Scripture: “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” – Revelation 3:7-13
By these words of our Lord, we discover how to recognize the true Church. It is not about size, prestige, influence, about its many programs and functions, or about worldly success or status. In fact, outwardly the Christian Church has “little power.” It is powerless and insignificant to the world.
Yet the true Church, as “insignificant” as it may seem to the world, has great power and force because it keeps Christ’s Word and confesses His name!
If we consider our little Lutheran Church in this light of our Lord’s words here, do we see just how brightly it bears these marks, as the sun does its light? We may be tempted to look at the outward appearance of the church, and should we do so we may find ourselves lamenting with the prophet Isaiah who said, “O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted” (Isaiah 54:11). Regardless, what matters is what our Lord says to us, not our outward appearance. And Christ says the same to us as He said to the small and afflicted congregation at Philadelphia, “I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My Word and have not denied My name.”
Since it is Reformation, consider Luther, as he stood before the emperor and powerful men with influence at the Diet of Worms, as he stood before Rome itself. He could have folded under fear or for the sake of “getting along,” but instead he exclaimed, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures…because the passages cited and quoted by me have convinced and grounded my conscience in God’s Word, therefore I cannot and will not recant. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me! Amen.”
Luther concerned himself with the Word of God and would not deny the name of Christ. In that moment, Luther stood as the Universal Christain Church, a small man in a brief period of time, but the Church none the less. Not that the Christian Church follows or believes Luther, but because the Church believes as Luther believed, in the Word of Christ, the truth that sets men free. The Lutheran Church was established on this principle, that the words of the Scripture cannot be added to or taken from, and the true Lutheran Church continues to rely on this principle and is at the top of every member’s confession as its heart and life.
If someone should ask you, “What is a Confessional Lutheran,” then answer nothing but this: A Confessional Lutheran is a Christain who strictly keeps the letter of the Scripture, and this alone makes us distinct from all other Christians. We do not deny Christ’s Word and we do not deny Christ’s name. Justification through faith in Christ is at the center of all Christian doctrine and to deny it is to deny Christ.