LCMS President Walther for the win.

The seal of the Lutheran Church - Missouri SynodWhen a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice. That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime. Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God . They are regarded as men worthy of contempt. But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war!

Try and picture to yourselves what would have happened if Athanasius had made a slight concession in the doctrine of the deity of Christ. He could have made a compromise with the Arians and put his conscience at ease; for the Arians declared that they, too, believed Christ to be God, only not from eternity. They said: ἦν ὅτε οὐκ ἦν (there was a time when He did not exist), meaning, He had become God. But they added: “Nevertheless He is to be worshiped, for He is God.” Even at that remote time, had Athanasius yielded, the Church would have been hurled from the one Rock on which it is founded, which is none other than Jesus Christ.

Again, imagine what would have happened if Augustine had made a slight concession in the doctrine of man’s free will, or rather of the utter incapacity of man for matters spiritual. He, too, could have made a compromise with the Pelagians and put his conscience at ease because the Pelagians declared: “Yes, indeed; without the aid of God’s grace no man can be saved.” But by the grace of God they meant the divine gift which is imparted to every man. Even at that time, had Augustine yielded, the Church would have lost the core of the Gospel. There would have been nothing left of it but the empty, hollow shell. Aye, the Church would have retained nothing but the name of the Gospel. For the doctrine of the Gospel that man is made righteous in the sight of God and saved by nothing but the pure grace of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, is, as everybody knows, the most important doctrine, the marrow and substance of Christian teaching. Wherever this doctrine is not proclaimed, there is no Christ, no Gospel, no salvation; there men perish, and for such people it has been in vain that the Son of God has come into the world.

Lastly, picture to yourselves what would have happened if Luther had made a slight concession in the doctrine of the Holy Supper. At the time of the Margburg Colloquy he could have made a compromise with Zwingli and put his conscience at ease, because the Zwinglians said: “We, too, believe in a certain presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, but not in the presence of Christ’s corporeal substance, because God does not set up such sublime, incomprehensible things for us to believe.” By this claim Zwingli made Christianity in its entirety a questionable matter, and even Melanchthon, who was usually greatly inclined to make concessions, declared that Zwingli had relapsed into paganism. Had Luther yielded, the Church would have become a prey to rationalism, which places man’s reason above the plain Word of God.

Let us, therefore, bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men and disregarding their threatenings. Their ignominy, though it often was great, has not been borne in vain. Men cursed them, but they continued bearing their testimony until death, and now they wear the crown of glory and enjoy the blissful communion of Christ and of all the angels and the elect. Their labor and their fierce battling has not been in vain; for even now, after 1500 years, or, in the last-named case, after several centuries, the Church is reaping what they sowed.

Let us, then, my friends, likewise hold fast the treasure of the pure doctrine. Do not consider it strange if on that account you must bear reproach the same as they did. Consider that the word of Sirach, chap. 4, 33: “Even unto death fight for justice, and God will overthrow thy enemies for thee,” will come true in our case too. Let this be your slogan: Fight unto death in behalf of the truth, and the Lord will fight for you!

Walther’s intro to his 4th Lecture: (October 3, 1884.)

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

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LCMS President Walther for the win. — 3 Comments

  1. Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war!

    Yes and amen!

  2. Walther is so faithfully strong here. Yet, sadly, the supremacy of the voters’ assembly in matters of the Office of the Keys, which they call men to administer on their behalf in the pastoral office, has virtually rendered his words moot and made any true biblical church discipline that proceeds accordingly an unding.

    Whether this supremacy is strictly Waltherian or, perhaps, due to mistranslation from his German writings or a misunderstanding and misapplication of them is, by my understanding up for some debate. It is also lost in this whole discussion that Walther, as the pastor of the congregation, also served as the president of the voters assembly.

    In any case, citing Walther’s teaching, the voters assembly as it currently operates in the vast majority of Lutheran churches governed by a congregational polity has long ago become majesterial in determining and setting doctrine and practice and exercising church discipline, rather than serving to uphold the doctrine and practice to which we subscribe in support of the faithful pastor who is seeking to care for Christ’s flock according to His command and the vows to which the pastor is sworn by His call to the congregation.

    For one thing, the voters assembly is not even the whole church or congregation in that place. And rarely, if ever, is every voter present. These assemblies can and have been manipulated for the advantage of one side or another. This is particularly true of the congregations in Synod and its conventions at various levels. Here is how the Augustana* defines Church and congregation. “The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.”[AC VII] Nothing of votes or voters—most especially no mention of voting on what is rightly taught or administered, only that it is gathered I the right teaching and administration, which (again according to the Augustana*) is only given to those rightly called to do.[AC XIV]

    Of course that is more a function of the sinful men than it is of the system. However, even if that were not the case and these assemblies were run fairly and counted every eligible vote , there is absolutely nothing in Scripture to support this majesterial role of the voters assembly. “TELL it to the church,” is not seeking permission. It is announcing what is being done and why, because (quia) our Lord has commanded it to be so in His inspired Word upon which we are all agreed in advance and voted our “ayes” by virtue of the “confirmation” of our Baptismal vows which make us members in fellowship and vote.
    Jesus clearly and authoritatively declares and teaches that those who do NOT submit to and support Christ’s called servants of the Word in their exercise of the Keys to open OR close the kingdom of God in the fellowship of His Church are actually dishonoring and disobeying Him.
    “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” Luke 10:16 [Also AC V]

    Apart from disproving the premises ascertained or the doctrine cited as grounds for the action, the congregation is not free to alter that discipline insofar as (quatenus) as they agree or feel best serves their interests. That would be, in effect, to create a papacy (tyranny) of the majority. For subjecting the members of Christ’s Church to rule by such majority rule would be rule by the earthly sword, i.e., the power of men by force that changes as men come and go (ironically, also often by vote), rather than the Sword of the Spirit, which is the once and for all settled Word of God. [AC XXVII]

    This is what the Lutheran Confessions, to which we all claim a subscription of Concord, rightly teach and prescribe as practice in Lutheran Churches amongst Lutheran pastors.* IOW, all else is rejected and condemned and identified as NOT Lutheran and not of our fellowship because (Quia) it is not of our Confession of “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,” which according to Jude 3 is necessary not for saving our synods, but because nothing less than our “common salvation” is at stake.

    *The AUGSBURG CONFESSION
    http://bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.php#article5
    Article V: Of the Ministry.
    1] That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, 2] the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear 3] the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.
    4] They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.

    Article VII: Of the Church.
    1] Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.
    2] And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and 3] the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. 4] As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6.

    Article XIV: Of Ecclesiastical Order.
    Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.

    Article XXVIII: Of Ecclesiastical Power.
    1] There has been great controversy concerning the Power of Bishops, in which some have awkwardly confounded the power of the Church 2] and the power of the sword. And from this confusion very great wars and tumults have resulted, while the Pontiffs, emboldened by the power of the Keys, not only have instituted new services and burdened consciences with reservation of cases and ruthless excommunications, but have also undertaken to transfer the kingdoms of this world, 3] and to take the Empire from the Emperor. These wrongs have long since been rebuked in the Church 4] by learned and godly men. Therefore our teachers, for the comforting of men’s consciences, were constrained to show the difference between the power of the Church and the power of the sword, and taught that both of them, because of God’s commandment, are to be held in reverence and honor, as the chief blessings of God on earth.
    5] But this is their opinion, that the power of the Keys, or the power of the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power or commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to remit and retain sins, and to administer Sacraments. 6] For with this commandment Christ sends forth His Apostles, John 20:21 sqq.: As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. 7] Mark 16:15: Go preach the Gospel to every creature.
    8] This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their calling either to many or to individuals. For thereby are granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. 9] These things cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says, Rom. 1:16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. 10] Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes with civil government. 11] For civil government deals with other things than does the Gospel. The civil rulers defend not minds, but bodies and bodily things against manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and bodily punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.
    12] Therefore the power of the Church and the civil power must not be confounded. The power of the Church has its own commission to teach the Gospel and 13] to administer the Sacraments. Let it not break into the office of another; let it not transfer the kingdoms of this world; let it not abrogate the laws of civil rulers; let it not abolish lawful obedience; let it not interfere with judgments concerning civil ordinances or contracts; let it not prescribe laws to civil rulers concerning the form of the Commonwealth. 14] As Christ says, John 18:36: My kingdom is not of this world;

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