The Public Ministry of the Word
“In the Narrower Sense” and “In the Wider Sense”


HENRY EYSTER JACOBS:

What is the special office and calling of the Church? To administer the Word and Sacraments. The Church saves only by bringing the saving Word. Whence has it this authority and commission? From the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, who has entrusted it with the Power of the Keys. Matt. 16:19–“I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 18:18–“What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” John 20:23–“Whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven unto them; whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” “This is a power or commandment from God of preaching the Gospel, of remitting and retaining sins, and of administering the Sacraments” (Augsburg Confession, Art. XXVIII). Does not this power belong, however, to a class or order within the Church? As will be seen later, there are no classes or orders within the Church. The Christian Ministry is not an order but an office. It is an instrumentality whereby the Church acts. In other words, it is the executive of the Church in performing this work. This is proved as follows: In Matt. 18:18-20, the Power of the Keys is said to exist wherever “two or three are gathered together in my name.” Wherever, then, there is a Christian congregation, there is authority to communicate to penitent and believing individuals the Gospel promise of the gratuitous forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake. “Just as the promise of the Gospel belongs certainly and immediately to the entire Church, so the Keys belong immediately to the entire Church, because the Keys are nothing else than the office whereby this promise is communicated to every one who desires it” (Schmalkald Articles, 343). Can the Church, at its will, dispense with the ministerial office? By no means. But it is for the Church to call, appoint and ordain those who are to exercise the functions of this office.
Explain the call or appointment by the Church. The authority delegated by Christ rests ultimately in any congregation of two or three believers. Such assembly, as the Spirit of Christ influences it, will act with reference to the interests of the entire Church, and according to a fixed order. But it is never to be forgotten, that all the power of the Church exists in its smallest congregation, and is not derived by the local assemblies, through large Particular Churches, and by Particular Churches from the Church Universal, and by the Church Universal from Christ. The New Testament conception of Christ, dwelling in the heart of the believer, and making him a king and priest unto God, does not provide for a long and complicated series of agencies whereby we may reach Christ and Christ may reach us. What inevitably results? The Gathering of believers into local congregations and their further organization into congregational unions or Particular Churches, according to the necessities or the peculiar circumstances of the time or place. As the Church assumes a more settled form in the lands in which it is planted, and extends its missionary, benevolent and educational operations, a form of external organization, know as “the Representative Church,” inevitably follows. United activity always means attention to details of organization, which, however, according to the New Testament conception, must be in accord with the principle of Christian Liberty. How is the organization effected? Generally in accordance with what has been gradually developed in the experience of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles show the first beginnings of this process in response to needs that were then felt. But not even the practice of the Apostolic Church is a rule which is absolutely obligatory on the Church of succeeding periods. “The Apostles commanded to abstain from blood (Acts 15:29). Who observeth that now-a-days? And yet they do not sin who observe it not” (Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII). Nevertheless the highest respect is paid to what has been found serviceable in the past, and no break with historical antecedents is justifiable, unless a rule or practice is clearly recognized as having survived its usefulness. “We cheerfully maintain the old traditions made in the Church for the sake of usefulness and tranquility; and we interpret them in a more moderate way to the exclusion of the opinion which holds that they justify” (Apology, 224). What matters may be particularly classed under the head of Church Traditions? All regulations for its government, the constitutions of congregations and Church Bodies, the mode of calling and inducting its ministry, the times and forms of public service, the lessons, the hymns, the prayers, the ceremonies connected with the administration of the Sacraments and other ministerial acts, etc. ...
Through what instrumentality does the Church chiefly administer the Means of Grace? Through the Christian Ministry. What is the Ministry? An office entrusted to certain persons, specially prepared and set apart for its duties. In the wide sense, every office in the Church, is a ministry, and the distinction between ministers and laymen is one between the office-bearers and the non-official members of the Church. In a narrower sense, the term belongs only to those commissioned by the Church to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments. Is the designation of a special class of men to fill this office simply a matter of convenience? It is not within the liberty of the Church to dispense with the office. For it rests upon a divine institution. 1 Cor. 12:28–“God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then divers kinds of healings, helps, governments,” etc. Eph. 4:11–“And he gave some to be apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering.” The form and mode of office may vary. Some of these forms are but temporary and belong only to the period of the founding of Christianity; but the permanency of organization under bearers of an office pervades all that has been written concerning the Apostolic Church. A ministry is indispensable to the establishment, growth and proper administration of the Church. Is this classification of offices absolute for the Church of later times? No; for the Acts and the Epistles show that the organization of the Church gradually progressed, according to its needs, and had no divinely formulated Constitution, transmitted by inspiration, to be inflexibly adhered to for all time. Modifications and combinations of offices, on the one hand, and, on the other, a separation of duties and offices arose, as the Church passed from its missionary to its settled form, and as provisional plans were succeeded by more permanent adjustments. ... What was the ultimate result? The Apostles as such had no successors; for they were for all lands and ages. When the period of extraordinary was succeeded by that of only ordinary gifts of the Spirit, there was a merging of a number of these offices into one, that of the local pastor, teacher, preacher and chief presbyter or president of the congregation. The Church, in its freedom, from time to time instituted other offices, to administer the duties connected with its common and united interests. Is there no distinction in the New Testament between Presbyters and Bishops? None whatever. Paul sends for the presbyters of Ephesus (Acts 20:17), and speaks of them as “bishops” (v. 28). According to Phil. 1:1, there were a number of bishops in the church at Philippi. 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1, in enumerating the duties of church officers, know only bishops and deacons. Nowhere is there any co-ordination of bishops, presbyters and deacons. The testimony of Titus 1:5-7 is very clear. After declaring the necessity to “appoint elders in every city,” and enumerating the qualifications of the bearers of the office, Paul continues, “For a bishop must be blameless.” The allusion would be without any meaning if the presbyterate were regarded a different office from the episcopate. ...
