinners. This love moved God to give sinners everything which is necessary for their salvation. This is a gift of God. People themselves can do nothing to earn it (Ephesians 2:8,9).

5.We believe that already before the creation of the world God chose those whom he would in time convert through the gospel of Christ and preserve in the faith until the attainment of eternal life (Ephesians 1:4-6; Romans 8:29,30). In no way was this election to faith and salvation caused by something in the people God chose, but it shows that salvation is completely given to us only by grace (Romans 11:5,6).

6. We believe that, at the moment of death, the souls of those who believed in Christ immediately go to the Lord, and they remain with him in heavenly joy thanks to the redemptive work of Christ (Luke 23:43). The souls of those who did not believe in Christ go to eternal suffering in hell (Luke 16:22-24).

7. We reject the teaching that a person is somehow able to achieve his own salvation. We reject the opinion that people by their own efforts are able to convert themselves, or that they are able to make the decision to believe in Christ (John 15:16). We reject the opinion that those who are converted resist God’s grace less than those who remain unconverted. We reject all efforts to represent faith as a condition which a person must fulfill in order to complete one’s justification. We reject all attempts of sinners to justify themselves before God.

8. We reject the assumption that the teaching of justification by faith is no longer applicable to modern people.

9. We reject the teaching that believers can never fall from faith (“once saved – always saved”), because the Bible says that a believer may fall from faith (1 Corinthians 10:12).

10. We reject the false and ungodly conclusion that those who are condemned were elected by God for condemnation, for God “wants all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

11. We reject universalism – the belief that all people are saved, even those who do not believe in Christ (John 3:36). We reject pluralism – the belief that there are other ways to salvation apart from Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). We reject any teaching which maintains that it is not important what a person believes as long as he believes in God.

V. Good Works and Prayer

1. We believe that faith in Jesus Christ always leads the believer to do God-pleasing works. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). The Christian, as a branch of the vine of Christ, will bear good fruit (John 15:5).

2. We believe that God-pleasing works are acts of love, since “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). But faith, nevertheless, does not set up its own norms in order to determine what love is (Matthew 15:9). True faith gladly does that which corresponds to the holy will of God. This will is revealed in the Bible, especially in the form of the Ten Commandments to the extent that their contents are repeated in the New Testament. Therefore, when confronted with moral difficulties, the Christian seeks answers in God’s law.

3. We believe, for example, that the Fifth Commandment teaches that human life is a gift of God. This commandment prohibits abortion, suicide and euthanasia (“mercy-killing”).

4. We believe that the Sixth Commandment regulates marriage and the family. God instituted marriage as a lifelong union between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-6). This is the only God-pleasing way to engage in sexual intimacy and give birth to children. Marriage can be broken without sin only when God ends it through the death of one of the spouses. Nevertheless, a Christian may obtain a divorce, if the spouse breaks the bonds of marriage by committing adultery (Matthew 19:9) or desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15). The Sixth Commandment forbids any sexual intimacy outside of marriage, including homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9,10).

5. We believe that a person is free in making decisions concerning questions which are not forbidden or commanded by God’s Word (adiaphora). Nevertheless, people should be careful in their use of this freedom so that it does not lead others into sin.

6. We believe that acts which are fruits of faith should be distinguished from acts of civic righteousness done by unbelievers. When unbelievers do things which outwardly seem good and honorable before people, these acts are not good from God’s perspective, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Although we acknowledge the importance of civic righteousness for the good of human society, we know that an unbeliever cannot even begin to pay his debt to God by his own works.

7. We believe that in this world even the good works of the Christian are tainted by sin. The flesh, or Old Adam, continues to cause him suffering, as he does not do the good which he wants, but instead does the evil which he does not want to do (Romans 7:18-21). He should acknowledge that all his good works are like dirty rags (Isaiah 64:6). For the sake of Christ’s redemption, however, these imperfect efforts of the Christian are mercifully counted as holy by the heavenly Father and are accepted by him.

