What Communion Actually *Is*

My heart broke as I read the following article from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-i-cant-take-communion-anymore_us_57632febe4b034ff3eef2fb2

I connect with this author completely. And this is why I cannot take communion anymore either.......***at ANY non-Lutheran church.***

I am so blessed to be able to partake of Communion at Lutheran churches. Why?

Because I come to Communion precisely *because* I am guilty. I need forgiveness of sins.

Zwinglians and Baptists already feel strong enough and forgiven enough so that they don't need Christ's Body and Blood. It's just a token of remembrance for them.

The Reformed, although many times broken, tend to focus on getting it right, on God's glory, and whether or not they have "true faith." For them, Christ is only there if they have "true faith." That is not the "communion" I need.

The Catholics and the Orthodox focus on Communion being a sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead. For them, it is something we offer to God. Forgiveness, although believed, takes a back seat.


Christ instituted the precious Sacrament of the Altar of His precious Body and Blood given to us for the forgiveness of sins.

Truly given for us.

Shed for us.

He comes *down* to us.

We are simply beggars.

That is the only Altar I will go to.

Where I am received as a beggar, offering nothing.

Where my King comes down to me with gracious Words.

Now this true Body and true Blood of Christ has forgiven all of your sins. Go in peace knowing you are clean and forgiven.


Ears to Hear - Butcher It Baby!

In the Gospels, Our Lord Jesus Christ uses the phrase "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Mat 11:15, Mar 4:9, Luk 8:8, Luk 14:35) and "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." (Mar 4:23)

Not surprisingly, this is a very misused phrase in Scripture. Aren't we all kind of like that sometimes though? The old Adam in all of us likes to take and abuse passages and phrases of Scripture to suit our own viewpoint.

Ultimately, the misuse of this phrase ends up being a sort of spiritual pride in most cases. In my Calvinist days, I would routinely hear some well meaning Calvinist folks use this phrase to decry people that rejected limited atonement or the universal saving will of God. They would quip that such a person who affirmed universal atonement (almost always the Arminians) just does not have ears to hear. That is to say, these Calvinistic folks were implying that the Spirit has given them ears so that they can properly affirm the letters and petals of the TULIP but that the other Christian over there (probably a rank Arminian!) is blind and deaf to the things of God. I am using this as an example. Other Christians do this as well - it is not limited to Calvinists, although abusing this phrase fits well with the Calvinistic system when you think about it.

Yet, I don't quite think this is what Jesus intends when He utters this phrase. In fact, in 4 of the 5 times this phrase is recorded for us in the Gospels, Jesus is using it in reference to understanding His parables.St. Mark and St. Luke record this phrase for us in the parable of the sower, for instance (Mar 4:9, Luk 8:8).

The only time Jesus uses the phrase not in reference to a parable is in Matthew 11. Here He is speaking about John the Baptist being the greatest man to be born among women, but He (Jesus) is greater than John.

So when Jesus uses this phrase, He is either using it to refer to His Godhood and status as Messiah, or He is using it to refer to parables with tricky meanings - which He ends up explaining to His disciples later anyways!

He is not intending the phrase to be speaking about denying clear and plain texts of Scripture in favor of some meaning that fits a theological system; especially when the meaning that is implied to be correct is quite foreign to a natural and plain reading of a text.

So when Scripture says that "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16) it probably means that "God so loved the world," not "God so loved the elect." Or when Scripture says that "God...desires all people to be saved" (1 Tim 2:3-4) it probably means that "God...desires all people to be saved" not that "God desires some people of all types of people to be saved." Or when Scripture says that Christ is "...the propitiation for our sins...and the whole world" (1 John 2:2) is probably means the whole world. Or when Scripture says that God "is patient...not wishing that any should perish" (2 Pet 3:9) it probably means that. It doesn't mean that God is wishing that all the elect are saved but not most of the human race. Or when Scripture says "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you" (1 Pet 3:21) it probably means that "Baptism...now saves you."

And on and on we go. But the point is painfully obvious. Saying that someone does not have ears to hear because they deny plain readings of clear Scriptures is foolish at best. One does not need some sort of secret spiritual knowledge to interpret a passage to mean something totally different than what it says. If anything, it takes some sort of special ability (not in a good way) to butcher the mess out of plain and clear passages to fit some sort of pre-conceived system.