Where a regularly called pastor cannot be had, is it never proper for a layman to preach or teach publicly in the Church? “When a Christian is among heathen ignorant of the Christian faith, then, according to his ability, he can teach others and propagate Christian doctrine at the promptings of love and necessity. But where a church has been established, let no one, without an ordinary call, undertake the holy office” (Hollaz). Similar occasions may occur temporarily in communities in a Christian land, not adequately provided with a ministry, or churches. Lay activity may very properly supply the deficiency, but not as a permanent matter. Where a congregation results and the provision has its sanction, the ministry springs up in virtue of the call that is given. How about the preaching of theological students? “There is a distinction between preaching exercises and the regular office of preaching. The sermons of students are exercises in which they modestly offer to the Church services that are hereafter to be rendered, but do not claim for themselves the regular office of preaching” (Hollaz). This is not, however, a completely satisfactory statement. The preaching of students is justifiable only upon the ground that it is in response to a regular call of the congregation or its representatives for a temporary service. The distinction is between a call for a more permanent and one for a merely temporary discharge of ministerial functions. ...
Is the Call which constitutes the ministry limited to the pastorate of a local congregation? Many so maintain. But even in Apostolic times, the ministry of preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments was not confined to a form so restrictedly local. Wherever there are general interests of the Church that are served by preachers and teachers filling such offices as are needed and in accordance with clear calls, there are also true ministers of the Church. What a congregation of Christian people can do in the call of a pastor, a congregation of congregations in the representative Church can also effect. This limitation, however, must be made: Such call must always carry with it the appointment to distinct work. For the ministry is an office, not an order. ...
What is Ordination? The formal induction into his office of one who has been called to the ministry. It is the solemn, public ratification and attestation of the Call. Does Ordination make one a minister? The Call is all that is essential. Ordination is important but not essential. One called but not ordained is in reality a minister; only, for the sake of good order, he should hold his rights in abeyance until ordained, or the Call may be conditioned in explicit terms upon his ordination. As it is not the inauguration of the President of the United States but the votes of the people, that gives him the title to his office, so it is not ordination, but the being rite vocatus, i.e., the Call in due form and order, that decides one’s claims as a minister. Is not Ordination a divinely prescribed ceremony? No. ... What is the ordinary form of Ordination? Prayer with the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim. 1:6). What is the chief thing in Ordination? Not the laying on of hands, but the prayer which accompanies it, or, rather, the word of God which the prayer appropriates and pleads with God. This is the “prophecy” of 1 Tim. 4:14. In 2 Tim. 1:6, the words “laying on of hands” are used by synechdoche for the entire ceremony including the prayer and prophecy. Hands are laid on the person ordained, simply to designate the individual to whom the promises of the Gospel concerning the ministry are applied, and to whom the office is entrusted. What is the exact estimate of such ceremony in the Lutheran Church? “We declare that the rite of Ordination ought by no means to be omitted, but that except in case of necessity, it should always be employed in constituting the ministry of the Church, both on account of the ancient custom of the Apostolic Church and that nearest the times of the Apostles, in which, by prayers and the laying on of hands, the presbytery ordained ministers elected by the Church, and as it were consecrated them to God; and on account of certain salutary ends. Although Paul was immediately called, nevertheless he is sent to Ananias, who imposes his hands, that his call may be manifest to the Church (Acts 9:17), and, afterwards (Acts 13:3), when he is to be sent to the heathen, he is again appointed a teacher of the Gentiles by the laying on of hands; this rite being employed in order that his call might be declared publicly to be legitimate, and others might not boast in like manner of it. But if this was done in one who had been immediately called, how much more appropriate in those whose call is mediate” (Gerhard, VI, 97, largely from Chemnitz). ...
Are there different grades of ministers of the Word? It has been shown above that the New Testament does not recognize any distinction between bishops and presbyters. “In 1 Cor. 3:6, Paul makes ministers equal and teaches that the Church is above the ministers. Hence superiority or lordship over the Church is not ascribed to Peter” (Schmalkald Articles, 340). There is no divine law designating a certain number of grades and perpetually imposing them upon the Church. Nevertheless the importance of order and organization is clearly taught, and this necessitates the subordination of equals to each other for the welfare of the entire spiritual body of believers. Some become primi inter pares. “1. Although in the ministry, there are diverse orders, nevertheless the power of the ministry in preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments, and the power of jurisdiction consisting in the use of the Keys, belongs equally to all ministers; and, therefore, the Word preached, the Sacraments administered and the absolution announced by one lawfully called to the ministry, even though he be of the lowest grade of the ministry, are just as valid and efficacious, as though preached, administered and announced by the highest bishop, prophet or apostle. For as the diversity of gifts, so also that of grades does not change the force or efficacy of the doctrine and Sacraments (1 Cor. 3:5,7; 2 Cor. 12:9; Gal. 2:8). 2. The diversity of grades depends indeed upon divine law, both ‘by reason of genus,’ so far as a distinction of grades is necessary for good order and tranquility in the Church; and ‘by reason of gifts,’ so far as by the variety and diversity of gifts, God declares that He wishes that there should be distinct grades among the ministers; and ‘by reason of certain grades in particular,’ in so far as He Himself distinguished and preferred the office of prophets and apostles to that of others. Nevertheless it cannot be said absolutely and generally concerning all grades of the ministry, that their institution and distinction depend upon divine institution, inasmuch as these grades, in a fixed and necessary number, have neither been prescribed by God, nor used by the apostles, in like manner as the Sacraments have been restricted to the number two by divine institution and Apostolic practice; but liberty has been left to the Church, with respect to circumstances, viz., of time and place, in any Church organization, to establish either more or fewer grades among ministers” (Gerhard, VI, 137, 138). For these reasons, the practice of licensing candidates for the ministry for several years prior to their ordination, which was long the custom in the Lutheran Church of America, was entirely legitimate and valid. ...
