I Cor. 16:9  ‘For a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.’

May 15, 2009

Distinctly Lutheran…Fellowship (1)

We are Distinctly Lutheran in our Fellowship Practices

At the time of the Reformation the German reformers under Luther and the Swiss reformers under Zwingli met to see if they could work together. It was found that they disagreed on one teaching, that of communion. The Lutherans taught that Christ’s body and blood were in, under and with the bread and wine. The Zwinglians taught that the bread and wine only represented the body and blood. Of course I Cor. 11:27-30 presents something more there than just bread and wine. There was not agreement between the reformers on just one teaching and so they could not join together. Luther was willing to extend the hand of love to the Zwinglians, but not the hand of fellowship., a very important differentiation.

It is no different today among us. We are to unite on the agreement on Scripture. I Cor. 1:10, Phil. 2:2 And we are to separate and not participate with those who teach differently. Mt. 7:15-20, Rom. 16:17-18 So it is that all manifestations of fellowship with Christians is within this agreement circle, while not participating with other Christians is based on not agreeing with their teachings.

  • Communion – When we stand or kneel together and partake together it is a very distinct expression of unity on the Word. We cannot participate with those we do not agree with, nor give them communion.
  • Prayer and Worship – It is one thing to pray for anybody and everybody. That we do. But it is quite another thing to pray with others. This would be an expression of unity. But if there is none, we might observe but definitely not participate.
  • Preaching – We would be glad to preach and teach any and all. But they might not want to hear us tell them where they are wrong and being led astray. We likewise do not invite pastors and teachers of other churches outside of our fellowship to teach and preach to our people. We want our people fed alone on the wholesome pasturage of the pure Word. To allow a variety of teachers holding to error teach among us would confuse the people and bring up contradictions of the truth.
  • Joint Church Work – Among our sister churches we give aid and assistance, but not to other churches. Likewise our sister churches do not seek help from those outside the fellowship, because with that help would come an intrusion to try to teach otherwise than what we teach.

We in distinctly Lutheran fashion do not compromise the Word. We neither add to it nor take from it. To water down the Word to please men would not please God. We seek to serve Christ, “not in the way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men…” Eph. 6:6-7 In order to preserve and protect the truth and to please God we practice our fellowship relation with our sister churches and separate from all those with whom we do not agree. It is to the Lord that we must answer.

