1922 Synod Convention Essay
How shall our church work be done in order effectually to show that it is not enough to be a member of a local church, but that we must also be living branches on the true vine Jesus Christ.
First of all, we must gladly appreciate as a great blessing entrusted to our constant care and enjoyment, this fact that the pioneers and founders of the old Norwegian Synod, during many years of work and hard trials, proved their firm stand on these two fundamentals and inalienable truths:
1) That Holy Writ is the inspired Word of God and the only infallible guide and standard of faith and life;
2) That man is justified by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ, without the deeds of the law.
We must also humbly glorify our Savior for this unmerited mercy that He gave us the same mind and spirit to abide, in all things, by the inspired word, and to profess it without fear or favor, according to the precious confessions of the Ev. Luth. Church. God grant us power to resist all temptations to comply with the wishes of our flesh, public opinion and scientific claims against Scripture.
As many as have been baptized into Christ are by Him made kings and priests unto God the Father, and are, as such, called to discharge the functions of these officers for the purpose of glorifying His name:
1) By ourselves remaining active members of Christ’s body, in daily conversation so that we increase in fear and love of God, in abstaining from sin and in arriving at a well founded conviction of eternal salvation; and
2) That we do all we can to keep fellow believers in the good covenant, open the eyes of others and turn them from darkness to light, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith. Acts 26:18.
These spiritual functions of the New Testament royal priesthood are the office of the keys, or the authority and power, given by Christ Himself originally and immediately, to every member of the church. How this ministry of reconciliation is to be administered, officially and privately, by the different members, the Lord has given plain orders and definite instructions. Unless we scrupulously endeavor to accept and obey His will, we cannot claim to be regular branches on the vine, Jesus Christ.
All our deeds, especially our church, must be done in the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as St. Paul says: “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 2:5. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Rom. 8:5,6,14. There is a great difference between deeds of people, chiefly led by the law and of those governed by the Spirit of the gospel.
The truly evangelical spirit must be earnestly manifested: 1) In missionary work; 2) In organizing churches; 3) In teaching and governing them and, also, 4) in our mutual associations.
Remarks To The Theses
As a company of Christian church workers we are engaged in a very important business. Careful and conscientious businesshouses will often take invoice to find out how they are running, losing or gaining. We must do likewise. That is the object of our topic. We are also like sailors, carrying a very valuable cargo of immortal souls that must be safely brought to the ho111e port. vVe are furnished with reliable and plain charts and a never failing compass. Yet we must be exceedingly careful that we do not soil or injure our charts so that we can not see the clots, showing the rocks and shoals, that must be avoided. Neither must we permit anything to interfere with the needle of the compass. Nor must we become so interested in our work, company, or entertainment aboard the ship that we neglect or forget diligently to study our charts and scrupulously to watch our course and compass. Yet nowadays, most people say that they are hidebound and narrowminded who so diligently pour over such charts and books and constantly take observations. They should be up to date, take more liberty, be accommodating, kind and active in doing something that the world can see and admire. They actually seem to believe that all roads lead to heaven. And the worst of it all is that we ourselves, as to the flesh, are inclined the same way. Therefore we need this exhortation: “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” 2 Cor. 13,5. This is the object of the question before us.
By Church work in this question is meant, not only the official labors in word and deeds in the church, but we mean to review our whole condition and state in the sight of God to find out whether or not we are in proper union with our Savior, with our soul and body devoted to his cause, living and increasing as true branches on the vine, also working to make others sure that they are led by the Holy Spirit as actual members of Christ’s body, receiving life, true liberty, and eternal happiness from the living fountains of life.
Let us also keep in mind, that we are to inquire, not only how the officers of the church, trustees, elders, preachers, professors, and teachers shall be and work. Let us never forget that true believers are all one in Christ Jesus. He therefore said to all his disciples: “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” Joh. 15,5. And he prays for all saying: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” Joh. 17,20.21.
When we in this 1st thesis state what we “first of all” appreciate, we do not mean that believers in the Lord first of all appreciate their parents and noble pioneers, for it might happen that the children found some wrong footsteps. We mean that we highly appreciate the two doctrines here stated. Therefore we much appreciate the fact that our venerable pioneers held and practiced them, leaving them to us for constant care and enjoyment. and showing us many proofs of great blessings for keeping them.
