Some Theses on Freedom and Discipline in the Christian Church

By Matthew Becker[1]

 I. The Foundation for Freedom and Discipline in the Christian Church

Thesis 1: No one in heaven or on earth, except God alone, has the right and authority to rule over the faith and conscience of a Christian. (Exodus 20:3; James 4:12; Matthew 28:18)[2]

Thesis 2: The entire Christian church does not have the right and authority to rule over the faith and conscience of a Christian. (Matthew 28:19-20; Matthew 23:10; Ephesians 5:24)[3]

Thesis 3: No ecclesiastical government, whether it be called apostle, bishop, pope, synodical president, district president, circuit counselor, church council, synod, district or synod presidium, or otherwise, but only God, the Lord himself, has the right and authority to rule over the faith and conscience of a Christian. (1 Cor. 3:21-23; Acts 14:15)[4]

Thesis 4: Christ exercises his authority in the church solely by means of his words “which the church is to treasure to the end of the ages.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Thesis 5: There are only two words of God, a word of law and a word of gospel/grace.

Thesis 6: The divine word of law is a word directed against all sinners, even Christians, insofar as they remain sinners (under the wrath of God) until death.

Thesis 7: This divine word of law is at work in all of creation, even apart from its explicit articulation by the Christian church. As such, this word is God’s alien word and work, and a power that is not good news but divine wrath leading to judgment and death. In other words, the law is ontological and existential, a power already known and experienced in anxious sinners.

Thesis 8: The preaching of the divine law, necessary as it is, occurs already apart from Christian proclamation which merely discloses and reveals this power for what it is: a power that accuses one to death.

Thesis 9: The other, chief, and central word, God’s proper and final word, is the gospel concerning His Son, whose life, crucifixion, and resurrection are the hope of all creation.

Thesis 10: These two words of God are to be sharply distinguished from each other and applied in the church’s mission to the world in such a way that the word of grace, the gospel, is a word that announces the forgiveness of sins and eternal life because of the crucified Jesus, invites faith and hope in this Jesus, and thereby overcomes the damning work of God’s law.

Thesis 11: Even though both words originate in God and relate to all of creation, the gospel word “contradicts” and “out-criticizes” the other word by means of God’s critical work on the cross of Jesus. God’s work on the cross is His taking our sin, our sins, the divine judgment that hangs a curse over each of us, and our death, and placing all of it onto the crucified Jesus, while in return God gives us as a gift received by faith the righteousness and life of our “elder brother” Jesus. “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21; cf. Gal. 3:13). Luther speaks of this “critical work” as “the glorious exchange.” Christ so associates with sinners, even becoming one with them in their damnation before God, even to the point of taking all their sins onto himself so that he became “the one great sinner” (Karl Barth), that he bears our sin, suffers divine wrath, and hell, was cursed and “became sin”—all for us, for the whole world. (Cf. Bertram, “How Our Sins Were Christ’s: A Study in Luther’s Galatians [1531].”)

Thesis 12: The message of reconciliation, now proclaimed and announced by the church, “crosses out” the word of judgment and invites all the ungodly to trust and believe that they are forgiven and acceptable to God for the sake of Christ crucified.

Thesis 13: The gospel’s overcoming of the law is the hope and life of Christian faith.

Thesis 14: The true and proper authority in the church is the gospel alone and the preaching of faith that comes by it alone; The authority of the law is penultimate and conditional, and so is not the proper and ultimate authority in the church: “To preach this Christ means to feed the soul, make it righteous, set it free, and save it, provided it believes the preaching. Faith alone is the saving and efficacious use of the word of God, according to Romans 10:9: ‘If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Furthermore, ‘Christ is the end of the law, that everyone who has faith may be justified.’ Again, in Romans 1, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’ The word of God cannot be received and cherished by any works whatever but only by faith. Therefore it is clear that, as the soul needs only the word of God for its life and righteousness, so it is justified by faith alone and not by any works; for if it could be justified by anything else, it would not need the word, and consequently it would not need faith.” (Martin Luther, “Freedom of a Christian,” 598)

Thesis 15: If the law and the gospel are not correctly distinguished, and applied in such a way that the gospel “crosses out” and overcomes the divine word/work/judgment of the law in the lives of people, then one is left only with more words of law, the experience of sin, divine wrath and judgment, and no gospel.

Thesis 16: The law always accuses; the gospel always forgives.

Thesis 17: Christians, however, can live and be guided by nothing except God’s word of gospel and the work of his Holying Spirit, for Christians live solely by faith in Christ crucified, not with outward works or by means of the coercive word of the law.

Thesis 18: Faith is not a matter of the coercive word of the law, but a free gift of the Holy Spirit who creates and sustains faith in the crucified Christ alone by means of the gospel alone. (Galatians 3; Romans 10:17; Cf. Martin Luther, “On Temporal Authority,” 1523; LW 45, p.117f; See also “On the Councils and the Churches.”).

Thesis 19: Jesus means freedom–freedom from the oppressive judgement and curse of God’s law against sinners (a word that leads to death), freedom from the oppressive ceremonial law, freedom from humanly-devised laws and demands, freedom from old patterns of institutional authority based on legal and coercive power.[5]

Thesis 20: Whoever attempts to bind consciences of people with human-made laws and rules that go beyond the clear word of God, or with divine laws and rules that have become superceded through the gospel ministry of Christ, invades the domain of God, practices idolatry, and leads others into idolatry (Matthew 15:9; Galatians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 8:8). The seventh chapter of the Gospel of Mark and most of the letters of Paul are instructive in this matter.

II. Human Authority and Oversight in the Christian Church

Thesis 21: Some, of course, will go beyond the word of the gospel and attempt to attach their faith to that other word of God, the law, or to something in addition to and distinct from the cruciformed gospel. For example, some might attach their faith also to those whose responsibility includes the preaching of the two words of God or to some ecclesial institution or to a particular denominational structure.

