Martin Luther - Lesson 18

Luther's View of the Church

Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.

Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Lesson 18
Watching Now
Luther's View of the Church

Luther's View of the Church

Luther, the Pastor: Taken from 10 Sermons on the Catechism


Luther is interested in discussing salvation from within the context of the church.

I. The Word of God Constitutes the Church

A. The Smalcald Articles

1. "We do not concede to the papists that they are the church, for they are not. Nor shall we pay any attention to what they command or forbid in the name of the church, for, thank God, a 7 year-old child knows what the church is, namely, holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their Shepherd. So children pray, "I believe in one holy Christian church." Its holiness does not consist of surplices, tonsures, albs, or other ceremonies of theirs which they have invented over and above the Holy Scriptures, but it consists of the Word of God and true faith." Part III Article XII

2. Nature of the church is defined by the Word of God. This runs contrary to apostolic succession.

B. The Larger Catechism

1. Neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ or believe in him and take him as our Lord, unless these were first offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Spirit...For where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit to create, call and gather the Christian church, and outside it no one can come to the Lord Christ (LC II, 38, 45)

2. Church is both hidden and public

C. The Definition of the Church

Augsburg Confession Article VII - Melanchthon penned, "It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel. For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places. It is as Paul says in Ephesians 4:4,5 'There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.'"

D. Luther's Preferred Terminology

Church is not an institution or building but a gathering, assembly, community, fellowship


II. The Character of the Church

A. Community of Saints and Sinners

1. Simultaneously Saint and Sinner

2. Creation is past and redemption accomplished and Holy Spirit continues...

3. Forgiveness of sins is an ongoing need. Baptism is the daily drowning of the old Adam. You return to the living point of the word demonstrated in your Baptism.

4. Comprised both of wheat and the tares.

B. The issue with Rome

1. Roman Catholicism - The wicked are a part of the church in name and not truth, and the righteous both.

2. Making a determination in time of who is inside the church or who is outside is not our job as pastors.

3. In the church a battle is being fought

4. "If the church, which is truly the kingdom of Christ, is distinguished from the kingdom of the devil, it necessarily, follows that since the wicked belong to the kingdom of the devil, they are not the church. In this life, nevertheless, because the kingdom of Christ has not yet been revealed, they are mingled with the church and hold office in the church.... Christ is talking about the outward appearance of the church when he says that the kingdom of God is like a net (Matthew 13:47) or like ten virgins (Matthew 25:1). He teaches us that the church is hidden under a crowd of wicked men so that this stumbling block may not offend the faithful..."

5. the gospel and... GALATIANS

C. The issue with the Anabaptists

Schliethem confession, Sattler - Calls for a separation from anything worldly


III. The true and the false Church

A. The article of standing and falling

Where the word is heard and takes root

B. The Marks of the Church

1. The Word of God

2. Sacrament of Baptism

3. Sacrament of the Altar

4. Power of the Keys-

a. John 20:23 "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

b. Matthew 13

c. Discussion of how this affects "Priesthood of all believers."

5. Calling and Ordaining of Pastors and Bishops

6. Prayer, Praise and Thanks to God

7. Enduring the Cross and Inner Conflict

C. The Organization of the Church

Wide diversity of church organizational pattern because the organization is determined by the united mission

D. The Issue Today

Have we turned Christ into Moses? Have we added new law to the role of the Church? requirements of Church membership?

  • Dr. Isaacs summarizes the course objectives and lists the recommended textbooks.
  • Luther expressed his views in a way that was shaped by his theology and the culture.

  • Martin Luther was born in Germany in the late 15th century, just after Guttenberg developed his printing press.

  • When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, his intention was to discuss and debate the misuse of indulgences, but it was interpreted by the church heirarchy as an attack on the power of the papacy.

  • Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.

  • Faith alone justifies. By faith the Christian is made to love God, therefore a person does good works because they cannot remain idle.

  • The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.

  • Luther's fourfold sense of scripture focused on historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future).

  • Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.

  • Luther's teaching on justification by faith is central to his theology.

  • Theology of the cross assumes bondage and moves to freedom.

  • Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.

  • Luther's commentary on Galatians is an attempt to set "Law" in its proper setting.

  • The sacraments are an external expression of an internal reality.

  • Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.

  • Luther's view of the theological and personal significance of the Lord's Supper.

  • The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.

  • Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.

  • Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.

  • Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.

