Thursday, April 15, 2010

As They Feast with Us.

2 Peter 2:11-16 (ESV)
Whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. [12] But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, [13] suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. [14] They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! [15] Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, [16] but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness.

“suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.
While they feast with you, I read this and I think it must be talking of Communion. So often today people think that this is the idea of Closed Communion, to stop the immoral from communing with you. No one would be able to commune if that were the case. Neither is this about looking into the hearts of people to discern whether they have faith or not. I can’t do that. And this passage brings out the futility in that.
There are reasons for closed communion. For my part I never know if one believes or not, and I find it rather futile to try and discern that. I give it no thought. My job is to proclaim the gospel and teach, baptize and teach. I don’t know what a person believes when they come to my altar, but I want to know that I have, or another pastor, has at least taught them what they should believe. Second, in the cases of gross and manifest sin where it is apparent that there is no repentance, the goal is to tell the person that this is unacceptable. You cannot continue in this behavior openly and unashamedly and still consider yourself a Christian. Christians love, and loving our neighbor we try best we can to restrain our sinful behavior which does not treat our neighbor as one for whom Christ died.
And perhaps one of the greatest and grossest of manifest sin is that of false doctrine. We do not condone the blaspheming of Christ’s good name with legalism which is at the root of all false doctrine, believe it or not even the false doctrine of libertinism. False doctrine is insidious, and is not to be ignored or looked over as not mattering at all.
But to save us from communing with people less righteous than us? No. that won’t work. The immoral will commune. The unrighteous will feast with us. We cannot be concerned about that. That is Christ’s place. It is not a matter of looking into the hearts of others.


Steve Martin said...

Right, Bror.

When St. Paul wrote about those taking the Sacrament unworthily, he was referring to those who were drinking and eating too much and not sharing.

Who is worthy? None of us.

But we still want people to know that the Lord is really present in His meal, and that it is for them.

Jonathan said...

The Corinthian church in acting that way(selfishly/gluttonously) failed to discern the body/blood and so took it in an unworthy manner and were thus eating/drinking to their condemnation (damnation). Therefore, the fact is, Paul implies that there is such a thing as partaking in the sacrament in a "worthy manner" and as he lays out that it entails self-examination and understanding of what it is that one is receiving--the very body/blood of Christ for forgiveness of sins--which clearly the gluttonous/selfish Corinthians is but one example of a failure to satisfy that prerequisite in order to eat/drink in a worthy manner. Ergo, real presence ought to be the primary confession around the table. It is not a mere trifling matter over whether He is present (symbolic view) or how (spiritually, as in Reformed) when He's told us that it is, is, IS, for the forgiveness of my (a sinner's) sins. Beyond that, though, I struggle with the horizontal as it seems to me counter to self-examination into I am right; they are wrong.

Bror Erickson said...

"Beyond that, though, I struggle with the horizontal as it seems to me counter to self-examination into I am right; they are wrong."

We can't really examine others the way we examine ourselves. There are only two things we can do and are asked to do in scripture, teach, and take others on the basis of their confession. One might say though that at times a person's actions, willingness or unwillingness to do something or not do something, also act as a confession of faith. Action's speak louder than words as they say.

Jonathan said...

Agreed: can't examine someone else, except maybe by their confession.

But if we agree on the primary vertical confession of real presence, how much should the horizontal matter?

For example, we hold that the ordination of women is not meet, right, or salutary. Someone else who holds to primary confession of real presence may not hold the same.

What I am getting at is that, doesn't the horizontal affect my examination of myself? That is, I am a sinner coming in need and expectation of forgiveness in the real presence. Yet, on the basis of that particular horizontal distinction between us, we ought not commune? So, I am a sinner, he is sinner, and here is balm effective for both of us, but for this difference we can't commune?

To me it seems it affects what I am saying in my examination; I am right, he is wrong.

It seems to me, the Christian Questions/Answers on worthy reception of the sacrament don't go beyond the essentials. And yet, we make a lot more pre-requisites, lines in the sand.

Bror Erickson said...

The sacraments have many facets, and so do the practices surrounding them. It is a bit more than I am right and you are wrong, especially when it comes to an issue such as women's ordination. There is always a question of what the essentials are. But there is also a question of False doctrine, supporting it, condoning it, etc.
And it isn't to be stuck up about these things, but to say, listen, you are teaching this, or the church body you support with your membership, supports this, and teaches this, codones this, and this is injurious to the church, it leads people down a false path, undermines the authority of Scripture etc. And we really can't condone that, we have to ask you to make a decision concerning this issue.
And it does get tough at times, because people might stay in a church for many reasons even disagreeing with some points of doctrine, because of family, or ties, some might be in congregations that are in statu confessionus, and aren't supporting, and exceptions need to be made. But then they might talk to the pastor before hand and not show up five minutes before and cause a scene.

Bror Erickson said...

I hope that helps a bit. There are times when closed communion is meant to be a bit of a corrective. This is especially true where false doctrine is concerned.

Jonathan said...

Thanks, that helps. It's just not easy some times to think of closed communion because of the "horizontal" especially when you've just heard all manner of peculiar, personal (dare I say "false"?) doctrines being espoused by fellow members in a spirited Bible study. Yet I love them, and I queue up at the rail with them.

Bror Erickson said...

The truth of that is sad.And us pastors need to do batter catechizing etc. I don't have all the answers to this, but it seems to me you have to start somewhere with it all.