Thesis 22: To those who appeal to the apostles’ authority, one must say: While it is true that Jesus promised his apostles that “he who receives you receives me” (Matthew 10:40), and “he who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16), the apostles did not take the place of Jesus’ word and teaching, but they were to teach his word. Their authority was limited to that preaching.

Thesis 23: “In 1 Corinthians 3:4-8 Paul places ministers on an equality and teaches that the church is above the ministers. Therefore he does not attribute to Peter superiority or authority over the church or over the other ministers. For he says, ‘All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas’ (1 Corinthians 3:21-22). This is to say that neither Peter nor the other ministers should assume lordship or authority over the church, nor burden the church with traditions, nor let anybody’s authority count for more than the Word, nor set the authority of Cephas over against the authority of the other apostles.” (Treatise 11; emphasis added)

Thesis 24: To talk about “the power” or “the authority” of the apostles or other church leaders is simply to talk about them “according to the Gospel” (Apol. XXIII, 13).

Thesis 25: If Christ’s voice is not coming through an apostle, then one is not bound to the voice of that apostle. The apostles did not always do or speak what Jesus would have them do or speak. Sometimes an apostle had to be criticized, if what he said or did conflicted with the scandalous gospel and its announcement in the world. Sometimes even the apostles erred. (Matthew 16:23; Luke 22:24-30; Acts 14:15; Galatians 2:11)

Thesis 26: Apostolic authority is a conditional and provisional authority. The authority of the apostles derived solely from the One sending them, solely from the gospel message and teaching they were given to proclaim (Matthew 28:19-20; John 20:21-23; Galatians 1:1; 2 Cor. 5:20; Ephesians 4:11-13).

Thesis 27: While many apostolic practices were established for the sake of good order in the church, the apostles did not presume to set them down as though they would remain unchanged forever. (Apol. AC, XXVIII, 16) For example, the apostolic decree at the Jerusalem Council was not universally applied in the same way in all places or for all time: Compare Acts 15:29 with 1 Corinthians 10:27 or compare Acts 15:29 with the later German custom of eating blood sausage! Apostles ordained many things that were later changed by time. (See, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:25-27). 

Thesis 28: Consequently, following the example of Dr. Luther, Christians obey the apostles and also the church insofar as they bear the mark of that One who speaks through them. Christ has sent the apostles to preach the gospel. If the apostles do not bear this mark, the mark of the gospel, then Christians are not bound to listen to them any more than the apostle Paul listened to everything the apostle Peter said or did or anymore than Dr. Luther agreed with every statement in the epistle of James or the one to the Hebrews. (In this context, one remembers, too, the early church’s distinction between the “antilegomena” and “homologouma” biblical writings.)

Thesis 29: Because of the gospel, the apostles did not set out “to burden” the consciences of the Gentile converts (Acts 15:28). Paul warns the Corinthian Christians, “You were bought with a price; do not become the slaves of human beings.” (1 Corinthians 7:23) Likewise he proclaims to the Galatian Christians, “For freedom Christ has set you free. Stand fast, therefore, and do not be yoked again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1). Jesus’ own words stand sure, “If the Son makes you free, you are truly free.” (John 8:36). “In matters of omission or commission, where God neither teaches, commands, nor forbids, let these remain matters of freedom. Whoever proceeds beyond this by way of commandments or prohibitions, enters into God’s jurisdiction, oppresses the conscience, creates sin and trouble, and destroys all that God has made free and secure. In addition, he drives away the Holy Spirit with all his kingdom, work, and word, so that nothing but devils remain.” (Martin Luther, “Against the Heavenly Prophets,” 1525; LW 40:129) “Thus bishops have no right to create traditions apart from the Gospel as though they merited the forgiveness of sins or were acts of worship that pleased God as righteousness. Nor do the bishops have the right to burden consciences with such traditions so that it would be a sin to omit them. All this is taught by that one passage in Acts (Acts 15:9), where the apostles say that hearts are cleansed by faith and then go on to forbid the imposing of a yoke, showing how dangerous this is and enlarging on the sin of those who burden the church.” (Apol. Art. XXVIII, 8-9) For the sake of the one gospel, then, “one should teach, judge, and speak nothing else than what the apostles themselves taught regarding all traditions. But the apostles fought with the utmost ferocity and tenacity on all sides, not only against those who wanted to elevate human ordinances, but also against those who wanted to make divine laws and ceremonies such as circumcision, etc., necessary for salvation. The apostles would in no way place such a burden upon the conscience, that it should be a sin if the observance of certain days, feasts, anointings, and other similar observances were not adhered to. In fact, Paul clearly calls such opinion the doctrine of devils (1 Timothy 4:1).” (Apol. to the AC  VII/VIII; cf. AC XV) “Certainly the statement, ‘He who hears you hears me (Luke 10:16), is not referring to traditions [devised by human beings] but is rather directed against traditions. It is not what they call a ‘commandment with unlimited authority,’ but rather a ‘caution about something prescribed,’ about a special commandment. It is a testimony given to the apostles so that we may believe them on the basis of another’s Word rather than on the basis of their own¼Christ wants his voice to be heard, not human traditions.” (Apol. XXVIII, 18).

Thesis 30: While the Lord now elects some to serve this same apostolic ministry of the word and sacraments, and thereby to equip all the saints, all the baptized, for their service/ministry in the world (Ephesians 4:11-13; Acts 20:28-32; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1:7-8), no pastor, teacher, or other church leader has the right and authority to rule over the faith and conscience of Christians.

Thesis 31: The authority of all church leaders, apostles, pastors, teachers, and all Christians derives from the One sending them, from the evangelical ministry they are given to do, and from the goal of that one gospel ministry: the announcement of God’s reconciling the whole world to himself in the crucified Christ, not counting people’s sins against them (2 Cor. 5:20).

