Saturday, June 15, 2024, 2:16 AM
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Course: University ( University)
Glossary: Defining Religion


The pronouncement of God's forgiveness. The absolution is spoken by the pastor after the confession of sins in our worship services. Every Christian, however, has the privilege and duty to announce God's forgiveness to penitent sinners.

Advent wreath

The origins of the Advent wreath reach back to pre-Christian times in Northern Europe. As the winter solstice approached, people placed candles on evergreen wreaths in anticipation of the return of longer daylight hours. Christians adapted this custom to the Advent season and the anticipation of the celebration of Christmas. By the dawn of the Reformation the Advent wreath as we know it today was in use.

Advent wreaths are formed from the branches of various types of evergreens. The evergreen branches symbolize eternal life. Four candles adorn the wreath. Three purple or blue candles representing hope, peace, and love are lit on the first, second, and fourth Sundays, respectively, of Advent. On the third Sunday the rose candle, symbolizing joy, is lit. Some Advent wreaths have a fifth candle in the middle. This white candle, representing the birth of Jesus and the announcement of the angels, is lit on Christmas Day. The lighting of each candle expresses the longing, joy, and thankfulness of God’s people as we commemorate our Savior’s first coming and our anticipation of his second coming to judge the world and to take us to heaven.


A person who claims that we cannot know whether there is a God or not. An agnostic ignores the natural knowledge of God that we have in nature (Romans 1:19-20) and our conscience (Romans 1:32; 2:14-15).


A Hebrew word which means firm, established, reliable; as an adverb it means surely, certainly, assuredly, or truly; at the end of a prayer it is a statement of faith and confidence -- yes, it shall be so.


A spirit being created by God some time during the week of creation (Exodus 20:11). Angels praise God (Isaiah 6:2-3), deliver his messages (Luke 1:28-38, 2:8-14), and serve him by helping and protecting his people (Daniel 6:22, Acts 5:18-20, Psalm 91:11-12). They are numerous (2 Kings 6:16-17, Matthew 26:53) and powerful (Psalm 103:20, Genesis 19:10-11).


The false view that the law has no place or role in the life of the Christian. This view has appeared from time to time in the history of the Christian Church. The Antinomian controversy in the Lutheran Church was settled by the fifth and sixth articles of the Formula of Concord.


The books written before Christ was born which were excluded from the Hebrew canon. The Roman Catholic Church has accepted them as books of the Bible, but Lutherans and Protestants have not. The term is also sometimes used for certain books excluded from the New Testament canon.


The use of logical arguments and evidence in defense of Christian truth against the attacks of unbelievers. However, human argumentation can never bring anyone to faith. The gospel alone is God's power for salvation (Romans 1:16; 10:17).

Apology to Augsburg Confession

The defense of the Augsburg Confession written by Philip Melanchthon and published in 1531. The Apology serves as the Lutheran response to the Catholic claim that the Augsburg Confession had been refuted by the Catholic theologians. It also serves as an explanation of the biblical truths proclaimed in the Augsburg Confession.


One who has been sent out with a message or commission to speak with authority. At times the Bible uses the term in a broad sense to include prominent Christian teachers (Romans 16:7). In common use the term refers to the 12 who were commissioned by Christ after his resurrection as his special witnesses.

Apostles' Creed

A statement of the basic beliefs of Christianity. Trinitarian in nature, this creed developed in the early church as a baptismal creed and reached its present form about the seventh century. There is no historical evidence to support the tradition that it was composed by the 12 apostles with each contributing an article. We commonly recite the Apostles' Creed in non-communion services.


An ancient heresy named after Arius, the fourth-century priest who promoted it. Arianism denies the full divinity and eternity of God the Son, claiming that the Son had a beginning and is subordinate to the Father. The Jehovah's Witnesses teach a similar error today. The Nicene Creed was formulated in response to this heresy.

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent occurring forty days before Easter (excluding Sundays). It received its name from the ancient custom of Christians putting ashes (from the previous year's Palm Sunday palms) on their foreheads as a sign of penitence.

Athanasian Creed

A statement of Christian teaching concerning the Trinity and the person of Christ. This creed was probably written in the early sixth century in Gaul by an unknown author. An early tradition falsely ascribes it to Athanasius, the fourth-century defender of the deity of Christ. It is often recited on Trinity Sunday.


A person who believes that there is no God. The Bible calls such a person a fool (Psalm 14:1, Psalm 53:1).

Augsburg Confession

The statement of Lutheran beliefs written by Philip Melanchthon and delivered by the Lutheran princes to emperor Charles V at the Diet of Augsburg on June 25, 1530. The reading of this confession marked the birth of the Lutheran Church. Its teachings remain authoritative for Lutherans today because the confession is a correct exposition of scriptural truth.


to have a moral lapse, to turn away from previously held religious beliefs and practice, to turn from the truth, or to fall from faith

Baptism: Institution

The instituiton of Baptism is the establishment of this act of applying water in the name of the Triune God by Christ for the church to do according to his command and promise. Our Savior instituted baptism when he commanded his followers to baptize (Matthew 28:19).

