Posts by clclutheran:

An Introduction to the CLC

Written by | December, 2010
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The Church of the Lutheran Confession aims to be what its name implies — a church that continues to uphold the scriptural teachings and Christian values which God restored through the Lutheran Reformation some 450 years ago.

The historic Lutheran creeds, especially the Augsburg Confession, make it clear that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, that Jesus Christ paid the full price – His life – for that gift, and that the Holy Spirit works repentance and kindles the faith through which one receives the blessing of salvation.

THE FOUNDATION

The foundation for such saving faith is the Bible, which is the Scripture that cannot be broken.  Since “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” it is completely reliable. It is the only safe basis for faith and true guide for living.

We believe that there is much to be learned from church history; the failures as well as the triumphs. One glaring failure is the growing tendency to put reason and its sciences into the proper place of the Scriptures. Philosophy, psychology, and sociology have their place in analyzing the problems of men. They do show the crying need for God’s healing Word with its Savior from sin. But they do not offer that solution. If people are to accept this Savior, they must learn about Him. Hence our general emphasis on the teaching of the Word of God, the Bible.

We believe that the Kingdom of God is essentially the gracious rule of God in heart and life.  Men grow by the light which the Holy Spirit gives through the Word.

LIMITS

Our teachings and practices are as narrow and as broad as the Scriptures themselves.  The Bible does not require a certain form of church service, nor a particular type of music, nor any specific kind of church building. The Bible does specify what we are to teach “all nations.” To His great commission our Savior added, significantly: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  There is no liberty to tamper with His teachings.

FELLOWSHIP

There  is  common approval  of  alliances  being fashioned today in pursuit of unity; even when such are made at the expense of the Christian witness. Toleration is asked even for outright denial of such basic Biblical teaching as the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the natural sinfulness of man, and redemption through Christ alone.

In opposition to this trend we maintain that unity of doctrine is necessary for a God-pleasing organizational unity and fellowship, since the Apostolic Word requires an avoidance of errorists.  Yet we are anxious always to extend the hand of fellowship to individuals and groups under conditions of harmony in the doctrine of Scripture.

THE BEGINNING

A  number  of pastors and  congregations  that could not in good conscience take part in the trend toward laxity and liberalism (defined in the church as modernism, disobedience to the Word, and plain unbelief) felt that they must make this confession to the world, and also to the world of Lutherans. Taking the name  Church of the Lutheran Confession, they banded together in 1959 to maintain the historic doctrine and confession of the Lutheran Reformation.

THE GOAL

Many are the pitfalls in the way of orthodoxy. Legalism, rigorism, formalism, exclusivism and arrogance are only some of the temptations which beset especially those who are concerned about true teaching of the Gospel. Against them we implore the life of the Spirit, desiring to be faithful in service as ready instruments of God’s ministering grace in Christ Jesus our Lord, even as we stand fast in the faithful Word as we have been taught of God.

Christmas Greetings From the CLCI

Written by | December, 2010
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1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

In Christ, dearly beloved,

On behalf of the CLCI, we send-forth our heartfelt Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Greetings to all of you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Read More…

Lutheran Spokesman

Written by | November, 2010
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The Lutheran Spokesman is now online as a full periodical website. Including archive of all previous issues and easy to read and share articles. www.LutheranSpokesman.org

CLC Journal of Theology Archive Page

Written by | October, 2009
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CLC Journal of Theology Archive Page

Past Issues of the CLC Journal of Theology, in PDF format. Use Adobe’s Acrobat(TM) reader to read.

Lutheran Spokesman Archive Page

Written by | March, 2008
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Lutheran Spokesman Archive Page

Past Issues of the Spokesman:

CLC Statement of Faith and Purpose

Written by | March, 2008
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CLC Statement of Faith and Purpose

“HERE I STAND”

Statement of FAITH AND PURPOSE of the CHURCH OF THE LUTHERAN CONFESSION FOREWORD The 1968 Convention of the Church of the Lutheran Confession asked that a statement be prepared and published that would supply a simple but definitive expression of our faith in the basic doctrines of Holy Scripture. The “Statement of Faith and Purpose” was prepared and then published in 1969. It has served well as a public confession of the Church of the Lutheran Confession and experience has shown that it has spoken to the hearts of readers in an inspirational rather than dogmatic fashion. In 1990 the Church of the Lutheran Confession celebrated the 30th anniversary of its organization. By the grace of God its confessional position remained unchanged and therefore this 3rd edition of its “Statement of Faith and Purpose” was published. Any inquiries regarding the Church of Lutheran Confession or this pamphlet may be directed to: The Church of the Lutheran Confession Fiscal Office c/o Immanuel Lutheran College 501 Grover Road Eau Claire, WI 54701

I. OUR PURPOSE

It is our single purpose to be a Christian church which strives to proclaim the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible, by which alone man can know the true God and the way to eternal life. This our purpose and commitment rests upon t he following statements of the Bible: Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. {19} Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: {20} Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. We disavow the position that the church as a body is to promote social and political causes and opinions of men. The individual Christian will indeed show the fruits of faith by his concern for social and political causes wherever they present themselves. Our right of existence as a church, however, is limited by our readiness to say with St. Paul that we are “… determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) 1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Matthew 5:13-16 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

II. OUR SOURCE OF TRUTH

In our teaching and preaching we rely wholly upon the Bible, the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. We regard this Book of Books as the Word of God, verbally inspired and wholly without error as written by holy men of God. We consider our mission to be that of communicating the words and message of this Book to those who will hear them; and we know of no other divine source of true doctrine and instruction in the way of salvation and in God-pleasing living. We therefore reject as sacrilegious and destructive every effort by which the intellect or science of man would modify or set aside a single inspired word. We deplore the wide-spread apostasy, now common even in former “conservative” church bodies, which reduces the Bible to the status of a human document containing errors and myths. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. John 10:35 … and the Scripture cannot be broken; Jeremiah 23:28 The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD.

III. MAN: HIS CREATION AND FALL

Our purpose is fixed also by the knowledge and conviction that man is what the Bible says he is: Not a product of an evolutionary process which has brought him from brutish beginnings to more advanced stages of development, but a being distinct from the beasts. Created originally in the image of God, he is now without spiritual goodness, utterly depraved by reason of sin into which Adam fell. He is spiritually blind, dead, an enemy of God and doomed to eternal damnation, being incapable of redeeming himself by any means whatsoever. Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image… Genesis, Chapter 3. Genesis 8:21 …for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; Psalms 14:2-3 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Psalms 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Ephesians 2:3 …we all … were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. Indeed, the God of grace Himself is unknown and hidden to this human race, and can be found by man only in and through the revelation graciously provided in the Bible. Without exception the gods of the nations are idols that cannot hear, see or save. In the darkness of their wicked hearts men, left to themselves, have “worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.” “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” (Romans 1:22-25). This describes not only the gods of the pagans, but those professed by all unchristian organizations and in many churches as well, some of which have abandoned the tenets of their historic faith.

IV. THE TRIUNE GOD, SELF-REVEALED IN HIS WORD

We confess and worship the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, revealed in his Word and in the Person of the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In this Triune God we find and declare the source and promise of salvation: A. In the Father who as Creator and Preserver loved the world perishing in its sins, and from eternity planned salvation for mankind through and with His Son. B. In the Son, true God and true Man, who by His coming into our flesh, His life of perfect obedience and His suffering upon the cross in our place and stead atoned for the sins of the world, removed all guilt, reconciled men to God and was raised again from the dead for their justification. We believe that by virtue of His sacrifice and His perfect obedience all men have been declared righteous by God; and this righteousness we proclaim and offer to men by the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. C. And in the Holy Ghost , “the Lord and Giver of Life,” whose gracious work it is to enlighten the dark, ignorant hearts of men by means of the revealed Gospel of salvation, creating saving faith and conferring the comfort of the forgiveness of sin. A Christian is the result of this creative act which Scripture calls regeneration, a new birth. By the faith thus wrought the sinner receives and accepts the blessing of his justification, thus enjoying the salvation prepared for him in Christ. In his own nature, by his own strength of mind or will, man can do nothing except resist and reject the life-giving Gospel. He cannot by his own power “decide for Christ.” As believers are told by St. Paul in reviewing their state before regeneration: ” And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), so we recognize in no man a previous ” good disposition toward the Gospel,” or an “inclination toward Christ,” which is not wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Gospel. In regenerated hearts the Holy Spirit dwells, sanctifying them day by day, moving them to live before God as His children according to His revealed Will, teaching them to crucify the fleshly urges of sin which still cling to them in this life. Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved). 1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

V. THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH

We teach that the Holy Ghost gathers the Holy Christian Church, which in its ultimate fullness consists of all who by God’s mercy, and according to His own purpose and grace, were from eternity ordained unto eternal life. The Church’s unifying factor is “the one true faith;” but human eyes cannot discern faith, which is in the heart, and for us the very existence of the Church is thus an article of faith. The Church, therefore, cannot be identified with any specific organization or church body, nor can we recognize or identify its individual members by their faith. For this reason we have historically spoken of the Church as ” invisible.” Nevertheless the presence of the Church can be determined by its marks. For since the Holy Spirit gathers its members by the Gospel, we must and may assume that true believers are present wherever the Gospel in Word and Sacrament is in use. Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. 2 Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. Ephesians 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

VI. CHURCH FELLOWSHIP: ITS BASIS AND LIMITATIONS

We are confident that there are many who, though they do not now openly share with us the profession of the true faith, being yet partly uninformed or weak in understanding, are nevertheless at heart members of the flock of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. (John 10:14-16.) We are also fully aware that in our own visible fellowship there may be such who, despite their outward profession, are not of Christ, but are hypocrites and unbelievers. Jesus said to His disciples: ” Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70.) It will not be otherwise in our day. Yet in our exercise of external, visible fellowship of worship and joint church work we are guided by clear and sure directives of God’s holy Word. We cannot recognize our brethren on earth by the faith of their hearts; for these are not open to our view. Instead, by the mercy and grace of God we are permitted to fellowship with those, but those only, who in their confession and life bow to the rule of the divine Word. 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he (God) is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. Romans 15:5-6 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 . . . what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with dark ness?. . . Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate . . . Ephesians 5:6-7 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 2 John 1:10-11 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (the doctrine of Christ), receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye . . . Acts 19:1-7 In our practice, therefore: 1. We hold that the name “Christian” is applied improperly to such persons who, by word of mouth or in their writings, expressly or by implication reject the blood-bought salvation of Jesus Christ and the Means of Grace, or impenitently persist in ungodly living. 2. We limit all forms of the exercise of fellowship relations, by which we acknowledge and treat one another as confessional brethren, to those professing Christians who meet the scriptural requirement of complete agreement in doctrine and life and do not by word or act reject any part of the pure doctrine of God’s Word. 3. While we avoid all who preach, teach or advocate error, we gladly receive those who, though weak in understanding and as yet in part uninformed, profess faith in their Savior and gladly hear, learn and receive the Truth, continuing therein and renouncing all error. 4. We are indeed edified and heartened by every testimony, written or spoken, which truly confesses, teaches, preaches and glorifies the Gospel of Christ. But we reject and condemn the false ecumenism which would require us to make common cause in worship and church work with those who, while claiming the Christian name, or even the Luther an name, publicly adhere to that which contradicts God’s clear Word in whole or in part. We equally condemn separatism — that is, a schismatic withdrawal from others for a reason or purpose not in accord with God’s revealed Will. 5. We do not deny, but joyfully acknowledge that the Lord knows His elect, even though some are unwitting captives in false-teaching churches where, by their membership, they are partaking of a confession of error and are subjected to grave spiritual danger. We pray that all who now truly believe may persevere in that faith to the end and thus obtain everlasting life.

VII. THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL

That men might attain to His salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the glorious ministry of the Gospel by which the Holy Ghost is pleased to call, gather, enlighten and keep the whole Christian Church on earth. To this ministry He has called everyone who truly believes in Christ, and for its purposes enables Christians to establish congregations as well as other groups, sometimes called synods, on the basis of a Scriptural confession. Within such groups, large or small, believers are privileged to set up the public proclamation and teaching of the saving Word by human instruments which God himself supplies. These instruments are those Christians chosen and prepared by Him to act in His behalf as well as in behalf of their brethren as administrators of the Grace of God. Their function we call the Public Ministry. It is staffed by those whom Christ gives to His Church and who are properly called by the Church for the work. Pastors and teachers of the Word are thus occupying a divinely instituted office and their specific area of work is determined and defined by their respective Calls in which the assignment given to each by the calling as- sembly is spelled out. In this service there is no distinction of rank and power. But there is a diversity of gifts and responsibilities. Eligibility for a Call to the Public Ministry is determined by the directives of God’s Word (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Timothy 2:11-12). We further believe that, when such called ministers of Christ, in accordance with their respective Call, deal with us by Christ’s command, He speaks through them, and in them we obey Him. Ephesians 4:8-16 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ . . . Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

VIII. THE SACRAMENTS OF BAPTISM AND OF THE ALTAR

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism which is administered among us as a part of the Gospel ministry we regard as a washing of regeneration, having power by means of the Word connected therewith to work faith and thus to confer all the blessings of Christ upon young or old. We regard infant baptism as clearly implied, both in the Savior’s command to baptize all nations and in the promise of Peter that baptism has power to save all who are lost by reason of inherited and actual sin (” . . . baptism doth also now save us . . .” 1 Peter 3:21). While the mode of baptism is nowhere prescribed, we regard baptism as valid only when performed in accordance with Christ’s institution. The Sacrament of the Altar, or Holy Communion, is administered in our churches as it was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ, with the body and blood of Christ being really present in the eating and drinking. We believe that this Sacrament, like Baptism, is a Means of Grace, imparting , as Scripture teaches, the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. We seek to administer this Sacrament to those only for whom it was intended, namely, to penitent sinners who desire to confess and live according to God’s Word. We therefore practice what is known as close communion, with attendance at the Lord’s Table restricted to such who have properly signified their intention to commune and are able to examine themselves. In observing these procedures we indicate our respect for the Holy Supper as a precious gift for our souls, worthy of frequent and sanctified use by all communicants. In this we are governed by the inspired counsel of the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24.

IX. THE FINAL JUDGMENT

We know, believe and teach that the world as it now exists will not endure. The ills of man and his civilization are rooted in unbelief and sin, because of which things “cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6). There is no hope of cure save in a turning to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Way. The world as such has consistently rejected this course, and always will. Therefore, while as individual Christians and citizens we must be actively concerned with serving as a salt and a light in the affairs of men, and while as a church we shall lift up holy hands in prayer for the good of all men, we have no illusions as to the final outcome of events and preach no false, millennialistic hopes. Rather, we direct men to the future city of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, and bid them wait for, and look to, the glorious appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ in His second Coming to judge the quick and the dead. 2 Timothy 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

X. CONCLUSION

These things, together with all other truths of Holy Scripture as set forth also in the Lutheran symbols of the Book of Concord of 1580 A.D., we believe and desire to confess by word and deed before the Triune God and all men. We earnestly desire to share our rich blessings, and thus extend a welcome to ALL who are in distress of mind and heart because of their guilt and condemnation in the sight of Almighty God and seek the pardon and comfort which only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can confer; ALL who are bewildered by the confusion of many voices offering the theories of human wisdom in the name of religion, and who desire to hear the Voice of the Good Shepherd whom God raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses; ALL who, though members of Christian churches, have come to fear or to know that their churches have departed from the truth of Holy Scripture, who therefore long for the old paths and the good way (Jeremiah 6:16); ALL who have strayed from the blessed pledge of their Baptism and desire to be restored to the Bishop of their souls. NOW UNTO HIM THAT IS ABLE TO KEEP YOU FROM FALLING, AND TO PRESENT YOU FAULTLESS BEFORE THE PRESENCE OF HIS GLORY WITH EXCEED ING JOY, TO THE ONLY WISE GOD OUR SAVIOR, BE GLORY AND MAJESTY, DOMINION AND POWER, BOTH NOW AND FOR EVER. AMEN. (Jude 24-25). (Click here to view/download this document in text format.

CLC History and Differences

Written by | March, 2008
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A History of the CLC and Differences Between CLC and Other Synods

The Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) considers itself to be the true spiritual descendant of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference, which was formed in 1872 and lasted until the early 1960s. As that association of formerly conservative Lutheran church bodies in North America was drawing its last breath, the CLC was just becoming a church body. The CLC emerged from three of the former member churches of the Synodical Conference: primarily from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), but also from the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). The Synodical Conference had originally been formed on the basis of full agreement in doctrine and practice on the part of the member churches; it broke apart when that basis and the biblical doctrine of church fellowship on which it rested was no longer fully practiced by the member churches. Members of the CLC are eager to testify to the truths that had been held by the Synodical Conference in the days when it had been faithful to the doctrines of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, as found in the Book of Concord of 1580; thus the name that was chosen: Church of the Lutheran Confession. This desire is also attested by the CLC’s adopting the Brief Statement of 1932 as one of the confessional writings cited in its constitution. Thus the CLC confesses: “In our teaching and preaching we rely wholly upon the Bible, the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. We regard this Book of Books as the Word of God, verbally inspired and wholly without error as written by holy men of God. We consider our mission to be that of communicating the words and message of this Book to those who will hear them; and we know of no other divine source of true doctrine and instruction in the way of salvation and in God-pleasing living.” Further: “We therefore reject as sacrilegious and destructive every effort by which the intellect or science of man would modify or set aside a single inspired word. We deplore the wide- spread apostasy…which reduces the Bible to the status of a human document containing errors and myths.” In the above-mentioned doctrine of the Scriptures the CLC differs widely from the most liberal branches of general Lutheranism, namely those Lutheran churches found in European nations and, in the United States, that Lutheran church body identifying itself, since 1988, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA is admittedly not agreed in doctrine among the church bodies which formed it through merger. Even its most conservative wing would not accept the high view of the Scriptures as verbally inspired and wholly without error, which is unashamedly taught in the CLC. As the ELCA is the most liberal of the Lutheran church bodies in the United States, so the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) may be regarded as the moderate, more middle-of-the-road, wing of American Lutheranism. It does not as yet go so far, for example, as the ELCA in permitting women to serve as parish pastors (although a poll of LCMS pastors reported that more than 1,000 of them had no objection to women clergy), yet it has changed its former position (as held by earlier leaders C.F.W. Walther and F. Pieper) and now permits women to vote and hold office in the church. This is one illustration of the present-day attitude of the LCMS toward the inviolability of Scripture. The LCMS espouses the notion that the words of St. Paul regarding women in the church were culturally-affected and are no longer applicable in today’s society. The CLC, on the other hand, holds that St. Paul, writing words which were verbally inspired and inerrant, was expressing the eternal will of God. Another illustration of this difference can be seen in the doctrine of the Church, particularly in reference to church fellowship. Because we of the CLC deplore any attempt to modify or set aside a single inspired word of Scripture, we also wish to be obedient to those words of God which instruct regarding the Church and the practice of fellowship. We firmly believe that the Church consists of all who, by God’s mercy and according to His own purpose and grace, were from eternity ordained unto eternal life, and that the factor uniting the Church is “the one true faith.” Faith cannot be seen by human eyes, and therefore the very existence of the Church is an article of faith. Since the word of God promises it, we believe that where the gospel in word and sacrament is in use there true believers are present. In the exercise of fellowship in worship (praying together) and joint church work, we cannot recognize our brethren by the faith in their hearts, which is not visible to us. Instead, by the grace of God and in accordance with His instruction, we are permitted to exercise fellowship only with those who in their confession and life bow to the rule of the divine word of God. Because Christ Himself urged: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you“; and because the Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” – we know in faith that it is the divine will that Christians are to be perfectly united in doctrine and practice, and that they are not to be indifferent in this matter (perhaps “agreeing to disagree agreeably”) but are to seek agreement on the basis of God’s word. Where there is such unity in doctrine and practice there is to be the practice of fellowship in all its phases; where there is not such unity, God’s word in Romans 16:17 sets forth the God-pleasing refusal of the practice of fellowship: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark (keep on taking note of) them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” The CLC, accordingly, upholds the following in the Brief Statement of 1932: “Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church (1 Pet. 4:11; John 8:31,32; 1 Tim. 6:3,4) all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church-bodies, to leave them (Rom. 16:17). We repudiate unionism, that is, church-fellowship with adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to God’s command, as causing divisions in the Church (Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9,10), and as involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely (2 Tim. 2:17-21). … The orthodox character of a church is established not by its mere name nor by its outward acceptance and subscription to, an orthodox creed, but by the doctrine which is actually taught in its pulpits, in its theological seminaries, and in its publications.” In place of the above, which was once held by the LCMS, that church body now practices what they term “levels of fellowship,” according to which fellowship may be practiced among Christians of varying confessions under certain curcumstances: such as open communion, ecumenical services and the like. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) are in fellowship with each other, though not completely agreed on the involvement of admonition in the process of terminating fellowship on their part with a church body which has “become infected with error.” Both bodies, however, do maintain that it is necessary to make the judgment (“come to the conviction”) that “admonition is of no further avail” before termination of fellowship can take place. The CLC, on the other hand, holds that such a subjective judgment regarding the further results of admonition is not only impossible, because only God can read human hearts, but also unnecessary; for Rom. 16:17 says only that when it has been ascertained that an individual or a church body is causing divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine of Holy Scripture, the directive to avoid is as binding as any word addressed to us by our Savior God in Holy Scripture. The apostle’s premptory “avoid!” is the voice of the Good Shepherd Himself, as He lovingly protects His sheep and lambs from the deception of error and as He graciously gives warning to the false teacher. … We reject any interpretation of Rom. 16:17-18 which, in the name of Christian love, would make the avoiding of causers of divisions and offenses contingent upon the subjective judgment that admonition is of no further avail and that an impasse has been reached. It might be felt that the CLC exists merely to testify against the errors of others. The truth is that the CLC is, in fact, for something very precious, namely the full and complete revelation of God’s word to the world of sinners, among whom we include ourselves. Surely, then, the CLC is an evangelical church, in the full sense of the term; our most important mission is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that God has redeemed the whole world and has declared it righteous through the death and bodily resurrection of the God-Man, Jesus Christ; and that believers in Him will inherit everlasting life in heaven. As part of its mission, the CLC is deeply interested and involved in Christian education. Christian day schools, taught by professionally trained teachers, are operated by more than one-fourth of its con- gregations. The CLC also educates young people for leadership as dedicated lay members, Christian day-school teachers, or pastors, at its Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The college has three departments: high school, liberal arts college, and theological seminary. There are four-year programs leading to a bachelor’s degree in elementary education or pre-theological studies, and a two-year general studies program granting an associate degree. Member congregations of the CLC are located in 23 states and Canada, and the church body presently supports missions in 18 U.S. cities. While not in fellowship with any other U.S. Lutheran body, the CLC has fellowship with three overseas church bodies it is helping to support in India and Nigeria. The CLC has three official publications: Ministry by Mail, Lutheran Spokesman, and Journal of Theology. Prof. John Lau 07/09/95

CLC – Concerning Church and Ministry

Written by | March, 2008
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Concerning Church and Ministry
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On the Relation of Synod and Local Congregation
to the Holy Christian Church

The thoughts, words and subject matter in the Theses on the Relation of Synod and Local Congregation to the Holy Christian Church, as originally accepted by the Church of the Lutheran Confession, are herewith reaffirmed and taken up in their order with the purpose of expanding upon the meaning and intent of the truths therein expressed, in order that we may state with full clarity what they briefly say and suggest concerning that which Scripture teaches us to hold and confess regarding the doctrine of the Church. At the same time we desire, in this presentation, to disassociate ourselves from doctrines that conflict with scriptural teaching on this subject and from views of men which militate against the liberty that we have in Christ.
In so doing, we seek to preserve inviolate and unimpaired, for ourselves as a church body as well as for each believer in Christ, the full prerogatives and splendor of our function as royal priests of God and the true blessings of our faith in the Holy Christian Church.

