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Fellowship Divine

Klebe W. Brumble

1999 Synod Convention Essay

The tasks of this essay are two: (1) to edify the saints of God in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod as to the doctrine of fellowship and (2) to highlight and extol the wonderful fellowship that we enjoy with God and with one another. It is important that we do this, for we live in a time where the entire concept of biblical fellowship is fading from the minds and hearts of many. Today, diversity, as opposed to almost any kind of reasonable unity, is a social construct that is being wildly celebrated, promoted and even legislated in our modern culture. Distinctiveness and alternativism are the patterns of the modern mind. Unity, consistency, certainty, uniformity and fellowship are the gravest “sins” of the modern age. This modern ethos stands in absolute antithesis to every conceivable form of biblical fellowship.

Fellowship is a far more intimate thing than cooperation. Cooperation is a combined support in prosecution of a business plan; but fellowship is a life together. Cooperation is a limited association for definite ends; but fellowship is an unlimited association in spiritual life. Fellowship throws open all doors, unlocks all strong boxes, and bids the other one abide in our soul and heart. (Schmauk 904)

The sheer intimacy of true biblical fellowship is clearly reflected in William How’s text of the hymn For All the SaintsO blest communion, fellowship divine, We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine (TLH #463)(How). Fellowship Divine, that is the topic upon which we intend now to embark. We wish to reflect on Divine fellowship, that fellowship which begins and centers and ends in Jesus Christ. We wish to reflect on the blessings such fellowship has and brings to us who feebly struggle yet here in the church militant. We wish to focus on the Divine intimacy of biblical fellowship that stands in absolute opposition to the savage law of diversity which is currently ravaging the souls of modern Americans. We wish to draw attention to the Fellowship Divine, that fellowship given and sustained by God alone in Christ the Redeemer.

The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes says that there is nothing new under the sun. This is certainly true with regard to things doctrinal. Therefore nothing in this essay is new. It is, rather, a representation of many theologians that take us on a journey through biblical fellowship. And if we are on this journey together, we need a road map of the route upon which we will travel. The road map that I have chosen for the bulk of our journey is a paper written by Professor Kurt Marquart, professor of systematic theology, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. Through extensive use of his paper, we will be laying foundations, defining terms; it will be “basic training”. The second, and much shorter part of the paper, will focus on the practical, everyday blessings that we derive from the blessed fellowship we enjoy with one another and others who confess the Word of God as being inspired and inerrant. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address you on the topic of fellowship. May the Lord bless our journey together for His glory and our edification. Let the journey begin!

Church Fellowship: Nature, Basis and Limits

I can still recall a hot, humid August morning stepping off a bus at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas to begin basic training. There was an affable fellow there to meet us and he was our drill sergeant. I call him affable, friendly, because he was very forthright, not being afraid to tell us that we were the lousiest excuses for humanity upon which his eyes had ever been cast. But we were not to worry about this reality, for his job was to give us basic training. He sole purpose, calling, and joy, was to reduce us to the lowest possible form of humanity, and then retrain us his way, which was by his own definition, the right way. Basic training was, for the next several weeks, a fairly painful experience which, I can see from many of you, is an experience that you have shared. Yet basic training, as boring and painful as it might have been, did its job. It laid a foundation upon which one could build. And so, for the next several minutes, I ask you to enter into basic training with me once again. I trust it will not be painful, but edifying. If this journey is to be salutary, then we must have a common understanding and language.

Thesis I — Since “the church is not merely an association of external things and rites, like other polities, but is chiefly an association of faith and of the Holy Spirit in the hearts”, the church’s unity or fellowship is chiefly internal, but also external.(Marquart, p. 1)

It is necessary to define what we shall discuss, namely, church fellowship. It is of fundamental importance that we put the horse before the cart. That is to say that we acknowledge that while the concept of church fellowship includes external ties, the main feature of true fellowship is a spiritual one.1 The words “an association of faith” does not carry with it the meaning of “just any faith”, but it has the meaning of “the faith”, a very particular faith. The faith meant here is the faith given by God the Holy Ghost through the Means of Grace. It means the one true faith that saves, a faith whose object is Christ alone, that faith which the world cannot give, that faith which is Divinely wrought.(Concord, Apology, Art. VII)

(1 John 1:1–7 NKJV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life; {2} the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us; {3} that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. {4} And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. {5} This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. {6} If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. {7} But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

As Christians we stand united by an internal relationship of faith. We are bound together through a common new birth and through a common faith in Christ. This unity or fellowship or brotherhood exists with no regard to space, color, age or sex. (Jahn, p. 159.) Thus fellowship in its most fundamental level is one of Divine intimacy having one God as our Father. We are unified by our adoption into the Holy Trinity through grace by faith.

Thesis II — Against the Romanizing tendency to confuse and identify internal and external unity or fellowship, it is necessary to stress that real internal unity or fellowship with Christ and His whole church is granted in and with saving faith itself (faith alone – sola fide), and does not depend on organizational ties to hierarchies, popes, or other administrative structures.(Marquart, p. 1)

The Holy Christian Church in its essence is invisible to human sight and mere reason. Because it is an association and fellowship of faith, and because faith itself cannot be seen, the Church is invisible. (Luke 17:20–21 NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; {21} “nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” No human being can say with absolute certainty “these people constitute the church” for even Elias did not know the 7,000 men in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:8–18; Romans 11:2–4).

Our Lutheran Confessions state: The Christian Church consist not alone in fellowship of outward signs, but it consists especially in inward communion of eternal blessings in the heart, as of the Holy Ghost, of faith, of fear and love of God; which fellowship, nevertheless, has outward marks so that it can be recognized, namely, the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ. (Concord, Apology., Art. VII, VII, 5, Triglot, p. 227.)