8. We believe that the Holy Spirit moves every believer to do good works, since this is a fruit of faith (Galatians 5:22-25). The Holy Spirit gives every believer a new nature, or “new man,” who together with the Holy Spirit does good works. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel to motivate believers to do good works.

9. Apart from this, the Holy Spirit grants the Church all manner of spiritual gifts which it needs for its prosperity (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). In the beginning of the New Testament era of the Church special charismatic gifts were given, for example, signs, miracles and speaking in different languages. These gifts were connected with the ministry of the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). In the Scripture there is no indication that we should expect a continuation of such charismatic gifts.

10. We believe that a life spent in prayer is also a fruit of faith. With confidence, through faith in one’s Savior, a Christian can go to his heavenly Father with requests, giving him praise, relating his worries and thanking him (1 Timothy 2:1). Such prayers are pleasing to our God, and he will answer our requests in line with his wisdom (Matthew 7:7,8; 1 John 5:14).

11. We reject every thought that the good works of the Christian are somehow able to establish a right relationship with God and give him salvation in heaven.

12. We reject every attempt to abolish the unchanging law of God as it is revealed in the Bible, as the absolute norm of what is good and what is evil.

13. We reject the view that people are able to decide what is right or wrong without God’s Word. We reject every abuse of the word “love” as justification for actions which contradict God’s Word. We consider these arguments a tool of Satan, directed towards the goal of confusing the correct understanding of God’s holy will and the acknowledgement of sin by people.

14. We reject every point of view which views prayer as a means of grace. Although God certainly gives believers good gifts in answer to their prayers, he gives his forgiving grace and strengthens faith only through the Word and sacraments. In addition, we reject every view which see prayer as useful only by virtue of its psychological impact on the person who prays.

15. We reject the point of view that all prayers are pleasing to God, and we consider the prayers of all those who do not know Christ to be a useless appeal to false gods (Matthew 6:7).

VI. The Means of Grace

1. We believe that God send sinners all spiritual gifts by special means chosen by him. These means of grace are the gospel in Word and sacrament. We define a sacrament as a holy act which was instituted by Christ and in which his Word together with earthly elements gives forgiveness of sins.

2. We believe that the Holy Spirit brings about faith in a person’s heart, which is by nature hostile to God (1 Peter 1:23), with the help of the gospel about Christ’s redemptive sacrifice. The Scriptures teach that “faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). This faith, brought about by the Holy Spirit, results in restoration within the sinner and makes him an heir of eternal salvation.

3. We believe that the Holy Spirit also brings the gospel to sinful people through the sacrament of baptism, giving him new birth (Titus 3:5) and cleansing him from all sin (Acts 2:38). The Lord points to the blessings of baptism when he promises: “Whoever believe and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). We believe that the blessings of baptism are meant for all people (Matthew 28:19), including infants, who are born as sinners (John 3:6) and therefore are in need of rebirth, that is, they need to be brought to faith through baptism (John 3:5).

4. We believe that everyone who partakes of the Lord’s Supper receives the true body and blood of Christ in, with, and under the bread and wine (1 Corinthians 10:16). This is true because when the Lord instituted this sacrament, he said, “This is my body… This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26,28). We believe that the reason for the real presence of his body and blood are the words of institution pronounced by Christ, and not any kind of human action. When believers partake of the body and blood of Christ, they at the same time receive the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28), comfort and confidence that they truly belong to him. Unbelievers also receive the body and blood of Christ, but only to their condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:29).

5. We believe that the Lord gave his Word and sacraments to his disciples for a certain purpose. He commanded them: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19,20). It is through God’s Word and sacraments that he preserves and expands the Holy Christian Church around the world. Therefore we should diligently and faithfully make use of these divinely chosen means of grace in our own midst and in our mission work. Only through these means of grace are immortal souls brought to faith and salvation.