This course is an introduction to the life and writings of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. There are 20 lectures totaling approximately 18 hours. These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Dr. Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Luther's View of the Church
Lesson Transcript

We will take a little selection from Luther's writings. This little selection deals with Luther on the church. And this selection is taken from one of the ten sermons on the catechism, which he delivered in 1528. And as you know, the third article of the Creed talks about the church. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the commune of saints, forgiveness of sins. This is what Luther says. The Christian church is your mother who gives birth to you and bears you through the word. And this is done by the Holy Spirit who bears witness concerning Christ. When you hear the word church, I understand that it means group or congregation that is a holy Christian group assembly or in German, the holy common church. And it is a word which should not be called communion, but rather a congregation. Christian church and congregation of saints are one and the same thing. In other words, I believe that there is a holy group and a congregation made up only of saints. And you too, are in this church. The Holy Spirit lead you into it through the preaching of the Gospel, through the Christian church, that is through its ministry. You are sanctified for the Holy Spirit, uses its ministry in order to sanctify you. Otherwise, you would never know and hear Christ. Then in this Christian church, you have the forgiveness of sins. This term includes baptism, consolation upon a deathbed, the sacrament of the altar, absolution and all the comforting passages of the gospel in this term are included all the ministrations through which the church forgives sins, especially where the gospel not laws or traditions is preached outside of this church and these sacraments and ministrations.

[00:02:12] There is no sanctification. Let's pass for prayer. Almighty God, our everlasting Father, who, through your Holy Spirit, sanctifies and rules the whole church, hear our prayer and graciously grant that it, with all its members, by your grace, may serve you in true faith. Through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen. Okay, let's get underway here and talk just a little bit about Luther's view of the church. This is a rather interesting topic and one which I think is particularly appropriate from our evangelical point of view, because for many of us, it is probably rightly said that our Achilles heel is ecclesiology. The evangelical tradition is rather weak in this area. And so for us, it might be good to spend a moment or two with someone who has thought deeply about these issues and had to do a bit of fighting about it, too. You know, really, when you think about it, Luther has to fight the abuses of the Roman Catholic tradition and the accusations that came against him from the church. And on the other hand, also the radical reformers had certain views of the church, which Luther had to take through his grit and his understanding. And so it's particularly appropriate for us to to deal with this topic this morning. Now, one thing that can be said right off the bat is that you in your reading, perhaps you've run across certain passages where Luther will talk about I'm thinking right now, in particular of a treatise that he wrote in 1519 regarding the the nature of the Lord's Supper. And in that little treatise, there's a marvelous passage where he talks about the fact that we, in the context of the worship of the church, really have many brethren, many who walk with us, so that if I am in need, if I am in pain, then the entire congregation bears that burden up with me in like manner if I am in praise and Thanksgiving.

[00:04:27] So I do that in the context and there is communion between all of the brethren so that we support one another in the struggle that we call life. So in these kinds of passages, we find that Luther really is talking about that kind of salvation, which is not seen in individualistic terms, but really is seen in the context of the people of God. And the passage that we just got finished listening to is also one of these kinds of passages where we begin to see that Luther really is interested in talking about salvation in the context of the church, so much so that Luther can say the church is the mother who bears you through the word. Now, this, of course, is language, which makes evangelicals somewhat nervous. Oh, no. Are you going there? Are you going to be talking about the church in such a way that, you know, we have to, you know, genuflect and begin to do some of these ceremonies, which for many evangelicals has been anathema. And of course, when you take a look at American church history, one of the things that's absolutely a fact is that in the Protestant wing of things, there was strong opposition to Roman Catholicism, ceremonial ism and all kinds of stuff in the tradition that I grew up in. I can go back and read some some pretty nasty kinds of comments that are written in that regard. So it's interesting when one comes up against someone like Luther. Well, now one of the things that we should simply start off and say is this for Luther and his understanding of the nature of the church, there's one place to begin. Luther understands that the church is constituted by the world. The church is constituted by the word of God.

[00:06:23] Let's take a quick peek at a famous quotation of Luther that comes from the small called Articles. Small called Articles were written in 1537 in anticipation of a general council, and the reformers were hoping. Luther was hoping that a council would be called in order to discuss ways of resolving the abuses of the church and the very problematic kinds of theological accretions, I should once say, that had developed over the course of years. Notice this We do not concede to the Papists that they are the church, for they are not. Nor shall we pay any attention to what they command or forbid in the name of the church. Four. Thank God. A seven year old child knows what the church is. Namely holy believers and sheep who hear the voice of their shepherd. So children pray. I believe in one holy Christian church. Its holiness does not consist of surpluses, transfers, obs or other ceremonies of theirs, which they have invented over and above the Holy Scriptures. But it consists of the Word of God and true faith. Well, as usual, you can see Luther's penchant for polemic and for his willingness and his penchant for dealing with theological issues in characteristically dialectical manner. For here we see, first of all, you know, the first line is quite polemic. He does his theology in historical context, and there is a fight that is waging now being waged, and he understands that he's right in the middle of it, so he doesn't pull punches. His job as a theologian is to protect the people of God, and therefore he's willing, if the time is right. And perhaps we could say that for Luther, the time was more right than for others. But nonetheless, he wades into the fray.