THESIS I

THE CHURCH, ACCORDING TO ITS INNER NATURE AND ESSENCE, IS THE TOTAL NUMBER OF ALL THOSE WHOM GOD RECOGNIZES AS HIS DEAR CHILDREN BY FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS. II Tim. 2:19; Gal. 3:26; 1 Pet. 2:9; Eph. 2:19-22; Acts 2:47b.

Expression has been given in another of our confessions, the one entitled: Concerning Church Fellowship, to the unique character of the Church, the Communion of Saints, its singular unity and the legitimate manner, outlined in Scripture, by which that unity is to be reflected and maintained in outward, visible fellowship. Further clarification is needful only to the extent that a proper relationship be defined as it obtains between a so-called local congregation and the wider association of Christians by congregations within the framework of what in our age has often been called a Synod, or a Conference, or simply: a church. The use of the term church when speaking of outward, visible organizations has been a cause of considerable difficulty to all efforts at maintaining unity of faith and confession in this area of doctrine among otherwise like-minded Lutherans. The existence of these difficulties is recognized by the title of our Theses; and in a brief preamble we have offered an approach to the elimination of misunderstanding in this matter. The introductory paragraph reads:
In the discussion of the doctrine of the Church, specifically the relation of synod and local congregation, it is helpful and essential to distinguish between THE NATURE AND ESSENCE of these respective bodies on the one hand and their ORGANIZATIONAL FORM AND FUNCTION on the other.

It is of great importance to note that the scriptural concept of church can be applied to visible church organizations only in an improper sense. We acknowledge that they are thereby defined, not essentially, but by synecdoche, a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole, or the whole for a part, the special for the general, or the general for the special, or the like. (Thorndike-Bartihart, Dictionary) If therefore we wish to apprehend clearly the relation of Synod and local congregation to the Church, we must necessarily begin by setting forth what Scripture means when it speaks of the Church. To this effort the first Thesis addresses itself.
We rejoice in the knowledge that, among those who retain as their heritage the fundamental blessing of the Lutheran Reformation, the doctrinal position affirmed by this Thesis will elicit only unqualified approval. It merely rephrases in the briefest possible way a truth which the Lutheran Confessions have taught us to regard as a part of the elementary knowledge of properly instructed Christians. All these will say, with the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:
Wherefore we hold, according to the Scriptures, that the Church, properly so called, is the congregation of saints (of those here and there in the world), who truly believe the Gospel of Christ and have the Holy Ghost. (Apol. Art. Vii, 28; Triglot, p. 237)

The Thesis, through the scripture references adduced, further declares that this Church is invisible to the eyes of men and its membership known only to the Lord; that it is nevertheless not a Platonic or imaginary state, but an actual spiritual priesthood of believers, a world-wide congregation of saints who are made holy through faith in Christ and who serve God in holy works; that it is not a mere idea or ideal, but an actuality for which Christ gave Himself into death, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing: but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5: 27)
We teach with Martin Luther that Christians are a separated, chosen people and are called not only a church or people (ecclesia), but holy, universal, Christian, that is: a Christian, holy people, who believe in Christ, wherefore they are called a Christian people; and who possess the Holy Ghost, who daily sanctifies them, not only through the remission of sins which Christ has gained for them (as the Antinomians foolishly suppose), but also through the putting off, sweeping out, and mortifying of sins, wherefore they are called a holy people . . . (Luther, of Councils and Churches, 1539)
Lest the nature of the sanctification of the Church be misconceived, we join John Gerhard in here declaring that we emphatically do not employ the designation of saints in an Anabaptist or Pelagian sense; nor do we indulge in the fantasy that the true citizens of the Church, in the weakness of this life, are wholly and utterly sinless . . . (Loc. de eccl., Par. 51) Rather, we confess with Luther: The holy Church sins and falters or indeed also errs, as the Lords Prayer teaches; but she neither defends nor excuses herself, but humbly prays for forgiveness and amends her ways as much as is ever possible. It is then forgiven her, so that her sin is no more counted as sin. (Walch, XIX, 1294) Cf. also: Luthers Works, Am. Ed., Vol. 22, pp. 178- 180 (Walch, VII, 1734, 425ff).
Thus before the Lord the Church indeed stands a living, holy temple, united and imperishable, an organism that is vital, alive and growing. Outside of this Church there is no salvation for men; such as should be saved will be, and are being, added to it constantly through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. These are the out-. ward marks which indicate the presence of the Church; but they are not a part of, nor do they belong to the essence of, the Church. We hold that to speak of a visible side of the invisible Church is unscriptural and a contradiction in terms. But we say with our Confessions: The Christian Church consists. . . especially in inward communion of eternal blessings in the heart, as of the Holy Ghost, of faith, of fear and love of God; which fellowship, nevertheless, has outward marks so that it can be recognized, namely, the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. (Apol. VII, VIII, 5; Triglot, p. 227)
Whatever then maybe the relationship existing between the Church on the one hand and the congregational or synodical organization on the other, it is certain that they must in no wise be identified. Visible church bodies are neither holy nor perfect; they are not one, but many. Though they contain Christians, they do not consist of believers only, as does the Church; though the Word and Sacraments are present and operative in them, these are not entrusted to them as such and are not administered by them as such; though they grow and multiply, it is not these, or any one of them, of which the Lord Jesus spoke when He said: . . I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mt. 16:18.)
Not only do we insist that this distinction must be made; we ask also that it be meticulously and consistently respected throughout any wider discussion of the doctrine of the Church and related matters. Much of the confusion that has in the past frequently be-clouded this doctrine even within the confines of the most conservative Lutheranism can be traced directly to the lack of consistency that loses sight of the doctrinal premises when they become involved in the process of practical application. We shall find it necessary to refer to aberrations of this type as we now proceed to an exposition of those Theses in our series which undertake to define the proper relevance of certain visible organizations to that object of our faith the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.

THESIS II

ANY GROUP OF PROFESSING CHRISTIANS GATHERED IN CHRISTS NAME (Mt. 18:20) CAN RIGHTLY BE CALLED CHURCH’ BECAUSE OF THE CHRISTIANS IN IT. THEREFORE ALSO A SO-CALLED LOCAL CONGREGATION GATHERED ABOUT WORD AND SACRAMENT IS RIGHTLY CALLED CHURCH ONLY BECAUSE OF THE CHRISTIANS IN IT. (Eph.1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2; Mt. 18:20) THE OUTWARD ORGANIZATIONAL FORM OF A CONGREGATION IS OF HUMAN ARRANGEMENT AND MAY VARY WIDELY AS IT DID EVEN IN THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH. COMPARE CORINTH WITH JERUSALEM. (I Cor. 12 and 14; Acts 6)

When we speak of a Christian congregation, or local church, we always mean only the Christians or believers in the visible communion. The congregations, too, consist only of believers. As the wicked and hypocrites do not belong to the Church Universal, so they are no part of the congregation either. This is the clear teaching of Scripture. (Pieper, Dogmatics, III; Eng. Ed. p.419f)
These precise statements of a revered teacher, presumably agreed to by several generations of a Lutheran orthodoxy of which we desire to be heirs, well serve to introduce this portion of our confession. Sometimes they have been misunderstood. Oftener they have been ignored. Substantially they present a proposition basic to the scriptural thinking of our Theses.
The expressions: church; congregation; communion; belong to the vocabulary which must be employed when we wish to state clearly what we teach and believe in regard to the matters now under consideration. Yet it is by the very use of such terms that we may be misunderstood and may in turn fail to understand others. It must be regarded as an unhappy circumstance and a measure of human inadequacy that we are compelled to deal in words which through careless usage or by reason of their origins have become ambiguous. Of necessity, then, those who undertake to teach and confess the doctrine of Scripture in any point, and certainly not least in the area here under consideration, will at the outset define their terms.
We are told that Luther regarded the German equivalent of the word church (Kirche) as being unGerman, a vague and fuzzy expression. In his translation of the Old Testament he employed it only about fifteen times, and then invariably to denote idolatrous sanctuaries or associations and never as designation for the believers of the Old Covenant or their assemblies. In his translation of the New Testament Luther uses the expression  Kirche only twice, and these instances consist in compound words (church-dedication, Jn. lO:22; church~robbers, H Acts 19:37). Uniformly he translated the Greek ekklesia with Gemeinde (congregation). (Quartalschrift, Vol. 26, p. 207f) Despite such care on his part, Luther too has been misunderstood and cited for false positions relative to the doctrine of the Church.
It may not be possible to obviate all wrongful interpretations of what we endeavor to say in this our
confession. We shall nevertheless be at pains to remain as definitive as possible in our expression. To this end we desire herewith to establish and announce the policy to be pursued herein: Whenever we employ the term Church as a proper noun, or in its generic use as indicated by quotation marks (church), we wish to be understood as referring to the invisible ekklesia of the Scriptures in its essence and with its characteristics; to the Holy Christian Church, whether in its totality or in its parts. With this provision established, we trust that mutual understanding will prevail.
But it behooves us also to establish a consistent use of the word congregation for our purposes. In the statement of Dr. Pieper quoted above, we note that he carefully distinguishes between the concept Christian congregation, or local church and a visible communion, to which he does not want to apply the word congregation. Thus in the context in which he deals he wishes to be understood as equating congregation with church. This, then, is the definition of a congregation: A congregation is the assembly of believers who congregate about Word and Sacrament at a particular place. (Op. Cit. p. 420) The visible communion, so often loosely called a church or a local church or a local congregation for the sake of convenience in casual discussion as well as in theological debate, includes whatever number of unbelievers and hypocrites may be mingled therewith. Dr. Pieper in his doctrinal treatment does not wish the word congregation to be employed in that sense.
Our theses sympathize with that restriction. Indeed, they make an issue of it. Though they speak of the outward organizational form of a congregation, the very syntax of that phrase indicates that congregation is something distinct from its outward organizational form. And so it must be. Holy Scripture indeed recognizes the existence of visible communions or fellowshipping groups. But we have already pointed out that when our Savior, in Mt. 16:18, declares that He would build His Church, He was not speaking of any visible church body as such, but of His spiritual Body. This is the first instance of the New Testament use of the term ekklesia, which we translate as church; and in similar contexts the Apostles consistently employ the term in the same sense.

With these preliminaries serving to guard our terminology against semantic confusion, we turn to our thesis which says that any group of professing Christians gathered in Christs Name (Mt. 18:20) can rightly be called church because of the Christians in it. Therefore also a so-called local congregation … With these words we intend to convey this truth above all, that a local congregation (Ortsgemeinde) in the sense of a circumscribed group of professing Christians (as distinct from a group of believers) can be designated a church only because we believe that the Church is present in it, present wherever the Gospel is preached and the Sacraments are administered according to Christs institution. The very existence of the Church is a matter of faith and not of observation. When people are assembled in Christs Name, that is, in connection with the Name of the Lord, this means, as it has always been understood among us and as both the Second Commandment and the First Petition of the Lords Prayer have taught us, that such people are assembled about and concerning the Word and Sacraments. These are the marks which indicate what we cannot see but accept as fact: the presence of the Church.
The saints that come together within an outward fellowship, the faithful in Christ Jesus, make such visible communions church, and ARE church. Their sum is rightly labeled a congregation, namely an assembly of those who have been called out and separated from the world. Of this congregation, as part and parcel of the Holy Christian Church on earth, it can be said that it possesses all the rights, duties and powers of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; and this because each and every individual of the congregation so constituted, as a spiritual priest before God, is endowed with the treasures which Christ has earned, won and conferred upon His Church.
Scripture assures us that we shall be able to find the Church wherever men assemble about the true Gospel and the Sacraments in order to use them according to the Saviors directive (Mt. 18:20); and because His Word calls upon His disciples to do so (Mt. 18:17; Heb.l0:24-25), we recognize the fact that through their response to this need and the will of their Lord outward organizations will come into being. Their faith will bring Christians together as church; and the assembling will not be invisible. The Gospel and the faith that it generates will, by Gods grace, create tangible forms. We know also that in the very nature of things the assembling of Christians and the resulting form of their being together will, first of all, be of a local character and composition. In other words, we regard the establishment of local congregations as the primary outcome of the operation of the Holy Spirit Who gathers Gods elect and permits them to recognize one another by their confession. In this sense we may scripturally affirm that local visible communions in which the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity and the Sacraments are administered according to their divine institution exist by Gods will and order and through the operation of His power in the Gospel.
Concerning such local visible communions, however, our thesis in its second part rejects the thought that they must be cast into any one divinely fixed outward form. From the very outset of the life of the New Testament Church the structure of its visible communions as well as their manner of operation with the public ministry of Word and Sacrament varied substantially from place to place and region to region. Reference is made to the difference in this respect between the Mother Church at Jerusalem and the church at Corinth. In Jerusalem organizational design and functioning are evidenced, for example, in the purposeful and orderly procedure that marked the choosing of the seven deacons (Acts 6). In contrast, the worship of the Corinthian congregation reveals a use of the God-given charismatic gifts so individual and so joyfully uninhibited by organizational form that it actually created a problem to which Paul had to give considerable attention (I Cor. 14). Yet the Apostle did not simply impose upon the Corinthians the system of Jerusalem. For when Gods children are called together for the exercise of the priestly prerogatives of their holy station, it is Gods Spirit Who moves them; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (II Cor. 3:17) They are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world and are not subject to ordinances. (Col. 2:20) Among them prevails the divinely sanctioned diversity in unity described by the Apostle in I Cor. 12, a diversity which exists between them not only as individuals, but as groups as well. Therefore visible assemblies may and do operate under voluntary and diversified regulations and constitutional provisions designed, not to achieve structural uniformity but to promote the interests of good order and mutual love in the discharge of the labors in the Gospel, seeking to achieve as best possible under all circumstances the design of the Lord Who says through His Apostle that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (I Cor. 12:7)

In this sense and for this reason we affirm that the outward organizational form of a congregation is of human arrangement, and does not as such determine its character. When a visible local assembly is called a church, therefore, it must be borne in mind that this sacred term does not properly apply to it insofar as it is an outward assembly, but only to the extent that it is truly a congregation. While with the Catechism we speak of the church power (or authority) which Christ has given to His Church on earth, and apply this truth by saying that the Keys have been conferred upon the local congregation, we must bear in mind that such an assertion is correct only when we are properly defining local congregation as Dr. Pieper does. For it is to the Church in the true sense, that is, to the communion of saints, to which as such (or as to holy people) the Lord has entrusted and committed the preaching of the Gospel and therewith the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and not the church in the improper, or synecdochical sense, that is, insofar as the term is used to include persons who are not Christians, or insofar as it associates concrete things and forms (Sachen) with believers. Tt (Quartalschrift, Vol. 26, p. 217)

THESIS III

WHEN IT IS SAID THAT A SYNOD IS CHURCH,THIS IS SAID WITH REFERENCE TO ITS INNER NATURE AND ESSENCE, NAMELY INSOFAR AS IT CONSTITUTES A COMMUNION OF TRUE BELIEVERS. WHEN IT IS SAID THAT A SYNOD OR CONFERENCE IS A HUMAN ARRANGEMENT,THIS IS PROPERLY SAID WITH REFERENCE TO ITS OUTWARD ORGANIZATIONAL FORM WHICH IS DETERMINED AND DEFINED BY THE CONGREGATIONS THAT HAVE CONSTITUTED THIS BODY.

Some Lutheran teachers have argued that the formation of local churches must be regarded as having a divine mandate while the organization by congregations of larger bodies such as synods is a purely human and optional arrangement. The contention is that local churches originate through the inner necessity established by Gods will and order that Christians fellowship, institute the public preaching of the Word, exercise Christian discipline and celebrate the Holy Supper. Since these are manifestly enjoined upon Christians and since they could not be exercised without local assemblies, it follows that local churches are divinely instituted. Such logic, however, could be applied with similar authority in demonstrating that wider associations of Christians also have a divine mandate. For since our Savior has directed His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, and since a single local church could hardly hope to approach an adequate implementation of this obligation, it follows that the mission command presupposes (and thus makes mandatory) the cooperation of many Christians in many places as necessitated by the needs and opportunities. This conclusion is supported by the fact that in the primitive Christian Church the believers linked hands and means in speeding the Apostles and their helpers upon their missionary enterprises.
We have pointed out that it is the Holy Ghost Who causes Christians to seek one another out by their confession and to engage in the exercise of fellowship and joint work. This is always true, no matter what outward form or organization may be set up for the furtherance of this exercise. Proper and divinely approved forms of worship and work are products of the faith and liberty of those who possess the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; and faith in action is inventive, liberty is unfettered. (I Cor. 12:4-7; I Cor.3:2l-23)The New Testament knows of no specific forms that have been prescribed to restrict or limit, geographically or functionally, the manner in which the individual Christian will govern his association with his brethren in the administration of the Means of Grace. (Col. 2:20f; Gal.4:9f)
In the same sense in which a local congregation is church, therefore, a wider association of Christians reaching beyond the boundaries of a local congregation is also rightly called church. In our circles such a larger fellowship has often resulted in an outward organizational form which is popularly known as synod. If in the Theses as well as in this exposition we employ the synodical appellation, we wish it understood that we do not apply the term church to the form or to the name, even as we do not refer to a congregation as church in relation to its visible structure.
The circumstance that a number of confessing congregations, acting in Christian liberty, combine to constitute a larger church body, the outward form of which is indeed of human devising, does not denude such a larger body of the characteristics of church, but rather confers that character upon it. For the essential nature of the confessing congregations is not altered by their humanly constructed, yet wholly legitimate union with others of the same mind; rather, when these congregations are added together, the resultant total is again expressed by the concepts confessional congregation, or assembly, within which the Church proprie dicta, the communion of saints, the true possessor of all the treasures of Christ, is contained. In a synod are embodied all those Christians who lie hidden in all constituent congregations.

