What More Do You Need?
16 July 2018
There is only one Church. When we talk about denominations as churches: the Lutheran Church, the Roman Catholic Church, or the Methodist Church, we are only using a figure of speech; almost misusing the name and title church. There cannot be churches in the biblical sense, except as those communities that gather around the word and the sacraments, which are the things that create the church and keep her in the life of Christ. But even those local outcroppings of the church are but one rock created by Christ. They are like the Hawaiian Islands; a single mass popping out over the Pacific in separate places but below all are tied together as a unity. The Bible is quite clear. If there is one God and Christ, then there may only be one Church created by his precious blood.
Unfortunately, many who believe in the unity of the church also presume that that unity is found and preserved in an external organization, church order, or church government. What this means is that they command obedience to a specific denomination or leader, such as the Pope. However, the unity of the church can never be presume under the things of the law, that is, order, church government, or human leadership. In actual fact, many times those who claimed to be the leaders of the church turned out to be her greatest enemies, not merely by their disordered or immoral lives (for that is to return to a law definition of what the church is), but by their antipathy to the preaching of Christ and his cross for the forgiveness of sins. The gospel itself has been ignored and even persecuted by those who ought to have preserved its content and preaching. No earthly institution can guarantee authenticity, for all men are liars and the critical judgment of the Word of God applies universally to all persons at all times. No one stands above the Word of God.
If the church is not identified by external organization, how then can a simple Christian seek and find the church. Like all the blessings of God, the church is a gift only grasped by faith. The church is an article of faith. We confess in the apostle's Creed "I believe in the holy Christian church, the communion of saints." The church cannot be pointed out: "Here it is" or, "There it is," but is hidden under the divine gifts that create her. She can only be believed. She is clothed and cloaked with Christ's righteousness, that seamless garment that comes to her through the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments rightly administered. What most clearly identifies where the church exists are those things which God has given to her as her precious adornment. And so in regard to the truthfulness of the church and her existence, as in all other things, we live by faith. The church exists because God makes her with the precious blood of His only Son. What more do you need?

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Cyprian of Carthage
"Who, then, is so wicked and faithless, who is so insane with the madness of discord, that either he should believe that the unity of God can be divided, or should dare to rend it-the garment of the Lord-the Church of Christ? He Himself in His Gospel warns us, and teaches, saying, 'There will be one flock, one shepherd' (Jn 10:16). And does anyone believe that in one place there can be either many shepherds or many flocks? The Apostle Paul, moreover, urging upon us this same unity, beseeches and exhorts, saying, 'I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment' (1Co 1:10). And again, he says, 'Bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' (Eph 4:2-3). Do you think that you can stand and live if you withdraw from the Church, building for yourself other homes and a different dwelling, when it is said to Rahab, in whom was prefigured the Church, 'You shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father's household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head' (Jos 2:18-19). Also, the sacrament of the Passover contains nothing else in the law of the Exodus than that the lamb which is slain in the figure of Christ should be eaten in one house. God speaks, saying, 'It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house' (Ex 12:46). The flesh of Christ, and the holy of the Lord, cannot be sent abroad, nor is there any other home to believers but the one Church. This home, this household of unanimity, the Holy Spirit designates and points out in the Psalms, saying, 'God settles the solitary in a home' (Ps 68:6). In the house of God, in the Church of Christ, men dwell with one mind, and continue in concord and simplicity." 

Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church, 8
Psalm 122

I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the LORD!" Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem! Jerusalem- built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! "May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!" For my brothers and companions' sake I will say, "Peace be within you!" For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good. (ESV)
Lord Jesus Christ, You have prayed for us to our Father who is in heaven asking that He should make us one with each other. Ever grant us the gifts that create the church among us and unite her to You. Through the gift of Your Spirit help us to seek Your face where Your Word is proclaimed and the sacraments administered according to Your command and promise. Amen.
For Ellen Muth, who has suffered a suffered a stroke, that her Lord Jesus Christ would grant her strength, healing, and the peace that surpasses human understanding

For the family of John Schutte, whom the Lord Jesus has taken from this valley of sorrow, that they would grieve as those who have hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come
For the shepherds of the church, that they might ever proclaim the eternal truth of the gospel
For all those who will be joining the adult instruction class at Memorial Lutheran Church for the fall term, that they might be led into all truth
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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