BROKEN, Leaven, and False Gospels

These are the times in which we live, last days in which seemingly pious teachers rise up from our own midst in order to tickle our ears with sweet deceptions (2 Peter 2:10. 'Do not worry about such an old-fashioned idea as pure doctrine,' they say. 'Such concerns are misguided. to focus on such things only divides us. We live in an age where we know better now. It is love and freedom that unite us. After all, since we're all sinners, none of us can perfectly understand Scripture anyway. Better if we just trust in the Spirit and leave it to God.'

The next step may be years, even generations, in coming, but once the seed is sown, it will come. 'Yes, Scripture is God's Word,' they will say. 'But it is also man's word. The prophets and apostles were sinners just like you and me. That is why we must admit the Bible does have mistakes and errors in it, things we no longer need to believe. But that's okay! We have God's Spirit to lead us, and He blows wherever He wills, which we are convinced is over there, in this direction...'

Both of these teachings are the same grossly impious lie. Both make the audaciously terrifying assumption that Christ's perfection is not quite enough to handle and overcome out human imperfection. The words can seem loving and soft on the ears. But when drawing a straight line, a small mistake at the start becomes a great misdirection in the end. So also a little leavenous lie will eventually leaven the entire lump of faith.

Pr. Jonathan Fisk
To say 'we all believe in Jesus so the other things do not matter' does not lift Jesus up. It casts Him down because it casts His teaching down. It replaces Him with a man-made tradition of hating tradition, under which no single word of His is safe. Once it has begun, one by one all the truths of Scripture will be rendered void, one by one relegated to the truthiness of the world and placed on the smorgasbord of half-believed religiosities  until we welcome any false gospel with open arms but decry the scandal  of the real Gospel's particularity as the greatest possible offense. By then, Jesus' crucifixion will have been quietly moved further and further from the center, an afterthought brought out on holidays as a nice story to remind us why we ought to be spiritual people and enjoy our freedom, until at last it is entirely gone with no one left who is religious enough to even notice.

Against this folly, St. Paul cries to us from the depths of our history, "I say it again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:9)

Alas, too many of us have already forgotten how to hear. 'Yes,' we say, 'but that is only your interpretation.'

Jonathan Fisk, Broken, p.217, 219

Pastor Fisk hits the nail directly on the head. This era is already here and is running with full force in the name of Christianity; all the while warring and fighting against Christ and the Gospel.

If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it. It's an easy read. Easy for just about anyone age 16 or over. Yet, it is theologically deep and written in a very accessible style.

I like to blog and I love to read. Pr. Fisk is a much better writer than I. Every Lutheran -nay- every Christian; should read this book, especially those who are caught up in some sort of new era nonsense that masquerades as pure Christianity when it is not.




The Church is identified by the pure preaching of the Gospel and the pure administration of the Sacraments according to the Gospel. All doctrines in the Church are taught as Gospel-centered and Christ-centered, and the Sacraments are Gospel-centered and Christ-centered.

Where a church departs from these, it is heterodox. However, God is patient with us, as we all have bad theology somewhere. But the Church should never tolerate false doctrine in any form, not for the sake of "being right," but for the sake of the care of the souls She is entrusted with.

When I was a Calvinist, I cared about "correct doctrine" simply for the sake of "being right" so I could "please God" and "avoid idolatry." The mindset was one of philosophy, and the hidden G-d.

Glory to Christ that for historic and confessional Lutheranism, it is all about Jesus. Doctrine is always for the sake of the Gospel. The Sacraments are always for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus Christ got His theology perfect for us. Jesus Christ pleased God perfectly. Jesus Christ avoided idolatry.

Philosophy tries to climb its way up.

God in Jesus Christ comes down to us.


For me.

For you.


Even when we don't feel it.


Letter, Spirit, Forget the Bible?

2 Corinthians 3:6b: For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Here is a favorite part of Scripture for folks who like to discredit or downplay the Holy Scriptures. They see this text and surmise that the "letter" is a reference to the Scriptures and the Spirit is the Holy Spirit. Thus, it's the Spirit and their personal relationship and feelings that give life to them, apart from the Scripture. Hence, personal experience wins the day and all different waves of false beliefs are validated.

The funny thing is, the people who hold this stance are actually using the Bible as an authority to denigrate the Bible so it's not an authority. Imagine that.

But not so fast, grasshopper. All we need to do is to keep on reading.

2 Corinthians 3:7-8: Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?

These are the next lines given by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians. He explains clearly what he is referring to in v. 6.

You have words like kills and death. He is linking verse 7 to what he just said in verse 6. The letter that kills is not the Holy Scriptures, it's the LAW. He states that the ministry of death was carved in letters on stone. Well, what was carved in letters on stone? He even says that the letter kills and that letters were carved on stone.

