For our members who were unable to attend this morning, today’s service may be viewed here:
For our members who were unable to attend this morning, today’s service may be viewed here:
“For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Romans 10:3-4
The apostle Paul had a sincere desire that his people, the people of Israel, would be saved. He prayed that they too would repent and place their hope and confidence in Messiah Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world.
Paul wrote (Romans 10:2-3): “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
Why were so many of his fellow Jews not saved? Because they did not know of God’s imputed righteousness for Christ’s sake and sought their own righteousness based upon their obedience to the law. In fact, in their zealous efforts to keep all of God’s commandments and be acceptable to God by their own works, they rejected the perfect righteousness of their Messiah and Savior and failed to place their hope and trust in Jesus, crucified for their sins and risen again in glory.
And this remains an obstacle for so many today, whether Jew or Gentile. People seek to be acceptable to God by their own works and lives and hope they have done enough that God will be satisfied and admit them into the joys of heaven.
What the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob failed to understand in Paul’s day, and what so many fail to grasp today, is that none of us measure up to God’s standard.
Moses wrote of God’s standard in Leviticus 18:5: “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” The problem is that none of us has kept all of God’s commandments and judgments, and the Scriptures also say: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26); “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20); and, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).
Though none of us measure up, Jesus did. He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). And, “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Because Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us and suffered the just punishment for the sins of all, rising again in victory, God’s righteousness – the only righteousness which avails before Him – is a perfect and imputed righteousness received through faith in Messiah Jesus. Cf. Romans 1:16-17; 3:9-26.
Indeed Christ Jesus is the end – the fulfillment (telos) – of the law for righteousness to all who believe. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us and, by His sufferings, death and glorious resurrection, God “hath made us accepted in the beloved … In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6-7).
Do we then return to the law for righteousness before God? Never! We hold fast to Christ Jesus and the perfect righteousness which is ours through faith in Him.
Thy righteousness, O Christ, alone can cover me: No righteousness avails save that which is of Thee. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal #380, v. 5)
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:22-23
If one’s eyes are good and he can see that which is illumined by the light, his whole body and life are full of light. That person can see what is around him and where he is going. But, on the other hand, if one’s eyes are bad and he cannot see the light, his whole body is full of darkness. That person cannot see where he is going and he gropes in endless darkness.
With this simple parable or illustration, Jesus is teaching about much more than the effects of good vision and blindness; He is speaking of spiritual sight and understanding. If one’s eyes are opened so that he can see and understand the message of Scripture – if he can see himself as God sees him and see Jesus for who He really is, his life will be full of light. He will acknowledge and agree with God about his utter sinfulness and look to Jesus, God’s own dear Son, and to His sufferings, death and resurrection for life and eternal salvation! Then he will see and know the pathway of life and will not grope about in spiritual darkness.
But if one’s eye is bad – if he cannot grasp and understand the message of the Holy Scriptures and does not see and acknowledge his utter sinfulness and look to Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for forgiveness and life everlasting – his whole life is full of darkness. He may live a normal life here in this world, but he doesn’t really see and know why he’s here, nor does he have any assurance about the hereafter!
Often it happens that “the light that is in you is darkness.” A person thinks he knows and understands the way to heaven, but he doesn’t because he has gotten his ideas from some other source than the Scriptures. Thus, people assume that they can get into God’s kingdom by their own works and deeds, that God will accept them if they try to please Him or that there is some other way to be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ and His blood shed upon the cross for mankind’s sin.
As Jesus says, “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” Those who think they know the way – who perhaps go to church and are active in various works – are often the hardest to reach with the truth of God’s Word. They see no need of it, for they are convinced that everything is OK with them. Thus they live their lives in darkness and don’t even realize it!
How can one’s eyes be opened that he might see? Only God can open the eyes of the blind. As Jesus opened the eyes of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46ff.), so He can open our eyes and give us light; for He Himself is “the Light of the World.” Those who follow Him “shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Through the hearing, reading and studying of God’s Word – the Bible – the Holy Spirit teaches us and opens our eyes that we might see the truth about ourselves and trust in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and life everlasting. Through the Scriptures, the Spirit leads and guides us to see and know the way of God in truth!
Open our eyes, dear Lord Jesus, that we might see and know the truth and trust in You – and You alone – for life and salvation. Amen.
