Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior , Jesus Christ.
In Venezuela today we speak of people who call themselves Catholics and others who call themselves evangelicals. Catholics believe that the Pope of Rome is the visible head of the Christian church , evangelicals do not. Our Lutheran church is named after Martin Luther, the monk who began the Reformation of the sixteenth century . In regard to some issues , we Lutherans are in agreement with the Catholics , for example , on the baptism of infants . On other points , we are in agreement with evangelicals , for example , we believe the Scriptures are the only source of doctrine. However, we do not share in preaching the Word or administering the sacraments with either Catholics or evangelicals.
On the other hand, we confess in the creeds that there is on church , and no other . Our version of the Apostles' Creed speaks of the holy Christian Church , the communion of saints . In the Nicene Creed, we confess one Church, holy, apostolic and universal. But in the original version, the Apostle's Creed speaks of one holy catholic Church. Also , the Nicene Creed speaks of the church holy, apostolic and catholic in the original version .
For many people today, the words " Catholic Church " mean " Roman Catholic Church " . But , in its original sense , “catholic " meant " universal . " All Christians belong to the same church , the communion of saints . The true church is the total number of all those who believe in Christ , the sum of all those who, having been called by the Holy Spirit through the Word among a lost and condemned humanity, truly believe in Christ and are sanctified by faith and form the Body of Christ. Only true believers are members of this church. In the precise sense of the term , no evil person , or hypocrite , or heretic, or none that have not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, belongs to the church .
In our text for today, Paul says that there is " one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling : One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all things , and all things, and in all. "
The true church is holy because it is made of holy people, who have been washed in the blood of Christ , and who serve God with a holy life. This church belongs to Christ and is built on Him This church has one Lord, one faith and one baptism . This is not an ideal to be achieved in the future, but rather a present reality. All true Christians are one body , as closely related and linked together as members of one body . They are united and remain in the union of the body of Christ by the Spirit living in them.
But this true church in its entirety is "invisible " . Only God can see into the heart of every person to see if he believes or not. Well, in this world we find the visible church , that is those who profess the Christian faith and get together to hear the word of God and the sacraments. This church is made up of good and bad . This same church refers to its different divisions as "churches" , that is, congregations that are in different parts , in which the Word of God is preached and the sacraments are administered . As Doctor C.F.W. Walther , founder of the Missouri Synod, said, visible congregations that still have the Word and administer the sacraments in essence according to the Word of God , may bear the name "church" because of the true invisible church of true believers that is in them , the true invisible church hidden in them , even if there are only two or three such believers , they also have the power that Christ has given to all His church .
In the eyes of the unbelieving world , the Christian church is broken into many sects with different teachings . But this is a superficial view . Under the errors and divisions , there is only one hope, one promise of eternal life in Christ , which all receive in holy baptism . The unity of the church is not an outward thing of organization or structure , but the unity of the faith sown by the Holy Spirit through the Word and sacraments.
So how de we fulfill the mandate to " keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace "? As Walther said , although God gathers for Himself a holy church of elect even where His Word is not taught in perfect purity and the sacraments are not strictly administered according to the institution of Christ - bearing in mind that the Word of God and the sacraments not be denied completely but both remain in their essence - yet, every believer should , for the sake of their salvation , flee false teachers, avoid all the errorists , and conversely give allegiance, and adhere to congregations and preachers who teach the pure doctrine wherever such can be found . The Scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit at all times gathers and guards congregations with the apostolic doctrine .
That means we must maintain a clear and pure confession . Also, as the Apostle says , to pursue the virtues mentioned by the apostle : love , peace , meekness , humility , patience. Christians hold to the unity of the Spirit given to them in the Word. As soon we trust in our own strength, the result is discord and disagreement , division and sectarianism . We do not persecute those of other beliefs , we bear witness to the truth in our own lives and our own worship . In this way we call Christians deceived by false doctrine to the truth .
We acknowledge one baptism in Christ . When a person is baptized in the name of the Father , the Son and the Holy Spirit , with water bound to the Word of God , he receives the same hope of eternal life as all others who have been baptized . The Word of God does not belong to Luther or his descendants , so baptism outside the Lutheran Church may be valid . Some of you were baptized in the Roman Catholic church and did not have to be baptized again to join the Lutheran church . But to receive the Lord's Supper as a member of our church , a person must repent of their sins and confess publicly the pure doctrine . To publicly confess false beliefs as a member of a congregation that teaches them is a form of sin. The purpose of excluding persons from participation in the sacrament in this church is not because of hatred but of love. We want to restore them to the truth .
As we sing in the hymn :
The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.
Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!
’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.
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