We believe and teach
– that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only Saviour of the world,
– that Christ’s work of redemption is based on the fact that He really is true man and true God, indissolubly joined in one person;
– that Jesus up until His resurrection appeared in the form of a humble servant refraining from the full use of divine glory, which He always had;
– that God’s only-begotten Son became man like us, although without sin, in order to take our place under the requirements of the Law and suffer and die in our stead;
– that Christ’s obedience and sacrifice by virtue of His deity was a perfect atonement of our sins and the sins of the whole world;
– that Christ’s resurrection proclaims the remission of sins and the victory over death and the devil for all mankind;
– that the work of Christ is summed up in His three offices. He is
o the Prophet, the highest teacher of the Church, who through the Word and the preaching of the Gospel teaches us God’s way to salvation,
o the Priest, who once for all sacrificed Himself for us and now and for ever prays for us,
o the King, the mighty ruler over heaven and earth, who especially governs and guides His Church on earth and finally brings her into the kingdom of glory;
– that Jesus also in His human nature has ascended into heaven and is now sitting on the right hand of the Father and will return to judge the living and the dead.
All our salvation is dependent upon the basis that Christ is true God and true man. The Church may never, not for a moment, depart from the Bible's doctrine on the incarnation, that God became man for our salvation.
The divine nature of Jesus has never come into existence but has existed from eternity. His human nature on the other hand came into existence at a specific moment, namely when the Virgin Mary became pregnant through a miracle of the Holy Spirit. Mary is therefore rightly called “The Mother of God”. The doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church of the Virgin Mary’s “Immaculate Conception” and freedom from sin as a prerequisite for her to become God’s mother has no support in the Scriptures. Mary was as all other people, born with hereditary sin. However, through the special operation of the Holy Spirit at the moment of conception this sin was not transmitted to Jesus. His becoming man was immaculate and He was born entirely without sin.
The joining of Christ's two natures into one single person (unio personalis) is such that Jesus at the same time is entirely God and entirely man. This union is so deep and mutual that everything that is said about Jesus as God also could be said of Him as a man and vice versa. What belongs to the one nature belongs also to the other. When Jesus for example walks on water, orders the storm to be stilled or raises people from the dead, He does it not only as the Son of God. He does it also as a man. And when the Bible says that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”, (1 John 1:7) although the Godhead neither has body nor blood, it is the very union with the human nature in the person of Christ that makes this statement true and correct. In Christ the Godhead has body and blood. That God Himself has redeemed us through His suffering and death is a very precious consolation.
During His life upon earth Jesus up until the resurrection appears as a man in a form of humbleness. He lived in poverty and simplicity and was exposed to dishonour and sufferings and in the end to a disgraceful death. Mostly He did not show the divine power and glory that all the time was His. He used it to a limited extent. It was all along the line of the marvellous, divine plan of salvation that Jesus, the Son of God, should redeem mankind through suffering and dying for them. We could never ponder enough upon that He who was God from eternity became a weak and helpless man and become so cruelly treated. He was as a silent and patient sacrificial lamb led to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7). But in the midst of all this it is the very deity of Christ that gives His sacrificial death such range and redeeming power. It covers the sins of all men in all times. No one being only a man could shoulder the huge burden that Jesus bore on the cross. That is only possible for someone who is God.
Without atonement or satisfaction there is no salvation. The justice of God demands that the law is fulfilled and sin is punished. On the other hand God in His love wants sinners to be saved. This love of God is realised in Christ’s vicarious work, His satisfactio vicaria, which consists of His holy works and suffering obedience (active and passive obedience) in our stead – the perfect obedience in which the Son of God submits to the requirement of the Law, fulfils it for us, suffers our punishment and dies our death.
On Good Friday Christ died as a sinner in our stead. But on Easter Sunday He rose righteous in our stead. By rising Christ up from the dead God declared Him free from all the sins He had taken upon Himself on the cross. They were atoned and paid for. He therefore presents the living Christ as the perfect conqueror of sin, death, and the devil and bids the whole world to believe the remission of sins in The Risen One. It is this forgiveness that today meets us in the means of grace, where God for Christ's sake ever anew forgives and justifies sinners who turn to Him.
Because of His great sacrifice God has exalted the man Jesus above everything. The very first stage in this exaltation was the descent to hell, an event taking place before He walked out of the grave and showed Himself to the disciples. He did not go down to hell in weakness and lowliness, but as a triumphator in power and glory to proclaim His victory over all the powers of destruction (1 Pet. 3:19). His exaltation then continued in the resurrected life on earth and completed in His ascension into heaven and His sitting on the right hand of the Father. From heaven Christ is now reigning both as God and man with unlimited power and glory. From there He specially governs and protects His Church by being her great Prophet, Priest and King. These three offices of Christ, which in various ways are patterned in the Old Testament, summarise Christ's work of salvation in heaven and on earth. Of Christ's return and the Judgement Day, see the section “Of the Last Things”.
What the Holy Scriptures say
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
The angel said to Maria: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given… And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6)
All should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (John 5:23)
For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. (Col. 2:9)
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all. (1 Tim. 2:5-6)
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:5‑8)
But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Gal. 4:4-5)
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isa. 53:5)
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21)
Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
Jesus our Lord, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. (Rom. 4:25)
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus... Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:30-31)
And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! - - - But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15:17, 20)
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)
And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church. (Eph. 1:22)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
What the Lutheran Confessions say
For the right faith is, that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man of the substance of His mother, born in the world; Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood; Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead. (Creed of Athanasius, Trigl. p. 33 f.)
However, this personal union is not to be understood, as some incorrectly explain it, as though the two natures, the divine and the human, were united with one another, as two boards are glued together, so that they realiter, that is, in deed and truth, have no communion whatever with one another. For this was the error and heresy of Nestorius and Samosatenus - - -
Against this condemned heresy the Christian Church always and at all times has simply believed and held that the divine and the human nature in the person of Christ are so united that they have a true communion with one another, whereby the natures [do not meet and] are not mingled in one essence, but, as Dr. Luther writes, in one person.
Accordingly, on account of this personal union and communion, the ancient teachers of the Church, before and after the Council of Chalcedon, frequently employed the word mixtio, mixture, in a good sense and with [true] discrimination… [They] explain the personal union and communion by the illustration… of the soul and body, and of glowing iron. For the body and soul, as also fire and iron, have communion with each other… and, nevertheless, no… mixing or equalizing of the natures, is thereby introduced… God is man and man is God, yet neither the natures nor their properties are thereby intermingled, but each nature retains its essence and properties.
On account of this personal union, which cannot be thought of nor exist without such a true communion of the natures, not the mere human nature, whose property it is to suffer and die, has suffered for the sins of the world, but the Son of God Himself truly suffered, however, according to the assumed human nature, and (in accordance with our simple Christian faith) [as our Apostles’ Creed testifies] truly died, although the divine nature can neither suffer nor die. (FC SD VIII, Trigl. p. 1019 f.)
Therefore the righteousness which is imputed to faith or to the believer out of pure grace is the obedience, suffering, and resurrection of Christ, since He has made satisfaction for us to the Law, and paid for [expiated] our sins. For since Christ is not man alone, but God and man in one undivided person, He was as little subject to the Law, because He is the Lord of the Law, as He had to suffer and die as far as His person is concerned. For this reason, then, His obedience, not only in suffering and dying, but also in this, that He in our stead was voluntarily made under the Law, and fulfilled it by this obedience, is imputed to us for righteousness, so that, on account of this complete obedience, which He rendered His heavenly Father for us, by doing and suffering, in living and dying, God forgives our sins, regards us as godly and righteous, and eternally saves us. This righteousness is offered us by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel and in the Sacraments, and is applied, appropriated, and received through faith, whence believers have reconciliation with God, forgiveness of sins, the grace of God sonship, and heirship of eternal life. (FC SD III, Trigl. p. 919 f.)
We warn against
all kinds of false doctrines that contrary to the Scripture teach, for example,
– that Jesus only was an exceptionally noble and good man, who identified himself with the misery of man and took sides with the weak and oppressed against those in power;
– that Jesus came to establish a visible kingdom on earth with peace, welfare and social justice;
– that the moral-ethical valuations of Jesus, e.g., in the Sermon on the Mount, are the only essential and lasting things in His message;
– that the death of Jesus was not a death of atonement, but an ordinary death of a martyr;
– that the doctrine of the redemptive work of Christ is an invention of St. Paul or a pious construction afterwards;
– that Christ in reality never rose again from the dead, but only in the hearts of the Christians;
– that Jesus is not the only way to God.
O Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world,
Grant us thy peace. Amen