Doctrine and Life

The Word of God Is Living and Powerful

August 1, 2021

Introduction In many of the discussions of recent years, we have heard it said that we need to turn to God’s Word. What do we mean by the term God’s Word? What is it? Where do we find it? How do we recognize it? How should we receive it? How should we read it or hear it? I suspect that when most of us hear, read, or use the term God’s Word we usually think of the Holy Bible, the written Word. The Bible itself however refers to God’s Word more broadly. It speaks of God’s Word in 3 ways: 1) as God’s Son, the Incarnate Word, 2) as a written word, and 3) as a spoken word.

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The Joy of Believing

May 1, 2021

In the Psalms we can clearly see how varied the emotions of God’s children can be. David tells how he found the joy of believing in his life. When sin stung his heart, he suffered from it. When he received his sins forgiven, he rejoiced that grace belonged also to him, a fallen one (Ps. 32).

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Future and Hope

January 1, 2021

It has traditionally been thought that the world’s future is made better by children and youth. They will build society with knowledge and skills that were not available to previous generations. Are we now at some sort of turning point when an ordinary young person might say in all earnestness that the future is already ruined? Have we failed at cultivating and protecting the earth so miserably that today’s youth will become embittered toward the generations that came before them?

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Thoughts on Culture

October 1, 2020

What is Culture? The concept of culture comes from the Latin word cultura, which means cultivation or tending. Later, the definition of culture expanded to include education such as science and art. In a broad sense, culture indeed includes all that people do to manage their environment and society and to express themselves and their relationship with other people. The Christian doctrine of our church [Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland] states: “God has given man the task to cultivate nature so that its powers might better serve the protection and advancement of life. This work and its results are called culture” (Christian Doctrine, item 100).

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Thoughts on Ethics and Morals

September 1, 2020

Questions pertaining to ethics and morals have arisen with increasing frequency in public discussion. As I write this, on the radio there is a discussion on helping refugees. One discussion participant refers to his ethical and moral duty in defending his potential acts of civil disobedience. In the news it tells how in one legislative issue members of parliament are given freedom to vote according to their conscience. In everyday life, we constantly make choices. Often we do not need to ponder very deeply the reasons for making these choices. Sometimes, however, we encounter questions that give us cause to pause and think how to act correctly in this situation and what to base my decision on. In this article, I will consider the relationship between faith and morals. An ethical dimension is an integral part of all religions. There are, however, many non-religious people in the world whose actions appear good and right. I will ponder the origins of morality, how it manifests itself and its significance in human life. I will examine these issues from the perspective of faith that is personal, biblical and based on the Lutheran Church’s confessional writings.

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How Do I Know This Is God’s Kingdom?

January 1, 2018

God’s kingdom cannot be explained in a manner that satisfies the human mind. It is only understood by faith. It is a kingdom that cannot be seen. “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you [among you]” (Luke 17:20-21). With eyes of faith, God’s children see this kingdom as Scripture describes it. It is the body of Christ, the golden candlestick, the sheepfold, the pillar and ground of truth, the mother of us all…

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Warnings and Admonitions of Scripture

February 1, 2018

I remember a certain situation very well. One brother in faith, who was a little bit older than me, approached me and said that he had something to tell me. We had become friends before this and now I felt that he had something important to tell me. He wanted to discuss a certain matter in my life. It wasn’t clearly a matter of faith, but it was connected to the lifestyle of believers. At first, I was a little worried and felt uncomfortable, but his manner was non-threatening and his words were friendly.

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Good Choices Arise from Faith of the Heart

March 1, 2018

Years ago, I had several warm conversations about living faith with a nice, God-fearing co-worker. He told me how our earlier discussions had resulted in several changes in his lifestyle. For example, he had stopped drinking beer, had begun reading the Bible more, and had significantly limited his TV use. “When it comes to my soul’s salvation, I will leave no stone unturned!” he said. It seemed that I had mainly spoken about the gift of living faith and how it was safe to live in the fellowship of God’s children where a sinner is forgiven. I thought I had said very little about life choices that follow living faith. Realizing that our discussions around the Bible had been the law to him, I then offered him the very core of the gospel, the forgiveness of all sins. Sadly, he denied that call. This friend remained living under the law.

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The Grace-Privilege of Confession

April 4, 2018

In this issue we are drawing on a twenty-four-year-old presentation given by longtime servant of the Word and LLC Board member and employee, Peter Nevala. In his presentation at an LLC Ministers Workshop in 1994, Nevala, in a timeless manner, speaks about the precious gift of confession in our endeavor of faith.

