There is often the cry that the church is closed minded. When a person’s personal belief clashes with the teachings of the Word of God this is often the accusation. “The church is closed minded.” They aren’t entirely wrong!
However we wouldn’t call it “closed mindedness” we would call it faithfulness to God’s word. In fact, as Christians we expect for our personal beliefs TO clash with the will of God. We acknowledge this and repent when we by the Holy Spirit see the folly in our “personal beliefs.” The church of God, described by Christ as His body on earth, certainly has boundaries and limits. There is what we call the truth. The world outside the church also has what they consider the “truth” and if you go outside the boundaries and limits of their supposed truth you will pay a heavy price. If you think about it, the world really demands a “close mindedness” much more narrow than the church.
The church has a word for the boundaries associated with the truth, orthodoxy. I know it seems like rather large word but it should be somewhat familiar to anyone who has raised kids or themselves grown up in the modern era of dentistry. Orthodontist is related to the word orthodoxy. You can see and hear the prefix “ortho.” Ortho means right or straight. An “ortho”dontist straightens your teeth. Orthodox means right (ortho) and praise (from dox). Right praise of God or orthodox is what we call those churches who hold to the true teachings of the scriptures.
The church has orthodox teachings and this is what most people don’t like and refer to as “close minded.” But as I mentioned earlier, many times we Christians in our life realize we don’t always live as we know we should. But this is why going to an orthodox church is important, the orthodox churches are the place to find forgiveness as from God himself.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:22-23
The church is the place for the final truth. The place for confession and forgiveness when we have followed our own personal beliefs at the expense of faithfulness to God’s laws.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10
The church is not unique in its desire to have an orthodoxy. The world also demands orthodoxy. The world demands that everyone follows what those in power and who have money and influence demand as truth. We see it now and more recently in full force. If you speak up against abortion or people living together outside of marriage you transgress against their orthodoxy.
If you say men can only be men and women can only be women, again, you sin against what is their demand for orthodoxy. And what is the punishment? Does the world practice excommunication? Does the world practice closed communion? Absolutely.
If you do not hold to the orthodoxy of the world you will be made to follow it. There is no grace. There is no forgiveness without payment. We’ve seen it with politicians or pastors who speak contrary to the current accepted orthodoxy of the current day. They are chastised. Thrown out. They are mocked. Ridiculed and not let in until they pay with donations or bow to the ones who hold the power.
The church is not that way. The church of Christ doesn’t force anyone. There is no payment required when you sin against God. Well there is, but that’s the beauty of the Gospel! Jesus pays for your sins. He takes the punishment for our breaks from orthodoxy and brings you back in to good graces with God. It is by faith that we are brought back into fellowship with God and then that faith moves us to align our lives again with the truth.
The world demands you fix your wrongs. The world demands you bow to the whoever is in power at the time. It is up to you to make amends before your back into fellowship with the world. You must sacrifice to them.
The world demands orthodoxy without faith. The world demands sacrifice without mercy. The world has its own orthodoxy and truth. So when someone tries to mock the church as being close minded, remind them that the nature of truth is to be close minded. There are demands of orthodoxy and truth on both sides. However only one side, Christ himself, claims to be the truth. The world’s truth changes, almost on a daily basis. The world claims there is no absolute truth. The funny thing is that is a claim on the truth. “There is no ultimate truth” in and of itself is claim of absolute truth! A demand of an orthodoxy according to their truth. The glory of Christ is that his truth never changes and fellowship with him is based on faith.
The church is often mocked and ridiculed especially when it comes to closed communion. But closed communion is a recognition of orthodoxy. The devil and the world has a closed communion too. You cannot have the pleasures and gifts of this world if you do not hold to the teachings of the world. It may very well be that you cannot participate in commerce. You cannot be an executive. You cannot be an employee. You cannot have any of the sacraments of the world (money, possessions, power, recognition) unless you confess the devil’s orthodoxy. You have no fellowship with the world unless you confess the world’s truth.
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
St. Paul is on to something when he says in 1 Corinthians 10:14ff
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”
Paul is teaching us that eating at the altar of the world, filling ourselves with the gluttony of the world, building our pride, living in sin, rejecting confession and absolution, fellowship with anything other than Christ is fellowship with evil. We heed his warning and work through prayer, fasting and hearing God’s word, to repent of our participation with demons. We come back to the truth to receive the sacrament of truth from the altar of truth, the very body and blood of Jesus. He himself said,
“I am the way, the truth and the life.” John 14:6
What does the sacrament of the world have to offer? Death. In fact it is built on lies and death. Jesus said the devil is the father of lies and a murderer.
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44
Why would we expect happiness and joy from his “sacraments”? Is he really open minded? Is he really seeking to teach you truth?
Why would we expect anything other than death and lies from fellowship with his kingdom?
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4.
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. John 12:31-33.
Jesus said this when he was about to be crucified. The devil is defeated by his death. The sins you’ve committed have been defeated in his cross. The power of the devil, even death itself is crushed by his death and resurrection. When we come to his sacrament, this victory of Jesus is proclaimed again and again. He speaks for us,
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1 Corinthians 10:26
Perhaps you yourself know what it is like to receive the closed mindedness of the world. Maybe a family member or a friend scoffed at the orthodoxy of your church, in particular closed communion. Just remember, the problem isn’t that Christ is “closed minded”, that’s not the problem. Even the world is “closed minded” in its orthodoxy. The question is where is the true orthodoxy? Where is mercy given because of a sacrifice? Where is fellowship based not on how good we are but the object of our faith?
How does The Small Catechism say it?
Who receives this sacrament worthily?
Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe.
The world will demand you fall in line with their so called “orthodoxy” in order to receive the sacraments of the devil’s kingdom, power, riches, admiration of the world, gluttony, laziness, etc. Remember these are all things the devil offered Jesus in The Temptation. When you stand against the devil and stand up for the truth of the forgiveness of sins, you will be mocked. In fact, many who have fellowship with the world can’t be friends with people they disagree with. I’m not sure why that is, but maybe it’s because we’ve fallen for the devil’s lie that we can find truth and happiness apart from Christ’s altar. As the church of Christ we can befriend those who are opposed to us, even our enemies, however, we cannot give up the truth. We cannot “drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”
“For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” 1 Corinthians 11:29-30
You will be tempted to sip from the cup of demons. You will fall for temptation. Perhaps you’ve drunk deep from the cup of idols. “Return to the Lord. For he is gracious and merciful. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Joel 2:13. His sacrament restores. His sacrament forgives. His sacrament feeds life and salvation. His sacrament is a gracious gift. His sacrament is a gift, hidden from the world but visible by faith.
See you on Sunday! In Christ, Pastor