But it is an easy matter to utter these sentences that the Bible is our guide and that we are justified by faith, even to write and print them in our publications. Everybody wants to go to heaven and nobody to hell, and it is selfevident that they in some way must stand justified before God and that the Bible must be the guide. This much most everybody, also the flesh and corrupt nature of a Christian, appreciate in this matter. But a true believer must have an entirely different mind and will. Every plant that the heavenly father has not planted in his heart must be rooted up. Math. 15,13. A living branch draws life and sap from the vine. St. Peter tells us what they heard, when they were with our Savior on the holy mount, but he states: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” 2 Pet. 1,19. The prophecy more sure than that voice on the mountain is the scripture, that we should so take heed to that the day star, or morning star, Rev. 2,28), which is Jesus Christ, arises in our hearts. Then we confess with Isaiah: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Is. 8,20. In matters of spiritual things a Christian must not trust in anybody or anything else than God’s own word. “The God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 2 Cor. 4,4.
We must see too, that the following words apply to us: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Eph. 2,19–22. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 3,11.
Thus we understand that these truths are fundamental. They are also inalienable, that is, they cannot be handed over or given up without losing our faith and all good things. Luther says: “Let us hold it for certain and firmly establish that the soul can do without everything, except the word of God, without which none of all its wants are provided for. But having the word it is rich and wants for nothing; since that is the word of life, of truth, of peace, of justification, of salvation, of joy, of liberty, of wisdom, of virtue, of grace, of glory, and of every good thing. … The word of God is the holy of holies yea the only holy thing we Christians know and have. Although we were to gather in a heap the bones and consecrated garments of all the saints, they could not help us; for they are all lifeless things and can sanctify no one. God’s word, however, is the treasure that sanctifies everything.”
By “inspired word of God,” in this proposition 1), is meant that not only the thoughts, but also every word and syllable in the canonical books of the Old and the New Testament were all given to the authors by the Holy Spirit of God. With the Bible in our hand we hold the very words and appeal of the Lord to us directly to save us from all misery in time and eternity. With great delight let us read and hear it diligently, fully convinced that the loving Savior speaks so plainly that even the weakest one of us can find ample and real help in all our troubles. It has a great power, not like common electricity, giving the body a dangerous shock, but a wonderful spiritual power, appealing to the spirit of man, and giving it such a shock that the stony and stubborn heart should be smashed and awakened from its spiritual death, enlightened, warmed, and renewed to become a new creature. Such is our infalliable guide and standard. Every one that sincerely desires to be guided and helped by it, without perverting it by the proud and blind human reason, will find our guide to be such a peculiar bank examiner, that, on the one hand, against our selfconceit and will it closes our bank, forces us into bankruptcy by showing us that we have a debt of ten thousand talents and not a penny to pay if off with, in one word, that we are lost and condemned; and, on the other hand, shows us a most wonderfully safe and happy way out of all this misery.
Thus we must understand and gladly appreciate this fact that the word of God contains two distinctly different doctrines, the law and the gospel, and that we must diligently exercise ourselves in both, without mixing the one into the other, so that we can unfurl this twofold banner of the Lord to his honor and our own salvation. But this is one of our most difficult tasks. On this account Luther says: “The one that knows this fine art, to distinguish the law from the gospel, put him in the front and call him a doctor of the scripture. For without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to, make this distinction. I experience it myself, see it also daily in others how difficult it is to keep the doctrine of the law and gospel separate. The Holy Spirit must here be master and instructor, or no man on earth will be able to understand or teach it. Therefore no papist, no false Christian, no enthusiast is able to distinguish these two from each other.
By the law nothing else is to be understood than God’s word and command, wherein he bids us what to do and what not to do, and demands from us obedience and work. This is easy in itself to understand, but its relation to final salvation is hard to reckon. But the laws and commands that speak of works, which the Lord demands from each one individually, are of many kinds ,according to the nature, station in life, office, time, and other circumstances such as: the wife shall take care of the house and let the husband rule. The servant shall obey his master, and the like. But the law that concerns all mankind is this (Math. 22,29): thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, and help him in need. But the gospel or the faith is such a doctrine or word from God that does not demand our works nor bids us do anything, but asks us only to receive the freely offered grace, forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. Here we do nothing, only accept what is offered and given us by the Lord.”
To most people there is nothing very difficult in these doctrines, because they believe that the good Lord does not demand more of them than what they are able to do. When they are sincere and keep the law as well as they can, then they feel safe. But in this state of mind they are selfrighteous Pharisees to whom the Lord declared: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Joh. 3,3). They understand neither the law nor the gospel. When we begin to realize that God finds every imagination of man’s heart to be only evil continually, Gen. 6,5, and that “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to keep them,” Gal. 3,10, then the whole matter looks different.
