Rev. Roy Steward resigns Synod Chairmanship, Rev. John Erickson takes over
reign. Sad to say, it is often the case that disagreements and/or
misunderstandings are part of a new organization. That has been the case
with the LMS-USA also. Thus, Rev. Roy Steward, Altoona, PA, charter member
and cofounder of the LMS-USA, felt the need to resign his synod responsibilities
on August 3, 1997 and his membership on the Subscription Clergy Roster a
few days later.
The Subscription Pastors asked Rev. John Erickson, Chetek, WI, to take over as Synod Chairman. Rev. Jeffrey Iverson, Brooklyn Center, MN, then agreed to take over the responsibilities of Ministerial Secretary which had been held by Rev. Erickson. Official notice was received (dated September 30, 1997) that the Faith and Barley Congregations served by Pastor Steward, have also withdrawn their membership.
Although such things are difficult, the transition has been smooth. The LMS-USA continues to move ahead. Plans are being formed for the Annual Ministerial meeting which will take place in a few months, and for the Annual Conference which will take place again in June (this is a necessary change from the proposed August meeting time set at the last Convention).
Ministerial Chairman, Rev. Ralph Spears, reports quite a number of contacts in recent months from concerned clergy and laity alike. Rev. Erickson has also had a number of contacts. There is real interest in a church body that stands firmly on the Word of God and that holds up the Lutheran Confessions as the correct exposition of the Word.
back to top
Walter Trobisch wrote the following delightful, but brief volume, in 1975.
We are most appreciative to his widow, Ingrid Trobisch, for giving us permission
for this reprint.
Martin Luther had a barber. His name was Peter Beskendorf. One day Master
Peter must have taken the liberty of asking his world-famous customer and
doctor of theology, "Dr. Luther, how do you pray?"
And Martin Luther answered. It was not beneath him to write a long letter to his barber - a letter of forty printed pages! It was published in the spring of 1535, under the title A Simple Way to Pray, for a Good Friend.
It is a precious letter. Not only does it give us deep insight into Martin Luther's personal spiritual life, but at the same time it is a classic example of counseling - competent spiritual counseling. Listen to this opening paragraph.
Dear Master Peter,
I give you the best I have. I tell you how I pray myself. May our Lord God grant you and everyone to do it better.
This is Luther talking to his barber! This is counseling. Luther puts his counselee up and himself down. Humbly he stands under him and therefore "under-stands" him. He places himself in Peter's world, and this enables him to pick up Master Peter where he is.
A good clever barber must have his thoughts, mind and eyes concentrated upon the razor and the beard and not forget where he is in his stroke and shave. If he keeps talking or looking around or thinking of something else, he is likely to cut a man's mouth or nose - or even his throat. So anything that is to be done well ought to occupy the whole man with all his faculties and members. As the saying goes: he who thinks of many things thinks of nothing and accomplishes no good. How much more must prayer possess the heart exclusively and completely if it is to be a good prayer!
Today we call this "empathy" - feeling how someone else feels his life. Here we have a good example of how this can be done in a letter. Do we in our day really appreciate the possibilities of counseling by personal correspondence?
At the same time, this paragraph contains deep comfort for all of us. Luther had the same difficulty in his prayer life as we have - lack of concentration. Here is the first help he offers:
It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business in the morning and the last in the evening. Guard yourself against such false and deceitful thoughts that keep whispering: Wait a while. In an hour or so I will pray. I must first finish this or that. Thinking such thoughts we get away from prayer into other things that will hold us and involve us till the prayer of the day comes to naught.
Luther knew that prayer can come to naught. He knew what it means to live through days of spiritual dryness. Again and again he shares without pretense his own struggle of being distracted by "foreign business and thoughts" and his often-experienced listlessness in praying. He says,
We have to watch out so that we may not get weaned from prayer by fooling ourselves that a certain job is more urgent, which it really isn't - and finally we get sluggish, lazy, cold and weary. But the devil is neither sluggish nor lazy around us.
We feel "under-stood" as Master Peter must have felt "understood." Who of us does not know periods when our quiet time has become an empty, meaningless duty, dreaded and even hated, but in any case boring. And boredom is the deadly enemy of the Holy Spirit.
What suggestions does Luther offer to help us escape from the kingdom of satanic coldness in order to experience anew the atmosphere of the Holy Spirit with its warmth and joy?