Clearly, he is speaking of the law and the Mosaic covenant. He explains that very plainly for us in verses 7 and 8.

 It does not matter what the text "means to me" or "means to you." What is important is what St. Paul is actually telling us.

Now what is the ministry of the Spirit? Well, let's let Jesus tell us that one.

St. John 15:26: But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

Shockingly enough, it's not some Pentecostal mumbo-jumbo nonsense.  It does not matter what the text "means to me" or "means to you." What is important is what St. Paul is actually telling us. St. Paul is not giving us a free pass to "follow the Spirit" apart from the dead letter of Holy Scripture. That is not at all what is being said here. The Spirit is to bear witness to Christ. The Spirit does not point to Himself, but to Christ. He does not give you fuzzy feelings of whatever you want to believe and allow you to say "the Spirit told me so." He points to Jesus and His work on our behalf.

In other words, the ministry of the Spirit is nothing other than the preaching and proclaiming of the Gospel, given to us in Word and Sacrament. Simply put, it's the New Covenant in Christ.

The misinterpretation of this passage is nothing less than a denial of everything else the Scriptures say about the Spirit, Christ, the Law, the Gospel, and the Scriptures themselves. It is a dangerous false belief that leads to self-sufficient Christianity and people making up and believing what they want and saying it came from the Spirit.

Since this particular belief aims it fiery darts directly at the function of the law and the Spirit directing us to the Gospel; and rejects what St. Paul is actually telling us here, it is not a Christian belief at all. It also runs a very high risk of leading to a form of Gnosticism - a denial of any means of grace at all.

I'll go even further. If the Spirit is not pointing to Jesus, it's probably not the Spirit. Do the math.

+Grace and Peace+


Backwards is Still Backwards

The Holy Scriptures, throughout history, have been the most interpreted and read book by humanity. Of course, this also means that the Holy Scriptures have also been the most misinterpreted book in human history as well. In fact, the Scriptures themselves have a couple things to say about this.

2 Peter 2:1 (ESV): But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

2 Peter 1:20-21 (ESV): knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

So, with this being said, there have been some different ideas that have been proposed over the years. Rome answers plainly that they, and only they, have the right to interpret the Holy Scriptures. Official interpretations laid down by the Magisterium are binding. On the other hand, many modern day evangelicals have proposed that everyone has the right to interpret Scripture for themselves. But this is clearly contrary to 2 Peter 1:20-21.

There is a better way. It's called sola scriptura. Far from being the modern day evangelical approach, sola scriptura simply confesses that Scripture alone is the only source for infallible doctrine. Sola scriptura takes into account church history and the writings and interpretations of church fathers and scholars.

All of this being said, this is not the main point of this post, but it does back up what the post is really about: The completely backwards manner in which much of evangelical Christianity interprets the Holy Scriptures. It is known as dispensationalism.

Dispensationalists hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible as the best hermeneutic. The literal interpretation gives each word the meaning it would commonly have in everyday usage. Allowances are made for symbols, figures of speech, and types, of course. It is understood that even symbols and figurative sayings have literal meanings behind them. So, for example, when the Bible speaks of “a thousand years” in Revelation 20, dispensationalists interpret it as a literal period of 1,000 years (the dispensation of the Kingdom), since there is no compelling reason to interpret it otherwise. (Source: http://www.gotquestions.org/dispensationalism.html)

Many dispensationalists like to turn up their noses in a sort of spiritual pride that they are the only ones who interpret Scripture literally and everyone else "spiritualizes away" stuff. As you can see, dispensationalism prides itself on being a literal interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

But. It's. Not.

What dispensationalism fails to mention is that the entire system interprets many didactic teachings -which are literal- in a figurative or symbolic manner, all the while going directly against the historic teachings and doctrines of the Christian Church. Need some examples? Happy to oblige.

In dispensationalism, the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are completely jettisoned. Whereas the Holy Scriptures plainly say that baptism buries us with Christ and raises us in faith (cf. Rom 6:34, Col 2:12) and that baptism now saves us (1 Pet 3:21), dispensationalism asserts that baptism is the "...means by which a person makes a public profession of faith and discipleship. In the waters of baptism, a person says, wordlessly, “I confess faith in Christ; Jesus has cleansed my soul from sin, and I now have a new life of sanctification." (Source: http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-baptism.html)

In other words, baptism is done only after a person is already saved and thus is an act of our obedience to God and not an act of God given to us. It is therefore man's work and not God's work in this theology.

