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The Church’s One Foundation

19 So then, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJ)

Dear brothers and sisters in the one true faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The practice of playing down sin & God’s Word, and playing up acceptance of even the most grievous types of sins and man’s notions is becoming the norm.  But God speaks differently.  And lest some say that churches still holding firmly to the teachings of our blessed Savior Jesus Christ are immune to such atrocities, one only has to consider that what’s going on in Christendom today did not happen overnight.  Just as illness often remains unnoticed until the symptoms bear themselves out, so the disease of false doctrine often creeps into the church unnoticed, and damage is done even before any acknowledgment of a problem exists.

Therefore, it is necessary for God’s people to be ever vigilant in the Word of their Lord.  This is so in order that “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14).   “Nor should we be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds in the doctrine of Christ Jesus (Romans 12:2).

“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  And, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).

The proclamation of God’s church throughout the ages that distinguishes Christians from nonChristians is the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s death on the cross.  But this cornerstone of the Christian faith is being molded and formed into an entirely different message, even a different Gospel, one which falls under God’s anathema (Galatians 1:6-9).

The church today is seen more as a place for man’s activity over and above God’s and more emphasis is placed on man’s endeavors and actions rather than on what God is doing in Christ through the blessed Word and Sacraments of our Lord.  God’s Word has become less important than man’s determination and will power to do.  It’s no longer Christ that unites God’s people into one body through faith, but man’s efforts which unify under the same cause.

Christ is preached as example, not as Savior.  Lip service is given to the Word of Christ, but hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 15:8).  Ambiguity of speech is the common practice.  What is said is not what is meant and what is meant is not what is said.  Words are given different meanings and cause greater confusion rather than drawing together to Him who is the Head of His body.  Hearers are motivated and even encouraged only to hear what they want to hear rather than fight sinful temptations and listen to God’s law which condemns sin and God’s grace which forgives it.

The gospel in today’s church has not to do with God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness for Christ’s sake.  That doesn’t work.  That kind of message doesn’t have a place in today’s world where results and what is seen run the show.  Thus, a new kind of gospel has been established.  In the place of the historic gospel of the Christian faith of God’s love in Christ, tolerance and acceptance of anything and everything, as well as whatever works, is the proclamation that liberates and frees from the tyranny of oppression.

Houses of God have become houses of man, going the way of the world, having left their first love (Revelation 2:4).  The state of visible Christendom is in disarray, to say the least.  It appears broken, disunited, and worldly.  Regardless of the attempts to bind together, unify, and sanctify, of ourselves we have no ability to accomplish these worthy, but unattainable, goals.

The church of Christ, contrary to popular belief, is not bound together because of common activities and agendas.  Instead, according to Holy Scripture, it’s not what we do that unifies in the true and godly sense, but what God has done and continues to do in Christ Jesus.  This is the glue that binds God’s people as one.  Christ and Christ alone is our peace that breaks down the wall of hostility between us.

It is the unity of a common faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior, Him and no other.  This is what brings God’s people together and joins them together into the living body of the living Christ.  There, no one who believes is a stranger or foreigner, whether Jew or Gentile, for all are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

For this reason, visible Christendom remains divided – because not all hold to the clear teachings of Scripture.  Though Christ is not divided, there are dissensions and schisms among the visible churches and congregations of Christendom because not all believe and confess what God has given to believe and confess.  Some simply flat out deny the very Words of God, even rejoicing with pride in their sinfulness.

But what a different and true picture St. Paul paints of the true church in His letter to the saints in Ephesus!  Just as Christ is not divided, so His beloved Bride, the Church, is not divided, “for there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were 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 4:4-6).

In Christ Jesus, those who were strangers and foreigners to one another are no longer these, but members of God’s household, “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).  They who were far off are brought near by the blood of Christ.  Those having no hope and without God in the world now are hopeful and with God in the world, they with Him and He with them, having faith in Him whom God sent and believing that Christ is where He promises to be in His Means of Grace.

The reality of what is visible in churches and church bodies across the nation cannot be ignored, but neither can God’s inspired Word given through St. Paul.  What we see is not always what we get and what we get is not always what we see.