Thesis 32: If the message of Christian leaders isn’t this gospel, then their service is not a gospel ministry. (Galatians 1:8)

Thesis 33: Whatever “authority” the church and her members have is rooted in the gospel, the chief word of Christ, and speaks to the hearts and souls of Christ’s people in a non-coercive manner.

Thesis 34: For the sake of the one gospel of faith alone, church leaders should impose no law or decree on others without their will and consent. Their leading is nothing more than the teaching and inculcating of the gospel and Holy Spirit by which Christians are guided and led.

Thesis 35: Though church leaders “lead and guide,” they do so in a manner different from secular, institutional and legal models of leadership (Luke 22:24-27; Matthew 15:1-9; 1 Peter 5:1-5; 2 Cor. 13:10; When Walther addressed the first convention of the synod that would become the LCMS, he clearly stated that the only authorities the members of the Synod have are “God’s word and persuading.” Cf. Walther’s address, 1847 Convention of the Ev. Luth. Church—Mo., Oh., and Other States)

Thesis 36: Because the authority of all church leaders derives from Christ and his gospel, “power,” “dominion,” “authoritative rule,” and similar concepts, are truly foreign to the exercise of service and leadership in Christ’s church. “Power,” “dominion,” “authoritative rule” are words and ideas rooted in the law.

Thesis 37: If church leaders understand their leadership even partly in terms of “power,” “dominion,” “authoritative rule,” and similar concepts, then these leaders are leading by means of the law, even the divine law, which is coercive and which produces fear and not true faith in Christ alone.

Thesis 38: Just as no apostle or pastor has the right and authority to rule over the faith and conscience of Christians, so also no congregation has this right. “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12) The church is subject to Christ. (Ephesians 5:24) Sometimes even congregations can depart from the word of this Christ, “for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) “You shall not follow the crowd in wrongdoing.” (Exodus 23:2) “We believe, teach, and confess that no church should condemn another because it has fewer or more external ceremonies not commanded by God, as long as there is mutual agreement in doctrine and in all its articles as well as in the right use of the holy sacraments, according to the familiar axiom, ‘Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in faith.’” (FC, Epitome, X) “The church could never entertain the thought of placing herself next to Christ and wanting to make conscience-binding matters which God has not ordained equal to divine commands.” (Walther, idem. p. 250)

Thesis 39: Because the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, the apostles, pastors, church leaders, congregations, synods, and all Christians are subject only to the authority of Christ and his teaching, Christians who are served by the ecclesiastical ministry of the word ought to show respect to this ministry insofar as it truly is an evangelical ministry of Christ. Such reverence and obedience to the authority of the ministry is not to human beings, but to Christ himself and his gospel which are delivered through this ecclesiastical ministry (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12) All are subject to Christ, the one Lord, his teaching, his mandates and gifts. (Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:5-6).

Thesis 40: Sometimes a congregation needs to be reminded that just as the preacher is not to lord it over the congregation so also a congregation is not to lord over its pastor. Thus, pastors are not really “employees” of congregations, but neither are congregations commanded to be obedient to their pastor in matters that have been superceded by the gospel or not clearly mandated or forbidden in the new testament.

Thesis 41: Likewise, a pastor, congregation, or group of Christians need not follow the demands of a council or a synodical convention, if that convention demands obedience to matters that are neither clearly commanded or forbidden in the new testament.

Thesis 42: Councils and synod conventions can, and do, err. For this reason, some synods have defined the relation of [divinely mandated] congregations to [non-divinely mandated, but humanly devised] synods in a way that maintains the freedom of the gospel and the sole authority of the word of God: “In its relation to its members the Synod is not an ecclesiastical government exercising legislative or coercive powers, and with respect to individual congregation’s right of self-government it is but an advisory body. Accordingly, no resolution of the Synod imposing anything upon the individual congregation is of binding force if it is not in accordance with the word of God or if it appears to be inexpedient as far as the condition of the congregation is concerned.” (Article VII, LCMS Constitution)[6]

III: The Limits of Christian Freedom

Thesis 43: Christian freedom, however, ought not to be abused in such a manner that the use of one’s freedom does damage to the faith and conscience of the “weak” or “immature” Christian (1 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 14:13: “Let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block [proskomma] or hindrance [skandalon] in the way of a brother.”).[7] While “everything is clean,” “it is wrong for any one to make others fall [proskommatos] by what he eats.” (Romans 14:20). “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the immature, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself¼” (Romans 15:1-3) “¼We endure anything rather than give hindrance [egkopen] to the gospel of Christ.” (1 Cor. 9:12; See also 1 Corinthians 10:32, “giving no offense,” “causing no trouble.”) Paul shares the faith of the strong, but as a pastor takes the side of the “immature” and the “weak.” See also Jesus’ words about “scandalizing” “these little ones” (Mark 9:42; Matthew 18:6).

Thesis 44: To guard against causing unbelief in the weakest and most immature Christians, one must sometimes forgo one’s own freedom and privileges for the sake of the immature or weaker brother or sister (Matthew 17:27; 1 Cor. 8:13; Romans 14:13). One cannot put “obstacles” [skandala] in the way of others coming to faith, otherwise one is guilty of doing that which Jesus forbids (Matthew 18:6). It is better to cut off your hand or foot, if either becomes a cause of your stumbling [skandalidzo] (Matthew 18:8). These “obstacles” or “offenses” [skandala] are people, ideas, or actions that lead into sin, cause the loss of faith and salvation in others, or direct someone into apostasy (Mark 9:42; Matthew 18:6; 1 John 3:4). Scripture uses the expression “cause offense” only in relation to the one who is so weak or so immature in the faith that such an action will cause that weak brother or sister to stumble and fall into unbelief. “Scandala” are serious matters that create the conditions for the loss of faith in Christ among the weakest and immature Christians. A “scandal,” therefore, is not something that one finds “disagreeable” or “outrageous” or even “impious,” but is something (an idea, an action, a condition) that leads to unbelief in the weak. These “obstacles” turn people aside from the will of God. Hence, Jesus’s words of judgment against Peter’s “obstacle” that has gotten in the way of Jesus’ journey to the cross and to the good news: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle [skandalon] to me, for you are not on the side of God, but of human beings.” (Matthew 16:23)

Thesis 45: The opposite of faith in Jesus is “to fall away from him,” to be offended by him (Mark 14:27). This occurs in the gospels when the disciples—even Peter—lose faith in view of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 14:27; Matthew 26:31). Jesus says that some will fall away from the gospel “because of tribulation” (Matthew 24:21). Obstacles to faith [skandala] are “the devil’s children” (John 8:38, 41, 44; 1 John 3:10) who work against God in the kingdom of the Son of man. These are evils and temptations that lead one away from God (Matthew 13:41). In Romans 16:17, Paul criticizes those “who create dissensions and traps [skandala].”

Thesis 46: But to the one who “demands” that something in addition to faith in Christ is necessary for righteousness and salvation, one must assert the “Christ alone—faith alone” gospel. For example, to the one who argues that certain foods should be avoided because the eating of them is contrary to the law of God, or to the one who demands that one must observe the sabbath according to the traditions of the elders, or that one must use a particular form of liturgy, one must assert the gospel of the all-sufficiency of Christ’s gospel.  The assertion of this gospel causes offense. So, the Pharisees are “offended” by Jesus’ statement that all foods are clean (Matthew 15:12), thus undermining the divine law and the Jewish concept of purity. Some “take offense” at Jesus’ words (Matthew 13:57; John 6:61); others take offense at Jesus’ freedom in relation to the law (Mark 2:23; 3:1ff.) or to his sharp distinction between human traditions and God’s commands (Matthew 15:3). Because of this gospel ministry, and the offense it causes, it is not surprising that the use of “skandalon” and its cognates in the New Testament (30 times) is used more often for those who are “offended” or “scandalized,” to the point of unbelief, by the gospel message and the person of Jesus! And the ultimate “offense/scandal”: a crucified Christ (1 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 5:11). It is no wonder that Jesus states, “Blessed is he who is not offended/scandalized by me” (Matthew 11:6).

Thesis 47: One must reckon with the fact that the gospel is a scandal, an obstacle to faith for some (e.g. many of the Pharisees in the gospels; legalists of all times). The object of faith is also, at the same time, the offense that causes some “to fall away” (Romans 9:33). Christ is “a rock of stumbling” to unbelievers, whose falling away is the result of their sin, and this in turn is the result of their taking offense at Christ (1 Corinthians 1:23).

Thesis 48: The gospel that means freedom is also a scandal to those who insist on the necessity of the old rules and regulations (e.g. foods, Sabbath, circumcision; but even the apostolic rules regarding food offered to idols!), since the gospel means freedom from those traditions and from the judgment of the divine law (Galatians 5:11).  One must reckon with the radical nature of the gospel that contradicts the clear commands of the law of the God: In the old testament, some foods were forbidden, circumcision was required, etc. But now that the new testament has come, the old has passed away with all of its requirements. The only requirement now is faith in the Son of God, and this faith is active in Christian love. “The Kingdom of God is not food and drink.” (Romans 14:17)

Thesis 49: But, just as one cannot use one’s freedom to harm the immature Christian, so also one cannot use one’s Christian freedom to engage in persistent immorality, false teaching (“heresy”), errant church practices, or needless division (“schism”) in the Church. “For you were called to freedom, brothers; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

Thesis 50: False teaching, persistent immorality, errant church practice, and needless divisions in the church deliberately reject that which is basic and central to the orthodox faith, the one gospel of Jesus Christ. These, too, are “scandals” or “obstacles,” because they endanger the souls of all Christians and harm the life of the church and its gospel mission.

A. Persistent Immorality

Thesis 51: Those who persist in the works of the flesh, who refuse to repent of their sins, who refuse the forgiveness of Christ by means of the Holy Spirit, and who thereby sin against the Holy Spirit, put themselves outside the Kingdom of the Son (Galatians 5:20-21; Cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-5, but also 2 Cor. 2:5-11; 7:9-13; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 1:9).

B. Persistent Teaching of False Doctrine

Thesis 52: Scripture teaches that false teaching is any deliberate and persistent teaching that contradicts the truth of the gospel and the teaching of Christ.

Thesis 53: Just because someone is critical of a scriptural statement or teaching does not necessarily mean that that individual is guilty of advocating false doctrine. For example, Paul and Peter were quite critical of the scriptural doctrines regarding dietary and ceremonial laws, and Paul argued against the scriptural practice of circumcision. Paul took liberties with the apostolic decree from the first church convention.

Thesis 54: But in matters of the gospel and of Christ, there is teaching that makes “a shipwreck of faith” (1 Timothy 1:19; cf. 2 Tim. 2:18) “For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different Spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11:4; Cf. Titus 3:8-11; 2 Tim. 1:13-14; 2 John 10-11; 2 Peter 2:1-3)

Thesis 55: False teaching is different from occasional errors that are corrected or from unknowing errors that are based on ignorance.

Thesis 56: Scripture teaches that the marks of the Christian and of the church do not include moral perfection of her members, or even doctrinal perfection of her teachers, but contrition (sorrow for sin) and faith (1 John 1:18-2:1; 1 Corinthians 8:2-3; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12).