6. We reject all views which seek revelations of God’s grace and salvation apart from the gospel as presented in the Scriptures. We reject all views which seek evidence that the Holy Spirit creates faith apart from the means of grace. We also reject the view that the law is a means of grace.

7. We reject the assertion that it is wrong to baptize children and they are not able to believe in Christ (Luke 18:15-17). We reject the opinion that baptism must be done by submersion.

8. We reject all teachings which see the sacrament of Holy Communion as nothing more than a sign or symbol of faith, and which in this way deny that we receive Christ’s true body and blood in this sacrament. We reject the view that those who eat and the body of Christ during the sacrament simply receive Christ in a spiritual way through faith. We reject the assertion that unbelievers and hypocrites don’t receive the true body and blood of Christ during the sacrament.

9. We reject the doctrine of transubstantiation, which teaches that the bread and wine are fully transformed into the body and blood of Christ. The Scripture teachers that all communicants receive the bread and wine as well as the body and blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16).

10. We reject any attempts to establish the exact time when the body and bread of Christ is present during the time of the Lord’s Supper. We therefore reject the view that it is necessary to believe that the body and blood of Christ appear as soon as the words of institution are pronounced, or that the body and blood of Christ appear at the moment when we eat and drink.

VII. The Church and its Ministry

1. We believe that there exists one Holy Christian Church, which is God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16) and the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23; 4:12). The members of this Church are all those who are “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). The Church, in this sense, includes only believers, or saints, whom God considers righteous by virtue of righteousness of Jesus which has been imputed to them (2 Corinthians 5:21). These saints are scattered across the whole world. Everyone who believes that Jesus is his Savior from sin is a member of the Holy Christian Church, no matter what nationality or race or congregation he belongs to.

2. We believe that the Holy Christian Church is a reality, although it is not an outwardly visible organization. Since “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), only the Lord know “those who are his” (2 Timothy 2:19). The members of the Holy Christian Church are known only to God; we are not able to separate true believers from hypocrites. The Holy Christian Church, consequently, is invisible and is not able to be identified with one or another of the churches that exist, nor as a set of all churches.

3. We believe that the presence of the Holy Christian Church can nevertheless be recognized. Wherever the gospel is preached and the sacraments are performed, there exists the Holy Christian Church, for true faith is created and preserved by these means of grace (Isaiah 55:10,11). Therefore the means of grace are called the marks of the Church.

4. We believe that it is God’s will that Christians gather together for mutual strengthening through the common use of the means of grace (Hebrews 10:24,25), and also for the spread of the gospel around the world (Mark 16:15). Since these visible assemblies (for example, congregations) themselves use the means of grace, they are called churches. However they bear that name only because true believers are present in them (1 Corinthians 1:2).

5. We believe that God directs believers to acknowledge unity in faith with Christians whose confession of faith agrees with all the teachings of Scripture (John 8:31; 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22). In addition we believe that an individual person acknowledges the teaching and practice of the church of which he is a member. To affirm that unity exists in places where there is not agreement in confession would be the same as affirming that we can look into a person’s heart. Only God can do this. It is not necessary that all agree in questions of church organization and rites, since the New Testament does not give any commands concerning them (Romans 14:17).

6. We believe that all, whose confessions show that they are united concerning Scripture’s doctrinal questions, reflect their fellowship in Christ whenever the opportunity presents itself (Ephesians 4:3). This fellowship may be expressed by joint worship, working together to preach the gospel, sharing Holy Communion, joint prayer, or by joint work in the church. God directs believers not to participate in religious fellowship with those, whose confession and works reveal errors in teaching, tolerance towards those errors, or support or protection of them (2 John 10,11). If transgressions are committed in the church, then Christians should preserve fellowship through patient admonition of those who fell, in the hope that they will turn from their mistakes (2 Timothy 2:25,26; Titus 3:10). But the Lord has commanded believers not to be found in church fellowship with people who stubbornly preach and hold to false teachings (Romans 16:17,18).

