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Why We are “Orthodox”

A few years ago we removed the part of our name that uses the term “Evangelical” and replaced it with something more accurate and better understood.

The word “evangelical” literally means “preach the Good News,” meaning to proclaim the true Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ. Truly, this is the center of our work here at Trinity Lutheran Church. But sadly, it no longer has this meaning in the minds of most people today.

What is the problem?

It is two-fold:
First, the term “Evangelical” has become far too closely associated with the church body named “The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” or the ELCA. This church body has shown itself to be no longer Lutheran, or truly evangelical, or even Christian for that matter. However, since it is twenty times larger than the Wisconsin Synod, people tend to think any church with the word “evangelical” in its name is part of this now truly pagan church body.

Second, this term has also come to be equated with many false-teaching “Reformed” and so-called “Mega-Churches,” both of which groups downplay the Means of Grace in exchange for “decision theology,” feelings, emotions, “charismatic gifts,” “felt needs,” and the like. This most certainly does not accurately describe our congregation either.
For these reasons we really shouldn’t use the term “evangelical” to describe our church.
So – Change to what? There were a number of possibilities:
Orthodox; which means “correct, straight, true, pure, containing no false doctrine”
* PRO – This is a very good description of our doctrinal position and church practices
* CON – It is often associated with the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity

Historic; meaning traditional, ancient, following the early Christian church of the first few centuries
* PRO – This too describes our teachings and worship practices
* CON – Not very “religious” or distinctive
Conservative; the idea here being unchanged from time of the early church or the Reformation
* PRO – Once again, this is an accurate term for our church
* CON – Seen as political by most people, and may confuse our work with politics
Confessional/Concordia/Reformation; tells people that we follow the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of
Concord of 1580
and the teachings and ideals of Martin Luther’s original Reformation
* PRO – Any of these terms would be a very good description of our doctrines and practices
* CON – “Confessional” would be understood by most as having to do merely with confessing sin, which
not the center of our teachings, and the other words too, would require constant explanation, as
they are unfamiliar to most people today.
Apostolic; meaning we are a true extension of the church of the first Apostles in all that we teach and do
* PRO – This is certainly true of Trinity Lutheran Church
* CON – This term is most often associated with various “Charismatic,” or “Pentecostal” churches
Christian; obviously connecting us with the general term first used to describe early believers in Jesus
* PRO – This title definitely fits us
*CON – However, it is not very distinctive, or really descriptive of our ideals
– Biblical/Scriptural; according to, and based on, the Bible alone
* PRO – Obviously, this too is true of our church
* CON – Sadly, this title is claimed by many churches, which really don’t put it into practice
– Various Combinations of the above terms, with all their pros and cons.
After many years of study on this problem, we came to the conclusion that the term, “Orthodox,” describes our doctrine and practice best, and takes the least amount of explanation to others.
Again, “Orthodox” means “correct, straight, true, pure, containing no false doctrine.” This is a very good description of our doctrinal position and church practices. True, it is often associated with the Eastern Orthodox branch of Catholicism. But the difference between us and the Eastern Catholic churches can be easily seen and explained.

Why are we “Lutheran”?

The answer to this question is simply this, “A Lutheran is a person who believes, teaches, and confesses all the truths of God’s Word as they are summarized and confessed in the Book of Concord.” The Book of Concord contains the Lutheran confessions of faith.

Perhaps you have attended an ordination of a pastor and heard him promise that he will perform the duties of his office in accord with the Lutheran Confessions. Also, when people are received into membership into a Lutheran congregation through confirmation they are asked if they confess the doctrine of the Confessional Lutheran Church as contained in the Book of Concord to be faithful and true.

These solemn promises indicate to us just how important the Lutheran Confessions are for our church. Let’s take a look at the various items contained in the Book of Concord and then see why the Lutheran Confessions are so important for being a Lutheran.

Part I: What is in the Book of Concord?

1. The Ecumenical Creeds

The three ecumenical creeds in the Book of Concord are the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds. They are described as “ecumenical,” which means “universal,” because they are accepted by Christians worldwide as correct expressions of what God’s Word teaches.

2. The Augsburg Confession and Apology of the Augsburg Confession

In the year 1530, the Lutherans were required to present their confession of faith before the Holy Roman Emperor in Augsburg, Germany. Martin Luther’s friend and co-worker, Philip Melanchthon, wrote the Augsburg Confession and it was read before the imperial court on June 30, 1530. One year later, the Lutherans presented their “Apology,” or “defense” of the Augsburg Confession. It too was written by Philip Melanchthon. It is the largest document in the Book of Concord, and its longest chapter is devoted to the most important truth of the Christian faith: Justification By Grace Alone, Through Faith Alone, In Christ’s Word Alone.

3. The Small and Large Catechisms

Very early in the Reformation, Martin Luther realized how really uninformed the laity and even the clergy of his day were when it came to even the most basic truths of the Christian faith. Around 1530, he produced two small handbooks to help pastors and the heads of families teach the faith. The Small Catechism and the Large Catechism were originally organized around five topics: the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Teaching on Confession and Absolution was added later.

4. What are the Smalcald Articles

In 1537, Martin Luther was asked to prepare a statement of Lutheran belief for use at a church council of the Roman Church, if it was ever called. The Council eventually took place at Trent, but Lutherans were not invited. Luther’s bold and vigorous confession of faith was later presented to a group of Lutheran rulers meeting in the town of Smalcald, Germany, to form a military league of defense.

