December 16, 2014 - Christ, Office of the Holy Ministry, and the Church
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Christ, Office of the Holy Ministry, and the Church
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18-19).
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!' (Romans 10:14-15).
Christ clearly bestowed upon Peter the means whereby His Church is being built by Him. Peter's confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), is the formal principle, which is to say, the authoritative source of Christ's theology of Church growth. Conversely, the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” are the material principle whereby the Church, the Bride of Christ, exercises her part in growing the Church. In this way the Holy Spirit works when and where He wills through the Word proclaimed, just as Isaiah testifies: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
When these truths are joined with what St. Paul says in Romans 10:14-15 (see above), it becomes clear that the relationship between Christ, Office of the Holy Ministry, and the Church is one of “commission with authority,” “proclamation with hearing,” and “faith with confession.”
While Christ's “commission with authority” is usually rooted in Matthew 28:18-20 and John 20:21-23, Jesus' words to Peter in Matthew 16 above are an equally clear declaration of the work of the Church, which is to bind and loose man in his sin. While the authority to bind may sound heavy handed, both binding and loosing have the purpose of bringing all mankind into the kingdom of heaven, which St. Paul tells his fellow pastor, Timothy, is God's purpose and desire: “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4).
“Proclamation with hearing” is the means or the process whereby the Triune God confers all things needed for man's salvation, and thus it is that which accomplishes what the Church has been commissioned and authorized to do. St. Paul points directly at this “proclamation and hearing” in the verses quoted above (Romans 10:14-15), just as he reiterates it in verse 17: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
And that leads us directly to the last element in the relationship between Christ, Office of the Holy Ministry, and the Church: “faith and confession.” What the Triune God has delivered and worked in man through proclamation with hearing is stated this way in the Lutheran Confessions.
[T]he virtue that justifies receives Christ, which brings to us Christ’s merits, by which we receive grace and peace from God. This virtue is faith. As it has often been said, faith is not just knowledge. But it is willing to receive or take hold of those things that are offered in the promise about Christ. Furthermore, this obedience toward God (i.e., to want to receive the offered promise) is no less a divine service (latreia) than is love. God wants us to believe Him and to receive from Him blessings. He declares this to be true divine service. (Ap. V (III), Concordia, p. 142, ¶ 106f).
Again, St. Paul speaks of these matters earlier in Romans 10: “[I]f you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (vv. 9f).
Scripture's voice in this matter of Christ, Office of the Ministry, and the Church is clear, and so too is the voice of The Lutheran Confessions.
“Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call” [AC XIV, Concordia, p. 65].
Unfortunately, since 1989, when the unbiblical category of “lay ministers” was established in convention, the LCMS is no longer practicing in accord with the Confession it claims in Article II of the Constitution: “The Synod, and every member of the Synod, accepts without reservation: … 2. All the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God ...” (2013 Handbook, p. 13, my emphasis).
My mother always said, “the proof is in the pudding,” and it is clear the pudding the LCMS has been dishing out for 25 years now is anything but harmless, for it is an offense to Christ, demeans His Office of the Holy Ministry, introduces unnecessary doubt in the Church, and purposely gives the laity something less than Scripture calls for and LESS THAN they deserve. (For more detail and history on this matter, click here.)
What's to be done about it? Error of any kind in the Church is damaging, and like leaven in dough, it will eventually pervade the whole loaf. Like cancer, it requires a killing off of the bad leaven, and that is a painful process. And yet to ignore or pooh-pooh it will only allow it to grow and infect a greater part of the body. Thus the better choice is to either attack the error head-on, or attempt an end run in hopes of cutting it off before it damages the vital parts of the body.
The congregations of the ACELC have joined forces because they are convinced that the leaven has already reached the vital parts of the body and that the biblical and confessional way is to use the Word of God in a head-on attack to root out this and other errors that have been planted and tolerated among us. We invite you to join us in that effort, before it is too late.
(For a video format overview of this and other issues of doctrinal error in the LCMS, click here.)
Pastor Bruce G. Ley
Documents Chairman, ACELC

You are cordially invited to join us in Kansas City from February 10-12 for the upcoming ACELC Free Conference, "Office of the Holy Ministry, Part II" (The Unbiblical Removal of Pastors). To learn more or register to attend, please click here.
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