7. We believe that every Christian is a priest before God (1 Peter 2:9). All believers have direct and equal access to the throne of grace through Christ, our Mediator (Ephesians 2:17,18). God has given the means of grace to all believers. All Christians must bless him who called us from darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). In this sense all Christians are servants of the gospel. It is pleasing to God that all Christians share the news of salvation with others (Matthew 28:19,20; 10:32).

8. We believe that God also instituted the public ministry of the Word (Ephesians 4:11), and that the church, by God’s will and following good order (1 Corinthians 14:40), calls into service men who are suitable for the public ministry (1 Timothy 3:1-10; 1 Corinthians 9:14). Such persons serve not as people who are part of the universal priesthood, but in line with order and in the name of their fellow Christians (Romans 10:15). These people are called servants of Christ, servants of the gospel, but not lords over God’s inheritance, that is, his believers (1 Peter 5:3). We believe that, when the Church calls men into the public ministry, the Lord himself acts through the Church (Acts 20:28). We believe that the Church is free to establish different forms within the limits of the one ministry of the Word, for example, pastors, Christian teachers and other jobs related to service. Through the call the Church, exercising its Christian freedom, determines the place and extent of the ministry to be performed.

9. We believe that serving people with Word and sacraments is the purpose of the Church. This ministry usually takes place in local congregations. We consider the office of the pastor to be the most comprehensive form of the public ministry of the Word. Pastors are educated and called to provide every kind of spiritual care to gather and teach souls within a congregation (1 Peter 5:2).

10. We believe that women may assume the responsibilities of and participate in the public ministry, with the exception of cases when such activity gives them authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11,12). This means that women are not able to serve as pastors or vote in congregational assemblies, if this gives them authority over men (1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:33-35).

11. We reject any attempt to identify the Holy Christian Church with a visible organization, and also any demand that the church should act in the world by means of special organized forms.

12. We reject as false ecumenism any views which seek the true unity of the church in any kind of outward forms or organized unions, and we are against every movement towards a similar unification, created at the expense of a clear confession of all the teachings of Scripture. We reject the proposition that religious fellowship is possible without agreement in confession and practice. Agreement should exist in confession of the doctrines of Scripture, and the works and deeds of a person should also show that he will not put up with errors.

13. We reject participation or membership in organizations which have religious connotations which are a contradiction to the Christian faith, for example, the Masonic Lodge.

VIII. Church and State

1. We believe that not only the Church, but also the state, that is, all governments, are instituted by God. “The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). Therefore Christians, for the sake of conscience, should obey the government which rules them (Romans 13:5), as long as the government does not command them to break the commands of God (Acts 5:29).

2. We believe that God gave to both the Church and state responsibilities which do not contradict one another. The Lord instructed the Church to call sinners to repentance, preach the forgiveness of sins by the cross of Christ, and support believers in the their Christian life. Her goal is to lead God’s elect through faith in Christ to eternal salvation. The Lord has instructed the state to support good order and peace, to punish the guilty, and to sort out all civil matters among the people (Romans 13:3,4). Its goal is “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:2).

3. We believe that the only means given by God to the Church for reaching her assigned goal is God’s revealed Word and the sacraments (Matthew 28:19,20). Only by the preaching of law and gospel, of sin and grace, of God’s wrath against sin and God’s mercy in Christ, will people be converted by the Holy Spirit. We believe that the means given to the state for the fulfillment of its assigned goal is the civil law together with punishments and incentives, established and used wisely (Romans 13:4). This reasoning also includes the natural knowledge of God, the innate knowledge of the law and the conscience.

4. We believe that the proper relationship between Church and state is preserved only if both Church and state remain in their own, God-determined sphere of activity and apply the means God has entrusted to them. The Church should not make use of civil authority, nor should it meddle in the affairs of the state as it fulfills its obligations. The state should not proclaim the gospel, nor should it interfere with the Church’s mission of preaching. The Church should not attempt to use civil law and power in order to lead people to Christ, nor should the state strive to rule by means of the gospel. On the other hand, Church and state are able to work together as long as each remains in the place designated to them and uses the means assigned to them.