Baptism: Sacrament

The sacrament of Baptism is the act of applying water to a person in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit according to Christ's command (Matthew 28:19). The Bible promises that through Baptism, we receive the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation (John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:25-26, Colossians 2:12, 1 Peter 3:21).


to wash or apply water. Jesus commanded us to baptize in the name of the Triune God (Matthew 28:19). Because God's Word is joined to the water in Christian baptism the Holy Spirit works through this sacrament to create faith (Titus 3:5-7). In baptism we have forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38,39), life (John 3:3-6), and salvation (1 Peter 3:21).

Beelzebub (Baalzebub)

Lord of the flies, one of the Philistine gods worshiped at Ekron. In the New Testament the name is applied by the Pharisees to Satan, the prince of the devils (Matthew 12:24-28; Mark 3:22-26; Luke 11:15-20).


The English word begotten (past participle of beget) means to be fathered by. When the term is used of Jesus, it is describing the eternal relationship in the Trinity between the person of God the Father and the person of God the Son, the relationship sometimes referred to as the eternal generation of the Son.


the pronouncement of a blessing. We close our worship services with a benediction. We generally use the Aaronic blessing-"The Lord bless you and keep you. . . ." (Numbers 6:24-26) or the apostolic blessing-"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . ." (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Born Again

converted, regenerated, quickened; a person is born again when the Holy Spirit creates faith (often called new life) in his heart through the means of grace, the gospel in Word and Sacraments.


an invitation from God through a group of Christians to carry out in their name and on their behalf a portion of the work God has given the church to do.


an adjective describing one who has received an invitation from God through a group of Christians to carry out in their name and on their behalf a portion of the work God has given the church to do.

Called Worker

an individual who has received and accepted an invitation from God through a group of Christians to carry out in their name and on their behalf a portion of the work God has given the church to do.


the developed teachings or theological system of the reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) as presented in the various Reformed confessions of the 16th and 17th centuries and briefly summarized with the acrostic T.U.L.I.P ? Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints.


the area around the altar in a church building from which the presiding minister leads the worship service. The chancel is also called the sanctuary or apse.

Charismatic Movement

a movement arising in the mid 20th century that emphasizes the experience of the so-called Baptism in the Holy Spirit and consequent charismatic gifts like speaking in tongues, faith-healing, and prophesying. This movement is separate from Pentecostalism in that it has arisen in the form of small groups within non-pentecostal churches. (see Pentecostalism)


the imposition of pain or penalty for the purpose of improving or correcting. The pain and problems that Christians suffer in this life serve as chastisement from God. They remind us of our sins and frailties, and our dependence on God for everything.

Clarity of Scripture

the truth that the teachings of Scripture are accessible to every reader or hearer of average intelligence. Although there are some things in the Bible that are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:16), the basic message of Scripture is clear enough to make the simple wise (Psalm 19:7) and to enlighten our sinful minds (2 Peter 1:19).

Close or closed communion

the scriptural practice of inviting to partake of the Lords’ Supper with only  those who are communicant members of churches that are one with us in all that we teach and believe (1 Corinthians 10:17, Romans 16:17, 2 John 10-11, 1 Corinthians 11:27-29).


a formal prayer used in a worship service. The collect follows this pattern: (1) the addressing of God, (2) an attribute of God or the basis for approaching God, (3) the petition or request, (4) the reason for the petition, (5) the doxology or expression of praise to God.


the act of acknowledging one's sins. Formal confession in the Lutheran church embraces two parts: (1) acknowledging one's sins and (2) receiving absolution or forgiveness. A confession can also be a statement of what one believes, e.g. the Augsburg Confession


a gathering of individuals around the means of grace, usually in a specific geographic location.


to set apart for God?s service or special use in the church.


an ecclesiastical rite in which a person, place or thing is set apart or dedicated to the service of God; e.g., the time in the communion service when the bread and wine are dedicated for their use in the Lord?s Supper through the words of Christ used on the night he instituted the sacrament.


is the false view either that the body and blood, bread and wine come together to form one substance in the Lord?s Supper or that the body and blood are present in a natural manner like the bread and the wine. Lutherans believe that the bread and the wine are present in a natural manner in the Lord?s Supper and Christ?s true body and blood are present in an illocal, supernatural manner.


the bestowal of faith; the act of God by which he turns people from sin and unbelief to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit works through the gospel in God's Word and the sacraments to convert sinners and preserve them in faith.


agreement, contract, testament. Scripture speaks of God's covenant with Noah (Genesis 6:18-21), Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21), Israel at Sinai (Exodus 24:7-8), and David (2 Samuel 7). Through the work of the Messiah, God established a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34, 1 Corinthians 11:25) in which he promises the forgiveness of sins.


a written statement or confession of what one believes. The three creeds commonly used in worship-the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds-are brief summaries of the basic teachings of Scripture.

