It is written, But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Gal. 1:8,9. Paul included himself in this, putting himself and his fellow helpers under the curse if they should preach anything different from that which they preached at the first. We also desire to remain in and retain that truth which we received at the first when we heard and received the truth of the gospel in power and were set free from sin and death, keeping the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end, as it is written, Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" Heb 3:12-14. We do not consider departing from God only to be living after the flesh, but most importantly, and most pertinent to this matter, we consider departing from God to be adding one work to faith for justification. The root of bitterness spoken of in Hebrews is referenced in Deuteronomy 29:18 where the children of Israel are warned against a root that beareth gall and wormwood in leaving off the true worship of God and practicing a religion which is not of God, though it may seem ever so right to man: Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood. To swerve at all away from justification by faith alone is to turn away from God. May God preserve us from such calamity.
Sadly, our accusers not only reject the concept of doctrine as being important, but in their ignorance oppose right doctrine with their wrong doctrine, oblivious to the fact that they are insisting upon doctrine as much as we. We simply admit that it is so, and that right doctrine is absolutely essential, for it is written, Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. 1 Tim. 4:16. Martin Luther speaks very clearly of the supreme importance of maintaining right doctrine. He writes concerning a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump in his 1535 Commentary on Galatians (5:9), "Hence this passage must also be considered carefully in opposition to the argument by which they accuse us of offending against love and thus doing great harm to the churches. We are surely prepared to observe peace and love with all men, provided that they leave the doctrine of faith perfect and sound for us. If we cannot obtain this, it is useless for them to demand love from us. A curse on a love that is observed at the expense of the doctrine of faith, to which everything must yield - love, an apostle, an angel from heaven, etc.! Therefore when they minimize this issue in such a dishonest way, they give ample evidence of how highly they regard the majesty of the Word. If they believed that it is the Word of God, they would not play around with it this way. No, they would treat it with the utmost respect; they would put their faith in it without any disputing or doubting; and they would know that one Word of God is all and that all are one, that one doctrine is all doctrines and all are one, so that when one is lost all are eventually lost, because they belong together and are held together by a common bond." So writes our beloved elder, Luther.
Our accusers being unable, either orally or in writing, in any meeting or debate, to define or prove according to Scripture or the Lutheran Confessions any wrong doctrine on our part, but only hurling one false accusation after another, we have no specific charge to address but will here take up the issues most commonly debated and will set forth in brief our argument and confession of faith. We desire to do all things in the light, and are ready to speak openly and plainly and to be judged by all, as it is written, Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Jn. 18:20.
We have always, unlike our accusers, held the Lutheran Confessions to be authoritative concerning the meaning of Scripture with regard to doctrine, for we not only agree in heart with the Confessions, but acknowledge that our elders, in the original Constitution and By-Laws, set them forth as the doctrines of the Apostolic Lutheran Church, stating that they are according to Scripture. These elders stated specifically that they desired no schism between this church and the Zion in Finland, and therefore named the Lutheran Confessions as the doctrines of this church. We thank God that we have been preserved by His grace in this truth and have not suffered that schism against which our elders warned. Contrariwise, our accusers find the teaching of these doctrines so odious that they moved to silence them, and finally succeeded in removing from preaching those ministers who in honesty uphold and teach them.
Original Sin. We hold to Article II of the Augsburg Confession which states:
"Also they teach, that since the Fall of Adam, all men begotten according to nature, are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through baptism and the Holy Ghost.
"They condemn the Pelagians and others, who deny that the vice of origin is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ's merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason."
We hold and confess this Article to be true in its plainest sense without adding anything thereto or taking anything therefrom. We acknowledge it to be according to Scripture, as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Rom. 3:10-12. We understand the word "none" to mean that no descendant of Adam, save Christ, is excepted. And, Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Rom. 3:19. We take the words "every" and "all" in their plainest sense to mean each and every descendant of Adam, save Christ. This judgment does not change with age, but is directed against the corrupt seed of Adam, for Christ said, That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. John 3:6-7. We reject the error that not all must be born again.
Justification by Faith. We hold to Article III of the Augsburg Confession which states:
"Also they teach, that men cannot be Justified before God by their own strength, merits or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, hath made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in his sight. Rom. 3 and 4."
We hold and confess this Article to be true in its plainest sense without adding anything thereto or taking anything therefrom. We acknowledge it to be according to Scripture, as it is written, But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Rom. 3:21-26. And, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Eph. 2:8,9. We acknowledge faith alone to be essential for forgiveness of sins and justification, and understand "works" to mean anything and everything which is not of faith. Neither does this mean that works done in faith do justify. We believe that we are forgiven and justified when in the heart we receive, through the gospel, the confidence of faith that God forgives all of our sins and receives us into His favor just as we are, based solely upon the merits of Christ, and for His sake alone.