As the sum of all such congregations and their individual members, a synod therefore naturally and originally possesses all treasures and powers that Christ has given to His Church on earth: the authority to preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, the Office of the Keys, etc. . . (Quartalschrift, Vol. 8, p. 135f)
But in whatever manner the Church at large or the local church may establish herself outwardly, always it remains church in the proper sense of the word: Communion of Saints. By the process of their banding together as a larger outward communion, the members of a local congregation do not forfeit their faith, their membership in the Body of Christ; rather, the banding together is an outgrowth of their faith, and in this larger fellowship they desire to exercise their faith just as in the local congregation, though in areas of Christian work which lie beyond the capacities of the latter body.
Herein we cannot go wrong: Where the Gospel is preached in its purity and the Sacraments are administered in accordance with the Gospel, there is the Church, the communion of saints, be the form and name of the outward organization whatever it will. The synod embraces all Christians of the congregations which have joined it for the purpose of joint confession, joint preaching of the Gospel and mutual strengthening in faith. Synod is only another outward form of the Church, a different form of the Congregation of Christ than the local assembly, differing from this form not in its general, but in its specific task and activity.
The peculiar idea that only the local congregation has been ordained or instituted by God, and can possess the Gospel, Sacraments and power of the Keys only in this form, that the synod on the other hand is a purely human organization serving as human advisor to the congregation and for the purely human efforts in furthering the cause of the Gospel, . . . rests upon a confusion of the essence with the outward form of the church, of the concrete historical development of the church with the New Testament concept of the Kingdom of God, and upon the transfer of the Old Testament concept of the Church into the New Testament Church, as though God had established an outward church institution within the New Testament Church, a special church FORM with whose function the effective operation of the Gospel and the salvation of souls is inseparably linked. Thereby the freedom of the New Testament Church from the statutes of the old covenant is actually denied.
The fact is that the New Testament Church has not a single prescribed outward form, no outward divine institution, but that the Lord has given to His Bride, His communion of saints, the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Gospel, has entrusted it to her for her own use and for a preaching to all the world, commanding her to be a faithful steward of His goods and to let everything also in outward matters be done decently and in order. To this end He endows her through the Holy Spirit with specific men and gifts which she is to place into her service according to her best judgment. A particular church form . . . He did not prescribe for her. (Quartalschrift, Vol. Z5, p. 42f)
Against this the contention has been raised that the New Testament, which speaks of local churches, does not speak of synods. If this were intended to mean that the word synod is not known to the New Testament authors, or that no assembly of Christians outwardly constituted in the form of a present-day synod existed in apostolic times, we could agree. But the outward form is not essential, nor is the name. It remains true that from the outset of New Testament church life the various local congregations were aware of one another, exercised what fellowship was possible under the circumstances and cooperated in joint worship and work. (Acts l1:22ff; II Cor. 8:19. 22. 23) When Christians in various localities join forces thus to discharge their priestly functions, they are in this association church. Surely Christians who constitute congregations do not cease to be Christians or to act as Christians when they merge their forces congregation-wise in order to show forth the praises of Him who has called them into His marvelous light. For whatever a Christian be, of the same nature also is every other Christian, likewise the Christians as greater or smaller assembly or totality. What the Church is in its spiritual character, that it is by virtue of the spiritual character of its individual members. (Quartalschrift, Vol. 15, p.76)

To say, then, that a synod, an ecclesiastical body or federation, consisting of a number of congregations of the same confession, or any similar permanent organization, is not a church in the sense of Scripture, but is solely a human institution in which the individual congregations (and certain individuals as associates or advisory constituents) are members, for the purpose of performing in a more effective fashion such portions of church work as cannot be done by the average individual congregation alone with the same measure of effectiveness. . . (The Church, the Christian Congregation and the Ministerial Office, by P. E. Kretzmann, p. 105) is to misstate the case and could be rightly understood only if the observation limited itself to a synods organizational form. The very fact that a synod legitimately and by divine authorization engages in church work indicates that according to its essence it consists of Christians and is therefore church.

THESIS IV & V

WHEN THE FORMAL ORIGIN OF SYNODS AS WE KNOW THEM IS KEPT IN MIND THERE WILL BE NO ROOM FOR A SITUATION WHERE A SYNOD INVADES AND OVERRULES A CONGREGATION IN ITS EXERCISE OF CHRISTIAN DISCIPLINE. WHEN A SYNOD GOES BEYOND THE FUNCTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN ASSIGNED TO IT BY THE CONSTITUTING CONGREGATIONS IT OVERSTEPS ITS CALL AND BECOMES A BUSYBODY IN OTHER MENS MATTERS. I Pet. 4:15. (Cf. Thesis III of Concerning the Ministry of the Keys and the Public Ministry.)
IF WE REMEMBER THAT A SYNOD IS CHURCH WITH REFERENCE TO ITS INNER NATURE AND ESSENCE, WE WILL NOT DOUBT THAT WHEN A SYNOD FAITHFULLY AND CONSCIENTIOUSLY FULFILLS ITS ASSIGNED FUNCTIONS (WHETHER IT BE THE TRAINING OF PASTORS AND TEACHERS, IN PROMOTING THE WORK OF MISSIONS, OR IN THE AREA OF DOCTRINAL DISCIPLINE, THE SUPERVISION OF DOCTRINE AND PRACTICE), ITS ACTIONS ARE COMPLETELY VALID AND HAVE DIVINE AUTHORITY. FOR THEY ARE FUNCTIONS FOR WHICH, AS CHURCH, IT IS FULLY COMPETENT AND QUALIFIED. Mt. 18:20; Jn.20:21-23;Mk. 16:15; 1 Cor.3:2123.

Resting upon previously established premises, these theses call for but little exposition. They concern themselves exclusively with the propriety and validity of the functions which congregations assign to their confederated associations. Here we find ourselves, on the one hand, in the domain of Christian liberty, where all things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not (I Cor. 10:23); and where Christians are children of their Father in heaven Who is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (I Cor. 14:33) On the other hand, we find ourselves compelled by the instruction of Holy Scripture to recognize as wholly valid in the sight of Christ our Lord those activities in which a synod properly engages as church.
Where there are Christians, there is the Ministry (Office) of the Keys; for it was conferred upon them individually. The functions of this Office, moreover, are one and indivisible, even as the Gospel is a unit. One may not say that a Christian, or any confessional combination of Christians, has the authority to baptize but not to provide for the administration of the Sacrament of the Altar; the right to teach but not to preach the Gospel; the right to forgive sin but not to retain it. Yet such is the implication of the position taken by some who insist that Christians in a local association may exercise the functions of church discipline, but that Christians assembled as a synod may not. The latter group, it is said, may jointly send out missionaries, but may not in their gathering observe the celebration of the Holy Supper except as guests in and under the auspices of a local congregation. Such wholly unfounded restrictions, such arbitrary sundering of Christians from a portion of their spiritual powers, not by common consent and agreement based upon mutual love and a desire for good order but by dictum allegedly based upon some scriptural provision that to exercise them they must be congregation in a certain external form, does violence both to their prerogatives and to their glorious station.
The apprehension that a larger church body might invade the province of its member congregations or arrogate to itself functions which are properly discharged only by each constituent part of the body is a fear which has beat like a pulse in the throat of the Church for generations. As a defense against such usurpation the rights of the local congregation have been stressed. But not always wisely; for to safeguard those rights, as we have reported and heard above, some have resorted to the extreme measure of categorically denying to a synodical association the character of church.

The misgivings which support that position cannot be dismissed as baseless. The pages of history are dotted with instances of synodical tyranny imposed upon local churches too weak or too indifferent to resist it. In some cases synods trained and conditioned their constituency in an attitude of dependence which discouraged the exercise of individual sovereignty and created a state of mind sometimes called synoditis, a Big Brother complex that accepted synod, rather than the Scriptures, as the voice of God and the arbiter of doctrine and practice. The present-day slogans of a false ecumenicity, moreover, designed as they are to diminish the individual priesthood of the believer in favor of bigger and better majorities, create an atmosphere favorable to the growth of hierarchies and superchurches hostile to Christian liberty and respect for individual conscience.
We are in our day highly sensitive to the dangers that threaten us from this source; yet we hold that in the regulation of a proper relationship between the local congregations and the larger body, the highly articulate Scriptural rule of love and good order is a sufficient guide and admits of no conflict of interests or duties when faithfully followed. We also recognize the fact, however, that the arch-enemy of the Church and the sinful flesh still adhering to Christians in this life may at times hamper us in our desire to practice what we have learned and believe; and we know that against the wiles of these foes no humanly contrived constitutional provisions can of themselves form an impenetrable armor. We must persevere in watchfulness and prayer, looking to the Lord of the Church for deliverance from the evil of fleshly usurpation of power and disruption of good order in our midst.
It seems to us obvious, however, that this end will not be well served, and no protection can be afforded, by the expedient of denying to an association of congregations the character of church. It saddens us to observe that, among Christians who do regard their synod as church, instances of incredible abuse of power by synodical officials and slavish obedience of individuals and congregations have indeed come to abound. At the same time we have noted the fact that in Lutheran circles which in principle emphatically accord to a synod no status above that of a purely human organization, local reliance upon and subjection to synodical government, as well as a corresponding force of hierarchical control have been even more widely and deplorably in evidence.
The authority of a synod cannot be limited or secured against abuse by the claim that it is not church. Such an affirmation would prove far more than its proponents would wish to prove. For since a synod does, by common consent and intent of its constituency, do the work of the Church, a denial of its character would make of a synod an abomination, a pretender, a thief who enters into the fold by some way other then the Door. But in its proper place synodical association is as valid an arrangement as any that Christians make for the efficient pursuit of their divinely appointed task as valid as the forming of a local congregation. A synod is in its essence a sum of the local congregations involved; and by it, through its instrumentality, the congregations may choose jointly to administer the Keys in whatever manner they deem effective, expedient and consonant with Christian love and good order.
We have confessed and do again concede that good order is not always observed, and the law of love is transgressed even by Christians. Thus experience has shown that synods sometimes do go beyond the functions that have been assigned . . . by the constituting congregations. When this occurs, it requires immediate rectification. Abuses of this sort are, after all, not peculiar to synodical bodies. Instances are not unknown in which misguided, unscrupulous leaders and indifferent, uninstructed members, probably paced by a strong admixture of hypocrites and unbelievers, have turned visible local church organizations into horrors of papistic corruption. But these are matters for discipline for which Christian congregations should be fully competent, and do not in any way give just cause for the desperate measure of denying to a synod its right of priestly function as a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It has been our duty to offer the clearest possible witness of our agreement in, and our devotion to, the rightful function of the saints in their priesthood and their freedom in the perfect law of liberty; and this obligation we have herein sought to discharge. Being conscious of the truth, however, that the best testimony of words may by our weakness lose much in the translation into conduct and action, we close with a prayer offered by Martin Luther in his Instruction for Parish Visitors:
May God, the Father of all mercy, grant us through Jesus Christ, his dear Son, the spirit of unity and the power to do his will. Even though the finest spirit of unity prevails among us we still have our hands full to do good and to be established by the power of God. What would happen if there were to be disunity and disagreement among us? The devil has pious nor devout this year, nor so. So let us be on guard and (as Paul teaches) the spiritual of peace. (Eph.4:3). Amen. Am. Ed., Vol. 40, p. 273) become neither will he ever be anxious to keep unity in the bond (Luthers Works, 816
 

Concerning the Ministry of the Keys and the Public Ministry

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ conferred upon His disciples no more than a single assignment and thus instituted but one office, or service, in His Church on earth, namely, the service of preaching the Gospel. His directive reads: Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. (Mk. 16: 15) This order is further amplified and defined by the explicit statement that such work consists in teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you. (Mt. 28: 20) That in this expression our Lord did not refer merely to an ethical or moral system which He allegedly established is understood by all who know that the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (Jn. 1:17), and that the Ministry of the New Testament therefore is concerned with evangelical and not legalistic commandments. (Compare II Cor.5:18) Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you, the risen Savior said to His disciples; and when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (Jn.20:Z1-23) This grant of power and authority, of duty and prerogative, the Lord had previously characterized by a graphic expression when He declared to Peter: I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 16:19) 
Concerning this spiritual endowment the Church of the Lutheran Confession has expressed itself confessional through a set of propositions entitled: Theses on the Ministry of the Keys and the Public Ministry. Their scriptural premises and the conclusions established thereon are herewith being subjected to closer scrutiny and to more extended definition, in order that both our doctrine and our practice may be fully understood by all and stand vindicated in the light of Holy Scripture.

THESIS I

THE MINISTRY OF THE KEYS, WHICH IS THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD, HAS BEEN COMMITTED TO THE HOLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH THEREFORE TO EACH CHRISTIAN MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD. CHRISTIANS ARE TO BE PERSONALLY ACTIVE IN THIS MINISTRY IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY WHICH IS NOT IN VIOLATION OF GODS WILL AND ORDINANCE. Mk. 16: 15; Mt. 28:18-20; Jn. 20:21-23; 1 Cor.3:21-23; 1 Pet. 2:9.

The Gospel in its very nature is a proclamation. It is a Word, a Message. St. Paul calls it the word of reconciliation, (II Cor. 5:19) and cries: Woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel ! (I Cor. 9:16) An unpreached Gospel would be a contradiction in terms. Scripture itself is speech; for it is a speaking of God to him who reads it. Thus we may rightfully say that God through the very act of revelation of the Gospel instituted preaching.
St. Paul calls the Gospel the word of faith, which we preach, and in conjunction with Deut. 30: 14 declares that it is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thine heart. (Rom. 10:8) For Scripture teaches that those who receive the Gospel as a personal, inward possession by faith do in and through that very experience become preachers of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit, Who always accompanies the Gospel, not only creates faith by means thereof but in that very act also makes witnesses of those whom He enlightens and sanctifies. Thus Peter expressly assures believers that they are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a peculiar people in order that they may announce abroad the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. (I Pet. 2:9) God so fashions His Christians that from within their new hearts they proclaim the Gospel; this is an inherent function of the new life within them.

Thus we cannot actually speak of an authority or a command to preach the Gospel in the sense that such an activity is permitted a Christian only if, when and because he has been especially called or authorized to engage in it. Preaching is an assigned duty only in the sense that prayer also is an assigned duty. Our Lord did not, therefore, institute a new function or create a new office when He charged His disciples, saying: Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8) In this, as well as in all His other statements defining and describing the Christian calling, He formally ratified the Vocation into which the Holy Spirit has placed every true believer since the beginning of time, gave it a New Testament definition, and by way of encouragement and exhortation placed Himself with His gifts and blessing at the head of His witnessing Body. In this sense we speak of a commissioning when we say that the Ministry (or service) of the Keys, which is the ministry of the Word, has been committed to the Holy Christian Church.
Obviously it is the will of God that the Gospel be preached. But this will is fulfilled, not by a formal institution of a preaching office in some abstract sense, but simply by the calling of human beings into the fellowship of the Gospel and thus making of them actual and active Gospel witnesses. They are to grow in the knowledge of God and unto ever fuller possession of the doctrines of the Word; they are to teach and admonish one another with the word of Christ that dwells in them richly (Col.3:16), for each is a messenger of the Lord (I Pet. 1:9); they are to judge the doctrine of others (I Jn.4: 1), and are directed to a-void those who teach otherwise than Gods Word teaches. All this belongs to the ministry of the Word. And these things have been committed to every Christian with a call to active duty. For the Christian is not merely in principle a preacher of the Gospel; he also administers this office or service to its fullest extent. When the Christian assembly meets In worship, such activity is in evidence on all sides. St. Paul calls the congregational singing of hymns a teaching and admonishing (Col. 3:16). The participation in the words of confession, in liturgical responses is an act of preaching, as is the witnessing of the children of the Church in catechumenal examinations and in Christmas services.
The only restrictions laid upon Gods spiritual priests in the exercise of the Gospel ministry arise from the provisions for mutual love and good order as stipulated by the Scriptures. Since the Church is a Body, its members defer to one another and conform their activities to that which best serves the common good. The orderly processes of life in the Christian community, or congregation, are not to be disrupted by any loveless individualism. The Apostle warned his spiritual children against such offenses in his instructions to the Corinthians (I Cor. 12:4-30; 14:1-40). Yet in principle there is no duty of the Ministry of the Keys from which any person is personally excluded. It was to no group of ecclesiastical dignitaries or body of clergy, but to the Christian laity and clergy alike that St. Paul wrote: For all things are yours . . . and ye are Christs; and Christ is Gods. (I Cor. 3:2123)

THESIS II

IT IS GODS WILL AND ORDINANCE THAT CHRISTIANS PROVIDE FOR THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION OF THE KEYS. THIS IS ACHIEVED THROUGH THE CALLING OF QUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE THUS PLACED IN CHARGE OF THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION OF WORD AND SACRAMENT AND PERFORM THIS TASK IN BEHALF OF THEIR FELLOW CHRISTIANS (VON GEMEINSCHAFTS WEGEN). SUCH SERVICE IS REFERRED TO AS THE PUBLIC MINISTRY; AND ITS DUTIES ARE TO BE EXERCISED ONLY BY THOSE WHO ARE PROPERLY CALLED TO IT BY THE CHURCH. THIS PUBLIC MINISTRY IS GOD-ORDAINED AND NOT A PRODUCT OF HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT. Acts 1: 23-26; Acts 6:5-6; I Tim. 3:15; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:5-9. Augsburg Confession, Article 14: Of Ecclesiastical Usages Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.

It is not in contradiction to what we have professed in our discussion of the first Thesis if now we say that there is a manner of administration of the Keys in which not every Christian is personally active as an individual. We call it the Public Ministry; but in so doing we need to define our terms precisely lest their true sense be mistaken and the Truth compromised. The Public Ministry is not a function different in content than the Ministry of the Keys which, as we have seen, is the inalienable possession of every child of God. We call it public, but not in the sense that it is either restricted to, or characterized by, an administration of the Keys that is public rather than private or hidden. The Gospel ministry is one and indivisible; and they who are charged with its duties, namely all Christians, perform them without regard to times, seasons or circumstances.
If the Public Ministry is distinct in character, it is because those who serve therein function, not only in their own right as disciples of Christ, but in behalf of, in the name of, and by request of, their fellow-Christians. It is the Gospel service performed, not by right of an individual priesthood alone, but vicariously for many spiritual priests; wherefore it is called public as distinguished from private or personal. It is of this Ministry that the Augsburg Confession speaks when it gays that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called. (Article 14) German theology defines it as Das Amt von gemeinschaftswegen, since it is an office administered by one in the stead and in the name of others.
We confess and affirm that the Public Ministry is divinely ordained; and we reject the teaching of those who see it as a mere convenience or as no more than a development of the need for order among men. Our Confessions say: For the Church has the command to appoint ministers, which should be most pleasing to us, because we know that God approves this ministry, and is present in the ministry (that God will preach and work through men and those who have been chosen by men). The Apology, Trig. 311:12)

Gods Word makes it unmistakably clear that He desires that the Gospel be preached and the Sacraments administered.  It teaches that God expects His Christians to administer these Means of Grace. Scripture also reveals the divine design by which Christians are to implement the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in their own midst and for their personal instruction and nourishment, namely through a Public Ministry for which the Lord promises to supply the gift of adequate personnel. Thus St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some, Apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Eph.4:10-16

This marvelous passage supplies us with a true, evangelical understanding of the nature of the Public Ministry. The Church has indeed received no formal Gods Word makes it unmistakably clear that He desires that the Gospel be preached and the Sacraments administered. It teaches that God expects His Christians to administer these Means of Grace. Scripture also reveals the divine design by which Christians are to implement the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in their own midst and for their personal instruction and nourishment, namely through a Public Ministry for which the Lord promises to supply the gift of adequate personnel. Thus St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some, Apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Eph.4:
10-16

This marvelous passage supplies us with a true, evangelical understanding of the nature of the Public Ministry. The Church has indeed received no formal command which categorically institutes a public ministry of the Word. Rather, the Church has received the Gospel and the responsibility of proclaiming it. It administers the forgiveness of sins. By word of the Holy Ghost and the example of the Apostles it has learned how to do this in a God-pleasing manner; and the Lord places into its hands the gifts which the Church may and does use for its purposes. We reaffirm what our Confessions say in this context: For wherever the Church is, there is the authority (command) to administer the Gospel. Therefore it is necessary for the Church to retain the authority to call, elect and ordain ministers. And this authority is a gift which is in reality given to the Church, which no human power can wrest from the Church, as Paul also testifies to the Ephesians, 4:8, when he says: He ascended, he gave gifts to men. And he enumerates among the gifts specially belonging to the Church pastors and teachers, and adds that such are given for the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Hence, wherever there is a true Church, the right to elect and ordain ministers necessarily exists . . . Here belong the statements of Christ which testify that the Keys have been given to the Church, and not merely to certain persons, Mt. 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, etc.
Lastly, the statement of Peter also confirms this, I Pet. 2:9: Ye are a royal priesthood. These words pertain to the true Church, which certainly has the right to elect and ordain ministers since it alone has the priesthood. (Smalcald Articles, Trig. 323f: 67f)

Thus the calling and ordaining of public servants of the Word is one of the functions of the spiritual priesthood by which Christians jointly discharge their Gospel ministry. In this they are guided by the instruction of Scripture which carefully lists the proper qualifications to be sought in those who are to serve in the name of their fellow-Christians and thus represent them. Having chosen them under guidance of the Holy Spirit and committed to them the duties to which they have called them, they regard these servants as stewards of God and esteem them highly in love for their works sake. Their respect for them is not such as is accorded to dignitaries clothed in a rank which exists as distinct from, and higher than, their own. For in I Cor. 3:6 Paul makes ministers equal, and teaches that the Church is above the ministers. (Smalcald Articles, Trig. 507 11) And how indeed could it be otherwise? For in and through their called servants all Christians, together with them, are performing their priestly functions as commissioned ministers of Christ. No Christian, in calling a pastor or teacher, elder or deacon to administer the Office of the Keys in his name, thereby relinquishes or forfeits his rights to that Office or his duties thereunder, but executes them as participant in the joint venture in which he thus engages with his brethren.