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Original and Actual Sin

May 1, 2018

We live in a choppy sea of disparate lifestyles, amid great changes. Moral change is that which most influences the human mind. In our time, a demand for freedom from anything that restricts a person’s inclinations and their fulfillment is emphasized. There is a desire to make the boundary between what is permissible and impermissible relative. Many, in their inner being, recognize that they are completely lost, and don’t understand what is right and wrong.

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The Sacraments

June 1, 2018

The word “sacrament” rarely appears in common language usage, but whenever it is used it is considered as a holy or important matter. One speaks of the “sacrament” of fellowship when emphasizing how important it is to keep in touch with other believers. What does the word sacrament actually mean? The word comes from Latin and means an oath of loyalty. An oath is known to be a serious and sacred matter. In ecclesiastic language, sacrament means acts that are considered to be particularly important and holy. The Greek Bible uses the word mystírio (mystery), and by it refers to the sacraments. We cannot fully understand the mystery of faith connected to the sacraments.

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Why Don’t Believers Drink Alcohol?

August 1, 2018

In each generation God’s grace working through the Holy Spirit has taught His children to deny ungodliness and worldly lust in order to live soberly, righteously, and godly (Titus 2:11-12). Already in the first NT congregational meeting the believers discussed an important matter concluding that the decision “seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us” (Acts 15:28).

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Christ is the Same: a New Series in 2019

November 1, 2018

Our sister organization, the SRK in Finland, published a new book this past summer, Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Writings on the Basics of Faith and Doctrine. The book contains a number of writings by different authors. It was edited by Ari-Pekka Palola.

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Theology – What Is It?

February 1, 2019

Theology, the study of divinity, means on one hand the systematic examination of the fundamentals and concepts of Christian faith. On the other hand, it means the analysis and comparison of different religious understandings. Nowadays theological work is scientific in nature. Theology examines sources critically, evaluates and compares them and then reaches objective conclusions based thereon.

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God of Christianity

March 1, 2019

In these times, many a secularized person thinks and also says out loud, “I believe in God, but not as the church teaches.” Belittling biblical and Lutheran doctrine has become a catchphrase-like norm. The significance of the national Lutheran church [Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland] has greatly diminished. Many people no longer regard the church and its message as significant. As life becomes more superficial, there are more and more people who do not know the basic tenets of Lutheran faith and doctrine. The biblical representation of God is only slightly familiar or totally foreign to an ever-growing portion of [Finnish] people.

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Creation and Humankind

April 1, 2019

The origins and existence of everything are fundamental questions to which humans have sought an answer through the ages. Religions and science have approached these questions in various ways and from various viewpoints in attempts to find answers to these ultimate questions. Some consider questions regarding the origins of the world and humans to be too deep, beyond human comprehension and therefore preposterous. Meanwhile others are deeply interested in the origins of everything: has God created the world? What should one think about the big bang theory as an explanation to the birth of the universe? Can scientific knowledge be somehow reconciled with creationism and God’s actions in the world? In this article, I will discuss the aforementioned questions as well as humans as a part of the universe: their creation, essence, relationship with fellow humans, nature and God. We are facing questions that are larger than we are. Therefore I shall begin with God’s revelation in the Bible and examine creation theology as well as a few scientific breakthroughs. Meanwhile I shall outline a description of how I myself believe.

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Original Sin and Its Fruits

May 1, 2019

In essence, sin is the falling away of the heart from God, transgressing against God’s will and His holy law (Ps. 51:6; Jer. 3:25; Rom. 7:7,8). According to Luther, “sin is nothing else than what is not according to the Word of God.” (Refutation of Latomus). People are guilty before their Creator and responsible for their sins. If sins are not atoned, punishment will ensue. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

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Revelation: Source of Theology and Foundation of Doctrine

June 1, 2019

The most important matter in a person’s life is to know God. No one has ever seen God, nor can His existence be proven by observation or experiments. The human mind and reason do not easily accept God’s existence. Why would one believe in God if there is no sure evidence of Him? People everywhere are interested in the same questions: why does something exist rather than nothing existing? How did life come to be? What is actually behind this visible reality? When pondering fundamental questions, a person inevitably encounters the question of God.