We reject the error that man, by Confession and Absolution, can put away the guilt of his sin, for this is the chief office of Christ Who has by His own suffering, death and resurrection put away sin, once for all. It is written, Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Heb. 9:25-28. To teach that man can put away sin is to overthrow the gospel, for it was this very gospel which Nathan preached to David in his bloodguiltiness, And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. II Sam. 12:14.
We hold Confession and Absolution not as essential for salvation, justification, or the forgiveness of sins, but as a means of grace whereby the penitent sinner is assured by the preached gospel that they are even now forgiven of all sins solely for the sake of Christ and His merits. We reject the error that each sin must be enumerated in confession before it is forgiven. We therefore, considering the hideous selfrighteous nature of man which will always seek to put at least his little finger to work for righteousness, would, in preaching, urge and insist only upon faith in the Gospel, and not Confession and Absolution, for assurance of forgiveness of sins and justification before God. The awakened sinner must not be pointed to his confession in considering whether his sin has been put away, but must rather be pointed to the cross where Christ has truly and eternally put away our sin, once for all.
How faith is received. We hold to Article V of the Augsburg Confession which states:
"That we may obtain this faith, the Office of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who worketh faith where and when it pleaseth God in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justified those who believe that they are received into favor for Christ's sake.
"They condemn the Anabaptists and others, who think that the Holy Ghost cometh to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works."
We hold and confess this Article to be true in its plainest sense without adding anything thereto or taking anything therefrom. We acknowledge it to be according to Scripture, as it is written, How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom. 10:14-17. And, This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Gal. 3:2.
We reject the error that any person, regardless of age, can have faith or be justified before God where the word of God is not orally preached and the sacraments not physically administered, for here alone is found the Christian Church wherein God works through the word and Spirit. We reject the heresy of Universalism which teaches that all children everywhere have faith, or are saved, or are in some other way in favor with God, even where the word and sacraments are absent. We must remain within the revealed word and let any questions which human reason might raise be left to the wisdom of God.
Baptism. We hold to Article IV of the Augsburg Confession which states:
"Of Baptism, they teach, that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God; and that children are to be baptized, who, being offered to God through Baptism, are received into His grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who allow not the Baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism."
We hold and confess this Article to be true in its plainest sense without adding anything thereto or taking anything therefrom. Christ has commanded both preaching and baptism in saving sinful man, and we as servants must not say that either is not necessary for salvation, but ought rather to with joy and confidence go forth both preaching the gospel and administering baptism. We reject the error that where Scripture speaks of baptism it can be taken in a strictly spiritual sense, but, where it is not clearly otherwise stated, we take it in its plainest sense to refer to the sacrament of Holy Baptism which is commanded by Christ, Who has also connected to it the promise of salvation. We acknowledge this Article to be according to Scripture, as it is written, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matt. 28:19, 20. And, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16. We believe that because we baptize in the name of the Triune God, that He is truly present, and, since He cannot be idle, is truly working, even as it is written, For the word of God is quick [alive], and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Heb. 4:12. We further believe and confess that when Jesus said He would be with us always that He will be with us when we in simple obedience to His command administer the sacrament of Holy Baptism. And where Christ is, there is also life and salvation.
We further confess solidarity with Luther's Small Catechism which states:
We believe that in baptism Christ gives Himself to the sinner, and receives the sinner unto Himself, and that by virtue of the gospel there preached the water is red with the blood of Christ (Rom. 6:3). We reject the error that baptism has no working power, but that it is only a sign, symbol or act of obedience. We affirm that baptism is not effective opus operatum (by virtue of the work wrought), but that faith must be present to receive the promise, and we affirm also, by virtue of Christ's own words, that infants have faith (Mt. 18:6). We do not teach that infants who die without baptism are lost, but trust that God, who promises to be the God of our children, does keep His word and receive them. All objections raised by human reason against this simple catechismal teaching are thrown down by faith, and we leave all unanswered questions to the wisdom of God.
Other matters which were under debate are answered in the Formula of Concord. We are falsely accused of teaching limited atonement. We believe and teach otherwise and reject that accusation out of hand, for even a cursory review of discussions, writings and sermons show that not only do we not so believe, but that we teach otherwise, namely, that Christ took upon Himself the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). The benefit of this Sacrifice, however, is not received by or efficacious to everyone, but only to those who by grace receive the gift of faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), and Christ dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17).
