April 1, 2014 - "Christ, Unionism/Syncretism, and the Church"
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Christ, Unionism/Syncretism,
And the Church

“You shall have no other God's before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

“It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve (latreuō, worship)'” (Matthew 4:10).

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?  And what accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among themI will be their God, And they shall be My people.”
Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the LordDo not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you” (II Corinthians 6:14-17).

Christ brings all of Satan's temptations to a dead stop in the Judaean wilderness with these words: 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve (latreuō, worship)'” (Matthew 4:10).  He pulls this Old Testament truth from Deuteronomy 6:13 where Moses goes on in the next verse essentially to restate the First Commandment, after which he says: “for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you” (verse 15).

Our God, the Triune God, “whose name is Jealous” (Exodus 34:14), lives up to His name.  So jealous is He – so demanding is He of His people's exclusive service to Him from womb to tomb – that He warns His people of the corollary of His name: “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24).  The Greek word used in the Septuagint for jealous is where we get the word zealot, which goes a long way in explaining this verse: “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Deuteronomy 5:9).  And were it not for the verse which follows this one and concludes the thought of all that it means for God to be a jealous God, there would be no hope for anyone: “but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:10).

What's my point?  Simply this: God's standard of judgment and mercy, to which He Himself is accountable, does not change in any generation.

When it comes to unionism/unionistic worship – “joint worship with other Christians with whom we are not in doctrinal agreement” (ACELC Evidence of Errors – Unionism & Syncretism, p. 4) – or syncretism/syncretistic worship – “joint worship with those who are not Christian” (ibid.) – the Church, the Bride of Christ, does everything in its power to align its standard of judgment and mercy with God's standard of judgment and mercy.  All this is to say that the Church, moved by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, who is “head of the body” (Colossians 1:18), is bound by and to the inerrant Word in its day to day affairs, all of which impact matters of eternity.  Anything less is to risk hearing the same warning our Lord spoke to Peter: “Get behind Me, Satan!  You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).

The proposition that pure doctrine can coexist or be presented side-by-side with false doctrine – as most recently happened in Newtown, CT, just over a year ago – without compromising the truth of God, and thus the Gospel, violates every Scripture quoted at the beginning of this essay.  For Lutherans, indeed for all Christians, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article VII & VIII (The Church), sets forth the pattern the Church is to follow.  “[48] Ungodly teachers are to be deserted because they no longer act in Christ’s place, but are antichrists.  Christ says, 'Beware of false prophets' (Matthew 7:15).  Paul says, 'If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed' (Galatians 1:9)” (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions).

The fact that the LCMS has men on the clergy roster who publicly foster, promote, and participate in unionistic and syncretistic worship without discipline is undeniable (documentation found here).  Moreover, the reality that Synod is doing little to nothing to get such men to recant or be disciplined serves as testimony that we, as Synod, no longer hold to the axiom that the Church's standard of judgment and mercy aligns itself with God's standard of judgment and mercy.  In other words, when one asks the Lutheran question –  “What does this mean?” – one is led to conclude that we, as Synod, no longer hold to Scripture, The Confessions, or our own Constitution.

Clearly, Synod's current indifference to its Constitution means we are violating man's law and our “covenants of love” (Foreword, LCMS Constitution).  Still, something far more revealing is happening here.  We, as Synod, have forsaken or ignored the truth that “the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24) – the very thing which ought to compel us to do the right thing in all matters of the Church, because it is a First Commandment issue!

In the words of St. Paul quoted in the opening lines, it is time for the congregations of Synod to “Come out from among them and be separate, says the LordDo not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (II Corinthians 4:17).  We may not like to hear it, but the track record of the LCMS since the Statement of the Forty-Four reads like a page right out of Revelation 2 wherein Christ is addressing the church in Ephesus: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (2:4). Kretzmann's Popular Commentary does a nice job of summarizing this verse.  “It is a sad ‘but’ that introduces such a reprimand.  In spite of the many praiseworthy factors in the congregation at Ephesus this sad state of affairs existed, that they had left the first fire and zeal for the Truth, for the Word of the Gospel, and for the honor of the Lord which had been so prominent in the early days of the church.”

Thankfully, Christ, through the pen of St. John, provides the one and only antidote in the next verse: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent” (2:5).  It is high time we in the Missouri Synod renew and restore our “first fire and zeal for the Truth,” by heeding the first of Luther’s 95 Theses, and the first public words out of Jesus’ mouth: “Repent.” We in the ACELC invite and encourage you to join us in our efforts to draw the attention of the congregations of the Synod, and the Synod's leadership to this primal need.

Pastor Bruce G. Ley
Documents Chairman, ACELC
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