Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are two sacraments all Christians observe in one way or another. Today, Erwin Lutzer tells us what we share as fellow believers despite our differences and gives us a big picture view of the church from God's perspective. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, why the wide variance in how Christians observe these two ordinances?
Well Dave, you've asked a very interesting question. From a biblical point of view, it had to do with how literally should we take the scriptures. The point is simply this, when Jesus said, this is my blood, did he mean that literally? Or did he mean this represents my blood?
Now, of course, many of us believe that there are powerful reasons to believe that he did not mean it literally, but rather this represents my blood. But that's one of the reasons for the division. The other has to do with church history itself. In the early centuries of the church, there was this drift toward what we call sacramentalism, which of course emphasized the role of the sacraments in salvation. It gave the priests incredible power.
And so all of that became involved in these divisions. It's important for us to understand that. It's also important for us to understand the basics of the Christian faith. My wife and I have written a book entitled Life Changing Bible Verses You Should Know. It deals with doctrinal issues. It also deals with issues regarding Christian living. It is really intended to help believers as they go to the next step in their sanctification and their walk. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And now let's go to the pulpit of Moody Church as we continue our study on conflicts. Our attitude unites us. Our life unites us. Verse 4, it says, there is one body and one spirit just as you were called to the one hope. We are unified because we're members of the same body.
And when one part of the body hurts, the other part hurts also. We are a part of those who rejoice with those who rejoice. But it isn't just that we're committed to each other. It's because God has metaphysically connected us together.
You've had this experience as I have. You can go to another part of the world and you can meet a believer in Jesus. And even though you've never known him or her, there is a whole area of commonality that you know instantly because they too have been born again of the same spirit. They are part of the same body.
Paul says that you are one. There is one body. There's one spirit. There aren't many bodies.
There aren't many spirits. It's all one. There's one hope by which you were called. If you're a believer here today in Jesus, it's because God called you. And the same call to salvation that I answered at the age of 14 is the same call to salvation that you answered at some point in your life when you believed in Jesus. So what you can see here is that what the scripture is saying is we are one loaf. We are members of the same body. We share the same attitude.
We share the very same life. We're all connected to the head and we're members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. We are one even with people with whom we disagree and people who it is difficult to love. We are also united because of our beliefs. Here I'm thinking about the next passage where it says there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Lord, that is the Lord Jesus Christ, one faith, that is the body of doctrine that has been given to the church. And that's where the disagreements come, folks, because they're those who leave the one faith, some of us believe, and therefore divisions happen when you leave the faith and the faith that you have in Jesus. So you'll notice it says there's one Lord, one faith, one baptism. You almost have to smile because baptism has divided the church, has it not? You have infant baptism. You have believers baptism. You have different understandings of baptism. There are those who believe that baptism is the entrance into the Christian family. There are those who believe it is simply a sign of the covenant. You have different understandings of baptism. Isn't it interesting that something in the scripture that should unite us divides us? The same can be said for the Lord's Supper.
That's why Melanchthon, one of Luther's associates, said regarding these divisions that they are deserving of tears, and they are deserving of tears. Now, perhaps the baptism that he's talking about is not water baptism but spirit baptism. There's one baptism. 2 Corinthians chapter 12 verse 13, for by one spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Greek, rich or free, and have been all made to drink in one spirit. You see, it's the baptism of the spirit that puts us into Jesus. It's the baptism of the spirit that makes you one with him and therefore one with the rest of us. That baptism is never commanded that we should be baptized with the spirit.
Why? Because when you put faith in Jesus, you are baptized with the spirit and you become the one body that Paul is talking about here. So there's one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. We're united by our attitude, by our common life, by our common belief, the one faith that we have in Jesus, and we're also united by our service. It says in verse 11, and he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, the teachers to equip the saints for work of ministry. There are about 19 different gifts in the New Testament and that might not be the total.
There might be some things that aren't necessarily listed as gifts. And that's the whole purpose of gathering together. We gather to worship, most assuredly, but we also gather to serve. When I say that we have a parking need, need for those who are willing to sacrifice and perhaps have to miss a service once in every four or five weeks, there should be such an army of people and by the way, you don't need to be a member to do that. There should be such an army of people willing to sign up that the folks over there at the kiosks, that I hope you find say, enough already, we've got more than we can use. When I say that we need children's workers, they should be saying there at the kiosk today, I should get a phone call this afternoon, pastor, we had so many people who wanted to work with children's ministry that we don't know where they all are going to fit. Wouldn't that be a wonderful phone call?