5. We believe that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) and that Christians are at the same citizens of their own country here on earth and serve God, fulfilling their obligations in each of these kingdoms with a good conscience (Romans 13:6,7).

6. We reject any attempt from the side of the state to limit the free exercise of religious activity.

7. We reject any views which count on the guidance and influence of the Church on the state, when the Church directly interferes in the conduct of its affairs.

8. We reject any attempt from the side of the Church to seek financial help from the state in order to reach its saving goal.

9. We reject any views that a citizen is free not to obey the laws of the state with which he does not agree on the basis of his own judgment.

IX. Jesus’ Return and the Judgment

1. We believe that Jesus, true God and true man, who rose from the dead, ascended and is seated at the right hand of the Father, will come again. He will come visibly in the same way that his apostles saw him ascend into heaven (Acts 1:11).

2. We believe that no one is able to know the exact time of Jesus’ return. This knowledge is hidden even from the angels of heaven (Matthew 24:36). Nevertheless, the Lord gave signs to his believers so that they would constantly await his return (Matthew 24:4-24). He tells them to watch and be alert, so that the day will not catch them by surprise (Luke 21:34).

3. We believe that, when Christ returns, the present world will come to an end, “but in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

4. We believe that when Jesus returns, his voice will be heard across the whole earth and the dead will rise, that is, their spirits will be rejoined with the bodies (John 5:28,29). Together with those who are still alive, they will stand before his judgment seat. Unbelievers will be condemned to an eternity in hell. But all those who by faith were cleansed in the blood of Christ, will be glorified and will be with Jesus for all eternity in blessedness before God in heaven (Philippians 3:21).

5. We reject the teaching that Christ will rule on earth for a period of 1,000 years in a visible, earthly kingdom. This teaching (millennialism) is not founded on Scripture and leads Christians to the hope that Christ’s kingdom will be an earthly one (John 18:36). We reject the idea that before Judgment Day Christians will be taken, or “raptured,” from the face of the earth. This teaching has no Scriptural support. We also reject any hopes that all Jews will be converted in the last days, a teaching which also is not founded on Scripture.

6. We reject the teaching that Christians should at the end of the ages expect the rising of one person who will be the great antichrist. The characteristics of this antichrist, which are put forth in the Scriptures, have been realized and fulfilled in the present time in the office of the papacy (2 Thessalonians 2:4-10). We reject the opinion that identifying the papacy as the antichrist is a historical argument and was only applicable during the time of the Reformation.

7. We reject any denial of the bodily resurrection and the reality of hell. We reject the teaching that the souls of the dead return to earth in different bodies (reincarnation) (Hebrews 9:27).

8. We reject all attempts to interpret the New Testament description of Christ’s second coming, the end of the world and the judgment, as the description of events which happen not at the end of time but in the course of history.

X. How we Differ from Other Lutheran Churches

Because there are many forms of Lutheranism in the world (and in Russia) today, and since they have teachings, we decided to clarify our confessional position:

We do not support the “liberalization” of the teachings of the Lutheran church, reflected by the practice of allowing women pastors, changing the roles of men and women, attempts to reconcile the theory of evolution with the teaching of creation, and the use of the historical-critical method of interpreting the Scriptures.

We also do not support the “Romanizing” of the teachings of the Lutheran church, reflected by a reception of the doctrines of the Roman church, such as: the absolute necessity of preserving an unbroken line of ordination (apostolic succession), transubstantiation, and the teaching that the Scriptures are not able to be understood without the traditions and interpretations of the church fathers and other non-biblical teachings.

Since the history of Christianity and Lutheranism show that false teachings are able to destroy the church as an earthly organization, and even destroy saving faith, we also do not support altar fellowship with those churches whose confession or practice testifies to the acceptance or support of teaching which contradict the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of which are formulated and written in the Book of Concord.