[00:08:35] So he's quite polemic right to begin with. But notice to that in this that in this piece he's talking about the nature of the church. And this nature of the church really centers around this. The voice of the shepherd. The voice of the shepherd. The church are the gathered, the called out who hear the voice of the shepherd. It's precisely where the voice of the shepherd is heard that the sheep gather. And that is central for his understanding of the nature of the church. Notice to that in this passage, he talks about the holiness of the church. The purity of the church. And the purity does not consist of ceremonies, but it consists of the Word of God and true faith. That's what Luther is trying to get at when he deals with the issue of the church. So this article of the small called article is really kind of sets out clearly what Luther wants to do in terms of setting out an understanding of the nature of the church. Earlier on in the Leipzig debate, Luther said, where the word is there is faith and where faith is, there is the true church. If you take a look at this, the small catechism which you have in your edition of law, and I would suggest that sometime you use that simply as devotions, use that as devotional, read. It's wonderful stuff. And you'll find there in the small catechism in his exposition of the third article of the Creed there, he talks about the fact that the Holy Spirit is the one who calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on Earth and preserves it in Union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. So Luther is talking about the nature of the church as being established by the word.

[00:10:40] Now, as Protestants, of course, were kind of strong on this stuff, Word of God stuff. And you have to recognize that in some ways you can already see the opposition that's brewing, because in some other traditions, the church and the viability of the church and the continuation of the church is seen as a continuing grace which comes down through or can be traced through apostolic succession. But notice here and apostolic succession, you know, where Peter was supposedly the first pope and he laid hands on bishops, and then bishops can only be established by the laying on of hands of bishops who follow in that tradition. And so there is an understanding of the church, an institutionalized understanding of the church that precedes in that way. But notice there's none of that in this article on the church that we find in the small called articles. The Word of God is where we begin our understanding. There is another quotation that comes from the larger catechism. It reads in the following manner Neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ or believe in Him and take him as our Lord. Unless these were first offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit for where Christ is not preached. There is no Holy Spirit to create, call and gather the Christian church and outside it no one. Can come to the Lord Christ. So you see here, too, that Luther is describing the nature of the church with respect, particularly to the preaching of the gospel. Now, of course, now that we've gone through our section on sacraments, you also know that when he says the preaching of the gospel, he also means the administration of the sacraments, doesn't he? Because that's a form of proclamation as well.

[00:12:43] So this is a this is an interesting way of talking about this matter now for Luther. Luther speaks in a dialectical manner. And in part what we mean by that is he understands that the church is both hidden and it is visible. It is hidden insofar as it has to do with faith, for faith is directed toward that which is unseen. And yet the church is the public gathering of the people who hear the Word of God. So there's the hidden aspect of the church, and there is the revealed or the public nature of the institution of the church. And all of this has to do with and it's created by the preaching of the gospel. And notice the role of the Holy Spirit here in Luther's definition to create, call and gather the Christian church. One of the things that needs to be said about Luther's doctrine or his view of the church is that really it's Trinitarian in nature. He understands that the church is created by the Triune God. It's established in that manner, and that's the way in which we experience it. Now the church is neither invisible as a platonic reality. You know, the the anabaptists, the the enthusiasts and the Anabaptists believe that the church was the invisible. The number of individuals who have true faith who are joined then in the church. But the church does not have an external or a public character, at least not in the same way that Luther understands it. Now, the Anabaptists had to gather secretly in order to participate in their worship because they were hunted brutally during the 16th century. And there is a very different understanding of the nature of the church. Theirs is an understanding of the people who are separate from the world.

[00:15:00] And so it is not a public gathering of people, but it is the gathering of people only of faith. And so it resides it's it's invisible in its character. But against this, Luther would say, No, no, the church is not invisible. It may indeed be hidden because it has to do with faith, but it's not invisible. But it also has a very public character, and it is human discourse. I mean, it's real communication that doesn't require the individuals hearing the word to be particularly religious. And that's the point, isn't it? After all, the mission of the church is to speak the Word of Christ in winsome manner so that people who don't have a clue that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is their Lord, should come to know that as a reality. So it's very interesting in this kind of a quote, the role of the Holy Spirit that that Luther identifies here, the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into his holy community, placing us upon the bosom of the church where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ. So he says in the larger catechism. Okay. Now, then, there's also a rather famous definition of the church that comes down to us in the Augsburg Confession. And Melanchthon was actually the one who penned the Augsburg Confession. But it really captures Luther's view as well. The Augsburg Confession, as you know, was written and developed for the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. There was a coming together of Lutheran theologians and Catholic theologians. Charles the Fifth wanted this division in the Church of the time to be healed so that he would have a unified front and could then carry out his military campaigns against the Turks without distraction.

[00:17:15] He wanted to overcome the opposition that Luther and the Lutheran Church has represented. And so they gathered in Augsburg and over the course of quite a number of weeks, hammered out issues. And the Augsburg confession was the Lutheran expression of what they considered to be the their their ecumenical faith. The few, Tatsuo was written by the Catholic theologians, and it was a blistering refutation of what the Lutheran theologians had done. But notice what what Melanchthon and the Lutheran theologians did at Augsburg. They say it is also taught among us that one Holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity, and the Holy Sacraments are administered according to the Gospel, for it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian Church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with the pure understanding of it, and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian Church that ceremonies instituted by men should be observed uniformly in all places. It is, as Paul says, in Ephesians four, there is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. This is the seventh article of the Augsburg Confession. Now notice about notice this definition of the church. It is not particularly complicated. It is rather sparse in terms of what it does in its definition of the church. But there are certain salient points. The first is that the gospel is the centerpiece. And here then all of the stuff we've learned about Luther over the course of the semester just comes to the fore, doesn't it? Talk about theology of the cross, Talk about the distinction between law and gospel? You talk about speaking promise as opposed to laws of various sorts.

