Trinity Seventeen Sermon 2006
ďTrue Christian UnityĒ
Jesus died on the cross to take
away the sin of the world. On
the third day He rose from the dead.
He then appeared to His disciples and gave them what is called
the Great Commission. He
said to them, ďGo therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all things I have commanded you.Ē
The word ďobserveĒ here means to keep or hold on to.
Jesus taught His 12 disciples many things.
What He taught them He wanted them to teach others.
Those others would teach others and so on and so on and so on to
the very end of the age. The
Great Commission requires of the ministers that they teach the pure
gospel of Christ and administer His sacraments, teaching everything that
Jesus taught. The Great
Commission requires of all Christians that they keep or hold on to
everything that Jesus taught. In
this way the Church remains united.
The spiritual unity that the Holy Spirit establishes within
Christís church is a unity in teaching.
It is unity in the teaching of Jesus.
This establishes the church in the saving truth.
This teaching keeps the church united in the one true faith.
The unity of the Christian
Church is a given. The
church is, by its very nature, one, holy, united, undivided, and
indivisible. It is the
Communion of Saints. Jesus
prayed to His Father in heaven that those who would believe in Him
through the apostlesí word would be one.
Jesus does not have any prayers refused.
There is nothing we Christians can do to establish or create the
unity of the church. This
is the work of the Holy Spirit. We
are to hold on to the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The apostle says:
therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the
calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness,
with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to
keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Two things go together here:
humility and unity. The
unity of the church is fractured by pride.
The apostle urges us toward lowliness, gentleness, and patient
tolerance of one another in love. The
unity of the Spirit is maintained as the word of God is held in esteem
above our own pride. We humble ourselves. It
is in humility that we keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
peace. We set aside our own
personal ambitions while holding on tightly to the true teaching taught
by Jesus and revealed by the Holy Spirit.
There is a popular but false
notion that it is sinful pride to claim to have the truth.
We are told that it is a sign of arrogance to insist on knowing
the truth. When we refuse
to compromise on matters of doctrine we are accused of intolerance and
inflexibility. But when it
comes to what the Holy Spirit has revealed for our faith to receive we
must be intolerant and inflexible.
That is, we have no right to tolerate any other teaching that
what the Spirit of truth teaches us.
We must be tolerant of one anotherís weaknesses and errors.
After all, at the very center of the divine doctrine is the
teaching that God freely forgives us all our sins for Christís sake.
We reflect our faith in this precious truth when we patiently put
up with the faults of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
But putting up with false teaching is not a Christian virtue.
It is an attack on the faith.
There is one body.
The Holy Christian Church is the body of Christ.
There is only one body. There
is only one church. It may
appear that the church is divided into many different churches.
But this is not so. Appearances
can be deceiving. Here is
how we confess the unity of the church in the Large Catechism:
the sum and substance of this phrase: I believe that there is on earth a
little holy flock or community of pure saints under one head, Christ. It
is called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith, mind, and
understanding. It possesses a variety of gifts, yet is united in love
without sect or schism. Of
this community I also am a part and member, a participant and co-partner
in all the blessings it possesses. I was brought to
it by the Holy Spirit and incorporated into it through the fact that I
have heard and still hear Godís Word, which is the first step in
entering it. Lutherís
Large Catechism under the Third Article of the Creed
There is one body and one
Spirit. The Holy Spirit doesnít create a multitude of sects, each
competing with one another. No,
the Spirit of truth unites the church of Christ in the one truth.
There is one body and one Spirit.
All Christians are called to one
hope. Our hope is not in
this world. It is not for a
heaven on earth. The hope
to which we are called is the resurrection of the body, and the life
everlasting. We confess this hope. We
see a dying a decaying world. We
look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
We donít put our trust in human striving for a more perfect
society here on earth. Nowadays
anyone with any political opinions is said to have an ideology.
It is as if there is an ideal solution to every social and
political problem that besets humanity.
But this is not the Christianís confidence.
As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, ďWe have here
no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.Ē
There is one Lord, one faith,
one baptism. Jesus cannot
be divided. He has two
natures, but the divine nature of Jesus cannot be separated from His
human nature. His human nature cannot be separated from His divine nature.
There are not two Jesuses: one divine and the other human.
God became a man. The
Word became flesh. If you
want to know God you must look to this man Jesus.
He is the Lord God. He
is more than a prophet.
Jesus was judged on account of
His divine goodness. Youíve
heard of the cynical expression, ďNo good deed will go unpunished.Ē
Well, thatís not just cynicism.
The reason Jesus was hated was because he did good.
He healed the sick. The
face that He did so on the Sabbath caused fierce opposition from the
Pharisees. They sought
unity on the basis of the law. Christ
offered unity on the basis of the gospel.
When you seek unity on the basis of the law you distort the
churchís very essence. Unity
on the basis of the gospel is genuine.
It comes from the Holy Spirit.
Unity on the basis of the law is always false.
You cannot unite sinners together as one without first getting
rid of their sin. If you
try to impose a unity you will only be imposing a uniformity but the sin
that divides will continue to divide.
But the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit is grounded on the
forgiveness of sins. It is
grounded in Christ, the Lord. He
gave up His life for the church on the cross and in this way redeemed
her, making her holy, and binding her together as one.
Only in forgiveness is the division between sinners removed.
There is one Lord and one faith. There arenít many different and contradictory Christian
faiths. There is only one. The Christian faith is centered in the teaching that God
freely forgives us all of our sins for the sake of the one Lord Jesus
Christ and His living and dying for us.
This one Christian faith is the possession of every single
Christian in the world. Whether
it is faith in the Triune God, the teaching of justification by faith
alone, or confidence in the saving power of Holy Baptism, this Christian
faith is one, indivisible, and the personal possession of all
There is one faith and one
baptism. Faith and baptism
go together. Baptism is
Godís act of joining us to the suffering, death, and resurrection of
Jesus. We cannot separate
faith and baptism. All
Christians are baptized into Christ to form one body.
There is no higher status in the church than to be baptized.
The notion that baptism is the lowest level, after which one can
advance through confirmation, election to some kind of board or
assembly, ordination, and so forth is a carnal corruption of the truth.
Baptism places one into the highest possible status in the
kingdom of God. The one who
boasts of nothing at all but his own baptism boasts of the greatest
wealth anyone could possess, for everyone who has been baptized into
Christ has put on Christ.
Finally, there is one God and
Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all of us
Christians. These prepositions cover every possible circumstance and
relationship. Our Father in
heaven is there with us in our every need and this we know because we
belong to the church. I
donít mean that we belong to this or that congregation.
I mean that we are joined in that mystical union with our God in
which no sin condemns us or keeps us out.
Our unity with God makes us one with each other.
This is Godís doing. True
Christian fellowship doesnít come about by the rigorous application of
certain fellowship principles, as if it is a human achievement.
True Christian fellowship is Godís gift. He gives us this gift as He comes to us in the person of His
Son, fills us with His Spirit, washes us with His washing, unites us in
the true faith, and keeps us trusting in Him until we meet the goal for
which we hope: our eternal home in heaven.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus