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The most important resolution a person can make by the almighty grace of God is to become a true Christian. Yet this resolution cannot make him truly happy and save his soul if he is not in full earnest when forming this resolution. Many thousands have resolved to quit the world body and soul and to choose the narrow path of the children of God.
Many thousands have been tormented with uncertainty day and night as to whether they were in a state of grace, whether they were accepted by God as His dear children, and whether their sins were forgiven. What has been the outcome? The majority of those who had formed this resolution did not carry it out. They postponed the execution days, weeks, months, years.
Forming the resolution is as far as they got. Finally death overtook them, and they were lost forever. Why was this? They were not in earnest when forming their resolution. True, God is so patient, kind, and gracious as to forgive Christians their sins of weakness and frailties daily and richly. But He does this only to those who are really in earnest about being Christians.
When this earnestness is lacking, a person is not a true Christian. Now, a situation similar to this obtains when a person resolves to become a servant of Christ, a minister of the Church of Christ and His Word. This, too, is a momentous resolution, but a gratifying one only when backed by earnest endeavor.
All that I possess, my body and my soul, my strength and my gifts, and all that I do, my entire life, shall be consecrated to Thee, to Thee alone. Lay on me any burden Thou pleasest, I shall gladly bear it. Lead the way, and I shall follow. He relates himself that, when he had received the divine call to go and preach the Gospel of Christ among the heathen, he conferred not with flesh and blood, Gal. Blessed Paul! His activity was favored with success beyond telling. And now he is with God; he has beheld his Savior face to face for more than eighteen hundred years and is praising and magnifying Him world without end.
O my dear friends, I know, you are all resolved to enter the holy ministry, in which you intend to serve Christ and His Church by preaching His saving Word. Oh, be in full earnest about it! If not, your resolution will come to naught. If God has tried to lead you to this resolve at an early time, but you refused to follow Him and stifled the voice of the Holy Spirit in your hearts, all those blessed moments of prompting from God will bear testimony against you at His throne. On the other hand, you are blessed men if you have carried out your resolution.
You will never complain about the heartache and anguish and distress through which you had to pass. You will rather be full of joy on the day when the Lord will place His hand, with the nail-prints, on you and put the crown of glory on your head. Now, then, what is your chief task when about to enter the sacred ministry? You are to proclaim to a world of sinners both Law and Gospel. You are to do this clearly, perfectly, and with a fervent spirit.
This reflection leads us to the consideration of :. In the second place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is not preached in its full sternness and the Gospel not in its full sweetness, when, on the contrary, Gospel elements are mingled with the Law and Law elements with the Gospel.
Our object is to meditate upon the distinction between Law and Gospel, and on the ever-present danger and harm of mingling the one with the other. In our last lecture we began our review of the various occasions on which this danger confronts us. However, the commingling of both doctrines occurs also when Gospel elements are mingled with the Law, and vice versa.
Let us investigate what Scripture says regarding this matter. To begin with, what does it say concerning the Law? How does it show us that we must not mingle any evangelical ingredient into the Law? The principal passage yielding us the desired information is Gal. And the Law is not of faith; but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
A precious text! A person becomes righteous in the sight of God solely by faith. What conclusion must be drawn from this fact? This, that the Law cannot make any person righteous because it has not a word to say about justifying and saving faith. That information is found only in the Gospel.
In other words, the Law has nothing to say about grace. Faith is demanded of us, not in order that there might be at least some little work that we are to do, as otherwise there would be no difference between those who go to hell and those who go to heaven.
No; righteousness is of faith in order that it may be of grace. Both statements are identical. Suppose a person had never heard a word concerning faith and, on being told the Gospel, would rejoice, accept it, put his confidence in it, and draw comfort from it, that person would have the true, genuine faith, although he may not have heard a word concerning faith.
No Gospel element, then, must be mingled with the Law. Any one expounding the Law shamefully perverts it by injecting into it grace, the grace, lovingkindness, and patience of God, who forgives sin. He acts like a sick-nurse, who fetches sugar to sweeten the bitter medicine, which the patient dislikes. What is the result? Why, the medicine does not take effect, and the patient remains feverish.
In order that it might retain its strength the medicine should not have been sweetened. A preacher must proclaim the Law in such a manner that there remains in it nothing pleasant to lost and condemned sinners. Every sweet ingredient injected into the Law is poison; it renders this heavenly medicine ineffective, neutralizes its operation.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the. Law till all be fulfilled. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
When preaching the Law, you must ever bear in mind that the Law makes no concessions. That is utterly beside the character of the Law; it only makes demands. Do what you can in your weakness; only be sincere in your intention! God never spoke like that from Sinai. When a minister preaches the Law, he must by all means bear in mind that the Law is spiritual; it works on the spirit, not on some member of the body; it is directed to the spirit in man, to his will, heart, and affections.
That is the way it operates in every instance. A sermon on the Law which you deliver from your pulpit, to be a proper preaching of the Law, must measure up to these requirements: There is to be no ranting about abominable vices that may be rampant in the congregation.
Continual ranting will prove useless. People may quit the practises that have been reproved, but in two weeks they will have relapsed into their old ways. You might go to perdition for all that. God is concerned about the attitude of your heart. Let me illustrate.
Do not think that you have kept the Fifth Commandment if you have refrained from such outward acts. By no means; the Law aims at the heart, at the spirit in man. You must explain this matter to them quite thoroughly. If you do this, you will be handling a sharp knife that cuts into the life of people, and your hearers will go home dazed.
I shall have to become a different person. God does not tell you to preach the Law in order thereby to make men godly. The Law makes no one godly; but when it begins to produce its proper effects, the person who is feeling its power begins to fume and rage against God.
He hates the preacher who has shouted the Law into his heart, and he feels that he cannot slip off its coils. Why, that preacher strikes terror into my soul.
I prefer to attend the services of the Rev. He makes you feel good. While listening to him, you discover what a good man you really are. There was nothing pleasant, nothing comforting, at Sinai. On the previous day, Moses had announced to the people that God was going to come to them. He did come with thunder and lightning. At early dawn a terrible tempest swept up from the horizon. Finally, the mountain began to quake, and the people were thrown into a still greater fright by this trembling of the mountain.
Flames of fire shot skyward; dense clouds of smoke began to form. Suddenly a loud trumpet began to blare terribly, hurling its echoes like thunderclaps through the valleys that start from the sides of mountain and causing every one to shake with dread.
But the climax of this terrible phenomenon came when the people heard the voice of Jehovah reciting to them the Ten Commandments with their regular refrain of Thou shalt! Thou shalt! Everywhere in the camp of Israel people went to pieces from dread and fright.
Do you think that the coming of this terrible tempest just on that day was an accident?
Before you continue ...
Robert W. Bertram, Paul G. Bretscher, Albert G. Huegli, O. Kretzmann, Edward H. Schroeder, John Streitelmeier.
C.F.W. Walther On Law and Gospel Toward a Revival of Lutheran Hermeneutics