As to how salvation is brought to us by means of both the law and the gospel Luther speaks thus: “When conscience then is actually so struck that it earnestly feels sin, suffers the horrors of death, is burdened clown with war, pestilence, poverty, shame, and similar misfortunes, and the law then says: you are guilty to die and are condemned, this and that I demand of you, but you have not done it, nor are you able to do it; when the law, I say, thus strikes clown, and fills the heart with the horrors of death, hell, and despair, then it is high time to know how to distinguish between the law and the gospel, and to assign to each its place. Now must be noticed what a Christian may so know how to distinguish between the law and gospel, works and faith that, when faith comes, the law shall quit, not demand, horrify, nor condemn any more. He who does not know nor takes care to heed this, misses the gospel and never comes to faith. Therefore, when the laws accuses me, because I have not done this or that, that I am a sinner and a debtor in God’s sight, then I must confess: it is all true; but the conclusion: that I am condemned, that I must not admit, but with strong faith ward it off and say: according to the law that charges my debt up to me, I am, indeed, a poor condemned sinner, but I appeal from the verdict of the law to the gospel; for God has besides the law given another word, called the gospel, which gives us grace, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and life, also declares me freed and acquitted from thy horrors and condemnation, and it gives me consolation. Therefore it is extremely necessary that both words are properly administered, diligently avoiding mixing the one into the other. For God has given these two kinds of words, the one as well as the other, each with its contents, the law demanding from everybody perfect righteousness, the gospel bestowing by grace the righteousness demanded in the law to all who have none (that is, to all mankind).
He who has not fulfilled the law, but lies as a prisoner under sin and death, let him turn from the law to the gospel, believe the preaching about Christ that he is truly the lamb of God that bore the sins of the world, reconciled us to his heavenly father, and gives from grace entirely for nothing everlasting righteousness, life and salvation to all who believe. Let him adhere only to this preaching, call on Christ, pray for grace and forgiveness of sins, believe firmly (for only by faith is this great gift grasped), then he has what he believes.” (St. L. 9,804–806).
Justified By Faith Alone Without Deeds.
This is the other fundamental doctrine that must not be given up. In both the Old and the New Testament the Lord has given it to us in many plain words and object lessons. After Christ came as the fulfillment of Old Testament promises in word and types, it is easy to see that both the law and the gospel have always been in full force and will never be repealed, as Luther says to the Antinomians: “The law will never in the world be abolished, but it will remain so that it either must be fulfilled in the condemned, or will be fulfilled in the blessed.” (St. L. vol. 20, p. 1635).
The awful overthrow and extermination of cities, peoples, and empires that in olden times did not accept the promises, are glaring object lessons showing the power of the law. All through the Old Testament we find beautiful gospel lessons. David prays: “Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” (Ps. 51,11). To this Luther observes: “This prayer shows, that the article of justification is such that we never can finish learning it. Those who imagine that they know it fully, have undoubtedly not yet begun to learn it.” (1. c. Vol. 5, 571).
The prophet Isaiah speaks of Our Savior, as if he had seen him in his greatest agony: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” (53,4.5.)
Gal. 4,4.5: “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
2 Cor. 5,19: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Gal. 3,20: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
“This article of justification and grace is the most lovely of all, and alone creates a theologian, and of a theologian a judge of the world and all things. But there are only few who have pondered this article and teach it properly” (Luth. Vol. 6, 802).
“When this article of justification is lost, then is also all Christian doctrine lost. He who strays away from Christian righteousness, must fall back unto work righteousness, that is, having lost Christ he will fall into trusting in his own works.” (9,24).
Good Works and Faith.
Preaching this free and unconditional gospel, we are often accused of neglecting and hindering good works. But that there is no reason in that is evident from what Prof. H.C. Sheldon of Boston University writes about this in his “Pantheistic Dilemmas,” publ. 1920.
