What We Believe, Teach, and Confess
There is one, eternal, divine God who is without body or parts, and holds in himself infinite wisdom, power and goodness. He has made and continues to preserve all good things, both visible and invisible. We also believe, as revealed by Jesus Christ, there are three Persons who are God, each of equal essence and power, revealed by the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We submit to this mystery of the Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, along with all who truly bear the name Christian, not by our own reason or strength, but because this is who God has revealed himself to be.
Since the fall of Adam, all people are born tainted with a spiritual disease which the Bible calls "sin." This sin is first and foremost a lack of the fear of God, a lack of trust in God, and a tendency toward self-serving thoughts, words and deeds, which run contrary to true love for one's neighbor. Scripture teaches that this vice of origin (or, "original sin,") is truly the root of every evil we experience, and even now is the cause of all temporal death. Worse, it condemns us and will bring eternal death upon all those who are not redeemed from it. Being depraved, we by nature do not want to believe this, but instead continue in our wickedness, the greatest of which is continuing to insist that we are not wicked at all.
Jesus is God's answer to this problem of evil. Being the eternal Son of God, he condescended to take our human nature into himself, in order to buy it back. Conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit, he is a man of two natures, one Savior, both true God and true man. He was born so that he might die, which he did, by crucifixion, under the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. As an acceptable sacrifice for original sin, he became also a redemption from all actual sins. In this way, triumphing over hell, he physically rose from the dead on the third day after his death, appearing to many and preaching to them the purpose of his sacrifice. Those who were witnesses to these things expected him to become an earthly king, right then and there. But instead, he ascended to the throne of God in heaven where he reigns in total dominion over all things until the appointed time when he will return to judge both the living and the dead, to put an end to death and decay, and to usher in a new heaven and earth, where evil will never come.
Why didn't God simply send Jesus right after Adam and Eve's fall into sin? Because he wanted to save you. He called to himself special witnesses whom he had appointed before his death, and instructed them to preach everything he had ever spoken, even and especially the meaning of his crucifixion, death and resurrection. Jesus added to this the promise that by this work which he alone achieved, he accomplished a total justification of all mankind before his Father, so that without need for your own strength, efforts or deeds, for Christ's sake, you too are freely saved from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. There is nothing you must do. It is simply true. You are received into God's favor for Christ's sake. It's a promise given for no other reason than to be believed.
About the Holy Spirit
In order that you might receive this faith, Jesus promised that the preaching of his death and resurrection would carry upon its Words the miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. It is the Spirit's task through the Word, as through an instrument, to work faith in you, regenerating your dying spirit, calling, gathering and enlightening you with all Christians by the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins, as well as through the divine mysteries of Christian worship which were given by Jesus.
Regarding repentance, this means that the Christian life is one of repentance, or "awareness of sin and its wickedness." As Christ preaches absolution of sin, those who are converted grow aware of contrition, or a terror of the conscience that realizes what sin really is, and what it deserves. Like a salve upon a deep wound, the good news of Christ's satisfaction on the cross comforts the conscience, even as this awareness deepens, so that by both Law and Gospel, the Holy Spirit creates a living and active faith in each believer.
About Good Works
As a result of this faith, Christians learn the true value of good works, which is not that we use them like trophies to convince ourselves of our personal value, but instead that they are the opposite of evil, the way in which God created us to love our neighbors and seek peace, harmony and joy with each other. These works are necessary, not for our sake, but for the greatest benefit of our neighbors and communities.
As the Holy Spirit works in this way, he assembles Christians together to hear this preaching and to fellowship in this worship. This is what the ancients called "Church," as Jesus taught them to do, a gathering of those called out of the darkness of this world and into the wonderful light of his spoken Word, so that the Spirit of God might enliven their hearts and minds together by the power of the cross of Jesus. This Church exists wherever the Word of God is preached in its truth and purity. Contrary to the foul winds of our age, the imperfections of man cannot taint this perfect Word of God, but "Church" is his work among us, as the Holy Spirit, purely proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
While it is not necessary that human traditions or ceremonies be shared in common in every place, it is necessary that Jesus' traditions of Preaching, Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper be retained in their purity in every place, for without these things the Spirit is not present and we are not Church.
About Baptism and the Lord's Supper
Because Jesus created both Baptism and his Supper, his Spirit-breathed Word is to be trusted to teach us the meaning of these rituals of "worship." According to that Word, Baptism is not mere water, but a promise imparting the grace of God, for all "who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his," as it is written in Romans 6.
Because this and many other Words of Scripture teach that Baptism gives the grace of God, with the true Church in every place, we also teach that Baptism is necessary, and so children are to be baptized as well as adults, for through baptism all are offered to God to be received into his grace. Similarly, according to Jesus' Word, the Lord's Supper is not mere bread and wine, but his very body and blood as he tells us in Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20. Together with the Preaching of the Word, the faithful reception of these mysterious workings of the Spirit (or, "Sacraments") are Jesus' definition of true worship which is pleasing to his Father.
About Christ's Return
This working of the Holy Spirit to assemble sinners by the preaching of salvation and the giving of miraculous promises has continued ever since Jesus ascended, because he wanted to save more than just those who were alive when he rose from the dead. He wanted to save you too. So he ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God, to rule the nations not with a show of might, but by the still small voice of men sent to preach everything which he ever said, to wash those awakened to repentance with the miraculous power of his Name, and to feed those faithful with the comfort of his bodily presence until he comes again to take them home.
Many have died waiting for this coming, but those of us who are left do not mourn for them as the rest of the world, which has no hope. Rather, we mourn in the knowledge that Christ is risen, that all believers rest with him, and that when at last the appointed time is past and he descends to roll up this age like a scroll in order to initiate the life of the world to come, we who have been brought to faith in his Word by his Spirit will also rise, with bodies gloriously purged of every sin and stain, with hearts and minds fully freed from the powers of this age, in order that we might together be his own, and live with him in his Kingdom, serving him in everlasting goodness, innocence, and blessedness, not because of what we have done now, but because by the power of his holy, precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death, he has won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. This is most certainly true.
How Then Shall We Live?
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Studying Jesus' Word is not something that can be done hastily, at a glance, and then put aside. Each of the above topics contain enough in them that we could never stop learning them, and yet there are still more. There is the beautiful revelation of the Ten Commandments. There is the historical power of the Apostles Creed. There is the Christian life given us in the Lord's Prayer. There is the history of the Church, which like a great cloud of witnesses has much wisdom and grace to teach us. All these too are only a beginning. The purpose of St. Paul Lutheran Church as an assembly around the Word and Sacraments of Jesus is to be a place where you can constantly receive that "more."