It is dangerous whenever human laws are made the basis of fellowship, for in so doing true inner unity is destroyed. True unity exists among those who have one and the same doctrine and religion. Efforts to maintain a form of unity through outward laws or obedience to a visible head or some other church-government are merely cosmetic in nature and are a vain attempt, almost always, to cover over those who are internally divided. This is not to say that outward church laws and regulations cannot or should not exist. Yes, a congregation and a synod must have a constitution; we are to be constitutional but not constitutionistic. The history of the Lutheran church shows that this is always a danger. Often times today in some elements of Lutheranism an admonition that “you are acting and teaching contrary to Holy Scripture” produces little or no reaction. But if one says “you are acting contrary to your constitution” then they are startled and disturbed for then humanly constructed unity is threatened. We as a synod have a constitution for the sake of good order, and we observe it not by divine right but by human right. We can all give thanks to God that in the history of our synod our self-regulatory efforts have at their heart and basis the Word of God. This is one of the great blessings we enjoy that our synod and its sister synod’s have long clung to the phrase “We must keep to the Word of God alone.”

We should also keep in mind that with regard to external organizational ties we have in the church on earth a mixed bag. We read in the Confessions : If the church, which is truly the kingdom of Christ, is distinguished from the kingdom of the devil, it necessarily follows that since the wicked belong to the kingdom of the devil, they are not the church. In this life, nevertheless, because the kingdom of Christ has not been revealed, they are mingled with the church and hold office in the church . . .(Concord, Apology, Art. 7) Simply put, we acknowledge that within the visible church there are hypocrites having the “form of godliness” (2 Tim 3:5) and as such it is impossible to distinguish the tares from the wheat. (Koehler, p. 245.) Because of this, organizational or administrative structures do not create or sustain true fellowship. We call this a “Romanizing” tendency because Rome above almost all others demands organizational allegiance as a prerequisite to fellowship. The entire system of the Papacy confuses and distorts true Biblical fellowship which is created and sustained by grace through faith alone.

Thesis III — Against the spiritualizing tendency to separate internal and external unity or fellowship, it is necessary to stress that external unity or fellowship in the Gospel (Word and Sacraments) is not a mere outward token, reminder, or accompaniment of inner fellowship, but is itself also the powerful basis, fount and source of that inner fellowship, inasmuch as the Gospel is not an empty sign or pointer, but a powerful, faith-creating Means of Grace.(Marquart, p. 3)

The church is also defined by many Lutheran theologians as being not only invisible, but also visible. The essence of the church always remains invisible, there can be no ”visible side to an invisible thing”, yet there are outward marks by which we may know that the Church exists in a given place. These marks are the pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments according to the command of Christ. In this thesis we speak of a “spiritualizing” tendency as is often found in Reformed theology and teaching. The Reformed often hold that the Sacraments especially are merely visible reminders of an inner unity of faith that comes into being and exists apart from the Sacraments, and in some cases apart from the Gospel itself. This we call a spiritualizing tendency. Such a view “de-objectivizes” faith and subjectivizes it in the extreme.

Karl Rieker put it this way:

For the Reformed, the visible church is not so much salvatory institution as sanctifying institution. This is connected with the central position occupied in the Old Reformed world-view and view of life by the dogma of predestination. If God has from eternity by an absolute decree determined some men to salvation and others to damnation … then the church cannot properly have the task of being an institution for the proffering of the salvation obtained for mankind in Christ. Salvation or damnation does not depend on whether man accepts the proffered salvation in faith or scorns it in unbelief, but solely on the eternal pre-destination of God. A calling and gathering activity cannot therefore be assigned in the first instance to the visible church: she is after all the corpus electorum (body of the elect), the totality of those whom God by His absolute decree ordained to salvation… The task of the church is rather the sanctification of her members.(Rieker)

Modern day Protestantism sees sanctification or Christian living as the goal of theology. (Scaer, p. 166) For the Reformed, the church is not so much a place of salvation as it is a place of training for Christian living. Because this is so, the Word and the Sacraments especially are given short shrift. The entire focus of the church is not on delivering forgiveness of sin through Christ, but rather training members in holiness of living. There takes place an extreme internalizing or spiritualizing which works to exclude the means of grace as the very source of faith and therefore true inner fellowship. The Sacraments and even at times the Gospel are seen as merely tokens or reminders of that inner unity which exists prior to and apart from the means of grace. This stands in opposition to the Romanizing extreme of externalizing church structures and hierarchies as the basis for faith and the fount of fellowship.

We are reminded that the inner fellowship of faith is that Divine intimacy given by grace through faith, and is created and sustained alone by the external Word and Sacraments. There is an objective element to faith, and that objective element is the Christ who outside of us. Inner fellowship of faith comes from the externals of Word and Sacrament.2 We reject, therefore, any spiritualizing tendency which would reject or assign to a lower place the external, objective Word and Sacraments.

Thesis IV — The true, God-given link between the church’s internal and external unity or fellowship, therefore, is the life-giving Gospel itself, the Means of Grace (Word and Sacraments), by which alone God creates, sustains, builds up, and extends His church. (Marquart, p. 4)

The church has, and is to have, both an inner fellowship or unity and an external fellowship or unity. That which links the two together is the Gospel of Jesus Christ as delivered to us in the objective Means of Grace (Word and Sacraments).3

The Augsburg Confession, Article VII states:

For this is enough for the true unity of the Christian Church, that the Gospel be preached there unanimously according to its pure understanding, and that the Sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word. And it is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by men, be observed everywhere, as Paul says to the Ephesians, ch. 4: “One Body, one Spirit, as you are called to one and the same hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

There seems to be a tendency in the Christian church these days to equate “spirituality” only with the internal fellowship of faith, as if the external fellowship of the Gospel and Sacraments were not spiritual. This is patently false. We often hear this expressed in the popular phrase “It doesn’t much matter what you believe as long as you believe in Jesus.” For example, under such thinking it is OK to pass on Holy Baptism, Holy Communion and Absolution, because these are mere externals and have nothing to do with faith and thus internal unity or fellowship. Such a view has given rise in modern times to such organizations as Promise Keepers and other ecumenical associations. Yet our Lutheran Confessions hold that the “external Word and Sacraments” are so powerful and efficacious that even if the minister be wicked and unbelieving, the Gospel does its marvelous work.4

The members of the Holy Christian Church are united inwardly by faith in Christ Jesus. Yet this very faith is engendered and sustain through external means, Word and Sacraments. Fellowship, internal and external, have as their common source the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone.

