Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

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Lafayette, CO 80026
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January 9 – The Pain Of Divisions Within The Church

“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” 1 John 2:18,19

Devotional Thought For The Day

One of the most heart-rending aspects of life within the church is the reality of “goings” out from the fellowship of the church.  This is so common today that we no longer take any real significance from it, other than attributing it to a diversity of personal tastes and personal opinions – as if all of these were “neutral.”  The vast number and diversity of “denominations” within Christendom – not to mention the remarkable diversity found even within denominations – makes it difficult to identify any real “unity” within the body of Christ, and yet the Scripture throughout insists that there is only “one body and one Spirit . . . one hope . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” [Eph. 4:4], “one holy Christian Church.” Frankly, this is not a modern phenomenon within the holy Christian Church, as John makes clear in these verses.  However, in the early days of the church, in the apostolic era, such “goings” were properly attributed to “antichrists” and were understood as not just physical departures from a specific, visible, identifiable group of Christians [a congregation] but as evidence that “they were not of us,” not really part of “the one body.”

All of this continues to be quite distressing and complex today – as to how we should view and what significance should be attached to such “goings” and fracturing of the “visible” body of Christ in our world.  In the early days of the Reformation, the church had already fractured into two separate entities – replete with full mutual “excommunications,” the Eastern [Orthodox] Church, and the Western [Roman Catholic] Church.  These “parts” of the body of Christ continue to be the most “populous” groups of Christendom to this day.  A third group was identified and “formed” principally by the “excommunication” pronounced upon the Reformers by the Roman Catholic Church. In the early days of this movement there was further “fracturing” and division – over many aspects of God’s ministry to the church, to the hearts and minds of people.  As time goes on there seems no end to the minutia which people utilize to “go out” from the church and form their own groups – and all of this must surely be as John identified it long ago, the work of the “antichrists.”

Our temptation is to despair over the disparity of what is observed and what the Scripture asserts about the “oneness” and unity of the body of Christ, and to perhaps lose faith entirely in the biblical presentation of “Christianity” and Christ’s “Church.”  However, this in itself is precisely the goal of the “antichrists,” and regardless of how things might appear, and how our logical minds might work, I can’t bring myself to believe that all of this “thwarts” the work and will of God, that He is “losing” and the enemy is “winning,” destroying the true church!  No, we believe quite the contrary – if we know how God works and that He is able to use all things, even the untoward and the unthinkable, and to accomplish His purposes, working all things together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.  Even when we cannot make “sense” of what appears to be happening, it is certain that Christ continues to “build” His church, and that the antichrists, no not even the very gates of hell, shall ever prevail against Him [Matt. 16:18].  To believe and assert otherwise is to NOT believe the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior – and such doubt should be seen for what it is.

So the pain of division shall remain, and so long as such divisions are compelled by the one biblical standard – “continuing with” the apostolic fellowship, that created and maintained by their teaching, the Word given to us in Holy Scripture, there is nothing we can do about it – other than remaining faithful to God’s Word.  Our personal weaknesses should remain subject to correction from God’s Word; we should all be growing in our understanding of the glories of God’s magnificent love for us – by “continuing” in the Word of Christ [John 8:31,32].  However, this does not create weakness and acquiescence to the divisive assaults of the antichrists – so that we are vulnerable to them leading us “out of” the apostolic fellowship in Christ.  Rather, we will be all the more determined to remain with the apostles – even as we suffer the pain of watching others “go out from us.”  It should be painful, for it is not neutral, or just a matter of personal opinion, but rather dark, evil, and fraught with spiritual danger, and certainly not the will of God for His people.  And as John observes, for our good and blessedness,  by all of this “we know that it is the last hour.”

Prayer For The Day

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for Your gracious and powerful Word that brings us to the knowledge of Your forgiveness and mercy, the wondrous love that You have for us and Your power to save us and preserve us.  Help us maintain faith and confidence in You even as we see the effects of the work of the antichrists within the “visible” life of Your church.  Make us more eager and determined than ever to remain in Your Word, learning of Your love and growing in faith, and more dogged in faithfulness to Your Word.  Remind us also of Your power and Your promises, that we retain confidence that You are accomplishing Your good and gracious will, and that we will clearly see this on the Last Day.  Amen.