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Archive for April 24th, 2018

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.   He maketh me to lie down in green pastures

So there will be one flock, one shepherd.   St.John 10: 16c

There is one flock, one shepherd.  ‘Hey, wait a minute, pastor, ONE flock?  Hardly.  There are so many denominations, church bodies and the like.’  Jesus was wrong?  By no means!   Still a fair question is: which is the real church?!  Which one is the real flock?  This is so perplexed a young man in Palmyra, New York in the 19th century, he came up with an answer, another church body!  This time he said this was the real thing:  the Mormon church.  There are two major church bodies that assert they are the alone saving church: Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  Which one?  So which is the real church, the real flock, the actual bride? 

First, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod does not confess that we are the alone saving church. If we say you must join this or that church to be saved, then man has put a condition on grace, God’s free gift, for us wandering, bleating sheep. It is another demand of some kind as necessary in addition to faith.  The only condition of entrance is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep, with the authority from His Father, to take it up again. John 10 is the Lord’s testament to His dying, ever living love for sheep lost and lone to bring us together.

Second, divisions are as old as the New Testament: 

when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (1 Corinthians)

Even divisions can serve the Lord’s purposes for us and our salvation! Joseph was divided from his 11 brothers who sold Joseph into slavery.  And as Joseph said them years later, you meant this for evil, but God meant it for good as you can see.  We do not seek division, but acknowledge it and we pray for healing of the divisions in the Church, but not according to man’s desire, theology, and expertise, but according to the Lord who builds His Church through sound doctrine. The Church is His new creation by water and the word, we cannot make a new creation.

Third:  so was Jesus wrong about “one flock, one shepherd”? If we don’t see the visible, denominational unity, then the Lord was wrong?  By no means!  Not only does the one flock have one good Shepherd, the Church is the bride of Christ and He does not have many brides. The Lord  is not a polygamist.

If there is not one flock, then when we confess the Creeds, I believe in ONE holy Christian Church,  we are outright lying. We confess the truth, not lies, so there is ONE catholic and apostolic church. IN the great hymn, The Church’s One Foundation, there is this stanza,

Elect from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

The word “one” is used 6 times in that one stanza. Are we lying about this one Church, the one Flock, the one Bride?  We are not. “…thank God, a seven-year old child knows what the Church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd.  So children pray, ‘I believe in one holy Christian Church.’” Elect from every nation and every denomination!  In every church, small “c”, church body, the Lord has worked faith. C.F.W. Walther, founded of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod said it well:

No one must be induced to join the Lutheran Church because he thinks that only in that way he can get into the Church of God. There are still Christians in the Reformed Church, among the Methodists, yea, among the papists. We have this precious promise in Is. 55, 11: “My Word shall not return unto Me void.” Wherever the Word of God is proclaimed and confessed or even recited during the service, the Lord is gathering a people for Himself. The Roman Church, for instance, still confesses that Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross to redeem the world. That is truth sufficient to bring a man to the knowledge of salvation. Whoever denies this fact is forced to deny also that there are Christians in some Lutheran communities in which errors have cropped out. But there are always some children of God in these communities because they have the Word of God, which is always bearing fruit in converting some souls to God.

Then why am I a Lutheran in the Missouri-Synod?  I speak personally. I belong to the Lutheran Church for the sole reason that I want to side with the truth. I quit the Church to which I belonged when I found that it harbors errors with which I do not wish to be contaminated. I do not wish to become a partaker of other men’s sins, and by quitting a heretical community I confess the pure and unadulterated truth. I adapted my statement from Dr. Walther.   When I read this, finally my mind was convinced, I had to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  The Lord saves us through His pure Word, both Law and Promise.  His Word saves because the Word became flesh.  The Law of God points out my sin and the Word of the Gospel, of the kingdom, points me and ever orients me to the Savior.  When I was in Concordia Junior College, I was visiting my grandparents in Minnesota.  I was visiting with my Aunt Birdie. Her husband was my uncle Elroy, and like my Father, grew up in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.  I was one of my Aunt Birdie’s favorite nephews.  I was putting down the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and for the first time she became sharp with me, “Mark, you know I was raised in the Mennonite church and I knew Jesus is my Savior, but when I married your Uncle, and became a Lutheran, I knew why.”  What did my Aunt Birdie know?  Answer: the pure doctrine of salvation in Jesus Christ in the correct interpretation of Holy Scripture in the Lutheran confessions. The reason is pure doctrine. 

Paul Kretzmann wrote in his commentary in 1914 on today’s sermon text:

There may be various folds, though one flock. The dreams of unionism find no support in this passage. The “holy Christian Church, the communion of saints,” has been gathered in the world ever since the first proclamation of the Gospel, and all the true believers in Christ form the great invisible Church. But there is not a word here of uniting visible church organizations into one great, powerful body.

The “unionism” of which he wrote became what we know as “ecumenism”. 1910 was the beginning of the ecumenical movement in Scotland.  Where are we ecumenically?  We have least common denominator denominationalism, as ecumenism. In other words, the way many church bodies got together was tossing out what they believed in, that is doctrine, and in the spirit of the times, becoming the Progressivist Church in America. It became informed more by man’s theology that God’s Word.  So the allowance of gay unions, abortion, partisan power politics, quota systems but the bottom line:  the jettison of the Bible as authoritative and inerrant.  

How do we respond? Form another church body?  Form another theological platform? Go the blogs?!  The internet and social networking?!  By no means! We are taught today from 1 John:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

that he laid down his life for us is the Church’s message and eternal life. Was Mohammed the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep? Buddha?  Confucius? Lao T’ze?  Joseph Smith?  Even if they did, did they take up their life again to give us eternal life, by grace through faith? Hardly. Jesus did. This is what we tell of God’s good and perfect and complete work in His Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

Then flowing out of the Lord, we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  In deed and truth, means to teach and preach the truth in Christ in the love of God.  Pastor and Professor spells it out clearly the way we are taught the Way:

My sheep here My voice He says, and I know them and they follow Me, and I give them eternal Life. Just as Christ’s teachings are a complete rule of faith, so also is His life a clear, complete mirror for every good work. Learn from Me, He says in Matt, 11-29, as if to say: You have enough to learn about My love, about My patience, My humility, meekness, friendliness to do you for the rest of your lives. As a result, you will well forget about the commandments of men with which you serve God fruitlessly and in vain, Matt. 15:9. O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, highly praised in all eternity: Give us all such an obedient, willing heart for following the voice of Christ in doctrine and life. (Pr. Johann Gerhard)

The Law is but a mirror bright to bring the inbred sin to light.  The Gospel is a mirror clear to bring good works to neighbors near.

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.(Hebrews)

 

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