What other ministers are there beside the ministers of the Word [i.e. “those commissioned by the Church to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments”]? Deacons, or the executive aids of pastors, chiefly in the external administration of the Church. While the question as to whether “the seven” of Acts 6:3 are the same as the deacons elsewhere mentioned in the New Testament, is one on which there is not unanimity among Bible students, nevertheless, the general principle of the more thorough organization and division of labor is the same in both classes of passages. Acts 7 and 8 clearly show that “the seven” preached as well as attended to the secular responsibilities of the infant Church. The qualifications of deacons required by 1 Tim. 3:8-13, show that their duties were not purely secular. What were the Deaconesses of the early Church? Women officially commissioned for congregational service. They were nothing more than female deacons. Rom. 16:1–“Phoebe, our sister, who is a deaconess of the church that is at Cenchreae.” In 1 Tim. 3:8-10, there is a statement concerning the qualifications in general for “deacons.” Then, in v. 11, it is the female deacons, who are meant by the designation “women”; after which v. 12 refers to the male deacons. It would be a strange break to understand v. 11 as meaning women in general, or the wives of deacons. (A Summary of the Christian Faith [Philadelphia: The United Lutheran Publication House, 1905], pp. 403-05, 419-21, 430-33, 435-37, 444-45)


JOHN AUGUSTUS WILLIAM HAAS:

The ministry, in its broadest sense, includes all service for Christ and the Church, whether it be preaching, service at the tables (Acts 6), or deaconess work (Rom. 16:1); in its particular application, however, it is the ministry of the Word. This, since Christ is the fulfiller and end of the law (Matt. 5:17; Rom. 10:4), is not influenced by the provisions of the Old Testament. Christ is the prophet (John 6:14) and apostle (messenger) of God (Heb. 3:1). After the preliminary choice of disciples (John 1:35 ff.) follows the definitive special call (Matt. 4:18 ff.; Luke 5:15; Matt. 9:9), applied to the twelve (Matt. 10:1 ff.; Mark 3:14 ff.), representatives of the new Israel, who are named apostles (Luke 6:13), and called and sent immediately by Christ (John 15:16; 20:21; Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:1). They are not apostles in the general sense (Acts 14:14) in which many messengers of early Christendom received this name. They are to be the witnesses of Christ’s life and resurrection (John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8; 1 John 1:1). Endowed with special powers and God’s Spirit to proclaim the Word (Matt. 28:18,19; Rom. 15:18,19; 2 Cor. 12:12; Matt. 10:20; 1 Cor. 7:40; 1 Thess. 2:13), they became the founders of churches (1 Cor. 3:10; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 2:20), and gave them the authentic written Word of God (Gal. 6:11; 2 Thess. 3:17). On the apostles as bearers of divine revelation (Matt. 16:16 ff. ...) the Church was to rest, and they were to exercise the judicial power of the whole Church (Matt. 18:17 ff.; John 20:21 ff.). But in their special ministry, they occupy only a certain form of the one ministry, which they have in common with all servants of Christ (Rom. 10:15; 16:21; 1 Cor. 4:1; Phil. 2:25; 4:3; Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:11,12; 1 Thess. 2:6; 2 John 1; 3 John 1). They appoint directly or indirectly (2 Tim. 2:2; Tit. 1:3) elders or presbyters, [or overseers or bishops,] who are the same (Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1), and many in a church, until later, when there is only one (cf. angel, Rev. 2:1,8,12, etc.). The Church, however, votes for and approves of its elders (Acts 14:23), even in its specialized form of a single congregation (Matt. 18:20; Acts 14:23). The apostles did not then bestow their office and elect its successors. They perpetuated the ministry by showing the Church how to fill the office given it. ... They [the elders] coexisted with the apostolate, and did not bring about the office of presbyter, which existed previously (Acts 11:30). This arose from Jewish eldership, was a distinction of age and then of position. In heathen communities this congregational office was called episcopate, after the manner of sodalities and burying fraternities in the Roman empire. It was originally cultic (Acts 11:30), but soon received the ministry of the Word (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17). It became different from the office of the prophets (Acts 13:1), who ceased, but absorbed the evangelist (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5), and teacher (Acts 13:1; 1 Cor. 12:28,29; Eph. 4:11), and was identical with the shepherd (Eph. 4:11; 1 Peter 2:25) and president (Rom. 12:8; 1 Thess. 5:17). Its governmental power was that of the Word. It was a service of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), given to announce the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18,19). Its bearers are servants of God and Christ (Rom. 13:4; 2 Cor. 6:4; 11:23; Col. 1:7; 1 Tim. 4:6), and minister to the Church (2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1; 1 Pet. 5:3). God gives them to the Church with the charismata (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11), to fill the service which he created for the administration of the Word (1 Cor. 12:28 ff.), and sacraments (Matt. 28:19; a word to the eleven but derivatively belonging to the whole Church); and also to remit sins (John 20:23, to be taken in conjunction with Matt. 16:19; 18:18, shows a right of the Church to be exercised by the office). The ministers are called mediately through the Church (Acts 14:32; Tit. 1:5). (“Ministry,” Lutheran Cyclopedia [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899], pp. 316-17)


CHARLES PORTERFIELD KRAUTH:

To the end that God may be glorified in the salvation of men, our Lord Jesus Christ, in his Divine Unity with the Father and the Holy Ghost, has instituted the ministry; to teach the pure Gospel, and to administer the Sacraments rightly in the Church. (Acts xiii. 26, xvi. 17; Rom. i. 16; 2 Cor. v. 18; Eph. i. 13.) ... This divinely instituted ministry is a sacred public office, conferred by legitimate vocation, on suitable men. (Rom. xii. 7; 2 Cor. iv. 1; Eph. iv. 12; Col. iv. 17; 1 Tim. i. 12; 2 Tim. iv. 5.) ... The ministry is necessary as the ordinary instrumental medium ordained of God, whereby the Word and Sacraments which are the only means of grace in the strict and proper sense, are to be brought to men. (Phil. i. 24; Heb. v. 12; 2 Cor. v. 19; Eph. i. 13; 1 Thess. ii. 13.) ... Though God is the perpetuator of the ministry, as he is its author, He continues it on Earth, by means of his Church; through which He exercises his power of appointing teachers of the word. (Acts i. 23, 24; Titus i. 5; Acts xiv. 23, xx. 28; 1 Tim. iv. 14, v. 22; 2 Tim. i. 6; 1 Cor. xii. 28.) ... A minister, New Testament Bishop, Presbyter, Elder, or Evangelical Pastor, is a man legitimately called by God, through the Church, to teach the word publicly in the Church; to administer the sacraments, and to maintain sound discipline and good government. (1 Cor. iii. 5; 2 Cor. iii. 6, vi. 4; Rom. xv. 16; 1 Cor. iv. 1; Acts xx. 28; Phil. i. 1; 1 Tim. iii. 2; Titus i. 7; 1 Tim. iv. 14; 1 Tim. v. 17; Eph. iv. 11.) ... In the New Testament, our Lord did not continue, nor institute a peculiar order of priests. The New Testament priesthood, like its kinghood, is common to all regenerate persons. Its sacrifices are purely spiritual. They are in no sense propitiatory. They consist of prayer, praise and self-consecration. A New Testament priest is not, as such, a minister; nor a minister, as such, a priest. When our Church calls ministers “priests,” it uses the word “priests,” as synonymous with “presbyter”; or regards ministers, simply as the public representatives of a priesthood common to all. This representative priesthood confers no mediatorial power. This power to become a minister by vocation has its root in the common priesthood as the power to bear office by election, as a ruler in a free State has its root in a common citizenship. (Rom. xii. 1; Phil. iv. 18; Heb. vii. 27, 28, ix. 11-28, x. 12, xiii. 15, 16; 1 Pet. ii. 5-9; Rev. i. 6, v. 10, xx. 6.) ...