Thesis 57: Christian life and doctrine are each simul justus et peccator. The righteousness of the Christian, even in matters of doctrinal formulation and application, is an alien righteousness that is “hidden” in Christ and is conditioned only by faith in Christ. Even the knowledge of the Christian—how people understand and confess Christ–has been affected by the power of sin. “For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect, but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12) No doctrinal formulation is perfect and complete this side of heaven and the eschaton. “If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if one loves God, one is known by him.” (1 Corinthians 8:2)

Thesis 58: The doctrinal formulations of the church, which remain sinful and incomplete until the eschaton, are not followed or implemented with perfection either, since the ones following them and implementing them remain sinners until death.

Thesis 59: To argue that the church’s confession of the faith is now perfect and “pure” is to make the apostles into liars: “Not that I have already attained [the resurrection from the dead] or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Jesus Christ has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14) “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) (It is significant that, according to the Augsburg Confession, a Christian congregation does not cease to be such if there is a lack of Church discipline, since the only pure marks of the church are “the gospel and the proper administration of the sacraments in accordance with a correct understanding of the gospel.” [AC, Art. VII] “Purity of doctrines” is not one of the marks of the church; the correct understanding of the gospel is!).[8]

Thesis 60: The one doctrine of the gospel, the church’s basic biblical message, is related to the Ecumenical Creeds and Evangelical Confessions of the church but is not identical to them. The task of theologians is to articulate the one gospel faithfully for each new situation the church faces, to articulate “the content of the faith without which the faith would cease to be the faith” (Cf. Werner Elert, sec. II, Der Christliche Glaube), but no specific theology can be equated with the biblical gospel. Likewise, the history of biblical exegesis, the history of church dogmatics, and the theological disciplines, though helpful and nearly essential to the task of such gospel proclamation, cannot entirely disclose or define how the one gospel is to be proclaimed in each new present situation. What is needed for such faithful proclamation is articulating clearly the necessity of a crucified Christ: Why is this Christ necessary today? (Cf. Bertram, “The Task of Systematic Theology”)

Thesis 61: Some teachings contradict the gospel and the proper administration of the sacraments in accordance with a true understanding of the gospel, and if one persists in these false teachings, then one puts oneself outside of the church (Galatians 1:8; 2 John). There is such a thing as heresy, but its nature and content are usually not well understood: In the history of Christian doctrine heresy is that which contradicts the truth of the gospel (i.e. it denies something fundamental about the person and work of Christ: the incarnation, the resurrection, the all-sufficiency of his atonement; or it denies that which is a precondition for the person and work of Christ: creation, original sin; or it denies an outgrowth of the person and work of Christ: the church, the sacraments.).

Thesis 62: The church can never be destroyed from without. The most damaging enemies of Christ have always come from within the ranks of the church, who change the light of the gospel into darkness. (Matthew 6:23)

 C. Errant Church Practice

Thesis 63: Errant church practice is any deliberate and persistent church practice that contradicts the truth of the gospel and the teachings of Christ. The sharpest example is Peter’s refusal to eat with the Gentile Christians in Antioch. Such a false practice led Paul to confront Peter’s behavior that contradicted the truth of the gospel. (Galatians 2:14)

Thesis 64: In the New Testament, the most common errant practices develop from a spirit of legalism. “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’ (referring to things which all perish as they are used), according to human precepts and doctrines?” (Colossians 2:16-22)

D. Schism

Thesis 65: Needless divisions are those separations that exist among Christian communities that are not the result of fundamental disagreement about the truth the gospel and the proper administration of the sacraments in accordance with a correct understanding of that gospel. (Romans 16:17-18; Galatians 5:20; 1 Cor. 12:25; cf 2 John; 3 John 9-10; AC VII)

Thesis 66: For the sake of a gospel mission to the world, local Christian communities may work together for the common good of Christ’s mission, even if they are not in complete agreement in all doctrinal matters (e.g. those that do not necessarily touch the heart of the gospel; cf. AC VII; AC XV; Preface to the AC; Melanchthon’s appendix to the Treatise)

Thesis 67: Christians have the responsibility of building each other up in love, of encouraging each other in faith and service, of brotherly and sisterly admonition in the Lord.

Thesis 68: “Christians involved in conflict must always stand ready to ask for or extend forgiveness in accordance with Scripture. As the church endeavors to help bring about peace, truth, justice, and reconciliation, it always seeks to do so with a proper distinction between Law and Gospel, that is, in the context of God’s judgment and mercy. We are ever to be mindful that it is God who judges the hearts of sinful men and grants his gracious word of forgiveness to us all.” [9]

IV: The Basis and Goal of Christian Church Discipline

Thesis 69: The fundamental basis of Christian discipline is the gospel, not the law, though the law will also have its full and preliminary “say” (a word that is ontological and existential and therefore not always in need of explicit amplification in the life of an anxious sinner!) in disciplinary matters.

Thesis 70: All Christians, not just the church’s pastor and other church leaders, have the duty and responsibility of “brother-keeping” and “sister-keeping” on the basis of the two words of God, properly distinguished, and Christian love. “And we exhort you, brothers, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.” (1 Thess. 5:14-15) “Brothers, if a man is overtaken in any fault, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness¼Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1) “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14) “Exhort one another daily, while it is called Today.” (Hebrews 3:13) “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24) “My brothers, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20; See also 2 Thess. 3:15) “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15).

