This week, we will reflect on a verse from Luther’s hymn, “We All Believe in One True God.” This hymn is one of the Luther hymns that has been newly translated into Russian for the new hymnal of our partner church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia (ELCIR). Below you will see the Russian translation, as well as the English translation, of verse three of this beautiful hymn. You can find the original German here.
№452, Verse 3 «Мы в Бога веруем Отца»
И во Святого Духа веруем:
Нас хранит от искушений
И нам среди земных сует
Он дарует утешенье.
Он Свою Святую Церковь
День и ночь оберегает,
Телу и душе дарует мир,
К свету верных направляет.
Святым Духом мы к Отцу приведены,
Единой верой спасены.
Lutheran Service Book (LSB) No. 954, “We All Believe in One True God” verse 3
We all confess the Holy Ghost,
Who, in highest heaven dwelling
With God the Father and the Son,
Comforts us beyond all telling;
Who the Church, His own creation,
Keeps in unity of spirit.
Here forgiveness and salvation
Daily come through Jesus’ merit.
All flesh shall rise, and we shall be
In bliss with God eternally.
“We All Believe in One True God” was written by Luther in 1524 as a paraphrase of the Creed. It was based on an earlier medieval verse, keeping the first two lines and only somewhat altering the melody. The original hymn summarized the Creed in just one verse; Luther extended this so that each verse focuses on one person of the Trinity and one article of the Creed. The hymn was used as the Creed in Luther’s German Mass, which was published in 1526 (See Ulrich S. Leupold, ed. Liturgy and Hymns. In Luther’s Works: American Edition. Vol. 53. Ed. Helmut T. Lehmann. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965, 271-3).
Throughout the centuries, from the Early Church and the formation of the Creed, to the printed edition of the original medieval verse (in 1417), to Luther’s extended hymn based on that verse, to The Lutheran Hymnal translation in 1941 (used by LSB), to the new Russian translation of this hymn, the Church has confessed just one true faith by the power of the Holy Spirit, Who is the subject of this verse. The faith the one true Church confesses is this:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
However, it is not by our own power that we confess such a bold and living faith, a faith which confesses God as our Father and Creator; a faith which confesses that Jesus Christ is God and Man and that he died to save us from our sins and was raised again; a faith which confesses the Holy Spirit, who “calls, gathers, and enlightens” the Holy Christian Church; a faith which confesses that sinners are saints, that sins are forgiven, and that the dead will be raised (Luther’s Small Catechism, explanation of the third article of the Creed). It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that the one true Church confesses the one true faith in the one true God, no matter where they live, when they live, or what language they speak or sing (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Therefore, the one true Church sings its faith in the new old song given to her by the Holy Spirit through the Apostolic Ministry. In proclaimed Word, in Creed and Scripture, in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the one true faith has been gifted to each of us. So we in the LCMS can sing the new old song with our partner and sister churches in Russia, Germany, England, Latvia, Lithuania, Asia, Poland, Africa, Canada, Latin America, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and wherever the one true faith is confessed in its truth and purity. We can sing the new old song with the Church Triumphant, those who have gone before us and are with the Lord, singing the faith in the joy of his presence. As we confess when we sing this hymn, it is the Holy Spirit’s work which makes us a part of the one true church, and which keeps the one true Church in the one true faith. As we sing the new old song together, let us pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in us, that by his power we may always sing it evermore.
Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts (Psalm 33:1-3, ESV).
Let us pray: O God, Holy Spirit, Creator and Giver of faith, keep all Christians in the one true faith by the power of the Gospel and the Sacraments so that there might be unity among your church on earth, with the result that more people may be called, gathered, and enlightened by You, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Lord of the Church, by the power of your Holy Spirit, continue to strengthen our partnerships through the continued confession of the one true faith as we sing the new old song together, so that we may work together in your kingdom and at last attain to the promised resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting, for you live and reign with the Father and the Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.