Know Christ. Know the Truth.
Friday of Pentecost 7
13 July 2018

People will complain that the LCMS is some kind of doctrinal preservation cult, as though the church was never before interested in pure teaching. Such people will always retreat to ethics when they complain about concern for purity of teaching, so that those who are interested in keeping the product of the preaching un-adulterated by taint of false teaching are careless of piety; only interested in imposing their views on others, in practice unloving, and uncharitable to those who are opposed to them. Issues of practice become paramount, "You did that the wrong way! How unethical you are!" Yes, of course. Pointing out the ethical blunders of sinners is like shooting fish in a barrel. One of the Christian verities is that sinners actually sin! Every Sunday we confess that we do the wrong things. Now, don't misunderstand, certainly we should repent for our sin. Of course, we should strive to do the right thing the right way. But none of this frees us from the divinely commanded requirement to "test the spirits" (1Jn 4:1). God's truth is far more important to the world than my reputation.

 

God our Lord has required that the priests of His church and her overseers defend God's truth in the church. To lose that truth is to lose the Christ and to defect from the church. It is pretty simple: No Christ. No truth. No church. Know Christ. Know truth. Know the church. The truth of Christ is what makes the church and sustains her.

 

We are all expected to speak correctly about Jesus, His church, and the work He does in and through the church bought with His precious blood. St. Paul warns Pastor Timothy, "Set the believers an example in speech" (1Ti 4:12). We must speak well of God first of all, that God's Word is delivered to God's people and the light of God's speech illuminates God's people. This is what the first and second commandments are about. Nor is this some high accomplishment on the part of the church's ministers or her children. No, God the Holy Spirit delivers the Word of God to us. It is God's to give. How precious this God-given gift is! How valuable the life-giving Word of God to sinners who need the consolation of God's mercy and forgiveness in His Son Jesus Christ! The church is not an ethical society, but God's mouth-house in which He speaks sins out of existence. God's speech makes all the difference in the world, despite the ethical weakness of those whom He calls into His kingdom.

 

When the truth is at stake, then, the church's life and the salvation of her children are also at stake. Carelessness about purity of teaching is like your compounding pharmacist being careless about the content of your prescription. Such carelessness can have deadly effects; the latter in earthly life and the former for the soul. Likewise, it is the church's responsibility to deliver the gospel of Jesus Christ in an un-adulterated form, that those who hear it might be saved (1Ti 4:14-16). We should treat it as it is the very prescription of immortality and we should never tolerate among us teaching which contradicts it, because it will be deadly poison to the soul. Nor is this viewpoint merely a matter of LCMS lunacy. In every generation, the church has been required by God to defend the divine truth. So it was at the time of Cyril of Alexandria, who sought to defend the church against the heresy of Nestorius, who cast doubts upon the personal union of the two natures in Christ, by treating the two natures in Christ as though they were two boards glued together; having no communication of attributes. Cyril began his five books by defending the scriptural truth and the church's faithful delivery of its content. He did this long before the LCMS was even thought of! Cyril knew that the Bible's content and a faithful delivery of that content would be the only way to rightly defend the church's teaching, the correct teaching, about the person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. Know Christ and know the truth. Know the truth and know Christ.


Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Cyril of Alexandria
"It will be good for those who explore holy Scripture and drive away negligence in doing so and thirst rather for the attainment of it, by applying themselves vigorously and apart from all sloth. For their minds will be filled with the divine light. By applying this light to the doctrines of the church, they will accept everything that is right and pure. They will lay up for themselves hidden treasures for their soul (Mt 6:19) and rejoice in the knowledge they have collected as much as those who are worldly greedily collect Indian gems or gold. As it is written: 'For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her' (Pr 8:11). For I say that those who are wise and prudent and skilled in the divine doctrines ought to remember what has been profitably written by one of the holy disciples, 'Beloved...test the spirits to see whether they are from God' (1Jn 4:1). And St. Paul says, 'the ability to distinguish between spirits' (1Co 12:10) has been given to the saints.

"For a writer who says, 'Jesus is Lord,' will say it in no other way than through the Holy Spirit (1Co 12:3). Those who because of their ignorance let loose a contradicting tongue against these teachings which are rightly taught, all but say 'Jesus is anathema' from Beelzebub when they do. We must study these writings to approve all things carefully and in a prudent manner and with a discerning mind settle on certain writings and skillfully test what words they use about Christ the Savior of us all. We should imitate in this the most reliable and experienced bankers who accept only genuine coins and carefully reject anything that is counterfeit and amiss. St. Paul invites us to be skillful bankers: 'Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil' (1Th 5:21-22). In the affairs of this life we are careful about what leads to our own profit. And yet it is disgraceful to us that we make such a great effort in striving after those things by which we might live in great opulence, while neglecting so sacred a work and count as nothing the salvation of the soul. Instead, we let ourselves sink down into the pits and swamps, sometimes exposing the soul to the mere pleasure of those who choose to say what they ought not. Our mind then is not vigilant for the truth nor choosing to search diligently for what is profitable and true in the meaning of what has been read. Instead, when we read and study perverted writing, which goes beyond the boundaries of accurate doctrine, it works damage to the soul that looks upon it. Yet to the soul there is nothing equal in value to the true doctrine in the sight of those who are complete in their understanding.

"Therefore, we must test writings on the divine doctrines on the strictest basis. If any writing should agree with the sacred Scriptures and make clear its meaning and unerring way, let this writing be acclaimed by us too, testifying as to its orthodoxy. But if the writing is in form of language cold, misleading, or amiss in anything, and indeed if it is destructive to the understanding of the reader, let every mouth respond to it, 'you are uttering and telling us another error' (Is 30:10)." 

Cyril of Alexandria, Five Tomes Against Nestorius, 1.1
1 Timothy 4:6-16

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, by Your Word we must test doctrinal writings on the strictest basis. If any writing agrees with the sacred Scriptures and makes clear its meaning and unerring way, let this writing be acclaimed by us too, testifying to its orthodoxy. But if the language is amiss in anything, and indeed if it is destructive to the understanding of the reader, let every mouth respond to it, 'you are uttering and telling us another error.' Grant that we would know the truth, so that we would know You as our only Savior from sin. Amen.

For Michael Staub, who has accepted his call to serve as the director of a new band program at Concordia University, Texas, that he would sing a new song to the Lord in the labors for which the Lord has called him

For Martha Fredenburg, who has accepted her call to teach at Immanuel Lutheran school, Giddings Texas, that the Lord of the church would grant her delight in a new field of service

For all those who are traveling, especially our delegation to the Higher Things conference in Illinois, that their travels would be safe and their homecomings joyful
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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