Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
People change things for a reason. Something strikes them that they don’t like or don’t agree with. And whatever it is must have significance, or why bother to change it? We can detect the purpose when we consider the direction of the change. “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification” (1 Cor. 14:10). To the present point, what is wrong with the doctrines of our elders? What is so strikingly erroneous that it must be changed? It is an extremely significant and important matter to change the teachings and codified doctrine of a church, for it is in reality to alter the church itself into something it was not. Christ is presented in word and doctrine, and if the doctrine is wrong, a false Christ is being taught.
There have been some subtle yet significant changes made to the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America Altar Book concerning the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Holy Baptism in the last printing of 1998. These changes in wording constitute a reversal of what our church fathers believed and contended for. The historical record is plain and available for all to read. It is my hope and prayer to here illuminate some of these changes so that we may seriously consider what is happening.
It was the removal of Romans 6:3, 4 from the section on Baptism which first drew my attention. The 1938 and 1969 editions of the Altar Book state: “Let us now hear Apostle Paul’s warning to us who have received the grace of baptism: ‘Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.‘” To what purpose is this Scripture removed? The end it serves is to deny the Apostolic doctrine that we are united with Christ in Holy Baptism.
I noticed another change also. This is in the prayer following the baptism, which in the older editions state: “O, innocent Lamb of God, Jesus Christ! Thou, Who loveth children and therefore bade them come unto Thee; Thou, Who placed Thy hand upon them and blessed them, saying: Theirs is the kingdom of God: We pray Thee, look graciously upon this child, who also needs Thy holy blessing, that, as it has been baptized in Thy holy name, with water and the Holy Ghost, it also, by the same Spirit, may prosper and grow, and be filled with all good gifts to Thy honor and glory: Thou, Who reigneth with God the Father, and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.” (bold print mine).
The latest edition, 1998, states:
“O, innocent Lamb of God, Jesus Christ! Thou, Who lovest children and therefore bade them come unto Thee: Thou Who placed Thy hand upon them and blessed them, saying: Theirs is the kingdom of God: We pray Thee, look graciously upon this child, who also needs Thy holy blessing, that, as (he) (she) has been baptized in Thy holy name with water, and that (he) (she) also, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may prosper and grow, and be filled with all good gifts to Thy honor and glory: Thou, Who reignest with God the Father, and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.” (bold print mine).
Is it right and necessary to remove the operation of the Holy Ghost from baptism? Why have some found it important to do so? Is baptism only the application of water, as the latest edition teaches? These changes have made Holy Baptism to be only a sign or symbol. This is a complete departure from Scripture, our elders, and the Lutheran Confessions, into Anabaptist theology, where the water of baptism is beheld and considered as nothing more than that which the cow drinks. We learn in the Catechism, however, that “Baptism works forgiveness of sins, etc.,“ and by virtue of the word and promise of God the water of baptism is “a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).” This is the ancient doctrine of the Christian Church defended in the face of Anabaptist assault, which doctrine is truly troubling the ALCA, and for a clear reason. Many are being re-baptized, and many are refusing to baptize their children, even some who attend ALCA churches. And why should we be surprised if baptism is only an empty sign, an act of obedience, or a work man does toward God? I believe these changes have heavy consequences.
The Sacrament of the Altar has also been changed, apparently making the bread and wine to be but symbols. We read in Scripture concerning the administration of the bread and wine, that it says, “This is,” to show the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ in and under the bread and wine (1 Cor. 11:24, Matt. 26:26-28). It says, in fact, in Matthew, when Jesus gave the bread, He said, “This is my body,” and when giving the cup, “This is my blood of the New Testament.” This is a crucial doctrine for which our church fathers have strenuously contended, and Luther said of those who denied the Real Presence that they are of a different spirit. These are not inconsequential matters, for in Holy Communion the believing sinner receives full and complete forgiveness of all sins by partaking of the blood of Christ, and receives eternal life by partaking of the body of Christ, and we are called to believe this wholeheartedly as though it were preached by the mouth of Christ Himself, which in truth it is.
It is written in the 1938 and 1969 Altar Books:
“My this, the true Body of Christ, which was delivered unto death for thee and for all they sins, strengthen and preserve thee in true faith unto everlasting life. Amen.”
“May this, the true Blood of Christ, which was shed for the remission of they sins, strengthen and preserve thee in true faith unto everlasting life. Amen.”
The above sentences are not found in the 1998 edition. The word “true” is not found, and nowhere in that edition does it even say concerning the bread and wine, “is” or “this is.” The result of this change indicates, if not a purpose, at least an end and that is to make the bread and wine but empty symbols, removing union with the Sacrifice and the working power of God from the Sacrament of the Altar. The changes have served to remove the “this is” assurance of the True body and blood of Christ. Why?
All people are born in sin and need a washing from the inherited guilt of Original Sin. We furthermore need forgiveness daily in this life, and it has pleased God to deal with sinful mankind by means of the Word and Sacraments. The old teachings show that God comes to the helpless sinner by means of the Word and Sacraments, which are the Means of Grace, to receive, forgive, wash, renew, and grant and sustain faith. Man does not ascend up to God with his faith apart from the Means of Grace to receive blessing, but God comes to us to grant and strengthen faith. God has given Christ to us in both His word and the sacraments as the object of our faith and foundation of our hope. The gospel cannot fail, neither can the promises of God in the sacraments.
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism is, according to Scripture and God‘s ordination, a saving “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5, 1 Pet. 3:21) which is the New Birth.“ It is also a washing of forgiveness from sin (Acts 22:16, Acts 2:38). This is the plain Word of God to be received by faith.
The bread and wine in the Supper are indeed, according to Scripture and the ordination of God, the true body and blood of Christ which is a living matter, and which have power to forgive sin and grant eternal life. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor.10:16). To these promises we can cling, for they are sure.
As the sacraments have been diminished as a means by which God comes to the sinner to forgive sin, much emphasis is placed upon a person making confession as the means by which the sinner “puts away” his sin. This is against Scripture, which teaches that Christ has put away our sin (2 Sam. 12:13, Heb. 9:26), and this blessing comes to us by means of the word and sacraments, and not according to our auricular confession of sins. Our forgiveness is not based upon our doing, but upon God’s doing. Let us again consider the God-ordained means by which He Himself deals with our sin. We do not want to begin to contend with Christ as to who puts away sin. To say that man can put away his sin is to usurp the chief office of Christ.
Steven E. Anderson