Luther believes in a period of "warming up." The expressions "to warm up the heart" until it "comes to itself," "feels like it," "gets in the mood" occur several times in his letter. Actually the whole letter is nothing but detailed and practical instruction on how to "warm up the heart" before the Bible study starts, and it ends with the statement, "The one who is trained [in this warming-up practice] will well be able to use a chapter of Scripture as a lighter [Feuerzung - the same word used in modern German for a pocket lighter] to kindle a fire in his heart."
For such a "warming-up prayer," the bodily posture seems to be important to Luther. Evidently he does not believe in sitting down. "Kneel down or stand up with folded hands and eyes towards the sky." Then he warns, "Watch out that you don't take too much upon yourself, lest your spirit get tired. A good prayer need not be long or drawn out, but rather it should be frequent and ardent."
And its content? Your personal needs and concerns? Oh no! Luther answers: Start with the commandments! Luther prays the Ten commandments! Not that he rattles them off one by one. As a former Catholic priest, he has a lot to say against "heaping up empty phrases" (Mt. 6:7), against chattering, babbling and prattling. He calls it zerklappern, which means literally "to rattle something to pieces."
To avoid this danger Luther takes just one commandment at a time, "in order that my mind becomes as uncluttered as possible for prayer." To formulate a free prayer in his own words, he shares with Master Peter his personal method:
Out of each commandment I make a garland of four twisted strands. That is, I take each commandment first as a teaching, which is what it actually is, and I reflect upon what our Lord God so earnestly requires of me here. Secondly, I make out of it a reason for thanksgiving. Thirdly, a confession and fourthly, a prayer petition.
Then Luther takes the trouble - and the time - to go through all ten commandments and to write out for his barber such a "garland of four twisted strands" as an example for each commandment. What a counselor!
For example, Luther writes the following about the seventh commandment, "You shall not steal":
First I learn here that I shall not take my neighbor's property nor possess it against his will, neither secretly nor openly; that I shall not be unfaithful or false in my bargaining, my service and work lest what I gain should belong to me only as a thief; but I shall earn my food with the sweat of my brow and shall eat my own bread with all those who are faithful. At the same time I shall help my neighbor so that his property is not taken away from him through such actions as mentioned above....
Secondly, I thank God for his faithfulness and goodness in that He has given me and all the world such a good teaching and through it protection and shelter. For unless He protects us, not one penny nor one bite of bread would remain in the house.
Thirdly, I confess my sin and ungratefulness, there where I have wronged someone and cheated him or where during my life, I was unfaithful in keeping my word.
Fourthly, I ask that God may give grace so that I and all the world might learn His commandment and think about it and improve. I pray that there may be less stealing, robbing, exploiting, embezzling and injustice. I also pray that such evils may soon end when the day of judgment comes. This is the goal to which the prayers of all Christians and of all creation are directed (Rom. 8:22).
This is praying according to Martin Luther. We see that it is not just petitioning, reciting and speaking. It is learning, meditating, searching and thus acquiring the perspective of eternity.
What next? When you are through with the commandments, Luther says, take the Lord's Prayer and do the same thing. Take one petition at a time - and maybe one is enough for a day - and twist the four strands for your garland. Again he describes to Master Peter how he does it petition by petition.
In this context, Luther calls the Lord's Prayer the "greatest martyr on earth, tortured and abused by everyone." But when he prays it in his garland-way, he says, "I suck on it like a nursing baby and I drink and eat it like an aged man and can never become satisfied."
And when he has "time and leisure," after the Lord's Prayer, Luther continues by taking up the Apostles' Creed, statement by statement, praying it in the same way.
Concerning the "First article about creation," Luther writes:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. First of all, if you allow it to happen, a great light shines here into your heart and teaches you in a few words something which could never be expressed in all languages, nor described in many books, namely: what you are, where you come from, where heaven and earth come from. You are God's creature, God's making and work. This means by yourself and in yourself you are nothing - you can do nothing, know nothing and are not able to do anything. For what were you a thousand years ago? What was heaven and earth six thousand years ago? Absolutely nothing, just as that which will never be created is nothing. Therefore, everything you are, everything you know and everything you are able to do is God's work, His creation, as you confess it here with your mouth. This is why you have nothing to boast about before God, except that you are nothing and that He is your creator and He is able to annihilate you at any time. Reason in itself does not arrive at such insight. Many learned people have tried to understand what heaven and earth, man and creature are. They have found nothing. Here however it says: The creed teaches that God has created everything out of nothing. Here is the paradise of the soul where it may go for a walk in God's creation. But it would take too long to write more about this.
Secondly, one should give thanks here that through God's goodness we have been created out of nothing and we are kept alive daily out of nothing as a delicate creature which has body, soul, reason, five senses etc.... And He has made us lords over the earth, fish, the birds, the animals. This refers to Genesis 1,2 and 3.
