Saturday, September 22, 2007

Unity in the Church

On another weblog discussion, A Black Lutheran! It Can't Be!, the matter of inconsistency among Lutheran bodies that are not in communion with one another and the disunity that exists because of Lutheran politics led to some lengthy comments on my part. Since I question whether I should presume to make such lengthy comments on another weblog, I have brought the discussion here. Please check out the previous discussion if you need to "catch up." My current response to 'TK' is in the comments section of this post.


Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear TK,

I am sorry that you have suffered a bad cold. I was stung by some bees this week, and am suffering the effects of their venom. We never enjoy suffering.

You said:
To study and wrestle with modern Lutheran politics confuses me even when I don't have a head cold.

It is truly sad that politics exist among those calling themselves Christians. Such things are not in keeping with the Lord’s will. He forbade the creation of church bodies where men exalt themselves over one another, setting up governments of men’s imaginations that seek to do by the will of men what only the pure Word and Sacraments are able to do. Jesus warned the disciples that they were not to seek to rule the Church by any means of their own, but were to serve the Word. They demonstrated that they understood this when political issues began to arise and they refused to set themselves over these matters saying, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”

You conclude, saying, “One day we will see unity, whether here or there.”

Reading these words causes me terrible pain, not in the way of being insulted, but as grief. For the Scriptures never speak of the unity that is in Christ in this way. Those who reject Christ’s peace and unity now, do not suddenly enter into His peace and unity at the Last Day. The peace of God and the unity of Christ exist now. This blessed state is what the Holy Spirit works in the Church through the pure administration of the means of grace. When people subject themselves to these, unity is the result.

I have seen people refuse to admit this fact that the Scriptures declare, to their demise. They deny the existence of unity for so long of a time that they finally tell themselves that it cannot happen. They eventually even say that purity of doctrine and practice is impossible to achieve. But this is because they are looking for this purity in the works of men rather than as what the Holy Spirit works.

Unity is the ongoing work of the Spirit, as St. Paul declares in Ephesians 4:11-13:

“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:”

This is not stated as though the unity is some future state, but as the state that has been established and into which we are being built up.

In Colossians 2:6-7 St. Paul says,

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”

He speaks of this condition as an established fact. How can we walk in something that does not exist? We have been baptized into Christ and we walk in Him by the faith that we have received. As we continue to walk in Him we grow more and more to realize the reality of this unity that the devil tries very hard to hide from us.

Sadly, even in the misguided approach to what is taught regarding the Sacrament of the Altar, we are taught to come to the cross as individuals. But even on the day of Christ’s crucifixion, no one came to the foot of the cross as an individual. This notion of “I come to the cross” is not what the Scriptures teach. This notion is why so many come to the cross and go away still feeling alone. Faith is not the individual’s act. Repentance is not the individual’s act. Worship and prayer are not the individual’s acts. God works these things in all who belong to Him, and the faith and repentance and worship and prayer that He works for one, He works for all as one in Christ. Consider how Jesus taught us to pray and how He gave the Sacrament.

If we stop counting faith as our own work, we will see that God does work the unity of the faith among us both now and forevermore. This is why I finally stopped pretending to be part of a church body that teaches by its practice that disunity in the Church is to be tolerated, even encouraged. How can the power of God unto salvation, the Gospel, be preached effectively in conjunction with such false practices?

Please do not let the sinful and misguided actions of men cause you to despair of the unity that Christ promises and has established for His saints. It is not just talk. It does exist when the Word is the only Lord in the Church, and when we truly believe in the Holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, rather than looking for communion with God through our actions and beliefs as individuals and as church bodies.

It delights me to read the Confessions and observe the great care that the reformers took not to establish a church body, but simply to acknowledge the Church that is and to return to it. If only those who claim to be Confessional would do likewise.

TKls2myhrt said...

Amen. Thanks! We've got lots to study in the coming years, don't we?

Not sure what you are getting at: "The peace of God and the unity of Christ exist now. This blessed state is what the Holy Spirit works in the Church through the pure administration of the means of grace. When people subject themselves to these, unity is the result."

My church and synod has this unity now, as does the LCMS and the WELS. I was referring to confessional Lutheran Christians who are not in fellowship with each other at this point in time. One day we will have unity, whether here or in heaven. I agree that once should never give up in matters of keeping doctrine pure. Never.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear TK,

Are you asking me to explain further or are you just expressing that you do not agree?

Your third paragraph seems to indicate that you do not really agree with what I am saying about the cause of unity and peace in the Church and in the churches.