Q: In our synod we claim to hold the pure doctrine of Scripture. How can any church body composed of sinners be sure of having the correct teachings? Is it presumptuous and boastful to make such a claim?
A: Our Evangelical Lutheran Synod adopted a doctrinal statement in 1992. It contains a short paragraph: “We confess that it is possible both to know the truth of God’s Word and to profess it, and that God requires us to do both. Taking one’s stand on the Word in matters of doctrine, after diligent study of the Scriptures, is not an act of human pride but of humble submission to God’s authority.” Two of the passages listed in support are John 8:31, 32 (“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”), and also II Timothy 1:13 (“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus”).
The Berean people (Acts 17) were commended for their study of Scripture to determine if Paul’s preaching agreed with the Old Testament. We are to do the same. It is not pride but humble submission to Christ’s authority to study diligently the Old and New Testaments and then boldly confess the truth. Confessing the truth also means renouncing error as it becomes identifiable.
When we take our stand, even as Luther did, we want to make our confession in the manner of the Apostle Peter who wrote: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15).
Christians certainly are found in other denominations, and the Lutheran Church has never decreed itself to be the one Holy Christian Church on earth. But these considerations should never influence us to become complacent in re-examining Scripture daily and making the doctrinal confession Christ calls upon us to make. “I tell you, whoever will confess Me before others, him the Son of Man will confess before the angels of God,” says our Lord in Luke 12:8 [NET].
Consider this: All doctrines in God’s Word relate to the Gospel of Christ; namely, we are saved by God’s grace through faith in the forgiveness of sins won by Christ at the cross. We help others only when we consistently direct them to the Word of God in its entirety.