A letter from C.F.W. Walther to
Pastor Ottesen of the Norwegian Synod, as given in Walther Speaks to the
Church, Selected Letters by C.F.W. Walther, edited by Carl S. Meyer,
Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis London, 1973.
What Luther wishes to prove with 1 Cor. 14 in the
essay of 1523 remains true after as well as before. Luther teaches: The
Keys or the office belong originally and immediately [unmittelbar] to the
whole church, that is, to all believers. But God has established the
ordinance in the church that this office is to be administered publicly
only by those especially called to it, who are competent to teach, and who
now in a special sense by virtue of their office can in the name and
command or in the stead of Christ function publicly.
However, because the church originally has the office, every Christian can and should make use of this privilege, where His [God's] ordinance is not disrupted thereby, for example, among the heathen, or where necessity cancels the ordinance, e. g., when no pastor is available to baptize a dying child, or when a wolf opens his mouth in the church, every Christian then has the power, yes, the duty and the obligation to oppose him. This doctrine, which Rasmussen's practice condemns, pervades the entire Luther, and there is no statement of Luther's, either in his earlier or his later years, which would contradict it. Whether Luther based this doctrine at different times in various ways doesn't make any difference as far as the question is concerned. Granted that Luther's earlier explanation of 1 Cor. 14 is to be preferred to his later one, this would not alter the matter in the least; for in that writing he proves only that the office is no such monopoly for the tonsured [Beschorenen], that it could not be administered either among unbaptized heathen on in case of necessity also by a layman. But who denies this?
This is applicable then to Apollos, in whose case
there is also this circumstance, that he clearly possessed an immediate
enlightenment or, for all that, that he was furnished with extraordinary
gifts, which were peculiar only to the apostolic era. Only stupidity and
maliciousness can maintain that Spener had a different doctrine and
developed it in his tract on the spiritual priesthood.
Concerning students and candidates who also preach
occasionally, this example is a bad resource. For they preach for the very
purpose that the ordinance of the ministerial office be retained, not that
it be upset; their sermons are exercises, preparations, and examinations
for the purpose of future appointment and induction into the ministerial
office. They do this therefore not as laymen.... Besides that, their
sermons are first scrutinized and examined. They therewith cite [sistiren]
themselves, so to speak, for election by the church.
When the essay Kirke und Amt, page 24, says: "A
layman shall not presume to teach in the presence of bishops, except when
they themselves request it of him," this does not say there could not be
cases in which such a demand is justified. Who will deny that there could
be such cases! The question is whether such an arrangement might be made
according to which the pastor would grant the layman as a right
occasionally to teach the people publicly in his stead and to lead them
publicly in prayer, and when this is done customarily. Such action is so
absolutely diametrically opposed to the Scriptural doctrine of the office
(1 Cor. 12:29; Acts 6:4; Titus 1:5) and to Article XIV of the Augsburg
Confession, to all testimonies of pure teachers and against the constant
practice of our church, that we cannot comprehend how a person who is
otherwise grounded in God's Word and fairly well at home in the orthodox
church can for one moment be in confusion. To based such a matter on the
spiritual priesthood of Christians is nonsense, for if that procedure were
followed, nobody would have any reason to pay any attention to the calling
of the pastor [Herr Pfarrer]. Much less can such a procedure be based on a
special call, for the church cannot create a call according to its own
discretion but can issue only that call which God has instituted and which
He alone recognizes, not, however, through a human contract for a few
hours and days. Moreover, the matter cannot be founded, as is clear, on
the case of necessity.
May God give you good courage in your destined
struggle! While we must defend the rights of Christians principally
against hierarchy and priestly domination, to you it is perhaps ordained
to guard God's ordinance against Enthusiasm. Well, then, therefore in
God's name go at it with a will! Your foe is the devil, who often
surrounds himself with a halo. Therefore be confident and courageous! It
is, of course, a great honor to contend for the truth and to be allowed to
suffer disgrace. By all means, do not let yourself be beguiled by Satan to
infringe on the rights of Christians for the sake of the Enthusiasts. Keep
in mind, the way of true doctrine is narrow. God be eternally thanked that
we have behind us a whole cloud of witnesses! We want to join their train.
Shall we be victorious? Yea, as truly as the Lord liveth! The gates of
hell shall not overpower His church.
God have mercy on poor Rasmussen! It will be easy to dispose of the miserable General Synod people and their stupid impertinence. Naturally, it will cost blood. But as Luther writes about the spirit of the Anabaptists: "Let them preach boldly and briskly whatever they can and against whom they will; for, as I have said, there have to be sects, 1 Cor. 11:19, and the Word of God must take to the battlefield and fight. Because of that the evangelicals are called hosts, Ps. 68:11; and Christ, the Lord of hosts, in the prophets. If their spirit is right, he will not be afraid of us nor of anybody. Let the spirits clash against one another and strike. If meanwhile some will be deceived, well, then, that's the way it goes in warfare: where there is strife and fighting, there some must fall and be wounded. But whoever fights honorably will be crowned."
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