Thesis V — External unity or church-fellowship therefore must be defined not in terms of all sorts of private, personal, social or civic activities and relationships, but in terms of the church as church, and of her own distinctive public, official acts, functions and ministry — hence essentially as pulpit and altar fellowship. (Marquart, p. 6)

As stated before, the Church has and must have both internal unity or fellowship and external unity or fellowship. When we now speak of external fellowship we do so in terms of church fellowship, that is the visible manifestation of the inner fellowship (true faith) generated and sustained by the Gospel. We are speaking of mutual fraternal acknowledgement of fellow Christians. Such external fellowship may be defined both as a status and an activity.(Jahn, p.401) We make this distinction because there surely are those people who with us enjoy the status of being in fellowship in the Holy Christian Church (Una Sancta – internal fellowship of true faith) – yet with whom we do not have Biblical authority to practice active church fellowship (external fellowship).

Since all Christians are brothers in Christ by grace through faith, the fundamental way in which this internal fellowship is expressed on earth centers in joint, public, external, visible participation in the Gospel.5 Our Confessions list as the church’s external marks the Gospel and the Sacraments.(Concord, Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, X,10.) External fellowship has to do with churchly, brotherly relationships and has nothing to do with civic, social, or emotional ties. Kurt Marquart has put it well:

There is a disastrous tendency to see the Sacraments in terms of “servicing” the private “needs” (read – demands) of so-and-so many individuals, taken atomistically, apart from any serious church-connections. The strident secularism of our time confounds and compounds the trouble, so that finally a refusal of admission to the Altar comes to be perceived as a discourtesy to a customer (or a “paid-up” member) or as a violations of one’s civil rights and entitlements… What must be clearly seen is that altar fellowship is not a private individual matter but is the most solemn and official expression of church fellowship.(Marquart, p. 7)

The Biblical word for fellowship is koinonia, communio and this fellowship is not from human effort or decision but is produced by the means of grace. (1 John 1:3 NKJV) that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

The connection with the Lord’s Supper is clear in (1 Cor 10:16–17 NKJV) The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? {17} For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. Fellowship is not brought about by the blessing and the breaking but by the content of the bread and the cup, and certainly not by human action or association. (Sasse, pp. 352, 353, 355.)

This stands in stark contrast to the Reformed view wherein the individual is assured of salvation by his consciousness of his election by God, not by his consciousness of his belonging to the church on the basis of his baptism. The certainty of election tears him away from the association of the family and of the church, and grounds him upon himself, and fills him with the consciousness of self-sufficiency and independence.(Rieker, pp. 71–73.)

Such as the above will never do. Internal unity of faith finds expression of mutual brotherly acknowledgement in activities. The primary activity of expressing church fellowship in a public way is altar, pulpit and prayer fellowship. (Note: Kurt Marquart, a member of the LC-MS, would probably not agree with the “unit concept” of fellowship which would not include “prayer fellowship” in his definitions.)

Thesis VI — External unity and fellowship in the church (pulpit and altar fellowship) cannot be based on human estimates of anyone’s external spiritual condition, faith, love, and the like (only God , Who searches the heart and the reins, Jer 17:10, knows who His own are (2 Tim 2:19, Rom 11:14), but must rest entirely on the church’s objective foundation (Eph 2:20), the pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Holy Sacraments, which are therefore the church’s true and infallible marks; where these marks are pure (orthodoxy), fellowship must be granted; where they are impure (heterodoxy), fellowship must be refused. Axiom: As part of the Christ-Mystery (Acts 9:4) the church is an article of faith, not of sight. It can be located and identified therefore only by listening for the pure voice of the Shepherd – – not by counting or weighing sheep (Matt 7:15;John 10:4; 5:16). Corollary: The pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments, in so far as they are marks of the church, distinguish church from non-church (synagogue, mosque, Red Cross etc.), and in so far as they are pure marks, distinguish the orthodox church from heterodox churches. (Marquart, p. 11)

In this thesis we begin to touch on issues of application and living out the principles of fellowship which the Scriptures as explained in our Confessions enjoin. We should first note that there is a Biblical requirement to extend external fellowship to others. (1 Cor 1:10 NKJV) Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. It is clearly the will of God that all Christians be united in the truth of the Word of God. The demand above for uniformity in speech is nothing less than a Divine demand for a common profession of Christian doctrine. We are to be agreed in words and in the meaning of those words as they relate to Scriptural teaching. Where such agreement exists, external fellowship (altar, pulpit and prayer fellowship) must be extended. It is schismatic not to do so. By a schism we mean a division in the Church which is not commanded by the Word of God but which is conducted by people for carnal reasons.(Pieper, p. 427.)

It is also a grave sin to extend altar, pulpit and prayer fellowship to those who do not share the same confession of faith. This is called unionism or syncretism. We read: (Mat 7:15 NKJV) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.; (Rom 16:17 NKJV) Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. Beware, avoid… these are God’s own directives to His church for her self-preservation. The Holy Scriptures explicitly tell us that God allows false teachers to arise so that Christians may show their obedience by avoiding them, not so that Christians may fraternize with them (Deut 13:3; 8:2, 1 Cor 11:19).(Pieper, p. 425.) Luther put this in his own unique way: “We do not want to make a pig-pen out of Christ’s church and let everyone come to the Sacrament, as sows to the trough, without having been previously examined – such churches we leave to the enthusiasts.” (Wittenburg, p. 23, trans John Bruss, quoting Martin Luther in Open Letter to the Congregation of the City of Frankfurt am Main, 1532.)