Thesis 71: Brother-keeping and sister-keeping may be defined as exhorting and encouraging fellow Christians on the basis of the judgment and promises of God, but these are done in such a way that Christian love for the brother and sister is always paramount. (“Love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8)

Thesis 72: The goal of such discipline is not the discipline, but the salvation of a brother or sister caught in sin. In the spirit of meekness, with kindness and humility (“There but for the grace of God go I” ), Christians seek to restore the brother or sister to the truth of the faith. Their common calling and life in Christ binds Christians together, makes them humble and helpful to each other. The love of Christ teaches Christians to be slow to find fault, ready to forgive, willing to put away thoughts of revenge. When we behold a fellow Christian in serious error, doing himself and, most likely the cause of God great hurt by some fault of which he is perhaps unconscious, it is both fraternal and dutiful to go to him privately and kindly explain the matter to him in order that he may have opportunity to correct himself and come to proper soundness. “The heart and center of all Christian conflict resolution is the justification of the sinner through grace in Christ Jesus. Biblical reconciliation of persons in conflict begins with God’s truth that we are all sinners who have been reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus.” (Handbook, 125)

Thesis 73: All Christians are exhorted to practice the life of forgiveness and love in their dealings with all people, but Jesus warns all would be “keepers” to “judge not, lest you be judged¼first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1, 5). The temptations to Pharisaeism are great. Jesus’ own example of criticizing the self-righteous hypocrites and forgiving “the sinners” should be a warning and a guide to Christian brothers and sisters. The law should not predominate in the course of such brother-keeping and sister-keeping, otherwise, the church becomes a Pharisaical institution. Christian discipline is not one of the marks of the church (Here the evangelical Lutheran confessions are different from the Reformed Church which makes church discipline a mark of the church. See The First Scots Confession, XVIII, and the Belgic Confession, XXIX. Calvin, it should be added, follows AC VII and does not make church discipline one of the marks of the church. His treatment of “church discipline” in Book IV of the Institutes is highly instructive.) “It would be folly to risk the loss of a congregation and its departure from the true Gospel by insisting upon that which, after all, does not constitute the essence of a Christian congregation, but which is rather to be used to improve its spiritual condition. Salus populi suprema lex esto. Praecepta negativa semper et ad semper, affirmativa semper, sed non ad semper obligant.”[10] The worst error that can infect a congregation or synod is pharisaical self-righteousness and spiritual arrogance on the basis of a supposed “keeping of the scriptural laws of God.”

V: The Procedure of Evangelical Discipline (Issues of Causistry)

Thesis 74: While the keys have been given to the church, not all Christians are called to exercise them publicly: Matthew 18:15-17; 7:6; Rev. 2:2, 14, 15, 20; 1 Tim. 3:5; 5:20; 1 Cor. 5:1-5, 9-13; 2 Cor. 2:6-11; 2 Thess. 3:14-15; Heb. 13:17; Ezek. 3:16-21.

Thesis 75: Public church discipline is to be practiced in accordance with Christ’s mandate in Matthew 18:15-17.

Thesis 76: In the Scripture “sin” or “trespass” (as in Galatians 6:1) means those errors by which the brother’s or sister’s eternal salvation is endangered if that person were to continue in them.

Thesis 77: Just because someone thinks a brother or sister has committed a sin that is public is no condition for publicly testifying, speaking or writing concerning him or her. One could have misunderstood the brother’s or sister’s words or actions, or one may not know the whole context of the brother’s or sister’s words or actions. Furthermore, one has the responsibility according to the 8th Commandment of protecting the honor and good name of one’s neighbor. Christian love would lead a person always to talk privately with someone with whom they have a disagreement, even if that “offense” is public in nature. Finally, it could be that one is offended because of the gospel! Just because someone is “offended” by the actions of another does not necessarily mean that someone has sinned and that therefore there is just cause for Christian discipline: The Pharisees were “offended” by Jesus’ words and actions, especially those vis-à-vis the law, and we would not say that Jesus needed their forgiveness or that he needed to stop doing what he was doing. The gospel causes offense in some, but that is no reason to stop proclaiming the gospel or stop living out of the freedom it gives, except when it comes to hurting an immature Christian or indulging the sinful flesh.

Thesis 78: A member of the church who levels false accusations against another brother or sister is guilty of breaking the 8th Commandment and is himself/herself in need of forgiveness.

Thesis 79: Mere rumors of hearsay remarks about a brother or sister, as well as common sins of human weakness do not ordinarily make just cause for Christian discipline. Hence the need for “two or three witnesses” “to confirm the matter” and establish the evidence. Christians remember that their Lord was crucified on the basis of false witnesses who were brought in to accuse him unjustly. Lutheran Christians remember that Martin Luther was unjustly excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. The church continues to be troubled by people like Diotrephes who “prate with evil words. And not content with that, he refuses himself to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to welcome them and puts them out of the church” (3 John 9-10) Therefore, hearsay is not a sufficient basis for proceeding in matters calling for church discipline. Facts and evidence are called for; two or three witnesses are needed. The “one sinned against,” or the “one offended” by the actions of another, may not have justifiable cause to accuse the brother or sister of “sin.”

Thesis 80: The Large Catechism comes very close to a pharisaical spirit when it states, “But where the sin is public, so that the judge and everybody knows it, you can without any sin avoid him and let him go, because he has brought himself into disgrace, and you may also publicly testify concerning him. For when a matter is public in the light of day, there can be no slandering or false judging or testifying; as, when we now reprove the Pope and his doctrine, which is publicly set forth in books and proclaimed in all the world. For where the sin is public, the reproof also must be public that everyone may learn to guard against it.” (LC, 8th Commandment; quoted in Fritz, 230-231). Untold harm and sin has occurred because some zealous Christian has been convinced a fellow brother or sister has sinned “publicly” and, on the basis of that conviction alone (and with the Large Catechism’s comment to support his or her action), has proceeded to slander the brother or sister publicly, even though the brother or sister has not committed a public sin. Clearly, such “slandering” does little “to gain the brother,” if in fact he needs to be “gained.” Even if the brother or sister “needs to be gained,” such “gaining” should first occur, repeatedly, in private, between you and the brother or sister. This is the way of Christian love in which the brother or sister’s reputation and honor are protected, even when that brother or sister has sinned and is in need of forgiveness.