I'll wait for that one. But that's what the body is all about. It's to function. It's to volunteer. It's to sacrifice on behalf of others. It's to say if I'm part of this, then by God's grace, I am going to be united with believers exercising my gift for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ. You are here for yourself today, but you're not just here for yourself. You are here for other believers who are sitting next to you and for the whole work of God that God has graciously given us the privilege to be involved in. And with a new building and new opportunities to extend the gospel in God's glory, we're going to need more people than we ever have. We're going to need more people to give.
Can you imagine what that new building adds to our budget? And so together we work. What's the bottom line?
The bottom line is this. The church is not just a group of people who gather together because they've decided to follow Jesus. That's not just what we are. The church is the Father's family, as we emphasize. The church is the Son's bride. He's going to marry us at the marriage supper of the Lamb when we show up, clothed in the good works that we did.
Yes, the good works that we did. Good works don't save you, but if you want to be dressed appropriately at the marriage supper of the Lamb, you'd better do good works because that's what the Bible teaches. And so what you have is it is the Father's family. It's the Son's bride. It's the home of the Holy Spirit. It's a unity created by God miraculously.
That's what the church is with all of its imperfections and all of its divisions and all of its headaches from time to time. If you're the kind of person who says, I don't want to be involved in a church. I don't want to join. I don't want to have any responsibility. I don't want to have any accountability.
I like to be a free floater. Like it here, depends on the length of the sermon. It goes somewhere else. If it's more suited to my taste, if that's what you are thinking, you have to at least ask the question as to whether or not you are saved, whether or not you are a Christian. You should ask that question. You say, well, isn't it possible to be like that and be a Christian? Yes, it is. But biblically, it's an anomaly. It's an exception.
You can't find it anywhere in the New Testament. There was no believer who did not attach himself onto some local assembly, some visible church with all of its problems, whether it's Corinth or the church in Philippi or wherever, because the unity that God created is the unity that has to be lived out in our own lives. And that is so critical, so critical. Are you connecting with my heart today about this or am I all alone up here today?
Are you getting what I want to tell you? You know, if you've never been to Ravinia, you should go up there. It's in one of the northern suburbs.
Forget which one, but here's the deal. There's a band shell there, and they have symphony orchestra. The symphony orchestra comes and plays. And you don't have to buy an expensive ticket to get into the band shell because it's open.
So what you do is you buy a cheaper ticket like my wife and I do, and then you sit on the lawn with hundreds of other people on a wonderful summer evening listening to the best of music. A number of years ago, we were up there and brought some lunch with us and finished that and sat on the blanket that we brought and a chair that we brought and just to enjoy the beautiful outdoors and beautiful music. Next to us was a man who also brought his blanket, and he fell asleep. And proof of this was the fact that he snored very loudly. My wife and I wondered, you know, should we actually move? Well, if we move, everybody around will see, hey, they moved because he's snoring.
So we can put up with a little bit of snoring. From time to time, your mate has done that. So I said, yeah, we'll just stay here, and we did. But when Schubert was finished, and by the way, that's where you get Mendelssohn and Schubert and Strauss and all of that good music. When Schubert was finished, which was the end of the program, everybody jumped up and gave them a standing ovation. This guy woke up, looked around, saw what everybody was doing, hopped up, and clapped along with everybody else. That's the way some believers are.
Spiritually speaking, sleep through life, uninvolved, unwilling to sacrifice, distantly related, and then when Jesus comes to receive his saints, when Jesus comes to receive us, and at the marriage supper of the Lamb, and that was for emphasis, I worked on that a long time before it worked out. There's going to be one up there in the front row saying, well, here I am. I'm clapping too, but they snoozed through the war. This morning I woke up with the song in mind, I gave my life for thee, my precious blood I shed, that thou mightst ransom be and quickened from the dead. I gave, I gave my life for thee. What hast thou given for me?
That's what I woke up thinking about this morning. In a few moments we're going to have communion, and we're going to say this cup is the cup of the new covenant in my blood, and this bread represents my body, which is broken for you. Jesus is saying this is what I've done for you, and by the way, if you've never received benefits from what he has done, you accept your sinfulness, recognize it, and come to him, and trust him. And as the choir sang, my sin, not in part but the whole, has been nailed to the cross.
You can have that also. But Jesus is saying to those of us who know him, I gave myself for thee, what hast thou given for me? What is your contribution to my body?
In terms of time, talents, treasure, involvement, that's the question that I have burned into my heart this morning, and I want it to be burned into your heart as well. Let us pray. Lord, receive us despite our imperfections and our sins. Receive us as a church despite our limitations, despite the fact that there are those who perhaps have been disappointed with various aspects of ministry, and we haven't lived up to everything that we could have lived up to. We acknowledge that, Lord.
