Lutheran beliefs on how to get to heaven, or achieve salvation, are a product of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. According to Martin Luther (1483-1546) salvation came by the grace of God alone, from faith through understanding of the Bible and as a result of a personal search for salvation through Jesus. One of the great controversies about eternal life is whether the individual can influence their own salvation, or if the matter is entirely in God's hands.
Gospel of Jesus
Lutherans believe a person must have faith in Jesus in order to have eternal life in heaven. In order to have faith, and to understand Jesus and God, contemplation of the Bible is necessary for all believers. A central theme of Lutheranism is “justification,“ which means a person's salvation is justified by Jesus' sacrifice and forgiveness of sins. Lutherans view the Bible as the Word of God, and the Gospel of Jesus as the source of salvation.
The means of grace for Lutherans are the Gospel and the two sacraments handed down through Jesus. These two sacraments in Lutheranism are baptism and communion, or Eucharist. Lutherans are assured of their forgiveness of sins during baptism and communion. Participation in these two sacraments is the way that the faithful receive the Holy Spirit in order to achieve salvation.
John Calvin (1509-1564) greatly influenced Protestantism. In terms of salvation, Calvin advocated predestination. To Calvinists, humans cannot earn salvation through their own actions. God is the sole grantor of eternal life in heaven to a predestined few. Like Calvinists, Lutherans also believe that a person cannot earn salvation on their own merits, but it is granted by God alone through personal faith in Jesus. However, Lutherans differ from Calvinists on one issue. Rather than a predestined few, Lutherans advocate that God’s grace is open to all.
The Lutheran concept of salvation diverges from Calvinism over a differing of belief in God’s grace. Lutherans have adopted the term "grace alone." Through Jesus and scripture, God has provided humans with a path to salvation. The crucifixion of Jesus redeemed people of their sins, and through this redemption and God’s grace, salvation can be realized by faith. To Calvinists, grace is given by God alone apart from human faith.
- Public Broadcasting Service: People & Ideas: The Protestant Reformation
- Lutherans.com: What Lutherans Believe
- Project Wittenberg: Gospel and Scripture The Interrelationship of the Material and Formal Principles in Lutheran Theology
- Peace With Christ Lutheran Church: The Sacraments
- Our Redeemer Lutheran Church: Calvinistic Theology
- Our Redeemer Lutheran Church: Facts About Lutheranism
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: What Do Lutherans Believe?
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