The Christian obedient to the Word of God will be interested in the details of the proper basis upon which external fellowship (altar, pulpit and prayer fellowship) is to be extended or withheld. As noted in our present thesis, one cannot make these judgments on the basis of faith. One human cannot see the personal faith of another human, only God can do this (2 Tim 2:19). We are, rather, commanded to look at the confession. We cannot look into hearts, but we can and must judge persons, congregations, pastors or synods by what they say and do, that is, by their confession of word and action. Thus persons and church bodies are to be judged by their public doctrine as it is actually taught and practiced in its pulpits, its congregations and its publication. A mere “professing” of “official doctrine” is insufficient. The actual teaching of a church body determines the character of that church body, and by default, the doctrinal character of all those who formally hold membership in such body. This is not an individual matter, it is a corporate matter. To those who persistently hold to doctrines that disagree with the clear word of God, external fellowship must be denied.

In recent years there has been in Lutheran circles discussion of a concept called “levels of fellowship”. Ralph Bohlmann, former president of the LC-MS describes this idea in a transcription from a video presentation:

So what you’re really saying with that terminology, whether you use “levels of fellowship” or “levels of relationship”, … is that Christian people today, and this has always been true, exist and live out their Christian life and action in a variety of relationships simultaneously, ranging all the way from a kind of minimal agreement, I suppose, but nonetheless important unity that we have among all of us who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, ranging all the way from a relatively minimal agreement in this faith, all the way over to the other end of the continuum, where we have full agreement in the whole doctrine of the Gospel as taught in the Scripture , and then establish fellowship and have a strong Altar, pulpit and prayer fellowship, unity of confession. You’re suggesting, as I think I am too, that between one end and the other end of this continuum, the Christian finds himself at various level or various points where there are agreements, but at some points disagreements, and that we need to be perhaps more precise in identifying what we can do as a result of where we find ourselves in a relationship at any point.(Marquart, p.242–243.)

I believe that most, if not all of us, can relate to what ex-president Bohlmann says and feels. We can feel his pain! The tragedy of divided Christianity causes great pain and suffering among Christians. Yes, there are those that are not within our church fellowship that , upon examination, hold to the pure doctrine of the Bible, and yet they are formally a part of a synod or church that has errors. Sociologically speaking, we can see such a continuum. There is no such continuum in Biblical conceptions of church fellowship. Kurt Marquart reminds us:

Like the church herself, the fellowship of the church is one and indivisible: communio una est. The two theological meanings of “fellowship” (koinonia), the internal and the external, are not two different and separate fellowships, but two distinct but in principle un-separated aspects of the one fellowship of the church… What keeps these two aspects or “modes” of the one church from flying apart into two churches is precisely the biblical, evangelical doctrine that the external Gospel and Sacraments are not mere outward symbols or formalities which may or may not be accompanied by spiritual efficacy, but are powerful, faith-creating — and therefore church-creating — media salutis (instruments of salvation) imparting forgiveness, life and salvation.(Marquart, p. 244–245.)

The “levels of fellowship” as proposed by Bohlmann above is a false dichotomy proffered in an apparent attempt to render incomprehensible the truly Biblical concept of fellowship. If such thinking were followed to its logical conclusion, then our Lord’s Words, which in several places admonish the church to watch for false prophets and avoid them, would be reduced to meaninglessness. And frankly, such has been done in some Lutheran circles. Thanks be to God for delivering us from such frightful and chilling theological gymnastics.

The Lord in His mercy has not only commanded us to distinguish between true and false prophets, but He has also provided us with the ultimate litmus test. The test is simple: the pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments. Where Gospel preaching is pure, and where the Sacraments are administered rightly, fellowship exists and must be acknowledged. Where there is impurity in Gospel preaching and the Sacraments are wrongly administered, then fellowship does not and cannot exist. Where “fellowship” is exercised regardless, one does not have church fellowship, but spiritual promiscuity. The criteria for fellowship or for separation are objective, not subjective. Pure preaching of the Gospel, right administration of the Sacraments – these and these alone are the criteria for true church fellowship because they and they alone create and sustain the church.

Some minds within Lutheranism have raised the question, “How pure does this preaching have to be, and how rightly do the Sacraments have to be administered?” This position is often taken in an attempt to reach a “lowest common denominator” kind of theological thinking and to create a false separation between the Gospel and Sacraments from other articles of faith.

Thesis VII — While the heart, soul and center of the Gospel is absolution in Christ (John 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:3; 3:11; Augsburg Confessions IV and XII), this article, on the “proper understanding” of which “the entire Gospel that we preach depends” (Large Catechism, Creed), is not the only article, eliminating the others, but [is] the chief article, illuminating all the other articles, which together with it constitute the “one faith” (Eph 4:5, Jude 3) and “doctrine” (note singular in John 7:16-17; Acts 2:42; Rom 6:17, 2 John 9:10) of Christ — with the Law, as God’s “strange” or “alien” works always necessarily presupposed (Apology, XII, 51 ff.).

First, a word about the Law. When we speak of fellowship, internal or external, the Law is eliminated in so far as the Law cannot and does not create and sustain faith. Since the Law always accuses, is does not and cannot create the church and therefore it cannot unite the church. The Law does not belong, fundamentally, but only secondarily, in a definition for Christian unity or fellowship. It is the Gospel alone that creates faith and thus the Gospel alone creates the church and unity or fellowship within the church. Yet the Law and its acceptance are a necessary presupposition to unity of faith in the Gospel.

