June 11, 2016 - Christ, the Church, and the State
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Christ, the Church, and the State
“And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (NKJV Matthew 18:17).
“And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (NKJV Acts 2:47).
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (NKJV Romans 13:1).
Christ warns that those who, in the presence of witnesses, refuse to heed a rebuke unto repentance are subject to discipline by the Church. Ideally, the purpose of such church discipline is to lead the unrepentant to see the gravity of his hard-heartedness and repent rather than be treated by the Church “like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17). A God of order requires a rule of order, be it in His spiritual kingdom (the kingdom of grace) or His worldly kingdom (the kingdom of power).
As our own nation ramps up to another national election — an election intensified by the unanticipated death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — we are (or ought to be) mindful of just how important elections are in keeping order in the kingdom of power in this land as it is carried out under our nation’s Constitution and Bill of Rights. Make no mistake, it is important that we, as citizens in and of this land, vote. And, as Christians, that vocation as citizens is best carried out when we heed Christ’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:19). That means we learn to vote for what best befits our neighbor’s need.
Even before we cast final ballots in our national and state elections, however, we members of the LCMS are preparing for voting on matters in the Synod which have a lot to do with order in our congregations, circuits, districts, and synod. Above all, the election of well qualified individuals to positions of authority before and during the coming July convention is of vital importance, for it is good people who get good things done. This by no means is all that is important to us, however, for it is also incumbent upon us to pass biblically faithful resolutions which uphold Lutheran doctrine and promote reverential practices (order) in congregations, circuits, districts, and synod.
Writing the above two paragraphs reminded me of how important a good foundation is to a building. If the foundation is solid, even an improperly constructed building can be modified to rectify a problem, but if the foundation is faulty, … well, as Jesus warns regarding the foolish man who built his house upon the sand: “the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and great was the fall of it” (Matt. 7:27). When it comes to the Church — and here I would include every manifestation of it, such as, congregations, circuits, districts, and synod — St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians are of great importance: According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:10-15).
Jesus is clear in teaching that a faulty foundation will result in the loss of the most well built building in rough weather. For this reason, I pray fervently for our nation as we prepare to elect those who will serve as leaders in a nation sharply divided over foundational matters regarding moral, social, cultural, economic, and border control issues. Lord, have mercy on our land!
St. Paul is equally clear that a good foundation will save even a lousy builder using inferior materials, albeit not without much tribulation.
Both our nation and LCMS, Inc., rest on a good foundation. LCMS, Inc., sought to build on the foundation which St. Paul has laid, Jesus Christ. LCMS, Inc., has spoken words and written documents that support the use of good building materials. However, speaking and writing good words is of little value if it does not produce teaching and practices in conformity with what is spoken or written. LCMS, Inc. has, at least since the “Statement of the Forty-Four” in 1945, been applying building materials in ways never conceived of by the Apostolic Church or the Church of the Reformation, which rediscovered and reestablished the teaching of the Apostolic Church. Unfortunately today, as the ACELC has well documented in its Evidence of Errors in the LCMS, all sorts of bizarre building materials are being tried in congregation after congregation in the LCMS. The problem is that many of these building materials and their use are contrary to our own confessional documents as well as our Constitution and Bylaws.
The ACELC laments that due to a lack of proper Church Discipline and Ecclesiastical Supervision in the LCMS virtually nothing is being done to curb such blatant disregard for Scripture, The Lutheran Confessions, and our own agreed to Constitution and Bylaws. As noted earlier: A God of order requires a rule of order, be it in His spiritual kingdom (the kingdom of grace) or His worldly kingdom (the kingdom of power).
When St. Paul penned the words, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (NKJV Romans 13:1), he was primarily thinking of Caesar. Even so, it seems that such a principle must also apply in the Church, lest we become like those Jews in the time of the judges who, because “there was no king in Israel, … did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).
As I write, the Church has just concluded her Easter victory celebration of Christ’s incarnational work which culminated in His Good Friday death, Easter resurrection, heaven-bound Ascension, and Pentecost sending of the Holy Spirit. It is in the faithful proclamation of these truths that “the Lord [continues to add] to the church daily those who were being saved” (NKJV Acts 2:47). We rejoice that in Baptism He has delivered us from our own deserved eternal death unto salvation. But even as we rejoice in that good news, which far outweighs the not-so-good news that daily comes into our ears in this world of sin, let us pray regularly that this nation and our Synod each carries out their voting responsibilities this year in a way that glorifies the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit!
Pastor Bruce G. Ley
Documents Chairman, ACELC
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