Volume 26, Issue 1 — Fall 2023 - 11/30/2023
Join Pres. Beinke for a weekly Bible study of the Scripture readings for the coming Sunday! This online study takes place on Thursday's from 7:00 - 8:00 PM on Go-To-Meeting at the following link: https://meet.goto.com/445850965. If Thursday is a national holiday the class will not meet.
This fall we again consider the Reformation, Luther’s break with Rome and the beginning of the Lutheran Church. What was the Reformation all about? Luther, when asked why previous efforts at reforming the Church (under John Wycliffe and Jon Huss, about 100 years before Luther) had not succeeded, responded:
“Wycliffe and Huss fought merely against the life of the Pope. That is why they did not attain their purpose, for they were sinners just as the papists were. But I attacked the doctrine. With this weapon I defeated them. For this matter does not concern life; it concerns doctrine.”
To many today, doctrine, a word that means, “teaching,” is considered a bad word. What do most people look for in a church? Is it true doctrine? No, usually the focus is more on whether the people are friendly and the worship uplifting, or whether there are programs that fit their needs – all of which are, of course, good things. But, for a church to say that it is concerned about pure doctrine sounds rather arrogant and judgmental. Thanks be to God that we in the LCMS are concerned about purity of doctrine, concerned that what we preach and teach is not only from the Bible but accurately conveys what the Bible proclaims! We should all seek to learn the Bible correctly, and help to ensure that the Bible’s teachings are correctly taught in our church. We should do so for several reasons.
First, the Word of God is our life. As Peter confessed to Jesus, and as we sing in our liturgy: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) If God did not reveal Himself to us we would never know Him, and so could not believe in Him and have the hope of eternal life. The Bible, rightly taught, leads us to know and believe in Jesus as our Savior. Just as food that is properly prepared and kept free from impurities preserves the life and health of our physical bodies, so God’s Word, purely taught, gives and preserves spiritual life.
Secondly, proclaiming God’s Word purely honors God; it is an act of worship. As a matter of fact, we could not even begin to worship God if it were not for the pure Word of God. David says in Ps. 43: “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.”
If a member of your family were to let untrue things be said about you, would that please you? Wouldn’t you be upset instead? Even so, when we do our best to understand clearly what God says and allow no false teachings to be proclaimed in His Church, we honor Him. This He receives as true worship. Jesus emphasized this when He said to the woman from Samaria: “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)
Finally, pure doctrine is vital because it brings forth purity of life. Why is it that so many people no longer seem to know right from wrong, good behavior from bad? Well, how would you know if it were not taught to you? “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore, I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” So, says Psalm 119:104-105.
These days, not only in society but also in many churches, are filled with the denial of truth and so confusion and uncertainty. This is, then, an opportune time for us as Missouri Synod Lutherans! It is easy to think, “What do we have to offer? Our worship attendance is small. Look how many empty pews there are in church! Our building is aging – and so are our members. We’re not very exciting. What do we have to offer?”
Stop focusing upon yourselves, and upon what we don’t have! Trust in God! We have God’s true Word, which testifies to Him. And so, we have Christ, truly present among us in this Word and in His Sacraments, raising us to life with Him. We have, then, not only the hope of eternal life after we die, but the presence of Christ and His eternal life now. Rejoice in this!
And then, think of the other things we have. We are a liturgical church, and this is not a negative. Living in a heavily Catholic and Episcopal area as we do, we have a liturgy and worship that is familiar, even if it is not always clearly understood. We are a Sacramental Church, emphasizing that Christ is truly among us. We are a teaching Church, offering many opportunities to help people to understand the Scriptures. Above all, we are a Church in which the forgiveness of sins in Christ predominates.
This is all because of God’s holy Word; because of the mercy He shows us through it, and the mercy with which He fills us by it. Thanks be to God for His holy Word! May it always be purely proclaimed among us and by us!
In Christ Jesus, our Lord,
Pastor Bob Beinke, DP