There is another church that is completely unified, not at all broken, disjointed, or worldly.  It is a glorious church, not having blemish or wrinkle.  It is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone.  This church we confess in the creed as we say, “I believe in the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.”

This church we do not see with the eyes.  But God’s true church is as much as a reality as the churches that we do see.  The hidden church which is confessed among us is Holy because of Him who sanctifies.  It is Christian because of Him who is its head.  It is Church because it is the assembly of all who believe in Him who died and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures.  They who belong to this Church are strangers to the world, but not to Christ.  Nor is He a stranger to them.  They are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God by adoption into God’s kingdom through water and the Word, even the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

This Communion of Saints, the fellowship of God’s people who believe Christ to be their Savior, who hope in the Lord and wait upon Him, these are all united in Christ Jesus by faith.  Here there is no denominational demarcation or Christian classification in the One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church.

Only one thing distinguishes members from nonmembers in this Church – belief in the Lord Jesus.  Those who call upon the Lord for mercy and trust in God’s beloved Son are already members.  Those who do not, though they be members of local congregations and be affiliated with this or that denomination, are not.

As we believe in the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, so we will also rejoice on account of God’s kindness and favor.  His Holy church will not waver nor will if fail, nor can it be destroyed.  It is eternal, not temporary as earthly and worldly churches are.  It is built on the foundation that has already been laid and that cannot be unlaid.

It continues to grow, even though it appear not to grow according to human perception and recognition.  It’s growth is not observable by statistical figures and demonstration of numerical strength because it does not grow in ways that we see, but according to God’s Word that “shall not return to Him void, But shall accomplish what He pleases, And prosper in thething for which He sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

This article of faith concerning the Holy Christian Church will not be a visible physical reality seen in our day, as if it is a goal for which we are to strive.  But it is a present reality.  Though unseen, God has revealed this teaching of Christ’s Holy Church in Scripture.  And what a blessed comfort and assurance it gives to all who grow weary with the reality of church struggles and its spots and blemishes before its members and in the sight of the world!

There is one church, true and faithful, which will endure for all eternity.  This church is not affected by the world or its ways.  It is founded only on God’s Word and united in the faith of her Lord Jesus.  Though hidden, wherever God’s Word is preached and the Sacraments are administered according to their institution, there you will find members of this Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints.  This we believe and this we confess.  Amen.

The Book of Concord

(Tappert Edition)

The Augsburg Confession,  VII. The Church

1 It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among who the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. 2 For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word. 3 It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places. 4 It is as Paul says in Eph. 4:4, 5, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

The Smalcald Articles, XII. The Church

2… a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. 3 So children pray, “I believe in one holy Christian church.” Its holiness does not consist of surplices, tonsures, albs, or other ceremonies… invented over and above the Holy Scriptures, but it consists of the Word of God and true faith.

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Preaching and Hearing the Word of God

The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD.

Jeremiah 23:28

Faithfulness to the Lord in preaching is a hard thing!  It is a hard thing because many will grumble.  Many will complain.  Many will grow tired and turn away from that which gives life.  The many do this because the Word of God does not “fit” them.  The Word of the Lord does not “do” for them what they think it should.  The Word of the Lord, essentially, is not to their own liking, independent of the outer dressing in which it is delivered.  It does not scratch the itchy conscience as it wants to be scratched.  It does not tell one troubled by sin that things are not that bad, that things will only get better, and that happiness is just around the corner.

The Word of the Lord preached faithfully speaks the reality of how things really are.  The Law of God does not mince words.  It does not pull back the punches.  Like the doctor who speaks the truth about one’s condition, so the Law reveals the hopelessness of our situation.  The Law says that you are a poor miserable sinner, deserving nothing but death and eternal condemnation.

Such a message does not sit well with one who wants to be his/her own savior.  Such a message does not parallel the false hope preached so often today, that all you have to do is try harder, or “give your life to Jesus.”  The Word of God contrasts the “it is not so bad” mentality of today’s church, for faithful preaching consists in addressing the condition and not only the symptoms of sinners.  Only by doing so is the true proclamation of the Gospel clearly heard and believed.

