In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Lord says that the apostles will be put out of the churches, that is, the synagogues. Whoever kills them will think he is offering a service to God, which is to say, the murderers will not come from outside the Church but from within it. We should note this. Because we often hear the lament that the Church fights too much and Christians are surprised that Christians behave badly toward one another.
The Church fights too much, because we are the Church Militant. That is what Militant means. We are not the Church Triumphant. We have not yet been relieved. We are the Fighting Church. Heresies must come. You will have tribulations. No one gets out of this alive.
Satan brings his most powerful arms to bear from inside the Church. Remember that his most effective deception is to dress in sheep’s clothing. That is why someone like Richard Dawkins or Wicca are not really much of a threat. They are obvious. We can see them for what they are.
We are the fighting Church. We must fight. Why is this so hard to swallow? Why do we think we should live in a utopia where all the Christians teach the same thing and are nice to one another? The Church at the time of Our Lord was not like that. The Church at the time of the Apostles was not like that. They were severely divided. They fought like cats and dogs. They endured lying politicians and heretics. Sp also our current fighting has been clearly foretold. So why do we act so surprised?
It is because thereis something in us that wants what is good and longs for heaven. We rightly desire something of the beatific vision now. We want the peace God promises, the love that will show the world we are the disciples of Jesus. We want to be doers of the Word, gentle and kind to all, who live in grace and forgiveness, and not those in constant contention and strife. We want Easter, and are tired of Good Friday.
We need to be forewarned. There is a danger of satanic twisting here. We can want part of the good, to the exclusion of the Giver. We want to take the things that are convenient and leave behind the things we are ashamed of. But you cannot parcel up God. The problem is not so much with what we want, peace and harmony and so forth, but that we fail to recognize it hasn’t yet been given, and that Christian unity is not a product of the Church but the gift of the Holy Spirit. We cannot create it by forcing ourselves to be nicer. We can sacrifice the truth of God’s Word. But that will not create true unity either. That is just vanity and a crass attempt to steal what has not been given. Christian Unity comes by the Word of God as a gift of the Holy Spirit, when and where He wills it.
The time will come when you will enjoy full Christian unity. No one will put you out of heaven. And no one in heaven will try to kill you, or slander you, or tell lies about you and what you believe, and think it is a service to God. You will be transferred to the Church Triumphant. In that day, uou will ask Jesus for nothing. All heresies and schisms, all vanity and selfishness, all denominations and power struggles, will end.
But not yet. Now they will do all those things to you, as they did them to the apostles before you, and it will hurt. You have tribulations. Heresies must come. They bring with them shame. Who is proud and happy about the divisions in the Christian Church? Who here rejoices at the burden of closed communion? Who gladly goes and tells his relatives he believes in a six-day creation, knowing they will think that means he is backwards, a bigot, and stupid. We live now with heresies, divisions, even as the Church was rent apart at the time of Our Lord. They hurt. They are difficult to bear. But do not think them strange be surprised that the Church fights, that we are so riddled through with denominations and even bicker non-stop within our own church body. The Lord has told you these things beforehand that you would not stumble, so that you would not be deceived and slump into despair, that you would not become ashamed of the Church Militant. The Church Militant is simply the embodiment of her people. What you struggle with and against inside yourself as a baptized and forgiven Christian who still abides in this fallen flesh, the Church Militant knows as an institution. She has two natures, one forgiven and clean and one fallen. The Lord has told you things in advance, that you would not be seduced by the lying prophets who cry, “peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
We fight, in the first place, because it is important. The confession we make matters. To confess false things about God, for any reason, even to preach false things about God for the sake of peace or unity, is blasphemy. It is a damnable offense. But we also fight because false teaching about God misleads people and plays into the devil’s hand. False doctrine undermines the doctrine of Christ or it is not really a doctrine, it is just an error. If you claim that Genesis is spelled with two n’s, you’re not a heretic. You just got a detail wrong. But if you claim that Jonah wasn’t actually swallowed by a great fish but that he just made up that story as an allegory and then lied about it, then you confound Our Lord’s use of that event as a foreshowing of His own resurrection and you bring the veracity of all of Scriptures, and thereby the Gospel itself, into doubt. That is not tolerable. That has to be fought against. We do not hold to our doctrine out of some obsessive compulsion to control the world or have everything dress right dress and orderly. We do not break fellowship or fight over technicalities or personalities. We fight for, and suffer for, the doctrine of God’s love in Christ Jesus that creates faith in men and saves them.
Everyone knows this, even when they won’t admit it. Those who disagree with us and say that we are splitting hairs could put an instant stop to it. They could just do it, or say it, our way. If it is really splitting hairs, why don’t they just give in? Because they think it is important and that we are terrible. We should recognize that insult as a red herring and not be shamed by them. They think what we are doing or saying is actually harmful or dangerous and they can’t condone it. But they want to make light of it. They want to pretend that they are nicer than us, more interested in peace and unity. They don’t want to admit that their doctrine is also important to them.
It is tiresome. Our fallen flesh is weak. Who hasn’t become disheartened at times, ashamed of the
Church and her constant fighting? In such moments it is hard to not to fear that you have gone too far, put your hope in the wrong things, or wonder if it is all just a lie. When that happens, look to the objective reality of God’s love in Christ Jesus on the cross. The question to ask is not, “have I been pure?” but, “Has Jesus laid down His life for me? Am I baptized? Does He forgive?” The answer is yes.
Your comfort will never come from men, not even from the Church. It will come from above. It does not matter if President Kieschnick or the bishop, Petersen or Wenthe, approve of you. What matters is that Jesus has died for you, has paid for your sins, has risen from the dead for your justification, has ascended to the Father to pave your way into heaven, and sends His Holy Spirit to testify to you of this. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, on your part He is glorified. You are baptized. You are loved. You are forgiven. The LCMS might hit and iceberg or implode from too many gassy theologians showing off for one another, your wife might leave you, you might be fired, people might think you are stupid for believing God created the world in six days, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Jesus has died for you. No one can put you out of heaven. He loves and remembers you. He will see you through.
How do you know? The Holy Spirit testifies. Where? In the Apostolic Word, written and preached. For the Spirit has proceeded from the Father and the Son to the Apostles to testify of Jesus, and the apostles bear witness to Him. The Holy Spirit does His work through the apostles and the apostolic ministry. In this He is constant: He delivers peace, creates faith, and encourages believers. We don’t need to call Him down upon the bread and wine. He comes of His own accord in the words of Jesus to deliver Jesus’ peace-bestowing Body and Blood to His people.
His people receive, arms are strong again, hearts are brave. Your day will come. Jesus has overcome the world for you. He is the victor over death. Soon you too will be triumphant and ascend to the place prepared for you.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.