Decision Theology

the teaching that an unconverted human being has spiritual power to accept the gospel or invite Jesus into his heart. The Bible, however, teaches that by nature we are spiritually dead, spiritually blind, and opposed to God. Conversion is, therefore, entirely the work of God without our effort (Ephesians 2:8,9).


a movement arising out of the Enlightenment in 17th and 18th century Europe that emphasizes the importance of human reason and morality. Deists believe that a personal, rational god created the universe, but then stepped back from it. He allows it to continue to function according to the laws of nature without any interference from him.


A disciple is a pupil or learner who follows a teacher, learns from him, and spreads his teachings. Every believer is a disciple of Christ because every believer follows Christ as his Master and Teacher. The Bible also uses the term for followers of a prophet (Isaiah 8:16), followers of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14), of the Pharisees (Matthew 22:16), and in a special way for the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:1).


is the false interpretive approach to Scripture developed by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible (1909, revised 1967) which divides history into various periods characterized by a new test of natural man by God, each ending in man's failure. The final dispensation involves Christ's physical, political, millennial reign on earth.


the systematic study of the teachings of the Bible. In a dogmatics class, doctrine drawn from Scripture is presented in an organized and orderly manner according to a number of theological categories.


an expression of praise to God. The common doxology begins with the words, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow. . . ."

Ecumenical Movement

a movement to unite all Christian groups without regard to differences in teaching and practice. The Bible, however, warns us "to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them" (Romans 16:17).


is the desire for visible union and religious cooperation among all Christian groups without regard to differences in teaching and practice. As Christians, we want to express fellowship with those who teach and believe as we do, but we cannot express fellowship with those who teach falsely (Romans 16:17).


to build up in the faith; to strengthen faith through the means of grace.


the biblical teaching that God in his grace chose in eternity those who will be saved. He chose them apart from any merit or worthiness in them (Ephesians 1:3-6, Ephesians 2:8-9). God, however, did not choose anyone to be damned; those who are lost have only themselves to blame (1 Timothy 2:4, Matthew 23:37, Hosea 13:9).


an exemplary believer who lived before the Genesis flood. He was taken directly to heaven by God without experiencing death (Genesis 5:21-24). Enoch was also the father of Methuselah, the oldest human being mentioned in the Bible.


a revelation or making known. The Epiphany festival, on which we celebrate the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world, is commemorated on Jan. 6. The Epiphany season lasts for one to six weeks, depending on the date of Easter.


a letter. The New Testament contains 21 letters written in the first century by apostles or companions of the apostles to congregations, individuals, or the Christian church in general.


the study of the last things. Theologians generally include the following topics under the heading of eschatology: death, the last times, Christ's return, the resurrection of the dead, judgment day, the end of the world, heaven and hell.


gospel preaching. Lutheran congregations and synods that include "evangelical" in their name wish to emphasize the fact that they believe in salvation by grace through faith apart from works.


a movement of individuals, congregations, and denominations in American Protestantism that emphasizes a personal experience of the grace of God in conversion or rebirth. Evangelicals generally have a high regard for the authority of Scripture, but deny the efficacy of the sacraments and lack a clear understanding of conversion and church fellowship.


an evangelist is one who proclaims the gospel, the good news of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through faith in Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called evangelists because they penned the four Gospels. Every Christian is an evangelist when he tells others about their Savior.


the declaration by the church that a person has placed himself outside the kingdom of God by his stubborn impenitence (Matthew 18:15-18). Excommunication is an act of love intended to call a sinner to repentance.


the act of explaining or interpreting. Biblical exegesis involves the study of a section of Scripture by examining the vocabulary and grammar of the section in the original language and taking note of the immediate context of the passage, the general context and purpose of the particular book of the Bible in which the passage occurs, and the historical setting. By means of such study the exegete explains the meaning of the passage.


trust, confidence. The Bible offers this definition: "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). Saving faith is trust in Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world.

Felicitous (or Happy) Inconsistency

A term used to indicate that a person's personal faith might sometimes be at variance with his public confession. For example, a person who teaches that his good works contribute to his salvation may in his heart (or on his death bed) trust solely in Jesus and not rely on his own works.


the sinful nature or original sin that we inherit from our parents. This sinful nature remains with the Christian until he dies, warring against his new man and causing him to fall into sin (Romans 7:14-25).


to pardon or not count a person's sins against him; when God forgives us he justifies us or declares us not guilty, he frees us from sin's guilt and punishment and "remembers our sins no more" (Isaiah 43:25).