Thirdly, one should confess and be sorry about our unbelief and ungratefulness, because we have not thought about them nor really recognized them. So we have actually done worse than the animals who have no reason.
Fourthly, we should pray for the right and certain faith so that in the future we can seriously believe in the dear God and hold Him up as our Creator, as this article teaches.
It is obvious that Luther finds the Creed a helpful touchstone for meditation and for worship. These thoughts he shares with his barber may serve well as a model for our own.
At one point, however, Luther interrupts his explanation and shares with his counselee the following experience:
It often happens that I lose myself in such rich thoughts [literally, "that my thoughts go for a walk"] in one petition of the Lord's Prayer and then I let all other six petitions go. When such rich good thoughts come, one should let the other prayers go and give room to these thoughts, listen to them in silence and by no means suppress them. For here the Holy Spirit himself is preaching and one word of His sermon is better than thousands of our own prayers. Therefore I have often learned more in one prayer than IÊcould have obtained from much reading and thinking.
Thus we see that to Luther praying does not mean just talking. It also means being silent and listening. To him prayer is not a one-way road. It works both ways. Not only is he talking to God, but God is talking to him - and the latter is the most important part of prayer.
This is exactly what we should expect to happen in our Bible study - that God talks to us. Bible study is prayer. Therefore what Luther says about prayer can be applied to our Bible study and provide us with a tremendously helpful method for making a Bible passage meaningful to our personal life. The suggestion is to proceed verse by verse and make out of each verse a garland of four twisted strands.
By changing the order a bit and putting that which God requires at the end, many Christians are enriched in their quiet time by asking themselves these four questions about a text:
1. What am I grateful for? (Thanksgiving)
2. What do I regret? (Confession)
3. What should I ask for? (Prayer concerns)
4. What shall I do? (Action)
Again let us heed Luther's warning:
Don't take too much upon yourself lest the spirit should get tired.... It is sufficient to grasp one part of a Bible verse or even half a part from which you can strike a spark in your heart... for [and this is one of the deepest insights Luther shares with his barber] the soul, if it is directed towards one single thing, may it be bad or good, and if it is really serious about it, can think more in one moment than the tongue can speak in ten hours and the pen can write in ten days. Such a dexterous, exquisite and mighty instrument is the soul or spirit.
Therefore the quantity of Bible verses one reads is not decisive. It may be more fruitful to take a passage of a few verses and shake each verse like the branches of a tree until some fruit falls down. This will change Bible study from a boring duty to an exciting adventure.
It is advisable to apply each question strictly to the text at first. What is in this text which makes me thankful? What is in this text which corrects me, challenges me to change and leads me to repentance? Which prayer concerns does the text - not my own wishes - offer me? What is in this text which causes me to take action?
An answer will not be found every time to all these questions. Often the answers are interlocked. That which calls me to repentance may become my main prayer concern for the day and even may call me to an action of restitution or apology.
On the other hand, while the text should be a feeder for our thoughts, it should not be a restriction or boundary line for them. In thinking through these questions again, we can extend them into the experiences of our daily life, thinking also of the small things which make us thankful - a day of sunshine, a friendly greeting, a beautiful flower or a good letter which we have received. We may think of something which we should not have said. People may come to our minds for whom we should pray especially on this day. In answering the fourth question, we can plan the schedule of the day ahead of us and thus discover a very practical answer to the problem with which so many Christians struggle in vain - the problem of how to find God's guidance.
From Luther's testimony in this letter, it is evident that he believed firmly that God would speak to him through his thoughts, when the "heart is warmed up" and "has come to itself in the atmosphere of the commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed." "The Spirit will and must grant this and will go on teaching in your heart if it is conformed to God's Word and freed from foreign concerns and thoughts."
However, he gives a practical advice to his friend which should not be forgotten. He tells Master Peter to have his quiet time with pen and paper at hand to note down what God tells him:
I repeat again what I said above when I talked to you about the Lord's Prayer: If the Holy Spirit should come when these thoughts are in your mind and begin to preach to your heart, giving you rich and enlightened thoughts, then give Him the honor, let your preconceived ideas go, be quiet and listen to Him who can talk better than you; and note what He proclaims and write it down, so will you experience miracles as David says: "Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" (Ps. 119:18).
