Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pastors are but humble and obedient servants of the mysteries of God.

Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (First Corinthians 4:1)

What are the mysteries of God? Even a little study into the writings of St. Paul will show that these mysteries are nothing else than God's own Word and the Holy Sacraments. But why are they called mysteries? Very simple – God is God, and we are not. Therefore, the things of God are, by nature, mysteries to us. And, as Believers, we wouldn’t want it any other way!

What a wonderful mystery is the Word of God. There is most certainly something mysterious about the process of divine inspiration which produced it. On top of which the precious Gospel itself which it reveals to us is the greatest and most sublime of all mysteries. That God reconciled us poor lowly sinners to Himself, only by His grace, which we apprehend only by faith, which in turn comes only by that self-same Word and the Sacraments; this is a great miracle, and just as great a mystery.

And how mysterious is the manner by which the Holy Spirit uses it as his tool to operate on men's hearts, to bring them to faith, to regenerate them and make them children of God. When we behold the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, must we not all stand in amazement and cry with Nicodemus, “Lord, how can these things be?” (John 3:9)

And look for a moment at the beautiful Holy Sacrament of Baptism, that it is truly and always a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration; what a marvelous mystery. That a few words and a few drops of water bring grace, faith, forgiveness, power, and eternal life can only be anything but a mystery to us mere mortals.

Equally so the Lord's Supper, that in, with, and under the bread and wine Christ gives us His very true and real Body and Blood to eat and to drink, and thereby gives us not only a pledge of forgiveness, but the actual remission of all our sins, the strength to live for Him, and the sure and certain seal of our own personal eternal salvation. Really and truly, what a comforting and heavenly mystery! And comfort that our Savior certainly wills that we enjoy on every Lord's Day and indeed whenever His brothers and sisters gather to enjoy the feasts of His grace.

The same is true of that which our confessions call the sacrament of penance, but which has fallen on hard times among us – private confession and absolution. What peace, solace, and inner joy is found when the Pastor looks directly into the tearing eyes of a sorrowing sinner and proclaims at the command of Christ his Lord's own words, "Son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:5) Let this wonderful mystery of God be found among us ever more as the times of this evil world wax late, and Believers need more and more weapons against sin and despair.

The Minister of the Gospel is to be the caretaker, dispenser, and yes, steward of all these mysteries of God. And a steward is nothing more or less than a servant who is placed over the goods of his master; and he is to administer these goods, not according to his own plans and wishes, but strictly in accordance with the instructions of his Master. How much more so for Ministers of the Gospel, who have the immeasurable treasures of the Means of Grace to dispense according to God’s will?!

This makes the work of the minister – the Pastor – very clear, plain, and easy to identify, does it not? He is to be nothing but a servant and steward of the mysteries of God. He is to preach and teach all the Words of God in no other way but in all their truth and purity, and administer the Holy Sacraments in no other manner than according to the institution and command of Jesus Christ – period! In doing this he is also to protect, defend, guard, and cherish the mysteries of God with nothing less than every thought of his brain, every word of his mouth, and every sinew of muscle, and drop of blood in his body. He is to be not only zealous, but jealous for the riches with which the LORD God has entrusted him, and administer them strictly according to the instructions which he has received from his Master.

This is what – and only what – we MUST expect, nay, demand, from all historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran Pastors! We must demand that each and every one of them – all those who have taken their oath of Ordination upon the beloved Holy Scriptures and the honored Book of Concord – do nothing except preach and teach the mysteries of God – the Means of His Grace!

Let them stand in their pulpits Sunday after Sunday after Sunday and proclaim only the unfiltered Word of God in sermons wrenched with blood, sweat, and tears from long hours of study in the Bible. Let the words of the great apostle Paul be their constant refrain, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2) Believers today are no different in essence from those of Paul's day. They do not need "how to" sermons, funny stories, tales of the rich and famous, or to hear "me, myself, and I" from their preachers. They need to see and hear Jesus!

Let them gather the children about them regularly and teach them the Word of God from the Small Catechism, and guide and assist their parents to do the same. Our children do not need games, movies, toys, silly songs, and story-times; they get more than enough of those things from the world. They need the simple yet profound truths that our dear Father Martin taught his own children, and toiled to pass on to future generations.

Let them visit the sick – in both mind and body – faithfully, for no other purpose than to bring them the admonitions and the comfort of the Word of God, and the soothing and strengthening medicine of the Lord’s Supper. The sick do not need psychologists, counselors, and mental therapists; what they need are real Pastors!

