A MODEL CONFERENCE
Although most CLC members will likely never attend a CLC Convention, we hope that interest in what happens there reaches deep into all of our CLC congregations. We all recognize the importance of these gatherings–to fellowship with and encourage one another, to discuss scriptural issues, and to plan the Lord’s work in our “extended” CLC family. Such gatherings have always been an important part of church life.
In Acts 15 an important early church convention was held in Jerusalem. Necessitated by the claims of a group called the Judaizers (Jewish Christians who maintained that parts of the Old Testament ceremonial law were still in effect) that circumcision was necessary, enough confusion reigned so that all agreed to meet at Jerusalem to reach a God-pleasing solution. Present were some of the Apostles, elders, and leaders from various congregations. After considerable discussion, the floor was given to Peter who recounted scriptural evidence that God indeed desired Gentiles in His Kingdom, and that the Apostles had been called to preach the Gospel to them as well. Their hearts were also purified by faith in Christ. Why then should anyone place this terrible burden upon them — as if more than faith were required for salvation? Missionary reports by Paul and Barnabas and words of Pastor James convinced them of God’s will in this matter.
Loyalty To God’s Word
Unlike many church conventions today, spiritual issues were not ignored or swept under the rug by the Jerusalem conference. Together they searched Scripture for God’s answer and guidance and then bowed before His holy Word. Over the years our beloved CLC fellowship has also faced a number of scriptural questions–including the church fellowship issue that marked our beginning. In each case we have gone to the Father’s Word to seek His guidance and to refute anything which says more or less than His Word. And in this searching of Scripture we have been blessed, as it has sharpened and deepened our spiritual conviction and understanding as well as heightened our appreciation of the rare, precious, yet fragile gift of Christian unity which the Spirit has preserved among us.
Christian Liberty In “Adiaphora”
“Adiaphora” is the theological term for things neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture. For the New Testament Christian, circumcision is an adiaphoron, as the Jerusalem conference wisely determined. Faced with many practical decisions regarding adiaphora (traditions, customs, worship order, building, budget, and policy decisions), both our congregations and church conventions have workable systems in place to reach a consensus. While in matters of Christian liberty there often are honest, strong, and wholesome differences of opinion, once a majority decision is reached, the church’s best interests are served by the prayers and loving support of all involved.
Christian Love In All Things
“Christian Love” pervaded the early church. They genuinely appreciated, cared about, and helped one another in countless ways (Acts 2:44f, 4:32-35). Such love, which always flows from God’s love for us in Christ, did not fade into the background at the Jerusalem conference, even in the face of disagreement and tension. Love for God prompted the conference to resolve to abide by His eternal Word. Love for the Judaizers led to a clear identification of their misguided views. Love for the Gentiles helped remove a potential faith and conscience stumblingblock for these new believers. Love for the Jewish believers still observing Jewish customs led to encouragement of the Gentiles to show Christian sensitivity. Love for all led to letters and personal visits to “encourage and strengthen the brethren” (Acts 15:32).
May the Holy Spirit instill and continue such Christian love in our midst as well–not only at our conferences and conventions, not only in our churches and homes, but also in our hearts and lives. May each of us in our calling as God’s children and in our specific callings in the church ever heed the Spirit’s counsel: “I therefore . . . beseech you to walk worthy of the calling to which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
— Pastor David Schierenbeck