A BRIEF STATEMENT OF THE PRINCIPLES OF THE DOCTRINE
OF THE APOSTOLIC LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AMERICA
This, including the above title, is an exact rendering of the original, unaltered document, first published in 1989, which does not contain the errors of the present “Principles” which was published in 1996. So serious and numerous are the doctrinal errors in the latest edition, that it must be set aside in favor of the original “Principles” presented here. The following is a word for word rendition of the original. S.E.A. End comment.
There can be found no better or more direct instructions in reference to the principles and doctrine of Christ than the Bible; the Holy Word of God, as is recorded in Hebrews 6:1, and 2:
“Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God. Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of the laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”
CONVERSION AND JUSTIFICATION
An unbeliever is brought to grace through repentance and faith in the Gospel. The baptized person who has fallen from grace has the same condition of heart as an unbeliever, and can be restored to grace only by repentance and faith in the Gospel. Conversion is the work of God in sinful man who in himself is entirely helpless. This person first must be awakened by the righteous and holy Law of God: the Ten Commandments, to see the horror of sin and know that he is condemned under the curse of the Law.
This applies to a careless sinner as well as to a self-righteous person. He is under the curse of the Law and cannot find peace for his soul. Thus, this person is awakened to seek a means of reconciliation. He is now awakened from his dead condition. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1)
Now the gospel of Christ will lead him to the cross of Calvary where the pains of the new birth begin, as he beholds that he has nailed the Son of God to the cross with his sins. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” (Galatians 4:19)
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15)
“A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” (John 16:21, 22)
At the cross he will hear the cry of Jesus, “It is finished.” The righteous Law has now received all that it demanded by the suffering and death of Jesus.
We believe that the Ten Commandments, or the moral Law, has been given so that unruly men may be governed by it and punishment meted out to those that break it. We also believe that the Law convicts a person of his sins and his corrupt nature, as St. Paul states in Romans 3:20: “For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” This Law of God was given “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” (Romans 3:19) But St. Paul also states in 1 Timothy 1:9: “Knowing this, that the law is not made for the righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane,” etc. Therefore he concludes: “Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (Galatians 3:24, 25)
Now the Holy Ghost becomes the Teacher and begins to lead this person into all truth. He takes up his bed of sin and walks; that is, he makes restitution of the wrongs he has done in the past, as Jesus says: “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:21) This person has now come to the narrow road of life and the Holy Spirit is his Guide. He has entered inside the living church of Jesus, Christ being the cornerstone of that building which is not made with hands.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH
We believe in the inspired Word of God, as Peter says: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20, 21) And Paul says: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
We believe in the unity and trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7)
We believe in the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name and blood as the means of redemption and reconciliation with God, through repentance and faith, as the Bible records: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) And in Colossians 1:14: “In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Then in Hebrews 9:14: “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” And in 1 Peter 1:19: “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Also in Luke 24:47: “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” And in John 20:23: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”
The fruits of living faith will now appear. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17) This will lead a person to follow Jesus in doctrine and life and in suffering, as Jesus says: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) And St. Paul says: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)
We believe that a person asks when in need. He seeks when he wants to find and he knocks when he wants to come in, as Jesus says: “Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7, 8)
We believe in the Doctrine of Baptisms. (Hebrews 6:2)
Water baptism, which was instituted by God, is a means of grace. Even though God changed the outward token of grace from circumcision to baptism, we do not believe that He changed the Covenant. The essence of the Covenant that God made with Abraham of old was this: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.” (Genesis 17:7)
This Covenant, being everlasting, remains the same even though God Who ended the Old Testament and began the New, in place of circumcision, instituted baptism, and in the place of the Passover Lamb instituted the Lord’s Supper. Thus the same wording is needed: “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (Hebrews 8:10; Ezekiel 37:27)
The requirement of the Old Covenant commanded those who were circumcised to keep, or fulfill, the Law of God. This they were unable to do, “because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” (Hebrews 8:9)
The New Covenant also has its own requirements, for the Lord says: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16) Thus, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6) no matter what else we may do.
We believe that infants have capacity for faith, for it is God who instills faith in the heart. God-given faith is not a faith of the mind but of the heart. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” (Romans 10:10) They who insist that an infant’s mind is not sufficiently developed to believe, ignore the Words of our Saviour Who said: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe on Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:3-6)
If Jesus, the All-Knowing, says they believe on Him, who are we to argue against Him? We believe that Jesus meant infants also, for in Luke 18:15, 16, we read: “And they brought unto Him also infants that He should touch them: but when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”
We believe that God has not instituted a single sacrament for unbelievers, neither has He made a covenant with them. His sacraments and covenants are for believers only. The argument that He made His covenants with adults only does not prove that children were to be excluded, for it is written: “and to thy seed after thee.” (Genesis 17:7) “Therefore infants, at the age of eight days were circumcised.” (Genesis 17:12)
Of the Holy Spirit
We believe in the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire, as John the Baptist witnesses of Jesus, saying: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” (Matthew 3:11)
We believe that Jesus refers to this Baptism as He said: “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” (Luke 12:49) We believe that St. Paul also refers to the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire, as he writes: “And hope maketh not shamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5) Likewise St. John writes: “and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him.” (1 John 5:1)
We believe that this divine love binds the children of God together by the Holy Spirit which is in them. This “is the bond of perfectness,” (Col. 3:14) and that all who are born of the Holy Spirit are the children of God. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8:16)
The Baptism of Blood
We believe this to be the Baptism that Jesus refers to as He states: “But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.” (Luke 12:50) And again: “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? (Matt. 20:22)
We believe that those persons who are following Jesus “in the way of regeneration” (Matthew 19:28) are not regenerated until they have experienced this which Jesus states: “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with…” (Matthew 20:23)
Men who have sinned must taste the bitterness of their sin and the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus in order
that they be regenerated. Then they have drunk of the cup that Jesus drank of and are baptized with His baptism. They then have experienced “godly sorrow which worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) And “the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24) occurs in the spoken words of the forgiveness of sins in the Name of Jesus and His atoning blood.