Our Lord before His ascension instituted the office of the Apostolate, having within it all the powers of the future ministry. The Apostolate had extraordinary and incommunicable powers and functions. It also had ordinary and communicable powers and functions, which were to be transmitted and perpetuated in and through the ordinary ministry to the end of the world. (Mark iii. 13, 14; Matt. x. 2; Luke vi. 13; Acts i. 2-25; Rom. i. 5; 1 Cor. xii. 28, 29; Eph. ii. 20; 2 Pet. iii. 2; Rev. xxi. 14; 1 Tim. ii. 7; 2 Tim. i. 11; 2 Pet. i. 1; 1 Tim. i. 18; 2 Tim. i. 13; 2 Tim. ii. 2; Matt. xxviii. 20; 2 Cor. v. 19.) ... To the extraordinary and incommunicable powers and functions, which were to be confined to the Apostles themselves, were these in conjunction which follow: Their vocation was immediate, in no sense derived from men nor through men. Their commission was unlimited as to locality. To an Apostle the field was the world. They were endowed with an extraordinary measure of miraculous gifts and of Divine Inspiration. They could bear official testimony as eye-witnesses to what was necessary to authenticate the Divine mission of our Lord. They were under Christ the supreme authorities in the rule of the Church, and represented it in its totality, both in the powers received, and in the power exercised for it. These were their exclusive powers and functions, in which none shared with them while they lived, and to which none were their successors when they died. (Matt. x. 2; Luke vi. 13; Gal. i. 1; Matt. xxviii. 19; Mark xvi. 15; Luke xxiv. 47, 48; Acts i. 8; Matt. x. 1; Luke ix. 1; Mark vi. 7; Matt. x. 20; Luke xii. 12; Mark iii. 15; Acts ii. 4; Matt. xix. 28; Rev. xxi. 14; Acts i. 8, 22, x. 41, xxii. 15; 1 Pet. v. 1; 1 Cor. ix. 1.) ... In addition to the special powers and functions, the Apostles had the ordinary ones common to the whole ministry, to wit: the preaching of the Gospel, conferring the sacraments, administering discipline and ordaining others to the ministry. In each and all of these they were but fellow-presbyters, ministers, pastors, and bishops with other ministers. (Acts i. 20, v. 42, xx. 24; Rom. i. 15; Eph. iii. 8, vi. 19; 1 Cor. iv. 1; Matt. xxviii. 19; 1 Pet. v. 1; 1 Cor. iii. 5; 2 Cor. xi. 23; Col. i. 7, 23-25; John xxi. 16.) ... In their extraordinary powers and functions the Apostles had no successors. In their ordinary ones all true ministers of Christ are their successors. There is a ministerial succession unbroken in the Church; but, there is no personal succession in a particular line of transmission. The ministry that is, ordains the ministry that comes. The ministry of successive generations has always been inducted into the office by the ministry preceding; but, the so-called Apostolical succession or canonical succession does not exist, would be incapable of demonstration if it did exist, and would be of no essential value even if it could be demonstrated. (1 Tim. i. 18, iv. 14, v. 22; Acts xiv. 23; 2 Tim. ii. 2; Titus i. 5.) ...