THESIS III

THE OFFICE OF THE PUBLIC MINISTRY IS NOT LIMITED TO ANY DIVINELY FIXED FORM AS SUCH, FOR EXAMPLE, THE OUTWARD FORM OF THE PFARRAMT OR PASTORAL OFFICE. IN CHRISTIAN LIBERTY, AS CIRCUMSTANCES REQUIRE AND AS THE LORD SUPPLIES DIVERSITY OF GIFTS, OPERATIONS AND MINISTRIES (I Cor. 12:4-6 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities.) THE CHURCH MAY SEPARATE THE ~VARIOUS FUNCTIONS OF THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF THE WORD AND APPORTION THEM TO WHATEVER NUMBER OF QUALIFIED PERSONS IT MAY CHOOSE TO CALL. IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT EACH CALL THUS EXTENDED SHALL SPECIFY THE AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY AND THE TYPE OF DUTY THEREBY ASSIGNED, AND THAT EACH LABORER ABIDE BY THE TERMS OF HIS CALL. Acts 6:1-4; Phil. 1:1 (Cf. Thesis IV and V of On the Relation of Synod and Local Congregation to the Holy Christian Church.
As the spiritual priesthood of the believer and the preaching of the Gospel are correlative concepts, so likewise are the terms congregation and public ministry. For where an association of Christians exists, there will also be a public administration of the Means of Grace with all that such a function entails. We further recognize the fact that, of all associations in which Christians will seek to exercise their priestly calling, the most natural and immediate form is that of a local congregation. Within this form the office of the Public Ministry has come to exist in what we call the pastoral office. Hereof Dr. F. Pieper has written in part: It is not a human, but a divine command that Christians perform the works of their spiritual priesthood; accordingly, preach the Gospel not merely in their homes, but also in their intercourse with the brethren and with the world. Likewise it is not merely a human, but a divine regulation that Christians who live at one place fellowship with one another, form a congregation, and appoint men equipped with the necessary teaching ability to preach Gods Word in the name of the congregation both publicly (in the public assembly) and privately (to individual Christians). (Dogmatics, III, p.443)

A congregation calls a qualified man (or men) and places him (or them) in charge of the administration of the Keys. This office is therefore frequently referred to simply as the public ministry, and the incumbents are called ministers of the Gospel. Under the influence of tradition and popular as well as theological custom this narrow use of the term public ministry has tended to become an exclusive use; and the resultant identification of public ministry with the pastoral office has not been without disturbing consequences. It has contributed to a widespread impression that only pastors are public ministers of the Gospel in the strict scriptural sense; and indeed it has encouraged the erroneous belief that God instituted the pastorate precisely in the form in which it is prevalent among us today. This belief in turn has led some to the conclusion that all other offices in the Church having to do with the administration of the Gospel are subsidiary offices which exist only as branches of the actual ministerial office.
We affirm, to the contrary, that apart from the general directive addressed to children of God urging them to go out into all the world and preach the Gospel we look in vain in Scripture for words that constitute a divine institution of a public office of the ministry in any specific form, aside from the Old Testament priesthood. The New Testament records the fact that certain forms of the public ministry were in use in apostolic times. Men were employed as gifts of God for certain phases of the work, and their several offices are given specific names appropriate to the duties thereof. We cannot be certain that the functions of any one of these corresponded in all respects to those prescribed in the Call of a present-day pastor in the Church, although certainly the work and responsibilities represented by such a Call have been discharged by the Public Ministry of the New Testament Church since its inception.

We cannot point to a formal institution even of the office known as the Apostolate. God did not command that there be Apostles in the Church; He simply created them when He needed them. And to this day the Lord Jesus Christ creates forms of office, old and new, in His Church, through the Church, supplying her with the needed gifts for the occasion. The Gospel, working in the hearts of those who believe it, leads them to the establishment of the public administration of the Means of Grace in their midst. Whether in any given instance this work is to be done by one man, whether he is to have the entire supervision and the entire complex of duties in his hands, or whether there shall be two or more among whom it is shared. . . these matters lie in the freedom and discretion of the spiritual priests of God. Whatever they need, the Lord will supply; and they will use His gifts to the best advantage of the Church.
We deplore and reject any doctrine of the Public Ministry which interprets Scripture as teaching a divine institution of outward form and thus infringes upon the dearly bought liberty of the sons of God. We hold that in Christian liberty the Church may and does exercise the functions of the Public Ministry when it calls qualified persons into the pastorate, into the work of Christian Day-school teaching, into a professorship at its High schools and Colleges, or as elders and deacons who are to assist pastors and teachers in their ministry. We believe that each and all of these offices are administrations of the Public Ministry, that their duties are such as are prescribed by the Lord for the Gospel ministry, and that their respective form is governed, not by divine decree but by the terms of the Call as issued by the Church.
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Listing of Theses



On the Relation of Synod and Local Congregation to the Holy Christian Church

Thesis I
     The Church, according to its inner nature and essence, is the total number of all those whom God recognizes as His Dear Children by Faith in Christ Jesus.

Thesis II
     Any group of professing christians gathered in Christ’s name can rightly be called ‘Church’ because of he Christians in it.  Therefore also a so-called local congregation gathered about word and sacrament is rightly called ‘Church’ only because of the Christians in it.  The outward organizational form of a congregation is of human arrangement and may vary widely as it did even in the apostolic church. Compare Corinth with Jerusalem.

Thesis III
     When it is said that a synod is “Church”, this is said with reference to its inner nature and essence, namely insofar as it constitutes a communion of true believers.  When it is said that a synod or conference is a “human arrangement” this is properly said with reference to its outward organizational form which is determined and defined by the congregations that have constituted this body.

Thesis IV & V
     When the formal origin of synods as we know them is kept in mind there will be no room for a situation where a synod invades and overrules a congregation in its exercise of Christian discipline.  When a synod goes beyond the functions that have been assigned to it by the constituting congregations it oversteps its call and becomes a busybody in other men’s matters.
     If we remember that a synod is “church” with reference to its inner nature and essence, we will not doubt that when a synod faithfully and conscientiously fulfills its assigned functions (whether it be the training of pastors and teachers, in promoting the work of missions, or in the area of doctrinal discipline, the supervision of doctrine and practice) its actions are completely valid and have divine authority, for they are functions for which, as “Church”, it is fully competent and qualified.


Concerning the Ministry of the Keys and the Public Ministry

Thesis I
     The Mnistry of the Keys, which is the Ministry of the Word, has been committed to the Holy Christian Church — therefore to each Christian man, woman and child.  Christians are to be personally active in this ministry in every possible way which is not in violation of God’s Will and Ordinance.

Thesis II
 It is God’s Will and ordinance that Christians provide for the public administration of the keys.  This is achieved through the calling of qualified individuals who are thus placed in charge of the public administration of Word and Sacrament and perfom this task in behalf of their fellow Christians.  Such service is referred to as the public ministry; and its duties are to be exercised only by those who are properly called to it by the Church.  This public ministry is God-ordained and not a product of historical development.

Thesis III
 The office of the public ministry is not limited to any divinely fixed form as such, for example, the outward form of the ‘pfaramt’ or pastoral office.  In Christian liberty, as circumstances require and as the Lord supplies diversity of gifts, operations and ministries the church may separate the various functions of the Public Ministry of the Word and apportion them to whatever number of qualified persons it may choose to call.  It is ssential that each call thus extended shall specify the area of responsibility and the type of duty thereby assigned, and that each laborer abide by the terms of his call.

CLC – Concerning Church and Ministry

Written by | March, 2008
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Concerning Church Fellowship

A Statement of Principle
 
Revised Edition
Church of the Lutheran Confession
1961, 1996 Re-edited Reprint
CLC Book House, Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Click here for Index

FOREWORD

In presenting this our statement concerning church fellowship we are aware that even a casual reading will soon reveal that we have been following the pattern of the Formula of Concord, and sometimes employing its very words. This may seem presumptuous to some, as though by such a procedure we meant to place our confession on a par with the historic confessions of the Lutheran Church; as though we meant to provide the Book of Concord with a supplement. This is not our intention.

There are other and good reasons, however, for taking the classic Formula as a model. Among the great confessions of the 16th century it is the one which deals with the internal conflicts of Lutheranism. It was eminently successful in bringing order out of a welter of controversy and confusion. By the grace of God it served as an instrument for the restoration of unity on a large scale, far larger than seemed possible when the strife was at its height.

It has been said that the controversies of our day may well be compared with the situation that arose soon after the death of Luther, and that plagued the Church until the issues were settled by the Formula of Concord. What better model, then, could be found for our work?

It is true that the trend of our times is toward union, particularly also among Lutherans, and the great mergers of the current century seem to testify to its effectiveness. There was the Norwegian merger of 1917 (ELC), the formation of the United Lutheran Church in 1918 (ULCA), the American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the American Lutheran Conference in 1930, as well as the recent (1960) organic union of the chief partners in that Conference into one large body (TALC). And larger mergers are being planned. Then there are the wider associations of the National Lutheran Council (NLC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), as well as the official participation of many of these groups in the interdenominational National Council of Churches of Christ, and even the World Council of Churches. All this creates the appearance of progressuntil one remembers how many doctrinal issues were left unresolved in these unions (e.g., the doctrine of Election in the Norwegian merger), and how this has practically become the accepted pattern for such movements. Nor has the Synodical Conference been left untouched. Its major body, Missouri,* has been drawn far into the area of these negotiations, and in conjunction with the American Lutheran Church has produced a Common Confession, a document which a sister synod, Wisconsin,** has had to call untruthful because it claimed to be a settlement of historical doctrinal controversies which were not settled in fact. Yet this document still stands as part of the doctrinal position of a once staunchly orthodox synod, committing also the sister synods as long as they remain in the fellowship. So the leaven is working, and error is acquiring parity status with the truth.

We have not tried to cover the entire field of the doctrines of Scripture, nor do we see any need for attempting this. We have not even touched on all the points that are in controversy today. But in addressing ourselves to certain specific issues which, as we firmly believe, are at the root of most if not all of the evils which are troubling our beloved Lutheran Church in our time, we are appealing to the precedent established by the confessors of 1580, who in their opening paragraphs stated:

Necessity, therefore, requires us to explain these controverted articles according to Gods Word and approved writings, so that every one who has Christian understanding can notice which opinion concerning the matters in controversy accords with Gods Word and the Christian Augsburg Confession, and which does not. And sincere Christians who have the truth at heart may guard and protect themselves against the errors and corruptions that have arisen. (Foreword to Thorough Declaration, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta 849:10)

We harbor no extravagant notions as to the impression which this our little confession will make. Yet we venture to dedicate it to a great and noble purpose, one stated so clearly and masterfully in the closing statement of the Formula, so that we can only repeat:

From this our explanation, friends and enemies, and therefore every one, may clearly infer that we have no intention of yielding aught of the eternal, immutable truth of God for the sake of temporal peace, tranquillity, and unity. Nor would such peace and unity, since it is devised against the truth and for its suppression, have any permanency. Still less are we inclined to adorn and conceal a corruption of the pure doctrine and manifest, condemned errors. But we entertain heartfelt pleasure and love for, and are on our part sincerely inclined and anxious to advance, that unity according to our utmost power, by which His glory remains to God uninjured, nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and thus justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ. (Conc. Trgl. 1095: 95)

That God may graciously use and bless our halting efforts toward this end, that is our earnest and confident prayer.

Since it was adopted by the CLC in 1961, and included as an official part of the constitutional position of that church body, this “statement of principle” has served well to present the CLC’s teaching and practice CONCERNING CHURCH FELLOWSHIP to all its readers. It has found its way to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia in the more than three decades of its existence. This re-edited reprint is now presented with the assurance that the doctrinal position of the CLC on church fellowship has not altered from what is herein contained, and with the prayer that God may use our booklet to foster and strengthen belief in His truth.

 September 1996



CONCERNING CHURCH FELLOWSHIP

The State of the Controversy

§ 1 One of the most prominent developments in the church history of  the first half of the twentieth century was the Ecumenical Movement. Under the influence of this movement, a serious dissension arose among the Lutheran Churches on the question of church fellowship. Using the it is enough of the Augsburg Confession,* various groups have developed conflicting teachings as to the extent of agreement necessary for church fellowship. Some maintain that it is enough to agree that Jesus is the Lord. Others contend that this means we are to avoid as heterodox only such as teach falsely concerning the cardinal doctrines of salvation. Still others make a distinction between errorists who err in fundamental doctrines and such as err in non-fundamental doctrines, contending that it is an infringement on Christian liberty to demand unity also in the non-fundamental doctrines. Still others would make the Augsburg Confession the standard of unity to the exclusion of other symbols of the Lutheran Church, particularly the Formula of Concord. In opposition to these varying views as to the extensiveness of agreement necessary for true unity, some have maintained that full agreement on all doctrines revealed in Scripture is necessary for that true unity on which alone the exercise of church fellowship may be based.

§ 2 Among those groups which have insisted on full doctrinal agreement as a necessary requisite for church fellowship, there has arisen dissension concerning the intensiveness of separation required from those who hold to errors. Some have taught that a limited amount of fellowship and cooperation is to be tolerated with certain false teachers and groups. Others maintain that all joint worship and religious work with such errorists is forbidden. Finally, among those who maintain that all manifestations of fellowship with errorists are forbidden, a dispute has arisen concerning the application of the term heterodox church to communions which had previously adhered to the true teachings of Scripture, but later departed from them. Some have taught that at least a limited fellowship is to be practiced as long as such erring groups do not blaspheme the Word of God and do not refuse to discuss the issues. Others teach that fellowship with such groups is forbidden when it becomes apparent after careful consideration that the error is actually being taught and defended.

Purpose of This Confession

§ 3 Now since Satan has sown much confusion in these matters in the Lutheran Churches in the past twenty years or more, it is our purpose to state and declare plainly, purely, and clearly our faith and confession concerning these various issues in thesis and antithesis, i.e., the true doctrine and its opposite, in order that the foundation of divine truth might be manifest in all points under discussion, and that all unlawful, doubtful, suspicious, and condemned doctrines, wherever they may be found or heard, might be exposed so that everyone may be faithfully warned against the errors, which are everywhere spread, and no one be misled in this matter by the reputation of any man. We have clearly declared ourselves to one another in these important matters of our faith, both for those now living and also for our posterity. To explain this controversy, and by Gods grace finally to settle it, we present to the Christian reader this our teaching in conformity with the Word of God. Hallowed be Thy name!

I. STATEMENT OF TRUE DOCTRINE

A. The Need for Full Agreement

The Scriptural Standard of Unity

§ 4 We believe that the unity of the Church is real and actual. This is  the unity of which Luther speaks in our Small Catechism when he says of the Holy Spirit that He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Christians are united because each Christian is entirely a creation of the Spirit. Christians share the same nature from beginning to end. . . . for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:22-24). All Christians are Gods children on the basis of Christs redemption of the world and on the basis of the work of the Spirit who through baptism and the word appropriates this holiness to us: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). Through faith the Holy Spirit unites us with Jesus Christ, and we become part of His Body and united with every Christian, and Jesus prayer is fulfilled: That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (John 17:21). This unity of the Body of Christ, the Church, is expressed by Paul in Romans 12:5, . . . we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. This unity is most beautifully expressed in Ephesians 4:4-6, There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

§ 5 Christians according to the new man are perfectly joined together  in the same mind. The Holy Spirit makes them children of God, and He makes them all the same. They are agreed on sin, its nature, its origin, its means, its fruits, etc. They are agreed on grace, its sufficiency, its means, its fruits, etc. There may be different degrees of understanding, differences in the intensity of the experience, yet as far as the essence is concerned all believers are perfectly agreed.

§ 6 As Christians are perfectly joined together in one mind by the  Spirit, it follows that the Spirit moves them all that they all speak the same thing. Though the manner of speaking may vary, yet the truth spoken must be ever one and the same thing. The Church exists for the purpose of glorifying God, and only with speaking the same thing is this result attained: That ye may with one mind and with one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:6).

§ 7 Thus the Church tolerates no divisions. The high standard of  Scripture is clear. All members of the Church are to speak the same thing in all matters of faith. This is stated by St. Paul in just so many words in 1 Corinthians 1:10, Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment.

This Speaking is Restricted to the Scriptures

§ 8 We further believe and confess that this speaking of the Church is  restricted to the Word of God. In so far as we are members of the Church we may speak, confess, and teach only the Word. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ: to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (1 Pet. 4:11). The Church is to speak the same thing, and that thing is called by Peter the oracles of God. In so far as they are human beings, the members of the Church have no wisdom, no truth. Their united message is the revelation sent down from heaven, Gods sayings. So testifies St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:12, Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak . . . That St. John considers himself a messenger of wisdom from heaven is brought out in 1 John 1:3, That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you . . . Jesus promised these apostles His Spirit, who would insure that they taught His sayings exactly: . . . he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26). Thus the commission of the Church is Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matt. 28:20).

§ 9 The Church is at all times to follow the example of the first  congregation, which . . . continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine . . . (Acts 2:42), and may be able to say with Paul, . . . I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God (Acts 20:27). That the Church is absolutely limited to speaking the oracles of God is taught by Moses in Deuteronomy 4:2, Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

The Scriptures Are Inerrant

§ 10 That the Holy Scriptures are given by God to the Church for the  foundation of faith and are the sole source from which all doctrines proclaimed in the Christian Church must be taken, presupposes also this teaching that the Holy Scriptures are divine revelation.* We accordingly teach that the Holy Scriptures differ from all other books in the world in that they are the Word of God. They are the Word of God because the holy men of God who wrote the Scriptures wrote only that which the Holy Ghost communicated to them by inspiration. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). And again, For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Pet. 1:21). We teach also that the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures is not a so-called theological deduction, but that it is taught by direct statements of the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:16; John 10:35: . . . and the Scriptures cannot be broken; Rom. 3:2: . . . unto them were committed the oracles of God; 1 Cor. 2:13: Which things also we speak, not in the words which mans wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth . . . Since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, it goes without saying that they contain no errors or contradictions, but that they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth, also in those parts which treat of historical, geographical, and other secular matters (John 10:35).

§ 11 We reject the doctrine which under the name of science has gained  wide popularity in the Church of our day that Holy Scripture is not in all its parts the Word of God, but in part the Word of God and in part the word of man and hence does, or at least might, contain error. We reject this erroneous doctrine as horrible and blasphemous, since it flatly contradicts Christ and His holy apostles, sets up men as judges over the Word of God, and thus overthrows the foundation of the Christian Church and its faith.

The Scriptures Are Inviolable

§ 12 We further believe that this inerrant Scripture which is the sole  authority for all doctrine in the Church is inviolable. And it is this quality in particular which suffers at the hands of all who in these days desire latitude in matters of doctrine. We have already mentioned the passage in Deuteronomy 4:2 warning against any additions or subtractions from Scripture. To this must be added the curse of Revelation 22:18, . . . if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. The warning is also contained in Proverbs 30:5f., Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. God will tolerate no tampering with His Word, even in seemingly insignificant details, for even the individual jot and tittle must be respected as a part of the divine record (Matt. 5:18). And again, . . . the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). Thus are we to tremble at the Word of God, and we believe that any changes, additions, or subtractions constitute a violation of the majesty and holiness of the eternal God, who in love descended to man with the truth.

The Scriptures Are Clear

§ 13 Neither, do we believe, is there room for private interpretation of  Scripture on the basis of any supposed ambiguity or unclarity in the divine revelation. The perspicuity or clarity of Scripture is beyond dispute. To say that the Bible is unclear is blasphemy, charging the Author of our salvation with giving fallen man confused directions regarding His way to heaven. But we say and teach with all conviction that Holy Writ is clear and makes all doctrines and precepts laid down in the inspired Word freely accessible to every reader. The Bible makes this claim for itself. Psalm 119:105, 130: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. . . . The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. Psalm 19:8 speaks: . . . the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. Christ promises: If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32). Thus doctrines are not based on interpretation of Scripture, but on the Word itself. The Church cannot make the Bible clearer by its interpretations, but can only lead men to the naked words of Scripture, so they will base their faith on these words alone. We believe that the many differences in the teaching of the churches are due only to man who, in his perversity, refuses to take his reason captive under the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), desiring to be a master over Holy Scripture (1 Tim. 1:7).

All Aberrations Are Condemned

§ 14 We also believe, teach, and confess that all aberrations from Holy  Scripture are condemned. For what is false may not be mixed with truth. In Jeremiah 23:28 the Lord speaks to the preachers: . . . he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. The Church is commissioned to speak only Gods Word in its purity, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Paul admonishes Timothy to Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me (2 Tim. 1:13). In his First Epistle to Timothy Paul obligates him to charge some that they teach no other doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3). Of those who mix the truth with error, Paul tells the Galatians in the first chapter of that letter: If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Gal. 1:9). Jeremiah threatens all such with Gods wrath: Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD (Jer. 23:31-32). For any person to change any teaching of the Holy, Holy, Holy God is a most grave offense against the majesty of God. When we see men dare to tamper with the Divine Record, not trembling at His Word, we can only shudder at what must inevitably be the consequence. We remember Gods wrath at the changing of His worship perpetrated by Aaron at Mt. Sinai, and say with the Psalmist: Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law (119:53).

§ 15 It would be a tempting of the Holy God even to make a distinction  between small and great aberrations, for in all cases of false teaching there is, as far as man is concerned, a mutilating of the Godhead. Furthermore, the doctrines of the Bible are so closely interrelated that the denial of any one of them is a reflection of the false teachers attitude toward all revealed truth. So does Dr. Luther teach: My dear sir, Gods word is Gods word, which will not permit men to find fault with it. He who makes God a liar and blasphemes Him in one word, or says it is a small thing for Him to be blasphemed and called a liar, he blasphemes the whole God and has little regard for all blasphemy of God (St. Louis Ed. XX:775).

B. Separation From All Who Deviate

§ 16 These are stern truths, indeed. But they are truths derived from  Scripture and laid down there by God Himself for the sake of protecting and preserving for us that perfect truth which is the sole source of faith, life, and salvation. This then is also the reason why Scripture so emphatically and bluntly demands that Christians separate themselves from all who deviate in their doctrinal position from the truth of Gods Word.