Formula of Concord

A Lutheran confession written to settle a number of doctrinal controversies that rose within Lutheranism after the death of Luther. The two main authors of this confession were Jakob Andreae (1528-1590) and Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586) It was adopted by the majority of Lutherans in Germany in 1577 and was included among the Lutheran Confessions gathered in the Book of Concord of 1580.


having sexual relations with a person other than one's spouse. Fornication is a sin against the sixth commandment and is condemned in the Bible with the strongest of terms (1 Corinthians 6:4-10). Jesus reveals that this sin begins in the heart with lustful thoughts (Matthew 5:27,28).

Free Will

the ability to choose. Since human beings are born spiritually dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1), they do not have free will in spiritual matters. By nature they cannot choose to believe in Christ or do those doings which are pleasing to God (Romans 8:7-8). By nature human beings have free will to make choices in outward matters: what to eat, what to wear, to work, to marry, etc.


God is the Supreme Being who has revealed himself in Scripture as three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet only one divine Being. He created and preserves the universe, redeemed the world, and calls us to faith through the means of grace. He is almighty, all knowing, wise, holy, good, and gracious and cannot be confined by space or time.


the good news that God sent his Son Jesus to take away the sins of the world or one of the first four books of the New Testament which recount the words, life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our Savior. The word gospel is sometimes used in a broad sense to include all the teachings of the Bible.


the unmerited kindness and favor of God which moved him to provide salvation for sinners by sacrificing his Son in our place. The teaching of salvation by grace alone stresses that salvation is a gift freely given by God without any merit or worthiness on our part.


Hades is a Greek term that can mean the realm of the dead or the grave (Acts 2:27,31), but in the New Testament is often contrasted with heaven and is used as a term for hell (Luke 16:23), the place where unbelievers will be punished forever.


one who believes in a false god or gods; one who is an uncivilized idolater.


Hell is the place of torment prepared for the devil and his evil angels where unbelievers will suffer forever (Matthew 25:41, 46; John 3:16-18; Luke 16:22-23; Mark 9:42-48)


the study of principles for interpreting the Bible. Two basic hermeneutical principles are: let Scripture interpret Scripture, and read every passage of the Bible in its context.

Historical-Critical Method

a method of Bible interpretation based on rationalistic literary criticism which treats the books of the Bible to a greater or lesser degree as fallible human literature. The critic places himself as a judge above God's Word, changing or altering the meaning of Scripture according to the external criteria he chooses.

Holy Communion

the sacrament instituted by our Savior on the night he was betrayed in which he gives us his very body and blood together with bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins.


the art of preaching. Seminarians study homiletics to learn how to write and deliver a sermon.


trust or confidence. In the Bible, Christian hope is not some vague longing for something we don't have. It is confidence based on the certain promises of God. "We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:10).


is the false idea that the body and blood of our Savior are locally enclosed in the bread and the wine in the Lord?s Supper. Lutherans believe that the body and blood of our Savior are truly present but in an illocal, supernatural manner.


The teaching that the Bible is without error and true in all that it says; since the Bible is the word of God, given through holy writers inspired by the Holy Spirit, everything it records is true because God cannot lie (2 Timothy 3:16, John 17:17, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18).


The teaching that God breathed into the writers of Scripture the truths he wanted them to record in the very words he chose. The Holy Spirit used each writer's vocabulary, writing style, life situation, etc., to convey the very message which he has intended us to have.

Intercessory Prayer

to ask God for something for someone else. The Bible urges that "requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone-for kings and all those in authority" (1 Timothy 2:1-2).


a prayer asking God to be present with us as we worship. We generally begin our worship services with the brief Trinitarian invocation, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Jehovah (Yahweh)

the proper name of the Triune God, signifying his steadfast love (Exodus 34:5-7). This name was so sacred to the people of Israel that they would not pronounce it. Instead they substituted the LORD whenever they read it in the Old Testament. Our English translations also usually translate this Hebrew word as the LORD.


God's act of declaring sinners not guilty or forgiven. God declares us not guilty because he declared Jesus guilty in our place.


a courtroom term meaning to declare innocent or not guilty. When Jesus died and rose again God justified the world. He declared the whole world not guilty. He forgave all the sins of all people of all time.

Keys to the Kingdom

the authority, right, and duty given by Jesus to his church (all believers) to forgive the sins of the penitent and to refuse to forgive the sins of the impenitent (Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:15-20, John 20:22-23).


using the law in an attempt to accomplish what only the gospel can, calling things sinful when God has not, or using the gospel as a club to coerce a certain type of behavior. The law reveals sin (Romans 3:20) and sin's punishment (Romans 6:23), but only the gospel can change hearts (Romans 1:16, Ephesians 2:4-5) and produce God-pleasing behavior (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).