[00:19:32] All of this stuff is right here. Justification by faith, if you want to term it that. So all this stuff is right here, right at the center. This is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is preached. So basically what Luther is saying is that and the length is the length, and it's the real author here, but this is the kind of thing that Luther also set forward. It's just it's it's embodied here. So. Well, this is a wonderful place for us to to take a look. What you have here is the preaching of the gospel, which establishes the church and the sacraments, where that takes place. There you have the church. Now, isn't that interesting? The definition of the church then, is centered around the gospel. The gospel must be embodied in a visible community of believers as long as the world exists. This centerpiece, the Gospel, is really what makes up the church, which calls the church out the gathered people. The church has an identity and the identity is summarized in the gospel. And that's what's going on here. So the the the church then for Luther is not a set of institutional structures. It doesn't have to do with particular offices. And notice he doesn't mention the pope here at all. He doesn't mention bishops. But he mentions that which is essential and constitutive of the church, and that is the preached and the preached gospel and the embodied gospel and the visible. All word of baptism in the Lord's Supper. That's what's critical and central here. The Gospel then, is the only necessary mark of the church. The Gospel is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is preached in its purity, and the Holy Sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.

[00:21:35] So the church is an event rather than an institution. Luther like to call the church a mouse house, a moon house, as he said it. It's an acoustic phenomenon rather than a constellation of impersonal forces. So, you know, at the beginning of the semester, we talked about the nature of the gospel as a voice, as a word spoken, as something which goes in the ear. It's being reflected here in Luther's definition of the church. Notice also the word embedded in this quotation about the unity of the church. It's not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies instituted by men should be observed uniformly in all places. So if there was a different way of doing business as the church, Luther was open to it. And particular ceremonies he talks here he is. He spoke of in the other quotation. He spoke of concierge. You know, what the guys did with their heads? The monasteries is shaved them. The orbs, you know, the the ceremonies of the robes. Now, it's interesting to me that later on in the English Reformation, there was a big to do a big fight about vestments. You know, and so the the conservative and many of them became separatists objected to these vestments because they saw these as vestiges of Roman Catholicism. And so they wanted to purge all of that. Well, those impulses are really absent from Luther. He's not worried about this. But you want to wear a robe? Fine. Wear a robe. You know, it doesn't bother him one bit. You want to light a candle? Fine. Light a candle. Just explain what you're doing to the people because this is ideal for us or things that are of lesser importance. And so here we find that the definition of the church is centers around the gospel.

[00:23:39] And notice to that the understanding of unity is really based upon the Word of God. The divine word is once again, where we have unity. Now, this is particularly interesting when you begin to think about ecumenical discussions and a lot of the talk about the church these days. I read an article not too terribly long ago and first things, a very interesting periodical, and I would recommend it to your reading. But in that periodical there was a discussion about Christian unity and the affront that the divided church presents to the world. And one of the impulses behind the ecumenical movement is to find unity, because it was, after all, Christ's prayer in the upper room, John 17, in particular, that the church would be one. So that when we look out on the church today in it's divided form, Orthodox, Roman, Catholic, Protestant of lots of different stripes. Well, you know, even if you break it down to Baptists, you've got, you know, I don't know how many different Baptist groups. And so you have this this fracturing of the one true church. But notice what Luther does in all of this. He says, our unity is not based on uniform ceremonies or practices, but he says it rests upon the word of God wherever the gospel is spoken. Okay. So there are useful ordinances that come to us down to the to the tradition of the church. But we don't have to understand our unity as coming in them, as a matter of fact. It simply isn't the case. Okay. One of the things that we need to note in in our discussion here is that Luther's preferred terminology has to do with the fact that the church is not understood as an institution, but rather as a gathering, as a gathering.

[00:25:59] He likes to talk about the church as an assembly. The Psalm long or the community are combined. He is not. He's not real happy with the term church because it conjures up in people's minds a building or an in. Institution, and he understands this as a fellowship. Now then, what should we say about the character of the church? One thing that we need to say is that the community of saints, it is a community of saints and sinners. As you know from our previous study, Luther understands that we are similar, used to advocate for we are simultaneously saint and sinner. And this reality is true also in the church. Luther's keen sense of Christian realism permeated not only his confessional arguments concerning the unity of the church, but also its reality. The church, like the individual Christian, is simultaneously righteous and sinful, and so the purity of the church is not a moral but a functional phenomena. As long as the church is guided by the Holy Spirit, mediated by the word and sacrament, it will remain pure in its earthly purpose to be the instrument of God's purpose of salvation without the merits of good works. He puts it this way In the larger catechism, he says This creation is past and redemption is accomplished. But the Holy Spirit carries on his work unceasingly until the last day. For this purpose, he has appointed a community on Earth through which he speaks and does all his work for. He has not yet gathered together all his Christian people, nor has he completed the granting of forgiveness. Therefore, we believe in him, who daily brings us into his community through the word and imparts, increases and strengthens faith through the same word and the forgiveness of sins.