Concerning Election and Predestination we again defer to the Formula of Concord. We believe this doctrine to be a necessary doctrine of the Christian Church, as it is plainly written throughout all Scripture, and is furthermore a salutary doctrine and comfort to the believer.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. Rom. 8:29,30. We believe and teach in solidarity with the Formula of Concord that here God's foreknowledge pertains not to our future works or choices, as though it were written "for what He did foreknow", but rather that it pertains to His elect whom He in love foreknew before the world was, and did predestinate to be made partakers of Christ. We also believe and teach in solidarity with the Formula of Concord that Predestination pertains only to God's elect whom He has chosen and appointed unto salvation, and is not rightly understood to mean only that God did predestinate a means of salvation, or did predestinate that man would by some means be saved. We reject the error that there is a predestination unto damnation, for predestination is only unto life. Man is by nature a child of wrath and is already under judgment of condemnation, and all who are lost perish justly for their own sin. The paradox that man is responsible, but is absolutely without any strength or ability in the matter of his salvation, we leave to the wisdom of God. We believe and teach that God calls all people to repentance by the gospel, and that all who ask shall receive, all who seek shall find, and to all who knock it shall be opened (Mt. 7:7). We believe and teach that this asking, seeking and knocking is the work of God in man, for it is written, The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:1, and, For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Php. 2:13, and, And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. Jn. 6:65. We believe and teach that it is the condemned and needy sinners who come to Christ, for They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. Mt. 9:12. We are comforted that Jesus receives sinners, and that: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Jn. 6:37. Therefore we can know that when we see our need of a Savior that we are indeed being drawn to Christ, and that God will surely fulfill His purpose, complete His work, and place us into the loving and compassionate arms of the Savior.
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. 1 Peter 1:2. We believe and teach in solidarity with the Formula of Concord that the elect are properly understood as those individual persons whom God, from the mass of fallen humanity, has in grace chosen and appointed unto salvation. We believe and teach that this election is based solely and completely upon the gracious will of God alone, For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. Rom. 9:15,16. We affirm that there is absolutely no cause in man by which God would take note of and choose him unto salvation, but rather that it is by pure grace and mercy that God is mindful of and saves us.
We further believe and teach in solidarity with the Formula of Concord that God uses means in order to reach and save His elect. These include the preaching of the word of God and administration of the sacraments, through which God works by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of His elect in order to bring them to awakening, conversion, new birth, faith, to bear fruits of faith, and to preserve them. We defer to the Book of Concord to show more fully how the doctrine of Election and Predestination is taught unto edification.
We reject the error that man has a free will, for this is contrary to Articles II and XVIII of the Augsburg Confession.
We again affirm our solidarity with Luther's Catechism as it explains the Third Article of the Apostle's Creed:
"I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
"What is meant by this? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He daily and richly forgives me and all believers all our sins; and at the Last Day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give me and all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true."
We hold and confess this Article and meaning to be true in their plainest sense without adding anything thereto or taking anything therefrom. We believe that we did not go to God, but that He came unto us; that we did not choose God, but that He chose us; that we did not love God, but that He first loved us. We acknowledge that we give God cause every day to cast us off, but that He, for the sake of Christ and His merits, instead forgives us and shows us Fatherly favor, mercy and compassion, and pities us in our sins. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Cor 4:7. We affirm that those who live after the flesh wantonly and without repentance in open sin have neither faith nor the Holy Ghost, and can be restored again by repentance and faith in the gospel.
We further confess that we cannot of ourselves keep our own selves in faith, love or good works, but are completely dependent upon God to work these in us by the word and Spirit. It is written, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.1 Peter 1:5. And, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. Jn. 15:16. We acknowledge that it is by Christ's choosing and ordination that we become His and bear any fruit, and that our fruit remains. Again it is written, I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. Jn. 17:9. And, And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. Jn. 17:11. And again, I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. Jn. 17:15-17. We, by the grace of God, believe that God hears this High Priestly prayer of our Lord, and that these His words, heart and gracious intentions belong even unto us. Therefore we as sinners confess Christ as our Lord Who even now reigns in Zion over all of our sins, doubts, weaknesses, failings and fears, and subdues all our enemies under His feet. We have heard His own voice in our hearts by which grace and forgiveness opened unto us, causing the love of God to be shed abroad into every corner and crevasse. We depend upon the enabling grace of God to keep this faith and confidence unto the end, for Jesus said, I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. Jn. 15:5. And, "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:51. We rejoice in the New Covenant which is sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ and wherein this reigning power of triumphal grace is brought unto us, and wherein we are sealed by the Holy Spirit.
We strive to keep the article of Justification separate from the article of Sanctification, for it is a trick of the devil to cause us to look to our behavior and religion for confidence that we are in God's favor, when for justification we must look to no other place than the cross of Christ where we can believe with all confidence that the guilt of sin has been removed and the wrath of God pacified. We believe and teach that living faith will bear fruit, and that God's children serve righteousness with a willing heart, sorrowing over the sin which remains in their flesh. We do not believe that a person can persist unrepentant in sin and claim to be in a saved condition, but rather we hear St. Paul, For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. Titus 2:11,12. We believe and teach that the flesh and Spirit are at constant enmity and that we walk in daily contrition and repentance. We acknowledge that the word repentance is not synonymous with confession, but refers to a condition of heart, and that confession refers to an open admission either to God from the heart or to another person by mouth.
We rejoice in the promise of God to His people, Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. Jer. 32: 37-41. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!
To this end we ask God for His grace.
Approved, Grace Apostolic Lutheran Church, May 7, 2012.