He says as follows: “No warmer encomium in behalf of good works suitably located, or assigned to a legitimate function, was ever written than that which came from the pen of Luther. Witness this eulogy in his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians: ‘Apart from the cause of justification, no one can command good works prescribed by God in a sufficiently lofty strain. Who, indeed, can proclaim sufficiently the utility and fruit of one work which a Christian does from faith and in faith? It is more precious than heaven and earth.’ Again he wrote: ‘My God, without merit on my part, has given to me all the riches of justification and salvation in Christ. … I will therefore, give myself, as a sort of Christ to my neighbor, as Christ has given himself to me, and will do nothing in this life, except what I see will be needful, advantageous, and wholesome to my neighbor, since by faith I abound in all good things in Christ.’ Once more he remarked: ‘Faith is a living, busy, active, powerful thing. Neither does it ask whether good works are to be done, but before one asks it has done them and is doing them always.’ So far, indeed, was the teaching of Luther from depreciating good works that it marked somewhat of an era in their commendation. Of distinct value was the stress which he placed upon the importance of a faithful fulfillment of common duties in deference to God’s will, upon the divinely approved forms of social service. He made these immensely superior to the artificial expedients by which ascetic piety seeks to amass merits. ‘It very often happens,’ he said, ‘that the common work of a servant or a handmaiden is more acceptable to God than all the fastings and works of a monk or a priest, when they are done without faith.’
“‘The doctrine of justification by faith, republished by Luther, brought wonderful light and inestimable blessings to the whole world. It is the charter of Christian liberty for all times; of emancipation from legalism with its treadmill service and fear and gloom and uncertainty.’
“‘The cardinal principle of the Reformation was the revival in men of the sense of personal relation to God, as the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega of their religions life. Thus the doctrine of personal assurance of salvation followed as a corollary from that of justification by faith.’
“‘The pope by this infamous dogma, by which he has commanded men to doubt respecting the favor of God toward themselves, has banished God and all the promises from the church, overthrown the benefits of Christ, and abolished the entire gospel.’” (So far from Sheldon’s book).
Did Our Pioneer Fathers Stand Firm on the Truth?
To prove the affirmative answer conclusively I wish we could take time to examine all their utterances in periodicals and at conferences from 1853 to a new era of modernism in the guise of committees on union in the year 1911. I challenge any one to point to any erroneous doctrine or principle, held by any of them, that was not censured and corrected in due time. I also take liberty to advise every person of the younger generation to read and study all that you can come across of what those early church workers have written and done for their church. You will find good theology and very instructive church history.
Before 1853 there had by three of the organizers been uttered some erroneous thoughts. One had an idea that only the covenant of baptism was the living word, while another thought that for the heathen there might be a possibility of conversion after death. The third had used some ambiguous words about believing in the church. But it will be found that these errors were speedily corrected and by them retracted publicly, even several times, showing us that they were meek Christians anxious to be guided by the word of God in all things.
It is true, while our pioneers were engaged in organizing and instructing the people to become enlightened and selfgoverning Christian churches, they had to carry at their side the sword of the Spirit in order to vindicate the truth against numerous attacks. This was generally brought about in their many efforts to come to an agreement with other Lutherans who did not work together with them. Rev. C.I.P. Pedersen who in 1861 was called from Norway to a Chicago church affiliated with the Swedish Augustana Synod, which he also joined, tells us in his book, “Hvad jeg oplevede” etc., p. 15, that a conference was held in Chicago in 1863 by members of the two synods. The topic under consideration was: Regeneration and the means thereof. The Augustana men held that baptism was the only means, while the Norwegians believed that also the word had the same power according to 1 Petr. 1,23. In the same book, p. 25, he tells also of another conference between the same parties in 1864. Absolution was then discussed. The Norwegians placed before the meeting 6 plain propositions which in 1861 had been adopted by the Norwegian Synod, teaching that absolution is the gospel message, giving and imparting forgiveness of sin and inviting all to believe the unconditional gospel promises of salvation for Christ’s sake. But the other side objected especially to the words “giving and imparting,” claiming that these words also implied receiving. In this way they made God’s gifts dependent upon man’s faith. The gospel then becomes conditional and uncertain to all real and afflicted sinners. Here our fathers vindicated the truth that God gave his Son and his word of reconciliation to all nations, whether they believed or not. Joh. 3,16. 2 Cor. 5,19. 1 Joh. 5,11.12. They explained how living faith which is a gift of the Holy Spirit is the means by which we receive and enjoy spiritual gifts.
They were led into many other controversies, by which they evidently were trained to obey the scriptures. In the controversy on slavery they learned to curb and govern their own will according to God’s word, and not according to their own inclination or public opinion, which would save no one. The biblical doctrine on the Sabbath taught them true freedom from the law, the Sabbath being a shadow of Christ. Colos. 2,16.17.