Indeed, those who get used to the discipline of having their quiet time with a notebook are not likely to ever give it up. What makes our devotional life so unattractive and boring is the fact that each day, every one of us has just about the same kind of general vague pious thoughts. This causes monotony. Our thoughts remain distant and abstract and do not come to grips with our concrete daily life. The writing down, as Luther suggests, is a form of the incarnation of God's Word. It becomes tangible, visible and concrete. It forces us to be precise, definite and particular. Monotony is replaced by variety and surprise. Taking notes enables us also to check whether we have carried out what we planned in the morning. A Chinese proverb says, "The palest ink is stronger than the strongest memory."
Writing down what God has told us is also a great help in sharing when meeting with our prayer partner - also for decision-making in marriage. My wife and I agree on the same text for daily Bible study. This is especially helpful in periods when we are separated. When we meet again we can read to each other what we have written down in our quiet times - and experience "wondrous things."
It may take a little practice. Just as in preparing for a sports event, a warming-up is necessary in order to do one's best, so also is a "warming-up training" of the heart indispensable for our spiritual life. Martin Luther uses precisely these terms. It takes training and practice to discern our own ideas from God's thoughts. When you open the faucet in a new building, brownish liquid may come out at first. But if you have patience and let it run long enough, clear water will appear.
We can experience the same thing in our quiet time. If our praying changes from talking into being silent and our being silent changes into listening, the voice of the Good Shepherd will come through unequivocally, unambiguously and plainly.
The Spirit will and must grant this, if your heart is conformed to God's Word.
back to top
Part One - Dispensationalism
by Pastor Mark Dankof
His square jaw and piercing eyes remain as a vivid memory in my mind from
that sun drenched day in the summer of 1984 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when
the greatest orthodox theologian of the twentieth century gazed intently
at two recent graduates of Trinity Evangelical Divinity Synod who had expressed
interest in confessionally Lutheran post graduate work under his auspices.
"I'm thinking of writing another major book," he intoned, "which would critique
all of the movements in modern Protestant evangelicalism which undermine
a Lutheran understanding of the Theology of the Cross. It would include
Dispensationalism, Pietism, Revivalism, and the Charismatic Movement. But
I need a title which would sell people on even reading the table of contents.
Got any ideas?"
My Trinity colleague took a breath and paused. Finally, taking a risk that Robert Preus would appreciate theological and marketing satire, I opined, "What about the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'?" The great Champion of Orthodoxy suddenly beamed and slapped his palm on top of his desk. "That's great! Every enthusiast in the country would buy it!" And so began one of the most delightful and memorable times of my adult life, talking with a living legend for an entire afternoon, who had set his teaching and publishing schedule aside for the purpose of counseling and assisting two theological students of merely mortal intellectual gifts and limitations, who at least knew a giant when they saw one.
Robert Preus went to be with his Lord on November 4,1995. He never penned "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", a loss to the entire Church in the midst of the most compelling doctrinal crisis in Christendom since the Protestant Reformation. In the aftermath of his passing from this temporal life, the hooves of the "Four Horsemen" continue to beat rapidly both outside and within American Lutheranism, threatening Nicaca, Ephesus, Chalcedon, and the sixteenth century Confessions that Dr. Preus loved and dedicated his life to with incessant faithfulness, devotion, and intellectual integrity. It is in this context that Table Talk, in this sequence of four articles, examines each of the "Horsemen" threatening the Theology of the Cross, beginning with the specter of Dispensationalism.
The definitive critique of Dispensational thought is to be found in Prophecy and the Church, by Dr. Oswald T. Allis, who taught in the Department of Semitic Philology at Princeton Theological Seminary for nineteen years, and later, at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia for seven years. In its distinctively prophetic aspects, Dr. Allis identifies on pages 8 and 9 of his opus, nine definitive characteristics of Dispensationalism, which are as follows:
1. The millennium is that future period of human history during which Christ will reign personally and visibly with His saints on and over the earth for a thousand years.
2. A visible coming of Christ will precede it.
3. This coming will be in two stages, the rapture and the appearing, with a considerable interval of time between them, in which important events will take place.
4. The rapture may take place at "any moment", and will certainly precede the great tribulation.
5. The rapture is the "blessed hope" of the Church.
6. The Church is composed of those, and those only, who are saved between Pentecost and the rapture.
7. The Church Age is a mystery period (a parenthesis dispensation unknown to prophecy), lying between the 69th and 70th weeks of the prophecy of Daniel 9.
8. Between the rapture and the appearing, the events of the last week of the prophecy of Daniel 9, of Matthew 24, and of Revelation 4-19 are to take place.
9. After the rapture a Jewish remnant will take the place of the Church as God's agent on earth for the conversion of Israel and the Gentiles.