 A Summary of Our Belief

§ 17 For a brief summary of what we believe, teach, and confess in this  point, we present the Christian reader first of all with this statement: Since God ordained that His Word only, without the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the Christian Church, 1 Pet. 4:11; John 8:31-32; 1 Tim. 6:3-4, all Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and heterodox church-bodies, Matt. 7:15, to have church-fellowship only with orthodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into heterodox church-bodies, to leave them, Rom. 16:17. We repudiate unionism, that is, church-fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to Gods command, as causing divisions in the Church, Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9, 10, and as involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely, 2 Tim. 2:17-21″ (Brief Statement, Art. 28).

Two Kinds of Churches

§ 18 Now, as already has been established above, and as always has been  taught by the fathers, we believe that there are two kinds of visible church bodies, pure and impure, or orthodox and heterodox. We have clearly shown that God requires of us that we establish the teaching of His Word in its truth and purity without admixture of error of any kind. This then is a pure or orthodox church which adheres to the unadulterated doctrine of Gods Word and administers the sacraments according to their divine institution. On the other hand, a church which contrary to the divine ordinance tolerates false doctrine in its midst or deviates from the divine institution in the administration of the sacraments is rightly called an impure or heterodox church. That there would be such church bodies is foretold in Scripture. St. Paul says to the elders of Ephesus, Acts 20:29-30: For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. These men who will speak false doctrine will succeed in gaining a following. For there must be also heresies among you . . . (1 Cor. 11:19).

§ 19 Though it is generally held today that there is an advantage in  having great variety among churches and that we demand too much when we maintain that all Christians should have the same faith, we firmly believe that it is not a thing well pleasing to God that there are heterodox church bodies. They are not desired by God, but exist by His permission only. And thereby we do not deny that there are dear children of God in heterodox churches. Also in those bodies children are born unto Him as long as in them His Word is still preached. But God does not want them to exist as heterodox church bodies. These churches have inscribed false doctrine on their banner and have established a separatistic body. God permits them to exist not because it is good or pleasing to Him, nor that we have a free choice to belong to any kind of groups, but He says: For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you (1 Cor. 11:19). So also did Dr. Luther write: When it happens that men become disagreed in doctrine, it has this effect, that it separates them and reveals who the true Christians are, namely, those who have the Word of God in all its purity and excellence (St. Louis Ed. XVII, 1346:71).

Christians Are to Test All Churches

§ 20 We further believe that all Christians are required by God to  discriminate between false and true churches as well as teachers. We read in 1 John 4:1: Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. And the Lord Jesus exhorts: Beware of false prophets (Matt. 7:15). Obedience to Gods command requires then that Christians distinguish between true and false prophets.

. . . and Act Accordingly

§ 21 We further believe, teach, and confess that Christians are required  to have church fellowship only with orthodox church bodies. Having distinguished between heterodox and orthodox bodies, they are to act according to this knowledge. This is what Gods Word declares in all passages which admonish Christians not to hear false prophets, but to flee from them. These warnings tell the Christian not to listen to the false prophets but rather to stay clear of the danger involved in their teachingsthe good words and fair speeches by which they deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:18). 2 John 10 bluntly requires: If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed; For he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds. In his First Letter to Timothy, chapter 6:3-5, St. Paul says: If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

§ 22 Nor should 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 be lightly dismissed: Be ye not  unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

§ 23 Though a casual reading of this passage might cause one to think it  is speaking of unbelievers and not false churches, we would point out that erring churches, insofar as they err, are also unbelieving. They are unbelieving with respect to a number of Bible passages. By their errors they have divided the Church and oppose the truth. False teaching is unrighteousness, and there can be no fellowship with it. False doctrine is darkness and true revealed doctrine is the light in this world. They have no communion, nothing in common. All false doctrine is the work of Belial; when we fellowship with false teachers we make concord with Satan, the author of their errors. Scripture teaches that we should come out from among them, that is, from the adherents and teachers of error, and be separate.

§ 24 That this applies to all heterodox teachers and bodies is taught most  clearly and explicitly in Romans 16:17. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses [a cause of stumbling, snare to ones faith] contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. In this text both elements are included, namely, the act of distinguishing and the action resulting therefrom. The brethren of Paul are carefully to fix their eye on those who deviate by teaching or adhering to false doctrine alongside of the true doctrine, and are to avoid them.

The Confession Is the Basis

§ 25 From this passage it is clear that fellowship is to be based on one  thing only, the doctrine which is proclaimed or confessed. It is right here where there is so much confusion sown by Satan. For he always inserts this thought, that since there are believers also in heterodox churches (which we have readily and happily admitted), Christians should not separate from such bodies, or should fellowship with them at least to a certain extent. Here it is necessary to distinguish between Christian brotherhood and Christian fellowship. The Holy Christian Church consists indeed of all believers in Jesus Christ, of all who have been begotten of the Father through the Word of truth and are members of His family. But since faith is invisible, these brethren are invisible, and we are assured of their existence only by the Word and promise of God. That is the brotherhood. Christian fellowship, on the other hand, is a fruit of this brotherhoodand an essential one. Since we belong together as brothers in Christ, we show this by joint worship, prayer, and work.

§ 26 Now the basis for this fellowship cannot be the same as that for the  brotherhood, which is regeneration and true faith. Before we can fellowship we must recognize the brother, and recognition must have as its object something that can be seen. But faith cannot be seen. One cannot recognize a brother by his faith, and it is equally impossible to fellowship with him on that basis. Paul says in Romans 10:10, For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness . . . And in 1 Corinthians 4:5 he makes the significant statement: Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts . . .

§ 27 We therefore believe and teach that Christian fellowship is based  only on profession of faith, by word and deed. As John says in his First Epistle, 4:2-3, Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God . . . Confession is the basis for Christian fellowship, for when a mans confession is in accord with the teachings which we have learned, we can recognize him as a brother.

§ 28 We know, of course, that our fellowship is not identical with the  spiritual brotherhood. Behind a good confession may lie a hypocrite. And on the other hand, we know that there are Christians also in those church bodies which confess error together with the truth. We cannot recognize hypocrites in an orthodox body, nor can we recognize the believers in a false church. Moreover, we do not separate ourselves from the children of God among the false sects, but from the sects as such. The sects separate these dear children of God from us. We believe that it is for the benefit of the true believers among the heterodox that we are to refuse fellowship to these churches. Thereby we are constantly reminding them that they are in the wrong place. Time and again people have thereby been led out from the false church into the true, where God wants them to be. 

This Includes All Who Deviate

§ 29 We further believe, teach, and confess that there are no exceptions  to this precept to avoid all false teachers and their adherents. Any deviation from the truth is a violation of Gods honor and constitutes a grave threat to believers, who after all can be saved only by the Word of God. St. Paul tells the Galatians: A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (Gal. 5:9). Here Paul emphatically declares that errors, however small, are dangerous things to trifle with. The error into which the Galatians were falling was a false attitude over against circumcision, the assumption that by submitting to circumcision and observing the Sabbath and other ceremonies they could make their justification more secure. They stressed the Gospel, they confessed redemption by Christ, but they wanted to supplement the Gospel by some exercise of their own. Paul warns them against the far-reaching consequences of this little deviation from the truth revealed. Before long they will lose the Gospel, and in principle they have denied it already.

§ 30 Another picture used by Paul to stress that every single deviation is  to be avoided is found in 2 Timothy 2:17-19. Here he compares error to gangrene (canker). It is a pitiful thing to behold a strong healthy man in the prime of life who has had an extremity frozen to the point that gangrene sets in. Unless the affected part is removed, the gangrene will relentlessly pursue its course of eating and spreading. The specific error to which Paul refers was in regard to the doctrine of the resurrection. He adds that there is safety in one rule only: Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity (v. 19). Those who confess the truth should separate from all error. How very important this is we see from the source of this quotation. For Paul has taken this expression from the history of the rebellion of Korah in the wilderness. The people were commanded to stand apart from the tents of Korah and his cohorts. We know how fatal it would have been to disobey! Every deviation is a rebellion against the majesty and authority of God.

Such Exclusivism Is Evangelical

§ 31 Though such an exclusive attitude as we here confess is everywhere  maligned and condemned as unevangelical, it is actually a principle which is in complete accord with the heart of the Gospel. In fact, it is the Gospel of universal salvation for all sinners which is at stake. Gods plan of salvation carried out in Christ indeed embraces all sinners. It is all-inclusive. He who would have all men to be saved has placed this life-giving message in the Bible (see 2 Cor. 5:19 and Rom. 5:18). Only these good tidings of God bring hope and comfort and peace to every sinner. On the other hand, every religious effort arising from the unregenerate heart of man will inevitably be just as legalistic as the elements of the world to which it is captive.

§ 32 It is mans nature to suppress the truth in his unrighteousness. Ever  since Eve first explored the possibility, every deviation from the divine truth, every addition or subtraction on the part of man has of necessity been an infringement on the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. False doctrine is always a threat to the very universality and completeness of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. It is in the interest of the preservation of the Good News that God is so explicit in forbidding fellowship with error, no matter how minute or trivial it may seem to be. Here Paul is our great teacher. No one will deny that he believed in the all-inclusive nature of the Gospel of Jesus. All his efforts were bent toward bringing this peace of God to every corner of the world. Yet it is Paul in particular who wages constant warfare against each and every effort of man to change, pervert, or mutilate that Gospel. For when men change the Word of God, they are attacking Christ Himself. Paul dreads the thought that his parishioners should be referred to a mutilated Christ for their source of comfort. What could be a greater tragedy for his posterity than to receive a Gospel less comforting in any way, and less universal, than the beautiful original entrusted to him?

Wrong Exclusivism Rejected

§ 33 It must be mentioned that there is a wrong exclusivism which does  not stem from this all-inclusive Gospel. Where pride in ones self or in ones particular groups is the motive for isolation, this is sinful and shows a grave lack of understanding of the Gospel. Such was the separation of the Phariseesand they have many followers who by their exclusive policies glorify only men. Any separation in the Church which is not made in the interest of Gods glory and the glory of His Gospel is to be condemned just as much as unionism, the fellowshipping of false teachers.

Examples From Scripture

§ 34 It is also contended by our opponents that the God of love who  wants us to dwell in love and unity with men would not ask us to separate from all who deviate in matters of doctrine. For the Christian who places everything pertaining to his salvation into the divine hand, this is indeed a spurious argument. Just as the same God who gave the promise to Abraham could also instruct the same Abraham to offer up the son of promise as a sacrifice, so it is the same God of love and unity who also instructs the Christian to avoid, withdraw, come out from among them, reject the heretic, have no company with him. And since the imagination of mans heart is evil from his youth the Christian knows from the outset that there is never a day when he may relax his efforts and not be on guard against the intrusion of false prophets and their errors, as well as the intrusion of error in his own teaching.

§ 35 Scripture gives countless examples of this endless war which Satan  wages against truth. To our warning we see how dreadfully successful he often was. Even in their holiness our first parents lost the truth because they listened to the voice of temptation after it was clear that the voice had deviated from the true Word. From the first opposition altar of Cain to the activities of the beast in Revelation we observe the never-ending efforts of Satan to infiltrate the ranks of those who are to proclaim only the Word of God.

§ 36 Moses teaches us in Genesis 6:1ff. that all flesh had to be destroyed  because . . . God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. This situation had come into being because of the mingling of the Church with the world. It was the joining spirit at Babel (in the interest of strength and security) which after the flood again threatened the Gospel with extinction. This led to a most drastic display of the principle of separation when God found it necessary to remove Abram completely from his family and from all nations so that the Gospel might be preserved until the fullness of the time. Though his children were blessed in every possible way by Jehovah, who delivered them from all their enemies and provided for their every need, yet God had to place them into the straitjacket of the law economy that they might be reminded in a hundred ways every day that they were His peculiar people with a particular destiny. Despite these drastic measures, the history of Israel is a sad story of oft-repeated compromises with error and syncretism, often leading to total apostasy.

§ 37 In connection with the worship of the golden calf at Sinai, we learn  the relative position of our love toward God and that toward our fellow man. When His worship was changed (though they intended to be worshipping Jehovah) and Gods anger waxed hot, then the Levites, in love for God and to uphold His honor, were bidden to take the sword to their brethren, of whom three thousand fell that day. Whenever the Word of God is attacked, His honor is involved. In connection with 2 Timothy 2 we mentioned above the rebellion of Korah. The incident forcefully brings home the same thought of the impending wrath of a God whose honor has been violated when His instructions were disobeyed. The New Testament urgings to separate are indeed loving warnings to escape before we become involved in Gods wrath.

§ 38 In Joshua 24 we find a revealing chapter on the subtle and persistent  efforts of Satan to syncretize and unionize religion. In the last assembly of Israel that Joshua convened he appealed to the people to put away their idols and to give undivided hearts to God. He is speaking of their attitudes. Although they repeatedly insist that they are Jehovah worshippers, he continues to admonish and plead for purity of worship, and expresses the principle of separation succinctly: . . . as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

§ 39 Though under Gods glorious guidance this principle of exclusivism  for the Gospels sake gave to Israel full possession of the Holy Land and victory over all foes, nevertheless they soon became lax in this very matter, allowing some of the Canaanites to remain in the land. The apparent advantages of this compromise with Gods explicit orders were dissipated by the formal announcement of God at Bochim (Judges 2). Their humanistic tendencies brought endless trouble to them and their posterity, for now God would not drive out these Canaanites, but would permit them to remain as a snare and a trap to Israel. In the New Testament the consequence of tolerating errorists is still the same, namely, that they become thorns in our flesh and cause serious schisms, which God permits so that the Church may be purged (1 Cor. 11:19).

§ 40 We could adduce many more examples from Scripture illustrating  that when men like Abraham stood quite alonefaithful to their God, building their own altars in defiance of allthere Gods blessings came in bountiful measure. Contrariwise, when Israel allowed error and falsehood to be mingled with the priceless truth committed to them, it brought ruin and havoc. From the times of the Judges, Solomon, the divided kingdom, the period of restoration, the voice cries out from every page: . . . come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord (2 Cor. 6:17).

§ 41 Thus Scripture clearly teaches by precept and many examples that  Christians are to separate from all false religion, from all false teachers, lest the honor of God be violated, His name profaned, and the possession of the Gospel endangered for them and their children; lest, as St. John says, they become partakers of their evil deeds.

C. All Manifestations of Fellowship Are Involved

§ 42 We further believe, teach, and confess that when our Lord Jesus Christ forbids us to exercise church fellowship with those who deviate in their teachings from the Word of God, thereby all manifestations of Christian fellowship are forbidden. Though this appears very obvious in the light of the strong Scriptural wordsto beware of such people, to avoid them, to reject them, to withdraw from suchwe are required to make this matter very clear. Satan is so anxious to have true churches fraternizing with the false, that he has even inserted this thought, that some fellowship should be permitted, even though full recognition may be impossible. Now in church language it has been customary to speak of pulpit, altar, and prayer fellowship. But we must be very careful in using these terms, that we do not thereby think there are three different fellowships, and that each is to be treated differently. There is one fellowship, and these are three outstanding manifestations of that one glorious gift we enjoy.

§ 43 Christian fellowship is the outgrowth of our brotherhood which we  have by virtue of our God-created faith in Jesus Christ. As brothers and sisters in Jesus, we are united in one family, and we express this unity by joining in worship and religious work. This fellowship is a great, glorious, living thing. It manifests itself in countless ways: in the gathering of the disciples on the evening of Easter, in their remaining together at Jerusalem while they were awaiting the fulfillment of the Fathers promise, in the life of the mother church as it is described in the last verses of Acts 2 and again in chapter 4, in the relation of the mother church to the congregations which now began to spring up on every hand. It manifested itself most beautifully in the concern of the Greek churches for the famine-stricken brethren of Judea, which Paul was so careful to cultivate.

§ 44 Now all these manifestations of fellowship are based on their unity  in the Word, in the apostles doctrine and fellowship. As long as they continued in Gods Word, then were they all disciples and could recognize each other as such. But when someone in his teaching departed from the Word, the basis for fellowship was removed. The people who adhere to false teaching are to be shunned and avoided. One can hardly fulfill that command of God by allowing some fellowship but not all. We believe there is one fellowship (koinonia), which manifests itself in many different ways. Where unity of the confessed faith, unity in the Word, is absent, we are forbidden to practice any fellowship.

§ 45 Though in this next point there is no disagreement (at least not of a  general nature in the Lutheran churches), yet for the sake of complete clarity we re-emphasize that which has always been Lutheran teaching, namely, that our separation both from the world and from errorists and false churches does not involve a separation in purely secular matters. We are in the world, but not of the world. The separation of which Scripture speaks in the passages on church fellowship concerns religious associations with people, not cultural, economic, or civic relations. Here the Christian guards only against intimacy with people who are opposed to the truth, exercising his judgment and liberty with great care. On the other hand, it must be noted that when separation is required from such with whom Christians have been in intimate religious fellowship, even such associations as would ordinarily be within the bounds of Scripture may be wrong, because of the offense which might be given. Here the teachings of the Formula of Concord, Article X, concerning adiaphora (matters of Christian liberty) apply with full force.

D. Suspension of Established Fellowships

§ 46 We further believe, teach, and confess that established fellowships  or existing fellowships are to be terminated when it has been ascertained that a person or group through a false position is causing divisions and offenses in the Church.* Among our Lutheran teachers who have held a firm and Scriptural position in regard to making no alliances with those who deviate in their teachings from the Word, there are some who have shown the same humanistic weakness of the unionist when the matter occurred of separating from those with whom there has been fellowship of long standing.

§ 47 We must therefore maintain steadfastly that the only basis for  fellowship is complete unity in the doctrine of Christ, and that when this unity is broken, there is no basis for fellowship. Toleration of error, partaking of anothers evil deeds, worshipping with someone who profanes the name of God by his false doctrineall these things are no less wicked because of some previous relationship. In Romans 16:17 St. Paul in no way limits his statement to those outside of the fellowship of the Christians at Rome. Their marking of an errorist would not only include but begin within the communion itself. In Matthew 7:15, where Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets, He stresses that they will come in sheeps clothing; that is, externally they will appear among the sheep. Paul tells the elders of Ephesus to be on the alert for those men who will arise of your own selves (Acts 20:30).

§ 48 Though we instruct with all long-suffering and doctrine (2 Tim.  4:2) such as through ignorance hold erroneous opinions and beliefs, this in no wise restricts or limits the avoiding of those who by their deviations cause divisions and offenses in the Church. Those cannot be treated as weak brethren who are publicly teaching their erroneous opinions as Gods truth. Nor does isolation of errorists from ones own communion in such cases indicate a lack of love. For we believe that to obey the Lord and avoid them is true love, and only by thus following Gods injunction can we preserve unity and heal the breaches in the walls of Zion. Where error is tolerated it will grow. When it is isolated it is unable to propagate itself. 

II. REJECTION OF FALSE DOCTRINE

A. Limiting the Extent of the Application

§ 49 Now we turn to a refutation of the various counter-arguments to this Scriptural presentation, and accordingly with heart and mouth we reject and condemn as false, erroneous, and misleading all teachings which are not in accordance with, but contrary and opposed to, the doctrine above presented.

1. (LIMITED) TO NON-CHRISTIAN BODIES

§ 50 That the application of the principle of separation is limited to  non-Christian bodies is quite generally held among the majority of Protestant sects, most of which are quite willing to form alliances and unions with all church bodies which are willing to say that Jesus is the Lord. Even some Lutheran bodies have joined in such world organizations, though these organizations are not willing to define what is meant even by that statement that Jesus is the Lord. As shown above, there is no Scriptural license for such mingling of truth with error, and it leads only to ever greater indifference to doctrine. It stems from lack of understanding of the work of the Church, which is solely to administer the Office of the Keys, in Word and Sacrament.

2. (LIMITED) TO THOSE WHO DENY REDEMPTION

§ 51 Thinking that they are serving the cause of truth, many in our day  have made a selection of doctrines which they say are necessary for saving faith, and restrict the principle of separation to those who in some way deny the redemptive work of Christ. But actually they are serving the cause of unionism, namely, by their fellowship with those who err in any doctrine of Scripture. These people stress the fundamentals of evangelical truth, whence they are called fundamentalists or evangelicals, and permit differences of belief on all other points of Christian doctrine. We repudiate such groups as sinfully unionistic and condemn the aiding and supporting of such movements as involving a denial of Scriptural doctrines. Though it is true that these fundamentals of doctrine are usually quite Scriptural, and that he who believes these truths will be saved, the question of saving faith is not admissible in the matter of church fellowship, since such fellowship is based on confession and not on faith, which is invisible.

(REFUTATION OF ARGUMENTS)

Argument from John 17

§ 52 A favorite and supposedly unanswerable argument urged by protagonists of such church unions is that it is our Lords own express will that there should be only one visible church. The proof of this is said to be the prayer: That they all may be one (John 17:21). But the unity for which Christ prayed was clearly not an external one. It was a spiritual unity, a unity of faith. This is the unity that was created among His disciples in the early Church, and it is this unity which, with indissoluble bonds, still binds together in the Holy Christian Church all true believers, wherever they may be.

Argument on Strength

§ 53 We also refute as an insidious error the argument so frequently  heard in these days, namely, that tolerance of other church bodies and a combining of efforts are necessary for the strengthening of the Church. It is said that the churches must unite in order to meet the dangers of atheism, materialism, modernism, secularism, etc. We are told that a united church would be a more powerful force in combating the social ills which beset the nation.

