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Context is everything…

Don'tPutAQuestionMarkWhereGodPutAPeriod

This is a decent quote!  It draws attention to the truth that we are not to question God and His ways.  Nor are we in the position to question God and His Holy Word, as the writer to the Proverbs, for example, says, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6, NKJ).

So often, however, contrary to what the Bible says, we, like Zechariah in the temple, question the Word and ways of God (Luke 1:18).  Even though He has made known to us His will by means of the Holy Scriptures, His Word, we doubt, question, and even disbelieve what He has said.  We say, for example, that St. Paul the apostle was speaking only of his day and time and culture when he spoke against the ordination of women (i.e. 1 Corinthians 14:34-40; 1 Timothy 2:8-15; 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6), or concerning homosexuality (i.e. Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9), or about any number of current societal issues in which we want to usurp what the Bible actually says.

We might say that, “God says,” but then reinterpret such words according to the way that we think they ought to be.  And yet, we continue to speak the mantra that the Bible is God’s Word, though at the same time emptying it of its true meaning.  Rather than letting God speak and mean what He intends by the mere Word alone, we reconstruct the words and implant a foreign meaning to them so that we, essentially, can live at peace with ourselves and the way we want.  But such is not the way of God and His Word.  They who alter and change it will reap the consequences (i.e. Revelation 22:18-19).

Christians more or less might expect nonChristians to distort the Scriptures, for they likely do not believe them.  Yet more and more, it’s not the nonChristians who are changing the meaning (and words) of the sacred text.  Rather, it’s the so-called “Christians” who are doing so.  Many mainline denominations have forsaken the heavenly doctrine and are more in agreement with the world and its ways and not God and His.  The admonition of the Lord Jesus to the Pharisees also applies to them, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:7-9, NKJ).

What proof of this might their be?  The phrase above, “Don’t put a question mark where God put a period” was posted on a church billboard, not of a faithful ChristianELCAcross-are they Christian congregation, but by a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  This church body ordains women into the ministry, as well as unrepentant homosexuals, approves of homosexuality, approves of abortion and provides for it in its insurance, calls good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20-21), minimizes the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, preaches and teaches that the Biblical account of creation and other revealed accounts of God are myths and neither historical or factual, etc.  Essentially, ELCA (and many other mainline denominational church bodies) have gutted Holy Scripture of its intended meaning (according to the Word written) and replaced it with something devilish (i.e. 2 Timothy 4:3-4).  This is not according to godliness and leads the hearers (if they believe their words) to hell and not to heaven.  And grievously, many who are members in these apostatized church bodies may care little for the truth of God’s Word and repenting of their ways should they remain in them.

The words on that sign, “Don’t put a question mark where God put a period” are true words, but printed on a sign in front of an erring congregation that teaches contrary to the Word of God is not only misleading, it is deceptive.  A congregation which is truly of God (and not of the devil, see John 8:42-47) preaches and teaches God’s Word according to the text, rightly divides Law and Gospel, calls to repent from sin that God calls sin, and points to Jesus Christ as the only “Way, truth, and life” (John 14:6).  They call good what God calls good and call evil what calls evil.  They don’t put a question mark on where God put a period.  Instead, they speak the whole counsel of God, treat the Word of God as God’s Word (and not theirs), and seek to be faithful to the true doctrine, heeding the words of Paul to Timothy, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Salvation is only found in Christ (i.e. John 14:6; Acts 4:12).  The faithful congregation and the faithful pastor preach Him and Him alone and none other as the way to eternal life, and they seek to abide by His Word and hear only His voice (1 Corinthians 1:23-31; John 10:16, 27), for by these, the Lord sustains them, and gives certainty of peace with God (i.e. Romans 5:1ff).  These we are to hear.  From the others, we are to flee (John 10:1-5).

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A case of disunity in the LCMS…from The Lutheran Witness

Koinonia

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

The Lutheran Witness is the “official periodical of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” (Lutheran Witness, Dec 2012, p2).  Since the presidency of Pres. Matthew Harrison, elected in 2010, The Lutheran Witness has undergone a transformation.  The following letter may help illustrate this.  “Last night I read the October issue of The Lutheran Witness, and I could not help but praise the Lord for the content.  Here was the material that I have wanted to see in our church periodical for many years, clear biblical expositions of theological, doctrinal and life problems confronting clergy and laity in our Synod at this time.  We need more of this clear, open

of Scripture in common English for all to see” (The Lutheran Witness, Dec 2012, p22, 24).

I am in agreement with this observation.  The majority of articles now the in The Lutheran Witness are doctrinal, and thus, practical, in nature, directing the reader to the Word and to Christ, drawing distinctions where they should be maintained, and genuinely Lutheran.  I enjoy reading the articles and am encouraged greatly by them.