In examining these various points of Dispensationalism by comparison to Lutheran orthodoxy, it is essential to grasp the decisive differences between the two systems of thought regarding the relation of kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament to the New Testament Church, the nature of the kingdom of God itself, the allegation of Dispensationalism that the Church is but a "Mystery Parenthesis" phenomenon in history unknown to the Old Testament prophets and an interruption of God's fulfillment of promises to ethnic Israel, and the notion espoused by Lewis Sperry Chafer and other Dispensationalists that, subsequent to the Church Age, there is to be a "regathering of ethnic Israel and the reestablishment of Judaism" (emphasis mine - - see Chafer, "Dispensationalism", page 413). When these differences are understood, it will become unmistakably clear that Dispensationalism, largely a historical phenomenon of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries originating with Edward Irving, J. N. Darby, and Cyrus Scofield, is a direct threat to the heart of Lutheran theology, the Theology of the Cross (theologia crucis).
An example of these distinctions is classically outlined in the Dispensational understanding of the prophecy of 70 weeks in Daniel 9: 24-27. Like the more traditional exegetical understanding of the passage, Dispensationalism agrees that the seventy weeks represent weeks of years, totaling 490 years; that only one period of weeks is described, as is proved by the fact that the subdivisions (7+62+1) when added together total 70; that the "anointed one, the prince" of verse 25 and the "anointed one" of verse 26 are the same person, the Messiah; and that the first 69 weeks or 483 years had their terminal point in the period of the First Advent of Christ, their fulfillment being past. There are, however, two crucial departures between the Dispensational and traditional interpretations, regarding whether or not the events of verse 24 have been fulfilled, or are yet future, and whether or not the 70th week of the prophecy (totaling 7 years), is past or future.
Dispensationalism insists that verse 24, with its reference "to make an end of sins" dictates that the fulfillment of this prophecy is yet future, that the phrase implies the complete eradication of moral evil from the world. But this definition and understanding are not mandated by the text. The emphasis on verse 26, as Allis shows, on the atonement of Christ, may properly indicate that "to make an end of sins" in verse 24, is logically a reference to the same event. The real reason for the insistence of Dispensationalism that verse 24 has a future fulfillment, is that logically, if the fulfillment of the prophecy is incomplete, and if the predictions relating to the 69 weeks had their fulfillment centuries ago, then the 70th week must be yet future. There would be then, a parenthesis or interval between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th, which would govern the Church Age. And the events of the 70th week would have their culmination in God's separate redemptive plan for the Jew outside of the Christian Church.
The Dispensational understanding of the kingdom also comes into play in its interpretation of this passage. Historically, its adherents argued that the 69th week ended with the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, and that the cutting off of Messiah was not in the 70th week of Daniel's prophecy. The claimed absence of reference of many Dispensationalists to Calvary as the culminating event of Daniel's prophecy is not an accident - - for in their understanding of the kingdom, they perceive like Scofield, that the "kingdom of heaven" (which Scofield claims is distinct from the "kingdom of God" governed by grace and the Cross for the Church Age) is a Jewish, Davidic kingdom to be established in power, a political kingdom promised to David, which according to Scofield, entered the New Testament era "unchanged". Scofield goes on to say that the kingdom was announced as "at hand" from the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist to the "virtual rejection of the King." And that John and Jesus were proclaiming an "at hand" kingdom of Davidic dynasty and greatness that would not have required the cross had the Jews accepted Jesus' earthly, Jewish kingdom pronouncements during his First Advent and earthly ministry. Then it was postponed until a future time, when its form will be Jewish and millennial, "the kingdom to be set up after the return of the King in glory". During the millennial reign, Dispensationalisin argues, the ancient Jewish sacrificial system will be reestablished, the Temple for the sacrifices will be rebuilt, the Mosaic law will be reestablished, and Levitical sacrifices and feasts will be reinstituted as "memorials".
