Where is the Church?
Swap around a few words in this post and we have here a thoroughly Biblical retort also to Eastern Orthodoxy’s effort to make certainty of the Holy Spirit’s work coterminus with their communion And these comments lay to rest any notion that we Lutherans claim to be the alone-saving Church! A point apparently which even some Lutheran pastors seem a bit confused about, for when they hear that the Lutheran Church alone teaches the Gospel in its truth and purity [which is true!] they assume this must also mean that a person is declaring the Lutheran Chuch to be the alone-saving Church [which is not true!]. Thanks to Pastor Weedon for encouraging me to post this on my blog site.
To this day the papists seek to keep the people with their Church by telling them: “You know that we are the true Church. No matter what the Church teaches, if you want to be a true disciple of Christ, you must hear the Church. If the Pope decrees that he is infallible, or that Mary was conceived without sin, or that the saints must be adored, you must accept these dogmas. The true Church has set up these dogmas, and it cannot err. If you fall away from the Roman Catholic Church, you fall away from the true Church.” This is the bait with which they hook the people.
Luther continues: “When I had disproved all the arguments against me
with Scripture and thus overcome them, I scarcely succeeded, by the
grace of Christ, in overcoming, with great anxiety, trouble, and labor,
this one final argument, that I must hear the Church. For with all my
heart I was much more in earnest and much more reverent in regarding
the Pope’s Church as the true Church than these abominable and
blasphemous perverters, who are now opposing me boastfully with the
Pope’s Church. If I had despised the Pope as those despise him nowadays
who are praising him highly with their lips, I should have been afraid
to see the earth open and devour me as it did Korah and his mob.”
Luther had already discovered the untenableness of nearly every
papistic teaching, except this one point, which, he says, troubled him
greatly at the beginning and kept him from becoming really assured of
the truth and being cheerful. The papists themselves cooked [Page 343]
the soup which they had to eat later. God’s hour had come for revealing
May God keep you from becoming entangled with this false teaching
concerning the Church, viz., that the Lutheran Church is the true
visible Church of Jesus Christ in the sense that one can be saved only
in this Church! The Lutheran Church is indeed the true visible Church;
however, only in this sense, that it has the pure, unadulterated truth.
As soon as you add the qualification “alone-saving” to the Lutheran
Church, you detract from the doctrine of justification by grace through
faith in Jesus Christ and confound Law and Gospel. May God keep you
from this error for the sake of your own soul and those that will be
entrusted to your care!
Walther, Law and Gospel, p. 342