Jesus came to save real sinners, not partial sinners (Luke 5:32; 1 Timothy 1:15)! Jesus died in order to save real sinners from real condemnation and hell.  And this is just what Jesus did, not to make the world a better place, but to give eternal life.

While many go on proclaiming a false gospel of earthly hope and worldly utopia, true preachers of Christ preach the sure and certain hope of heaven.  They teach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), for the very purpose of leading the hearers to Christ and to heaven.  They call sinners to turn from their evil ways and to believe the Good News of sins forgiven through faith in Christ Jesus.

Not all who hear this message appreciate it.  Many turn away from it.  Most reject it.  Such is the world in which we live.  But by God’s grace, there are also most certainly those who do hear, who do believe, and who do confess Jesus Christ to be Savior.  They know God’s Word when they hear it, for they are of God (John 8:47).  They hear Christ’s voice and follow Him (John 10:16, 27).  And they seek none other than the true doctrine, for in this true doctrine is true and everlasting life.  And of this doctrine they are not ashamed, for it is not their own, but God’s.  Thus do they boldly declare it, and of it are most sure!

Luther

“With Paul, therefore, we boldly and confidently pronounce a curse upon any doctrine that does not agree with ours.  We, too, seek by our preaching, not the praise of men or the favor of princes or of bishops but only the favor of God.  We preach His grace and gift alone, treading underfoot and condemning whatever is our own.  Therefore anyone who teaches something different or something contrary – we confidently declare that he was sent from the devil.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p59).

Prayer: Gracious Father, you have given us Your holy Word that we believe it and boldly confess it.  Grant us not to be ashamed of what you say, nor to depart from it all of our days.  Forgive us our weaknesses, and bring us to firm confidence in Your doctrine and eternal life.  Amen.

We seek to please God, not men

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men?

For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10

Our Lord Jesus says to his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:18-21).

Those who seek to please Christ are those who seek to abide by His Word and remain in it, regardless of the cost involved (John 8:31-32).  Such cost may include the loss of friends, family members, or job.  The hatred of the world may include isolation and persecution.  Collectively, also, for Christ’s Church, for His people gathered around Word and Sacrament, such hatred of the world may present itself in the refusal to hear the Word of God preached by the pastor, the denial of Christ’s absolution, the promotion of schism contrary to the true doctrine, the despising of God’s Means of Grace, and the desire to change the worship service from being that which God works through to deliver His blessed gifts of life and salvation in the hearing of His Word and the distribution of Christ’s body and blood, to what we give to God, without first acknowledging the extent of our sin before Him.

Like the Pharisee, we come to God’s house to tell God what we have done and how we have lived, and thus do we seek His favor based on our work and apart from His mercy in Jesus His beloved Son.  Contrast this pharisaical approach to God based on oneself with the manner that the tax collector approached God.  He could not even look up.  He did not claim any goodness of himself, but simply confessed what was right and true.  He had nothing to give. He had nothing to offer to God-only his sin.  So he says, “God, be merciful to me the sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14, my translation: the definite article is in use here in the Greek text, v13).

This “poor miserable sinner” claimed no merit of his own.  He did not at all trust in himself.  Nor did he look to himself for any “spark of goodness” whereby he might gain God’s favor.  Instead, He trusted only in the mercy of God for help and salvation.  He came expecting to receive from God, not to give.  And Jesus says receive everything, this sinner did, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14).

To be justified before God means nothing less than having peace with God (Romans 5:1ff), having your sins forgiven, being unconditionally in God’s favor, and having nothing but God’s compassion and kindness upon you.  On the other hand, to not be justified before God means nothing less than having God’s wrath and judgment upon you and to not at all have God’s favor towards you.

Only in Christ Jesus do you have such true and lasting peace with God!  This is the Christ who God reveals in His Holy Word.  And this is the Christ which God’s Holy Church proclaims and who God’s people unashamedly confess.  This, too, is the same Christ which the world hates, and for which God’s people joyfully suffer. But God’s people suffer for the sake of Christ and for the sake of His Name because He is their Savior, “for there is no other Name, under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  They know no other God, for there is no other God (1 Corinthians 8:6).  All others are nothing but false God’s, man-made, and of the devil (Revelation 9:20).

