As the subtitle of the original German edition states, The Church and The Office of The Ministry is “a collection of testimonies . . . from the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and from the private writings of orthodox teachers of the same.” Professional church workers and interested lay members will find a wealth of insights from the Bible, the Confessions, ancient church fathers, Luther, the orthodox Lutheran fathers, and more on the key questions of what or who is the Church, what is and who holds the Office of the Ministry, and what are the powers and duties of each.
As we approach the commemoration of Pastor C. F. W. Walther on May 7, we offer the following excerpt from his writings on the preaching office.
A. To the preaching office there is due respect as well as unconditional obedience when the preacher uses God’s Word.
- Proof from God’s Word
Although the bearers of the public preaching office do not form a holier estate, different from that of ordinary believers, but only administer the rights of all Christians conferred to them for public, ordered administration, they are not slaves of men. The principal effective cause of the order of the public preaching office is God, the Almighty Himself. This [office] is not an establishment of men for the sake of decorum and well-being; rather, [it is] an institution of the triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if a congregation has conferred the authority of the office [Amtsbefugnis] to a person by means of an ordered, legitimate call, that person has been placed at the head of the congregation by God Himself, though through [the congregation] (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; Acts 20:28). Hence the installed [pastor] is not only a servant of the congregation but also at the same time a servant of God and a messenger in Christ’s stead, through whom God admonishes the congregation (1 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:18–20). Therefore, when a preacher uses God’s Word in his congregation, whether by teaching or admonishing, reproving or comforting, either publicly or individually, then the congregation hears Jesus Christ Himself out of his mouth. Thus it owes him unconditional obedience as the one through whom God desires to make known to it His will and to lead it to eternal life; the more faithfully a preacher administers his office, the more highly the congregation should esteem him. It also has no right to take away the office from such a faithful minister of Jesus Christ; if it does this, it rejects Jesus Christ Himself, in whose name he presides over it. A congregation can remove an incumbent from his office only if it is clear from God’s Word that the Lord Himself has deposed him as a wolf or hireling. Thus it says in the Scriptures:
“The one who hears you hears Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and the one who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13).
“Let the presbyters who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain’ and ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’ Receive no complaint against a presbyter without two or three witnesses” (1 Timothy 5:17–19; cf. Galatians 6:6–10).
“As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (Matthew 10:12–15). . . .
From The Church and The Office of The Ministry, pages 300–02 © 2012 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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