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What Luther Says

Zitat: Who Is The Church?

Unless I'm way off base with my basic translating skills (and have completely forgotten how to perform an accurate Google search!), I believe the English word "quote" (used as a noun) is translated as "zitat" in German.

That will help to explain the strange "Z" word listed in the title of this post. That being said, I'm always keeping my eyes and ears open for good Lutheran quotes that encourage prayerful consideration and deeper study of God's Word, His Sacraments, Christ's Church, and the Lutheran confession of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). Here's the latest.

At the risk of getting ahead of myself (since this is from Walther's The Church & Office of The Ministry that we've been reading and reviewing here -- although we haven't gotten to this part yet), this quote that essentially answers "Who Is The Church?" is just too good for us to wait to share it later.

The Church is hidden, though it is no "Platonic city" that exists only in someone's mind and that cannot be located. The Church is found where Christ and His Word are found. The Church is a holy Christian people. Those who are called, gathered, and enlightened by Christ's word of free grace and who truly believe are one with Christ and are the Church.

Walther has been criticized for beginning his treatment of the Church with believers instead of with Christ and the means of grace. But we see in his proof-texts that he begins in a completely Christocentric way: "Christ the head" (Ephesians 1); Christ the cleanser and sanctifier of His Body, the Church (Ephesians 5); the Church, sanctified as the temple of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3); the Church, built by Christ upon His Word (Matthew 16); Christ, through His sacrificial death, gathers the children into one (John 11).

There is enormous comfort in this teaching that all those who trust in the merits of Christ's cross are members of the Church and no one else. It allows us to confess with gusto that orthodox Lutheranism is by no means the sole saving instrument of God. It allows us to gladly and joyously recognize that there are true believers in Jesus, members of the Church, where only enough of His Word and Sacrament are available to create faith. The unity of the Church does not depend upon us but upon Christ and His gifts.

*- Rev. Matthew C. Harrison
The Church & The Office of The Ministry By C.F.W. Walther
Editor's Note, Thesis I On The Church, p.10

If you're looking for a quick answer to the question "Who Is The Church?" (as in, "Who Are The True Christians?") that's gotta be it, isn't it? Yes, the Church is "hidden" but it is not entirely "invisible" though.

Personally, for me, it's that last paragraph that I often struggle with myself. Who knows, maybe it's due to my Evangelical past, and having been deceived by so many "Christians" who were so clearly wrong in their understanding and presentation of God's Word for so long that my ears bristle a bit at Pastor Harrison's statements there.

And yet, I can't argue or disagree with any of it since it is certainly Biblical. I would never be so arrogant to say that only Lutherans are "true Christians" but given where I've been and where I'm coming from, I also have no problems boldly asserting that we Lutherans are a lot closer to the truth than other denominations.

"Those who trust in the merits of Christ's cross" -- they are the Church; they are the true Christians in this world.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, no, "Lutheranism is by no means the sole saving instrument of God," but I'm so grateful that He used it to pull me out of the waters of works-righteousness that I was drowning in.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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