The Lord's Supper is another glaring example. The Church has always taught, based on Scripture, that Christ is truly bodily present in bread and wine at the Lord's Supper. Dispensationalism says otherwise.

John MacArthur, himself a dispensationalist, says, "In saying the bread is His body, Jesus obviously was not speaking literally. A similarly foolish misunderstanding already caused the Pharisees to ridicule Him and many superficial disciples to desert Him (John 6:48-66). It is the same misunderstanding reflected in the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. That literalistic notion is an absurd misinterpretation of Scripture." (Source: http://www.gty.org/blog/B130328/instituting-the-lords-supper)

What MacArthur fails to realize here is that his little barb aimed at Rome is also aimed directly at what the entire Church has believed for 2000 years. The true bodily presence of Christ in the Eucharist is one of the most easily proved doctrines that the early church held. Don't believe me? Read some of the early church fathers.

As an aside, these ideas are at the forefront of what is known as Restorationism. Restorationism is the belief that the Christian Church committed gross apostasy very early in church history and the church was all but gone for nearly 1800 years. It was then restored to its original teachings and glory in the 1800s, which resulted in separatist sects such as the Plymouth Brethren - who are dispensational to the core. Who woulda thunk it?

Lutheran Satire pretty much nails it here:

The flip side of the problem with dispensationalism is that not only does the system reject literal interpretation of numerous didactic teachings, but they also affirm literal interpretation of symbolic books of Scripture - namely, Daniel and Revelation. Scripture uses numbers quite often as symbolic language. Dispensationalism says otherwise, insisting on a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on Earth, presiding over a mixture of glorified saints and people still in the flesh. Weird.

Dispensationalism is also the source of the zany and wacky pre-tribulation rapture nonsense that most evangelical Christians are taught now days, especially in the United States. If you want to know more about pre-trib, read the Left Behind series or anything by Hal Lindsey.

Likewise, dispensationalism has no support from any church fathers or scholars for well over 1000 years (enter Restorationism, of course) or from the Holy Scriptures themselves. But at the end of the day, backwards will be backwards no matter how you slice it.

If you read didactic teachings symbolically, and symbolic books literally, you might be a dispensationalist. And to be clear, you do not believe Christian Orthodoxy in these areas. What you believe is a very new system of thought that flatly rejects what Christianity has always taught and believed in many areas.

And. That. Is. Not. Good.



Epitome VII: The Lord's Supper

Whether in the Holy Supper the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are truly and essentially present, are distributed with the bread and wine, and received with the mouth by all those who use this Sacrament, whether they be worthy or unworthy, godly or ungodly, believing or unbelieving; by the believing for consolation and life, by the unbelieving for judgment? The Sacramentarians say, No; we say, Yes.

For the explanation of this controversy it is to be noted in the beginning that there are two kinds of Sacramentarians. Some are gross Sacramentarians, who declare in plain (deutschen), clear words as they believe in their hearts, that in the Holy Supper nothing but bread and wine is present, and distributed and received with the mouth. Others, however, are subtle Sacramentarians, and the most injurious of all, who partly speak very speciously in our own words, and pretend that they also believe a true presence of the true, essential, living body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, however, that this occurs spiritually through faith. Nevertheless they retain under these specious words precisely the former gross opinion, namely, that in the Holy Supper nothing is present and received with the mouth except bread and wine. For with them the word spiritually means nothing else than the Spirit of Christ or the power of the absent body of Christ and His merit, which is present; but the body of Christ is in no mode or way present, except only above in the highest heaven, to which we should elevate ourselves into heaven by the thoughts of our faith, and there, not at all, however, in the bread and wine of the Holy Supper, should seek this body and blood [of Christ].

Epitome VII: 2-5

Here we have direct statements from the Epitome of the Formula of Concord. These statements deal with our rejection of the Sacramentarian stances on the Holy Supper, precisely because the Sacramentarian stances disagree with the words of Christ in Scripture.

Who then, in modern terms, are we talking about? The gross Sacramentarians that the Epitome speaks of would be Baptists, Pentecostals, and so on. These are the churches that flatly accept Zwingli's purely symbolic reading of the last will and testament of Christ.

The subtle Sacramentarians the Epitome speaks about are the Reformed Calvinists, who claim to hold to the Real Presence but in essence reject it. The Reformed hold that the body of Christ is in heaven and will remain there until the second coming. There is some truth to that, but they miss the point that Christ is God and can make His body present wherever He wills it. They also are in rejection of the biblical stance on the communication of the natures of Christ. Likewise, another Calvinist canard to be aware of is the statement that "the finite cannot contain the infinite." This statement is foolish, as when taken to its conclusion, denies the Incarnation of Christ.