§ 54 These proponents of union among churches reveal the false  motivation behind such efforts. The power of the Church of Christ lies in the Gospel that she preaches. It is blasphemous to think that human numbers and human organization can add strength and effectiveness to Gods holy Word. It is rather the mingling of that Gospel truth with error which weakens the Church and impedes its attack on the stronghold of Satan. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth (Ps. 124:8). His strength is made perfect in our weakness. He who gave victory to Gideon with but 300 men, and He who evangelized the world through a far smaller number, does not need large organizations to accomplish His purpose. But of course it is right here that the opponents go astray, for they have set goals for the Church which God has not given us, such as combating social evils and improving the morality of the world and society.

Argument on National Interest

§ 55 Closely allied with this false argument is the plea that we should  forget our doctrinal differences in the national interest. It is said by these people that we owe it to our nation to unite, not only (as shown above) to stem the tide of social ills such as juvenile delinquency and organized crime which hurt the nation, but particularly to meet the common foes of all Christendom, communism and others. The plea is that all Christian churches are in jeopardy and that our democracy is weakened by religious differences among its people.

§ 56 This is a vicious form of attack made from all sides against our dear Christians. It is bad enough that the world and its leaders and educators tie together our democracy and the Christian religion and constantly urge that for effective democracy we must give up our distinctive beliefs and exercise tolerance toward all other forms. But this is not surprising since the world cannot be expected to distinguish between the interest of the nation and of the churches. It is bad enough that the many Reformed denominations, following the principles of Calvin and other leaders, mingle the activities of the Church with those of the state. But when Lutheran teachers would make the Church the handmaiden of the state and speak as though this were our function as churches against the enemies of our nation, then we begin to realize how mightily Satan is raging against the pure doctrine in our churches.

§ 57 The Church which earnestly upholds the truth brings down blessings  on the nation. In so far as churches give up any part of the Gospel, they bring down the wrath of God, also upon the nation. Again and again the prophets of Judah and Israel teach the horror of that logic which advocates toleration of error in the interest of political expediency. Therefore it is a lie of the Evil One that we serve the national interest by being more tolerant of the religious views of our fellow citizens. As citizens let all Christians be taught to be patriotic and loyal, and to grant to others the religious freedom which they claim for themselves. As church members let them be taught that the Church is not to be identified with any nation or form of government, nor are her interests to be tied to the interests of any nation, for My Kingdom is not of this world. All who urge their false views on these grounds lower their church to the level of any earthly organization with earthly goals. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and we believe that the Church has one function and one function only: to preach the Gospel.

3. (LIMITED) TO THOSE WHO ERR IN FUNDAMENTALS

§ 58 Though there is a correct and proper distinction made between  fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines, we reject as false the teaching that we are required to separate only from those churches which err in the fundamental doctrines. These errorists contend: In non-fundamentals the theologians should have the liberty to propound differing views without laying themselves open to the charge of disturbing the unity of faith or breaking the ties of church fellowship. They say it is neither necessary nor possible to agree in all non-fundamental doctrines.

§ 59 The distinction between fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines has its place, but that place is most certainly not in the question of what constitutes a sufficient basis for church fellowship. Theologians of the Church have made this distinction in connection with saving faith. Of fundamental doctrines we speak in the sense that a denial or falsification of certain teachings of Scripture undermines the very foundation of saving faith. But non-fundamental doctrines are also Scripture doctrines, just as well as the ones called fundamental. They are all doctrines of faith, i.e., doctrines to be accepted in faith. Hence it is by no means a negligible matter when one adheres to erroneous views in non-fundamental doctrines. If adhered to despite ample information, errors in non-fundamental doctrines become open rebellion against God and His holy Word, and threaten to lead into perdition.
 

§ 60 We must not confound non-fundamental doctrines with theological  problems, must not relegate them to the realm of open questions (questions which are not answered by the Word of God). But to say (when discussing the basis for church fellowship) that we neither need nor can attain agreement in non-fundamentals is to deny the clarity of Scripture, the inviolability of Scripture, and to grant equal status to error and truth as well as license to preach and teach unscriptural doctrines. The Bride of Christ is concerned about her purity in doctrine in all respects: I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:2-3).

4. LIMITATIONS IN CONNECTION WITH ESTABLISHED FELLOWSHIPS

§ 61 We further reject the teaching that false teachers and churches are  to be avoided only when they no longer listen to admonition. In those communions which agree with us that there must be unanimity in all doctrines of Scripture as a basis for fellowship, some teachers have arisen who have taught that an existing fellowship is not to be terminated as long as the errorists will discuss the issues involved and permit admonition to be addressed to them. Though this argument is presented in the sheeps clothing of Christian love and patience, we must condemn it as unscriptural and unionistic. When errorists by their adherence to their errors cause divisions and offenses in the Church, we are told by the Holy Ghost through the Apostle Paul in Romans 16:17 to avoid them. To say in the face of this clear instruction that we are to fellowship with such as have become manifest errorists, simply because we are still admonishing them, must be condemned as disobedience to God, as allowing false teachers to ravage the flock, as disregarding the concern expressed in the next verse of Romans 16 (lest . . . by good words and fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple)in short, as belittling the Word of God and the importance of all revealed teaching. It can only, as must all unionism, lead to indifference to doctrine and to insecurity for the Christian in matters of faith.

(REFUTATION OF ARGUMENTS)

§ 62 Our opponents have contended that the passage from Scripture  instructing the strong to bear the burdens of the weak must be taken into account in applying the passages on separation from false teachers. They refer, for example, to Galatians 6:1-2, where St. Paul admonishes the strong to restore a fallen brother in the spirit of meekness.

§ 63 Now let us state at the outset that we fully believe in dealing  patiently and lovingly with weak brethren. In every congregation there are Christians who are strong and others who are weak. Each individual Christian is at times strong and at times weak. Certainly this is a prime reason why our Lord does not leave us alone, but sets the solitary into families, that we may serve one another in humility and love. There are members of congregations who are also weak in doctrine. This may be due to immaturity, since they may be novices and need more instruction, or it may be due to ignorance. It may be that some leader has sown confusion in the ranks of a group. Thus the Church is ever busy at this task of strengthening the weak in its midst, teaching them to observe. There are many, many Bible passages and Scriptural examples of this constant activity of the teaching, strengthening, edifying Church. But we most assuredly object to this, that this teaching and admonishing function be of necessity carried into the process of separating from errorists.

§ 64 Essentially the two groups of passages are addressed to opposite  situations. Teaching, admonishing, edifying, instructingall these presuppose disciples, learners, hearers. These learners and hearers may frequently entertain strange notions and erroneous thoughts. That is why they come to be taught the Word of God. Here the question of separation is totally out of place. But when Scripture tells us to avoid, withdraw, reject, beware, it certainly is not speaking of people who sit at the feet of the true church to learn the way to heaven. It is quite clearly in each case referring to people who are in the role of teaching, or who assume that role over against the true preachers of the Word. They are false prophets, men who claim that their errors are the truth; they are causers of division, men who lead a segment of the Church away from the truth; they are heretics, men who form a new party in connection with their deviations. Let us not fail to note in this connection that error is dangerous (beware!), and that God does not ask His children to risk their salvation on the altar of an admonition which is being carried on in an atmosphere of fellowship where He has prohibited fellowship.

§ 65 Then there is also the weakness of language. A person may not  express himself as he intended the meaning, or others may read something into his words which is not there. We do therefore teach that any Christian ought to be very sure before he will raise the cry of false teacher. He will make careful inquiry and ascertain exactly what is being taught by the suspected speaker. This may require little or much time. In the case of a person or group with whom one has been in fellowship, it will by its nature involve an admonition, or several admonitions. But we emphatically teach that the admonishing per se and by itself is not an absolute must, a condition sine qua non, for the application of avoid them. As we have seen, there may be years of admonition before a person is revealed as causing divisions and offenses by his errors, or it could become clear at one meeting that the basis for fellowship has been removed by adherence to error. The argument that separation must be delayed as long as the errorist will listen to admonition does not take into account that he is not only listening, but he is teaching his error at the same time. The devil is very happy to have this errorist listen to endless admonition, if this will enable him to continue to fellowship and address the entire Church.

§ 66 The charge that they who call for separation do not have love is quite specious: for we are first to have love for Christ, who has been attacked by the errorist, and then we are to have love for all the sheep and lambs, who stand in mortal danger by reason of the teachings of this man or group. And surely, if we act in love for God and His Word, such action will also be the most loving thing toward the errorist, as Paul indicates when also in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 he advocates that we cease exercising fellowship with those who are disobedient to his words, that they may be ashamed. If the errorist would always suffer isolation from the Church, he would be induced to give serious thought to his aberrations. But we believe and confess that we dare not be partakers of the evil deeds nor, by offering the hand of fellowship, appear in any way to be sanctioning the error. That is not what is meant by confessing God before men.

Argument Concerning the Examples of Jesus

§ 67 The ministry of Jesus Christ is cited by the opponents as an example  of loving patience with errorists. It is said by some that since He did not break off outward fellowship with Israel, we should not break with a synod which aberrates from the Word. The first fallacy in this argument is that a synod with a confessional position is made parallel to the nation of Israel with its worship that centered at the Temple in Jerusalem. Neither the Temple nor the synagogue had a confessional position as such, except that their worshipers represented Gods people of the Old Testament, who possessed the Law and were waiting for the Messiah. The second fallacy lies in the interpretation that is thus put on the actions of Jesus. But let the Lord speak for Himselfand we will not hear the words of the unionist of today: And ye have not his word abiding in you (John 5:38). Does this sound as though Jesus ever gave the impression that He either approved or tolerated the Jewish errors- Jesus publicly proclaimed that these false teachers were not of Gods family: . . . he that sent me is true, whom ye know not (John 7:28). Is this perhaps a manifestation of fellowship? Or again, . . . ye shall die in your sins (John 8:21-24). . . . beware of the leaven of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:6-11).

§ 68 Whoever mentions the example of Jesus as an instance of  fellowshipping with false teachers has lost sight of the fact that our Savior died on a cross at the hand of His fellowmen just because of His exclusivism and His refusal to sanction and tolerate any variations of doctrine or belief. We therefore refute and condemn as superficial and extreme sophistry this argumentation that would justify the fellowshipping of errorists on the basis of the example of Jesus.

Argument from Ephesians 4

§ 69 Quite a popular argument used by our adversaries is taken from Ephesians 4:1-7. We are to be zealous to preserve the unity! It is contended that to separate can hardly be evidence of a zeal to preserve the unity and union. It is true that to exclude oneself from a communion destroys the union. But it is not necessarily a breaking of the unity. For if an errorist has arisen and is causing divisions and offenses by his teaching, he bears the guilt of disrupting the unity. This division will grow on and on if unimpeded. The gangrenous member must be cut off. When we apply Romans 16:17 we are simply doing what God has advocated to heal the breach. The surgery may indeed be painful, but it is meant to halt the advance of the disease. Ephesians 4 in particular demonstrates that the unity is a unity of faith: one Lord, one baptism, etc.

Argument from Matthew 18

§ 70 We are also told that, in keeping with Jesus instructions in Matthew 18:15-17 for making every effort to regain the man who has trespassed against us, patience should be exercised toward the erring teachers. It should be clear that to avoid a false teacher and to look upon a man as a heathen and a publican are two entirely different things. The former is based on the danger inherent in the goods which are being peddled as truth. The latter is based on the evidence of an unrepentant heart. The false teacher may indeed, in individual cases, eventually prove himself to be an unrepentant sinner, one who is willfully blaspheming Gods Word against his better knowledge. In that case we would have to consider him as a heathen man and a publican. But to contend that until this is true he is to be allowed to have the status of a teacher in good standing in the Church, this is utterly preposterous. He is to be avoided because he is dangerous (Rom. 16:18). He is dangerous whether or not there is hope that he may still repent.

§ 71 Here we must be careful in our use of the word persistent in  describing a false teacher. This word came into use in the Church as an antonym of inadvertent. In this connection it has its place, as we have shown above, namely, that the Christian exercise great care before charging a person or groups with heresy, first determining charitably whether it was done unwittingly and inadvertently, or whether the speaker sticks to his error, which is persistence. To say that we must be positive that the errorist intends stubbornly to pursue his course despite all admonition requires an omniscience not granted to mortals. Yet it is mortals who are asked to withdraw from such as teach falsely.

§ 72 In the case of one who trespasses against me, my one concernof  which he should be assuredis the sinner and his forgiveness. In the case of false teachers, however, there is first the immediate concern for the honor of God and for the endangered lambs. This does not by any means preclude a sincere concern for the erring mans soul. The separating action taken in obedience to God is for the sake of His glory and the safety of souls entrusted to the Church. Previously, concurrently, and subsequently, as the Christian has call and opportunity, he will of course try to correct the erring one. Even here there may have to be a stopping point, however, due to the hazard involved in dealing with one who is endangering our faith by mingling lies with the truth. Paul tells Titus to dismiss, reject a heretical one after the first and second admonition (Tit. 3:10), which is an echo of the Saviors words: . . . neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they . . . turn again and rend you (Matt. 7:6).

§ 73 In an age noted for doctrinal indifference (for the cry of the day is  deeds, not creeds) it is particularly damaging and harmful to urge the proposition that one should not terminate fellowship until the false teacher or false church refuses to listen to admonition, since it is characteristic of errorists and unionists, who breathe the very air of compromise, to be willing to lend an ear forever, so to speak, to what they term another point of view. Where latitude and academic freedom have been adopted as standards, the time may never come that admonition will not be allowed. Satan does not demand that truth be silenced; he is quite satisfied to have a partial voice in the matter, for well he knows that even a little lie, mingled with truth, destroys the truth.

SUMMARY

§ 74 To sum up, we reject and condemn any limitations on the extent of the application of the scriptural injunctions to separate from false teachers and groups. All who deviate are to be avoided. They are to be avoided when it is clear that they are causing divisions and offenses in the Church. They are guilty of serving other interests (their bellyRom. 16:18) rather than Christ, and to fellowship with them is to be a partaker of their evil deeds, a partaker of their influence, a partaker of the judgment they are calling down upon themselves. Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!

B. Limiting the Intensiveness of the Application

1. (LIMITED) TO JOINT WORSHIP SERVICES

§ 75 The people who promote this thought, that only joint worship  services with errorists are forbidden, recognize that there are injunctions in the Word which prohibit fellowship with errorists. Allowance for joint religious work and activity nevertheless is made by restricting this principle to certain forms or manifestations of our fellowship with other Christians. Now as we said above, there are many, many diverse ways in which our fellowship manifests itself. In each we bear witness to each other and to all men that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are agreed in the faith. When the sad fact emerges that we must mark someone as a false teacher, we avoid him, and thereby give evidence that we are not agreed. We testify to that erring person and to all men that we do not share his views, but consider them false and contrary to the Word and will of the most high God. It has become part of our confession, the witness that we bring to the truth, that we reject him and his error.

§ 76 We owe such a confession first of all to God, who wants us to make  a true and honest confession to demonstrate our loyalty to Him. We owe this confession to our brothers and sisters in the faith, so that they may be warned against the dangers involved in the errors being held and taught by that person. We owe this confession to the errorist himself, in order that he may not be receiving the false comfort from us that it is not a serious matter that he holds and teaches things which are contrary to the words of Jesus. In short, we are to confess the truth, and that involves rejecting the errors. If the Christian will keep this in mind, namely, that he is not only to believe in his heart but also to confess with his mouth, he will readily see that it is not material whether it be a worship service that is under consideration, or some other form of joint religious worship and work.

§ 77 To join with heterodox people or groups, as churches or as church  people, in works of charity, in dedication services, in conducting a ministry among the armed forces, in producing educational and devotional literature, etc.all this cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called testifying to them and to the world that they are false teachers. Coordination and cooperation with church groups having a different confession can hardly be described as avoiding, withdrawing, or coming out from among them and being separate. We repeat that especially in periods of indifference to doctrine and creeds and confessions, the faithful Christian is required to be very careful not to give the impression that he approves or tolerates the false position of the heterodox. When our people are told on every hand that the divisions in Christendom are not serious, that basically every church is good and that one religion is as good as the next, that all roads lead to heaven, and that the differences in teaching are only theological hair-splittingwhat can they be expected to believe when even orthodox teachers and leaders join with heterodox in religious seminars, address each others conventions, work together on joint committees for various religious projects, etc. The trumpet must not give an uncertain sound.

2. (LIMITED) TO PRAYER, BUT NOT JOINT PRAYER

§ 78 A distinction has been made between prayer fellowship and joint prayer. While it is granted that the general fellowship of prayer with heterodox bodies is out of the question, it is argued that under proper safe-guards a joint prayer on certain occasions would not be objectionable. This distinction is certainly not justified by any difference in the inherent quality or nature of the prayer that would be offered on such a special occasion. It is in either case an act of worship. Neither would it depend on the number of times this act of prayer is performed. Can the number of times, or the habitual performing of an act, affect its ethical nature? Can something be God-pleasing when done only occasionally, but become an offense to Him when repeated regularly?

§ 79 The sole question is, of course, whether the premises that warrant such prayer are actually present. They are clearly defined in Scripture: Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matt. 18:19-20). The warning of Paul to the Romans (to avoidch. 16:17) would lose its point if it did not cover joint prayer. He makes no exceptions. The warning of St. John in his Second Epistle deserves to be taken to heart: Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed: For he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 8-11). John is, of course, not speaking against ordinary civility in manners, but warning against a formal brotherly greeting, one that would carry spiritual implications. Arguing now from the lesser to the greater: if we are to deny a brotherly reception to a man because he is an adherent of false doctrine, what about arranging a joint prayer? If by a mere greeting we already become guilty of the errorists evil deeds, how then may we join him in prayer? And what would be the nature of such a prayer? Our prayer must needs be directed against his evil deeds, while he would seek a blessing upon them. This is sheer hypocrisy!

§ 80 We must reject and condemn this distinction between prayer fellowship and joint prayer as a device for allowing fellowship where fellowship has been forbidden. The proponents of this distinction found it necessary to state that the passages calling for separation (Rom. 16:17; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; Tit. 1:10-14; 3:10-11; Matt. 7:15; 2 John 7-11) are entirely directed against reprobates, anti-Christian errorists, enemies of Christ; in short, infidels. This sweeping assertion they must make in order to justify their occasional joint prayer. Since they say of these passages that they are applicable to non-Christians only, they have removed all passages which prohibit fellowship with errorists. Thereby it is manifest that they are opening the door not only to joint prayer, but to complete church fellowship with all those whom one cannot prove to be hardened and faithless enemies of Christ.

3. “COOPERATION IN EXTERNALS”

§ 81 With great subtlety unionism of many kinds has infiltrated the  Church under the guise of innocent phrases such as cooperation in externals. Though we would not say that it is impossible (especially in days of confessional vigor and honesty) for churches to cooperate in certain secular activities even though they are divided in doctrine, yet when this expression is used to allow working together with heterodox bodies in religious matters, then we condemn the expression as a cloak for sinful disobedience to the Word of God, and a procedure which confuses and offends the simple Christian.

4. FELLOWSHIP WITHOUT COMPLICITY

§ 82 Many joint services, prayers, and activities are justified by the claim that the specific false teaching that is involved was nevertheless not brought into question at that particular occasion, and that a certain degree of fraternizing with the errorist involved neither complicity in nor approval of his error. The Christian reader will know from all that we have stated from Scripture that it is not only the error that is to be avoided, but likewise the people who propagate it who are to be isolated. We therefore condemn also this phrase as a sophistry which may lead people astray from Gods paths.

5. EXTERNAL FELLOWSHIP WITHOUT HEART FELLOWSHIP

§ 83 By this plea some teachers would allow for the continuation of  external fellowship by stressing that our Lord wants our hearts to be pure and purged of error. The latter is of course very true. The prime consideration is that our faith be correct and that we keep the leaven of error from entering into our hearts. It is also true that the denouncing of error and errorists is in such a situation the paramount activity of a confessing Christian. But though these traits and Christian characteristics are essential and highly to be praised, they do not excuse the Christian from also separating externally and publicly from error and errorists. Many a fine confession is vitiated by keeping up the semblance of fellowship with the errorist whom one has rebuked, even though he does not change his ways.

§ 84 There have indeed been periods in the history of the Church when  publicly to dissent from the established teaching of a church body meant automatic suspension, loss of office, loss of property, and even life. Then surely, to speak and rebuke was synonymous with external separation. But to call such testimony of words an avoiding and shunning, when one knows that for lack of action one will continue to be considered an integral part of the organization in question, that is to be using identical words indeed, but with totally different meaning.

6. PROTESTING FELLOWSHIP

§ 85 The idea of protesting fellowship or a state of confession is advanced at this point. This is closely related to the preceding, and we refute the abuse of such relationships on the same grounds.

§ 86 This point has to do with the external membership one has in an organization. When error rears its ugly head in an orthodox communion, the Christian has the duty of raising his voice, taking the sword of the Spirit, and driving out the error. As long as a church body thus attacks error it remains an orthodox church. The orthodox character of a church is established not by its outward acceptance of, and subscription to, an orthodox creed, but by the doctrine which is actually taught in its pulpits, in its theological seminaries, and its publications. On the other hand, a church does not forfeit its orthodox character through the casual intrusion of errors, provided these are combated and eventually removed by means of doctrinal discipline, Acts 20:30; 1 Timothy 1:3 (See the Brief Statement).

