Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Excommunication - An Open Letter to the Members of Holy Word Lutheran Church


Dear Members of Holy Word,

As Lutherans, we believe that the Holy Spirit is never separated from the Word or the Means of Grace. It is mentioned throughout Scripture and in the Lutheran Confessions in the explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles Creed. Note that the forgiveness of sins is here and not in the Second Article; it is a work of the Holy Spirit:

"I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true."

As Lutherans we also believe this statement to be true and the hallmark of our faith:

"The sinner is justified by grace for Christ’s sake through faith."

You can not separate that sentence in any way shape or form or you end up teaching falsely.

And this from The Apology IV, 57; it talks of the object of our justification and the remission of sins through faith alone:

"57] And throughout the prophets and the psalms this worship, this latreiva, is highly praised, although the Law does not teach the gratuitous remission of sins. But the Fathers knew the promise concerning Christ, that God for Christ's sake wished to remit sins. Therefore, since they understood that Christ would be the price for our sins, they knew that our works are not a price for so great a matter [could not pay so great a debt]. Accordingly, they received gratuitous mercy and remission of sins by faith, just as the saints in the New Testament.

More on justification hence forgiveness through faith alone. Apology XII, 53 &54:

53] For the two chief works of God in men are these, to terrify, and to justify and quicken those who have been terrified. Into these two works all Scripture has been distributed. The one part is the Law, which shows, reproves, and condemns sins. The other part is the Gospel, i.e., the promise of grace bestowed in Christ, and this promise is constantly repeated in the whole of Scripture, first having been delivered to Adam [I will put enmity, etc., Gen. 3:15, afterwards to the patriarchs; then, still more clearly proclaimed by the prophets; lastly, preached and set forth among the Jews by Christ, and disseminated over the entire world by the apostles. 54] For all the saints were justified by faith in this promise, and not by their own attrition or contrition.

Nowhere in Scripture or the Confessions does it say that the forgiveness of sins/justification is imputed to anyone before they were born as Pastor Patterson preaches and teaches. The work of the Holy Spirit is working faith and the forgiveness of sins. We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Rom 10:17) If we are not yet born, how do we hear it?

Since you are entrusting your spiritual welfare to the leadership at Holy Word, you are culpable to their actions on your behalf. I have stood on Biblical truth and the Book of Concord, your profession of faith.

This from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website concerning excommunication:

"Congregations must excommunicate members who have sinned and refuse to repent even though their fellow Christians have warned them according to the steps described in Matthew 18:15-18. An excommunicated person cannot attend the Lord's Supper or exercise any rights of membership in the congregation.

A member can be excommunicated only if his (or her) action is clearly against God's law, if it is proven that he is guilty of sin, and if he has refused warnings to repent. Scripture says an impenitent person has no forgiveness of sins. Excommunication, therefore, does not simply exclude an individual from membership in the congregation, but declares that the offender has excluded himself from eternal life since no impenitent person has forgiveness of sins and no unforgiven person can enter heaven.

The congregation excommunicates a person in the hope that this drastic step will lead the sinner to come to his senses and repent. The excommunicated person will then be welcomed back to the congregation.

Excommunication, therefore, is an act of love for sinners, aimed at saving them from the eternal consequences of impenitence.

When the case has not yet proceeded to the point of excommunication, a pastor who knows that a person is impenitent should warn him or her not to come to communion, since it offers forgiveness only to the repentant. Those who come without repentance bring harm upon themselves by misuse of the sacrament. Exclusion from the Lord's Supper has the same evangelical purpose as excommunication: to bring the sinner to repentance. The pastor can take such action only if the guilt and impenitence of the person are clearly established but the congregation has not yet had an opportunity to act on the case."

Where have we broken God's Law?

We pray you realize the graveness in all of this.

In His Grace,

Joe and Lisa

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Pastor with a backbone vs Pastor for sale


Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Hi Joe,

(Say, the next time you write an open letter to Intrepid Lutherans, be sure to actually send a copy to Intrepid Lutherans. Someone directed me to your letter, or else I would never have seen it.)

First, I sympathize with you and your family over the turmoil you're going through. I don't know your whole situation, but I wish the dialogue on justification between you and your pastor hadn't been so quickly taken "off the table," as it were. It sounds like there's lots to talk about and study yet.

To your letter: I disagree that my comment above was convoluted and "esoteric," and I also disagree with your answer of "No" to the question, "Was forgiveness acquired before repentance?", so I'm not sure if we're on the same page here or not. As I explained in the first part of my comment above, forgiveness was most certainly acquired by Christ for all people of all times (therefore, without respect to anyone's repentance). Forgiveness is not distributed to anyone apart from the Means of Grace. The forgiveness that Christ acquired for all is acquired by an individual through faith alone, worked by the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace.

I think you're actually confusing the issue when you bring repentance into it. It just adds another dimension that is not necessary if your point is to keep it simple. "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Whether quoting from Genesis 15 or from Romans 3 or 4, repentance isn't brought into the picture. But faith is. Stick with talking about faith, in my opinion. This would also be in keeping with the historical Lutheran understanding of the "ingredients" of justification: 1) The grace of God, 2) The merit of Christ, 3) The promise (Means of Grace), and 4) Faith in the promise.

I think I would agree with you (not having read everything you've written on the matter) that it is not right to say that you, Joe Krohn, were forgiven before you were born. Scripture does not talk that way, nor do our Confessions, nor does Chemnitz in his Examination. Is there forgiveness in Christ for all? Yes. Did God love you before you were born and see to it that his Gospel was preached to you that you might believe and be saved? Yes. But before you were in Christ, you, like the rest of us, were still counted among "the wicked."

Again, I don't know enough of your particular situation, but speaking in general, I can't imagine why anyone would be excommunicated (from a Lutheran church) for holding to justification by faith alone in Christ, as long as "faith" is not ascribed to man as man's good work, and as long as "faith" is defined as nothing more than to believe in God's promise of mercy for Christ's sake.

Peace be with you.

Pr. Rydecki