What is the Lutheran Church?
Our Church and it’s teaching
Prince of Peace is a part of the Lutheran denomination – the Lutheran Church of Australia.
Lutherans make no claim to being the only Christian Church. In fact we believe there is only ONE Christian church which is an invisible church of all believers – both from within and beyond the Lutheran Church.
The Lutheran Church began when Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk, disagreed with some of the teaching and practices of the Catholic Church in the 1500’s. Luther had no desire to start a new church. He simply wanted to reform the church of the time by calling it back to the teachings of the Bible. When he was expelled from the Roman Catholic Church, his opponents gave his followers the nickname ‘Lutheran’, much as Christ’s followers were called ‘Christians’ by their opponents.
The Lutheran Church is a mainline Christian denomination, and shares central biblical truths with other Christian churches. Along with other mainline churches of all times;
- We confess the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed.
- We believe in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- We believe Jesus Christ is both truly God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and truly human, born of the Virgin Mary.
- We hold the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the authoritative source for our teaching and practice.
- Along with other Protestant churches we teach that people are put right with God by God’s undeserved love on account of Jesus’ death and resurrection and that this right relationship is received by people through faith. ‘Grace alone’, ‘Christ alone’, ‘Faith alone’, ‘Scripture alone’ is a simple summary of Protestant teaching in this area.
Here are some of the more distinctive of Martin Luther’s teachings.
- Sinner/Saint. We believe that Christians are totally right with God because of Jesus Christ and at the same time are always less than perfect because of sin. God’s action is always grace (undeserved love) and God’s action is always central, not my action. See Romans 7:14-25
- The centrality of baptism. For Lutherans baptism is not merely a rite or ceremony involving a person’s declaration of faith. It is God’s action performed in the community of the church to claim a life under grace. Baptism is the complete gift and we spend our lives unpacking its meaning. See Romans 6:3-11.
- The universal priesthood of all believers. Baptism fits us for the ‘office’ of universal priesthood of all believers. There is no privileged class in Christianity: all have equal access to God’s grace and God is present in all. The key marks of this priesthood are forgiveness of others as God has forgiven us, loving service of others as Christ has served us, and intercession, in which we take the concerns of each other to God in prayer. See 1 Peter 2:9-10 and ‘one another’ verses.
- Vocation. God’s call is acted out in all occupations and stations in life. Success by earthly standards is not a criterion for judging faithfulness to that call. See 1 Corinthians 7:17-24.
- The limits to human reason in spiritual matters. We do not reason our way into faith. Reason is a tool in the service of faith, not its master. Within these limits, reason remains nevertheless a glorious gift, because by using it we are able to discover and interpret revelation. Rom 11:33-36.
- The two natures of Christ. In Jesus Christ God took human form. Jesus always remains both truly God and truly human. This frees us from searching for God elsewhere, and it means that God is truly present in Holy Communion, Baptism, the Scriptures, and the Christian community. See 1 Corinthians 10:16-17.
- The theology of the cross. The central event in Jesus’ ministry was not his teaching or miracles, but his death on the cross. There he displayed his obedience to God and put our disobedience to death. His glory and holiness were hidden in his suffering and death. We are called to a similar obedience that may draw us into suffering and in which also our life with God may be hidden. See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
- Resurrection life. The resurrection of Jesus is not only the guarantee that those who believe in him will be raised to eternal life after this present life. It is also the source of power for the Christian’s everyday life. In baptism we have been buried with Christ and raised with Christ. See 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Romans 6:3-11.
- The distinction between Law and Gospel. The Law is what God requires people to do for God. The Gospel is what God does for people. Lutherans are careful not to confuse the two, and to keep the emphasis always on the Gospel, which alone gives freedom and life. See Romans 8:1-11.
- The Protestant Principle. ‘The Church is always in the process of being reformed.’ No institution or system or doctrine is ever perfect. All need to be continually evaluated and reassessed.
The Lutheran Church of Australia
Our church family is part of a larger group of Lutheran churches in Australia known as the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). Each of the member congregations of the LCA has agreed to band together into a church body called a ‘synod’ for the purpose of mutual support and to work together on projects that are too large for a single church to do by itself. While each of the individual churches is an autonomous body responsible for its own program, we also agree to work together. For example, our own church family and especially our worship centre are the result of cooperation with other Lutheran churches in Australia. We also work together in mission ventures, in providing teaching institutions for the training of pastors and other church workers, in preparing materials for use in local congregations plus many other tasks. Clearly there are many benefits in being involved in the larger body, not the least of which is being part of a wider family which is joined together by common beliefs. While there are different ways in which individual churches operate and practise their faith, there is an underlying unity in this diversity which lends strength to the ministry of each local church.
- Martin Luther lived in the area that is now Germany, and the first adherents of Lutheranism were German. From Germany, Lutheranism spread quickly to Scandinavia and other countries around the Baltic Sea. From Europe it was taken to the USA and around the world.
- The first Lutheran settlers came to Australia in 1838 and made their home in Klemzig, now a north-eastern suburb of Adelaide. From there they settled in the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley. Later groups settled in the Western districts of Victoria, the Riverina area of New South Wales, and the Darling Downs in Queensland. Lutheran churches have been very active in mission work in places like Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and Africa.
- World-wide, Lutheranism makes up the largest Protestant denomination, with about 70 million adherents. Over 10 million live in the USA. The membership of the Lutheran Church of Australia is about 100,000.
- Many Lutheran churches around the world have formed a confederation called Lutheran World Federation. These churches and other Lutheran churches cooperate in world-wide humanitarian aid through the Lutheran World Service. The Lutheran Church of Australia has associate membership in LWF and contributes to LWS.