The traditional understanding of Daniel 9, by contrast, fits logic and gives conclusions which do not contradict the clear meaning of Scripture elsewhere. In this view, verse 24 of Daniel 9 is a prophecy of the "satisfaction of Christ" of "His obedience and sufferings, by virtue of which the sinner obtains forgiveness and acceptance with God" (Allis, page 114). The words "to finish transgression and to make an end of sins and to make reconciliation for iniquity", are to be understood as referring to that atonement for sin which was a once and for all, completely and fully accomplished act of God in Jesus Christ on the Cross. As Allis points out this interpretation squares with Hebrews 10:12-14 and 2 Timothy 1:10, where Paul says that Jesus has "abolished death". Daniel's "everlasting righteousness" references the provision for all the redeemed through the active and passive obedience of Christ. Prophecy was "sealed" in the authenticating acts of Jesus Christ in history and the ceasing of prophetic gifts with the close of the apostolic age. The 69th week thus ends with the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist and the baptism of Christ -- and the 70th week followed immediately upon it. As a result, the "cutting off" of the Anointed One which occurred "after the threescore and two weeks" must be regarded as having taken place in the 70th week. This is the meaning of "in the midst of the week, he (the Messiah) shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease". In other words, Jesus Christ, by His death, would put to an end the Jewish ritual of sacrifice, which squares with the claim of Hebrews in the New Testament which says that Jesus is provided as a once and for all sacrifice for sin, God substituting for bulls and goats "a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they." Is it credible then, to do what Dispensationalism does, in arguing that the Mosaic law and Levitical sacrificial system, which traditional orthodoxy and Scripture says were mere types of Christ, will be reinstituted on earth at a later time in history during a literal millennial reign of the Lord on earth? Is it credible, in the case of Daniel 9, to say as Dispensationalism does that the first 69 weeks of the prophet's revelation follow in immediate chronological order from. 445 B.C. to the First Advent, but that there is at least a 2000 year parenthesis between week 69 and week 70? Is it credible to defend the parenthesis theory by advocating a "ticking clock" of God which represents "Jewish time", whereby the Church Age is a parenthetical "time out"; that God only counts time in dealing with Israel, when the people are "in the land" and "governed by God"? Particularly when Israel was still in the land for nearly 40 years (to A.D. 70) after the clock stopped ticking? How could the "Jewish time clock" of Dispensationalism have been ticking between 445 B.C. and 30 A.D., the time frame of Daniel's prophecy in chapter 9? Was Israel always "in the land" and "governed by God" during this era? Dispensationalism itself says no, dating the beginning of the "times of the Gentiles" from Nebuchadnezzar's destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. to 1948 A.D.!
A Lutheran understanding of the kingdom, by contrast, recognizes that the nature of the kingdom established by Christ is spiritual, universal, and centers in the Cross. It is a kingdom of the New Birth (John 3: 3, 5), with a Messiah who appeals not to kingdom prophecies, but to works of mercy, healing, love, and ultimate sacrifice. It is a kingdom which is "not of this world" (John 18:36). It is a kingdom encompassing both Jew and Gentile on a world wide basis (John 1:19-4:45; Galatians 3:28: Romans 4), devoid of nationalistic and political overtones. The sacrificial death of Christ is a once and for all expiatory offering for the sins of all of humanity - the reinstitution of Mosaic law and the Levitical sacrificial system at a later time in history presently postponed, would detract from the efficacy of the propitiatory death of Christ (Romans 3) and the centrality of the meaning of Calvary in history (Hebrews).
Just as Dispensationalism ignores the typical and preparatory character of the Old Testament dispensation, so its "Mystery Parenthesis" doctrine of the Church Age ignores the centrality of the Church in God's redemptive plan in history, as the chief instrument of Gospel proclamation and administration of the Sacraments, and as an entity known to the Prophets (as proven by a plethora of verses from the sweep of Luke's record in Acts; Hebrews 8: 8-12 and its references to Jeremiah 31 and Galatians 3: 13-29; Paul's usage of Hosea 2:23 and 1210 in Romans 9: 25-26; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Paul's doctrine of the "mystery" of the Church in Ephesians 3:1-6; I Peter 2:9-10; and the relationship of John 19:37 to Zechariah 12:10 as merely a few examples to be cited.) Dr. Allis cites the dangers of this ignorance on pages 258 and following;
The Church is not a mystery in the sense that it is an unexpected and temporary interruption of the prophetic program for Israel. It does not interrupt it unfolds and fulfills that program. The Great Commission is not reserved for a Jewish remnant of the end time. It has been the marching orders of the Church for nigh two thousand years. It authorizes and requires the offering of salvation to all men. The wall of separation between Jew and Gentile has been broken down. The limitations and peculiarities of Judaism have been done away. They have been done away not for the time being only, but for ever. They are never to be restored. There is a great and glorious future for the Jews. But that future is to be found in and through the Christian Church. For there is but one olive tree. All the true seed of Abraham (both Jew and Gentle) are or will be in it and partake of its fatness. Unbelieving Israelites were cast off; believing Gentiles were grafted in; they will remain in it unless they fall away in unbelief; and finally "all Israel" will be saved by being grafted back into the one and only true olive tree. There is no distinctively Jewish age for the Jew to look forward to. Salvation is of the Jews. But the blessing of Abraham is now fully come; and the Gentiles are blessed with faithful Abraham." Old things are become new; and the old are passed away forever. Whether the Jews are to return to the earthly Canaan is a mailer of relatively little importance. That they may become citizens of the holy city, the New Jerusalem, is the only thing that really matters . . . The hope of the world is not in the restoration of Judaism. The hope of the world is in the world-wide proclamation of that gospel of the Cross of Christ which is "unto Jews a stumbling block and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."