What we are saying in simpler terms is that the Word of God cannot be atomized by human reason and choice. Luther explains it this way:

In philosophy a tiny error in the beginning is very great at the end. Thus in theology a tiny error overthrows the whole teaching. Therefore doctrine and life should be distinguished as sharply as possible. Doctrine belongs to God, not to us; and we are called only as its ministers. Therefore we cannot give up or change even one dot of it (Matthew 5:18) … For doctrine is like a mathematical point. Therefore it cannot be divided; that is it cannot stand either subtraction or addition. … Therefore doctrine must be on eternal round golden circle, in which there is no crack; if even the tiniest crack appears, the circle is no longer perfect.(Luther, pp. 36–39.)

Our Lutheran Confessions make it plain that with regard to external fellowship there must first be in place “mutual agreement in doctrine and in all its articles as well as right use of the holy sacraments, according to the familiar axiom, ‘Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in faith’”. (Concord, Formula of Concord, Epitome, Art. X, 5.)

There is currently a virulent danger, I believe, that increasingly atomizes the Word of God as Thesis 7 rejects. The modern danger is an increasing and theologically malignant individualism. Gene Edward Vieth, Jr., in his insightful text Postmodern Times — A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thoughts and Culture, reminds us that our forefathers in the faith, some of whom are seated in this room, faced and fought the battle of Rationalism with its so-called scientific scholarship, historical-critical approaches to Biblical interpretation, and demythologizing of the Word of God. Now, says Vieth, Rationalism has given way to ir-rationalism, to spiritually without objective truth, to a spiritual individualism without constraint. And, it is taking place within the evangelical churches. Vieth holds that even in the evangelical churches there has been a shift from truth to desire. People will not believe what they do not enjoy. (Vieth, p. 192-193) Let me cite a couple of examples with which most of you are familiar, especially if you are part of a missions or evangelism committee in your congregation. How many times in the past year have you, upon contacting a visitor, been told, “I’m glad I came to your church because the Word of God was preached in its truth and purity and the Sacraments were administered according to the God’s command”? Hopefully, you have heard that often. But in reality are not most comments like this: “I really liked your church”; “I enjoyed the Pastor, he is so nice!”; “I didn’t appreciate the fact that I could not go to Communion”. If you have heard these or similar messages, then you have experienced post-modernism at work. Not only can this individualist thrust be seen within lay people, it is probably most strongly in evidence among pastors and ministers. Vieth informs us that many evangelical and conservative pastors no longer mention topics such as sin, hell and death in sermons because “people don’t like to hear about such things.” There is a joke that says “Roman Catholics are saved by good works, Lutherans are saved by grace, and Episcopalians are saved by good taste”. That, by the way, came from an Episcopalian. Yet the message that it conveys is a religious reality in the mind of the world. … God’s Word is supposed to conform to individual taste.

If human desire or taste is the measure by which people select their church, then you can readily see why we as a Synod have a special challenge before us. For we hold, by God’s grace, that His Word cannot be chopped up and served like so many choices at a Swedish smorgasbord. The Word of God is a whole and the extension of fellowship can come only when that Word of God is believed, taught and confessed undivided and untainted.

Thesis VIII — The Gospel is not purely preached, nor are the Sacraments rightly administered where:

(a) as in Roman Catholicism, the “chief article” (grace alone) is under attacked in various ways, including the distortion of the Holy Supper into a propitiatory sacrifice;

b) as in Reformed theology, [where] Law and Gospel are confused, and biblical Christology and the means of grace are under attack in various ways, including the denial of the Real Presence of the Lord’s body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.

c) as in historical-critical theology (prevalent also throughout nominal world Lutheranism today), the absolute authority of Holy Scripture and the apostolic prophetic foundation (Gal 1:8–9; Eph. 2:20) of the church and of all Christian doctrine is radically under attack.(Marquart, p. 20–23.)

These VIII needs little comment. We include it here only for a practical reason. It is my sense that many of our members feel ill-prepared to stand up for the faith in daily conversations with those outside our confession of the faith. Many of us sometimes feel ill-equipped to “give an account of the faith” in those Sunday morning sessions of explaining why Holy Communion is not available for all. Here, dear fellow redeemed, are the reasons. The God-given requirement for fellowship, and that means Altar, pulpit and prayer fellowship is the Gospel purely preached and the Sacraments rightly administered. To the Roman Catholic you might well say, “Dear Friend, we cannot permit you at our altar for, sadly, the church to which you belong distorts and teaches wrongly regarding the Holy Supper of our Lord. His Supper is not “a sacrifice of our hands” which your priest says in your liturgy… no, it is our Lord Jesus Christ serving us with life and salvation.” Here, in this thesis are the reasons for you to use when fellowship must be painfully denied.

Thesis IX — The pure marks of the church are not abstract ideals or unstable makeshifts flickering and flaring now here and now there, but they are embodied solidly and concretely in the great continuity and consensus of the orthodox Creeds and Confessions (the Book of Concord of 1580), which through the centuries assert unchanged the One Faith of Christ’s holy, catholic, and apostolic church, against heretical, sectarian aberrations and their official representatives as such.

First, a definition. When we speak in this thesis of the concept of confession, we do so by noting the definition of the word “confess” as it appears in Holy Scripture in three main senses: the confession of sin, the confession of the faith, and the praise of God. This occurs, as Herman Sasses says, “… when a man, seized by the revelation of the living God, speaks forth — a speaking in which the confession of sin, confession of faith, and praise of God ring together.” (Sasse, p. 4.) In this thesis we are restricting, in the main, the term, “confess” or “confession” to the second of the three Biblical uses, that is the confession of the faith. Unlike the confession of sin and praise to God, confession of the faith is directed not only to God, but also to other men. This is a churchly confession, the church as a whole expressing her faith both to God and to the world.

