C.F.W. WALTHER ON THE MINISTRY
Theses on the Ministry
The holy ministry, or the pastoral office, is an office distinct from the priestly office, which belongs to all believers.
The ministry, or the pastoral office, is not a human ordinance, but an office established by God Himself.
The ministry of preaching is not an arbitrary office, but its character is such that the Church has been commanded to establish it and is ordinarily bound to it till the end of days.
The ministry of preaching is not a peculiar order, set up over and against the common estate of Christians, and holier than the latter, like the priesthood of the Levites, but it is an office of service.
The ministry of preaching has the authority to preach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments and the authority of a spiritual tribunal.
The ministry of preaching is conferred by God through the congregation, as holder of all church power, or of the keys, and by its call, as prescribed by God. The ordination of those called, with the laying on of hands, is not by divine institution but is an apostolic church ordinance and merely a public, solemn confirmation of the call.
The holy ministry is the authority conferred by God through the congregation, as holder of the priesthood and of all church power, to administer in public office the common rights of the spiritual priesthood in behalf of all.
The ministry is the highest office in the Church, from which, as its stem, all other offices of the Church issue.
Reverence and unconditional obedience is due to the ministry of preaching when the preacher is ministering the Word of God. However, the preacher may not dominate over the Church; he has, accordingly, no right to make new laws, to arrange indifferent matters and ceremonies arbitrarily, and to impose and execute excommunication ALONE, without a previous verdict of the entire congregation.
According to divine right the function of passing judgment on doctrine belongs indeed to the ministry of preaching. However, also the laymen have this right, and for this reason they also have a seat and vote with the preachers in church courts and councils.
(The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. 1959 (T. G. Tappert, Ed.) (30–31). Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press.)
It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 3:21–26 and 4:5.
V. [THE OFFICE OF THE MINISTRY]
To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. And the Gospel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this. Condemned are the Anabaptists and others5 who teach that the Holy Spirit comes to us through our own preparations, thoughts, and works without the external word of the Gospel.
From Martin Luther:
Luther Meant to be Faithful. We must observe the Word of God with greater care than we observe the ideas of all men and angels. Therefore I shall perform the duties of my office and shall bring the real state of affairs to light; and I shall give the truth as I have received it, freely and without malice. As for the rest, let every man look to his own salvation; I shall go on working faithfully, so that before the judgement seat of Christ no one may cast on me the blame for his lack of faith and knowledge of the truth.
To Get Glory, Seek God’s Glory. If we seek the glory of God through the ministry of the Word, our glory, too, will surely follow, according to the word: “Them that honour me I will honour” (1 Sam. 2:30). In a word, let everyone see to it, that is, be carefully concerned, that his ministry be faithful; for this is required most of all in ministers of the Word. It is as though Saint Paul were saying in 1 Cor. 4:2: Let everyone strive to do this one thing: to teach the Word purely and to look at nothing but the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Ministers Are Servants. My office, and that of every preacher and minister, does not consist in any sort of lordship but in serving all of you, so that you learn to know God, become baptized, have the true Word of God, and finally are saved.
A Minister’s Prayer: Lord God, Thou hast placed me in Thy church as a bishop and pastor. Thou seest how unfit I am to administer this great and difficult office. Had I hitherto been without help from Thee, I would have ruined everything a long time ago. Therefore I call on Thee. I gladly offer my mouth and heart to Thy service. I would teach the people and I myself would continue to learn. To this end I shall meditate diligently on Thy Word. Use me, dear Lord, as Thy instrument. Only do not forsake me; for if I were to continue alone, I would quickly ruin everything. Amen.
The Ministry the Greatest of All Offices. On the man who is ordained to the ministry the highest office in Christendom is conferred.
An Astounding Assignment for Frail Man. Our Lord God fills His high office in an odd manner. He entrusts it to preachers, poor sinners, who tell and teach the message and yet live according to it only in weakness. Thus God’s power always goes forward in extreme weakness.
Do Full Duty; Leave Results to God. I cannot foresee the fruit of my teaching, which people are to be converted and which not…Do your duty and leave the results to God. It is not for you to say: If these things are to happen, happen they will. Through Pail God has commanded in His Word: Go and do your duty, “preach the Word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine (2 Tim. 4:2).