Written in memory of
Dr. Robert D. Preus,
this 4th day of November
in the year of our Lord, 1997.
back to top
by Rev. Ralph Spears
Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
The nature of our life together is one of the most important concerns of any church body and yet one often given little consideration, caught as it is among items which seem more pressing, such as constitutions, agendas and superficial interactions between members.
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity", is not just an aimless desire or hoped for outcome of the community of fellowship; in the light of the Gospel, such "unity" should be the aim of a carefully nurtured fellowship within the community. For inevitably, it will directly affect everything else -including how we treat others outside of the body and minister to them which is that "other half" of - the whole purpose of the church.
Did not Jesus save his "new commandment" until almost the very last, further highlighting its importance to the Church? "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
And the direct outcome of this [agape] love, further underlined its centrality to our life together - "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, If You Love One Another." (Jn. 13:34 & 35)
Why is it that we too often fail to take such "gems" as the centrality of the Gospel - albeit as a "nice sounding window dressing" - in favor of supposedly meatier subjects for the theological diet of distinctions and analysis?
A great "test" of this truth, is when a member brother or sister of our Community insists on expressing real love by word or deed - and something within us immediately recognizes this as having - most importance.
Truly the Love of Christ within and without the Community makes everything else adiaphora (of less importance) in its presence.
Oddly, these days we have all but conceded the whole realm of the importance of personal relationships to popular psychologists, when by far, the WORD has the most to offer.
Popular studies have isolated the male of the species from the female invoking, the planets Mars and Venus. While other studies have further separated sub groups of the family of man from each other only magnifying differences which already exist.
Nearly every month now there is a new offering from one of these "print gurus" which makes it to the top ten of book sales.
We witness tens of thousands of men "alone" in a football stadium supposedly strengthening promises made to the whole community and themselves.
There are "millions of men" marching and lately "millions of women" gathering also. And the question remains, is this helping or is it subtlety doing further damage to the differences already obvious among us?
In this "age of the enlightened 90's" people arm themselves with self-defense courses and guns for protection and take new miracle drugs so that they might feel better about the depression that loneliness brings. And, it seems O.K. somehow !
The Treatise on "Community" the first of five brief chapters by Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book "Life Together" begins with those same opening words of Psalm 133, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity !" What a contrast to the state of mankind who finds it difficult to call anyone "brother" today!
Many have recognized Bonhoef-fer's simple and incisive analysis of Christian Community as one of, if not the greatest of all "Pastoral" documents for two reasons. First, it focuses on the love of Jesus Christ as the basis and definition of all Christian fellowship; AND, these ideas were forged within the clandestine community in exile which functioned under the very nose of Hitler's Germany on the outside, until Pastor Bonhoeffer's arrest five years later in 1943.
Sometimes even as Christians today, we would rather feel safe by being alone and independent, lessening the possibility of hurt and the need for human contact with others.
But "Christianity means community through Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this", says Bonhoeffer.
"We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ." Even when alone the Christian is "defined" by the fellowship, because, "the strength of aloneness and the strength of the fellowship is solely the strength of the Word of God, which is addressed to the individual IN the fellowship."
Just as it is nearly impossible to be an independent Christian so it is nearly impossible to be an independent Christian body even an independent Confessional Lutheran Church. For we are defined in fellowship that is, in both speaking and hearing the Word with others, which Bonhoeffer calls, "the community of Spirit".
We need each other and we are needed by them. "The community of Spirit is the fellowship of those who are called by Christ;" - - where "burns the bright love of brotherly service, agape" says Pastor Bonhoeffer, and where "the Word of God alone rules".
He carefully makes the distinction between a human community and even a human love (which he says, cannot love an enemy) much like those groups mentioned above, and Community of Spirit with a completely different dynamic of fellowship rooted in agape - others first - Love - born of God!
Only this latter LOVE can bring the full measure of meaning in; "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like precious oil poured upon the head."
