A Declaration of Dependence
When, in the course of human life, it becomes necessary for a person to dissolve the false notion of spiritual independence, and to assume a position of humble servitude and submission to the Will and Kingdom of God, decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to such a position.
We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) We have rebelled against our Creator; the very source of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in what we have done and in what we have left undone. But the gift of God is not like the trespass, for we hold that of His great mercy all men are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:24)
That to secure this justification, God has instituted the Church as His vessel for proclaiming the message of forgiveness and salvation in Christ Jesus to all who will believe. In this Church, He has also instituted the Sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper to further create, strengthen, grow, and deepen the faith of His people. Therefore, it is the right duty of His people to make diligent and frequent use of these means of grace and to establish for themselves such times and styles of worship and reception of the Word and Sacrament as might be most beneficent to them. For without these means, man will be unable to free himself from his own sinful condition. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
There is none that keeps the Law of God in perfection; as St. Paul writes to the Galatians, “All who rely on the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.” So it is evident that no one is justified before God by the Law.” And as St. James reminds us, “Whoever keeps the whole law, yet stumbles at just one point of it, is accountable for all of it.”
We see also that this sin has completely corrupted our inner being so that we neither keep the Law of God nor desire to do so. For as St. Paul also tells us, “The good I wish to do, I do not do; but the evil I do not wish to do, this I keep on doing! Oh, Who shall save me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:19, 24b)
We were conceived and born captive to sin and it infects every part of ourselves with its tyranny over thought, word, and deed. For “truly I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5) and “That which born of the flesh is flesh and that born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6)
In every stage of these oppressions, God has been merciful and patient; not desiring that any should die, but that all may turn to Him in repentance and faith.
For He has said through His messengers, “[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 3:4) and “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them.”
To further and efficaciously procure this salvation, God sent His only begotten Son (John 3:16) to bear the curse of the Law for us (Gal. 3:13) and to “deliver us from the domain of darkness and transfer us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14)
Salvation and true freedom from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation can be found nowhere else, for as the Apostle Peter proclaims, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) and which our own saith, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14:6)
To further bolster our hope and strengthen our perseverance, He holds out before us the blessed promise of everlasting life in His eternal Kingdom for He says, “He who cometh unto me I shall in no wise cast out” (John 6:37) and His messengers write, “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall award to me that day. And not for myself only, but for all who have longed for His appearance.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
For all this it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
We, therefore, the members of this congregation, united in faith and cause with all followers of the Christ across all time and the world over, do, in the Name and by the Authority of Him who saved us, pledge our unceasing dependence upon His mercy and grace and claim for ourselves His gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to Him and to one another our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. So may it be.
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Pastor Brian Handrich graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in 1997. He first served a dual parish in northeast Nebraska before coming to Flemington, New Jersey in 2002.