Four Questions Pertaining to Religious Fellowship with Unorthodox People
l. Ought orthodox Christians to take part in the songs and prayers and offerings of unorthodox churches?
The Apostle Paul writes through the Holy Spirit:  “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned’ and avoid them.”  Rom. 16: 17.  “And he writes: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”  I Thess. 5:22.  So it is God’s will that we avoid them that cause divisions and offenses in the Church of God by teaching doctrines contrary to the doctrine that we have learned from the Word of God.  And do not the unorthodox do this very thing?  Hence we are commanded to avoid them.  Now, if we take part in the songs and prayers of the unorthodox churches–and who knows what manner of songs and prayers are liable to be sung and said in these churches?!–and if we contribute money for their purposes, namely, for the maintenance and extension of the unorthodox church, do we then avoid them?  Yes, do we not assume an appearance of evil, do we not appear to be in accord with them in the main,  Do we not thus confirm the unorthodox in their error, and do we not give offense to such orthdox Christians as are weak, do we not thus betray these Christians into believing that there is no real and radical difference between the churches?
“But,” I hear some one rejoin, “it does not look well to sit there like a dummy and neither sing nor pray nor drop anything into the contribution basket.  It looks stiff, to say the least.” So it does.  But why do you go there?  Why don’t you stay away?
Oh, we do not mean to say that it is wrong to go to an unorthodox church now and then in order to see what such churches are like.  But he that does go there, it behooves him to show that he does not belong to such churches.  And to attend unorthodox services often, even habitually, this is wrong indeed, and it is done by such persons only as are not settled in their faith in the pure doctrine and it makes them more unsettled still.
2. May an orthodox minister preach in an unorthodox church?
If every appearance of his being the brother and substitute of the unorthodox pastor be abstained from, and if the latter in no wise officate at the services, he may do so, if requested, in order to bear witness to the truth.
However, he must be careful lest orthodox Christians, and especially his own Church, take offense at such action.  If there is any danger of such a thing, the idea must be abandoned.
3.  May an orthodox Christian, when  the guest of such as are not orthodox, join in the latter’s prayers before and after meat?
While these are saying grace or giving thanks let him offer up a silent prayer on his own behalf.  If they pray in a manner not in keeping with the Christian faith, let him utter his dissent.
Let us make the question more comprehensive, thus: May an orthodox Christian in any case unite in prayer with such as are unorthodox?
We reply:  By no means.
Full well do we know, and we thank God for the fact, that there is a communion of saints which embraces both orthodox and unorthodox Christians and unites them, in humble and penitent faith in Jesus Christ, into one family of children of God.  But in its outward appearing and works the orthodox Church is rigidly separate from the unorthodox.  And so God wills it should be.  “Avoid them.”  Rom. 16: 17
But what is uniting in prayer, what is fellowship therein, and what should it be according to the will of God?  A glance at the golden altar of incense will tell you.  As on the golden altar of incense a multitude of living coals were heaped together in one and the selfsame fire, so a multitude of poor and penitent hearts, sanctified by the blood of Christ, shall unite in one and the selfsame faith  of one and the selfsame Word of grace and of God, and shall offer up one and the selfsame incense-offering of supplication, prayer, intercession, and giving of thanks, unto the common Father.  Can this be done by such as are not at one in the faith, not at one in the Word of grace and of God?  Will God have strange fire, which was not taken from the one altar that stands before God., Lev. 16:12, and strange incense, which God has not commanded? Will God have this put upon the fire and incense which God has sanctified by the offering of Jesus Christ and by His word?  Ah, no.  Read Lev. 10: 1-2, and Exod. 30:9 and give them a New Testament interpretation……..
4.  Is it right for orthodox people to accept money from such as are not orthodox for the maintenance of the Church and for the extension of God’s Kingdom?
It is not right to solicit money from such people for said purposes.  But if they offer the money of their own accord, and without sinister motives, it may be accepted.
To solicit money, or let us say, to beg for money among unorthodox people for the purpose of building a church, or of raising the pastor’s salary, or of providing for the Church’s poor, or for its home or foreign missions—that certainly is displeasing to God, yes, it is a downright disgrace.  The popish church, which claims to be orthodox, does this every day of the year.  Shall we, who really are orthodox, shall we walk in her footsteps?  The various sects do this thing, too.  Far be it from us so to do!  In obedience to the will of God, we avoid the unorthodox in everything that pertains to their churches.  And when they ask us for money to help them build their churches, to help them raise their pastors’ salaries, to help them provide for their poor and pay their missionaries, we tell them:  We cannot do such a thing.  And now we should ask them: Please give us some money so we can build our church, so we can raise our pastor’s salary, so we can provide for our poor and pay our missionaries!  Shame on us unprincipled beggars!  Paul’s injunction to the Thessalonians finds application here:  :As touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.  And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you; that ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing,” (or: “of no man,” as it says in a marginal reading; that is, that ye may have need of no man’s aid).  I Thess. 4: 9-12.  In cases where aid really is needed, however, let us call on our brethren.
It sometimes happens that unorthodox people do, quite of their own accord, offer an orthodox Church a sum of money.  It is hard telling what their motive is in so doing.  Perhaps they have been impressed by the manifest sincerity of the people in the Church; perhaps the provision made for the Christian training of the children in the parish school has moved them.  In such cases the money may be accepted with thanks. But it also happens that money is offered from other motives, which later on come to light in a most disagreeable manner.

(Taken from Questions on Christian Topics, by Carl Manthey-Zorn)

Pastor Koenig

Attachment of Symbols #19