[00:27:58] Now, notice here and this is I think it is interesting and in light of kind of our evangelical orientation. Notice the emphasis in Luther that we receive the forgiveness of sins every day in the church. The forgiveness of sins does not take place outside of the church. It takes place within the church, but it is an ongoing need, even of the saved. Interesting. And this gets us back to his understanding of baptism. What does baptism mean? It's the daily drowning of the old Adam. And in, like, manner, he can talk about the need of forgiveness of sins, not simply one time. It's not that you go down forward at your church to get saved, and that's it. But he's talking about the ongoing character and our ongoing need for the speaking of the gospel. That's our daily sustenance. So we can't rely upon an experience that happened to us in the past to help us through today. But we need to have our ears open so that we continue to hear. And, you know, this really parallels, you know, as you know, one of the things that we as evangelicals talk about is having a personal relationship with the Lord. When I went to Luther Seminary, there were some who didn't even understand that terminology. What are you talking about? How can you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? I've never seen him. So what do you mean when you talk about a personal relationship? And they were confessional oriented. Do you believe the faith? Have you been baptized? Do you believe that Jesus died and rose again for you? Those were the kind of confessional answers that they would give to the portion of life that we most often would talk about in terms of our personal relationship.

[00:29:49] Well, God's teaching me this or that. You know, you've heard people use that kind of terminology, some Lutherans, confessional Lutherans, just don't go there. Are there some prior artistic Lutherans that talk in terms of personal relationship, but not just what happens here with the ongoing need for forgiveness of sins in the hearing of the gospel. You have something within Lutheranism that parallels what we as evangelicals hold rather dearly. Having a personal relationship with Jesus that's usually characterized by our daily devotions and by our willingness to engage in extemporaneous prayer. We, you know, we pray before meals or whatever it happens to be. There are certain kinds of devotions that we associate with nurturing this personal relationship. So I find this a rather fascinating sort of thing. And it's an interesting comparison in terms of pieties. But certainly for Luther, what you have here is an understanding that the church is made up of saints and sinners and it's pilgrimage on earth. The church is the incomplete body of Christ. It's a mixed body of saints and centers in this life. Many false Christians, hypocrites and even open sinners are mixed in among the godly. So this parallels that gospel passage that talks about the wheat and the tares and this. Is how Luther understands the nature of the church. One of the things that we have to note here is that the issue with Rome was multifaceted, and we're not going to get into it in great detail here this morning. But one of the things that that the Roman Catholic tradition had said is that the wicked are a part of the church only in name and not, in fact, while the godly are part of the church, in fact, as well as in name.

[00:31:51] Now, Luther and the Lutheran theologian said Augsburg believed that this was a fundamentally true position, but they found that it was wanting in theological depth so that they argued the church's call to do battle on the side of God against the devil, and that the exact distinction between good and evil cannot be determined as long as the battle rages. You see what the problem is. If in time you're trying to say this person is a Christian, that person is not a Christian. What kind of data do you have to work with? This guy is always going to smile. Seems to be happy. You know, he talks about, Oh, the Lord taught me this, the Lord taught me that. And this person may well, I don't know, maybe they smoked too much and maybe they maybe they have a frown on their face quite a lot. What kind of what kind of data do you have to work on? Making a determination in time? Who is in the church and who is outside the church is not our job as pastors. Our job is to speak the word of the gospel, which will create life. And so Luther and the Lutheran theologians want to say that that in time the church, because it's the place where the gospel is being spoken, is a place where a battle is being fought. God is fighting to win His people, his gathered people to get through to them, to break them out of their bondage. That's the nature of the work we do in the church. We're not just dealing with people who are Christians, but there may be. And look, if you do if you do work here in New England doing reform work in the mainline, say you take a congregational church.

[00:33:41] And by the way, let me just make a plug in the next ten years. Do you realize the the UCC, the Congregational Church, is going to lose 2000 pastors through retirement and attrition? This is a marvelous time for us as evangelicals to stand up and say, okay, I don't have to start a new congregation somewhere where we don't have a pastor since we don't have any money to work with. Why not take one of these congregational churches and begin to preach the gospel so the people can come to faith? You know, that was that was Harold and Gaye's original vision that Gordon Conwell would be a place where pastors would be trained and they would go out and flood the mainstream, the mainline, and thus bring revival, bring new life to the Church of Jesus Christ. Maybe it's time to renew, revisit that, that vision of our and go and see it happen. So anyway, what what we have here is that for Luther, the real issue is that the church is the place where the ongoing battle is being waged, God for his people. It is also taught among us that one Holy Christian church will be and remain forever. I already did that one. I've got another one here. If the church, which is truly the Kingdom of Christ, is distinguished from the kingdom of the devil, it necessary. It necessarily follows that since the wicked belong to the kingdom of the devil, they are not the church in this life. Nevertheless, because the Kingdom of Christ has not yet been revealed, they are mingled with the church and hold office in the church. Notice how high up it goes. There probably are pastors who who don't believe and there are lots of places in Luther's writings where you find the bishops.

