The Lutheran Faith
When Dr Martin Luther, Ausgustinian monk and theological professor at the University of Wittenberg made his 95 theses public in 1517, it was the start of a wave of change which would sweep across Europe and consequently over the whole world. In his many writings, he argues not only against many of the doctrines of the “Holy Catholic Church”, but also against dangerous tributaries of the Reformation itself. Luther’s insights, which he acquired through a life-long and thorough study of Holy Scripture, are laid down in his confessional writings and form the basis of our Lutheran faith, which can be condensed to the following four statements.
We are saved solely by the unconditional love of God in Jesus Christ (SOLA GRATIA).
We are freed from the heavenly judgement by faith alone, and not by good works. Good works can also not prove that we belong to God (SOLA FIDE).
We can only be saved by the death of Jesus on the cross. The church itself does not have any healing powers (SOLUS CHRISTUS).
The Bible alone can bring across Christian values. Other clerical determinations and ordinances have only a deducted value (SOLA SCRIPTURA)
In Holy Communion, God comes to us “in, with and under” bread and wine. No “transsubstantiation” (real change in the bread and wine) takes place, but Holy Communion is not purely a symbolical act.
In the infant baptism, God’s grace can clearly be seen. We as human beings cannot earn this grace out of our own doing and it is not possible to be baptized again.
The first Lutherans at the Cape
When Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape in 1652, there were a number of German Lutherans among the first settlers. They were however, limited in living out their form of worship because – according to the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, the ruler of a specific area determined the religious orientation of his subjects. The Cape was dominated by the reformed belief. Despite several requests by Lutherans for a preacher of their own, the authorities refused. In 1774, Martin Melck sponsored a warehouse in Strandstreet. Being able to prove that the congregation had the necessary means to finance a preacher and build a church, the Lutherans got the right to free worship in 1780.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Strand street was founded in 1780, the warehouse converted to a church building. Other places of worship outside of Cape Town soon followed, such as Stellenbosch and Wynberg. In the nineteenth century, a split occured in the Strand street church, and a new church was formed in Longstreet, Cape Town in 1853 – the St Martini church. After dissolving again shortly afterwards, the church was officially inaugurated in 1861 as the “Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische Gemeinde St Martini”.
Missionary work in South Africa had already started among the indigenous population in 1737 and out of this, the Moravian Church of South Africa and the ELCSA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa) had grown. The differences in origin and history of our Lutheran Churches in South Africa explain their divisions and individualism.