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What Luther Says

Church & Office: Walther's 'Thesis I - Concerning The Church'

One of the books I have the pleasure of owning and reading right now is C.F.W. Walther's The Church & The Office of The Ministry.

I'm told it's a classic work of Lutheran literature and it was recently released a few years ago as "A Study Edition" edited by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison (LCMS President) and, thankfully, I got my hands on a copy to add to my own growing personal Lutheran library.

It's an intimidating book just by looking at it though! Not the kind of thing you'd probably expect most laymen like us to be familiar with let alone have the stomach to read. Trust me, I thought twice before attempting to tackle this bad boy myself. If I remember correctly, even the Lutheran Pastor at my old church was unfamiliar with it (or at least did not have his own copy). Now, I share all of that not in some vain attempt to puff up with pride, or to even criticize, but to simply communicate that perhaps it is one of the more obscure works, especially here in the LCMS-Eastern District.

What I like most about it is that it's rich with our church's history and with theological "buzz words" (including some cool sounding German words too), and so even though it's a full 495 pages (if you count the Index), I know I'm going to be blessed mightily by reading it, because what I've read so far has already given me a deeper appreciation and understanding for Christ's Church as it exists here on earth under the "Lutheran" banner.

Besides, just because something's "hard" or "difficult" doesn't mean we should choose to ignore it, right? That would be to our great detriment I'm sure, especially since I'm finding that so much of what we're dealing with today as a church body has already happened and been dealt with in the past by our church fathers (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

In other words, not only is this book an excellent historical document, but it's also a powerful confessional resource that we can refer to again and again for guidance when it comes to fellowship with other believers, to congregational challenges, and to "church politics" let's say (at least, IMHO anyway).

If you want to get quickly caught up on where we've been in this series so far, then please click on any of the following links below, which are listed in the order that they appeared.

Church & Office: Preface -- Matthew C. Harrison

Church & Office: Preface To The First Edition (1852) -- C.F.W. Walther

Church & Office: Walther's Theses On The Church And The Office of The Ministry

Today, we'll be looking at Thesis I - Concerning The Church that Walther asserts. Remember, this book of his is actually split into two distinct but interrelated parts -- "Part One: Concerning The Church" and "Part Two: Concerning The Holy Preaching Office Or The Pastoral Office."

Each Part contains multiple "Theses" that Walther says are the Biblical truths about that aspect of Christianity. Then, after he lists them, he goes on to break them down for us in much greater detail citing Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and quoting other Lutherans to help support each Thesis.

First, what is a "Thesis" though? That's probably a good question for us to ask. Well, I think we can think of a "Thesis" as a sort of "Summary Statement" and so "Theses" (the plural form of the word) simply means "More Than One Summary Statement" we could say.

In this particular case, Part One would contain all the Theses (all the Summary Statements) that have to do with the Church itself and, therefore, Part Two would contain all the Theses (all the Summary Statements) that have to do with the Holy Preaching Office or the Pastoral Office specifically.

Again, separate and distinct, but obviously interrelated.

The intent with this series is for us to look at each Thesis for each of the two sections of the book (Part One and Part Two) that Walther intends to dissect for us so that we can better understand the Confessional Lutheran perspective and position that was established from the very beginning.

So, without further adieu, here is Thesis I - Concerning The Church, or Walther's first Thesis out of nine about the Church including some notes and observations of my own in response to this particular section...

Thesis I [Church Defined] 
"The Church in the proper sense of the word is the congregation of saints, that is, the entirety of all those who, called out of the lost and condemned human race by the Holy Spirit through the Word, truly believe in Christ and by faith are sanctified and incorporated in Christ." 
-- Harrison writes, "The Church is hidden, though it is no 'Platonic city' that exists only in someone's mind and that cannot be located. The Church is found where Christ and His Word are found. The Church is a holy Christian people. Those who are called, gathered, and enlightened by Christ's word of free grace and who truly believe are one with Christ and are the Church." 
-- Harrison writes, "There is enormous comfort in this teaching that all those who trust in the merits of Christ's cross are members of the Church and no one else. It allows us to confess with gusto that orthodox Lutheranism is by no means the sole saving instrument of God. It allows us to gladly and joyously recognize that there are true believers in Jesus, members of the Church, where only enough of His Word and Sacrament are available to create faith. The unity of the Church does not depend upon us but upon Christ and His gifts." 
-- Interesting that Gerhard notes in his Loci theologici, De ecclesia, 54 that, "We declare that catechumens, as also all others who are endowed with the true inward faith, are in the Church, even if they have not yet actually received Baptism"

Now, I know that this type of Book Review (where we take a doctrinally rich book like this one and break it down section by section) has a tendency to become rather academic and perhaps even tedious, but I hope that's not the case, and I hope that you find these observations of a humble Lutheran layman like me both edifying and educational.

It's just so refreshing to me that, in a day-and-age where everyone wants to avoid "difficult" and "messy" conversations about these sorts of things, Walther knew the importance of doctrine and he wasn't afraid to discuss and pursue unity in "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) rather than just assuming such unity was present.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, this is an important document for the LCMS Church and for those believers who are a part of it. It was important back then and it's still important today.

Please take the time to prayerfully consider its contents as they relate to God's Word and point us to Christ and a proper understanding of His Church and The Office of The Holy Ministry that He established for us.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 4 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with the Bible, our Confessions, and Lutheran doctrine in general (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can not only correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1), but repent of my sin and learn the truth myself. Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I will defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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