Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Ephesians 4 versus “Lutheran Christians”

     It seems that almost anywhere that a person turns in search of those who profess to be Lutherans that a very anti-Lutheran identity is encountered.  It seems that even amongst those claiming to be the most unabashedly Lutheran a very anti-Lutheran identity is professed.

     This term has become very common among those professing to be Lutherans and especially among those who present themselves as “defenders of the faith.”  They commonly refer to the importance of the historic liturgical practice.  They generally refer to the importance of the Lutheran Confessions, even quoting from them, and especially from Luther’s Small Catechism, sometimes from Luther’s Large Catechism, and also even from the Augsburg Confession and the rest of the documents compiled into the Book of Concord.

     Yet even while writing articles and papers regarding the importance of faithfulness to the doctrine and practice tabernacled within these Confessions, even while waxing eloquent in expressing how this doctrine and practice is truly the exposed Word of God as revealed in Holy Scripture, they then apply a term that completely undermines and denounces all that they have written and confessed and proclaimed.

     What is this term?

     Lutheran Christians.

     This self applied identity is anti-Lutheran.  It is, actually, anti-Christian and anti-Scriptural.

     But if one is so bold as to try to explain this to anyone who identifies oneself with this identity and with the identity of one of the larger Lutheran churches, beware!  Stoning could be the result.

     The Lutheran Confessions that the various so-called Lutheran bodies claim to embrace openly and boldly and uncompromisingly declare that such an identity is not of God and not in accord with the Holy Spirit’s revelation of the Word of God through the Scriptures.  In fact, the so-called Lutheran Confessions never even use the term Lutheran.  This came later as people began to depend upon the presumed faithfulness and power of their churches rather than the means of grace.  The use of the name of Lutheran became a way of pretense.  It became an identity that lost its original meaning and became just a trademark or brand of Christianity.

     Today this has become so pronounced that no one really even considers it anymore.  And so pastors and people alike refer to themselves and especially their churches as “Lutheran Christians.”  This is done in an attempt to justify their special niche in the realm of Christendom.  Since it is not counted as loving to proclaim the Scriptural doctrine of One Holy Catholic Church with a clearly defined identity that excludes all who create alternative identities, a very broad and loosely defined Christianity is applied to all, with idiosyncratic attributes and identities to various schismatic groups.  When the term “Lutheran Christians” is used, this schismatic or denominational view is what is being embraced and taught and professed.

     This is anti-Christian.  It is anti-Scriptural.

     I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 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.  (Ephesians 4:1-6)

     Here St. Paul teaches with absolute clarity that there is complete unity in the body of Christ, the Church.  This unity is said to be ONE body.  St. Paul addresses this with extremely strong chastisement to the Church in Corinth.  He plainly teaches them that they have ceased walking as one and that they have created divisions that result in extreme forms of idolatry.  He addresses the Church of God in Corinth, because this is who they were called to be.  A few still remained in that but were allowing divisions or denominations to exist and still be called the Church.  He called them to be turned again together to the true faith and to abide in the way of the truth in absolute unity.

     To the Ephesians the apostle declares that there is ONE body.  This is because there is only ONE Spirit, the very Spirit of God who called them to their vocation as saints in the Communion of God in Christ.  There is ONE body, ONE Spirit, ONE hope.

     He proceeds to explain that there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism.

     There are not multiple Lords who proclaim different doctrines and practices.  No, there is one Lord, who generates us all through one faith in connection with one Baptism.  There are not multiple definitions and confessions of faith.  There are not multiple ways of understanding Baptism and what God works through Baptism, just as there are not multiple Lords or multiple Gods.

     Yet there have been designed and declared multiple bodies and multiple Lords.  Jesus, the Lord, has only one body, yet self-identified Christians have presumed to divide the body of the Lord.  They have divided in their imaginations the Lord Himself.  Some say that 1 Peter 3:21 is not true and is not to be believed, saying that Baptism does not save, while others imagine that the mere action of baptizing apart from the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit can save.  Some say that a person can cause oneself to be “born again” or “regenerated” by one’s own choice and decision rather than being the sole gift and work of God.  Some say that the means of grace are merely symbolic and not actually efficacious.  On and on the variations go.

