This coming Thursday (May 14), the Church will commemorate the Ascension of Our Lord, the day when Jesus returned to His Father in heaven, marking the end of His bodily ministry on earth. In honor of this occasion, we offer below the first part of C. F. W. Walther’s sermon on Ascension, as found in volume 1 of his Gospel Sermons. [Read more…] about Walther’s Sermon on Ascension, Part 1
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.
The latest volume in Concordia Publishing House’s Walther’s Works collection, Church Fellowship, is now available.
From 1857 to 1884, C.F.W. Walther wrote numerous articles and speeches dealing with Lutheran identity and unity in doctrine and practice on the basis of Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. For the first time, these previously scattered, inaccessible, and forgotten writings are being brought together in one volume.
This volume helps clarify not only what Lutheran identity was in the nineteenth century, but also what it means to confess the Christian faith in the twenty-first century, in harmony with the Church of all ages.
Read what others are saying about the volume HERE.
Read an excerpt from the book HERE.
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About the Author
Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther (October 25, 1811–May 7, 1887) immigrated to the United States of America from Saxony (a German territory) in 1839. With others, he formed The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 1847 and became its first president, as well as a professor and president of Concordia Seminary (now in St. Louis). He is remembered as “the American Luther” due to his defense of distinctively Lutheran doctrine and practice in the midst of a culture that opposed these.
We are God’s mouth and hands in this world, and how we pray is important to our life together in Christ’s Body, the Church. C. F. W. Walther’s For the Life of the Church reunites today’s Christians with a treasure-trove of prayers that relate to all facets of public Christian life. These prayers reinforce basic Christian principles even as they bring the sweet message of the Gospel to those who need to hear God’s Word for their lives. Additionally, a series of addresses explains both the cost of discipleship and the rewards of church membership.
The following is a prayer for the New Year and an address entitled “The Joy of Discipleship” from For the Life of the Church.
91. New Year
Lord, our God, all-knowing and all-wise, whatever in time You bring to pass You have already resolved in eternity. Throughout our lives You have been very merciful to us. You have let us hear and learn Your Word, and by means of it You have brought us to the knowledge of our sins and of Your grace. Through Your Holy Spirit You have kindled and preserved within us faith in Jesus Christ, Your only Son, our Savior. It is certain therefore that already from eternity You have bestowed Your grace upon us and resolved to make us Your children.
Thanks be to You in time and eternity!
But, O Lord, from Your holy Word we learn that, while we ourselves can contribute nothing toward our salvation—all glory belongs to You alone—we can indeed do much to lose it. Therefore we pray You, take us altogether into Your gracious care; let us be to You as clay in the potter’s hands; guard us against the desires of our wicked flesh and blood, against the enticements of the blind world, and against the treacherous assaults of the devil. Help us to pass safely through all the dangers threatening our souls and grant that during this new year we may either depart this life in peace, or, if we live through it, grant that the end of the year may find us still enjoying Your grace.
Pour out Your blessings upon this first meeting of the new year for the sake of Jesus Christ, our precious Redeemer and Savior. Amen.
22. The Joy of Discipleship
To unite with a Christian congregation appears to many as something unimportant as well as unpleasant.
People argue: If we unite with a congregation, it will increase our expenses and will make the world despise us
1. Because of the Gospel;
2. Because of those within the Christian congregation who have given great offense; for the world is constantly watching the Christians with eagle eyes.
That such is the case cannot be denied. But also this is sure, that, when a baptized Christian unites with a Christian congregation, that person is taking an important step as well as one that brings with it much joy.
Recall the words of Jesus concerning the Jews: “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. So there will be one flock, one Shepherd” [John 10:16].
Christ wants to gather all of His believers into one great flock.
Recall furthermore what Christ says to His believers, whom the world despises and persecutes: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” [Luke 12:32].
What a glorious promise!
1. Those who join His fold of believers are to inherit the kingdom. Which kingdom? [None other than the kingdom of grace and peace here and the kingdom of glory and bliss in the world to come.]
2. It is the Father’s good pleasure, not the reward of your own efforts. Nor is it uncertain, for what God has decreed according to His good pleasure cannot be overthrown.
