St. Andrew’s is one of about 10,000 churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest denomination of Lutherans in the U.S. Although the term “evangelical” is often used today to refer to conservative, fundamentalist, and religiously right Christians, that does not represent the ELCA or the true meaning of the word. “Evangelical” means centered on the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The ELCA chose to use this word in its name because it expresses the heart of Lutheran theology. The heart of our faith is the good news of Jesus Christ.
During the early 1500s, German theologian Martin Luther protested the corrupt ways of the Church at that time. He argued that we could not earn salvation and our way to heaven through good works. Nor could we buy our way to heaven. Martin Luther taught that we are justified by grace, not works. When Lutherans talk about “justification,” we refer to the way in which God makes us right with God despite our own sin and self-centeredness.
It is only God who can make us right with God. Our faith, service, and good works are a response to God’s gracious love, forgiveness, and salvation. It is a pure gift we receive unconditionally and one we give thanks for every day.
Lutherans read the Bible through the lens of the gospel, the good news. It’s a message of forgiveness, freedom, new life, unconditional love, and acceptance that we receive through Jesus Christ. Martin Luther spoke of the Bible being the manger in which Jesus lies. It is the place where Jesus is revealed. The Bible is the Word of God, in that it bears witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God demonstrates unconditional love for the world through Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. That is grace: God’s unconditional love for the world.