Before President Harrison was elected, The Lutheran Witness had a more “church growthy” approach, having the assumption that the gospel and the doctrine were “there,” but not explicitly indicated as such, generally speaking.  It seemed that the emphasis was more on human activity rather than God’s activity through Word and Sacrament, emphasizing the “mission,” minus the content.Walking together

Yet even as The Lutheran Witness has changed, for the better, I believe, others do not have this view, not at all.  Such a negative view of change towards The Lutheran Witness is illustrated by this letter from a more recent issue, “The March 2013 number of The Lutheran Witness is on of the most troubling I have ever read” (The Lutheran Witness, May 2013, p25).  Another letter illustrates a similar negative view, “I grew up in the ELCA and was active there until age 40, when I moved my family to the LCMS for doctrinal reasons.  The move was the right choice for our family.  That said, I had an extremely negative reaction to the March 2013 issue of The Lutheran Witness” (May 2013, p25).[1]

Reading even only a few of the letters offered in The Lutheran Witness gives a taste, albeit, only a nibble, of the discrepancy found within the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).  One writer says, “More, more.”  Another says, “No, no.”  Such responses indicate that, like so many other denominations, we are not 100% united, specifically, in doctrine.  If one greatly appreciates what is right and true and another does not, what does this say of a united faith that we claim to possess?  It essentially demonstrates that we’re not as united as some claim us to be.  Of course, in Christ, true unity remains.  But then again, the question remains, “What does this mean?”


[1] The March 2013 issue of The Lutheran Witness, entitled, “Free in Christ” included articles such as, “Can’t we all just get along,” “Free in Christ,” “Finding a home,” “The Life of the baptized,” and a chart, “Differences and Distinctions” between the LCMS, Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic on such teachings as God’s Word, Justification & Sanctification, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

Are all Lutherans the same?

 

 

No.  Not all Lutherans are the same for not all Lutherans teach or practice according to what God says in His Holy Word, the Bible.

The three largest Lutheran Church bodies in North America are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA, www.elca.org), the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS, www.lcms.org), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod (WELS, www.wels.net).  Visit their respective Question/Answer pages and you will find a great deal of difference between ELCA and the other two.

ELCA fundamentally has a different understanding of the Gospel, Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and the Sacraments than do the others.  If the definitions or explanations given by ELCA sound similar, it is only because they use similar words, but with entirely different meanings (meanings and usage which are foreign to Holy Scripture).  In practice, these differences clearly show themselves (i.e. the ordination of unrepentant homosexuals and of women, contrary to the Lord’s mandate; the toleration and acceptance of behavior contrary to God’s will; fellowship with “Christian” church bodies that teach doctrines contrary to God’s Word [open communion];  worship nonChristians [i.e. Jews, muslims, etc.], and not least of all, preaching which is devoid of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life through faith in Jesus [the preaching that unrepentant (nonbelieving) sinners are saved is ever increasing].

By far, the doctrine and practices of the ELCA are quite distinct from LCMS and WELS.  However, between the latter two, noticeable differences do exist.

LCMS permits women to vote in congregational assemblies.  WELS does not.  LCMS permits its young people (and even encourages in some cases) to join boy/girl scouts.  WELS encourages it young people to participate in a WELS group somewhat similar to the scouts.  LCMS has military chaplains.  WELS has civilian chaplains, but no military chaplains.  Also, LCMS and the WELS have a different teaching of The Office of the Ministry and its relation to the priesthood of all believers (however, in practice, differences are not so readily recognizable due to the fact that the LCMS seminaries and colleges in the Concordia University system of the LCMS do not consistently teach similarly, nor are pastors and laypeople always so clear on the distinctives).

LCMS and WELS both accept the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) to be God’s Word (and without error) and the only “rule and norm for faith and life.”  Both also subscribe unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions.  The ELCA does not accept either the Bible or the Lutherans Confessions as the LCMS and WELS do (if the ELCA does in word, then certainly not in practice).

Both LCMS and WELS also clearly teach Christ and Him crucified as the only means of salvation (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:5).  The ELCA is not clear on the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ and fails to distinguish between what is sin before God and what is not.

There will be exceptions to the above comparisons.  ELCA pastors and congregations who seek to be more faithful to the Bible than their church body as a whole do exist.  In the same way, LCMS and WELS pastors and congregations exist who do not teach and practice according Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions (i.e. using worship practices and innovations that are foreign to biblical doctrine).

Simply because someone says that they are a member of an ELCA, LCMS, WELS, or other Lutheran Congregation does not immediately mean that they are genuinely Lutheran.  Nor does the word Lutheran attached to the name of a church body immediately indicate that the church body is genuinely Lutheran.  Only by discerning according to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions is one able to make such a judgment.