The Holy Christian Church in heaven and on earth has always been and will always be a confessing church. In St. John’s Revelation we hear the church triumphant confessing her faith: (Rev 5:8-9 NKJV) Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. {9} And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Like the church triumphant, the Holy Christian Church on earth has confessed the faith in formulations which make clear to all people the truth as revealed to mankind by God. We see the Israelites confessing God before foreigners (Neh. 9:1–3). The Jews in the days of the apostles confessed the faith as when the Pharisees made confession of belief in the resurrection and the angel and the spirit as opposed to the Sadducees (Acts 23:8). We read the words of Peter as he confesses Jesus as the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16). Such confessions are sometimes in a negative way as when John the Baptizer confessed that he was not the Christ (John 1:20). Such confessions are not merely semantic arguments but embody matters of eternal significance — matters about which errors in the church cannot be tolerated.

Not only has the church made such confessions through the ages, she and all her members must make such a confession — it is not optional. We are told in Romans 10:9–10 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. {10} For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. It is highly significant that Jesus Himself demanded verbal confession from His disciples — “(Mat 16:15–16 NKJV) He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” {16} Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In that Divine catechetical exchange we find nothing less than the first confession the church. (Sasse, p. 5.)

Our Lord’s response to the confession of Peter is even more profound — (Mat 16:17 NKJV) Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Jesus is declaring that Peter was the possessor of a precise knowledge, a revealed knowledge. Herman Sasses says this:

It is a knowledge which according to its subjective side must be designated faith-knowledge, according to its transubjective side, revelation-knowledge

… For it is God himself who works faith. And this faith expresses itself immediately in a confession. Confession belongs to the essence of the believer, he cannot be without it. He cannot be silent … And how does faith express itself? Not in a hymn, not in a gush of feeling, but rather in a confession, a sober judgment of reality, in which the facts of revelation are attested, “You are the Christ!!” This sobriety, this objectivity, is characteristic of all genuine confession … Thus confession may be described as the answer to revelation — the revelation which occurred once in history. In her confessions the church gives her answer for all time, the answer of faith in the revelation in Christ. (Sasse, p. 5)

Confession and the church, and therefore fellowship in the church, go together. It is no little significance that after that first confession of Peter, we have the first mention of the church(Sasse, p. 7.) — (Mat 16:18 NKJV) “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church [ecclesia], and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it… When the church gives answer to God’s revelation in Christ Jesus in her confessions and symbols, she is by that very answering both affirming truth and denying error to the world. Confession has the one great task of separating truth from error and the church and everything that it outside the church. (Sasse, p. 7) This is why we say in this thesis that the Creeds and Confessions of the church are no namby-pampy matters. They are the rules by which the church measures all doctrines and teachers of doctrine. They are the boundaries, the line in the sand, by which fellowship can be and must be gauged.

Thesis X — The orthodox Confessions, and thus the pure marks of the church, are effectively denied and contradicted where, despite formal confessional subscription in constitutions or ordination ceremonies, the Confessions’ doctrinal content is not honored as the real and effective norm for all teaching and practice, and thus as actual determinant of the boundaries of church fellowship, but is devalued to only one among a whole Babel of “interpretations”, all cohabiting promiscuously within the boundaries of a loose, and therefore essentially frivolous, church fellowship (for example: the Lutheran World Federation’s notion of “Reconciled Diversity”). [Note: Of late we might also include as an example recent ELCA/Reformed declarations of altar and pulpit fellowship.] (Marquart, p 29.)

How can we re-state this in simpler terms? — “All blow and no go!” would seem to be an apt illustration. The sainted Dr. Robert D. Preus addressed the issue of this thesis in 1990 with an article titled Confessional Lutheranism in Today’s World. Here Dr. Preus pointed out a “queer dichotomy and divorce, alien to the Lutheran Confessions, between doctrine on the one hand and practice and worship on the other.”(Preus, p. 102) He reminds us from the Lutheran Confessions that doctrine and practice go hand in hand. Obviously false doctrine robs Christ. Yet, mouthing right doctrine without the true teaching of the same or practice that conforms to right doctrine is merely theory, and is not a basis for church fellowship. While it is most certainly true that in our Christian liberty we may use more or less “ceremonies” as may be most profitable and edifying, yet, as our Confessions make clear, practice and worship are to be void of “all frivolity and offenses” in the interest of the weak in faith. There is a time, however, when even these ordinarily indifferent matters lose the character of indifference when a “clear-cut confession of the faith is demanded of us.”(Concord, Formula of Concord, Art. X, 3–4.)

We are also reminded that the Confessions use the term “fellowship” not only to indicated outward fellowship marked by external signs of the pure teaching of the Gospel and right administration of the Sacraments as well as spiritual (inner fellowship) of faith and the Holy spirit in the hearts, but also “fellowship” is used to mean the divine service or Holy Communion. (Concord, 1921 #12, Smalkald Articles II,II,9; Large Catechism V, 87.) Dr. Preus goes on to show from the Confessions that doctrine, practice and worship are inexorably connected in issues of church fellowship. Rev. Preus concludes:

It is clear from the citations above that external church fellowship involves mutual consensus and confession of the doctrine and all its articles, and agreement in practice, and full and uninhibited participation in all worship. It also involves the condemnation of errors. Where these factors do not obtain, external fellowship is a capitulation and mockery which obscures the gospel and imperils faith. (Preus, p.105.)


It becomes clear that fellowship is fundamentally and primarily that state in which a person, bring brought to faith in Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost, is intimately united with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This same God-given faith, at the same time, creates an inward and so invisible bond with other believers. In this spiritual life there is always a desire for and actual expression of that life through the common use of the means of grace in the corporate setting. These activities are commonly referred to as church fellowship as a general term for all their particular manifestations.

