Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The church's Power

[7] "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: 'The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
[8] " 'I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. [9] Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. [10] Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. [11] I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. [12] The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. [13] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.' Rev. 3:7-13 (ESV)

“You have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and not denied my name.” Churches never have but a little power when it comes to the things of this world. At times different church bodies, earthly manifestations of church, have had immense power. It has never turned out to be a good thing. Lord Acton, once said something to the effect of “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is perhaps now where more true than in religious organizations that gain power, Christian churches included. One thinks of the inquisitions of the Roman Church, or Calvin’s Geneva, the different anabaptist movements of the reformation period. Yes it is fun to visit Amish communities and stare at them as if they were a bunch of monkeys in funny clothes. But to understand the dynamics of their communities is it seems from my limited exposure to understand hell and the depths of human sin and pride coupled with religion. When religion has that kind of power over a human soul the corruption cannot help but to be absolute. Then there is the state of Utah, insanity. There are many aspects of Utah I enjoy. But the dominating religion is not one. Here is a state that believes in sanctification by legislation. That is they believe that somehow they can sanctify you, and it is there duty to do so, by passing absurd laws such that if you have a bar in your restaurant it has to be kept behind a ten foot wall so your kids are not corrupted by seeing someone mix your drink. If someone mentions the idea of yet again raising the taxes on alcohol and tobacco it is a foregone conclusion. (Somehow they leave it to smokers to fund their schools and then still look down upon these people, who if they quit doing their civic duty would bankrupt the state. I mean if it is somehow immoral or undesirable for people to drink and smoke, how is it desirable that the state make more of a profit from it than the companies that make the product? ) And all this in the name of religion. Which when atheists rant about it all being hypocritical etc. well they aren’t without ammunition in this. This is especially true when the religion is about law.
A little power. The church is not without power though. It isn’t the same as earthly power. It really should not be. Leave that to governments. Let them be hypocrites. The church has its power in the word of God, the Gospel. Only the gospel can change hearts. To the world it looks foolish, it looks helpless. But then Christ looked helpless on the cross, and it was there that he conquered the devil. We have a little power, and it is immense in its ability. It can do what no other power can if we only remain faithful, keep His word and do not deny his name.


Anonymous said...

"I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie."

I had an LDS bishop once tell me that to the LDS, Jews are Gentiles. Hmm. I wonder about that.

Larry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry said...


I have a generic question that relates to these letters to the churches. Its something I continually wrestle with understanding.

The way I was taught as a non-lutheran (baptist and reformed):

These letters are to the churches. Each letter speaks of a positive and a deficiency. What are the analogous to today? In other words in Rev. it speaks to the church AT… Today’s analogous would be something like the letter to the church at X (with its particular good and bad things) is like the “Reformed church” (narrow sense, pure Calvin not including baptist) and the letter to the church at Y is like the “________denomination grouping”. And the false congregations, e.g. the Nicolatians, represent something like today’s JWs or Mormons.

The way Sasse speaks of them is that the letters to the churches at X, their analogy to today (perpetually) already presupposes orthodox confession. As such in Luther’s time it might have been the territorial churches (at____). In our time it’s a bit harder but I suppose it could orthodoxy at any given location within an orthodox confession (e.g. LCMS X city, Y state). And the Nicolatians seems to point out are more analogous with all heterodoxys (e.g. not just JWs and Mormons but the Reformed, narrow sense, baptist, etc…).

Now there were some exceptions to the way I was taught among the time I was in the baptist circles in which they only considered, informally, a baptist to be orthodox and they kind of thought similarly to Sasse concerning the circle of “churches” versus the erring “carry of from Rome” protestants.

It seems somewhat necessary to know which is appropriate in order to frame everything rightly.

Any thoughts??

Bror Erickson said...

This is getting annoying. I have tried 3 times now to respond, and my computer seems a bit wacked.

Bror Erickson said...

Gentile is a funny word. It has changed in meaning over time, and even its use in Scripture is a bit slippery. Context determines who is being singled out. There is a sense in which even Paul would have considered his fellow compatriots to be gentiles. I wouldn't worry about that too much. Bigger fish to fry when it comes to Mormonism.

Bror Erickson said...

Any Thoughts?
Well Larry. I am not wont to disagree with Sasse. So...
I think it is true. It presupposed at least a bit of orthodoxy, even if it was chastizing for heterodoxy.
In other words, it happens at times that people begin to think a bit differently, they begin to error in judgment. And yet they still want to remain faithful to God's word and will be corrected by it. So they would listen to an apostle and be corrected by him. this is not true of the majority of baptists today. They are stuck and refuse to be corrected by God's word. They are heterodox.