We have nothing to hide. We have nothing to say except that we need you as a leadership and as a congregation. We pray for those who have never trusted Christ and for those who have. We ask today that you might challenge us and transform us through connecting with your body that cost you so dearly. In Jesus' name, amen. My friend, this is Pastor Lutzer.
Let me ask you a question today. Should we fear the Lord? There are those who say, no, we should have no fear of the Lord because we are under grace and it is now safe to sin.
Really? The fear of the Lord is mentioned many times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, we have a very interesting story. When God came on Sinai, the Bible says that the people feared, and yet the Lord says, do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning. Have you ever heard an exposition of that?
Why it is that on the one hand, God tells us to fear, and on the other hand, he says, do not be afraid? In the book entitled Life-Changing Bible Verses, You Should Know, my wife and I discuss those kinds of issues. We discuss these topics to help you make it all the way to the finish line.
Forty different topics, as a matter of fact. Now, for a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here is what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com.
That is rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. I believe very deeply that this resource will be a blessing to you. It will help you in your discipleship. It will also help you to disciple others. So remember, you can go to the phone right now, as a matter of fact. You can call 1-888-218-9337.
Thanks in advance for helping us, because together we're making a difference. It's time once again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Church history holds the interest of Dennis, a listener who lives in Inverness, Florida.
Here is his question. Since the church was split between Catholics and Protestants after the Reformation, who is right and who is wrong? Is the Catholic Church a cult? Well, Dennis, thank you so much for your question, and I'm glad that you are willing to reach back in history to help us to try to understand the importance of the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism.
In answer to your question, who was right and who was wrong, I want to answer it by saying the person who was most biblical is right. Of course, as you know, we are Protestants, and even Catholics admit that during the time of the Reformation, the church stood in great need of reform. The selling of indulgences, for example, which had taken place for centuries, now was in high gear, because the Pope wanted to have money to finish St. Peter's Basilica. And if you remember the context, before when indulgences were sold, it was for the living. Now it was extended to the dead. And the idea is that most of the people who died actually died unable to go directly into heaven because they weren't holy enough, so they went to purgatory. Nobody knew how long purgatory was. All that they knew was that it could be shortened, or possibly even a soul could be taken out of purgatory if a gift were paid. And when that abuse took place, Luther of course responded.
But the real issue is simply this. What is the requirement to go to heaven? In Roman Catholicism, it is believed that God gives people grace, and especially through the sacraments, they receive grace, and when they have enough grace, they are able then to go to heaven if they cooperate with God and allow that grace to grow in their hearts. The problem with that particular point of view, Dennis, is that no one can have real assurance of salvation, because after all, nobody knows whether or not he or she has enough grace. And of course, because we always fail, our contribution to salvation is very flawed. What Luther discovered, and what we believe the Bible clearly teaches, is that salvation of necessity is a free gift, and it is given to those who believe in Jesus Christ alone. And the reason that we can have assurance of salvation is simply because of the fact that salvation doesn't rest with us, it rests totally and completely on what Jesus Christ did. His death was sufficient, his death and resurrection paid our debt, and therefore our faith is in him. We bring nothing to the table except our great need. We come to receive. And of course, because we receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ, what we receive is a free gift. It has to be free, because it's the kind of righteousness of which you and I have none. We can't contribute to God's righteousness to make it better, we can't subtract from it, and it is that righteousness that we need to be acquitted and justified before God.
That was basically the message of the Reformation, and so in answer to your question as to who's right and who's wrong, I do believe that Luther's proclamation of justification by faith alone is consistent out of the biblical teaching and grows out of the text of the New Testament. Now you go on to ask another question, is Roman Catholicism a cult? Normally when we think of a cult, we think of those who have a wrong view of Jesus. We think of those groups that do not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Well, Roman Catholicism does believe that Jesus was God in the flesh. They also believe that the Bible is the word of God, though they also accept tradition. So in answer to your question, I would simply say it depends on how you define the meaning of the word cult. We believe that Roman Catholicism has a correct view of Christ and even looked at, from one point of view, a correct view of the Scriptures, at least historically. But on the matter of salvation, there is great divergence.
So it depends, Dennis, on how you define that word. I'll leave that to you, except to say that the matter of salvation is incredibly important. God's best, and I hope you continue to listen. Thank you, Dennis, and thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Someone has said, the Church is wonderful. It's the people in the Church that I can't stand. When disagreements and personal agendas rise to the surface, frictions can occur. Next time on Running to Win, we expose a not-so-secret secret. Christians don't always get along. Don't miss a message on what to do when personalities collide. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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