The deacons, were in order of time, antecedent to the Elders as a distinct class, and in consequence of the great increase in the number of disciples, were first appointed to relieve the Apostles from the burden and distractions connected with distribution to the widows from the common fund, which had been placed at the control of the Apostles. (Acts vi. 1.) The office itself was proposed by the Apostles; the Apostles defined its functions; determined the proper character of those who should be chosen to it; and suggested the method of choice. The multitude concurred and approved; chose persons for the office; placed them before the Apostles, who ordained them by the laying on of hands with prayer. (Acts vi. 2-6.) The persons thus appointed are not called “deacons” in the Acts, but the name was suggested by the daily ministration (diakonia) to the wants of the widows; by the desire of the Apostles no longer to “serve (diakonein) tables,” but to devote themselves “to the ministry (diakonia) of the word.” The word “deacon,” in the history of its rise involves, by antithesis, a two-fold diaconate, the diaconate of the word [i.e. the ministry of those who are called “to teach the word publicly in the Church; to administer the sacraments, and to maintain sound discipline and good government”] which is incommunicably the diaconate of the Apostles and of the pastors, and the diaconate of aid, which is meant to relieve the diaconate of the word, from the collateral burdens and distractions, which interfere with its great distinctive duties. (Acts vi. 1-4.) The deacons received power and entered on duties originally held and exercised by the Apostles as pastors of the Church at Jerusalem. The office was created by a separation of certain powers and duties of the ministry, and devolving them on a new class of officials. The deacons are not a part of the people to do the work pertaining to the people in common, but are a part of the officials of the Church, taking a share in the ministry and being in that broader sense ministers; aiding the pastoral ministry in its work by taking upon them, in conformity with the instructions of the Church, such collateral portions of the work as do not require the most important and special powers of the pastor and teacher. (Acts vi. 1-6; Phil. i. 1; 1 Tim. iii. 8-12.) The true original conception of the deacon is that of the pastor’s executive aid. The particular work assigned to the seven deacons, first chosen, was simply a determination of this general conception, produced by the specific nature of the case. The distribution of a common fund in alms, or the service of poor widows is not the whole generic idea of the diaconate, though it was its whole actual function at first. Had that been its whole idea, it would have terminated with the state of things at Jerusalem, out of which it rose. The service of the poor is therefore only a specific, though most important, and, in some circumstances, a primary part of the diaconate, under the generic idea of aiding the pastorate in every desirable way, and leaving it unembarrassed in its greatest work. (Acts vi. 1-6; Phil. i. 1; 1 Tim. iii. 8-12.) Deacons were not originally appointed to preach the Gospel, or to administer the Sacraments, or to bear official part in the government of the Church. They are in their proper intent executive aids of the ministry, in its collateral labors, or in the incidental, not essential, parts of its proper work. Philip’s preaching was not done under his commission as a deacon. (Acts vi. 1-6; Phil. i. 1; 1 Tim. iii. 8-12.) Deacons are not ministers in the specific or stricter sense, nor are they essential to the organization of every congregation. A congregation, now, like the congregation at Jerusalem in its first stage, can exist as an organization without deacons – the powers ordinarily entrusted to deacons remaining still vested in their original depository, the ministry of the Word [i.e. the ministers who are called “to teach the word publicly in the Church; to administer the sacraments, and to maintain sound discipline and good government”]. Congregations may be so small as not to require a diaconate, and in any case if they cannot obtain deacons conformed to the Scriptural requisitions, it might be better for them to have none. (Acts vi. 1.) So far as is not inconsistent in any manner or degree with the sole direct Divine authority of the ministry of the Word to teach publicly in the Church and to administer the Sacraments, nor with the rights and duties inseparably connected therewith, the Church has liberty to enlarge the functions of the diaconate in keeping with its original generic idea, so as to make it, in accordance with her increasing needs, a more efficient executive aid to her ministers. In the Ancient Church, enlarging in her liberty the functions of the deacons, as executive aids to the ministry of the Word in the service of the Church, the deacons took care of the sacred utensils employed in the sacraments; they received the contributions of the people, and conveyed them to the pastor; they took part in reading the Scriptures in public worship; at the request of the pastor they might take part in the distribution (not in the consecration) of the elements; they helped to preserve order and decorum in the service of the sanctuary; they furnished to the pastor information that would be useful to him in his labors – they were his almoners – in short, they were the executive aids of the minister of the Word, in the closest relations of official reverence, and of faithful service to him, and are called by the fathers the minister’s angels, his eyes, his hands, his lips, his heart and his soul. The deacons who were faithful in their office were looked to in the Ancient Church as the best source of supply for the future pastors.
In some Churches, especially among the Gentile converts, there were Deaconesses, Christian women, largely selected from the widows known as faithful and holy. They were occupied with the care of the sick and of the poor, and with the externals of the Church’s work. They were in the one diaconate with its official character, as an executive aid of the ministry unchanged, and with its specific characteristics determined by the special gifts and facilities pertaining to Christian women. In the Ancient Church they gave instruction to the female catechumens, rendered the necessary aid at their Baptism, were guardians of the private life of Christian women, gave useful information to the pastors and such assistance as the pastors desired. They tenderly cared for the martyrs, confessors, travelers, sick and needy persons, especially though not exclusively of their own sex, and preserved order among the women in public worship. They were highly prized in the Christian Church until the union of Church and State, the growth of monasticism, the corruption of the order itself and other causes led to the setting of them aside. The order still exists in the Syrian Church, and in recent times a successful effort to establish an office under this name, with special adaptation to institutions of mercy, has been made in Germany, and other parts of the Protestant world. In modern usage in the Lutheran Church of Germany, the deacons are ordained, assistant, pastors, conjoined under various limitations with the chief pastor. If there be several in one church, the first among them is sometimes called Arch-deacon, the others are called Sub-deacons. In Sweden men of the same office are called Comministers or Chaplains. ...
Presbyters, or Elders, was a designation originally of age, subsequently of office, in which latter sense it was employed first in the Jewish Synagogue, and then in the Christian Church. (Matt. xvi. 21; Acts ix. 30.) Though in the Christian Church the presbyter had features in common with the elder in the Synagogue, yet no identification is to be assumed which is not clearly taught in Holy Scripture or proved by satisfactory evidence, for here, as in all other cases, Christianity acted under the guidance of God’s Spirit, and purified, exalted and conformed to its own life and needs what it adopted. The Apostles, because of the fewness of their number, and the wide nature of their commission could not long supply all the pastoral wants of the growing Church. As the members of the Christian Church were multiplied first in Judea, and afterwards in Gentile cities, a necessity arose for local organizations. To this end the office of the Christian eldership, retaining such features of the Jewish eldership as were conformed to the wants of the Church, was instituted by God, through the Apostles. (Acts xi. 30, xiv. 23.) Certain persons chosen or approved by the people, and examined, approved and ordained by the Apostles, were constituted pastors under the name of Elders or Bishops. (Acts xi. 30, xiv. 23.) The organization of a body of Christians so as to constitute a permanent congregation or local Church, consisted in the definite union of the body or mass of the people, with its divinely constituted spiritual representatives and executive organs, the ministers of Christ or Christian elders. A permanent Christian congregation was a single communion of the people and elders united in common confession of a pure faith, the use of the sacraments, the worship of God, under a common government and discipline. ... (Acts xiv. 23, xx. 28; Philip. i. 1.) ... The Presbyters were called and ordained solely to labor officially as pastors of particular communions in defined localities. They had not the absolute right of official teaching, administration of sacraments and discipline everywhere, which was a distinctive part of the commission of the Apostles, nor did they officially journey from place to place, which was the work of the Evangelists. (Acts xiv. 23, xx. 17-27; Titus i. 5; Acts xxi. 8; Eph. iv. 11; 2 Tim. iv. 5.) ... To the Elders were committed in permanence as the ordinary and abiding ministers of the Christian Church, the ordinary communicable, and permanent powers of the Apostolate. In this they were co-ordinate with the Apostles, while the Apostles lived, and to them, when the Apostles were gone, the Christian Elders as a body, succeeded. The whole body of truly Christian ministers on earth are the successors of the Apostles, in all respects in which the Apostles could have successors. (Acts xiv. 23; 1 Tim. iv. 14; 2 Tim. i. 6.) The names given to the work of the Christian presbyter mark its nature. It is a serving and ministry, a ministering of the word in preaching and worship and of the Sacraments, for Christ and His saints, for the reconciliation of men with God. It is an episcopate, an office of superintendence and oversight, of visitation, and pastoral care. It is a stewardship of the mysteries of God, and of His grace. It is its work to provide that all things be done decently and in order in the Church. To Presbyters are given the name of Bishops, or overseers, superintendents, Elders, ministers, ministers and servants of God, of Christ, of the Lord, of righteousness, and of the Gospel. They are called teachers and preachers, they that are over, and that rule, and have the rule over the Church. In figurative language they are workers in the vineyard, and in the field, in sowing and in harvest, husbandmen, shepherds, inviters to the marriage and the great supper, fishers of men, stewards, ambassadors, witnesses, and heralds. ...
