“Official” and “Unofficial”;
“Narrow Sense” and “Wider Sense”


Quotations from The Church and Her Fellowship, Ministry, and Governance
(Fort Wayne, Indiana: The International Foundation for Lutheran
Confessional Research, corrected edition 1995)

The ministry’s public proclamation is supported by and in turn supports that ceaseless “publishing” (exaggeilhte) of God’s “virtues,” which is the priestly duty and delight of all who live in and by “His wondrous light” (I Pet. 2:9). The ways in which this happens are as manifold as life’s providential opportunities and responsibilities (Mt. 5:6; Acts 8:4; 18:26; Eph. 5:19; 6:4; II Tim. 1:5; 3:15; I Pet. 2:12-15; 3:1.15). Every house-father and house-mother is to be bishop and bishopess “that you help us exercise the preaching office [Predigtamt] in [your] houses, as we do in the church” [Sermon on the First Commandment (1528), WA 30:I:58.8-10; LW 51:137.]. Indeed, the Gospel as the power of salvation makes of believers not only priests but also kings and victors over Satan. In this sense – the context illustrates the unselfconscious interplay of formal and informal, priestly and ministerial teaching – Luther even calls the teaching Christian [Christianus docens] “the true God on the face of the earth” [Commentary on 1 John (1527), WA 20:683.11-12; LW 30:261.]. This easy interplay between official and unofficial, public and private proclamation of the Gospel is not due to looseness of thought or language. It is rooted in the twofold communication of the Keys of the Kingdom to the whole church (Mt. 18:18; cf. II Cor. 2:10, Tr. 24) and to the public ministry (Jn. 20:23, cf. Mt. 16:19, Tr. 60,61). But this twofoldness is not symmetrical. The priesthood and the ministry possess the Keys, that is, the liberating, life-giving Gospel, in different modes and respects. The priesthood is the church, the bride of Christ, who as “house-mother of Christendom” possesses all the salvific treasures lavished upon her by her Bridegroom – especially the ministry of the Gospel (Eph. 4:7-13; I Cor. 3:21.22; Tr 69). The ministry, in turn, administers and distributes the common treasures of God and of the church (Mt. 18:20; Rom. 8:17.32; 10:6-15; I Cor. 4:1; II Cor. 2:14-5:21), and this clearly not in the sense of a pragmatic human arrangement, but by divine mandate, institution, and appointment (AC XXVIII:5-6). ... The holy church of Christ is not at the mercy of the arbitrary fantasies of her ministers, nor are the latter subject to the tyranny of those they must serve. Both ministers and people are strictly accountable to Christ, and in Him to each other, in mutual submission to His alone-saving Word (Rom. 14:4.7-14; I Pet. 5:2-4). ... So then the church, having the priesthood, has the Keys, directly or immediately, and through her Christ commits their public exercise to His and her public ministry, to which in that sense she is subject. (pp. 108-110)

Very illuminating and significant is the treatment in Pastor E. W. Kaehler’s 1874 theses, adopted by the combined [Synodical Conference] pastors’ conference of Columbus, and reprinted in Lehre und Wehre. The theses distinguish between “essential” and “derived” functions of the ministry (Predigtamt), and therefore between the ministry strictly speaking, and the ministry in a wider sense, the latter including non-teaching deacons, lay elders, and school-teachers. Relevant extracts follow: “The rights conveyed with the office of the Word (in the narrow sense) are: the authority to preach the Gospel and to distribute the sacraments, and the authority of spiritual judgment... When the congregation confers an essential part of the ministry [Predigtamt], then it virtualiter [virtually, in effect] confers the whole of it, only with the provision to attend to the designated part alone... There are, however, services which are indeed necessary in the church for her governance and therefore belong to the ministry [Predigtamt] in the wider sense, which however do not necessarily involve the bearing of the office in the narrow sense; therefore such auxiliary services may be rendered also by such as do not thereby become entitled also to exercise the office of the Word and the sacraments... We know now that someone who has to attend to an essential part of the office of the Word can do that only because the whole office of the Word has been conferred upon him; he thus really occupies the ministry [Predigtamt]... The offices of councillors [Vorsteher], elders, almoners, school-teachers, sextons, and cantors in our congregations are therefore all to be regarded as holy, churchly offices... But they by no means involve the bearing of the ministry [Predigtamt] in the narrow sense” (“Hat die Gemeinde das Recht, ordentlicher Weise einen wesentlichen Theil des heiligen Predigtamtes irgend einem Laien temporär zu übertragen?” Lehre und Wehre, 20, 9,11,12 [Sept., Nov., Dec. 1874], 261, 331, 334, 336). (p. 144)

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