[00:35:24] They don't believe in the resurrection of the dead and all of this kind of stuff. It's incredible. Okay. So they may even hold office in the church. And maybe you've known one of those pastors. Christ is talking about the outward appearance of the church when he says that the Kingdom of God is like a net or like ten virgins. He teaches us that the church is hidden under a crowd of wicked men so that this stumbling block may not offend the faithful. And so that we may know that the word and sacraments are efficacious even when wicked men administer them. There's a couple of things going on here. This last line here where he's talking about the sacraments being efficacious. Early in the church, there was the Donatus controversy. The Donatus were rigorous, who believed that if you are a wicked person or if you were a wicked priest and you administered baptism, that baptism was no good because you were a wicked priest. Well, how does that fly? Augustine said. Then what you're saying is that baptism is valid on the basis of the moral integrity of the pastor who is administering the right. That's nonsense. Baptism is valid on the basis of the Word of God that rest resides in it. So part of this has to do with this fight. And no doubt there were some people who were coming to evangelical conviction during this time who had their child baptized by a, you know, a bad priest. And they were wondering, well, you know, what's the deal? So this is something that is addressed here by the reformers. But also notice this the Kingdom of Christ has been inaugurated, but it has not been fully revealed. And this is another case in which we have to recognize that the church is still in headiness.

[00:37:14] When you go to church on Sunday and you look over the people sitting in the congregation, not all of them necessarily have true faith. But once again, it's not your job to say, Well, this one's in, this one's out. You start to do that and you prove that your own moralism is more important than the speaking of the word. What you need to do is speak the word of the gospel so that those individuals will hear and believe. But they are mingled with the church. And so there is a struggle going on in this lifetime. And as long as the battle rages, the exact distinction between good and evil cannot ultimately be determined. The church is purified not by a Puritan discipline, but by the continuous encounter between the Word of God and the word of men. The distinction between God and devil becomes visible in this encounter, and God promises in the Gospel that he and not the devil will stay in charge of the church. So it's interesting that once again, we have confirmed in this kind of quotation, which comes from the apology, the Augsburg confession, the notion that the church is not an institution as much as it is. An event. Now, the Roman Catholic opposition to the two Luther and his and his approach to things was simply to say no. The Roman Catholic Church is an institution which has ontological status, and it comes down to us through the apostolic succession and the position that the Apostle Peter has transferred. And now the living representation of Peter is the Pope in Rome, who is the head of the church. Now, what Luther said is this Well, if Christ is the head of the church, then the pope cannot be.

[00:39:10] And he argued along those lines. And one of the very interesting things that you could trace out and I would welcome a paper on this is Luther's statements from time to time that the pope was the Antichrist. He said such not be to to be personally offensive or to single out one individual so much as to say, Well, and probably he wasn't worried if if it did single out an individual. But what he was trying to say is that the institution of the papacy itself, as represented and embodied by the pope, was a murdering institution because in all of its official statements and documents, in order to be a member of the church, you not only had to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, but there were added human ceremonies to that gospel. So it was a case just like in Galatians, where it was gospel and case of Galatians. It's you got to believe in Jesus and you have to fulfill the obligations of Torah. You've got to be circumcised. For you to be a really good Christian. Okay, so in Luther's case, he says, Well, look, what's the upshot of that then? The church is not the gathering of those who hear the gospel, but it is the institution that the pope says is the one institution in which there is salvation. And if salvation comes within a human institution, then Luther says, we're gone, for we're done in because salvation comes in and with the word wherever the word is spoken. Notice what this does. You see what happens in any institution is you get rigor mortis, sets in pretty soon. You know, you get the creative, charismatic beginning of things, and then you settle down to figure out what institutions you have to to establish in order to maintain this organizational structure.

[00:41:15] What Luther is saying is, look, organizational structure is going to break down, and it's only the word which identifies the church, and therefore we need to move with that. There is a wonderful quotation in once again in your lull in which Luther talks about what we receive from from the Roman Catholic tradition. Bernard Llosa cites this in his little presentation in the church. Listen to it to this quotation, which is very positive about the Roman Catholic tradition. He says, We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy. Indeed, everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from the source. For instance, we confess that in the papal church there are the truly holy scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Articles of the Creed. I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity, the Christianity that now is under the papacy is truly the body of Christ and a member of it. If it is his body, then it has the true spirit. Gospel, faith, baptism, Sacrament, keys, the Office of the Ministry, Prayer, holy Scripture, and everything that pertains to Christendom. So we are still under the papacy and there from have received our Christian treasures. So Luther was aware that the tradition had been preserved in the Roman church, but he reproached Rome for not not for lacking the fundamental marks of the church, but for the intrusion of human additions and human additions which bound the conscience and therefore violated the nature of gospel and promise.