Let them attend to the wandering and erring of their folds, and bring them the earnest rebukes and stern warnings of God's Word; to hold the Word of God before them as a lamp to guide them back again to the paths of truth and righteousness. Delinquents do not need bribes, plays, pageants, choirs, or potlucks; they do need a swift, sure, and well-placed jolt in their spiritual backside from the servant of the Almighty!

Let them go out and about their communities to those who are avoiding or even attacking Christ’s Church, to bring the warnings and chastisements of God's Word to bear upon their hard heads and cold hearts, in order to bring them into the house of God. The slackers and unbelievers do not need “seeker services,” “friendship Sundays,” nametags, happy-clappy singing, loosey-goosey, undignified, disorderly worship, and “casual” Pastors. What they do need is to hear that “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”(Heb.10:31) and also “The Blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”(I Jn.1:7)

We should not, we cannot, we must not expect anything else of our Pastors, our Ministers of the Gospel, our Servants of God's Mysteries, than these simple, yet profound, and yes often difficult and laborious tasks – and we Pastors must expect nothing less from ourselves and each other!

Let us be stewards of the mysteries of God, bond-servants of Christ's Church, and co-workers with Jesus. This and nothing more, for this is more than enough!

Pastor Spencer

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

On a recent Lutheran blog a WELS member tells of how he was, in essence, excommunicated. (refused the Lord's supper)

Why? Because he argued that "It is wrong to preach that one's sins are forgiven before they were born. "

Do Intrepid Lutherans believe that all sins are forgiven before you believe? Do you believe there is forgiveness before repentance?

It is time for this website to go beyond innocuous (albeit interesting) posts. The problems in the WELS need to be specifically and pointedly addressed. Doing the right thing most often requires rocking the boat.

And you're here to do the right thing.

James Danielson

Rev. Paul Rydecki said...

I'll speak for myself, but it's the same thing we've stated all along (especially last year when we discussed justification in depth).

Forgiveness of sins was acquired for all people of all times by the suffering and death of Christ. God truly desires all men to receive this forgiveness. This forgiveness is distributed by God in the means of grace, and is received by faith, created by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. The one who believes in Christ believes because the Holy Spirit worked faith in his heart through those means, and that one is said to have the forgiveness of sins. The one who does not believe in God's Son is alone at fault for his unbelief, and is counted among the wicked, and his sins are not forgiven him.

We must follow Luther in distinguishing between forgiveness acquired and forgiveness distributed. Was forgiveness acquired before repentance? Yes. This is the completed work of redemption. Is forgiveness distributed before repentance? That's a confusing and bad question. Better: Is forgiveness distributed apart from the means of grace? No, it is most certainly not. This belongs to the Third Article of the Creed and to the work of the Holy Spirit, who richly and daily forgives sins to me and all believers in Christ.

Anonymous said...

Well, which ever way you put it, Either You or Pastor Patterson are at odds with WELS doctrine--you've taken opposing positions on the topic. Maybe you could write him to request an Intrepid debate? That would be fascinating.

I'm truly not trying to be inflammatory here, but with all humility it seems that Pastor Patterson, and not you, is in agreement with the WELS' statements of Belief. "This We Believe" says quite clearly that "God has justified all sinners". But you and the Lutheran Confessions contradict "This we believe" by saying that forgiveness isn't distributed without the Means of Grace.

I should think that if the WELS, collectively, is one Church, you and every Pastor who believes like you should be up in arms that a fellow Christian was excommunicated for professing Orthodoxy! After all, don't you, having been given spiritual authority, have a bit more riding on this than the average layman?
The Office of the Keys is a pretty final thing. Pastor Patterson, in effect, in telling Joe Krohn that he is impenitent and therefore is unforgiven and therefore bound for Hell--all because Joe professed Justification By Faith.

Maybe I'm incorrect to believe this, but I think that spiritual leaders will be held accountable by God for other spiritual leaders to whom they gave credence--even if it be passive credence. I should think you'd be concerned for yourself about giving Patterson a passive nod of approval by remaining silent.

Where is the Condemnation?? And if you don't believe "This We Believe" then where's the condemnation?

James Danielson

Rev. Paul Rydecki said...

James,

I don't know Pr. Patterson, nor have I spent any amount of time listening to his sermons or reading things he's written, and a soundbyte phrase or excerpt from a letter is not enough for me to condemn anyone - either Joe or his pastors. I've only skimmed a few things Joe K. has written on the matter, and am in no position to know what all is going on over there.

LutherRocks said...

Pastor...you are surely welcome to read my blog on the matter. There is a good amount of documentation and I think I chronicled pretty well. I have a three plus minute clip of the declaration in context I can send as an mp3 to you if you like...

Joe

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