Therefore enter our congregation with joy. Although we are despised by the world, God has honored us with a glorious promise, which you, too, are now to share.
And we, dear members, who have received these new brothers and sisters into fellowship have a twofold duty:
1. We must receive them as brothers and sisters, show them that we love them, never desert them when they are in need of any kind, and make them feel at home among us.
2. We ought very diligently and zealously to guard our conduct so that we do not cause either them or the world to be offended. We must also see to it that we are not to blame when the world despises us.
From For the Life of the Church: A Practical Edition of Pastor Walther’s Prayers and Addresses, pages 109–10, 181–82 © 2011 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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This book could easily be titled, “The Best of Walther,” because it contains his most significant essays outside of his well-known Law & Gospel and Church & Office books. All the essays are eminently relevant today. Walther’s writings on confessional subscription, doctrinal development, and the duties of a Lutheran synod are alone well worth the sticker price. I am particularly pleased that the 1868 essay “Syncretism” was included. In that piece, Walther explains what the LCMS has always meant by that term with quotes from the orthodox Lutheran fathers, including the classic explanation of “syncretism” by the irenic Johann W. Baier.
—The Rev. Martin R. Noland, PhD
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Evansville, Indiana
Second only to the new edition of C. F. W. Walther’s Law and Gospel, this volume is indispensable for any student of the Holy Scriptures, the Lutheran Confessions, and the history of the confessing Church.
The historic writings exhibited in this collection from Concordia Publishing House serve as sixteen canvases upon which Walther has artfully detailed what it means to faithfully confess Christ and His redeeming Word—all for the sake of the Church and her witness to a lost world.
This collection does not serve as a memorial to Walther or a commemoration to Luther and the reformers but as a testament to the Word of Christ that the Church is given to confess—to heaven and to the faithful and to a dying world.
C. F. W. Walther’s Law and Gospel elucidates the Church’s faithful confession from the pulpit; this volume clearly details the foundation of true Christian fellowship: the Church’s faithful confession of Christ and His Word from pulpit and altar.
—The Rev. Dr. Daniel N. Harmelink
Executive Director, Concordia Historical Institute
These essays of C. F. W. Walther set forth the Confessional Lutheran approach to church fellowship and the role it plays in Communion fellowship of the Lord’s Supper. He carefully and uncompromisingly explains the insistence on fidelity to doctrine based on Scripture and traces its close relationship to unconditional confessional subscription and to church life and the spiritual welfare of believers. English versions of these essays have been available in scattered sources but are conveniently gathered here and provided with a Scripture index for use in examining the basis of their assertions in God’s Word.
—Dr. Thomas Manteufel
Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
In postmodern times, it is fashionable for many in the Church to question and even to mock the idea that we can be certain about doctrine. To insist on doctrinal uniformity is uncharitable, impractical, and even un-Christian, it is argued. These writings of Walther reveal that such voices in the Church are anything but new, and Walther takes them head-on. The question he poses as the theme of one essay—“Do We Draw the Lines of Fellowship Too Narrowly?”—captures the theme of the volume. In answer, his essays hold together three convictions: the “it is enough” of the Gospel (AC VII), the necessity of agreement “in doctrine and in all its articles and . . . the holy sacraments” (FC X), and the sufficiency of Holy Scripture as the sole basis for all doctrine (and doctrinal certainty). Walther’s voice gives us a window into nineteenth century Lutheranism and counsel for confessional integrity in the twenty-first.
—Rev. Thomas J. Egger
Assistant Professor of Exegetical Theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
Contributor to C. F. W. Walther: Theologian and Churchman (CPH, 2011)
The key theological issue discussed during the formation of the Synodical Conference of North America and when the Conference was being dissolved was the degree of doctrinal unity necessary for church fellowship. In the debates of the twentieth century, both sides felt that they were following the principles established by Walther during the time when boundaries were being sorted out in American Lutheranism. This collection of important works on the subject from the pen of Walther will be a useful resource for establishing what his position really was and assessing how well it is being followed by his successors today.
—Rev. Prof. John Brug
Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary