Franz Pieper on the Preaching Office

LCMS President Matthew Harrison is opening a Pandora’s Box of fun by posting little snippets of his translation work. I do not consider myself a translation scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I still use Google Translate to help me with the language!

Nevertheless, I’ve been working on something I stumbled across a while back. Franz Pieper, of blessed memory, gave this address concerning the divine arrangement of the public preaching office in 1914. You must remember that Franz and his brother August (one of the “three horsemen” of the Wauwatosa Gospel in the Wisconsin Synod) disagreed on the doctrine of the Preaching Office. If you wish to follow the line of argumentation concerning this discussion, I encourage you to read John Schaller’s essay on the Origin and Development of the New Testament Ministry first, then come back to the Franz Pieper essay linked above.

The first half of the essay is quite technical in making the argument about the divine arrangement of the office. The second half of the essay delves into the similarities and differences of the spiritual priesthood and the public preaching office. There are some dandy quotes from Dr. Pieper in this section. One particular point that Dr. Pieper drives home is that all Christians are given to preach, but not all Christians are given to preach in the public preaching office. This is a delicate point that sometimes is forgotten among us. Dr. Pieper does a marvelous job of teaching about vocation. For example:

The sphere and nature of the task of the Preaching Office is different from the sphere and nature of task of every Christian. The teaching of a Christian should occur even in assemblies of Christians, in congregational assemblies, in synod assemblies, etc. But to the individual Christian it is not commanded to feed the whole congregation as flock, but to the preacher.

As we should expect, there are copious quotes from Martin Luther as evidence to back up Dr. Pieper’s line of argumentation. The Luther quotes really come in handy in the final section about the importance of the knowledge of the divine arrangement of the preaching office for both pastor as well as congregation. I recommend this section for pastors who have feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in their calling.

A temptation to the pastor is: “I work in vain in my office.” He should presently consider that he is in office not merely according to good human judgment, but according to God’s order and command, thus all the more will he succeed to command the success of his office to God, Who will award fruit and victory in His time.

This one is a keeper!

The preaching office has – as Dr. Walther used to recall – lots of temptations to laziness. If someone is equipped with some oratorical gifts, he can preach that gratify the majority of the congregation, initially at least, although the sermons are not studied diligently and with prayer and God’s Word is not applied to the circumstances of the congregation, as God had intended by the establishing of a personal Preaching Office. Let the preacher now be reminded: “The Office, in which he stands, is God’s, especially instituted by God to care for young and old, male and female, rich and poor, the troubled and secure, with God’s Word; I must take heed to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has set me as shepherd, bishop, and watchman, and I must give account to the Chief Shepherd about the souls commanded to me” – when the preacher calls to mind these divine truths, then lethargy and laziness disappear before them as fog before the sun.

I’ll close this chain of quotes with this paragraph for laymen concerning their pastor.

With the knowledge: “God Himself has instituted and put the office of preaching among us” the congregation is of the opinion that their pastor is the best pastor in the world for them, even if he has fewer gifts than this or that pastor in the neighboring congregation. Dr. Walther says regarding this point: “It cannot be expressed how important it is for the listeners to be certain of the divine call of their preacher. If the listeners are convinced of it, they will be satisfied at heart to have even a preacher with lesser gifts if only he is faithful. They will not leave their church and run after someone more highly gifted. They will rather in simplicity hold to this: Our preacher is the one whom God has given us, through whom God wants to lead us to heaven. Under his shepherding God will not let us lack anything that is necessary for our salvation.”

For any mistakes in translation, I take full responsibility and beg your pardon. Please enjoy the work of Dr. Pieper. This essay is worth your time to read and savor.

Here is my translation of the article from “Lehre und Wehre” written in 1914. It is an address given by Franz Pieper. Lehre und Wehre (Doctrine and Defense) was the German language faculty journal of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO. It later morphed into Concordia Theological Monthly, which later became Concordia Journal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.