The New Testament speaks of but one official, distinctive class of Christian elders or Presbyters: it gives no hint of official distinctions within this class. All Presbyters are identified with Bishops, and are constantly spoken of as one body, and as having a common ordination both to rule and teach. (Acts xiv. 23, xv. 2, 4, 6, 22, 23, xvi. 4, xx. 17, 28; Phil. i. 1; 1 Tim. iv. 14; Tit. i. 5; Jas. v. 14; 1 Pet. v. 1.) The Elders, in all cases in which their functions are described in full, are represented as needing the gifts, and conjoining the duties of rule and teaching. (Acts xx. 28; 1 Tim. iii. 1-7; 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25; Tit. i. 5-9; 1 Pet. v. 2-4.) ... The true interpretation does not preclude the idea, if the idea be rendered otherwise probable that as the special gifts of ministers developed themselves, or as the special wants of the Church might suggest, some Presbyters should devote themselves, or be expected by the Church, in her freedom, to devote themselves more largely to one department of official duty, and others to another. But these would be voluntary, and individual, special providential differences rising within one office. The choice between certain proportions of functions implies the general ordination and right to exercise both. Still less does the true interpretation exclude, but on the contrary naturally involves, the idea of great differences in the ability, willingness and fidelity of men ordained to the same office. (1 Cor. i. 14, 17; 1 Tim. i. 3, v. 22, vi. 3; 2 Tim. iv. 1-5; 2 Pet. ii. 1.) (“Thetical Statement of the Doctrine Concerning the Ministry of the Gospel” [First Article], Lutheran and Missionary, Vol. XIV, No. 12 [Dec. 31, 1874], p. 1; “Thetical Statement of the Doctrine of the Ministry (Second Article),” Lutheran and Missionary, Vol. XIV, No. 13 [Jan. 7, 1875], p. 1; “The Doctrine of the Ministry Thetically Stated (Third Article),” Lutheran and Missionary, Vol. XIV, No. 15 [Jan. 21, 1875], p. 1)


E. W. KAEHLER:

The public preaching office is an office of the word. ... The rights given with the office of the word (in the narrower sense) are: the authority to preach the gospel, to administer the sacraments, and the authority of spiritual jurisdiction. ... When we use the phrase “in the narrow sense”...we want to indicate that there are essential and derived rights of the preaching office. The derived rights belong to the ministry of the word in the wider sense... All essential parts of the office of the word can be subsumed into the above mentioned powers (Mt 29:19-20; Jn 20:21-23; Jn 21:15-16; 1 Cor 4:1 ...). ... Ordinarily the congregation, which has the right of calling, is not only bound to the preaching office until the Last Day, but also may not mutilate it; that is, she must establish all its essential parts together. ...the congregation is ordinarily bound until the end of time to the preaching office. That is proved not only by the divine institution of the preaching office in general (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor 12:28-29; Eph 4:11), but also from the command of Christ that the office of the apostles should endure until the Last Day (Mt 28:19-20): “Go and teach all people...and teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Thus the congregation must establish the preaching office in its midst and be bound to it until the Last Day. This last statement is speaking of things under normal circumstances [ordentlicher Weise]. But in these last troubled times it can happen that the public preaching office can easily be taken from the congregations, and there are emergencies in which the order of the holy office neither can nor should be kept. In such true emergencies every Christian can preach the word, absolve, baptize, yes, also administer the Lord’s Supper; and indeed, when this is done such things are as valid and effective as when they are performed by an ordained pastor. Everyone, however, who deviates from the order should know why he does it. The reason for such is nothing else than that which God’s word itself gives, that love is the fulfillment of the law. Whoever does not know his reason and acts haphazardly sins against his conscience and misuses his Christian freedom. It should also be noted that in emergencies one may deviate only as long and as far from God’s order as long and as far as the emergency lasts. Deviating from the order without need in the name of love would be based on nothing but self-will and despising of divine order and of the majesty who instituted such order. ...
The congregation can establish grades (taxis tagmata) of the one office of the word; that is, they can arrange matters so that this person cares for one part of the office of the word and that person cares for another part. This is done, however, only de iure humano. If we hold fast to the principle...that all essential parts of the office must be established by the congregation, we are led to the question: Is the congregation duty bound to have all parts of the office administered together by one person? The answer...is no. From the apostolic instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:40 that everything should occur in the church in an honorable and orderly fashion (kata taxin), the order was created in the old Lutheran church especially in large parishes that certain persons should be appointed exclusively for certain functions of the holy office. And so there were afternoon preachers, assistant preachers, deacons, archdeacons, subdeacons, so-called catechists, etc. etc., who in part only preached, or only baptized, buried, comforted, held confession, administered the holy supper, etc. These are pure orders that were also known by other names in the ancient church. And even now in the larger churches it is often necessary and salutary to establish such grades in the functions [Verrichtungen] of the preaching office. This also occurs in many of our churches in America when alongside the head or senior preacher there are one or more assistant preachers who have divided themselves into caring for different functions of the office. Now, such order did not first become necessary during the historical development of the church. Rather, this was sanctioned already in the apostolic age by the apostles themselves and introduced into the church. The apostle [Paul] in Ephesians 4 mentions, along with prophets and teachers, pastors. They were set over a certain flock of the church (1 Pt 5:1-2), and did not only teach but also administered the holy sacraments and carried out care of souls. There were also teachers who simply explained the doctrine to the people and who later became the catechists (Rom 2:20; Heb 5:12). The apostles included all grades under the name of the episcopate or the presbyterate, which is the same thing. And when the congregation commits the care of different parts of the preaching office to different people, they really confer in reality to each one the office of the keys because each one opens up heaven through the part of the ministry of the word that he administers. The congregation then also confers the office of the word, the preaching office itself.