§ 87 Sometimes, however, the issue is in doubt, for it is not clear whether the error has taken such a firm hold that it has become the doctrina publica (public doctrine) of the groups, or whether it is being combated successfully and eradicated. During such a period of strife, and in order to make his confession clear, the Christian will be compelled publicly to disavow the various statements, actions, and policies which are not consistent with Scripture, before, however, breaking the organizational bond. He states thereby that he is still on the roster of this communion, but not in sympathy with all the teachings that have arisen within this communion.

§ 88 When, however, such a state of protesting fellowship is proclaimed,  but business is carried on as usual, with the individual continuing to treat the errorists as though they were still faithful teachers and hearers of the Wordexchanging pulpits, transferring members, intercommuning, and the likethen that use of the expression is to be condemned as a cloak for unionistic activity. Without the appropriate action it becomes mere lip-service. Once again, the simple are deceived into thinking that these matters are not serious, not clearly taught in Scripture, not divisive.

SUMMARY

§ 89 Finally, whatever other condemnable or erroneous opinions there  may still be, over and above the foregoing, can easily be gathered and named from the preceding explanations. For we reject and condemn everything that is not in accordance with, but contrary and opposed to, the doctrine recorded above and thoroughly grounded in Gods Word.

IN CONCLUSION

§ 90 We believe that Jesus is our only Savior and that only in His  precious Gospel do we find peace and joy and comfort and hope. With Him we would ever be in fellowship. We yearn for the day when we shall experience the fullness of that fellowship and see Him face to face. There, with the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before, we shall be in fellowship with all believers in Him. All visible fellowships on earth shall pass away, and are as the grass which withers. His Word shall never pass away. Though we be separated from all human beings, but united with Christ and His Word, we shall be rich in His fellowship, and through Him, with the Father. Deliver us from evil! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!

EPITOME

A Summary of the Content of Our Confession
CONCERNING CHURCH FELLOWSHIP



The Principal Question in This Controversy

Three questions have arisen in the Lutheran Church concerning this doctrine.

1. What extent of doctrinal agreement does Scripture require as a  basis for fellowship? Some have taught that agreement in all doctrines is required; others, that fellowship is to be permitted though there be less than such complete agreement.

2. Later, a controversy arose among those who taught that complete  agreement was necessary as a basis for fellowship. To what extent is fellowship forbidden among those who are not in complete doctrinal agreement? Some have taught that all manifestations of fellowship are forbidden with those who deviate in doctrine; others have taught that there are areas of church work which do not require complete agreement.

3. Finally, a controversy arose among those who taught that all  manifestations of fellowship are forbidden with all who deviate in doctrine. What is the Scriptural criterion for termination of fellowship with errorists with whom one has been in fellowship, but who later deviate in doctrine? Some have taught that the exercise of church fellowship is to cease when it is clear that the error is actually being taught and defended; others have taught that fellowship may be practiced as long as the errorists do not blaspheme the Word of God and do not refuse to discuss the issues involved.  (§ 1-3)

STATEMENT OF TRUE DOCTRINE

1. We believe, teach, and confess that complete doctrinal agreement  is the Scriptural basis for church fellowship. Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10). (§ 4-7)

2. We further believe that the doctrine which the Church should teach  and hold is restricted to the doctrine of the Bible. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). (§ 8-9)

3. We further believe that the Word of God (the Old and New  Testaments) is inerrant, inviolable, and clear. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16); . . . the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35); Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Ps. 119:105). (§ 10-13 )

4. We believe that all aberrations from the doctrines of Scripture are  condemned by God. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith (Jer. 23:31), and If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Gal. l:9). (§14-15)

5. We believe and teach that church fellowship is forbidden with all  who deviate from the Word of God in their teachings. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Rom. 16:17).  (§ 16-41)

6. We further believe that all manifestations of fellowship are  forbidden with those who deviate from the Word of God in their teachings (Rom. 16:17b). (§ 42-45)

7. We further believe and teach that suspension of an established fellowship is to take place when it has been ascertained that a person or group is causing divisions and offenses through a false position in doctrine or practice (Rom. 16:17-18). (§ 46-48)

REJECTION OF FALSE DOCTRINE

1. We reject and condemn any limitations on the extent of the application of the Scriptural injunctions to separate from false churches and teachers. (§ 49)

a. We reject the teaching that the application is limited to non-Christian bodies. (§ 50) 

b. We reject the teaching that the application is limited to those who deny the redemptive work of Christ. (§ 51)

c. We reject the teaching that the application is limited to those who err in fundamental doctrines. (§ 58-60)

d. We further reject the teaching that errorists and their followers are to be avoided only when they no longer listen to admonition, or that we are to remain in fellowship with errorists as long as we think there is hope that they might give up their errors. (§ 61-72)

e. Though the teaching Church is ever an admonishing Church, we reject the opinion that separation from errorists is dependent upon the course of admonition. (§ 73) 

2. We also reject and condemn all limitations on the intensiveness of  such divinely commanded separation from false churches and teachers.

a. We reject as false the teaching which would forbid only joint worship services with errorists. (§ 75-77)

b. We reject as spurious the distinction which is made between prayer fellowship and joint prayer, namely, that while the former is indeed forbidden with errorists, an occasional joint prayer would not be displeasing to God. (§ 78-80)

c. We also reject the teaching that fellowship with errorists is permitted if there be no complicity with the error itself, or that the errorist may be fellowshipped but not his error. (§ 82)

d. We also reject the teaching that one may practice outward or external fellowship with errorists, if one does not embrace the error in his heart. (§ 83-84)

e. We also reject the idea of protesting fellowships when they are used as license to practice fellowship with errorists. (§ 85-88)

f. Finally, we reject the plea of cooperation in externals when it is used as license for actual joint church work with errorists. (§ 81)


INDEX

The State of the Controversy

Statement of True Doctrine

  • Rejection Of False Doctrine
  • Epitome
  • September 1999 Lutheran Spokesman Issue

    Written by | March, 2008
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    Personal Mission Work

    What comes to mind when we assess our personal involvement in Christian mission work?

    Perhaps we think of our participation in the Mission Festival each year–when guest preachers speak to us on the topic of missions, we join in a congregational prayer for missions, and we contribute an extra measure of money for mission work. We might also think of our on-going support of missions through our individual prayers and our monetary contributions.

    What about our personal witnessing to the unchurched or to those overtaken by error? One of our youths made a remark a short while ago that gave cause for further reflection on this important area of Christian living.

    This young Christian made the observation that some of his acquaintances who belong to Reformed churches spoke quite openly and frequently to others about the LORD and their religious beliefs, whereas he did not find this to be so much the case with young people in our fellowship.

    Could this be said of adults in our midst as well?

    While this is just one person’s observation and while we are not given to comparing our level of sanctification with others, still this kind of remark can have the salutary effect of causing each of us to take a closer look at our use of the name of God for the benefit of others.

    How much do we speak to one another in our daily conversations in our homes about Jesus, His works, and His ways?

    When discussing different topics, issues, and concerns, how often do we find ourselves speaking of the LORD and His important truths out in the world?

    In Martin Luther’s explanation to the Second Commandment in which God reveals His will for us concerning our use of His name, the positive side of the commandment is expressed in these words: “but we should call upon His name in every trouble, pray, PRAISE, and give thanks.”

    Speaking the praises of the Lord not only involves worshipful prayers and songs, but also speaking of Him to others.

    It has often been rightly said that mission work–personal witnessing and testifying of the LORD–is not simply to be reserved for trained clergy. This is also the calling of every Christian, both young and old alike.

    When He gave the Great Commission, Jesus was speaking to all His followers in every generation, saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20).

    The apostle Peter reminds us of our high calling as children of God when he writes: “But YOU are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that YOU may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 1:9). (our emphasis)

    In this world filled with darkness we who have been mercifully delivered from the darkened condition of unbelief that leads to eternal death are to shed the light of God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus.

    When considering how wickedness abounds more and more in this world with every passing day, we wonder how long before Judgment Day will come. And we might also find ourselves at times asking why the Lord is delaying in His final coming.

    Why? It is because there are still more precious souls that God would gather into His kingdom.

    There are still lost souls in our area and beyond that the LORD would have us reach out to with the gospel message of salvation.

    Speak to one another of Him who died to save us all!

    –Pastor Mark Gullerud

    ” . . . But speaking the truth in love, may (we) grow up into Him in all things, who is the head, even Christ.” — Ephesians 4:15

    SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE

    The truth hurts. Boy, don’t we know it! Think back on a time when someone bluntly pointed out some flaw in us or some deficiency in our work. How did it make us feel? It really hurt, didn’t it? You may have tried to defend yourself, even if the charge was true. Human nature is always ready to fire back, perhaps with something equally hurtful.

    Of course, such exchange is unlikely to produce anything worthwhile –quite the opposite! It certainly is not reminiscent of the kind of love Jesus desires to see among His followers.

    When it is time to speak, we dare not speak less than the truth. However, we should hesitate to use the truth as a hammer. Christians want to speak the truth in love.

    Among Christians the truth must be a commodity regularly traded, even when it results in confrontation. For many confrontation is uncomfortable, unpleasant, and to be avoided at all costs. However, resentment may grow if the situation is not faced.

    Confrontation is unpleasant. It can feel like applying antiseptic to an open wound. Ouch! That stings! Yet it is better than letting the wound become infected. However, this fact does not give license to be mean or caustic. Christian confrontation starts and ends with love.

    You cannot lovingly confront someone if you have a chip on your shoulder or if you expect the worst. Also, loving confrontation is not nagging. It states the point of concern and seeks to deal with it in a timely manner.

    “I” Language

    There is no surer way of turning a discussion into a fight than to start off by accusing the other person. A far better approach is to use that which is called “I” language. When using “I” language I am expressing how something makes me feel. If I use “you” language, it is probably going to sound condemning and puts the other person immediately on the defensive.

    For example, there is a world of difference between saying, “I am uncomfortable arriving late at church. Is there anything I can do to help?” and “You always make us late for church. You don’t even care, do you?”

    It is vital to remember that we are dealing with someone we love. Our spouse or our children or our Christian friend is not our enemy.

    It is a good idea to focus on the behavior of the person rather than on the person’s character. Since we cannot read each other’s heart, concentrate on the facts rather than on the motive. Few things are as hazardous as presuming to tell someone what he thinks or feels.

    We want to understand each other, so it is important to speak clearly and to listen patiently and carefully. To resolve the matter, we turn to the Scriptures for guidance.

    What it finally all boils down to is daily exercising ourselves in the Ministry of the Keys–honestly confessing our sins to each other and readily forgiving one another.

    This is essential especially when there has been a confrontation. Our priority is not to prove that we are right, but to give and receive the very forgiveness of sins which Christ won on the cross.

    Christ Himself has granted each believer the authority, privilege, and responsibility to forgive sins and open heaven’s gates. No better expression of love can ever be given or received.

    “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

    –Pastor Delwyn Maas

    The Sound In The Night

    As I repose ready to drift off, the chorus of chirping and croaking ceases. The bush is pitch black and deadly still. The stillness then is broken by a screeching sound.

    Is it some cat in a tussle with a black mumba or some other snake? Is it some cicada-like insect that, as it darts through the dark night, emits this shrill sound? I don’t know, but I do know “it” is out there. I have heard it again and again.

    I also know something else is out there. And it is far more menacing and unnerving than the repetitive screech from the unknown source.

    I know very well the source of this haunting, loathsome thing. As it hounds me, howling like a baying cur, I shrink back. And it is not just “out there.” It harasses me, dogging my steps, nipping at my heels.

    What is this–some fanciful tale from African folklore? What beast could this be, you ask? It is the beast within me. I can remember well the words and the incidents, some fresh from perpetration while others long since past, yet remembered.

    The screeching bush sound disturbs my sleep but little. I am well separated from whatever it is. But as to this other, it is quite different. I am not separated from it. It is with me not only in my room but in my life, and it lurks within me while I try to sleep. But my memory is good, and the beast comes floating back like wretched debris from some nautical disaster washing up again and again and again on the shore of my conscious thoughts.

    The sole comfort is “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). This I need to hear and read. To be reassured I need to hear it also from others than myself.

    The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses . . . gives me peaceful sleep. This satisfies the longing for rest and the yearning for rightness with God. This solves the problems of fearful and fitsome sleep. Surpassing all human understanding, this has power that words cannot convey–and yet these words do.

    Of course, they are not mere words, for with them comes the very author Himself to apply them to my heart as sweet balm to a grievous wound.

    My memory is good, but I need to read and hear and ponder ever anew the words that pierce the darkness with the Light: “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

    Perfect love does indeed cast out fear. He loves perfectly–He loves me, the imperfect and stress-torn. Such things are dispelled and supplanted by words of grace.

    And one day He who has so lovingly spoken will evict once and for all the beast I so despise.

    Maranatha.

    –Missionary David Koenig

    Parables Of The Master

    Luke 14:7-11

    A Precept Parable

    The opening verse says it’s a parable, but it just doesn’t read like a parable. It reads more like a set of precepts about good manners at a Jewish wedding banquet. So . . . what are we to do when a Scripture doesn’t gel? Ask the Spirit for enlightenment, and read the five verses again.

    Soon our imagination kicks in as we picture an actual banquet with no place cards for the seating, so everyone scopes the room for a good spot. Is there an open seat at the head table? But that would be a faux pas. How about a seat close to the kitchen, on the hopes of being served first? Maybe that’s OK . . . but few would choose a remote corner, too far away to be included in sparkling conversation, a corner too dark for the busy host to note your presence.

    Aha! So this is a parable about attitude! Jesus is making a point about one’s spiritual posture before God, even (especially!) in view of the great and wonderful marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9).

    The company which Jesus kept at that Sabbath supper (v. 1) needed help with more than their table manners. They needed enlightenment about God’s standards for inter-personal relationships and God’s preferential plans for heavenly seating. He brought home to them God’s displeasure at human pride as well as His favor toward humility.

    Though the usual parable format (“The kingdom of heaven is like…”) is missing, the lesson is clear: “For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    That’s one of God’s steady standards; it works for angels, for Jesus, and for us. (By the way, Satan was the first to exalt himself, and we know what happened to him. Jesus had the opposite attitude, and, to be reminded of the attitude that produced a Savior, read Philippians. 2:5-11.)

    Back To Basics

    An eye-opener introduction eases us into the heavenly concept: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place . . . . ” The situation is sketched in as the self-centered person plunks himself down at the head table, telling himself the awful lie that he merits some such honor . . . oblivious to the host with his own higher standards.

    It’s pretty basic: if you want to avoid the sting of public shame and exposure of your grubby selfishness, conduct yourself in such a manner that you do not prompt the host to unseat you from the dais and send you off to a corner. On the other hand, if you await the pleasure of the host, to your astonishment you may be offered a seat at the head table.

    It doesn’t take long for an opportunist to figure the angles and jockey for position by hanging back in the crowd; but it takes the host even less to recognize his friend and save a special place for him in preference to the sham.

    Oh, Lord, we hear echoes of “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity. . . I never knew you” and “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom . . . . ” And yet another: “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . blessed are the meek . . . . ”

    That’s what this parable comes down to: the attitude which God’s redeemed child has toward his redeeming Father and his fellowman: the lowliness of heart, the meekness of spirit which simply cannot be pushy against others who are also invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And, of course, Jesus does not dull the point that it is the Host who will exercise His own judgment at His own table in His own house. “The first shall be last, and the last first.”

    And now we are faced with the HOW. HOW can a person change his inborn, inbred, Satan-fed, and world-nurtured natural self-seeking inclinations so as to become self-sacrificing and self-effacing and asking only for the crumbs from the Master’s table? It’s got to be a miracle.

    God bless you.

    –Prof. Em. Paul Koch

    Studies in Ephesians

    Proclaiming the Unsearchable Riches of Christ (See 3:8)

    Chapter 2:1-13

    Our Rags To Riches Story

    (Christ is the Key)

    “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”–these words were Isaiah’s sharpened needle in the self-righteous balloon of a disobedient Israel. Good works cannot avert the doom of people–even very religious people–who fall short in holiness before God.

    That same doctrine also punctures the optimistic religious theories of people who claim that man has some inner power or strength by which he can draw near to God or cause God to accept him. If any person is to be accepted before God, he must somehow escape the rags of his natural sinful condition.

    The church in Ephesus seems largely to have been gentile (non-Jewish) in background. The Ephesians had come into the riches of God’s kingdom, as Paul had pointed out in the first chapter: “God . . has blessed us;” “we have obtained an inheritance;” I heard of your faith . . . and love.”

    But now Paul bluntly reminds them of the rags that formerly adorned their lives: “you … were dead in trespasses and sins.”

    Dead, of course, is an absolute term. Sin and disobedience render a person helpless and incapable before God. Later Paul points out that these gentile people had “no hope, and [were] without God in the world” (v. 12).

    Still worse, they were spiritually dead to God though not spiritually neutral. Rather, man by nature is a spiritual rebel numbered with the ranks of that original rebel, Satan, and under his diabolical power.

    Living apart from the true God, people wear–not robes of righteousness, but–the blood-stained uniform of disobedience and the rags of spiritual slavery.

    Satan’s power and presence are so pervasive that the apostle calls him “the prince of the power of the air” (v. 2). Our success and salvation in spiritual matters is not due to a weakening or retreat of the foe’s ranks. The temptations, the influences, the assaults are all still as present as ever. And “we” (note the pronoun change from v. 2 to v. 3) cannot think ourselves different than any other person of this world: “We were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

    Alive To God!

    But here is where the story takes an amazing turn: even while the Ephesians (and we) languished in such ragged poverty, a great wealth of kindness and love was directed toward each of us. In the first chapter we were reminded that this love was directed our way before we were born (“predestined”). It is a love that was demonstrated here in time with the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And even while we personally were dead and revolting in our sin, God loved us and “made us alive” (v. 5) or “quickened” us.

    “Made alive!”–to be alive is an infinitely wealthier state than to be dead! To be alive to God is to know Him in truth, to trust Him, to respond to Him. Alive to God we discover the abundance of His riches directed toward us: His “great love” (v. 4); His “rich mercy” (v. 4); the “exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness” (v. 7). God is rich in those qualities that spiritual human beings thrive on.

    Those are nice words and noble sentiments, but are they real? How may we be certain that we have indeed escaped this carnal world?

    The answer, and the key to our sure riches, is Christ. Paul is clear that Christ is the source and guarantee of our riches. The result of God’s great mercy is that He “made us alive together with Christ.”

    When Jesus rose from the dead, the work of redemption complete, we were “raised together with Him” — united with Him in our faith. When He ascended to the right hand of God, “God made us sit together” with Him by our faith. We are liberated from the futility of this world to “seek those things which are above, where Christ is” (Col. 3:1).

    The riches of God’s gracious salvation flow to us through such Christ-ward faith. (“By grace are you saved, through faith” v. 8). A true Christian spirit is not inclined to glory in self, but to glory in Christ. He is our all.

    Our lives become fruitful in pursuing paths of service that our all-knowing God has already plotted out for us (v. 10). We are a people destined to be the salt and light for this corrupt world, as Jesus proclaimed us to be (Matthew 5).

    Rich in grace, we have also been made rich in our association, becoming the true Israel of God grafted into a people who enjoyed God’s grace for so many centuries. We have a real communion and fellowship in an Israel that is pure and true, not stubborn and disobedient.

    Our relationship to this body of believers is not the external and superficial act of circumcision–of which the earthly Israel continually prided itself (v. 11-12). Our inclusion along with the Ephesians is effected by the infinitely priceless blood of Christ (v. 13).

    In Him we have gone from the rags of unrighteousness to the riches of grace. These alone are riches that endure.

    –Pastor Peter Reim

    Biblical Perspectives On The End Times

    Second in a Series–

    THE LAND

    The Land

    What land? The Promised Land, the land that flowed with milk and honey (Ex. 3:8), the Land of Canaan that extended “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” and once was occupied by the Kenites, the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites; the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Rephaims; the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites (Gen. 15: 18-21). Today the area from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates would include parts of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and all of Israel, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.

    The Patriarchs

    The Lord God called Abraham and directed him to go to a land that He would show him. He promised to make him a great nation. A nation needs a homeland. After Abraham had walked through the land which was occupied by the Canaanites, the Lord appeared to him and promised: “To your descendants I will give this land.”

    Nation and land go together. No nation, no need for land. But a nation needs land. After the initial promise of making Abraham a great nation and giving that nation a homeland, the Lord repeated that nation/land promise four times: Gen. 13:16-17; 15:18-21; 17:8; and 24:7.

    After the death of Abraham, the nation/land promise was given to Isaac: “I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give your descendants all these lands: and in your seed all nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 26:4). But take note of these words of the Lord by which He states why He is passing that nation/land promise on to Isaac: “because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Gen. 26:5). The Lord attached the condition of obedience to the land promise.

    From Isaac to Jacob! When Jacob stopped at Bethel on his way to Haran, the Lord transferred the nation/land promise and the blessing of salvation to Jacob (Gen. 28:13-14). When Jacob returned to Bethel, the Lord repeated that promise (Gen. 35:11-12). Jacob died believing that promise (Gen. 48:4).

    Moses

    Centuries passed. Israel had become a large nation in Egypt, but an enslaved nation. Moses was born, was educated in the very palace of Pharaoh, and assumed the role of a self-appointed deliverer. That rashness resulted in a forty-year banishment. Then the Lord God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and announced to him: “I have come down to deliver them (My people) out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good land and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:8).

    The Lord did deliver His people from Egypt. He was leading them to the Promised Land, but that generation never entered the Land because they murmured against the Lord. They brought upon themselves the curse of the Lord: “The carcasses of you who have murmured against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above” (Num. 14:29). The Lord God does indeed keep His promises, but it is only believers who receive the blessings of those promises.