THE LAYING ON OF HANDS
We believe in the laying on of hands as Ananias did to Paul (Acts 9:12): “And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.”
And as Peter and John did to the Samaritans, (Acts 8:17): “Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.”
As Paul did to the disciples at Ephesus, (Acts 19:6): “And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”
And as Christ did to the children. Laying on of hands belongs to the principles of the doctrine of Christ.
We also believe that if a Christian falls into sin after he has been blessed with the forgiveness of sins, receiving peace and joy in his heart, the Holy Spirit will guide him, and urge him to put away that sin and ask for the forgiveness of his sin, that the gospel of forgiveness will be extended to him in Jesus’ Name and blood. Thus he regains the peace of heart and soul. But if this person continues in sin and does not obey the guidance of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will flee from him. “And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh:” (Genesis 6:3) Then he falls again under the condemnation of the Law.
THE DOCTRINE OF CONFESSION
We believe as stated in the Small Catechism that we should confess before God that we are guilty of all kinds of sins, even of those which we do not know. But to the confessor we should confess those sins which we know and feel in our heart, and which burden our consciences. The confession of sins to a trusted Christian brother (confessor) is a good gift of God and a privilege which every Christian should use according to his needs and the demands of his conscience.
Confession should never be taught in an exacting spirit, as if it were a command; neither should it be taught as a condition for salvation, for the only condition for salvation is Scriptural faith in Jesus. Jesus says: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” (John 6:48)
If a believer is burdened in his conscience with some sins which he has committed and which he has never confessed to anybody except God, and these sins are a hindrance to his faith and he feels an inner need and urge to confess them to a trusted Christian brother, this is the voice of the Holy Spirit to which he should be obedient. Confession of sins to a confessor is no meritorious work and the believer is not justified by that, for he is already righteous in Christ. He confesses his sins in order to restore peace of conscience through absolution, and in order that he may be able to appropriate the Gospel, he is not to think that only those sins which he confessed are forgiven, (for absolution means that all his sins are forgiven, even the sins which he does not know).
If such sins which he already has confessed and which are forgiven, again begin to trouble him, or if doubt assails him as to whether his sins were truly forgiven through the absolution, then that voice is his own corruption and the voice of the devil, which he should reject. He should remember the promise of Christ that his sins which are forgiven by a Christian brother on earth are truly forgiven before God in heaven.
“DEEPENING” IN FAITH, “CIRCUMCISION OF HEART”
Every Christian admits and knows that he has not as yet reached perfection in faith and the knowledge of Christ, or in righteousness, peace, joy, or in sanctification. Therefore, every Christian continues to pray that God will increase in him the grace and light of the Holy Spirit in order that he may know Christ and His redemptive sacrifice better and also grow in love and in the fruits of faith.
“That I may know Him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10, 12)
Such a deepening and growth do not justify a Christian, for through faith he is already justified before God through Christ and His merits, and is wholly His own without spot or blemish. But he wants to grow in the knowledge of this redemption and justification through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. This growth and deepening do not, however, mean that the Christian himself feels that he is becoming better and better, but only that he realizes more and more his sinfulness, and at the same time, wholly relies on the grace of God in Christ. Thus he himself decreases, but Christ increases in him.
All this is not an achievement of his own but the work and gift of God, as the Apostle says: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work, for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12, 13)
This is what the Apostle means when he says: “Let us go on to perfection.” We are to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ alone. We are not to change them, to add or to detract from them. Therefore we are warned in Revelation 22:18, 19: “If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
If the repentance or conversion of a person has been only an “outward repentance,” that is, if he has confessed his sinfulness and accepted forgiveness, without any real change of heart or comprehension of the redemptive work of Christ within his heart, it is necessary that he experience a real awakening of his conscience and that he comes to know in a personal way, in his heart, the redemptive grace and pardon of God, which is “the circumcision of the heart in the Spirit.”
All Christians have received the Holy Spirit to dwell in their hearts when they were converted, and born again, and have become believers. But not all Christians are “filled with the Spirit” in the same measure; that is, not all are fully controlled by the Spirit. A Christian who once was “fervent in Spirit” may grow cold in his faith and spiritual life, losing the living knowledge of Christ and the power to bear witness for Him. Such may and should pray for a new blessing or “filling” of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), in order that he may grasp, in a living way, the significance of the redemptive grace of God and the forgiveness of sins, in Jesus’ Name and blood, that he may be able to live for Christ with his whole heart and be His witness. It is not the will of God that any of His children should be lukewarm. (Revelation 3:16)
The Apostolic Lutheran Christians, in general, yearn and pray for “new showers of blessings” from God, a new pouring out of His Spirit, a “latter rain.” They crave for this in order that they may be refreshed and quickened in their faith and be endued with power from on high. This “latter rain” is also prayed for in order that the children of Christian parents and other unbelievers would again, in multitudes, be awakened, both at home and in foreign lands, and return from the ways of the world to the kingdom of God.