Over the past years of my personal study of the Lutheran Confessions, I have noticed something that I think I have often experienced pastors overlooking and also myself overlooked as a pastor, more specifically as a preacher.
It is overwhelming in our confessions how often when “sin” is referred to, it is meaning “Sin” or Original/Inherited Sin. I think this truth often goes overlooked in our preaching. I have heard many a pastors (specifically us young ones) hammer hard away with the Law preaching against actual sins mainly. This is like treating the symptoms rather than the disease. A common danger of this type of preaching is that people become moralists, or worse yet, they think that if they can just get those pet actual sins under control they are getting better.
There are a few ways to preaching Original Sin (comments on other ways are highly welcomed). The first is to preach the situation around us, the rotting world. This then puts the hearer in the place of being in the same pit. The second and better way is to preach the disease of Original Sin. We are condemned not by what we do, but by who we are. This of course leads to the Gospel of salvation not by what we do, but by who Jesus is and what He has done.
The situation is much like what Dr. Harold Senkbeil says in his book “Dying to Live”. In critiquing the common error of moralism in today’s churches, Senkbeil writes about Original Sin. (My paraphrase) If we only seek to clean up the actual sins, then it is like cleaning out a sewer without doing anything with the source of the sewage.
Another key aspect of this is that Original Sin is one of the articles of the faith that Lutherans differ from most other denominations. Errors in Original Sin have produced all kinds of false teachings, including syncretism and believer’s baptism. In striving to preach more about this article, the differences between Lutherans and those in error will become more clear to those who hear as well.
For those clergy out there, most of you already probably know all of this, but let this serve as a reminder. For the laity, listen closely to hear the preaching, and encourage your pastors in their preaching.