by Pete Schrank
In October, we traditionally talk about the reformation and how Luther changed the Christian faith and the world. The reformation brought about many doctrinal changes. As Lutherans, we are free from the rules of the Pope, the penalty of Purgatory, the deification of Mary, the purchase of indulgences, and many other differences that we have with our Catholic brothers and sisters.
Google says, according to the Gordan-Conwell Seminary back in 2012, there were 43,000 different Christian denominations worldwide. I am sure that this includes those non-affiliated congregations with a charismatic preacher that leads his flock as he sees fit. Ever since Paul instructed the Church in Corinth about divisions in the church, believers have tried to put their own spin on the message of salvation. Even Martin Luther did not want to start a new denomination, just correct the Roman Catholics about some of the non-Biblical practices of the day.
We Christians have divisions about many things. For example; the divinity of Jesus, who is 100% God and 100% man. Christians have a disagreement on baptism i.e. infant vs adult. We differ on predestination and/or double predestination. The debate about the essence of Holy Communion started early on and appears to be never ending. Who will go to heaven? What will judgement consist of? I think more books have been written about the end of the age than any other Biblical subject in history. There are many more differences, enough to fill up the entire newsletter space with examples.
So what about Christian unity? It is clear, straight forward, and very simple. It is the same message Billy Graham spoke at every stadium he filled during his World Crusade fulfilling Christ’s command from the book of Matthew, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Billy took the message of salvation to all the corners of the world without ever talking about his denomination. It is the same message Paul shared as he journeyed to Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, and throughout the region. God the creator of all things sent his only son Jesus Christ to suffer and die for everyone’s sin. That means everyone. Jesus was resurrected from the dead to show God’s complete power over death and the devil. Finally, at the end of the age, those who believe will be saved and have eternal life with our God. You cannot be good enough, do enough good deeds, buy your way to heaven, or ask someone else to get you in. This is the message of GRACE (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense), that all Christian denominations share with all the fellow travelers in the world.
As the world population gets larger, more connected, less religious, but more spiritual (that is what the news says), the fellowship of all Christians needs to remember that we have unity in our Savior Christ Jesus. Christians are stronger than the sum of their parts (denominations).