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Archive for August 3rd, 2011

In Luther’s day,  the equation was

A. Church=Rome.  Some say:

B.  Church= Constantinople.  Even some Lutherans say,

C. Church =Wittenburg.  Which is the correct answer?

D. None of the above.

In Luther’s day, the Roman Church said to be saved you must be part of the Roman Church, and still does.  The Orthodox believe that it is union with them that one is saved.  Even Lutherans have maintained that to belong to the Lutheran Church is necessary for salvation. If we so believe  and  so act that by joining the visible church, i.e. a denomination, then we are saved, or “really saved”, then Christ Jesus is not necessary.  Some other work is added and grace is void. And if it does depend upon joining a visible church body, then which one?  This seem to have  so vexed in the 19th century a sensitive young man in Palmyra, New York that he invented his own church:  Joseph Smith came up with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, i.e. the Mormons.

So, what is the Church?  The Lutheran Confessions has the clear Biblical answer:  “…for thank God, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. (John 10:3)” (Smalcald Articles, by Dr. Luther, Article XII, The Church).  What do they hear from the Good Shepherd?  Answer:  The Word of God.  The Word makes the Church, not the Church the Word.  We hear forgiveness of and for sinners who can’t save themselves.  Luther taught the Church is a “unique community in the world”, “…it is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God”. (The Large Catechism).  The Church, His Body is spread throughout the world and time. It is not only a question of

What is the Church?, but  also

Where is the Church?

and

When is the Church?  

The Lord’s Body, His Church is in every congregation faithful to the Word and Sacraments.

Luther helped us to Biblically know the true Church in her teaching by pointing out that there are 7 Marks of the Church by which she is externally known.  They are:

1. The Possession of the holy Word of God

2. The holy Sacrament of Baptism

3.  The holy Sacrament of the Altar

4. The Office of the Keys

5. The Public Ministry

6. Prayer, Public Praise, and Thanksgiving to God

7. The Possession of the sacred Cross

I will be writing about each of these 7 Marks in the weeks ahead.  I do so for the increase of true faith and love and to be of assistance to you in knowing the Church, truly universal, that is catholic and evangelical, where Christ Jesus is in all His Word in the communion of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father.  Yes, Amen!

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