5. What is the Formula of Concord

After Luther’s death in 1546, difficult controversies broke out in the Lutheran Church. In 1577, after much debate and struggle, the Formula of Concord put an end to these doctrinal controversies and the Lutheran Church was able to move ahead united in what it believed, taught and confessed. In 1580, all the confessional writings mentioned here were gathered into a single volume, the Book of Concord. The word “Concord” means “harmony.”

What is the connection between the Bible and the Confessions?

In the Formula of Concord Lutherans confess that, “The Word of God is and should remain the sole rule and norm of all doctrine.” In other words, what the Bible asserts, God asserts. What the Bible commands, God commands. The authority of the Scriptures is complete, certain, and absolutely final. The Scriptures are accepted by the Lutheran Confessions as what they are – the actual Word of God. The Lutheran Confessions urge us to believe that Bible is God’s “pure, infallible, and unalterable Word.” And, because the Confessions are in complete doctrinal agreement with the written Word of God, they serve as the standard in the Lutheran Church to determine what is faithful Biblical teaching and what is not.

Part II: Why are the Lutheran Confessions so important for being a Lutheran?

What is the main point of the Lutheran Confessions?

The Lutheran Reformation was not a “revolt,” but rather an attempt by faithful believers to remove many false and misleading teachings found in the Roman Church, which, unfortunately, even to this day, obscures the glory and merit of Jesus Christ. What motivated Martin Luther was nothing less than a zealous concern about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is how the Formula of Concord explains what the Gospel is all about:

Human beings have not kept the law of God but have transgressed it. Their corrupted human nature, thoughts, words, and deeds battle against the law. For this reason they are subject to God’s wrath, to death and all temporal afflictions, and to the punishment of the fires of hell. As a result, the Gospel, in its strict sense, teaches what people should believe, namely, that they receive from God the forgiveness of sins; that is, that the Son of God, our Lord Christ, has taken upon Himself the curse of the law and borne it, atoned and paid for all our sins; that through Him alone we are restored to God’s grace, obtain the forgiveness of sins through faith and are delivered from death and all the punishments of our sins and are saved eternally. . . . It is good news, joyous news, that God does not want to punish sin but to forgive it for Christ’s sake.

What is a “confessional” Lutheran?

When we speak of a “confessional” Lutheran we mean a person who declares to the world his faith and most deeply held beliefs and convictions are in harmony with the documents contained in the Book of Concord. The last words written in the Book of Concord state:

Therefore, it is our intent to give witness before God and all Christendom, among those who are alive today and those who will come after us, that the explanation here set forth regarding all the controversial articles of faith which we have addressed and explained–and no other explanation–is our teaching, faith, and confession. In it we shall appear before the judgment throne of Jesus Christ, by God’s grace, with fearless hearts and thus give account of our faith, and we will neither secretly nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it. Instead, on the strength of God’s grace, we intend to abide by this confession.

What is an “unconditional subscription” to the Confessions?

Confessional Lutheran pastors are required to “subscribe” unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions because they are a pure exposition of the Word of God. This way our pastors and every member, is able to say simply, clearly, and without reservation or qualification what it is that he believes to be the truth of God’s Word.

An unconditional subscription is nothing more or less than the solemn declaration which an individual makes under oath that he accepts the doctrinal content of our Lutheran Confessions, because he recognizes the fact that they are in full agreement with Scripture and do not contradict Scripture on any point, whether of major or minor importance; and that he therefore heartily believes this divine truth and is determined to proclaim and live this doctrine.

So what is it to be a Lutheran?

Being a Lutheran is being a person who believes the truths of God’s Word, the Holy Bible, as they are correctly explained and taught in the Book of Concord. To do so is to confess the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Genuine Lutherans are confessional Lutherans, and will insist that “All doctrines should conform to the standards of the Lutheran Confessions set forth above. Whatever is contrary to them should be rejected and condemned as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith.” (Formula of Concord) Such a statement may strike some as boastful. But it is not; rather, it is an expression of the Spirit-led confidence that moves us to speak in this way of our faith before the world.

To be a confessional Lutheran is to be one who honors the Word of God. That Word makes it clear that it is God’s desire for His church to be in agreement about doctrine, and to be of one mind (1 Cor.1:10; 2 Cor.13:11). It is for that reason that we so treasure the confession of Christian truth that we have in the Book of Concord. For Confessional Lutherans, there is no other collection of documents, or statements, or books that so clearly, accurately and comfortingly presents the teachings of God’s Word and reveals the Biblical Gospel as does our Book of Concord.

Together with our commitment to pure preaching and teaching must also be our commitment to reach out boldly with the Gospel to the world. That is what “confession” of the faith is all about. With that spirit of faith we believe and therefore speak. This is what it means to be an historic, orthodox, Confessional Lutheran!

Thank you, Jesus, for making us so!

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Service Times & Map

Sunday

Adult Bible Time: 9:00 AM

Children's Bible Time: 9:00 AM

Worship: 10:25 AM

Fellowship: 11:30 AM


Tuesday

Bible Break 10:00 AM and 7:00 PM


Wednesday Worship for Advent 12/7 to 12/21

6:00 PM - Light Supper

7:00 PM - Vesper Service

Trinity Orthodox Lutheran Church
4422 Snyder Boulevard
Sierra Vista, Arizona 85635
P: (520) 458-5897

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