This firm stand on holy writ as the only guide, and the fearless profession of pure doctrine, especially that queen of all saving truth: the justification of a wretched sinner before God by grace alone, these facts are, under the blessing and kind presence of the Lord, the only explanation and key to the marvelous achievements of our sturdy pioneers, lay as well as learned members of our church. If we do not see this and find encouragement and consolation in it, we are much to be deplored. For let us try to place ourselves in their place. About the year 1850 quite a number of peasants from Norway had formed little settlements on the unbroken frontiers of different parts of Illinois and Wisconsin. They suffered much from poverty, cholera, and ague. Two years later five young ministers, bred and born in the state church of Norway, were working among these poor settlers who hardly ever had heard what a voting church member or a selfgoverning congregation was. Yet within a few years they had through their representatives organized the Norwegian Synod, called more ministers, made provisions for the education of ministers, and twelve years after organizing the Synod had built Luther College at a cost of ca. 100,000 dollars, and that even during the trying times of the Civil War from 1861 to 65, when many of the young men were in the army and at home people had to raise bounties to pay the soldiers.
This shows, what a wonderful power the pure doctrine is. What a blessing that our forefathers knew this and left us unmistakeable object-lessons! If they had not, whither would we, by this time, have been drifting? Let the world ridicule and despise us for “the pure doctrine.” That alone is a power unto salvation, also to ecclesiastical prosperity. What has the new era of big numbers and boasted union and prestige produced since 1917? Who will tell us how many schools and churches have closed since 1917?
This calls our attention to the work of the Holy Spirit, who by baptism performs just as great a wonder as creating the world and redeeming mankind from perdition. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal. 3,27. The seemingly insignificant act of baptizing performs wonders, as foretold by the prophet Ezechiel 36,25–27: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will l put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Here the Lord tells us about the effects of baptism called sprinkling, or as he calls it by St. Paul, Tit. 3, “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which be shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Let us notice that these great blessings are brought for Christ’s sake to every baptized person no matter how unworthy he is. It is the divine act of grafting a dry twig into the true vine, as our Saviour assures us: “I am the vine, ye are the branches.” Joh. 15. Thus we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones. Eph. 5,30. Indeed, “his divine power hath given unto us,” says St. Peter, “all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Petr. 1,3.4.
Let us all here mark that these great and precious blessings are given, not on account of, or through great undertakings admired in the world, but through the knowledge of him that hath called us.
So the poorest and most unworthy sinner has the same chance, honor, and adoption, as the most worthy. For in this matter “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Gal. 3,28.
He who loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father. Rev. 1,6. Therefore the Holy Spirit urged St. Peter to write also to us this wonderful message: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Pet. 2,9. O! my dear friends! Are we really what the Lord has made us? Do we believe it? Such a wonderful message from heaven is so bright and dazzling that our blind reason recoils from it. Therefore Luther exclaims: “O! he who could only learn these two words: believe and be saved!”
How Can You and I be Kings and Priests Unto God?
1) By being living members of Christ’s body. For our Lord says: “Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me ye can do nothing. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Joh. 15. “If a man love me, he will keep my words.” Joh 14,23. This does not mean, says Luther, to keep the word of Moses or the preaching of the law, but to keep the preaching of the love and grace that the Savior showed us by taking our sins upon himself and giving his life and blood for us. And he gave all this to us that we should thereby be consoled, know and experience his love. When we believe this, he asks nothing else of us than that we are thankful, believe, and remain steadfast in such faith and confession. (11, 1053).
The fruits of the living branches on the true vine are not so much outward works as the love of the Savior and obedience of his word. For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Eph. 5,9. By baptism we were buried with Christ into the death of the old adam, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in the newness of life. Rom. 6,4. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Eph. 4,22.23. We will strive to become rich in all utterance and all knowledge. 1 Cor. 1,5. We must arrive at a full assurance of eternal salvation. Rom. 8,38.
As living members of Christ’s body we pray that his name may be hallowed among us, and his will be clone. We naturally wish to do something to promote his kingdom. Then the Lord says: “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the son of man shall give unto you. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Eoh. 6,27–29. And sending his disciples into all the world to preach the gospel, he said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark. 16,16. The all important thing then is faith in the Lord, the fountain from which all good works flow. No matter what we do of ourselves, without faith it is impossible to please God. Hebr. 11,6. Rom. 14,23. Consequently it belongs to our very existence and office as kings and priests unto God to live in true fellowship with our Savior, helping others also to enjoy the same blessing, and in so doing, to obey his plain word.
2) When we are thus enlightened and minded, we will do all we can to keep fellow believers, especially our own children, in the good covenant with God. Our duty to our children has been treated in the report to the synod. The work of the church, in general, and its object is given by the Lord in Acts 26.