It is self-evident that all men do not have faith in the Triune God and therefore do not enjoy fellowship with God nor fellowship with others that do believe in the Triune God. Happily, there are in the world over those who with us worship God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Scriptures enjoin us to unite together in outward manifestations of that inward faith we share. Yet the same Scriptures places boundaries or limits on such fellowship. Christians must select and choose, as guided by the Word of God, those with whom we can and cannot join in outward expressions of fellowship. This can be done only in one way and that way is by an examination of the confession of both individuals and larger bodies such as synods or congregations. Should this confession include the pure proclamation of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments in accordance with Christ’s command, then external fellowship, that is Altar, pulpit and prayer fellowship, must be extended. We must also include in the term pure Gospel proclamation and right administration of the Sacraments and all other articles of faith as the other articles are not divorced from the Gospel and Sacraments but are illuminated by the same. Further, not only must the confession be in accord with the Word of God, but the actual practice and teaching must be in accordance with them. We must acknowledge, however, that we are all weak, sinful human beings and because of our sinful nature we will never reach absolute unity of faith and doctrine this side of heaven. Such weakness of faith is not alone a reason to terminate fellowship or absolutely refuse it but is a Scriptural reason for practicing fellowship in our mutual aid of one another. Persistent adherence to sin, false doctrine and practice is Biblical cause for termination of fellowship.

Thus we have set before ourselves a review of the nature, basis and limits of church fellowship. What remains now is to reflect on the wonderful, comforting blessings that God has poured out on our Synod and those with whom, by God’s grace, we have true church fellowship.

Our Blessed Fellowship

If one peruses the back pages of Evangelical Lutheran Synod Report for 1998, one will find a list of “Church Bodies in Fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.” That is for us a profoundly joyful title. In that list we find:

  • Christ the King Lutheran Church (Nigeria)
  • Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church (Mexico)
  • Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church (Puerto Rico)
  • Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church (Russia)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Confessional Church (Finland)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (Germany)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Australia
  • Evangelical Lutheran Synod in Peru
  • Lutheran Church of Cameroon
  • Lutheran Church of Central Africa — Malawi
  • Lutheran Church of Central Africa — Zambia
  • Lutheran Confessional Church (Sweden and Norway)
  • Lutheran Evangelical Christian Church – Japan
  • Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (USA)

Each year as we gathered in convention our president brings us news from those churches and synods with whom we enjoy church fellowship. How good it is to hear about people throughout the world who, along with us, stand on the inspired, inerrant Word of God. President Orvick has kept us updated on the progress of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, the umbrella organization for all those bodies with whom we enjoy fellowship. How blessed we are to be joined by those who work to uphold the cause of Confessional Lutheranism throughout the world. Each year we have the joy of welcoming into church fellowship pastors and congregations who have come to recognize the ELS as a Bible-believing, confessional, orthodox church. Our long-standing relationship with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has been a true blessing for a long time. As we read and hear these things, we find that we have a Blessed Fellowship, a fellowship that has been blessed by God and brings to us all many blessings from God.

The Scriptures declare: Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1) It is well then for us to have a few sentences on the “goodness” and “pleasantness” of living in true Biblical fellowship.

One of the greatest blessings of the fellowship we enjoy involves our youth, our children. Not too long ago we had as our theme “His Truth for Our Youth”. As a parent I can tell you that I have grave concerns for my son as he grows up in a world that is increasingly evil and godless. What an absolute blessing to know that there exists by God’s grace places where the truth of God’s Word continues to be proclaimed and taught in all its truth and purity. I can die with the comfort of knowing that my child can search out and find those of like faith from Australia to Zambia. I can rest better at night knowing that there are those who will feed my child the bread of life. All of us can give thanks to God for this blessed fellowship for our youth.

We live in a world today where it seems that the only certainty is uncertainty. “Change and decay in all around I see” says the hymn writer in Abide with Me. Employment is no longer a certainty with corporate downsizing, mergers, and little loyalty to employees of long and outstanding service by employers. We live in a time of high-tech and low-touch with the nuclear family atomized into ever smaller and sometimes perverted fragments. There are those in the churches who arrive each Sunday to the newest in contemporary worship and retranslated creeds to avoid offense to a politically correct generation. How blessed we are in our fellowship. What joy there is in knowing that we can go into a congregation of our fellowship and find certainty, the certainty of sins forgiven through the precious blood of the unchanging Savior. We can have certainty of joining with others for whom spiritual truth is an unchanging reality as the Lord says, (Mal 3:6 NKJV) “For I am the LORD, I do not change. What pleasure there is in being with people for whom there is still a clear conception of right and wrong, who have values and morals based not upon human opinion or the latest fad from the pop-psychologists of the airwaves, but are founded on the very revelation of Almighty God. We have a blessed fellowship.

How good it is to be in fellowship with those who truly love, not with the lily-livered, self serving love of the world, but with true Christian love, the kind of love that will reach out when I am weak and have sinned and call me to repentance. How good it is to be with those that are quick to call to task under the Word of God, but also quick to apply to our troubled consciences and souls the refreshing Gospel of forgiveness. How blessed we are to have brothers and sisters in the faith that help us mind our doctrine and life. This is true love, a fruit of our blessed fellowship.

In the garden Adam had perfection, but there was one thing that prevented complete contentment — loneliness. (Gen 2:18 NKJV) And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” It is painful to be alone, and it is painful to be religiously alone, to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness… (Isa 40:3 NKJV) How terrible not to have friend to help in time of need — (Eccl 4:9-10 NIV) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: {10} If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! In our blessed fellowship we are not alone. Ours is not the only voice in the world proclaiming the pure Gospel. We are not alone in administering the Sacraments according to the command of Christ. Others stand with us and we are encouraged. This too is part of our blessed fellowship.

