OLC Doctrine on Church Fellowship

Fellowship between The Old Lutheran Church and other church groups is established only upon investigation and confirmation that both church groups hold complete unity in scriptural doctrine and practice.

1. We believe that only doctrines in accordance with the Word of God are permitted by God to be taught and believed in the Church of Christ. (1 Pet. 4:11, John 8:31-32, 1 Tim. 6:3-4)

Comments:

Churches that teach in accordance with the Word of God are orthodox; others are more or less heterodox. The orthodox character of a church is established not only by its outward acceptance of creeds and confessions but also by the doctrine that is actually permitted to be taught in its pulpits, theological seminaries and publications.

2. We believe that God calls all Christians to unity in the doctrine and that they therefore should seek church fellowship with those who agree with them in all doctrines of Christ. (John 17:17, 20-21, Rom. 15:5, 6, 1 Cor. 1:10, Eph. 4:3-5)

Comments:

Doctrinal unity is a prerequisite for church fellowship. The two must coincide. The unity in this connection is an outward unity based on what Christians confess. Only God, who can look into the hidden world of the hearts, knows the inner unity of Una Sancta.

The true outward unity is not a unity limited to some fundamental doctrines, but a unity in all doctrines (Matt. 28:20).

3. We believe that it is against the Scriptures and the command of our Lord Jesus Christ to exercise church fellowship with adherents of false doctrine. (Matt. 7:15, Rom. 16:17, 1 Tim. 6:3-5, Tit. 3:10, 2 Cor. 6:14-18, 2 John 9-11)

Comments:

Christians must discriminate between orthodox and heterodox churches. We reject all kind of unionism with false doctrine. Accordingly we neither have any altar, pulpit or prayer fellowship nor any other joint action that involves giving confessional support to people who embrace false doctrine or are members of churches that permit such doctrine. Membership in a certain church is always a kind of outward support or confession to the doctrine of that church regardless of what the individual member says or believes in his heart.

We don’t accept church fellowship with an ‘orthodox’ church, which for some reason still is in church fellowship with another heterodox church (inconsistent ‘triangle effects’).

4. We believe that if false teachers appear in the Church they must be removed by means of doctrinal discipline as soon as their false teaching is proved. (Titus 3:10, Gal. 5:9, 2 Tim. 2:15-17)

Comments:

The church’s first concern must always be the care of the sheep, not the care of bad shepherds or the false teachers. False doctrine is extremely dangerous and must be stopped from the beginning. If the church combats errors by means of doctrinal discipline it will remain orthodox.

We don’t think the admonition principles in Matt. 18:15-17 or considerations for ‘weak brothers’, e.g. in Rom. 14 and Gal. 6:1-2, are to be used as guidelines in breaking church fellowship. Such passages are dealing with individual care that always should be observed among Christians, not with principles of church fellowship or how to deal with false teachers whose sins are public. (In the Lutheran Confessions Matt. 18:15 is not referred to in any church fellowship context. It is typical that it is referred to only under the Eight Commandment in the Large Catechism where Luther talks about ‘secret sins’, Trigl. p. 659.)

5. We believe that faithful Christians should leave their Church if they through the Word of God realize that they belong to a heterodox church, which permits human teaching to be mixed with the true teaching of God. (Matt. 7:15, John 10:5, Rom. 16:17)

Comments:

This situation deals with the case when the false teaching already is manifest or when a church successively has turned out to be heterodox. To remain in a heterodox church for reasons like winning souls, protesting and fighting against false teaching, waiting for awakening and revival in the church, waiting for being expelled etc. is not permitted. The Lord’s command to leave false churches is not optional. There are no exceptions from the rule.

6. We believe that the doctrine of Church Fellowship reflects God’s great care and love for his Church, redeemed by his Son, Jesus Christ, and to put this doctrine into practice is nothing but love. (John 10:9-16, 1 John 5:1-3)

Comments:

Today the old doctrine of Church Fellowship is mostly forgotten, neglected or regarded as an impossible, unnecessary and loveless putting up of barriers between people that worship the same God. That?s a tragedy. The result is the modern ecumenism with wide open doors for all kinds of evil spirits. As long as the Church remains on earth she is eccelesia militans and must fight against the devil all his attempts to destroy the Word of God and his Holy Church. To follow our Lord’s commands concerning Church Fellowship is to share his love for all Christians, not least those still dwelling in heterodox churches.

From: www.oldlutherans.com