Confessing the Faith

Saint Paul wrote, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3b ESV) Meanwhile, Saint Peter wrote, “… always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15b ESV). And Jesus, Himself, said (as recorded both by Matthew and Luke), “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33 ESV)

Our confession of faith begins with the simple statement, “Jesus is Lord.” In these three words we have the entire confession of Christianity. Indeed, every book, every pamphlet, every blog post which speaks the truth about Jesus simply is a restatement of this simple fact.

The problem, however, we need to define the three words. Who is Jesus? How do we understand the word “is,” a stumbling block for the unity of the Church as regards the Lord’s Supper. What does it mean to be “Lord,” both in the mixed case or all upper case as seen in the modern English translations of the Old Testament.

We spend a lifetime, and pass the questions on to future generations, developing the answer to the question, “Jesus is Lord: what does this mean?”

We believe, teach, and confess that Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who existed from before the beginning of the world. In Genesis 1:3, when God said, “Let there be light,” we confess that Christ Jesus, the Word Made Flesh (John 1:14), is the One speaking. So, you can see that the question “who is Jesus?” leads to a lot of doctrine very quickly.

As Lutherans, our confession of faith is consistent with the confessions of the Christian Church from antiquity. The first article of the Augsburg Confession (I will need to write a blog post about the Lutheran Confessions, won’t I?) says:

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

Please note that the Augsburg Confession begins by saying we agree with the Council of Nicaea, which says our teachings are nothing more than what was taught by the Prophets and Apostles. The source of our teachings is the Bible alone (see the Formula of Concord, Rule and Norm), as opposed to other Christian church bodies who appeal to tradition, councils, and other sources.

We can get into the same type of discussion about “is” and “Lord” as we did with “Jesus,” but space is limited.

Every confession of faith comes from either a question or controversy. The Apostles’ Creed answers the question, “You are being baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What do you believe this means?” The Nicene Creed, on the other hand, answers the question, “Is Jesus the Son of God or the first of all creation?” (God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made…)

The written confessions, such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Book of Concord, are also a quick way to help us recognize false doctrine. If we read, “Jesus was not born of a virgin, Mary was raped by a Roman soldier,” we reject that teaching because it disagrees with the clear words of our confessions. The clear words of our confessions are drawn from the clear words of the Bible.

Thus, when we are confronted with the question, “What do you believe,” we are ready with an answer, a confession of our faith. We defend our answers based on the Word of God, and can use the written confessions as secondary sources to show what the Lutheran Church has taught from the beginning.

Our confession of faith is important. If we attend a church where the pastor preaches something in conflict with the written confessions, we have a cause for concern. If the church body believes changing the confession is necessary, we have a concern, for God does not change, nor does His revelation change. If our personal confession of faith does not agree with the ancient confessions of faith which have been proven to come directly from God’s Word, we also have some soul-searching to do.

Jesus is Lord. I invite you to help us delve deeper into this confession as you join us each Sunday for the Divine Service and Bible Class.