Human love would chose the place of honor at the Messianic feast and long for a "seat" at the right hand or even the left of Jesus. But Our Lord uses the occasion of such request by James and John as an important lesson, that the only hierarchy to be recognized is the one of Service born of this Divine Love and not of the aspiration of human love for some temporary glory.
Perhaps to some, this is a rather subtle difference but VERY important to any church body. Because, at this very point many problems of confused status and service begin and remain. "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mk. 9:35 NIV).
This Jesus said in response to an argument about who was greatest. But it flared again (Mk. 10:37) with that special request of James and John. Although he could not give them a seat in the kingdom, He could guarantee that they would "drink His cup" and be 'baptized into death like His' as their cost of Apostleship.
Indeed James was the first and John the last, of the twelve (except Judas) to so follow Him in His baptism into death.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer appears to have understood this well, for his courageous decisions were rooted in this which he wrote at about the same time as Life Together; "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."
And so it is true for ANY who would "Take up their cross and follow Him" for so is our life together also, under the Word.
Pastor Bonhoeffer says, "now we can rightly interpret the words 'in unity' and say, 'for brethren to dwell together THROUGH Christ.' For Jesus Christ alone is our unity, 'He is our peace.' Through Him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another." (Life Together, pg. 39)
The Gospel is actualized in the Church in this higher love, for it is Christ's Body! And this in turn brings true fellowship. And this fellowship fosters trust. And this trust strengthens the whole Body.
Next month the Remarkable Gifts of the Community of Spirit!
back to top
Due to changes mentioned above, we have received word that some individuals
would maybe wish to be removed from our Table Talk mailing list. However,
we do not wish to remove anyone from our list who does not wish to be removed.
We are asking, therefore, if you want your name removed, please inform us
of the same.
You can inform us of your wishes by phone (just leave a message if no one is there) 715-924-2552, or you can fax your request to the same number. Or, you can drop a postcard to:
P. O. Box 31
Chetek, WI 54728
Or, you can do so via the internet to:
On the other hand - if you know of persons, clergy or lay, or maybe it is a church or a school, who/that would appreciate being on our mailing list, please send that information to us in one of the ways listed above.
back to top
St. Matthew Lutheran
2837 E. New York St
back to top
While we have not asked for subscriptions to this publication , or to the
work of the LMS-USA, we have received gifts to help in the work of our church
body. These gifts have been a real encouragement and are much appreciated.
The purpose of this notice is only to ask that if and when contributions are sent, that they be sent to the current treasurer:
% Christ Lutheran Church
P. O. Box 31
Chetek, WI 54728-0031
back to top
As in past years, we want to make the presentations at our Indianapolis
conference available to those who are not able to attend in person. We also
want the presentations available for further, as well as for future, study.
This past June, Professor Kurt Marquart was our main presenter. Although
his actual presentations are not in print (they are on tape) the material
he presented in his lectures is in print in "CHURCH GROWTH" AS MISSION PARADIGM,
A Lutheran Assessment. This book by Professor Marquart has been published
by Our Savior Lutheran Church, in Houston, Texas.
You can acquire a copy by contacting Our Savior Lutheran at --- or call, 1-713-290-9087. Cost is very reasonable... around $5.00.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. Two Paradigms Described
2. The "Church Growth" Paradigm
B. Two Paradigms Compared
2. Gospel Ministry or Lay Self-Service - with "Gifts"?
3. Cultus and Culture: Liturgy or karaoke?
4. Confessional Church or Generic Pop-Protestantism?
C. What Now?
back to top
Luther's knowledge of the Scripture kept him from any thought regarding a
millennial glory of the church before the end of time. The following is from
a sermon of November 2, 1539, on Matthew 24:8-13.
[Ewald Plass, What Luther Says. St. Louis: Concordia, 1959. p. 284, #836]
... This false notion is lodged not only in the apostles (Acts 1:6), but
also in the chiliasts,1 Valentinians,2 and Tertullians,3 who have played
the fool with the idea that before the Judgement Day the Christians alone
will possess the earth and that there will be no ungodly. And what moved
them to harbor this idea is this, that the ungodly are so fortunate in the
world, possess kingdoms and worldly authority, wisdom, and power, while the
Christians are of no account in comparison with them. So they thought: Surely,
all the ungodly will be rooted out so that the pious may live in peace.
back to top
The word, to worship, means to stoop and bow down the body with external
gestures; to serve in the work. But to worship God in spirit is the service
and honour of the heart; it comprehends faith and fear in God. The worshipping
of God is twofold, outward and inward - that is, to acknowledge God's benefits,
and to be thankful unto him.
back to top