It is of the highest importance firmly to hold that there is no command of God concerning which and how many grades or orders there should be in the holy office. If an order of these grades of the ministry were de iure divino, as the antichristian papacy teaches, we would naturally be bound to such grades as were introduced in the early church by the apostles. From the letters of Paul, however, which were written to different congregations, we can see that in the time of the apostles not all churches had the same number and type of grades and orders. They were free. It only remained that when they were established consideration was given to order, benefit, and upbuilding. If, however, it was free in the apostles’ time, then it must also be so now. ... If the congregation commits an essential part of the preaching office [to someone] they commit it in its entirety virtualiter [virtually], with the provision to care only for the designated part. (The one called to a part of the ministry, however, does not have the right to take over the part of another without a further call.) ... In other words, preaching is the audible word; the holy sacraments are the visible word, that is, a visible preaching of the gospel; all church discipline, if we might say it this way, is the tangible word, that is, a manifest use of the law or gospel. All these parts that the preaching office administers differ neither in origin nor in use. They all flow from the word and have in mind the salvation of men. Therefore nothing else is possible than that the entire word belongs to each function of the office. What does the congregation commit to him who, for example, is only to baptize? Without doubt it is the keys to which baptism belongs. With these keys, which he administers according to divine order in the name of the congregation, he opens heaven and the treasures of God’s grace to a particular part of the congregation. But he who only preaches does this same thing. ... Even though he is only bound to administer one part of this office, still virtualiter he is qualified for the administration of the other parts. ...
There are ministries that are indeed necessary to the governance of the church and therefore belong to the preaching office in the wider sense, which however do not necessarily involve the conducting of the office in the narrower sense. ...we know now that anyone who discharges an essential part of the office of the word can only do this because the entire office of the word has been conferred to him. He really occupies the entire preaching office. ... What we have in mind here is whether the office sensu strictiori, that is, the office of the word and sacraments, is contained in the office of lay-elder, which has certainly become a separate offshoot of the preaching office. Also, for example, we are concerned with whether the school teacher, who indeed administers a part of the holy office, is authorized for the carrying out of the entire ministry. ...we can answer the question whether such a person can also legitime administer the office of the word in the strict sense with a...resolute no. The Holy Scripture teaches that there are ministries in the church that are necessary for its ruling and therefore belong to the preaching office in the wider sense. ...the offices of the church of the higher order, as Scripture itself enumerates them, flow out of the apostles’ ministry, the preaching office of today, and have their root in it. ... Evangelists, pastors, elders and deacons do not occupy offices that from time to time were newly instituted by God. Rather they were instituted at the same time in and with the apostles’ office. Also the offices of the church of the lower order are the products of two factors, the office of apostle and the congregation. While these offices were offshoots of the apostolate so they were also necessary to the governance of the congregation. In the beginning the apostles oversaw all the offices of the congregation. The administration of the material goods of the congregation was entirely in their hands. Also the care of those in need, especially the widows, with bodily goods and other requirements of bodily support was their duty. ... Because of the continual growth of the congregation the twelve were not able to care for all the parts of the holy office in like fashion. They asked the congregation therefore to designate men who had good reputations and were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom so that a part of the present load of the apostles’ office could be committed to them. In accordance with this, the congregation chose seven deacons whose duty primarily was the care of the poor and administration of physical goods in the congregation. These ministers, whose moral qualifications are listed by St. Paul in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, whether they occupy the office of elder in the narrow sense (presbuteroi) or the ministry of ruling (proistamenoi, hgoumenoi) or the office of deacon (diakonoi) (Rom 12:8; Heb 13:7,17,24 and similar verses), bear a part of the office of the church and stand at the side of the office of the church katexochn, the preaching office. Therefore the offices of the rulers, elders, assistants to the poor, the school teachers, sacristans, and cantors in our congregations are likewise to be considered as holy ecclesiastical [kirchlich] offices.
Still these offices in no way involve the conducting of the preaching office in the narrow sense. Already at the institution of the diaconate the apostles explicitly kept the office of the word for themselves (Acts 6:4). The deacons could “acquire a good rank for themselves” (1 Tim 3:13), and also become qualified for the preaching office in the narrow sense. Still herein it is stated that in and of themselves they in no way were already authorized for the conducting of the preaching office. The most important verse in question here, however, is 1 Timothy 5:17: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially (malista) those who labor in word and doctrine.” Here two classes of elders are put forth. There are those who labor in word and doctrine and occupy the ministry of the word in the narrow sense. There are also those with whom this is not the case whose ministry was different, namely, which was for the ruling of the congregation introduced for the censure of morals and the preservation of discipline in the church, Romans 12:8. When it is clear that the ministry of the word katexochn includes everything that is necessary for the ruling of the congregation, but on the other hand the so-called office of elder in no way involves the conducting of the preaching office sensu strictiori, then the office of elder must be comprised of helping ministries [Hilfsdienste] which can be administered by those who thereby do not become preachers and who do not have the authorization to administer the office of the word and sacraments. ...