    Joshua

    The book of Joshua records the conquest and dividing of the Land. The inspired writer concludes the report with these remarks: “So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. . . . Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Josh. 21:43 and 45). But in his farewell address, Joshua warned Israel that they would perish from the good land the Lord had given them if they transgressed the covenant of the Lord their God (Josh. 23:16).

    Solomon

    It was the task of David to consolidate the Kingdom with the result that Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the Euphrates to Egypt, (1 Kings 4:20-21). The Lord had fulfilled His nation/land promise made to Abraham and his descendants. But that promise was conditional. If you do as I command you, the blessing will continue for you and your descendants. But if you turn from Me, “I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them” (1 Kgs. 9:1-9). Faithfulness meant possession and enjoyment of the land; disobedience meant loss of the land.

    Pre-exilic Prophets

    These were the prophets who brought the Word of the Lord to His People before the judgment of deportation and exile fell on the people. The message of the Lord communicated to the people was a call to repentance, reinforced by the solemn threat of national destruction including the loss of the Land. Those messages of judgment were followed by the Lord’s assurance that He would restore His people to the land He had given them and that He would fulfill His covenant to send the Messiah.

    Judgment fell on the northern tribes at the hands of the Assyrians in 722 B.C. There is an ominous threat recorded against these tribes by Hosea: “My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him; And they shall be wanderers among the nations” (Hosea 9:17). That threat presupposes loss of the land.

    In a letter that the Lord instructed Jeremiah to write to the captives in Babylon, He instructed them to “seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive.” He then gave them the solemn assurance: “After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place” (Jer. 29:7-14). Despite this judgment of deportation from the land, Jeremiah declared that the Lord had kept His original promise of the land (Jer. 32:22-23).

    Post-exilic Prophets

    In his prayer, Nehemiah also affirmed that the Lord had kept His land promise (Neh. 9:7-8). Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the people to rebuild the temple, but they make no mention of the land. Malachi brought the Old Testament Canon to a conclusion, foretelling the coming of the messenger who would prepare the way for the Messenger of the Covenant. The issue of the Land had faded in importance. The Lord had made the nation/land promise to Abraham. He had fulfilled it in the days of Joshua and most gloriously in the days of David and Solomon. He had taken the Land away from His people because they had violated His covenant. He had restored the Land to repentant Israel. As always, being “in” or “out” of the Land was determined by obedience or disobedience.

    New Testament Era

    Israel was in the Land when in the fullness of time God sent the promised Messiah to His People. John the Baptist said nothing of the Land. Jesus said not a word about the Nation of Israel possessing the Land. He did call the meek blessed, for they would inherit the earth. Neither did any of the apostles have as much as a word to say about the Land.

    John preached a “baptism of repentance for the remission of sin” (Mk. 1:4). Jesus proclaimed: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel” (Mk. 1:14). In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus read the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the coming Messiah, closed the book, and announced that He was the fulfillment of that prophecy. Luke records one of the final words of our Lord that “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Lk. 24:44). On the Day of Pentecost Peter quoted the prophecy of Joel concerning the last days–the days of the Messiah–and also the words of David in the 16th Psalm, proclaiming that all was fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. Paul testified to the Corinthians that “all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20). All blessings spiritual and material are inseparably connected with Jesus, the promised Messiah.

    What did the Nation of Israel do to their long-awaited Messiah? In the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (Mt. 21:33-44), Jesus reviewed the centuries-long unbelief of His people that culminated in the murder of the Son. That brought down upon the Nation the judgment of the Messiah: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.” The Lord’s chosen People lost their status as the Covenant People of the Lord. Through the judgment upon the Nation by the Romans, they also lost the Land promised to Abraham.

    But what of the restoration of Israel to Palestine in 1948 together with the reacquisition of Jerusalem in 1967? Was this a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy? Impossible, for all the promises of God are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ Jesus. The Nation of Israel remains under judgment because it continues to reject Jesus as their promised Messiah. The blessing of becoming a nation as numerous as the sand and stars has been transferred to the Church. Jews remain wanderers among the nations. In His merciful governance of the nations (Acts 17:26), the Lord has provided a homeland for some of them in a restricted area of what was once The Promised Land. The policy of land for peace continues to diminish that “homeland.”

    –Pastor Paul F. Nolting

    Appreciating Our Lutheran Hymns

    Built on the Rock the Church doth Stand

    A Hymn On and For the Church

    #467 in The Lutheran Hymnal

    The congregations of the Church of the Lutheran Confession worship in a variety of settings. Most hold their services in their own houses of worship, which may be large or small, ornate or plain, traditional or modern in design. Others worship in a rented hall or perhaps even in the home of one of the members.

    Our hymn reminds us that the setting in which we worship is not important, for the true God is not confined by temples made with hands. His dwelling place among mankind is in the hearts of those whom the Holy Spirit has brought to faith in Jesus Christ. “He whom heav’ns cannot contain Chose to abide on earth with men, Built in our bodies His temple.”

    And our Lord has promised to be present wherever His disciples gather in His name. Wonderfully, “Now we may gather with our King E’en in the lowliest dwelling.”

    What matters is that God’s Word is truly taught and the sacraments rightly administered in our worship. “His truth doth hallow the temple.” Christ’s Church doesn’t depend on buildings or on massive cathedrals with stained glass windows and pipe organs. It is built on the Rock who is Christ, and it stands because it is built on Him as its one foundation.

    This is not to say that building churches is unimportant. “Still we our earthly temples rear . . . .” The hymn beautifully expresses why our places of worship ought to be precious to us. “They are the homes where He draws near And little children embraces. Beautiful things in them are said; God there with us His covenant made, Making us heirs of His kingdom.”

    The baptismal font reminds us of God’s grace given to us in Baptism. The altar reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice which we receive in Holy Communion. And the pulpit is the place where God’s Word is proclaimed. “There sounds the Word that doth proclaim Christ yesterday, today, the same, Yea, and for aye our Redeemer.”

    This majestic hymn teaches us that there is no better place to be than God’s house where He is worshiped and His truth proclaimed.

    –Pastor John Klatt

    Sixth and last in a series–

    LIVING OUR FAITH IN CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE

    One of the great faith-challenges facing us as Christians is to live and practice our faith. Within Christian marriage this means translating the God-desired, ideal “love” of Ephesians chapter five into a language of feelings, attitudes, and behavior which prove pleasing to God and a blessing to our spouse.

    Some of the key areas emphasized by our Divine Marriage Creator and Counselor include:

    * Exercise Christian kindness and forgiveness in marriage

    “Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).

    Pray for help to eliminate feelings and unkind words of sinful anger, bitterness, and sarcasm. Don’t hesitate to confess your wrongs and to ask forgiveness of your spouse. Avoid the temptation to take out your work and life stresses and frustrations on loved ones.

    Consider the depth of Christ’s forgiving love for you and seek to emulate it.

    * In love be willing to “give in” and “give up” for each other

    “Submit to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21).

    There are many areas of marriage–besides our religious convictions–in which husbands and wives can sacrifice and set aside their own interests and desires to serve and please one another.

    Such a spirit reflects the love of Christ and strengthens the bond of marital love.

    * Express love and appreciation for your spouse often

    “Her husband . . . rises up and calls her blessed . . . He praises her” (Prov. 31:28).

    Just as Christ in many words and ways has both spoken and shown His beloved Church how much He loves her, so husbands and wives, by words and actions, should tell one another often: “I love you.”

    Dwell on things you admire and appreciate in your spouse, and tell them soon and often. Build one another up in faith and marital love.

    * Understand, appreciate, and utilize your differing gifts and roles

    “Male and female He created them . . . and joined them together” (Gen. 1 & 2).

    While God created men and women alike in many ways (spiritually, basic human feelings and needs), He also in His wisdom gave them distinctive, complementary, and compatible love-roles within the design of marriage. This includes the husband’s humble love-leadership and sacrifice for his beloved, and the wife’s cheerful love-submission toward her husband.

    The recognition, appreciation, and carrying out of these God-given marriage roles will be a significant blessing to their marriage.

    * Learn to understand and communicate with each other

    “Be swift to hear, slow to speak . . . .” (Jms. 1:19)

    To say that silence enhances communication seems incongruous. Yet many relationships (including marriage) suffer because people do not truly listen to or try to understand each other.

    Areas of disagreement will arise, even in the best of marriages. Learn to lovingly resolve issues without making them personal. Beware of being judgmental, or allowing anger or frustration to gain control.

    Pray for increased love, kindness, and patience in your marriage.

    * Battle complacency and stagnancy in your marriage

    According to what someone has called “the seven years of the marriage cold,” a husband’s response to his wife’s cold gradually deteriorates from, “Honey, sit down and rest. What can I get you?” (first year) to “Can’t you be quiet and quit that wheezing and hacking?” (seventh year). Such can be the temptation and effect of long-term familiarity.

    The romantic excitement of young love can easily give way to taking each other for granted–or worse.

    How can spouses rekindle the spark?

    It is helpful to remember that God brought you together as husband and wife, and that He has a wonderful plan and purpose for every stage of your marriage. His plan will not be complete until your marriage union ends with the death of one spouse. Look to Him for daily help, joy, and renewal in every stage of your marriage.

    Translating the marriage love of Ephesians chapter five into action is not easy. Every Christian husband and wife fails and falls short of these lofty marriage ideals.

    Yet in Christ we find forgiveness for our marital failings; and with Christ we find both the strength and the motivation to love our spouses as He first loved us.

    –Pastor David Schierenbeck

    (Special thanks to Pastor Schierenbeck for writing this helpful series in behalf of the Spokesman. We pray all will take his words to heart. –Ed.)

    Eighth in a Series (from an essay by Pastor Thomas Schuetze)–

    Psalm 128

    “LORD, grant me the blessing of family happiness.”

    A Psalm of Comfort

    Psalm 128 Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. The LORD bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!

    In this “Song of ascent,” the psalmist teaches that a happy home doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a blessing God graciously bestows on those who are faithful to Him and who, in love for their Lord, strive to “walk in His ways.”

    Why was the psalm included in the Songs of Ascents collection? Perhaps it was recognized that the Jewish pilgrims (who were just getting established in the land) needed the comfort and admonition which this psalm offers. Did they wish to enjoy the blessing of a happy home in the land of Canaan? Did husbands and wives desire the blessing of marital happiness? Let them not follow the example of their stubborn, unbelieving forefathers who forsook the Lord. Let them remember their God, serve Him faithfully in love, and follow in the way of His commandments. If they did this, they would experience the blessing of family joy and happiness.

    The Lord continues to bestow this precious blessing on Christian families today. Where godliness is “the crown of the home,” where the place of honor is set apart in the heart for Jesus, where He is invited in each day to be the honored Guest, He gladly consents to tarry with His blessing. And there is happiness.

    SMORGASBORD

    * MARTIN GALSTAD, 1909-1999 (Pastor Rollin A. Reim, Reporter)

    Just short of his 90th birthday, Martin Galstad of Lake Hamilton, Fla., received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wisconsin Lutheran College, where five of his former students sit on the board of directors.

    This recognition will seem appropriate to many, including numerous CLC constituents who benefited from his distinguished teaching and pastoral ministry.

    After teaching at Dr. Martin Luther College for five years, Galstad withdrew from the Wisconsin Synod and helped in the formation of the CLC. He became a founding member of Faith in New Ulm. In the transition period that followed, he supported his family (spouse Eunice [“Phoebe”], Gudrun, Marie, and John Martin) as a real estate agent. When the CLC founded Immanuel Lutheran College, he was called to teach a wide range of subjects with a major emphasis on philosophy of education and educational methods, a subject of life-long interest.

    In 1964, at the age of 55, Galstad was called to the parish ministry of Immanuel congregation, CLC, in Winter Haven, Fla., where he served for 12 years. During the subsequent retirement time he affiliated with a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the church of his youth.

    By any measure, Martin Galstad was a true scholar in the tradition of his namesake. Like Luther he was bold to examine any assumption in the spirit of the biblical text, “Test everything. Hold on to what is good.” His hungry mind sought insights wherever they could be found, and his facile pen applied them with skill.

    The first of a series of titles published by Haven Books is called FINDINGS (available at the CLC Book House). The title says much about his educational philosophy.

    It also well sums up the spirit of this man who served his Lord among us those many years.

    [From the Editor:

    At the time the above was written, Martin Galstad lay seriously ill. Born at his parent’s farm near Currie, Minnesota on July 30, 1909, he passed away on June 1, 1999 in Winter Haven, Florida. The funeral was conducted at the ELS church in that city. Survivors include his wife, two daughters, and one son.

    Having sat at Galstad’s feet in the classroom and for essays on the conference floor, I was one who appreciated his scholarship, approach toward teaching, and writings on educational philosophy. At the same time I was among those who regretted that he left the fellowship of Immanuel congregation and the CLC.]

    * ESSAY SYNOPSES

    Essays presented at delegate or pastoral conferences are the fruit of hours of study and preparation. Often attendees come away from these presentations saying (or thinking): “If only more of our people could have heard this essay!”

    “The next best thing to being there” is a printed version, in full (preferably) or in part. Some pastors give synopses of conference essays for their Sunday bulletins or congregational newsletters. The bulletin of Berea Lutheran Church, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota (David Schierenbeck, Pastor) contained synopses of essays delivered at the Minnesota Delegate Conference and the CLC General Pastoral Conference (both of which took place in June). We give you four of them:

    HOW CAN WE RETAIN MORE OF OUR YOUNG PEOPLE IN OUR CHURCHES (by Mr. Tom McLaughlin, Berea Lutheran Church, Inver Grove Heights):

    One of the difficulties facing CLC churches (and we are not alone) is the retention of our youth–not only because they represent the future of our church, but especially out of love and concern for their souls. Such things as the ungodly world and its allurements, societal and peer pressure, and a view of Confirmation as an “end” in itself, all militate against their tender faith. Both faithful Christian parents (and faithful churches) need the comfort and motivation of our Lord’s promise: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The author then focuses on ways to encourage our youth in church (and Bible Study) “involvement”–including the development of Christian education materials and programs involving modern computer technology.

    A STUDY OF EPHESIANS 5:22-33 (by Pastor David Reim, Vernon, British Columbia):

    This familiar and beautiful section of Scripture is read at most weddings and holds the key to a God-pleasing and blessed Christian marriage. Were this “divine counsel” followed by every husband and wife, the need of the incredible volume of words spoken and written on this subject by human experts and counselors would immediately disappear. The key is found in v. 21–a believer’s general attitude and life of humble submission to one another in the fear and love of God. Such a loving, caring, unselfish, and sacrificial spirit is produced alone by the Gospel and by the example of Christ Himself in His attitude toward and relationship with His beloved bride, the Church. Where the Spirit’s spirit prevails between husband and wife, both will in love carry out their respective roles in God’s marriage order with God’s blessing and in marital happiness. The Christian husband will in love “nourish and cherish” his wife as his own body (which she is), and the Christian wife will lovingly submit to and honor her husband with the same spirit with which the Church submits to Christ.

    AN EXAMINATION OF GOD-PLEASING MISSION STRATEGIES (by Pastor Andrew Schaller, Watertown, S.Dak.):

    With the popularity of the current “Church Growth Movement,” which emphasizes outward mission methods and numerical church growth, we do well to reject such a focus in favor of the Spirit’s calling and counsel for Christ’s Church: “Go and make disciples of all nations”–by baptizing and teaching God’s Gospel Word (Matthew 28:19) which alone can make one “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). We dare not abandon God’s Word and the Means of Grace as God’s way of reaching and converting lost sinners to the faith. At the same time the “wrapping” of the Gospel gift (our services, approach toward visitors, evangelism programs, upkeep of the church building, reputation in the community, bulletins, use of technology, etc.) will, we pray, in no way hinder the Holy Spirit in His work or obscure our Gospel witness.

    MAKE HIS PRAISE GLORIOUS (by Professor John Reim, ILC Music Instructor):

    Without specifically spelling out the precise forms of worship, the Bible has many passages which speak of the importance and nature of true Christian worship–including praising, preaching, teaching, singing, communing, and praying (Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:41-42, Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19, Hebrews 13:15, 1 Timothy 4:13). These passages are best summarized in John 4:23-24: “Those who worship the Father must worship Him in spirit” (from a heart of faith) “and in truth” (according to His Word). Much of our current worship form is solidly based on–even quoted from–Holy Scripture, and constitutes a tradition in use for many generations. Our current hymnal and liturgy (The Lutheran Hymnal) were adopted by the Synodical Conference (Missouri and Wisconsin Synods) in 1941. Basically they reflect our formal European (German) worship heritage. While treasuring this heritage and blessing, we do well to recognize that a changing language, a changing culture, and changing faith-responses to Christian life have led to new and changing poetical and musical expressions of God’s unchanging Word in our day. Rather than dismissing them all as being “modern” (and therefore, wrong), a better approach would be to evaluate them on the basis of Scripture, as well as evaluating how much they edify and touch the heart of the hearer, and how well they communicate Gospel truth. Prof. Reim has undertaken an evaluation of various Lutheran hymns and liturgies and is in the process of personally preparing a hymnal supplement to include alternate liturgies as well as many quality and favorite hymns already in use in our midst today. This supplement should be ready by Convention next summer.

    If you were not present to hear these presentations, the essayist or your pastor may be contacted for unabridged copies.

    Announcements

    Anniversary

    Zion Ev. Lutheran Church of Hidewood Township, S.Dak. will be celebrating its 100th anniversary with a special service on Sunday, October 17, 1999 at 4:00 p.m. The congregation has invited its former pastors who are still active in the public ministry to assist Pastor Andrew Schaller in this special service. A meal will be held in conjunction with the service. All are invited to attend.

    Note: Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church of Watertown, S.Dak. celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special service at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 15, 1999.

    South Eastern Pastoral Conference

    The South Eastern Conference will be holding its fall pastoral conference at Grace Lutheran Church in Live Oak, Fla. The dates are September 21-23, 1999. Pastor Stephen Sydow will serve as Chaplain and Pastor John Johannes will serve as the Communion Service Speaker. The following papers will be presented and discussed:

    1. New Testament Exegesis, 2 Thessalonians 3:6ff — Pastor Paul Larsen 2. Old Testament Exegesis, Malachi 3:13-18 — Pastor Todd Ohlmann 3. Study of Genesis 3:16: “And he shall rule over you” — Pastor Thomas Schuetze 4. Isagogical Study of One of the Minor Prophets — Pastor Daniel Fleischer 5. Review of the CLC General Pastoral Conference Study on Religious Organizations (this was not assigned, but will be on the agenda for discussion) 6. Christian Day School Enrollment Policies Relative to Non-members — Pastor John Schierenbeck 7. The Background and Significance of the Official Writings (Marburg, Schwabach, and Torgau Articles) That Prepared the Way for the Augsburg Confession — Pastor John Klatt 8. Book Review: Wauwatosa Theology or essayist’s choice — Pastor Vance Fossum

    –Pastor Todd Ohlmann, Secretary

    Minnesota Delegate Conference

    Date: Sunday, September 26, 1999

    Time: 3:00 p.m.

    Place: Grace Lutheran Church, Sleepy Eye, Minnesota

    Agenda:

    * “Reflections on school violence and parenting.” — Dr. Jim Sydow, Grace, Fridley, Minn. * Discussion of statements regarding applying Scriptural principles to organizations of this world and the American Legion in particular” — Pastor Elton Hallauer, Moderator * Business Meeting

    –Pastor Rick R. Grams, Secretary

    Pacific Coast Pastoral Conference

    Place: St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Vernon, British Columbia (BC), Canada Dates: Tuesday-Thursday, Sept. 27-30, beginning at 130 p.m. on Tuesday. Agenda: 1) Old Testament Exegesis: essayist’s choice — Pastor Paul Naumann 2) New Testament Exegesis: 2 Thessalonians 3:4ff 3) Is the ‘chastisement’ of the Lord a MEANS of strengthening faith? — Pastor Rollin Reim 4) Book Review: “The Structure of Lutheranism” by Werner Elert — Pastor Horst Gutsche 5) Isagogics: essayist’s choice — Pastor Bertram Naumann 6) Study of a portion of the Book of Concord, beginning with the Historical Introduction — Pastor Michael Sprengeler 7) Booklet Review: “The Conversion Theology of Billy Graham in Light of the Lutheran Confessions” — Pastor Terrel Kesterson 8) Book Report: “What is Christianity? and Other Essays” by F. Pieper — Pastor Warren Fanning 9) The History of the Lutheran Church in Canada — Pastor John Cobb Conference Speaker: Pastor Delwyn Maas Conference Chaplain: Pastor David Naumann

    –Pastor Michael Sprengeler, Secretary

    THE CHRISTIAN WOMAN TODAY SEMINAR

    CHRISTIAN MEN’S CONFERENCE

    These events are being planned simultaneously for Saturday, October 2, 1999 at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Mankato, Minnesota.

    Here is an excellent opportunity for all area members–men as well as women–to spend a day of learning and growing in the Lord. All are invited to attend. If you did not receive brochures at church, contact Pastor Nolting in Mankato.

    CLC Teachers’ Conference

    The conference is set for October 13-15, 1999 at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Mankato, Minnesota. The agenda will appear next month.

    NOTICE: In last month’s announcement regarding the installation of Stephen Sydow as pastor at Grace of Live Oak, Fla., the name of former pastor Karl Stewart was inadvertently omitted as one who assisted in the installation.

    – The Editor