July 30, 2013 - "Christ, Pure Doctrine and the Church"
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Christ, Pure Doctrine, and the Church

 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

The first step of a journey establishes direction. The second step and beyond, either confirms or changes that direction. In the case of confirming direction, it also establishes a pace. In the case of changing direction it offers a correction to the historic pattern. The question is, is it a change for ill or for good?

In the first passage above, Jesus Christ claims sole possession of the way, the truth, and the life that leads to the Father. He Himself is that way, that truth, and that life, and outside of Him no one comes to the Father. In the second passage, St. Paul tells St. Timothy the same thing in different words. What this means for us is that Christ Himself took the first step of our journey in taking on human flesh to become that “one Mediator between God and men.” And since faith in that truth is itself a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), it means our first step into that reality is, and must be, initiated and enacted by God, not us. In short, Christ is at the center of our journey and must remain the center, both from God’s perspective and ours.

When the Lutheran Reformers set out to rebut the Confutation which had been put forth by the papal delegates in the meeting at Augsburg, they included the following words in Apology VII & VIII. “[T]he Church is not only the fellowship of outward objects and rites, as other governments, but at its core, it is a fellowship of faith and of the Holy Spirit in hearts. Yet this fellowship has outward marks so that it can be recognized. These marks are the pure doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. This Church alone is called Christ’s body, which Christ renews, sanctifies, and governs by His Spirit.” (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Apology VII & VIII (IV). 2005; P. T. McCain, Ed.; St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. Emphasis added)

The above words, especially those emboldened, strike at the center of who (and how) God is for His Church, and who (and how) He calls the Church to be for the world. For us, God is the One who, in His essence, is revealed in the pure doctrine which is in accord with the Gospel of Christ, and besides Him there is no other (Isaiah 43:10-11, 45:5). For the world, the Church, at its core and center, is comprised of those who are gathered together in the location where pure doctrine in accord with the Gospel of Christ is taught, believed, confessed, and administered.

When the ACELC mailed its Fraternal Letter of Admonition and a catalog of errors to LCMS congregations on July 15, 2010, we set forth pure doctrine as the first of our concerns. That was intentional, because the first step of a journey establishes direction. Pure doctrine was, is, and ever will be the determining factor of the Church’s first, middle, and last step – and any correction that veers from pure doctrine is automatically a step in the wrong direction!

And yet, as the ACELC pointed out in our initial mailing, and in the supporting Evidence of Error documents, there are three areas of concern under pure doctrine, each of which is categorized as “Errors in a policy, program, or existing practice in our Synod.” The evidence of these errors, and the toleration of these errors by Synod’s “ecclesiastical supervisors” and Synod in convention, means Synod has veered, or changed its course, from pure doctrine. Specifics of these and other errors in Synod are available at our website, but here once again are the summary statements of the three areas of concern under pure doctrine.

  • Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions uphold the absolute maintenance of pure doctrine. Today (using outreach as a justification), there are those in the LCMS who claim that we cannot any longer waste time on “incessant internal doctrinal purification.” We reject the toleration of this error.
  • Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions teach that unity (that is, full agreement) in doctrine and practice is the basis for establishing pulpit and altar fellowship. Today some have indicated that the unifying factor among Christians is not absolute agreement on every word and interpretation of doctrine and practice. We reject the toleration of this error.
  • Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions uphold the Order of Creation as the framework within which both Church and home must function in order for the home and congregation to properly reflect Christ and His bride the Church. Today some in the LCMS insist that if the Synod wishes to remain faithful, we must reevaluate how we interpret God’s Word in its teaching that women not be allowed to exercise the office of the pastoral ministry. We reject the toleration of this error.
In the first concern, we have those who seek to put pure doctrine in opposition to, or in competition with, evangelism. Such a false dichotomy is like pitting the work of Christ against the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is clear in His direction to the Apostles (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13) in the upper room regarding the unified work of the Holy Trinity, and anyone who seeks to change or alter that direction is dishonoring God and His name.

In the second concern, we have those not wanting to insist that the unity necessary to establish altar and pulpit fellowship be full agreement in doctrine and practice. Christ would have us remember that the unity Christians are to seek is not of human origin, but is the unified work of the Holy Trinity whose desire for all Christians is centered in and set forth by Jesus in His Maundy Thursday prayer. “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23). Unity (that is, full agreement) in doctrine and practice is the result that comes about when the Church has as its marks “pure doctrinein accordance with the Gospel of Christ,” (Ibid) and anything short of that is spurious.

In the final concern, the ACELC sets forth in its Evidence of Errors document “Service of Women in the Church (Order of Creation)” no less than eight specific evidences of this error in Synod on pages 8-14. The final sentence of that document, which is part of the ACELC’s response to the errors that are being tolerated in our Synod, is very instructive as it relates to Christ, Pure Doctrine, and the Church. “A wholesale lack of discipline for those publicly supporting and/or advocating the ordination of women to the pastoral offices indicates that there is virtually no collective will in our Synod to reestablish biblical practice within our church body in harmony with the doctrine of the Order of Creation.”

It is incongruous for a pastor, congregation, or synod to invoke the mantra of “pure doctrine” when the position held is in opposition to the Order of Creation or any other teaching of God’s Holy Word. Those who do so are false teachers and it is only a matter of time when such leaven will permeate the whole loaf! As one who has signed his name to the statement, “there is virtually no collective will in our Synod to reestablish biblical practice within our church body in harmony with the doctrine of the Order of Creation,” I am one who believes the leaven in our Synod is fast approaching the point that Jesus warns about when He says: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find [the] faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8. The article, “the,” is in the Greek. Understood this way, this verse means: will He find the teaching of the faith on the earth?)

Pastor Bruce G. Ley
Documents Chairman, ACELC

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