Lutheran Preaching is the Answer, by Rev. Kurt Hering

Rev. Kurt Hering has made an audio recording of a Luther sermon and written a fine admonishment to Lutheran pastors about law/gospel preaching. We encourage our BJS pastors to take it to heart and our BJS laity to encourage their pastors with these words. This post can also be found on the LCMSsermons site, here.

Throughout the LCMS it seems the teeth have been taken out of our preaching. For at least a couple of generations now many pastors have been taught, shamed really, by the practical, seeker sensitive teachers and leaders among us to become a bunch of Cheshire Cats in the pulpit–to soft soap the Law and soft sell the Gospel lest they offend anyone and thus consign a seeker to the abyss of hell.

(click PLAY below and listen while reading Pastor Hering’s article, or wait and listen to the sermon at the bottom of this posting)


That simply can’t and won’t happen. God will lose nary a one of those whose names are written in His book of Life. Furthermore, it is precisely the bold preaching of Law that sears the sinful flesh and Gospel that salves the contrite soul that works salvation. It is not a preacher’s business to flatter, amuse, or market people into heaven. It is their call to proclaim the Word for what it is and let the Holy Spirit condemn or console according to God’s perfect discernment and heart for what the sinner truly needs.

Pastors are not called and sent to be salesmen of salvation, public relations consultants for Christ, or corporate builders of His Church. Christ does not need or want that—thank you very much. Salvation is not for sale. Christ’s image doesn’t need sprucing or spicing up. The Holy Spirit is a capable builder of Christ’s Church.

Furthermore, we seem to be suffering from a sort of Lutheran reductionism that manifests itself in a rejection of anything that smells slightly Catholic and a desire to embrace virtually anything and everything for the sake of “growing the church.” The truth is that Lutherans and their Confessions not only reject and condemn the papism and works righteousness of the Roman Catholic Church, but they also reject and condemn the pietism and works righteousness of the Protestants. The problem with Roman Catholicism is not that they name someone Pope. It is the power that they vest in him, and only him and his authorized agents. A papacy exists wherever the discipline of the office of the keys and calling of pastors is taken out of the hands of the congregations and controlled by a hierarchy—whether it be of popes and bishops in Rome, or presidents and executives in other Districts. Neither is Roman Catholicism the only place where you will find monks. Monks are created wherever the people of God are shamed, cajoled, or persuaded into believing that it is not enough for the Baptized Christian to simply live his life and exercise his vocation in faith as the child of God He is, according to the Ten Commandments, and instead must do something special in order to glorify God and win souls for Christ.

If we would only study and listen to Luther, and actually put his teaching into practice instead of listening to and practicing the teaching of Warren and Hybels, we might have a chance of being Lutheran once again. Let the numbers come or not based upon our faithful preaching, hearing, and living of the Word of God for the forgiveness of sins.

With these things in mind, I invite you to listen to my recording of Martin Luther’s treatment of Matthew 6:33-34 from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.


I am convinced that the preaching, hearing, and living of this one sermon of Martin Luther–or at least more sermons like it in every pulpit and at every convention–would do more to right our Synod and Church than the passage of any resolution or election of any political leader. Politics is necessary and even good when practiced among righteous men within its proper realm. But how do we get righteous men? It is by the bold, no-holds-barred preaching of God’s Word in all its truth and purity—teaching everything He has commanded, leaving out not one jot or tittle.

To hear the Word of our Lord as preached through His humble servant, the Rev. Dr. Martinus Luther, please either click the play buttons, or save or play the MP3 file using the link.

The text of this sermon can be found in Luther’s Works, CPH American Edition, Volume 21.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Lutheran Preaching is the Answer, by Rev. Kurt Hering — 6 Comments

  1. You go, Kurt! Thanks for a wonderful post! Now, if we could just get all pastors to read or listen AND get all DP’s to listen or read . . . . Thanks be to Christ for faithful pastors who (as do so many of us) look at dwindling numbers and, trembling, remain faithful to our task to bring God’s Law and God’s Gospel to bear upon immortal souls. God, help us and our congregations to stand fast and remain faithful; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

  2. Thank you for this fine rendition of Luther’s words. Luther had such a fine grasp on scripture that it is good to constantly go back to learn from him. You brought his words to life.

    And about your words, I whole heartedly agree. I can sense that there are many in my congregation that may be getting tired of hearing that they are sinners, and would prefer the watered down message that they hear from the church around us. But I endeavor to constantly give them first the law and then the soothing gospel.

  3. > Pr. Wollenburg wrote: Thanks be to Christ for faithful pastors who (as do so many of us) look at dwindling numbers and, trembling, remain faithful to our task to bring God’s Law and God’s Gospel to bear upon immortal souls. <

    On Matthew 6:34. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Luther writes:
    “‘Let this be your concern,’ He says, ‘how to retain the kingdom of God. And get rid of the other concerns so completely that you are not even concerned about tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, it will bring its own concerns along.’ As we say, ‘Do not cross your bridges until you come to them.’ Our concern accomplishes nothing anyway, even though we are concerned for only one day at a time. . . .
    “. . . Forget about your anxiety, which only increases and aggravates the trouble. From these examples you can see that God never used anyone’s anxiety to make him rich; in fact, many people have the deepest kind of anxiety, and still they have nothing. What He does is this: when He sees someone fulfilling his office diligently and faithfully, being concerned to do so in a God-pleasing way, ***and leaving the concern over its success to God,*** He is generous in His gifts to such a person.”

    Luther, Martin: Pelikan, Jaroslav Jan (Hrsg.) ; Oswald, Hilton C. (Hrsg.) ; Lehmann, Helmut T. (Hrsg.): Luther’s Works, Vol. 21 : The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat. Saint Louis : Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1956 (Luther’s Works 21), S. 21:209

  4. I was recently criticized for having too much Gospel and not enough law in my sermons. This distressed me greatly. A pastor friend of mine then sent me this quote. I love it! Next to Luther’s sacristy prayer this ought to hang in the Vestry and be read before each sermon. (Print it in large letters, as well, so every passerby can read it also.)

    So writes Luther in the Ascension Day sermon of 1534:

    “If you preach faith [and assurance] people become lax…But if you do not preach faith, hearts become frightened and dejected…Do as you please. Nothing seems to help. Yet faith in Christ should be preached, no matter what happens. I would much rather hear people say of me that I preach too sweetly…than not preach faith in Christ at all, for then there be no help for timid, frightened consciences…Therefore I should like to have the message of faith in Christ not forgotten but generally known. It is so sweet a message, full of sheer joy, comfort, mercy and grace. I must confess that I myself have as yet not fully grasped it. We shall have to let it happen that some turn the message into an occasion for security and presumption; others…slander us…and say [that by preaching so much of Christ] we make people lazy and thus keep them from perfection. Christ himself had to hear that he was a friend of publicans and sinners…We shall not fare any better.” WA 37, pp 394-395

    “We shall not fare any better,” indeed!

  5. Remember what Luther was answering here–the Roman accusations that the Gospel, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, begets laziness. He is not proposing the preaching of no Law. He is rebuking the preaching of the necessity of good works for our salvation and the preaching of more Law to those whom already have been broken by it.

    One still must understand, with Luther, that “preaching faith” necessitates the preaching of the Law, since faith must despair of our sinfulness and see every work of man as of no account. So, indeed, preach faith in the Christ who died to save them from their sin. For, to paraphrase our Lord, “the Gospel comes not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

    Preaching faith to the self-satisfied and self-sufficient, such as the works righteous Romanists were, is not preaching faith at all.

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