Dear Members and Friends of our Norwegian Synod:
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Lord has taught us to pray for all things that are needful for our welfare, spiritual and temporal. The first for which He has taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer is for the hallowing of His Name. The Name of God includes His Word by which He has made Himself known unto us. The Name of God is holy in itself. But we want it to be holy among us also. Two things are necessary to this end, as Luther has taught us: pure teaching and holy living.
Under prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit let us now apply these things to ourselves in our Norwegian Synod and seek to encourage one another in both pure teaching and holy living.
I. Pure Teaching
In order that we may have pure teaching it is necessary that we give heed to the Word in all that it teaches, and to the Word alone.
The prophet Isaiah appeals “To the law and to the testimony,” and says that “If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isa. 8,20.
The Lord Jesus says: “Teaching. them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matt. 28,20. Jesus upbraided the Pharisees because they allowed tradition to he put on a par with the Word of God, yes, to supplant it. “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition,” He says to them. Mark 7,13. Just as emphatically He rejected the reasoning of the Sadducees and said to them: “Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures?” Mark 12,24. Neither tradition nor the dictates of human reason have any place as a source of doctrine. The Word of God is the only and all-sufficient source of doctrine. It is in God’s light that we see light. Ps. 36,9. In the last chapter of the last book of the Bible we read: “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 words 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.”
And not only has the Lord told us to adhere to His Word alone, but He has also admonished us most emphatically to avoid fellowship with error. “Beware of false prophets.” Matt. 7,15. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye” have learned, and avoid them.” Rom. 16,17. “If there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” 2 John 10.11.
Dr. Martin Luther was bound in conscience by the Word of God. Therefore he cried out in warning against the aberrations from that Word as he found them both in the Pope and in Zwingli. That is what made him under God the great reformer of the church — his adherence to the Word and his refusal to bid error God-speed. Everything in doctrinal matters that laid claim to being of the Spirit but which was not from the Word he rejected and branded as fanaticism and of the devil. The true prophet must be subject to the Word and draw his doctrine therefrom. And the truth is not fully confessed unless the error which arises against that truth is rejected and condemned, just as is done in our Lutheran Book of Concord. God wants faith, not wavering between truth and error.
Not only has God by precept warned against disobedience to His Word, but also by example. How could God warn us more forcefully than He has done? Behold Nadab and Abihu struck down dead by lire from the Lord because they had disobeyed and had taken strange fire with which to burn incense before the Lord. Lev. 10. Even a Moses is refused admittance to Canaan because he had failed to sanctify the Lord God at Meribah. He had failed to obey the Lord implicitly there. Numbers 20. A lion slew the prophet from Judah who, contrary to God’s expressed command, had eaten bread and drunk water at Bethel after he had cried against the false worship there. He had allowed himself to be drawn away from obedience by a lying prophet at Bethel who laid claim to another message from the Lord bidding him to eat bread and drink water there. 1 Kings 13.
Have not all the ills of the world come as a result of disobedience to the Word? Gen. 3. The Lord would have us mark this most earnestly.
The Bible is clear. While there are mysteries revealed unto us in the Bible, 1 Tim. 3,16, yet the words with which they are revealed are plain. Anything in the Bible which seems to us unclear is due to a lack in us, not in the Bible. The Word is said to be a light that shines in a dark place. 2 Pet. 1,19. “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” Ps. 119,130. It is impossible that God who promises salvation to those who follow His Word and threatens those who are disobedient with damnation should give us an unclear and dark word from which we cannot learn what His will is.
We have been favored in our Norwegian Synod with pure teaching. This is God’s gift to us and does not come from ourselves. This pure teaching of God’s Word, the prophetic and apostolic doctrine, was restored to the world, through the Lutheran Reformation, and has been confessed clearly and definitely in the Lutheran Book of Concord, both in theses and antitheses. Our Book of Concord has never been overthrown from the Bible, nor can it be, for it is firmly grounded therein. A truly Lutheran Church body stands committed to all the doctrines confessed in the Book of Concord, not only on paper, but especially in its public doctrine and practice. Even as it is unbiblical to yield unto any error, so is it also un-Lutheran to do so.
A truly Lutheran Church body is confessional in nature. It does not withhold confession of any truth on account of the unpopularity of that truth with the world or in order to enlarge its outward fellowship. Any church union based upon compromise with error is not in keeping with the requirements of Scripture nor with the spirit of true Lutheranism. True Lutheranism refuses to make common cause with aberration from the Word even though that aberration may seem small to our reason and though it comes from such who bear the Lutheran name.
Let our Synod, by God’s grace, continue to be filled with the spirit of true confessionalism. We have not been alone in this spirit. That which attracted our fathers to the Missouri Synod back in the 50s of the last century was the spirit of faithfulness to the Confessions which they found there. Pastors J.A. Ottesen and N. Brandt reported to the Synod in 1857 that the spirit which they found at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and in the Missouri Synod was one of deep love for the symbols, a hearty confidence to God-ward that therein His Word is rightly explained and confessed, and therefore also a burning zeal to carry out the old Lutheran principles in doctrine and practice. And their prayers, as voiced in their report, was to the end that the Lord would make this spirit more and more living in the whole Lutheran Church.