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]
Dear members of Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church,
Since questions have been raised regarding the doctrine and practice of our congregation related to church fellowship, I thought it best to clarify the teaching of Scripture on this subject with a number of statements so that all may know and understand where we must stand on these issues and avoid the sinful practices of syncretism (joining together in worship, prayer or religious activities with those of other religions and lodges who do not worship and serve the Triune God of the Bible or proclaim salvation by God’s grace alone and through faith alone in Jesus Christ) and of unionism (joining together in worship, prayer or religious activities with other churches and denominations which err in doctrine and do not teach in full accord with the Bible).
1. The Bible teaches that it is every Christian’s duty to do the following: a) “Beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15ff.); b) Mark and avoid those who cause divisions and offenses in the church by preaching false doctrine, advocating a sinful lifestyle or teaching and insisting on points not commanded in Scripture (Romans 16:17f.); c) Admonish and rebuke sin and error (Matthew 18:15ff.; Titus 3:9ff.; Ephesians 5:8-14); d) Refrain from joining together in fellowship (through prayer, worship, Communion, mission work, etc.) with those who persistently hold to false doctrine or live in open sin (Ephesians 5:8-14; 2 John 8-11).
2. It is a sin to add to the teaching of Scripture or take anything away from it. Thus, it is wrong to reject what the Bible clearly teaches, as many teachers and churches do even though they bear the name Christian, or to add to God’s Word and insist upon human views, interpretations or applications of Scripture, such as did the Jews with their traditions received from the elders (Deuteronomy 4:1ff.; Isaiah 8:20; Matthew 15:1ff.; Mark 31ff.; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; Revelation 22:18-19).
3. The Lord’s Supper is to be observed according to Christ’s institution with neither the elements or words changed nor the meaning of Christ’s words altered or changed. All who partake of the true Lord’s Supper receive not only bread and wine but also partake of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of the world; that is, His body and blood which were given and shed for all for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1 Corinthians 10:16ff. and 11:23ff.).
4. Since St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 admonishes believers to examine themselves before partaking of the Lord’s Supper and rebukes them for their abuses, Christians who wish to partake of the Sacrament are to be instructed in Biblical doctrine and in what is offered and given in the Lord’s Supper and are not to partake of the Lord’s Supper lightly but are to examine themselves before coming to the Lord’s Table, confess their sins to God and receive God’s absolution and forgiveness in Christ Jesus.
5. Since St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10 plainly states that when we eat of the bread and drink of the cup we are one with the altar, partaking of the altar in the Lord’s Supper is a profession that we agree with what is being taught and offered and given from that altar. Christians are not to partake of the altar of the Lord and then also partake of the altar of devils by joining together in idolatry, false teaching or sinful worship (such as attending or partaking of the Lord’s Supper in churches which err in doctrine and often err also in the doctrine regarding the Lord’s Supper).
6. Based on 1 Corinthians 10 and 11, Christian churches and their pastors have a duty to practice close communion (as opposed to open communion in which everyone is invited to come forward), and only those who profess the true and Biblical doctrine and who have examined themselves in accord to God’s Word are to be invited and welcomed to the Lord’s Table. Those known to be living in open sin and impenitent or who are spreading false doctrine or supporting the spread of false doctrine (often by membership and contributions to churches which err in doctrine) must be denied the privilege of partaking of Christ’s Supper unless and until they repent.
In summary, this means that God, for our own good, commands that we hold to the true and faithful teaching of His Word and reject what is false. That we join together with those who hold to and teach the truth of God’s Word and that we take note of and avoid those who persist in doctrinal errors or live in open and impenitent sin.
We go to church and join together in worship and prayer, the hearing of God’s Word, and in the reception of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper only in those churches which faithfully adhere to God’s Word and rightly administer the Sacraments. We take note of and avoid those teachers and churches which preach false doctrine or mix human errors and opinion with the truth because we realize that every error has its origins in the lies of the devil, who seeks to lead us away from Christ and the comfort and assurance of the Gospel (cf. John 8:44).
To help explain this teaching of Scripture, I will include below my signature the short and hopefully simple explanation of this article of faith from my book, A Simple Explanation of Christian Doctrine. I also ask any who have questions or concerns to contact me.
How should we practice church fellowship?
Since Jesus commanded us to disciple the nations by going, baptizing in the name of the Triune God and teaching them to observe all which Jesus taught and commanded (Matthew 28:18-20), and since Jesus warns against false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-23), we, as Christians, are to discriminate between churches and teachers which are faithful to Christ and that which is taught in His Word (orthodox churches and teachers) and those which are not faithful to Christ and His Word (false and heterodox churches and teachers) and to practice church fellowship (joining together in those things which one would do with fellow believers, such as worship, prayer, reception of the Lord’s Supper, evangelism, mission work, etc.) only with those who are faithful to Christ and His holy Word.