Thesis 81: Therefore, even if there is the possibility of a sin being “public” in nature, one has the responsibility of learning first if, in fact, a “public sin” has been committed and, if so, whether or not the individual in question has not repented of said “sin.” One also has the responsibility of protecting the honor and good name of the brother or sister involved. In order to keep the spirit and letter of Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:15-16, even if one thinks a brother or sister has committed a so-called “public sin,” one still has the responsibility to seek out that person in a private manner and pursue conversation (on-going and extended conversation, if necessary) in order to set the matter straight and to protect the honor of the brother or sister.

Thesis 82: If this repeated conversation does not result in reconciliation then one should heed Jesus’ admonition to take along one or two others, to act as witnesses and intermediaries. It could be that you have misunderstood the brother or the facts of the matter. Likewise, clearly from Jesus’ words, the intent is not “to gang up on the brother” but “to gain the brother” (v. 15). While Fritz quotes the problematic section from the Large Catechism, he immediately follows it with a qualifying admonition: “Speaking to the individual by way of Christian admonition is the first step necessary for the introduction of church discipline in its fullest extent in accordance with the express command of Christ, Matthew 18.” (Fritz, 231; emphasis added) “Let this, then, be your rule, that you do not too readily spread evil concerning your neighbor and slander him to others, but admonish him privately that he may amend his sinful life. Likewise, also, if someone report to you what this or that one has done, teach him, too, to go and admonish him personally if he has seen it himself; but if not, that he hold his tongue. But if we gossip about another in all corners and merely stir up the filth, no one will be reformed, and afterwards when we are to stand up and bear witness, we deny having said so. Therefore it would serve such tongues right if their itch for slander were severely punished as a warning to others.” (Fritz, 229-230; emphasis added)

Thesis 83: “Witnesses who are called in should be such as are acceptable to the offender, not such as are quarrelsome, tattlers, offenders themselves, or otherwise incompetent, but rather good friends, in whom the offender has confidence and before whom he will not be ashamed to admit his wrongdoing.” (Fritz, 234)

Thesis 84: If it is clear and apparent to the two or three witnesses that the brother or sister has been sinned against, and that the one who has sinned is not willing to acknowledge this sin and repent, and after repeated attempts (Matthew 18:22; Luke 17:3-4) to resolve the matter fail, then the matter is to be taken to the pastor and “to the church.” (Matthew 18:17). Here, too, the counsel of Paul to Timothy is significant: “Never admit any charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality. Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:19-20) And also Paul’s admonition to the Galatians: “Brothers, if a man is overtaken in any sin, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6:1-3)

Thesis 85: “A pastor is not permitted to receive complaints about the sins of others if these are not yet generally known, and if persons who have committed such sins have not first been spoken to privately and also in the presence of witnesses; and then only if such interview has not brought about the desired results. The pastor, being an official person, shall concern himself only about such sins as he himself has witnessed or as belong to the third degree of brotherly admonition” (Fritz, 231). In other words, the pastor shall concern himself only after repeated attempts on the part of the individuals involved (the one who supposedly sinned and the one sinned against) to bring about reconciliation (first degree) have failed and only after repeated attempts on the part of two or three witnesses to bring about reconciliation have failed (second degree).

Thesis 86: If the pastor is approached with a complaint against one person by someone who has not worked at the first two degrees of brotherly and sisterly admonishment, then “the pastor must remind the complainant that he himself is transgressing a divine rule and must admonish him to go and do as Christ directs. It is shameful if the pastor permits the parsonage to be made the dumping ground for all manner of gossip¼” (Fritz, 231)

Thesis 87: If brotherly and sisterly admonition doesn’t work at that level, then the matter is to be taken “to the church.” If he or she doesn’t listen to the church, he or she becomes excommunicated and a prospect for the missionary activity of the church.

Thesis 88: The mandates of Jesus in Matthew 18 applies primarily to church discipline in the local congregation, but these same statements and principles also apply to all Christians and also to those whose responsibility includes pastoral care to professional church workers. In the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, for example, certain individuals (“circuit counselors” and “district presidents”) have been authorized to care for the doctrine and life among certain specified members (congregations and professional church workers of the LCMS).

Thesis 89: This authorization is by human arrangement for the sake of that one gospel and its promotion in the world. Scripture does not speak about doctrinal supervision beyond the congregational level. Scripture does not speak of synods, synodical presidents, synodical presidiums, circuit counselors, or the like. Such structures are adiaphora that supposedly serve towards good order in the church and help to further the mission of the church.

Thesis 90: When a district president becomes aware of an unresolved problem in doctrine and practice in his district, the district president, as pastor to pastors and church leaders, has the responsibility to investigate whether in fact there is an unresolved problem and, if so, to help in the resolution of the problem. But a district president conducts his investigation only after encouraging and exhorting the one making the accusation to “go and talk privately with the brother.”

Thesis 91: If the brother or sister is still convinced that the other brother or sister is guilty of advocating false doctrine or of engaging in gross immorality or of practicing legalism or schism, then the circuit counselor (or conference president) should be invited in as one of the “two or three witnesses” to help resolve the difficulty.

Thesis 92: If conversations at that “second degree” level still do not bring about a resolution of the matter, then the matter should go to the district president (“third degree”) whose responsibility is to be pastor to the professional church workers in his district. If the matter rises to “the third level” of church discipline in the district, then the district president should conduct a private meeting with the fellow members to determine if the accusations can be substantiated. If the accusations can be substantiated, then the parties involved, including the district president, are obligated to follow the procedures set down by the Lord in Matthew 18 (See also section VIII of the synodical handbook). The circuit counselor, conference president (district vice president) and/or another local pastor could be appointed to help resolve the matter between the disputing parties. Paul’s example should be followed: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you, true yokefellow, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel¼” (Philippians 4:2)

Thesis 93: If the complaint is not truly a matter of false teaching, errant practice, immoral behavior, or needless division (matters that do involve district oversight, by the humanly arranged synodical structures), then the district president should encourage the members of Synod to settle the matter between themselves as befits Christian brothers or sisters or to accept that their differences do not truly affect their unity in faith.

