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Foreword: Christ Is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever

January, 2019

Installment 1 of 20, translated from the book Christ Is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Writings on the Basics of Faith and Doctrine. (Ed. Ari-Pekka Palola, SRK, 2018)

Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Writings on the Basics of Faith and Doctrine was published by the SRK, Suomen Rauhanyhdistysten Keskusyhdistys—our sister organization in Finland, in 2018. Ari-Pekka Palola edited the book, which is a collection of articles by different authors.

There has been much interest in seeing the book published in English. Therefore we intend to publish the book in the Voice of Zion chapter by chapter, which will allow readers access to the book sooner than if we were to translate the entire book before publication.

The articles are translated by Markus Lohi and Esa Vilkama. They are reviewed and finalized by Russell Roiko, Jon Bloomquist, Keith Waaraniemi and Matthew Keranen. Our prayer is that the book’s freshly written articles on timeless topics will edify the congregation and help each of us in our endeavor of faith all the way to heaven’s home.

Foreword

The book Christ is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever opens to the reader the Bible’s message and Reformation’s message of how God justifies sinful human beings. The core message of the book stems from the words of Apostle Paul: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

In 2017 we observed the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation. We thank God that the heritage of the Reformation is yet alive in our midst. Its two principles—the formal principle and material principle—remain the core content of our Church’s [Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland’s] Confession.

According to the formal principle of the Reformation, the Bible—the written word of God—is the highest norm of faith and life.This principle is also defined in our Church order [Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland]: “The Church holds as its highest authority the principle that all doctrine in the Church shall be studied and evaluated according to the holy Word of God.”

According to the material principle expressed in the Confessional Writings, God justifies a person alone by faith, alone by grace, alone through the merit of Christ. Thus the formal and material principles together express the core message of the Reformation, which is unrelinquishable in terms of faith and doctrine.

According to the Bible, God is merciful toward sin-fallen humans. He gave His Son Jesus Christ as the atonement sacrifice on behalf of us sinful ones and redeemed us from sin, death and the power of the enemy of souls. Paul writes that God has sent Christ, who became our “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”

In Conservative Laestadian Christianity, the most central and unrelinquishable matter is the teaching on justification.

Joining with Luther’s teaching, we teach that God makes a sinner righteous with His own righteousness. God in His eternal form and righteousness has, through Christ’s merit, shown His grace toward the sin-fallen one and restored him or her to unity with Him.

Justification means that every child is born a partaker of the God-given gift of faith. The child is a partaker in the righteousness that Christ has earned even though he or she is also a partaker in original sin. God, in His righteousness and grace, thus creates every human anew in Christ, just as He created the first human in the beginning.

According to the command of Christ, a child is brought into the grace covenant of baptism to own by faith God’s promise of the forgiveness of sins. Meanwhile, baptism also means the sanctification through grace that occurs in the life of the baptized one. He or she can endeavor in penitence and repentance and thus mortify the sin-human within himself or herself, so that in its place the new human would emerge every day. This new human lives in righteousness, holiness and purity before God in the fellowship of His congregation. In God’s grace the baptized one, made righteous by faith, can endeavor and own in his or her heart the internal essence of God’s kingdom: “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The doctrinal review provided above is the basis and starting point for this book. The perspective of righteousness of faith is a central perspective throughout the book. It creates the context for the various authors’ articles.

This book is published as part of the anniversary year of the Reformation. For many years prior to the anniversary year, however, it had become evident in various ways that nowadays there is a clear need for a comprehensive discussion on doctrinal questions.

This book, for its own part, responds to the challenges of our time. A need for doctrinal discussion has become evident within Conservative Laestadianism. Questions of how we believe and teach have arisen especially among younger generation but also among the older generation. For example, it has been asked how varying theological concepts, which have developed over the course of Christianity’s long history, apply to our doctrine. Meanwhile, within the Evangelical Lutheran Church [of Finland] some have criticized the Conservative Laestadian teachings, implying that they contain elements that deviate from the Confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. We have desired to point out that our teaching is based on the Bible and the Confessional Writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The aim of the book is to describe clearly and understandably how we believe and teach, and to tell what the basis for our understanding is. The book also aims to open to the reader the meaning of concepts related to central questions of faith. The goal is also to encourage believers who endeavor in these times and to show them that our Christianity travels “in the footsteps of the former saints.”

The contents of this book were planned by an editorial committee that was selected by the Finnish Central Organization of the Associations of Peace (Suomen Rauhanyhdistysten Keskusyhdistys). The committee was chaired by Valde Palola and its other members were Viljo Juntunen, Johannes Leppänen, Juhani Liukkonen, Markku Seppänen and Seppo Särkiniemi. Ari-Pekka Palola served as the committee secretary and as the editor of the book. The committee invited sixteen authors to contribute to this book, and each of them thoroughly delved into his or her topic. We wish to thank the authors for their significant contribution to this book.

Our prayer is that this book will serve the work in God’s kingdom by sparking interest in and discussion on the fundamentals of faith. We hope that this book provides and deepens knowledge of our understanding of faith and doctrine within Conservative Laestadian Christianity and also more broadly among all who are interested.

Valde Palola

Chairman of the Editorial Committee

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