"Most injurious of all" indeed, as the Epitome states. Sneaky and subtle in an attempt to retain catholicity, but still just as Sacramentarian as Zwingli and the modern day Baptists and Pentecostals when push comes to shove.



Two natures of Christ as revealed in Scriptures

While the divine nature doesn't have any need of "improvement" the divine nature does communicate attributes to His humanity. Hence He healed with human touch yet the power to heal was divine. He walked on water with human feet, but the power to do so on water was divine. His human blood paid for our sins but as that was the blood of God, it was His divine nature that gave it divine saving power. He walked through closed door with His human body but it is His divine power that allowed Him to go through that door. He died on the Cross for our sins as death was a human characteristic yet it is proper to say God died according to the flesh. For while the divine nature cannot die, the person of Jesus did died because His human nature did possessed death as an attribute. But it was divine power that raised Him from death and defeated death. His submission to do God's will reflected His human will which submitted to the divine will which He possessed (hence one person of God and man, with two natures and two wills, neither mixed, as when some say the humanity of Christ ceased to exist, nor seperated, as when some say omit the man Jesus was born, but not the divine Jesus). Such are many examples in the Gospels of His two natures in communion together, working together, and involving communication of attributes.

More to the point, He showed He isn't limited to one spot to the human eye then when He promised to heal a human from miles away and He healed that person right there and then despite to the human eye, the distance between Him and the person healed. He said He would be with us to the end of the ages. He spoke from context of having all authority given Him. Now that wouldn't be in accordance with His divine nature, since as God, He had authority all along. It would be in accordance with His human nature that is glorified by His resurrection and Ascension. So likewise, His promise to be with us would mean the whole Jesus, including His humanity, not just the divine nature. And He could do so despite human nature by itself limited to one location because of it joined in communion with the divine nature in one person where the divine nature can communicate attribute to it without obliteration the human nature and without taking away from the human nature retaining its own characteristics. Hence, it wasn't impossible with Him as God Incarnate to be present in body and blood in the Eucharist even when He was there to the  human eyes and ears to institute it. Nor impossible now to be present in both Baptism and Eucharist though both are all over the world.

To have a Jesus with us with only the divine nature in Word and Sacrament would mean a pre-incarnate God the Son, not Christ as Incarnate God as He is now. He is both God and man. It is proper to say the Man Jesus, as Paul called in 1 Timothy 2, was God as Paul called him in Philippians 2. And it is proper to call the God Christ man as well. God is man, and man is God are proper phrases in reference to Christ and no one else. He is with us to the end of the ages as both God and man as He promised He would. If He was just man only, He would not have been able to do so. But He was also God so what He wills divinely, He could accomplish. The whole person of God with us (as in Immanuel) is thus not destitute of His humanity.

Think of fire and iron joined together. Fire (like divine nature) heats up the iron (as in human nature). Fire remains fire with own characteristic while iron has communication of attributes (heat) given it. And iron still retains own characteristics even as it takes on new characteristics. Yet together iron and fire though two become joined, with each retaining own characteristics yet fire giving iron its heat.

This the God and Savior of all men that we confessed to.

Here we stand.



Mankind's greatest need is and continues to be forgiveness from God and forgiveness from others. It is not even moral transformation, as moral transformation in this life will always be incomplete. We cannot be told to look to the quality of our faith, as that is always going inward and will always, always, always lead to despair. We will never, ever, measure up.

For those who are strong enough to simply say "Oh I know I'm forgiven", I truly am glad for them that their faith is that strong. But I don't know about you, but even though I know I'm forgiven, I do not always *feel* forgiven. 

This is serious pastorally. For those who do not have the Sacraments, my heart breaks for them because they are many times simply being told to look back again to their faith, which is already weak, if they don't feel forgiven. This is detrimental to their comfort, because they will never have enough faith.

But God Who is rich in mercy has given us the Sacraments and the Word of the Gospel to comfort us who have weak faith.

He has washed our sins away in the Waters of Holy Baptism.

Every time in Divine Service He comes down to us in the mouth of the minister and declares us forgiven in the Sacrament of Holy Absolution.

Then the Gospel is proclaimed and Christ Himself gives us His Body to eat and His Blood to drink for the forgiveness of our sins in the Sacrament of the Altar.

Even as the Sacraments are physical, God loves the physical. Christ clothed Himself with physical flesh to redeem the world.

Your sins are forgiven.