Jesus said: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). For this reason, the early church “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
That we not be led astray from the truth, the apostle Paul warned: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
Thus, we see that we are commanded to continue in Jesus’ word and doctrine – the teaching of Holy Scripture – and to avoid and withdraw from those who teach otherwise and do not consent to the words of our Lord Jesus and the teaching of the Word of God.
So serious is the threat of false doctrine and the deception of the devil, God’s Word warns us: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1); “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11); “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18); “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18); “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11); and “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us … And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14).
Christians, like the believers at Berea (Acts 17:11), compare what is taught with the Word of God and reject those churches and teachers who remain unfaithful to the Word. They condemn as sin the unionistic practices of our day in which church fellowship is practiced and church union is sought without regard for full adherence to the Scriptural Doctrine.
And, a church’s faithfulness to Christ and His Word is to be judged, not only by its acceptance of and subscription to an orthodox creed or confession but by what is actually taught and practiced in the church.
As the apostle Paul warned, errors in both doctrine and practice will continue to trouble churches in this world (Acts 20:28-32; 1 Corinthians 11:19). But those churches which are faithful to Christ and His Word will, through Scriptural admonition and discipline, continue to combat and remove such error from among themselves and be faithful to Christ (Matthew 18:15-18; 2 Timothy 3:13-17; 4:1-5; Titus 3:10-11).
Christians remember that every lie and false teaching is of the devil, the father of lies (John 8:44), and the devil’s intent is to mislead God’s elect and weaken or destroy their faith in Christ Jesus. Therefore, Christians cannot and do not view doctrinal errors and teaching which is not in full agreement with the Bible as a trivial thing which can be ignored or overlooked. They use God’s Word to expose it, reprove it and remove it. And, if a church or teacher rejects the sound teaching of God’s Word on a matter, Christians are commanded to reject and avoid the church or teacher until there is repentance and a return to the truth. And not to do so could even give the devil the opportunity he seeks to lead people away from faith in Christ and destroy their souls.
This is a most serious matter and yet many laugh and scoff and say it’s only a little thing, a minor point. But, how many of you would drink water from a well which was poisoned even if the amount was small? What might not immediately kill you could do damage over time. So also with false doctrine; it is never harmless and, over time, it will weaken or destroy faith.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Where is your heart? Is it in this world, or in the next? If you want to find out where your heart is, look at where your treasures are! If we live and work to amass things and riches here in this world, our hearts too are in the world.
But what does Jesus say? “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
When our treasures are in this world, we are filled with care and concern about maintaining them, preventing loss or damage, and even insuring them against theft and destruction. Earthly treasures are temporary. Things wear out. Property is stolen. Moths and rust corrupt. When we die, we leave everything behind; and ultimately all will be destroyed by fire at Christ’s return on the Last Day.
How much wiser to have our treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust can corrupt and where thieves cannot break in and steal! Then, when this world comes to a close, we will have treasures in heaven which will never be taken away from us.
How can we do this? By using the goods of this world which the LORD God entrusts to us to do His work and bring Him glory! Why treasure what we cannot keep when we could use the temporal to gain treasures which are eternal?
Indeed, God has given us all that we have that we might use it in a way which brings Him glory and honor and which furthers the work of His eternal kingdom here in this world. It dishonors Him when we selfishly treasure up this world’s goods for ourselves and our own sinful goals and ambitions.
The Lord Jesus laid down His very life in this world that He might win for us forgiveness of sins and the everlasting joys of heaven. As children of God through faith in Jesus Christ and citizens of heaven, our faith and hope will move us to part with our earthly treasures that we might have eternal treasures awaiting us when we join our Savior in the mansions of His Father’s house.
In fact, if we cling tightly to the goods of this world, it is evidence that we are not clinging tightly to Christ our Savior; for He bids us walk with Him, serve the needs of our fellowman and lay down all for His kingdom.
Dear Lord Jesus, in mercy and compassion, You gave up the goods of this world to help those in need; and You willingly laid down Your life to bear the punishment for my sins and make me Your own. Forgive me for clinging too tightly to the goods of this world instead of clinging tightly to You and following in Your steps. Lead me in the way everlasting for the sake of Your holy and precious blood shed for my salvation. Amen.