Seventh Sunday after Trinity – Thursday
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind. – Matthew 13:47.
All professing Christians throughout the world are part of what is commonly called the visible church. In a local congregation, not only is the Gospel preached, but there are also those who profess the Christian faith, and assemble to hear the Gospel. Of course, we humans can see these people, and count them, and draw up a list of their names. The whole number of those who at one place and in an organized body profess the Christian faith and gather about the Gospel and Sacraments is called the local congregation as men see it. But in such visible gatherings there may also be hypocrites and ungodly people besides the true Christians. Only “the Lord knoweth them that are His” (II Timothy 2:19).
Thus if we specify only the true believers who gather in a specific place to worship God, hear His Word, and receive the Sacraments, we call it the local congregation as God sees it. If it becomes manifest that one who professes to be a Christian is, in fact, a hypocrite and ungodly, then, according to Christ’s precept and established order, he must be put away from among the Christian congregation and declared a heathen man and a publican, after he shows himself to be impenitent before the church (Matthew 18:15-17). Such is God’s will.
But beyond this we cannot distinguish between believers and hypocrites. This is because we are not able, as God is, to read another man’s heart. The Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God, the Church of Christ on earth, is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind, both good and bad fish. And when the net is full, they draw it to shore, and sit down, and gather the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.
This sorting in the Kingdom of God shall be done on the Last Day, not until then. At the end of the world the angels shall come forth at God’s behest, and sever the wicked from among the just. And then the wicked shall be cast where there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear; let him hear again and again the Savior, who says: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28).
PRAYER – Lord Jesus, I thank Thee that, through Thy Word and the Holy Spirit working through that Word, Thou hast given me the true faith, and hast made me a true member of Thy Church. Keep me, I beg Thee, in true faith unto my end, that, at the great sorting on the Last Day, I may not be cast into hell, but be received into heaven by Thy grace, for the sake of Thine own righteousness. Amen.
O Jesus, who my debt didst pay
And for my sin wast smitten,
Within the Book of Life, oh may
My name be also written!
I will not doubt; I trust in Thee,
From Satan Thou hast made me free
And from all condemnation.
Hymn 611, 5. (TLH)