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What Luther Says

The 3 Things Wherever Christ’s Church Wishes To Be

I found this fascinating Hermann Sasse quote from a Lutheran blog that I stumbled upon for the first time the other day...

The 3 Things Wherever Christ’s Church Wishes To Be 
During these hours, we will ponder the miracle of the Church as we speak of the Lord’s Supper, because the Church and the Sacrament of the Altar belong together in a completely different manner. There are three marks by which the teachings of our confessions recognize the Church: The Gospel, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Everything else that the Church may have can be done without in time of need, but these three things must be wherever Christ’s Church wishes to be. The Church must proclaim the Gospel. I must baptize in the name of the triune God. And It must celebrate the Lord’s Supper. And these three things are only found in the Church. There are many heart-rending spiritual messages in the world, but there is only one Gospel. Because the Gospel is the only grace-filled message of the forgiveness of sins according to Christ’s will. According to Christ’s will! It is the glory of Jesus Christ and the nature of his office as the Redeemer of the world that there is forgiveness of sins in him and his will alone. It is not found anywhere else in the world. “That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin ho knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). That is the Gospel and nothing else. With this Gospel, the Church as come to the people of the world. We should ponder for a moment the possibility of her coming to the world without the Sacrament, as for example the so-called Christian Quaker churches did. Can the Church call to men and cultures with the word of the Gospel alone? The answer is a definite: No! Without the Sacraments, the call of the Gospel would die, as a voice dies in the wind. Perhaps, it would echo softly for a while, but it would die. Therefore, the Sacraments must accompany the preached Word. This is shown by example at Pentecost where the first missionary sermon the apostles was followed by the first missionary Baptism! “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). So a congregation was instituted, and there was a Church in the world. If one only preached on the mission field, and did not baptize, no Christian congregation would ever be instituted, but merely an institution for the care and support of a new worldview. If a congregation of baptized Christians abandons the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, she will soon lack an understanding of Baptism. She would then become a religious organization that could not be distinguished from any other human institution. 
… The Church is not only a spiritual congregation, like a school of philosophy, a society for the cultivation of a worldview, or what is called a “think tank” today, but it is a spirit-body congregation. Because that is so, the Church does not hover high above the lives of men like a Platonic or Hegelian School. Rather, it dwells deep within the real lives of men and cultures. Christ gave the Sacraments to the Church because she is one such spirit-body congregation that the whole of man belongs to completely. These Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, are not merely metaphors or symbols of what God does for us; God actually works on us in them. They are not mere illustrations of the Gospel, visible representations of Christ’s Word and deposits of his promise, but they are particular acts of God in which his Word is served by an earthly element through which the whole man, body and soul, is redeemed. These Sacraments are as completely incomprehensible to the world as the Church to which they belong as her essential characteristics. They are as incomprehensible to the world as Jesus Christ and the miracles that tell of him. But we who believe in Christ cannot endeavor seriously enough to understand them in faith. And perhaps the right understanding of the Sacraments is an issue of life and death for our Church today in a way that most Evangelical Christians can no longer understand." 
*- Hermann Sasse 
“Witness: Erlanged Sermons and Essays for the Church 1933-1944″ 
trans. Bror Erickson 
The Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church Week of the Church in Nürnberg 
January 5, 1939 
p. 261-263, 265-266

How incredibly straightforward was that?

I mean, there it is in no uncertain terms -- there is no true Christian Church without the three marks of the Christian Church (namely the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper).

And yet, there are so many "successful" churches in the world today that boast of their faithfulness, obedience, and Spirit-filled worship even though they are WITHOUT the Sacraments (or should I say WITHOUT one Sacrament in particular?).

Sure, the Word of God (a.k.a. the Gospel) is there. Yes, a form of Baptism is there ("Believer's Baptism" fueled by "Decision Theology" as well as "Baptism By The Holy Spirit" or what amounts to a "Second Baptism" of sorts, which are ALL un-Biblical). No Lord's Supper though. If there is, then it's usually a celebration of self with Communion being nothing more than a symbolic act that I do to show my devotion and love for Jesus.

That's one of the things I love most about the Lutheran confession of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3):  It helped me develop a proper understanding of God's "Means of Grace" (His gifts) here on earth for my benefit.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper are the three marks of a true Christian Church, or the the three things wherever Christ's Church wishes to be.  

NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. 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 inconsistent 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 (James 3:1). 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 Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. 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). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). 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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