For the orderly administration of these functions publicly and privately the Lord has given us a plain revelation and order, all for the purpose of saving mankind from eternal destruction.
Eph. 4,11.12: “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
The apostolical office was the power to preach God’s word, and to administer the sacraments and the office of the keys and is thus practically the same as the public ministerial office. Therefore our confession says: “that the office of the ministry proceeds from the general call of the apostles” (Smald. Art. p. 340).
The apostolical office was an extraordinary one with wonderful personal advantages for our benefit. They were called immediately by the Lord directly; being enlightened and inspired by the Lord’s Spirit, they were infallible in doctrine, had the gift of great wonders and of languages, etc. This office ceased with the temporal life of the apostles, but their written word shall remain for all time the infallible rule of faith and life. By their word the Lord teaches how the gospel shall be preached to all creatures (Mark 16,15). The qualifications of the different laborers in the church are also stated. See table of duties in our Catechism.
Rut besides these different duties and offices in the church the royal priesthood of every believing Christian remains as the common ground and fountain of all these functions. Concerning this very important matter we will listen to Luther: “Every baptized Christian is a priest, consecrated and appointed as such, not by the pope or any other man, but through Christ himself, in baptism begotten and born priests.” (5, 1034). “A Christian must first be a Christian and a born priest, before he becomes a preacher or a bishop; neither pope nor any man can make him priest. But when one is born priest by baptism, then the office comes and makes a difference between him and other Christians. For out of the whole gathering of Christians must be chosen some one that shall be as the head of the rest to whom the Lord has granted suitable gifts and ability to administer the office, as St. Paul says: Eph. 4,11.12, “and he gave some apostles” etc., in order that the holy ones (that is, those that already are Christians and baptized priests) may be qualified for the work of the ministry. For though we are all priests, we cannot on that account all preach, teach, and govern.
Out of the whole gathering some must be separated and chosen to administer such office. And the one that administers it is not on account of this office a priest (as all the others are), but a servant to all the others. And when he no more can or will preach or serve, then he steps back into the common assembly, leaves the office to another person, and then no more than every common Christian. Behold, thus you must distinguish the office of the preacher or minister from the common priesthood of all baptized Christians. For such office is nothing more than a public service which is entrusted to one by the whole congregation, all of whom are priests.
But if you ask: wherein does the priesthood of the Christians consist, or what are the works of the priest? then the answer is: to teach, to sacrifice, and to pray. But you must know this that Christ is the only highpriest whose priestoffice we must first have as performed for our benefit, nay, accepted as our own, before we can perform such priestly works. For from him we have the doctrine and preaching which he has brought from heaven and by which we are saved. He alone has made for us that complete sacrifice by which we were reconciled to God.. Rom. 5,10. Thus also is he the only one who directly prays for us all. Without this mediator no prayer pleases God.
But when love through this priest and his priestoffice have become Christians; and in baptism through faith are embodied in him, then we have also received the right and power to teach and confess before everybody the word which we have from him. This right is given to everybody according to his calling and station in life.
For although we do not all hold the public office and calling, yet every Christian shall and may teach, instruct, admonish, console, and punish his neighbor, by the word of God, whenever and wherever any one needs such help, as father and mother do to their children and household, and as one brother, neighbor, citizen, or peasant does to the other. A Christian who yet is weak and ignorant can be instructed in the ten commandments, faith and prayer and thus be admonished by another, and the one that hears such admonition should also receive it from him, as God’s word, and together with him publicly confess it.” (From A. 1536. Expl. Ps. 110.5, 1034-).
Prof. Sheldon quotes the following from Luther: “To know and to judge of doctrine so pertains to every Christian that he is worthy of anathema who would detract a hair’s breadth from this right.”
“If a little company of pious Christian laymen were taken prisoners and carried away to a desert, and had not among them a priest consecrated by a bishop, and were there to agree to elect one of them, married or unmarried, and were to order him to baptize, to celebrate the mass, to absolve and to preach, this man would as truly be a priest, as if all the bishops and all the popes had consecrated him. … Since we are all priests alike, no man may put himself forward or take upon himself without our consent or election to do that which we all alike have power to do. For if a thing is common to all, no man may take it to himself without the wish and command of the community.”
That we cannot claim to be true disciples of Christ or regular branches on the living vine unless we scrupulously abide by all he has spoken, is very plain from many passages such as: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Joh. 8,31.32.
“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Math. 5,19.
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Rev. 21.