Thesis 94: According to human arrangement, the synodical president serves as “overseer” of district presidents, “at a fourth level.” What is said above about “pastors” also applies to the synodical president, whose authority is by human arrangement and not by divine command: In matters of faith and Christian life, even as these are articulated and applied within a synod, the synodical president is one Christian on the same level as all other Christians. Like all Christians, the authority of the synodical president is solely the “the word of God and persuasion” (Walther), not coercion. If the synodical president should receive a complaint or an accusation against a member of the Synod (congregation, pastor, professional church worker), or if he should hear that a district president is not properly following Matthew 18 in a disciplinary situation, the synodical president should consult privately with the district president of that district (in keeping with Matthew 18). If such a conversation leaves the matter still unresolved, then the synodical president should bring additional “witnesses” with him in a further private conversation with the district president. In keeping with Fritz’s comment above, these “witnesses” should be acceptable witnesses to the district president. If the matter is still not resolved by means of further discussion with witnesses, then the matter should go before the synodical presidium and, ultimately, if needed, before a synodical convention.

Thesis 95: If the synodical president judges the district president’s behavior in disciplinary matters with a standard different from that set down by Jesus in Matthew 18, then the district president has the responsibility of remonstrating with the synodical president on the very basis of Matthew 18 (“If your brother sins against you—and in this case, the synodical president would be sinning against the district president by coercing him to act on a basis different from the Lord’s—go and show him his fault, you and he alone¼” In this regard, too, see Fritz’s comments above about those who bring hearsay to the pastor and about those who expect the pastor to act for the accuser without the accuser first meeting privately with the accused.)

[1]Several individuals read earlier versions of these theses and offered much help by means of their criticism and suggestions. Among these, in particular, I wish to acknowledge the assistance of two of my colleagues at Concordia University, Herb Hoefer and Norm Metzler, and also Steve Krueger, pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, Portland

[2] This thesis, and the next two, are adaptations of three theses C. F. W. Walther expounded at the 25th Western District Convention, Trinity Church, Altenburg, MO, beginning Oct 10, 1883. This address has been translated as “Earthly Authorities,” in Essays for the Church, vol. 2 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1992), 245-269. I’m indebted to the course of scriptural and confessional argumentation Walther provides in his address.

[3] See Martin Luther, “On the Councils and the Church” (1539), LW 41:9-178.

[4] See Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian,” (1520) in Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, edited by Timothy Lull (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989), 585-629.

[5]See Ernst Kasemann’s “polemical survey of the New Testament,” Jesus Means Freedom, trans. Frank Clarke (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969).

[6] On the historical context of this constitutional article, see John Constable, “Of Congregational and Synodical Authority,” in CTM 43 (April 1972): 212-231.

[7] The verb, skandalidzo, means: “to cause to be caught in a trap,” “to cause to fall into a trap,” and hence, “to cause to sin” [active voice] or “to be led into sin” [passive voice]. In a second sense, the verb means “to be repelled by someone,” or “to take offense at someone.” In the New Testament, the only occurrence of this secondary meaning occurs when people “take offense” at Jesus or his actions. See Stählin, “skandalon, skandalidzo,” in TDNT 7: 339-358

[8] An examination of the history of doctrines in the history of the LCMS is instructive. See especially Waldemar Wehmeier, “Missouri and Public Doctrine,” in Currents in Theology and Mission 2 (February 1975): 23-31. This article is a summary of Wehmeier’s Th.D. dissertation, “Public Doctrine in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod,” Concordia Seminary, 1973. He identifies some “public doctrines” and “practical questions based on doctrinal considerations” that were reinterpreted or restated over the history of the Synod: church and ministry, “unionism,” “prayer fellowship,” position on Scouting, State aid to parochial schools, usury, life insurance, “separation of church and state,” male and female parochial school teachers, military chaplaincy, dancing, unions, conscientious objection, female participation on synod boards and committees and seminary faculties, female voting in congregations, cooperation with other church social organizations and missionary endeavors, “rightful betrothal” in marriage. While Wehmeier notes the positive side of Missouri’s public doctrinal position(s)—mainly the strength and unity such a position provided pastors and laity—he also recognizes that “Missouri’s public doctrine sometimes seems to have replaced the Lutheran Confessions by frequent quotations of Lutheran and synodical dogmaticians, synodical and district proceedings. Sometimes Missouri’s folk theology was elevated to the level of synodical position in some minds [and] sometimes Missouri’s traditional public doctrine tended to become unduly rigid with an insistence on the same wording and formulation of a doctrine or biblical concept,” Ibid., 30-31. The greater problem, though, is identifying the condition for church unity as “agreement in all LCMS public doctrines” instead of the “satis est” of AC VII. See also, A. C. Repp, “Changes in the Missouri Synod,” CTM 38 (July-August 1967): 458-478. To state that “the public doctrines of the LCMS are identical to the word of God” is to deny the sinfulness of Christians, the qualitative distinction between God and human beings, the “satis est” of the AC VII, and the Synod’s own confessional principle as articulated in Article II of the LCMS Constitution.

[9] Handbook of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 1998), 125. Indeed, Section VIII of the 1998 Handbook is most important for assisting us to understand Christian discipline and the settling of “other disputes, many of which fall outside the purview of church discipline involving the congregation.” Handbook, 125.

[10] John Fritz, Pastoral Theology (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1945), 228.

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