In Acts we read of the early church — (Acts 4:32 NIV) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. Our blessed fellowship, as we have quoted before, “opens all doors, unlocks all strong boxes, and bids the other one abide in our soul and heart.” What blessings we derive from combined resources of time, talents and treasures. Consider how the work of spreading the Gospel would be hampered without the mutual support of our seminaries and colleges providing God-fearing pastors and teachers to our congregations, even across Synodical lines and world date lines for the furtherance of the Gospel? Consider how our combined resources can accomplish so much more than working alone. These are the good and pleasant things of our blessed fellowship.

The Holy Scriptures enjoin us (Rom 14:19 NIV) Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification; (2 Cor 13:11 NIV) Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. For those of you who are natives of the ELS, you do not really know the lack of peace that exists where true fellowship does not exist. Can you begin to imagine the maneuvering, gossip, and out-right hostilities that erupt when the truth of the Word of God is a matter of dispute? Can you fathom the sheer confusion in the souls of the lambs and sheep for whom the Savior died when in each place there is a different practice and procedure? Can you imagine the lack of peace? Our is a blessed fellowship because of the peace we enjoy. God by grace has and is keeping us of one mind so that we can live in peace and assurance. This is part of our blessed fellowship!


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we exist in a time in which most of those around us in the world live with a gaping void in their soul. There is a void in natural, unregenerate man – a void of which he is aware, and a void which he seeks to fill at all costs. Mankind’s efforts to fill this void have ranged from worship of idols, to the intellectual idolatry of Rationalism and Humanism, right down to our day of Postmodern chaos. People, disgusted with the failures of the philosophies and pseudo-religions of history, have turned to filling their internal void by constructing personal realities and “truth” so that there will be a “custom” fit. The result of this Postmodern suicide is the creation of the only absolute truths that now seem to hold sway in our nation – diversity, individuality and alternativism. These three concepts stand in absolute opposition to unity, consistency and objective truth. Our modern ethos is totally antithetical to the Biblical concept of church fellowship.

As proof consider with me the concept of “family”. The family of 1999 is not the family it was even as late as 1965. The family structure has been vastly altered in a short time. We have gone from “the extended family to the nuclear family and finally to a network of families related through not only brothers and sisters, but also step-mothers and step-fathers, half-brothers and half-sisters, step-brothers and step-sisters. This network of families either is without a recognized center or has several centers.”(Scaer, p. 82) Witness the wildly popular movie “Mrs. Doubtfire”. In this tale of a troubled marriage, the father, who loves his children and cannot live without seeing them for even one day, is dressed in drag by his clearly homosexual brother, applies for a house-keeper position in his own home, and by this method is able to be with his children. Even though there are attempts at reconciliation between husband and wife, in the end reconciliation is not possible. The family has come apart, or so it would seem. At the very end of movie, the husband, still in drag and serving as the host for a children’s show, receives and reads a letter from a young member of the television audience. This young child laments the fact that in her young life the family no longer consists of mom and dad, 2.5 children, one dog and one cat. The separated father, still in women’s clothing, assures his young fan, that there are “all sorts” of families . . . families with one mommy…families with no daddy…and, by implication, families with two daddies or two mommies under one roof. The concept of “family”, and if you will allow it, the truth of the concept of family, has been altered to fit lifestyle desires of mankind. If the “truth” of family stands in the way of desire, then simply redefine family. Thus we find that even our civic, earthly and most precious institutions of marriage and family have been violently torn apart and redefined. The fellowship of family can hardly be maintained any longer. How much more difficult is it then, to live and proclaim a much wider fellowship like church fellowship that cannot and will not compromise and change to fit human desires? Yet such a “custom fit” church is what people these days are seeking, and we cannot deliver it.

In this postmodern age in which we live, it should strike us that the doctrine of fellowship is the most divisive of doctrines. For if one wants to stand for something, then that stand rejects the opposite. Our world today wants to stand for everything, which means it stands for nothing. So we find that our Biblical teaching about fellowship requires us to stand apart from the world, to go against the culture, a culture with a hole in its soul. The void that certainly can be found in human souls finds its answer alone and is filled alone by the blessings we have in our Divine Fellowship. For this Divine Fellowship is nothing less than a family. It is a family into which you and I, poor miserably sinners, have been adopted by our Father, through His Son, by the power of His Spirit. Being adopted into this family has filled the void in our souls. We, by God’s grace through our adoption in Baptism, through the new birth of Baptism, now belong … we belong to God’s family. As part of that family, we have been given what many in the world miss most, intimacy, Divine Intimacy. By grace alone this Divine Intimacy, begun with incarnation of Jesus Christ, carried on by His life, suffering, death and resurrection, brought to us through the Sacraments of Baptism, Holy Communion (the Gospel), results in an intimacy that will last forever in the glories of heaven. Ah, yes, ours is a blessed fellowship, because it is a Fellowship Divine, one Divinely given, and one that will last by the eternal mercies of God through Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God for our blessed fellowship, a Fellowship Divine. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria


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  1. (John 18:36 NKJV) Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

    (Eph 2:19-22 NKJV) Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, {20} having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, {21} in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, {22} in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

    (Eph 4:3-6 NKJV) endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. {4} There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; {5} one Lord, one faith, one baptism; {6} one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

    (1 John 1:1-7 NKJV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life; {2} the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us; {3} that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. {4} And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. {5} This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. {6} If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. {7} But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

  2. (John 6:63 NKJV) “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (Rom 1:16 NKJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
  3. (1 Cor 10:17 NKJV) For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.; (1 John 1:1-3 NKJV) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life; {2} the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us; {3} that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.; (John 15:1-7 NKJV) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. {2} “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. {3} “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. {4} “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. {5} “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. {6} “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. {7} “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
  4. “Gold remains no less gold if a harlot wears it in sin and shame.” (Large Catechism, Baptism)
  5. (Acts 2:42 NKJV) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

    (Acts 20:7 NKJV) Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.

    (Gal 1:8-9 NKJV) But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. {9} As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.