In this one hundreth anniversary of the founding of the Missouri Synod, we are mindful of how much we owe to that Synod under God for the encouragement and help we have obtained from it in standing firm in doctrine and practice. The influence of Dr. C.F.W. Walther, Dr. F. Pieper and other sound Lutheran theologians of the Missouri Synod is still with us in our Synod, and may their influence continue through the study of their writings. These theologians refused to accept any other source of doctrine than Scripture and would know no other way unto salvation than Jesus Christ the crucified. The doctrines of sin and of grace were by them expounded in a truly biblical manner, as were the doctrines of inspiration of Scripture, of conversion and election, of the church and the ministry, and of the Last Things. The Missouri Synod has confessed before the world the biblical teaching in these and other points of doctrine by its acceptance of the “Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod” in 1932. We have taken our stand at the side of Missouri in this confession and have declared that we desire the Brief Statement to stand “unqualified and unsullied as our clear and joint confession.” (Resolution of the Norw. Synod in 1943.) May God keep us faithful to this confession.
Concerning the Scriptures we confess the plenary and verbal inspiration of the same. Also when it treats of historical and scientific matters the Bible is inspired. That is what Scripture itself: says in the words, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 2 Tim. 3,16. He who would deny this and make room for errors in Scripture in scientific and historical matters (in which things, of course, he does not want to be hound by Scripture) sets himself up as a judge over the Scriptures as to what is to be followed and what not. And that means that he sets himself up as a judge over that which shall judge him, for .Jesus says, “The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12,48. Nay, let the Scriptures judge us, not we the Scriptures.
In conversion we teach that it is solely the work of God in us, that faith is God’s gift to us, Eph. 2,8. and that the reason why some are converted is not due to any abstaining from willful resistance on their part: Of Election we teach “that all those who by the grace of God alone, for Christ’s sake, through the means of grace, are brought to faith, are justified, sanctified, and preserved in faith here in time, that all these have already from eternity been endowed by God with faith, justification, sanctification, and preservation in faith, and this for the same reason, namely, by grace alone, for Christ’s sake, and by way of the means of grace.” (Brief Statement, 35). Scripture knows of no election “in view of faith” as though the faith of the elect were to be placed before their election.
As regards the Last Thing’s we teach that we shall at all times he ready for the Lord’s coming unto judgment, that His coming will not he preceded by any such “Millennium” as that of which certain enthusiasts dream. We confess that there is but one resurrection of the dead to be expected, and that at the end of the world; that the Pope at Rome is the very anti-Christ, 2 Thess, 2, and that there is no universal conversion of the Jewish nation to be expected.
Our testimony against lodgery must continue, especially because of its idolatry (it is not the triune God who is confessed there), its Christ-less prayers and its way of salvation by character.
Our testimony against religious unionism is as necessary as ever, if not more necessary in the face of the indifference in religious matters in these last times. Though it is not pleasant to our flesh to have to warn against unionism, yet it must he done.
Our zeal for Christian schools, both elementary and secondary, must continue and grow. The hope of the world is the Word where Christ is found and strength for a God-pleasing life.
II. Holy Living
And now, as regards holy living: Our confession of pure doctrine must always be accompanied by obedient living. Otherwise, the devil holds the field after all; for he would he satisfied to let us have the Word if only we will not take it seriously, believe it and live according to it.
So-called faith that is not followed by zeal for holy living is no faith. “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2,17. While our works never save us, but faith alone saves, yet good works are necessary as a fruit of faith. In the Scriptures, the presentation of the doctrine of faith is followed by all equally zealous teaching; concerning the necessity of a life of Jove to God and man as a fruit of the indwelling Spirit. Turning to the Gospel by faith is followed by a turning to the works of the law in one’s life. So, conversion is sometimes in Scripture described according to this latter characteristic. “If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” Ez. 18,21. When we become believers in Jesus Christ we still have the old Adam in us which needs to be put to death every day; and the new man shall daily come forth and arise who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
We do not want a “dead orthodoxy”, but a living faith built up upon the pure doctrine. Pure doctrine is not an end in itself, but a means to an end — that the image of God he restored in us, already here on earth in part, and hereafter perfectly. Not only must we have a good recipe (pure teaching), but we must also produce the results in our life.
In our congregations the Word must rule in both doctrine and life. Our pastors must preach clear doctrinal sermons, laying faith in Christ as the foundation, and then drawing unto every Christian virtue. We all need to use the Word and Sacrament more diligently for the strengthening of our faith and Christian life.
Christian discipline needs to be practiced in and by our congregations. If we do not obey the Word in this respect, but we allow evil to remain in our midst, it will eat like a cancerous infection that may soon reach the vital organs, and we shall merit the rebuke of the Lord spoken originally against the congregation at Sardis: “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” Rev. 3,1.
In our homes the Fourth Commandment must ever be kept in mind by parents and children. It must not be true of us as it is so frequently true in the world round about us that parents are abdicating.
The sanctity of marriage must be upheld among us: “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Heb 13,4.
Let there be strict honesty, trustworthiness, truthfulness and sincerity among us. “Let love be without dissimulation.” Rom 12,9. “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond o perfectness.” Col. 3,14. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Gal. 6,10.
Let the sense of Christian stewardship increase among us, so that we understand that we belong to the Lord with all that we are and have: our money and possessions, our time, talents, and influence. And let us not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Rom. 12,2.
Let us lead a life of prayer and of appreciation of the blessings of the Lord upon us — His blessings in our country, in our homes and schools, and in our individual lives. May the Lord pour His Holy Spirit, the Gift of gifts, upon us.
And then let the work of our Synod be borne and sustained by the earnest faith and love of all our members.
All praise and glory be unto the Triune God. Amen.