Manifold are the difficult and arduous tasks of a minister of Jesus . Christ; but the most difficult and arduous of all, beyond question, is the task of proclaiming the pure doctrine of the Gospel of Christ and at the same time exposing, refuting, and rejecting teachings that are contrary to the Gospel. The minister who does this will discover by practical experience the truth of the old saying: Veritas odium parit (telling the truth makes enemies).
If faithful Athanasius in his day had been content to proclaim his doctrine that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father in eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary; if he had not at the same time vigorously attacked Arius and the Arians, who denied this doctrine, he would undoubtedly have finished his life in honor and pleasant peace, for he was a highly gifted man. Had Luther followed the example of Staupitz of quietly teaching the pure Gospel to his brother monks without at the same time attacking the abominations of the Papacy with great earnestness, not a finger would have been raised against him. For even before Luther's day there had been monks who had come to understand the Gospel and made no secret of their knowledge; but they did not come out in public to fight against the errors of the Papacy. Accordingly they were allowed to live in peace and quiet as long as they held to the cardinal point in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church — the Pope.
Worldly men and all false Christians cannot but attack those who teach a faith and doctrine different from theirs and to regard them as disturbers of the peace, as peace-hating, quarrelsome, and malicious men. These unfortunate people have no idea of the blindness which enshrouds them; they do not know how gladly the boldest champions of Christ would have kept peace with all men, how much they would have preferred to keep silent, how hard it was for their flesh and blood to come out in public and become targets for the hatred, enmity, vilification, scorn, and persecution of men. However, they could not but confess the truth and at the same time oppose error. Their conscience constrained them to do this because such conduct was required of them by the Word of God.
They remembered that Jesus Christ had said to His disciples, not only: "Ye are the light of the world," but also: "Ye are the salt of the earth"; that is, you are not only to proclaim the truth, but you are also to salt the world with its sins and errors; you are to sprinkle sharp salt on the world to stay its corruption. They remembered that Christ had distinctly said: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword." Matt. 10, 34. Not as though the Lord took pleasure in peace-destroying wars; not as though He had come into the world to start dissensions and discord among men; but He means to say: "My doctrine is of such a nature that, if it is properly proclaimed, thetically and antithetically, peace among men cannot possibly be preserved. For as soon as My Word is proclaimed, men will divide into two camps: some will receive it with joy, others will be offended by it and will begin to hate and persecute those who receive it.
Moreover, preachers of the right character remember that the Church is not a kingdom that can be built up in peace; for it is located within the domain of the devil, who is the prince of this world. Accordingly, the Church has no choice but to be at war. It is ecclesia militans, the Church Militant, and will remain such until the blessed end. Wherever a Church is seen to be, not ecclesia militans, but ecclesia quiescens, a Church at ease, that — you may rely on it! — is a false Church.
Moreover, an honest preacher knows that he is also a pastor, i.e., a shepherd. Of what use, however, is a shepherd who leads the sheep to good pasture-grounds, but flees when he sees the wolf coming? The occasion that is to test his caliber is when he must go to meet the wolf that wants to devour the sheep. That means to fight for the kingdom of God.
Lastly, an honest preacher knows that he is to be a regular sower of seed. Of what use is it for him to sow good seed and then to look on while another sows the tares of false doctrine among his wheat? Soon the tares will outstrip the wheat and choke it.
from C.F.W. Walther, 'Law and Gospel, Twenty-fifth Evening Lecture' (April 24, 1885).Read More