It is well to notice that the command to shepherd the church with God’s word and to lead her to salvation does not apply to everyone who occupies an office in the church. It applies only to those who proclaim the gospel. The essential difference between lay-elders and teaching-elders was established fundamentally by the Lord himself. The school diaconate takes a middle position between the teaching ministry of the teaching elder and the above diaconate insofar as laboring in doctrine is one of its chief duties. But its ministry is confined only to a part of the congregation even if it is the most precious part. On the other hand the teaching presbyter is a bishop, that is, an overseer of the adults as well as the young. ... To watch over discipline must remain the matter of the bishop. The school teacher is placed under him not only in matters of office but also as the caregiver of his soul. ... When someone merely gives external help in the administration of the holy supper, this demonstrates that the one helping has the preaching office as little as the sacristan helping in baptism demonstrates the same. An external helping with the ministry of the word in the strict sense indeed does not happen outside of or in addition to the word. It should be counted among the true functions of the ministry [Ministeriums]. But this helping concerns itself with a highly unessential part of the holy ministry. He who examines and authorizes the communicants holds the office of the word precisely in the narrow sense. ...the whole helping diaconate is connected with the ministry of the word and therefore is to be placed under it as an offshoot of the same. ...
Whoever is to administer an essential part of the office of the word should be ordained or at any rate set apart for the ministry of the word. Anyone who administers an essential part of the holy office must have the office of the word. But since a layman, even when he occupies an ecclesiastical office of lower order, is in no way authorized according to divine order to administer the public preaching office in the narrow sense, such a one must be called to this in a special way. We say therefore...: He should be ordained, or at any rate set apart for the ministry of the word. With the above we are far from assigning to ordination an absolute or divine necessity... Rather, along with the entire orthodox church we recognize ordination as an adiaphoron. ... Also in agreement with the church of God, however, we hold it to be relatively necessary. Ordination is an ecclesiastical order sanctioned by ancient apostolic practice which serves to clarify and publicly confirm that the call to the ministry of the word that has come before is legitimate. ... Whoever omits ordination without need is a schismatic. He separates himself from the orthodox church of all time. ... If we do not wish to deny, for example, that the administration of the holy supper by a non-ordained layman called only for a time by an entire congregation in an emergency is effective and legitimate, still we must determinedly stress that only the most difficult of emergencies would permit this. If a congregation in ordinary circumstances calls an unordained person, she despises ecclesiastical order. The call to the office of the word must have some public witness on account of those who run and are not sent (Jer 23:21), and ordination gives this witness. If this is the case – and no Lutheran will deny it – then it is also correct when we claim: He who should administer an essential part of the holy ministry should be ordained. If circumstances arise in which it is impossible to hold to the order of ordination, then we must at least demand some type of setting apart of the person called to the holy office, for Acts 13:2 says: “When they had served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit spoke: ‘Set apart for me (aforisate) Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (see Rom 1:1). Johann Freder, born in Cöslin and a student of Luther, functioned as a preacher in Hamburg, Stralsund, Rügen, and Wismar without being ordained. When the Greifswald theologian Dr. Knipstrov demanded that he subsequently allow himself to be ordained in order to correct the offense given, Freder would not yield to this. Rather he called ordination a snare to the conscience. For this reason he was deposed in 1551. In a Wittenberg faculty opinion given on this matter in 1553 among other things was said: Although ordination in and of itself is not necessary, it serves as a publication and approval of the call. To consider it a snare of conscience is nothing else than to say that anyone can take up the preaching office even when no examination or confirmation of the call has gone before. That is contrary to order and cannot be condoned. The Strassburger theologian Dannhauer writes concerning ordination: “Is ordination necessary on account of conscience? It is most certainly necessary: not on account of a necessity of its goal and means (as if the intended goal could only be accomplished though this means). ... Still it is necessary on account of an apostolic and positive (not moral) command: ‘Set apart,’ Acts 13:2, and an ancient apostolic practice (1 Tim 5:21). Likewise [it is necessary] according to the need to be able to distinguish between the proven and unproven teachers of the church and for showing reverence to the ministry. Therefore no one can complain that Lutherans often use students who have not yet been ordained as vicars and allow them to hear confession, visit the sick and administer the sacrament to them. [This is our practice] so that no one might think that a pastor and an attendant are the same thing.” Kromayer seems to contradict [the statement that only ordained men should work in the office of the word] when he writes: “In some places, as in the region of Württemberg, as well as from time to time even here in Swabian churches, students of theology administer the sacraments.” This apparent contradiction with the earlier citation from Dannhauer is solved by the following text found in the Wittenberg Judgments: “In many Württemberg, Schwabish, Alsatian, and other highland churches of the Augsburg Confession, it is customary that such actiones sacrae (preaching, administering the sacraments, comforting the sick, burying) are committed to ordained students of theology who do not yet have a parish or place of their own as helpers of the regular clergy.” (“Does a Congregation Ordinarily Have the Right Temporarily to Commit an Essential Part of the Holy Preaching Office to a Layman?,” Logia, Vol. VI, No. 3 [Holy Trinity 1997], pp. 37-45 [translated by Mark D. Nispel]) (This essay was originally published [in three parts] in Lehre und Wehre [edited by C. F. W. Walther], Vol. 20, Nos. 9, 11, and 12 [Sept., Nov., and Dec. 1874].)

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Very illuminating and significant is the treatment in Pastor E. W. Kaehler’s 1874 theses... 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. (Kurt E. Marquart, The Church and Her Fellowship, Ministry, and Governance [Fort Wayne, Indiana: The International Foundation for Lutheran Confessional Research, corrected edition 1995], p. 144)

...applied to the ministry, ...the “wide/narrow” dichotomy can make very good sense. I refer to the important and incisive theses of 1874 by the great Luther scholar and editor, Pastor E. W. Kaehler. ...the “public ministry” in the narrow sense is the preach-and-sacraments office (Predigtamt) itself, and in the wide sense it is that Gospel-ministry plus auxiliary offices like that of deacon/deaconess (Acts 6:2-4; Rom. 16:1). Deacons, parish school teachers, and the like, certainly belong to the church’s “public ministry,” in that they are not simply private volunteers; but they do not by virtue of their office have the right and duty to preach and administer the holy sacraments. They are not “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1), ministers in the strict and narrow sense of the one God-given Gospel-ministry. (Kurt E. Marquart, “The Ministry, Confessionally Speaking,” in The Office of the Holy Ministry [Crestwood, Missouri: Luther Academy, 1996], pp. 18-19)



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