Great Stuff — What Is Needed For Unity In the Church?

Another great post over on Ad Crucem:


230x300x739562_communion_1You can see quite a variety of ideas as to what is required for unity in the church. “We should only use organs during worship.” “We need to all lighten up and understand that the use of contemporary music will draw people in.” “We need to be missional minded.” “If everything looked the same from church to church we would have unity.” “We should try to look more like the New Testament church.” “We just need to focus on loving our neighbor.”

Many of these things can be broken into two categories: “fallible” and “infallible”. Things that fall into the “fallible” category are things that have been instituted by men, in many cases are in place for the sake of good order, and, may or may not have been inspired by scripture. In and of themselves these things can be fruitful. Things that fall into the “infallible” category are things that have been given to us by God and are from scripture.

What the church building looks like, the carpet, the pews, the altar, the font, the banners or paraments, these things are all fallible. The style of the music, the instruments used, how the church “does missions”, these things are fallible. That’s not to say that these things aren’t important, however, they do not serve as a primary source of true unity in the church.

So what is needed for unity in the church? Answer, that which is infallible, those things which God has given to us through scripture. I believe our reformation fathers answered this question the best in the Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

“For it is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.

3 It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places.

4 It is as Paul says in Eph. 4:4, 5, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

It is interesting to note that what God gave us as the basis of our unity, Word and Sacraments, deals first and foremost with Justification, Justification which is the work of Christ for us.

There is the proper preaching of the Word, in which the Law is declared in its full sternness showing our helplessness and deadness in sin, that the Gospel might be proclaimed in its full sweetness, that through the death of Christ our sins are forgiven, that through this preaching we might receive faith. (Romans 10:17) This, which is infallible, is necessary for unity in the church.

There is the proper administration of baptism, through water and the Word, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in which Christ saves us. (Romans 6:3-4) This, which is infallible, is necessary for unity in the church.

And there is the proper administration of communion, in which Christ works forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17) This, which is infallible, is necessary for unity in the church.

What is needed for unity in the church? Justification, given to us through the Word and Sacrament!  Consequently, church unity is established as we gather around and properly understand these infallible gifts. Furthermore, as we gather around Word and Sacrament we will see a proper shaping of the rest of fallible aspects that make up the church.

What is needed for unity?  Word and Sacrament are needed, and thankfully they are given to us by our gracious Lord.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff — What Is Needed For Unity In the Church? — 57 Comments

  1. Dear Sir!

    Thank you for your response and the attitude with which you presented it.

    I confess my sin and the breaking of the 8th commandment – do note tell lies about your neighbour, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way – and I ask for your forgiveness please.

    I am no longer in South Africa. When I was, the closest Lutheran Church was some way away.
    I am now in England and it is not possible for me to attend the closest Lutheran Church, which does not have a Pastor either. My work allows me 3 hours off a day between 14h00 and 17h00, 7 days a week so there is no chance for me to meet with the Church.

    Thus, I am left to my own devices in terms of learning and so on.

    Your wife is most blessed to have such an opportunity Sir!

    Again, thank you for your response and please do not forget my plea for forgiveness.

    God be with you!

  2. Stef –

    You did not need to ask me, since I really did not take offense, but my good man, please know Our Lord granted forgiveness to you way BEFORE I began typing these words you are reading.

    The LCMS has a presence in Great Britain as well (same site – type in Great Britain), although, sad to say, not nearly as good in South Africa, all of which makes President Harrison’s letter in Lutherans Engage the World about the incredible growth of the Church in Africa priceless! Google it – read his letter. I loved it. The growth of “Pentecost” will only end on “that day” (as Luther put it) – the Last Day.

    Can I suggest something? You are obviously quite intent on learning – and I commend you for that. How could I not? It is encouraging to us Ole-Timers out here hod-carrying and sweating bullets with our flocks (my head elder called me very early Sunday morning – his Dad had an aneurysm even earlier in the morning, and they are in “the death watch”). It will be tough sledding for my Head Elder in the days ahead, and it is my given task to be there for him.

    Pray for both us, Okay? For him – for peace; for me – to have the right words to say at the right time.

    Consider, Stef, perhaps, moving toward the Holy Ministry, or some sort of vocation within the Church. It might entail a move, change of employment, all sorts of things that those of us wearing weird collars had to do, and I can guarantee you there was not a day went by that each of us asked ourselves “Why am I doing this?” But we did it. One can only be so broke, so we figured “What the hey!” 🙂

    Truth is, in many ways, we still ask ourselves that question every day. We know Ephesians 6 well and who it is we truly fight against, and yet we struggle every day as does everyone else.

    You seem as though you want to go the extra mile.

    Then – GO the extra mile.

    Stef, you have this one life, and while it has ups and downs that can grind down the best of men, it’s a good life because it is in this life we have come face-to-face with Jesus. I am sure you know what I mean. But put your inquisitiveness and desire to use for the Kingdom. If you do, your life will be turned upside down more than a few times, and you will always wonder “Am I getting this right?

    I’ll tell you right now, every preacher worth his salt prays the Lord in Heaven just before mounting the pulpit, to let him get it right, too. It’s all so much bigger than are we.

    As a pastor, I have the worst job in the world . . . EXCEPT for all the rest. Please don’t ask me to explain that remark – it seems flippant – but it is not.

    Look at the Cross – there hangs your Savior and mine. Done for us. Had there been no Easter Sunday morning, we would be the most among men to be pitied, as that renegade saint named Paul put it. But He (Jesus) stunned all of humanity and did rise – which meant anything and everything – suddenly – became possible.

    If you want to ask questions – it’s [email protected]

    If I don’t have the answer, you can be sure I will go find it for you. You are never left “to your own devices” in the Kingdom of the Lord. You are “left” to Him – left to the Christ.

    And I will stand next to you.

    Fair enough? Pax tecum – jb

  3. @jb #2

    jb, every Christian who asks questions about theology is not pastoral material. Pewsitters who want to learn are needed. too.

  4. In a recent DazedStar article by Robert Schmidt, “A Waltherian Moment,” it is suggested that rather then leave a LCMS congregation, like-minded leftists should carry out an insurrgency effort within the Missouri Synod:

    “If the relevance of Article VII is to be resurrected, the place of the struggle will need to change. Now it must take place within congregations. Will we have closed communion? Can our pastor be part of a wedding at another Lutheran church? … at a Methodist church? May our members commune at other altars? Might we invite a neighboring woman pastor to preach at our services? Should we commission one of our elders to celebrate the Lord’s Supper when no pastor is available?”

    “Contrary to the position of our Synod in its outdated statements, can our pastor teach that God created the world and used evolution in the process? Can we invite a Bible class teacher who uses historical-critical methodology to better understand the Word of God? Shall we call a woman pastor?”

    A bigger problem will occur if a moderate pastor is accused of going against synodical dictates and his congregation. Fully cognizant of the fact that attacks will be forthcoming and one’s position is at stake, a wise pastor will involve the whole congregation in making crucial and sometimes controversial decisions. While it might be fairly easy to discipline the pastor as a rostered member of the Synod, it becomes more difficult, given Article VII of the constitution, to move against the congregation. Actions against congregations exercising their Christian liberty should be widely publicized.”

    This guerilla warfare tactic should spice up any Koinonia meetings, whenever they might occur; bring your flak jacket… and some Lutheran theolgical grenades.

  5. WORD AND SACRAMENTS-are the foundation with Doctrine and Practice and Church Discipline-this is not the case with everyone

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