     Then there are the “Lutheran Christians” who say that they stand apart without standing apart.  They acknowledge those who say that Christ does not mean what He says regarding Baptism and the Holy Communion, saying that they are Christians, but merely erring or misunderstanding Christians.  Yet these divisive alternatives have existed for centuries and those who embrace them do not repent of these so-called misunderstanding even in the face of clear declarations from the Scriptures.

     This being the case, what do “Lutheran Christians” really mean by this term?  What faith are they declaring and confessing and embracing?  What Lord do they confess?  What body do they confess?  What Spirit do they confess?  What Baptism do they administer? What Supper do they administer?

     When a group of Lutheran Christians gather as a body, what body are they?  Within the various so-called Lutheran bodies, often even within the same congregation, there are multiple forms of worship, labeled as Traditional, Less Traditional, Liturgical, Less Liturgical, Contemporary, Rock, Jazz, Praise, and Blended.  These various worship forms and styles teach and practice different understandings of what it means to be the body of Christ.  They create multiple versions of Christianity under the facade of unity.

     This being the case, to what body are they really gathering?  In what body are they trusting that they are the Church?  It is the body that they have created through a corporate charter.  It is a business that markets Christianity under various definitions and forms, but lumping them all together as though the distinctions do not matter.

     This is what enraged the Lord Jesus when He encountered it in the temple courts so that He drove out the marketers of Church from the temple.  But that temple is no more.  Now the Church gathers as one body in various places and times, often as a mere two or three saints who have been drawn together into the name of Jesus through Baptism to partake of the pure means of grace together.  They are gathered not by their own decision or choice, but by the Holy Spirit who leads them to crave that which the Lord has promised and ordained for their everlasting unity and safety in His Holy Communion.

     The big bodies refuse to offer this.  They despise those who count the pure means of grace as the only defining characteristic of the true Church.  The big bodies urge devotion to their corporate structure and define evangelism and the work of the Church as maintaining this identity in the community.  And so they establish internal banking systems such as LCEF, that is, Lutheran Church Extension Fund, and teach people that by using this investment banking system that they are promoting the extension of God’s kingdom through the building of structures upon which signs are erected that declare buildings to be the Church.

     Because people have invested their treasures in these buildings and in the corporations that own these buildings, this becomes their definition of Church.  They then become enslaved to these as their God in which they trust.  Jesus warned that where one’s treasure is, there one’s heart is also.

     Thus people continue to look to their corporations and despise those who humbly and meekly are drawn to gather in unadorned places without pomp and grandeur, simply clinging to the pure means of grace as their identity and hope.

     It is quite common to encounter people who say in response to this, “I do not believe in organized religion.”

     This response is understandable considering the mass hypocrisy that exists throughout Christendom.  Yet this response is illogical, for religion is by definition organized.  The question that needs to be considered is who is the organizer?

     The Scriptures declare a very clearly defined religion.  And yet the Church of this religion is not at all complex.  Neither is it confusing.  Neither is it hard to maintain in unity and purity.  It is defined by its Creator as the gathering or flock or assembly or congregation that the Holy Spirit gathers to the pure preaching of the Word, which produces the pure administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Confession and Absolution offered in connection with these.  Where these are rightly administered and people gather in humble unity of the faith to receive them, there the Church is.  Here poor and rich, Gentile and Jew, man and woman and child, slave and free, all gather as one and rejoice in God’s goodness together.

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OCC Daughters Of Increase said...

Wow! That was a very interesting post! Very well written.
Would love to Link up with you. Just added myself as your newest follower :). Have a wonderful & Blessed Day


Gary Cepek said...

We thank God for the clear words expressed to highlight His Holy Christian Church. "Blessed are those," said Jesus, the Savior, "who hear My Word and keep it."

Gary Cepek

Shanita Miles said...


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