Read: Mark 8:27-29 & Matthew 16:13-18.
“Jesus is Lord,” is one of earliest creedal statements of the church (Philippians 2:11). It is a seemingly simple answer to Jesus’ question about who He is, but when its full freight is unpacked, it becomes the starting point for all true theology, the central gathering point for true believers, and the dividing line between truth and error. We believe, therefore we speak (2 Corinthians 4:13).
Many people would like to imagine a world where doctrines and differences don’t matter. People often say things like, “I believe in deeds, not creeds.” Although this sounds pious, there has never been such a Christianity. Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” does not allow it. It is a question that all people must give an answer to. There is no church that does not confess its beliefs. Even those churches which claim that they do not subscribe to a formal confession of faith still give a concrete expression to their beliefs in the words and actions that they use in their worship services.
A confession of faith is either drawn from the truth of the Scriptures or is based on a faulty understanding of the Scriptures. While most Christian churches claim to be “Bible-based,” their confession and worship may prove otherwise. The answer to Jesus’ question is only found in the Bible and revealed by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). When St. Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he was not merely giving a human opinion or interpretation. Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17-18).
By subscribing to and confessing the Creeds, Lutherans do not confess another authority outside of, and equal to, the Scriptures. Kurt Marquart writes:
If Holy Scripture is the inexhaustible gold mine of divine truth, the creeds and confessions of the church are the minted coin of evangelical currency…. Orthodox creeds and confessions are truth preserving, and therefore divide as well as unite. By identifying decisive elements of the biblical teaching, such creeds call and gather the faithful to the standards of authentic proclamation. On the other hand, by pinpointing the differences, the creeds distinguish true biblical teaching from counterfeits and misunderstandings, thereby warding off rival, heterodox teachings, and excluding their persistent adherents. Creeds and confessions therefore embody the church’s marks in concrete, concentrated form. (Marquart, The Church, p.72)
Martin Luther answers the question about who Jesus is in his explanation to the second article of the Apostle’s Creed, where he writes:
I believe that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary; and that He is my Lord, Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death; in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness; even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Hermann Sasse writes, “This explanation is nothing less than a clear, unrefuted, and irrefutable interpretation of the Holy Bible, a classic answer to the question of Jesus Christ, ‘Who am I?’” (Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors, Vol. 1, p.28-29).
The Lutheran Church is a confessional church. In subscribing to the three ecumenical creeds and the Book of Concord, the Lutheran Church demonstrates that it has never been interested in forming its own sect of Christianity. This confessional subscription demonstrates that Lutherans seek to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The true Church gathers around Scripture (John 8:31-32), but also around Scripture rightly understood. The creeds give expression to the true understanding of Scripture. The Lutheran Church holds its teachers and members to the ecumenical creeds and the Book of Concord because they are true expressions of the faith handed down by the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus said, “[W]hoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32). Lord keep us steadfast in Thy word and confession of the truth!
Rev. Trent Saari
Lakewood Lutheran Church
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church