Lent is the season of repentance and preparation beginning on Ash Wednesday, forty days before Easter (excluding Sundays). The term seems to be derived from the German word "Lenz" (the spring season).


a theological movement originating in the 19th century which tries to accommodate the message of Christianity to the claims of modern science, philosophy, sociology, and psychology. Liberals deny the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures, and see the primary purpose of the church as improving social conditions on earth rather than saving souls for eternity.


Liturgy is a form or manner for conducting a public worship service; in a broader sense it denotes the whole system of formal worship including the seasons of the church year and various rites and ceremonies. Lutheran liturgical worship generally includes Scripture readings, sermon, prayers, hymns, antiphons, responses, and the administration of the sacraments.

Major Prophets

those Old Testament prophets who wrote longer books of the Bible. Five books are included in the major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.


God instituted and gave marriage not only to the church, but to human beings in general. For instance, we recognize the legitimacy of civil marriage. In addition, God has attached no promise of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to marriage.


one who suffers death for testifying to his beliefs and refusing to renounce his religion. Stephen is the first Christian martyr mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 6,7).


a service of praise conducted early in the morning. The early Christians held a devotional service around midnight that extended into the early morning hours. The name matins became attached to this first service of the day. The Lutheran Hymnal and Christian Worship include an order of matins.


seems to have come from the Latin "mandatum" which means command. This may be taken from Jesus' words on the night he was betrayed, "A new commandment I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). It may also come from Jesus words in the institution of Holy Communion on that evening, "Do this in remembrance of me" (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

Means of Grace

the gospel in God's Word and the sacraments. They are the vehicles the Holy Spirit uses to create or strengthen saving faith. Some deny the necessity of the means of grace for conversion. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit does not work faith apart from the gospel (read Romans 10:13-18).


the compassion and love of God for us sinners that moved him not to count our sins against us, but to count them against his Son Jesus who was put to death as our Substitute. God demonstrates his mercy by forgiving our sins and withholding from us the punishment we deserve.

Messiah (Christ)

the anointed one. Prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with oil to set them apart for service to God in the Old Testament. God also promised to send a special anointed one to serve people. The New Testament reveals Jesus as the fulfillment of God's promise-our great prophet, priest, and king who came to save us.

Messianic Jew

A name used by some people of Jewish background who have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and Savior of the world.


a pre-flood patriarch and ancestor of Noah. Methuselah lived to be 967 years old, the greatest age recorded in the Scriptures (Genesis 5:25-29).


in its broad sense millennialism is an umbrella term used to cover a variety of beliefs concerning a future reign of Christ. In its narrow sense millennialism is synonymous with premillennialism, the belief that Jesus will return to this earth to set up a visible, political kingdom and reign for 1,000 years.

Minor Prophets

those Old Testament prophets who wrote shorter books of the Bible. The last 12 books of the Old Testament (Hosea through Malachi) are included in the minor prophets.


Moralizing is any attempt to teach people to be good and do good without the motivation of the gospel. Only the gospel can change the heart and move people to do those things which are God pleasing (Romans 1:16-17, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Romans 14:23b).

New Age Movement

a spiritual movement which unites a variety of ideas and practices around a world view that sees everything as god (pantheism) and everything as one (monism). New Agers believe that an individual can tap into unlimited powers by focusing his attention on himself and recognizing the divine within.

New Self

the new life the Holy Spirit creates in a person at conversion. This new self trusts in Jesus for salvation, brings forth good works, and struggles against the old Adam or sinful nature.


a teaching that denies all traditional values and any objective ground of truth or morality. Our Savior, however, declares, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31,32).


a word or action which causes another person to stumble in the faith or to continue in sin or error.

Old Adam

the sinful nature that every person has inherited from his parents since Adam's fall into sin. This sinful nature remains in us even after conversion and produces sin in our lives. When we die we will be transformed, freed forever from our old Adam and the consequences of sin.

Open communion

the improper practice of inviting or allowing to partake of the Lord’s Supper those who are not communicant members of churches that are one with us in all that we teach and believe (1 Corinthians 10:17, Romans 16:17, 2 John 10-11, 1 Corinthians 11:27-29).


one who believes in a false god or gods; currently pagan is used as a name for an adherent of one of the ancient polytheistic religions or the contemporary revival of those religions.


the belief that human beings have the ability to save themselves apart from God's grace and the work of Christ. The teaching is named for Pelagius, a British monk who traveled in the Mediterranean world around AD 400. Pelagianism was opposed by Augustine and condemned by the Council of Ephesus (AD 431).