This is why the world hates Christ, His Church, and His people—they are of God, not of the devil, the world, or of sinful man.  They teach the way of God aright, neither compromising or weakening God’s message.  They boldly confess and unashamedly proclaim the way of God in truth.

God’s people come before God’s throne of grace, not giving to God, but seeking to receive from Him the mercy that God gives through faith in His Son (Hebrews 4:16).  And by God’s mercy, that have it!

This is indeed not a popular message, for many, even within the church, reject it.  But it is only Christ who gives life (John 6:63).  We are lost and condemned in our sin, with nothing to give to God.  But God covers such sinners with Christ’s righteousness (1 John 1:8-9), and we, now, live unto Him, rejoicing in His bountiful goodness and believing His unmerited and undeserved mercy on account of Jesus, His Son and our Savior.  Amen.

Luther

“We do not seek the favor of men by our teaching either, if we may be permitted to say this without boasting.  For we teach that all men are wicked; we done the free will of man, his natural powers, wisdom, righteousness, all self-invented religion, and whatever is best in the world.  In other words, we say that there is nothing in us that can deserve grace and the forgiveness of sins.  But we proclaim that we receive this grace solely and altogether by the free mercy of God and His works, universally condemning all men for their works (Ps. 19:1).  This is not preaching that gains favor from men and from the world.  For the world finds nothing more irritating and intolerable than hearing its wisdom, righteousness, religion, and power condemned.  To denounce these might and glorious gifts of the world is not to curry the world’s favor but to go out looking for and quickly to find, hatred and misfortune, as it is called.  For if we denounce men and all their efforts, it is inevitable that we quickly encounter bitter hatred, persecution, excommunication, condemnation, and execution” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p.58).

Prayer: Dearest Jesus, preserve us, Your Holy people.  Keep us from compromising Your Holy doctrine or accommodating ourselves to the ways of the world for superficial peace in the world.  Give us strength to endure the temptations that befall us that we not forsake Your Word, but remain steadfastly in it and in the true faith for our salvation.  Amen.

The Church and What the Church is, Articles VII & VIII of the Augsburg Confession

Article VII: Of the Church.

1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.

2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. 4] As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.

Article VIII: What the Church Is.

1] Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and 2] the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, etc. Matt. 23:2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men.

3] They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who denied it to be lawful to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who thought the ministry of evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.

*Book of Concord

On the Lord’s Ascension

“By His exaltation and ascension the Son of Man, also according to His human body, has entered into the full and unlimited use of His divine omnipresence. His gracious presence is therefore assured to His congregation on earth. He is now nearer to His believers than He was to His disciples in the days of His flesh. He is now sitting at the right hand of His heavenly Father. As our Brother He has assumed the full use of the divine power and majesty. He reigns with omnipotence over all things, but especially also over His Church. God has put all things under His feet, and has given Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all, Eph. 1, 22. 23. By His Word and Sacrament He gathers unto Himself a congregation and Church upon earth. He works in and with His servants; He governs in the midst of His enemies. He preserves and protects His Church against all the enmity of the hostile world and against the very portals of hell. And His intercession before His heavenly Father makes our salvation a certainty, Rom. 8, 34.” (http://www.kretzmannproject.org/)

Campus Ministry — A Blessing Indeed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Place of Campus Ministry, p1

The Importance of Campus Ministry at Secular Colleges and Universities, p1-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review-Pocket Dictionary of Church History (2008)

 

Feldmeth, Nathan P.   Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms.

Downers Grove, IL:  Intervarsity Press, 2008.

“The Pocket Dictionary of Church History is designed to help students identify the people, places, events, movements and ideas that checker the story of the church through the ages” (back cover).   Such a design this booklet does meet.  About a paragraph is given for each of these identifications, with some shorter and some longer.  By no means intended to be exhaustive, this booklet might serve well as an introduction or quick reference to Church History, and may promote an increased desire to study further the history of the Christian Church.

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