I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (ESV)
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Wednesday of Easter 6
13 May 2015
When the Word is lost everything is lost. Over the past twenty years, churches have begun to jettison the confession of faith in the Creeds of the church. They are no longer recited as part of church services. When this trend began the clergy, who were so eager to get rid of the public confession of the faith by the faithful, were quick to reassure the skeptical that even though they no longer said the words that they certainly still affirmed the content of the Creeds. Mirabile dictu, more recently the clergy who jettisoned the recitation of the Creed are now quite aggressively rejecting the content of the Creed, including its Christological content. Once we stop saying the words, it isn't very long until we stop believing the content of them. What would a wife think if her husband never said the words "I love you," but pleaded instead, "Honey, I really do love you. I just don't want to say so." Wouldn't she suspect that her husband didn't actually love her, when he refused to form the words? Over the long haul this is exactly what happened with the Creeds in churches where they were no longer said.
I have now heard reports that there are churches that don't actually read Scripture in their public services for fear that such readings would alienate their congregants who are biblically illiterate. Where the words are no longer formed on our lips, they will no longer be believed in the heart. Saying them and hearing them are easy. Believing them; that's impossible. That's why the Spirit must lead us to believe the Word. The apostle Paul warns us against this sclerosis of speech because it leads to the sclerosis of the heart: "'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart' (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved" (Rm 10:8-10). In churches that no longer read the Word, it will not be long until the Word is no longer believed, including Christ, its author and content.
All of this has been perpetrated on the church by the constant refrain of love. It is argued that our love for the fallen and lost demand that we not be so doctrinaire and unloving as to require specific statements of faith. Jesus Himself is trotted out as loving sinners and doing the utmost to save them. Yet Jesus insisted that we believe specific things about Him and His revelation of the Father (Jn 5:19-23; 8:28; 17:14-20, etc.). To believe in Him is to believe what He says about Himself. To claim to believe "in" Jesus without believing what he said is errant nonsense. To believe what he says and to decline to confess it is likewise nonsense. Where the Word is no longer confessed, its content will easily be lost, even if not right away. The love that trumps the divine Word is a love at war with God. It is a hate-filled love; a serpentine love: the hatred of God. Such a love is damnable and cursed. Church leaders must learn when and how to love and when and how to honor God and not to confuse the two. There are times when a pastor must put up with everything, give away everything, and suffer everything. But that is not appropriate when we are dealing with the divine truth. It is truly unloving compromise the truth for love.
"This passage (Gal 5:9) must also be considered carefully in opposition to the argument by which [the Sacramentarians] accuse us of violating love and thus doing great harm to the churches. We are surely prepared to observe peace and love with all men, provided that they leave the doctrine of faith complete and sound for us. If we cannot achieve this, it is useless for them to demand love from us. Cursed is a love which is observed at the expense of the doctrine of faith, to which everything must yield-love, an apostle, an angel from heaven, etc.!
"When they minimize this issue in such a dishonest way, they give ample evidence of how highly they regard the majesty of the Word. If they believed that it is the Word of God, they would not play around with it this way. No, they would treat it with the highest honor. They would put their faith in it without any disputing or doubting. They would know that one Word of God is all and that all are one, that one doctrine is all doctrines and all are one, so that when one is lost all are eventually lost. For they belong together and are held together by a common bond.
"Therefore let us leave the praise of harmony and of Christian love to them. We, on the other hand, praise the majesty of the Word and faith. Love can sometimes be neglected without danger, but the Word and faith cannot. It belongs to love to bear everything and to yield to everyone (1Co 13). On the other hand, it belongs to faith to tolerate nothing whatever and to concede to no one. Love yields freely, believes all things, condones, and bears everything. Therefore it is often deceived. Yet when it is deceived, it does not suffer any hardship that can really be called a hardship; that is, it does not lose Christ, and therefore it is not offended but keeps its constancy in blessing even those who are unthankful and unworthy.
"In the issue of salvation, on the other hand, when fanatics teach lies and errors under the guise of truth and make an impression on many, there love must not be exercised and error must not be approved. For what is lost here is not merely a good deed done for someone who is ungrateful, but the Word, faith, Christ, and eternal life, etc. are lost. Therefore, if you deny God in one article of faith, you have denied Him in all; for God is not divided into many articles, but He is everything in each article and He is one in all the articles of the faith."
Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 5.9
Almighty and most merciful Father, in the waters of Holy Baptism You have united us in the suffering and death of Your Son Jesus Christ, cleansing us by His blood. Renew in us the gift of Your Holy Spirit, that we may live in daily contrition and repentance with a faith that ever clings to our Savior. Deliver us from the power of Satan and preserve us from false and dangerous doctrines, that we may remain faithful in hearing Christ's Word. By the Lord's Supper strengthen us to believe that no one can make satisfaction for sin but Christ alone. Enable us to find joy and comfort only in Him; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
In thanksgiving to God for the Lutheran Women's Missionary League, that the Lord of the church would bless the league's work in supporting mission endeavors throughout the world
For Paul Lodholz, who is undergoing therapy for cancer, that the Lord would grant healing to His body and peace for His soul
For Pastors who are waiting for a call in keeping with their training, that the Lord of the harvest would call them into His harvest fields
For Pastor Charles Wokoma, as he works in Nigeria, that the Lord Jesus would keep him safe and give him joy in his labors
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015