Not all churches proclaim the truth. I mean that predominantly in terms of church bodies, but it also has some degree of truth when it comes to congregations. Not all churches teach the truth.
This should not surprise or anger us. Jesus promised that the church would struggle with false teaching: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:22–23). In Ephesus, St. Paul warned the pastors he trained about wolves that would come after he departed: “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30).
If God did not spare the Early Church from the incursion of false teachers and false christs, why would He spare us? Indeed, Christian denominations the world over — and even in our own midst — harbor and even promote various false teachings and prop up false christs.
On top of the false teachers and false christs that infect churches, we struggle with our sinful flesh that prevents us from fully seeing the beauty and splendor of Christ’s spotless Bride. How then does one find the church? The presence of false teachers does not mean Christ has left His Bride without witness — or without marks — in the world.
Martin Luther offered seven marks by which to find the true church. In this issue, Jonathan Mumme looks at these marks and the biblical foundations upon which they stand. He includes numerous Bible passages; it is worth your time to sit down and look them all up.
These same marks help the LCMS identify partner churches. Sarah Reinsel provides a look at a small slice of the global churches in partnership with the LCMS. Her short histories of these churches show some of the history and beauty of Christ’s church. Finally, a church bearing the seven marks is never dead, even though it might appear that way to the world. Sometimes, the churches bearing these marks are small and must coordinate with other congregations. Stacey Egger explores how the LCMS helps and equips congregations to do that via multi-congregation parishes (MCPs).
God has indeed blessed the Lutheran church with the faithful proclamation of His Word and administration of His Sacraments. May we continue to shine this light into the dark world.
Marked by Christ,
Roy S. Askins
Managing Editor, The Lutheran Witness