Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday in Easter 2: Disputing is not enough

Opening Sentence
Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Hebrews 9:24

Commemoration: Alphege of Canterbury
O loving God, whose martyr bishop Alphege of Canterbury suffered violent death when he refused to permit a ransom to be extorted from his people: Grant that all pastors of your flock may pattern themselves on the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep; and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 18:1-20

Lessons: Exodus 16:10-22, 1 Peter 2:11-25, John 15:12-27

. . . If there is any prospect of a union of the confessions among Christians, the primary way of achieving it, and the one that God would bless most, would perhaps be this, that we do not stake everything on argumentation, for the present disposition of men's minds, which are filled by as much fleshly as spiritual zeal, makes disputation fruitless. It is true that defense of the truth, and hence also argumentation, which is part of it, must continue in the church together with other things instituted to build it up. Before us are the holy examples of Christ, the apostles, and their successors, who engaged in disputation--that is, vigorously refuted opposing errors and defended the truth. The Christian church would be plunged into the greatest danger if anybody wished to remove and repudiate this necessary use of the spiritual sword of the Word of God, insofar as its use against false teachings is concerned . . .

From all this it becomes apparent that disputing is not enough to maintain the truth among ourselves or to impart it to the erring. The holy love of God is necessary. If only we Evangelicals would make it our serious business to offer God the fruits of his truth in fervent love, conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of our calling, and show this in recognizing heretics, by practicing the duties mentioned above! If only the erring, even if they cannot as yet grasp the truth which we bear witness to, would make an effort (and we ourselves should point them in this direction) to begin to serve God, in love of God and fellowman, at least to the extent of the knowledge which they may still have from Christian instruction! There is no doubt that God would then allow us to grow more and more in our knowledge of the truth, and also give us the pleasure of seeing others, whose error we now lament, alongside us in the same faith. For the Word of God has the power, if it is not viciously impeded either by those who declare it or by those who hear it, to convert men's hearts. Thus holiness of life itself contributes much to conversion, as Peter teaches (1 Peter 3:1-2).

Phillip Jakob Spener
Pie Desideria

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