[00:43:08] Now, the issue with the Anabaptists, as you already have some indication of is is of a different kind. Whereas with Rome, they saw themselves as this institution that came on from the beginning and apostolic succession. The Anabaptists had a very different point of view in the Slate home Confession of 1527, written by Michael Sattler, says this A separation shall be made from the evil and from the wickedness which the devil planted in the world in this manner, simply that we shall not have fellowship with them. That is the wicked. And not run with them in the multitude of their abominations. This is the way it is, since all who do not walk in the obedience of faith and have not united themselves with God so that they wish to do His will are a great abomination before God. It is not possible for anything to grow or issue from them except abominable things. For truly all creatures are but in two classes, good and bad, believing in unbelieving darkness and light. The world and those who have come out of the world. God's temple and idols, Christ and Belial. And none can have a part with the other. With the other. To us, then the command of the Lord is clear when He calls upon us to be separate from the evil. And thus He will be our God. And we shall be His sons and daughters. Then this very interesting document calls for the Anabaptists to separate themselves. He further admonishes us to withdraw from Babylon and earthly Egypt, that we may not be partakers of the pain and suffering which the Lord will bring upon them. Notice what he says in this next paragraph. He says this. From this we should learn that everything which is not united with our God in Christ cannot be other than an abomination which we should shun and flee from.

[00:44:59] By this is meant all Catholic and Protestant works and church services meetings and church attendance, drinking houses, civic affairs and oaths, sworn and unbelief and other things of that kind which are highly regarded by the world and yet carried on. In flat contradiction to the command of God. Notice what happens with the Anabaptists then with this particular branch of the Anabaptists anyway. They claim that it's possible to know who's in and who's out, and on that basis they understand that the church is the gather. It's a volunteer association of those who have faith in Jesus Christ. So theirs is a purified church and they maintain its purity through separation and through the band. And this is a very different ideal than what Luther has set forward now. Many of us in the evangelical church, interestingly enough, here we come back home a little bit. Some of our traditions are very much in the Anabaptist line of things, aren't they? Because we're convinced that, well, we're in a different we're in a different historical setting to begin with. The magisterial church was something that, for Luther was a reality for us in our own time. If you go to church, it's your choice. And so practically speaking, many of our churches do cluster themselves around this kind of volunteer organization kind of paradigm. But that's not how Luther would understand it. And notice, you know, the radical approach to the business of church then. There are two separate. So what is the true and the false church? How do we understand this whole business? First of all, we have to talk about the article of standing and falling. How can we tell when the gospel is really being preached in the sacraments, ministered and in accordance with that, with that that ideal? Well, you know, the Lutheran Confessions and in particular, the Augsburg Confession was an attempt to set that out and to try to explain that if you take a look at the small called articles that you have a copy of in your in your edition of law, that's what is going on there.

[00:47:25] There's no doubt where Luther and the tradition that followed after him drew the line between church and non or anti church. They reaffirmed the ecumenical dogmas that is the ecumenical creeds as stipulations of the gospels content. These were not then in dispute. They had laid down the article of justification by faith alone as the test by which preaching and sacramental practice stand or fall to repeat. It is not the reiteration of the formula. It's not just saying, Well, just believe in justification by faith and you're there. That's not the point. To speak the gospel means to speak in such a way that the gospel is heard and results in faith. So. It's a matter of the real speaking of that word sort of accomplishes that which it goes out to do. This understanding of the nature of the church is, I think, radical because it means that for Luther it could be in the Roman Catholic Church, the gospel being preached there. And that's great. Could be the Lutheran Church. And no doubt there were some Lutheran churches that breached very well and there were probably some Lutheran churches that preached more law than anything else. Not good, vice versa. That could be said about the Roman Catholic tradition as well. We can we could search through our own traditions. And, you know, if you know a number of different congregations in your own tradition, you'd probably know there are some places where you get fed and there is gospel and there are other places where, you know, you'll shrivel up and die, spiritually speaking. Okay. Now let's take a look here at the marks of the church. Now for our reading today, one of the things you noticed is that Luther has a whole bunch of marks in the church.