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The Bible – Highest Authority of Faith and Life

August 1, 2019

In this article, I will examine the origin of the biblical writings, how they became a collection of books, and the significance of the canon. I will present Bible translations, focusing on translations into Finnish. In this article there is an emphasis on Luther’s Bible interpretation and the principles of Lutheran Bible interpretation. I will also address the relationship between the written and spoken Word and the effectiveness of the sermon of God’s Word.

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Jesus Christ – True God and True Man in One Person

September 1, 2019

The branch of theology that pertains to Jesus Christ’s person, nature and role is called Christology. Christos is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach, Messiah. Both of these words mean “anointed.” It is a title of honor, which is associated with the Old Testament custom of anointing a king or high priest into office with consecrated oil. As the title of Jesus, it also includes the early Christians’ confession of faith: “Jesus is the Messiah.” The title was associated with Jesus because the Christians believed He was the Messianic king foretold by the prophets (Isa. 11:1–5; Jer. 23:5,6; Mic. 5:1–4) and the New Covenant high priest who represented the priesthood of Melchisedec (Heb. 5–8).

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By Faith Alone

November 1, 2019

During the Reformation, Lutheran beliefs came to be categorized as material and formal principles. The formal principle took a stand on what the highest authority is on faith and doctrine. Lutheranism emphasized the authority of the Bible, whereas in the Catholic church tradition had gained a near-biblical position in deciding questions of faith. The material principle, meanwhile, summarized the core ideas on how a person is justified, meaning how a person can be acceptable to God: by faith alone, by grace alone, by the merits of Christ alone. This understanding comes from the Bible and has remained true throughout the ages.

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Life in Faith

February 1, 2020

Faith is not a human work but rather a gift from God. At its core, it is trust in God’s Word and a source of strength for one’s whole life. Without faith it is impossible to be acceptable to God. As owners of faith we feel in our hearts righteousness, peace and joy, but also weakness of faith, temptations and oppression (Christian Doctrine, item 84). We are sinful but at the same time we are righteous.

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Work of the Holy Spirit

March 1, 2020

According to Lutheran understanding, the Word and sacraments are instruments of grace and God’s special revelation. The instruments of grace are in this order, Word and sacraments, because it is God’s Word that makes the water, the bread and the wine into sacraments. God wants to interact with humans through the Word and sacraments. This means the same as saying that God reveals Himself in Christ. Christ comes to us and into us in the Word and sacraments – His instruments of grace.

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The Law and the Gospel

April 1, 2020

The law and the gospel are two central concepts in the Bible. The law declares God’s righteous will, and the gospel is the joyous message of Jesus Christ and His atonement work. The relationship between the law and gospel is central to the doctrine of how God justifies a sinful person and how the person remains righteous, i.e. acceptable before God.

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The Christian Congregation and the Kingdom of God

May 1, 2020

The New Testament congregation means the congregation of God, i.e. the Christian congregation, whose members the Holy Spirit has through the gospel called, sanctified, gathered and enlightened with His gifts and protects in the one true faith (Large Catechism). The members of this congregation are called to follow Jesus in “doctrine, life and suffering.” The Christian congregation is in essence the communion – or fellowship – of saints, in which its members remember each other and carry each other in prayer. According to the Augsburg Confession, the Christian congregation is the community of saints in which the gospel is purely preached and the sacraments are administered according to the command of Christ.

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Final Events

June 1, 2020

In my article I will discuss the Bible’s teachings on eternity, human life, death and final events. Peter wrote about these topics as follows: “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:8,9). I will reflect on people’s ability to perceive time and its passing as well as endless time, eternity. I will consider the ending of all that exists, death and life after death. Discussing eternity and final events piques interest but it can also cause fear and concern. The Bible in many passages addresses death, eternity and final events. The underlying theme throughout these is that humans and nature belong to the world God created. All creation has a limited lifespan. Above all this is nevertheless God’s care for creation, which spans from time to eternity. A Christian has strong hope of life continuing after death (John 5:21–29). The Bible promises that a person created in the image of God will enter the land of endless peace, rest and joy. Many Bible passages describe the new earth and the new heaven. Many readers likely remember the story of Lazarus going to the bosom of Abraham or of Jesus’ words to the thief: “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 16:19–31; 23:40–43). These two stories summarize the hope found in Christian teachings regarding the last events.

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Fundamentalism

August 1, 2020

The word fundamentalism leaves no one cold. Based on the news and current discussion, the first things to come to mind are religious and political extremist organizations, terrorism, narrowmindedness, absolutism and opposition toward anything modern. A closer look reveals that the concept has many different meanings depending on the context. The definition of the concept has also changed over time.

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