Wednesday, October 27, 2010

FW: Preaching Law & Gospel

An extended reading of Walther…


Feed: Gnesio
Posted on: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 12:10 AM
Author: driley
Subject: Preaching Law & Gospel


Among the various functions and official acts of a servant of the Church the most important of all, my friends, is preaching. Since there is no substitute for preaching, a minister who accomplishes little or nothing by preaching will accomplish little or nothing by anything else that he may do.

Here is where the papists differ with us. They call their ministers priests and assert that the most important of all functions of a priest is to baptize, hear confession and pronounce absolution, administer Communion, and, above all, to offer to God the sacrifice of the Mass. Setting aside the sacrifice of the Mass, which is the greatest abomination that has ever been practised in the Christian Church, we are forced to say that all baptizing, pronouncing absolution and administering of Communion is useless if these matters have not been previously made the subjects of preaching to the people; for they are not the works of men, but of God Himself, who has connected with them a promise to be apprehended by faith. Accordingly, all these acts do not profit, but are rather harmful, in the absence of faith. If these operations of God are to be of any use, it is absolutely necessary that a thorough instruction concerning them be first given from the Word of God by preaching.
When Christ was about to return to the glory which He had with the Father before the foundation of the world, He gave His disciples, together with their commission, this instruction: "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature," or as Matthew puts it: "Go ye and teach all nations." Then He adds: "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Not satisfied with having said this, He concluded His instruction with these words: "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Behold here the Alpha and Omega of the apostolic office, or the ministry of the Church: it is preaching and teaching.

This function, however, is not only the most important, but also the most difficult function assigned to a minister of the Church. There are ministers who imagine that preaching is easy to them, and the longer they are in the ministry, the easier preaching becomes to them; for they reason that, if they are only careful to preach nothing but the pure Word of God, without any admix ure of heresy, that must be sufficient. Such preachers are laboring under a great, an awful, a very pernicious error. A mere pious talk without aim and logical order is not real preaching. Genuine preaching is inspired only by the Holy Ghost through His Word. Accordingly, a real sermon is produced only after all the spiritual and intellectual energy of a truly believing preacher has been exerted to the utmost, after fervent prayer, after all earthly cares have been chased from the mind, and after the preacher has been freed from all vain desires. That is a difficult task.
Administering Baptism properly is easy; anybody can do it. Likewise, pronouncing absolution correctly is quite easy; even a boy can do it. Administering Holy Communion is also very easy; any intelligent Christian can do it. But to preach properly is difficult. For this reason a student of theology ought to make proper preaching his highest aim. For if he is unable to preach, he does not belong in the ministry. In our orthodox Church a servant of God is a minister of Jesus Christ, and his worth does not lie in a certain undefined quality that has been imparted to him at his ordination or consecration, in something that other people have not and which, for that reason, makes him such a sacrosanct and precious person. By no means; the worth of a true minister of the Church lies exclusively in his ability to preach properly. If he has not this ability, the pulpit is not the place for him; for the pulpit is for preaching. Preaching is the central element of every divine service.

What is to be effected by preaching? Bear in mind that the preacher is to arouse secure souls from their sleep in sin; next, to lead those who have been aroused to faith; next, to give believers assurance of their state of grace and salvation; next, to lead those who have become assured of this to sanctification of their lives; and lastly, to confirm the sanctified and to keep them in their holy and blessed state unto the end. What a task!

A preeminent point that we must not forget is this: To achieve this task, it is especially necessary rightly to divide the truth, as the apostle says, or properly to divide the Law and the Gospel from each other. When a person does not understand how to do this and always mingles either doctrine into the other, his preaching is utterly futile, in vain. More than this, a preacher of this kind does harm and leads the souls of men astray; he leads them to a false faith, a false hope, a false contrition, makes them mere hypocrites, and frequently hurls them into despair. To divide Law and Gospel properly is a very, very difficult task. As Luther says, all preachers cannot but remain mere apprentices in this art until death. Nevertheless, a young theologian must be able to recite at least the first lesson in this curriculum. He must know the goal that he is to reach, and he must have made a start in reaching the goal.

- from C.F.W. Walther, 'Law and Gospel, Twenty-third Evening Lecture' (March 20, 1885.)

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