a movement originating in early 20th century America which emphasizes the so-called Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the consequent charismatic gifts of speaking in tongues, faith-healing, and prophesying. Pentecostal denominations comprise perhaps the fastest growing branch of religion in the world today. (see Charismatic movement)


a set of Scripture lessons from the Old Testament, Epistles, and Gospels assigned to be read on each respective Sunday and holiday of the church year. A number of pericopes have been developed over the centuries. The pericope known as the Standard or Historic dates from about 600 AD.


a request. The Lord's Prayer contains seven requests or petitions. God wants us to bring all of our requests to him in prayer. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).


a Jewish sect that developed in the centuries following the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity. The Pharisees were particularly concerned about the legal observance of Jewish religious rituals, but they were often more concerned with forms and outward observance than with the proper attitude of the heart. Jesus condemned them because of their hypocrisy and work righteousness (Matthew 23:13-38).


a movement that began among German Lutherans in the late 17th century as a reaction to a perceived spiritual deadness in the state church. Pietism tends to emphasize sanctification rather than justification, deeds rather than creeds, and subjective, human, religious experience rather than the objective truths of God's Word.


Plead means to ask for fervently, to beg. To plead for mercy is to ask for compassion or kindness or forgiveness. It implies that the person asking must depend on the other person for the help sought (is at that person's "mercy").


the teaching that the Christian Church some time in the future will experience a long, indefinite period of unsurpassed peace, prosperity, and success before Jesus returns on Judgment Day.


a societal shift in attitude beginning in the mid to late 20th century away from the "Enlightenment" reliance on human reason and scientific proof and acceptance of objective truth to a belief that truth is relative and determined by the community to which one belongs and by that community's experience and feelings.

Prayed Doctrine

In the course of the church's prayers we use words which reflect the teachings or the doctrines of the Bible, e.g. "Merciful and gracious Father, you sent your Son to be our Redeemer . . . etc.

Predestination (Election)

God's determination in eternity of whom he was going to save (Ephesians 1:3-6). God did not choose some because they were better than others, but because of his grace according to his own purpose (2 Timothy 1:9). God, however, didn't predestine anyone to damnation. If someone is lost it is that person's own fault (Matthew 23:37).


the false teaching that Jesus will return before Judgment Day to set up a visible, political kingdom and reign for 1,000 years on earth.


one who maintains that all of the prophecies in the book of Revelation have been fulfilled in the past or were being fulfilled when the book was written.


a sacrifice of atonement to pay for sin and appease God?s anger.  Jesus ?gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God? for our sins (Ephesians 5:2. Romans 3:25).


A broad term usually used to describe those churches which trace their origin in some way back to the 16th century Reformation. Although the term was first applied to the evangelical or Lutheran rulers who protested the decisions of the Second Diet of Speyer in 1529, it has today become such a broad, vague term that many Lutherans prefer not to use it to describe themselves.


In Roman Catholic theology, purgatory is the place where those who die in grace, but are still "imperfectly purified", undergo purification to achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven. Purgatory has no basis in Scripture and contradicts the scriptural assurance of full and free forgiveness through the redemptive work of our Savior.


a snatching up of believers from earth to be with Jesus forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Some believe that Jesus will return to "rapture" believers before judgment day. The Bible, however, teaches that believers who are still alive will be "raptured" after the dead are raised on judgment day. Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 with Hebrews 9:28, John 11:24, John 5:28-29, and John 6:39.


a movement beginning in the 17th and 18th centuries that exalts human reason. Rationalists tend to be distrustful of authority and tradition and believe that truth can be found only through reason, observation, and experiments. They exalt human reason above the Bible. The Scriptures, however, teach that God's Word is truth (John 17:17) and that we are to make our every thought obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) and his Word.

Real Presence

the scriptural teaching that in the Lord's Supper Christ's true body and blood are actually present with the bread and the wine. As the Bible declares, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving . . . a participation in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread . . . a participation in the body of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 10:16)


Jesus' work of buying us back. He paid what we owed to God by living a perfect life in our place and suffering the punishment that we deserved for our sins. "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Ephesians 1:7).


Regeneration is a synonym for conversion. It is the act in which the Holy Spirit creates new life or faith in a person who by nature is spiritually dead. Those who have been converted or regenerated by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace are born again (John 3:3-6, 1 Peter 1:23).


The false idea that there is no such thing as absolute truth, but that truth depends on one's background and point of view; relativism rejects the objective nature of the truth of God's Word, dismisses the concept of moral absolutes, and ultimately opposes the biblical teaching that there is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus.


The worship of a supreme being or supernatural beings or supernatural power based on a system of teachings and beliefs; true religion is the worship of the Triune God, trusting in him for forgiveness of sins and salvation, as he has revealed himself and his plan of salvation in the Holy Scriptures.