[00:49:19] We'll just set them up here real fast. We're not going to spend a whole lot of time on this. But clearly, the word of God is right here at the beginning. Baptism and the altar. Also sacraments of the Word of God. Notice Power of the Keys. Let's just spend a moment thinking about this. This is something that's strange and unusual to our evangelical way of thinking. If you check out the small catechism, which you have in law, there's a section in here on on the confession, confession and absolution. It talks about the proper way for people to do their confession. And this is, of course, in response to the whole business of penance, which is which was badly abused during the time. But notice that for Luther, in the small catechism, there is place for the confessor to say your sins are forgiven. And this is simply a part of the the tradition that comes down through Luther, the the confession and absolution Here on page 46 in your Law Edition talks about how plain people are to be taught to confess. What you have here is a person who will come in. There may be some kind of sin which is bothering them. They can't get rid of it. Their conscience brings them back to it again and again. It's like that bad recording. You know how it is Sometimes those when there's a TV commercial and they've got one of those terrible songs, it's a jingle gets in your head, it gets on to a loop and goes around and around again. Sometimes that happens to our people in our churches. They have committed a sin or whatever. They've prayed that it might be forgiven, and yet they come back to it again and it dogs them and it really brings them down.

[00:51:06] Now, as pastor, what do you do now in the Lutheran tradition, what they did is they went to confession and then the the individual who was having trouble with this issue would come to the pastor and would move through the whole business of confession. And it's set forward here in rather brief campus notice here on page 47, a master or mistress, say the first full paragraph in particular, I confess in your presence that I have not been faithful in training my children, service and wife to the glory of God. I have cursed. I've set a bad example by my immodest language in actions. I've injured my neighbor by speaking of, you know, whatever it happens to be. The person who enters the confessional with the pastor confesses these things out loud. Once again, it's an out loud kind of action. And then the the pastor grants forgiveness. Now, on what basis can a pastor or should a pastor make these kinds of claims? Now, in the Lutheran tradition, they all say that John Chapter 20, that Matthew Chapter 18, there is the binding and the loosing. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And here you simply and this is set in the context of the forgiveness of sins. Check out the passages. And what Luther says here is that we have been given the Ministry of speaking the Gospel. That's what preaching is about. That's what the administration of the gospel or the sacraments is all about. And therefore, in the matter of personal confession, we too have that responsibility. If a person comes wanting forgiveness and yet they do not confess their sins show no no sign of repentance, then we cannot just say your sins are forgiven, those sins are bound.

[00:53:07] And if they're bound on Earth, they're bound in heaven. On the other hand, if someone comes to confess their sins in true repentance, then. As a minister of the gospel, we have the right to say your sins are forgiven. You go in peace as the person who comes asking for forgiveness. Then we go away hearing the word that comes to us from the from the pastor believing that it we believe it as surely as if Christ himself had said it to us. That's the confidence that we can have in the forgiving word of the gospel. That's the kind of action we have in the power of the Keys. Now it's also this that becomes a reason for pastors to discipline with respect to the Lord's Supper. If there's someone in the congregation that the pastor knows is, say, shacking up or doing something else, that's not according to the life of a Christian, then that person does not receive the Lord's Supper. Pastor goes and says, You know, friend, unless there's amendment of life. I really can't in good conscience allow you to approach the table, for you'd simply be eating and drinking to your own damnation. So there is the possibility there for that kind of discipline, which is so very, very rare in 21st century America. So we've got the power of the keys. And Luther wrote in 1531, he wrote a treatise entitled The Keys. You can find a description of the keys also in the smaller and the larger catechism. It's got the calling and ordaining of pastors and bishops. You have prayer, praise, and thanks to God. Enduring the cross and inner conflict. These are all marks of the church that Luther mentions in the treatise that we read for today's reading.

[00:54:57] He gives other lists and other places that are not this complete. But in any event, those are the marks of the church. Now, then, a quick word about, as we sum up here, a quick word here about the organization of the church. Luther maintained. Well, let's put it this way. There were some in the 16th century time period that looked to the primitive church insofar as it's visible in the New Testament as the permanently valid pattern for the church's reformation. But Luther was more radical than that for him. If the organization of the church is our free historical responsibility, then there can be no permanently mandated pattern of organization, only a permanently mandated mission for which to organize. So it's very interesting when you take a look at the Lutheran Church in the way that it's set up. You have everything from radically Congregational Lutheran churches to some that are Episcopal governed state churches, as in the case of Germany. And some are at every point of the spectrum in between. So the organizational pattern for Luther is simply not mentioned because the true character and nature of the church is determined by the preaching, the gospel. Now, then, what's the issue today? Maybe you could fill in the blank here in terms of your own ecclesiastical tradition and your own understanding of ecclesiology. I know of one church, one Protestant evangelical denomination that will not allow you to become a member unless you sign a statement that says you will not drink alcoholic beverages. That's very interesting. Is that gospel? What? Who are we as the church? I think it raises real questions. Have we turned the free, unconditional speaking of the gospel into a new law? Have we turned Christ into Moses? Do we understand who we are as the people of God? See, there are all kinds of questions that arise in this issue of what is the nature of the church.

[00:57:25] I would maintain I would maintain it would be impossible for me with my present understanding of things to become a member of such a church, a church that would require me to do this or that. In addition to the gospel, I think there's a real issue of integrity here. I think there's a real issue in terms of how we understand ourselves as Christians and what the nature of Christianity is. What kinds of rules, laws, regulations do we make with respect to church membership, and how does that reflect our mission as mandated by the gospel?