Countdown to the Ninth Annual ACELC Free Conference, Eagle, Nebraska – "Christ For Us: The Church's Mission & Evangelistic Task"
August 6, 2019, 9:30 AM
Verse of the Day

On Building the Church

 It was Jesus who informed Peter (in the hearing of all His disciples): “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Christ could not have been more clear … “I will build My church!” Not only does He emphatically claim ownership, but He insists that He will be the one doing the building. Furthermore, He even identifies the foundation on which He would be doing His building: “this rock.” Locating the referent to “this rock” has been a bone of contention between Roman Catholicism and Lutherans in particular, but also much of Protestantism. But frankly, Mose's initial and continuing use of “the rock” imagery (Exodus 17:6, 33:21f, Numbers 20:8ff, Deuteronomy 32:4ff), together with St. Paul's specific mention “of that spiritual Rock that followed them and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4) pretty clearly favors the Lutherans in their case against the Roman church's contention that Jesus is referring to Peter as the first Pope. Even so, that is not the point of this missive, for that debate is not what is dividing our Synod today in the matter Building the Church.. It was a recent reading from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Treasury of Daily Prayer (CPH, © 2008) that alerted me again to the importance of focusing our attention on the main thing when it comes to Building the Church.Bonhoeffer wrote:

“It is not we who build the church. [Christ] builds the church. No man builds the church but Christ alone. Whoever is minded to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it; for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it. We must confess – he builds. We must pray to him – that he may build.

We do not know his plan. We cannot see whether he is building or pulling down. It may be that the times which by human standards are times of collapse are for him the great times of construction. It may be that the times which from a human point of view are great times for the church are times when it is pulled down.

It is a great comfort which Christ gives to his church; you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me. Do not meddle in what is my providence. Do what is given to you to do well and you have done enough. But do it well. Pay no heed to views and opinions. Don't ask for judgments. Don't always be calculating what will happen. Don't always be on the lookout for another refuge! Church, stay church! But church, confess, confess, confess! Christ alone is your Lord; from his grace alone can you live as you are. Christ builds.” (Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH, Oct. 23.)

These words from Bonhoeffer stress the importance of the church keeping the main thing the main thing! We especially see this in his last paragraph where he begins with words of great comfort which Christ gives to His church: “you confess, preach, bear witness to me and I alone will build where it pleases me.” These words, “confess” … “preach” … “bear witness to me” align very closely with the opening words of one of our teaching documents titled, “The Mission of the Church & Evangelism”: “CONFESSIONAL LUTHERANISM IS MARKED BY PASTORS AND LAYMEN WHO ... In accord with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, trust in God’s appointed means of grace to accomplish all that He promises (Is. 55:11). Accordingly, we joyously proclaim the Gospel of Christ to all people everywhere. We acknowledge that through His Word and Sacraments, God will call to faith those He chooses to call to faith and will save those He chooses to save. Moreover, we acknowledge that the Word and Sacraments are God’s only means of grace.”

While Bonhoeffer has much we could dwell on in his words, two points especially stand out in his final paragraph, one negative and the other positive: “Do not meddle in what is my providence,” and “Church, stay church! But church, confess, confess, confess!” Christ's providence is just that, and history has proven again and again that man's attempt to intervene in His work “is surely on the way to destroying it..” On the other hand, when the church learns and faithfully carries on preaching, teaching, and administration of Christ's sacraments in accord with His institution, she is being church as God intended her to be. And while that in itself does not guarantee that the church militant will grow numerically, “do[ing] it well” promises that the recipients of said preaching, teaching, and administration of the sacraments are receiving God's grace and everything necessary “for the edification (building up) of the church” (1 Cor. 14:12).

That being said, the ACELC invites you to join us in Eagle, NE, on August 6-9, 2019, for our conference: “Christ For Us: The Church's Mission & Evangelistic Task.” We are currently lining up our speakers and will be posting all the information on our website as soon as it is available.. In the meantime we encourage you mark your calendar, and also download and read the Evidence of Errors document dealing with this topic. 

Pastor Bruce G. Ley
Documents Chairman, ACELC
E-Mail Pastor Ley

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