Remission of Sins

forgiveness of sins. God does not count our sins against us because he counted them against Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19-2l). Jesus redeemed us from the punishment we deserved for our sin by being punished in our place (Isaiah 53). Our sins are therefore remitted or forgiven.


a change of mind. True repentance involves both sincere sorrow for sin and trust in Jesus for forgiveness. A Christian's entire life is one of repentance. Impenitence is unbelief.


the false teaching that the bread and wine in Communion merely symbolize Christ's body and blood. Most Protestant denominations teach representation. The Bible teaches that Jesus' true body and blood are actually present with the bread and the wine in the Lord's Supper.


is the essential perfection of God. The righteousness of the law is the perfect obedience which God's law demands. The righteousness revealed in the gospel is the righteousness won by the perfect obedience and innocent suffering and death of our Savior. God credits this righteousness to us and we receive it by faith (Romans 1:17, Romans 3:21-24).


a Hebrew word which means "hosts." The Bible calls God the Lord of sabaoth or the Lord of hosts. This name is used to exalt our God as the all-powerful sovereign or ruler over everything, including all human and superhuman forces.


rest. God commanded his people in the Old Testament to observe the Sabbath or seventh day of the week by doing no work (Exodus 20:8-10) and remembering creation (Exodus 20:11) and the deliverance from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). This ceremonial law foreshadowed the spiritual rest the Savior would bring and no longer applies in the New Testament (Colossians 2:16,17).


A sacrament is a sacred act, instituted by Christ for his church, in which an earthly element is used together with God's Word as a means of offering, giving, and sealing to us the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Holy Communion and Baptism are sacraments.


a member of the ruling or priestly party of the Jews during the time of Jesus and the apostles. The Sadducees were rationalistic. They denied the resurrection of the dead and the existence of angels (Acts 23:8).


A saint is a holy one. Every Christian is a saint because the Holy Spirit has brought him to faith. Through faith every believer in Christ has received the forgiveness of sins and has been covered with Jesus' perfect righteousness.


the Holy Spirit’s work of making us holy through the means of grace; in the wider sense sanctification includes His entire work in believers, including conversion and preservation in faith (1 Thessalonians 5:23); in the narrow sense it is the Holy Spirit’s work of leading us to hate sin and bring forth good works in our lives (Ephesians 2:10).


the Holy Spirit's work of making us holy. When the Holy Spirit creates faith in us he renews in us the image of God so that through his power we produce good works. These good works are not meritorious, but show the faith in our hearts (Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:18).


the Jewish ruling council and religious supreme court permitted by the Roman government in Jesus' day (Mark 19:55ff). The Sanhedrin was composed of high priests, elders (tribal and family heads), and scribes or legal experts (Acts 4:5). The council included Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts 5:17,34), numbering about 70 members in all.


adversary; one of the names the Bible gives to the devil or the chief of the evil spirits. Satan and the other evil spirits were angels who rebelled against God sometime after the week of creation (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6). Satan is a murderer and the father of lies (John 8:44).


A schism is a formal division in or break from a religious organization usually resulting from a disagreement in doctrine and practice. Although causing needless divisions is sinful, we are commanded to separate from those who persist in teaching falsely (Romans 16:17-18).


the belief that human beings have only been weakened by the fall into sin and can make an effort to help God in their conversion and salvation. The Bible, however, teaches that by nature we are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) and are saved entirely by God's grace (Ephesians 2:8,9).


Sheol is a Hebrew term that can mean either the realm of the dead (Genesis 37:35, English: grave or "the hereafter") or the place where the wicked (unbelievers) suffer after they die (Psalm 49:14-15).


Any thought, word, or action that is contrary to God's will. Actual sin involves either a failure to do what God has commanded or doing what God has forbidden. Original sin is the state or condition of sinfulness which we inherit from our parents.

Smalcald Articles

the confession that Luther wrote for a meeting at Schmalkalden in 1537 in preparation for a possible general council of the church. Since Luther was ill and thought he might die, he intended this to be a clear statement of the truth he taught and his theological legacy to the church. This confession was included as one of the official Lutheran Conrfessions in the Book of Concord of 1580.

Social Gospel

the false teaching that the church's mission is to change society through mass or group action rather than to win souls for eternity. The social gospel involves the attempt to reform the economic, political, and social structures of the world rather than proclaiming the forgiveness of sins purchased by the redemptive work of our Savior.

Son of God

the second Person of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19) who is of one being with the Father (John 10:30), and the true God over all (1 John 5:20, Romans 9:5). God the Son became man to redeem the world (Galatians 4:4-5, John 3:16-18).

Son of Man

a messianic title (Daniel 7:13) that Jesus applied to himself indicating that he was the Son of God who became fully human in order to redeem the world (Matthew 16:13-16, Mark 2:28, Luke 9:22, Luke 19:10, Matthew 26:63-64).