“The Ecumenical Movement-A Brief Assessment”

According to William Rusch, a Lutheran pastor serving as Adjunct Professor at Yale Divinity School and New York Theological Seminary, the ecumenical movement has as its goal “the visible unity of divided churches.”[1] This is a laudable goal, to be sure.  However, such a goal is untenable, for the simple reason that we live in a fallen world.

Current ecumenical efforts have shown (i.e. ELCA, Joint Declaration of Justification by Faith[2], etc.) that in order to “show” such a “visible unity,” the method must be one of compromise and the “appearance” of a unity that does not truly exist.  Genuine unity has to do with doctrine.  It is not the work of man.  It is the work of God.  It expresses itself, not in a diverse array of confessions and statements, but in the united confession of Christ according to His Word.  Where such confession remains nonexistent, regardless of “intentions,” true unity does not yet exist and cannot demonstrate itself.

To report that “substantial agreement,” “common understanding,” and “common views” exist between various church bodies[3] that are in dialogue does not yet indicate visible unity.  It shows that much work still needs to be done.

Defining terms, so crucial in the sciences, is also necessary here.  Also necessary is not only the agreement of the definition of a particular word or phrase, but agreement in its particular usage, and also as it relates to the whole.

Take for example the article of justification.  What is it (definition)?[4] Is this the central article of the Christian faith by which the Church stands or falls,[5] or is it just one article among many?  If it is just one article among many, how important is it?  If the article of justification is only “more” important than others, how is it “connected” with the others, if at all?

Such dialogue may indeed take place, but it appears to be of little concern in many current discussions.  What is of greater desire, it seems, is to look like “one big church,” regardless of what is sacrificed for the sake of a “visible unity.”

Does this mean that ecumenical efforts are truly out of place and have no importance for today’s Christendom?  From the above it might appear so.  Yet it would be premature to jump to that conclusion.  True ecumenical endeavor has as its root the desire of Christians to gather together in unity (a God-given desire, by the way!), but in the genuine unity of true doctrine and true communion with one another.  Thus, wherever there is already agreement in the true doctrine, there already is genuine unity.[6]

In a fallen world, can such agreement in the true doctrine really exist?  Only as sinners (and church bodies) turn away from their own thoughts and opinions and believe the Christ of Scripture, even the very words of the Bible.  Until then, current ecumenical efforts are in vain, even should all claim to have reached the goal of “visible unity.”  Should that “goal” be reached, yet not with unity in the one true faith according to Holy Scripture, it is a sham unity, and a kind of unity with which God is not pleased (1 Corinthians 1:10; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 4:1-6).


[1] William Rusch, “Harvesting the Fruits of Ecumenical Dialogue,” Lutheran Forum, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Winter 2010): 51-53.

[2] Some would certainly debate that any “agreement” has really been found, except to “agree to disagree.”

[3] Rusch, 52.

[4] Augsburg Confession IV: It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, 2 when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. 3 For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 3:21-26 and 4:5 (Tappert ed.).

[5] Augsburg XXVIII: The chief article of the Gospel must be maintained, namely, that we obtain the grace of God through faith in Christ without our merits; we do not merit it by services of God instituted by men (Tappert ed.).

[6] Augsburg Confession VII: 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 (Tappert ed.).

“Rainbow Rave” at UWP

Exponent Online » Features Lead Story » Rainbow Rave.

For clarification, the gay Lutheran pastor who spoke at the recent Rainbow Rave conference on Nov 6, Javen Swanson, does not represent all Lutherans, nor the Biblical Christian faith.  The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and other smaller Lutheran bodies still believe that the very written words of the Bible still do indeed apply today, for they are God’s Word and remain forever (Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:25), and testify of Christ and his Word and work for our salvation (Luke 24:44, 46-47).

The two parts of Swanson’s session on “Christianity and Homosexuality,” which he called, “deconstructive” and “constructive” work, greatly misrepresent the Biblical text (i.e. Genesis 18:16-19:29).  The account of Sodom and Gomorrah is not about hospitality.  It’s about God’s judgment upon a sinful rebellious people, whom, by the way, God would have spared if even 10 righteous had been found in the city (Genesis 18:32).  Romans 1:26-27 could be used as a “proof text” which speaks of homosexuality as sin, but one should also read the entire chapter, esp. verses 18-32.  It’s not just homosexuality which God condemns, but all and every sin. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  And yet, only those who are called sinners does God forgive, save, and give eternal life (Luke 15; John 3:16; 6:47; 20:31; 1 Timothy 1:15).

If Swanson were to truly present what the Bible says according to that what is written, he would discover a text which throughout does rightly speak against sin, but a text which also clearly reveals Jesus to be the Savior from sin, by means of his death on the cross (John 6:47; 20:31).

If the Bible doesn’t say what it means and doesn’t mean what it says, then why is Swanson so concerned about making it say what it doesn’t?


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