When a place has been assigned to a Lutheran candidate of theology where he is to discharge the office of a Lutheran minister, that place ought to be to him the dearest, most beautiful, and most precious spot on earth. He should be unwilling to exchange it for a kingdom. Whether it is in a metropolis or in a small town, on a bleak prairie or in a clearing in the forest, in a flourishing settlement or in a desert, to him it should be a miniature paradise. Do not the blessed angels descend from heaven with great joy whenever the Father in heaven sends them to minister to those who are to be heirs of salvation? Why, then, should we poor sinners be unwilling to hurry after them with great joy to any place where we can lead other men, our fellow-sinners, to salvation?
However, though great be the joy of a young, newly called pastor on entering his parish, there should be in him an equally great earnestness and determination to do all he can to save every soul entrusted to him. Frequently it may seem to him that the majority, if not all members, of his congregation are still blind, dead, unconverted people. That observation must not make him morose or discourage him, but rather fill him with an ardent desire to rouse them out of spiritual death through the divine means of grace and make them living Christians. In spite of the devil he should take up his work in the power of faith. If he observes that some members of his new charge are even living in manifest shame and vice, he must not despair, but bear in mind that he has a powerful Word by which he can make an effort to liberate these slaves of sin. If he observes that his congregation is on a low level as regards the knowledge of salvation, that his people are still sadly ignorant of what the Gospel really is, he must cheerfully resolve to take up the task of instructing the poor, ignorant people with patience and zeal, until they will see the light. Or he may notice that there are people in his congregation who are sincere, but disposed by their Pietistic schooling to be legalistic, who, therefore, regard some things as sinful that are not sinful. In that case he must resolve to forego exercising his Christian liberty lest he offend souls that regard as sin something that he feels free to do. On the other hand, he may discover in his congregation members of an Antinomian tendency, who are inclined to go too far in the exercise of their Christian liberty, because they are not accustomed to have the Law preached to them in its severity. In such a case he must not decide forthwith to oppose them with all his force and preach nothing but the sternest Law to them for a whole year. No, he must go after them gently and gradually make them see the stern demands of the Law. For the Apostle Paul says concerning himself: "I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some." I Cor. 9, 22. This statement he wants every servant of Christ to take to heart. Its import is that a minister must not be satisfied with merely proclaiming the truth; he must proclaim the truth so as to meet the needs of his people. He may have to defer saying many things until his people have gained confidence in him and his teaching and he knows that he may frankly tell them anything without fear of repelling them. Briefly, he must resolve to turn his congregation from a dreary desert into a flourishing garden of God.
Again, he may make the very cheering discovery that most of the members of his congregation are old, tried, believing, and active Christians and that there are only a few who make the impression of being unconverted. In that case he must resolve, before anything else, to bring the unconverted to Christ. Of course, he must make up his mind also in due time to give to those well-grounded in the truth the strong meat which they need.
A pitiful object is the young minister who enters upon his office with the thought that his days of hard labor and toil are over, that he has now entered a haven of rest and peace, which he decides to enjoy since now he is his own boss and need not take orders from any person in the world. Equally as pitiable as the attitude to the sacred office which I have just sketched is that of the minister who looks upon his office as his craft, or trade, and resolves to prepare for himself a nice, comfortable parish by being careful not to make enemies and doing everything to make all his people his friends. These unhappy individuals plan to employ spiritual assets for temporal profit. They are not true ministers of Christ, and on the Last Day He will say to them: "I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." Matt. 7, 23.
But blessed is the minister who starts his official work on the very first day with the determination to do everything that the grace of God will enable him to do in order that not a soul in his congregation shall be lost by his fault. Such a one resolves that by the grace of God he will do all he can, so that, when the day comes for him to put down his shepherd's staff, he may be able to say, as Christ said to His Father: Here I am and those that Thou gavest me, and none of them is lost. Even the blood of those who shall stand on the left side of the judgment-seat, he resolves, shall not be on his hands.
But now the question arises: What is the matter of chief concern to a minister who wants to attain this glorious object? He must approach the Lord with heartfelt prayer and earnest entreaties in behalf of his congregation and, when preaching the Word of God with great zeal publicly and privately, jointly or severally, rightly divide the Word of Truth. For that is what Paul demands 2 Tim. 2, 15, saying: "Study to show thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth."
During your present year at the Seminary this very thing, you know, is the subject of our study — the proper division of the Word of God, of Law and Gospel. These two are the cardinal doctrines of all the Holy Scriptures, which are made up of these two. Any passage of Scripture, yea, any historical fact recorded in Scripture can be classified as belonging either to the Law or to the Gospel. No one should be permitted to graduate from a school of theology who is unable to determine whether in any compound clause of Scripture the protasis is Law and the apodosis Gospel, or vice versa. It is your duty to become perfectly clear on this subject.
from C.F.W. Walther, 'Law and Gospel, Twentieth Evening Lecture' (February 27, 1885).Read More