Soteriology is the doctrine of salvation. In Lutheran theology, soteriology is that part of Christian doctrine that deals with the personal appropriation of the merits of Christ by a sinner and includes the biblical teachings of conversion, justification by grace through faith, the means of grace, etc.


the soul is the divinely created, non-material part of a human being which is the seat of life, center of self-consciousness, and seat of an individual's thinking, willing and feeling. The soul will never cease to exist. At death it returns to God to enter eternal joy or eternal torment. On the last day a person's soul will be reunited with his resurrected body to continue eternally in heaven or hell.

Sovereignty of God

God's supreme, autonomous power and rule over the universe. Everything is ultimately subject to him and he makes everything work out for the the benefit of his people (Psalm 115:3, Ephesians 1:19-23, Philippians 2:9-11, Romans 8:28).

Spiritually Blind

To be unable to see the path to heaven, unable to grasp God's truth; by nature every human being has a veil over his eyes which prevents him from taking God at his word and trusting his promises. The Holy Spirit gives spiritual sight when he brings people to faith through the means of grace (2 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Corinthians 3:14-16, Colossians 1:13-14).

Spiritually Dead

to be without spiritual life, to be without faith, to be an unbeliever. Every human being is born spiritually dead and must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. People are born again spiritually when they are converted, when Holy Spirit creates faith in their hearts through the means of grace.


Stewardship is the managing of what belongs to someone else. Christian stewardship involves recognizing that everything we have belongs to God. We will therefore want to manage and use everything we have according to his will. We will use our time, talents, and treasures in church, family, and state to God's glory and the benefit of our fellow human beings.


Stigmata are wounds or marks resembling those received by Jesus from the nails, spear, and crown of thorns during his passion and crucifixion. Some have claimed that these have miraculously appeared on various people, statues, and paintings.

Sufficiency of Scripture

the truth that the Bible contains everything necessary for faith and life. The Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation and to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). If people do not believe the Scriptures they will not believe even if they see great miracles (Luke 16:31).


in Roman Catholic theology works of supererogation are works done over and above the things God requires of everyone, works like vows of poverty and chastity, etc. Such works are viewed by Roman Catholics as particularly meritorious and their merit can be credited to others.


The combining of beliefs and practices of different religions into one. The Bible forbids religious syncretism when it says, "Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them" (Romans 16:17).


the false teaching which claims that human beings by nature have the power to work with God in their own conversion or to decide for Christ. The Bible teaches that we are spiritually dead by nature (Ephesians 2:1,5) and therefore have no power to cooperate with God in our conversion or salvation.


is one who studies the Scriptures and has the God-given ability to understand, to expound, and to teach God's truth to others, and to defend against false teaching.


is the knowledge of God and his divine teachings revealed in the Holy Scriptures.


sin or trespass. To transgress means to go across. God establishes a line with his law beyond which we are not to go. If we go across that line we transgress or sin.


the Roman Catholic teaching that the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper change into Christ's body and blood so that only the appearance of the bread and wine remains. The Bible teaches that bread and wine and the body and blood of our Savior are present in Communion.


to cross over into forbidden territory. Trespass is one of the words Scripture uses to picture sin. God draws a line beyond which we are forbidden to go. If we cross that line we trespass or sin.


three in one; the God of the Bible who has revealed himself as one God (Deuteronomy 6:4, 1 Corinthians 8:4), yet three distinct Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14). The words Trinity and triune were coined by Christians to describe God as he has revealed himself in the Scriptures.


the belief that everyone will ultimately be saved. Universalists deny the existence of eternal torment in hell and see all religions as different paths to the same God. The Bible teaches that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Mark 16:16).


A service of thanksgiving usually conducted in the evening. Vespers was originally observed at 6 p.m. The two canticles commonly sung in this service are Mary's Magnificat and Simeon's Nunc Dimittis.


A vicar is a third year seminary student who serves as an intern under an experienced pastor in the field for one year as part of his seminary training for the pastoral ministry. After the vicar year the student returns to the seminary campus for his final year of instruction.

Vicarious atonement

the truth that Jesus lived, suffered, and died as the Substitute for sinners to pay the price they owed for their sins and to earn for them forgiveness, life, and salvation (Isaiah 53:4-12; Romans 5:6, 18-19; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Works Righteousness

the false belief that a human being can merit or contribute to his own salvation by what he does or does not do. Works righteousness is the basis of every man-made religion. According to Scripture we are saved entirely by God's grace apart from any merit or worthiness of our own (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4:4-8).


Worship is the paying of homage to someone or something greater than ourselves. Christian worship is directed always and only to the Triune God. Public worship in the Lutheran Church involves not only prayer, praise, and thanksgiving to God, but also listening to the reading and proclamation of God's Word and receiving the sacraments.


a rocky hill in Jerusalem which served as a natural fortress for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem before David's conquest. The name is also used in Scripture for Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 11:5), the Christian church (Hebrews 12:22-24), and heaven (Revelation 21:1-4).