Dear Saints of Grace congregation,
The study of errancy (and condemning error) can make people uncomfortable. This is understood because many might believe that anyone who points out error (or condemns error) is simply being pharisaical (carrying a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude). So, a question that might come about is: “Who would want to attach themselves to such intolerance, such exclusivism, such a sectarian mindset?”
Sadly, though, other thoughts and accusations can be conceived (and spread) which are hurtful and do harm to that which is actually a good and blessed fight for truth. Many at Grace might be speaking or even thinking this way; or they are hearing others speak this way about those who are fighting the good fight for truth. To them I would hope that you would either:
- Correct them by telling them that the fight for truth needs to take place for the hollowing of God’s name and love of our neighbor.
- Simply close your ears and silently walk away or not add to or seem to agree with their words. As hard as it may be, Holy Scripture exhorts (and moves) Christians to carry out the first of these options.
For the next few months I will be supplying quotes from historic Lutherans who teach and encourage the important understanding of fighting for truth. The first of these encouraging words come from C.F.W. Walther. It is a section of a sermon for the 8th Sunday after Trinity; based on Matthew 7:15-23, in which Christ warns: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.” I hope his words (and the words to come in the following months) give you time to meditate upon the importance of standing for truth.
Walther preached the following:
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
God's Church on earth has always been a militant Church. She has always been oppressed and persecuted by the world and its mighty; even within the Church herself men have continually arisen, who have spread false doctrine, obtained a following, and thus harassed the Church, causing division and offense. In the Church of Adam was self-righteous Cain; in the Church of Noah, Ham who despised his father; in the Church of Abraham, the mocker Ishmael; in the Church of the prophets many false prophets who preached and the Lord had not sent them, who falsely comforted the people and misled them into idolatry. Almost everywhere even in the apostolic Church where the Gospel was preached arose heretics who caused splits, yes, often destroyed whole flourishing congregations. St. Paul classes among those especially Alexander the silversmith, Hymenaeus, and Philetus. St. John names the entire sect of the Nicolaitans. Thus it has continued until this very day.
Wherever the pure Gospel has sounded gainsayers have been found. Satan could never allow the Church to possess its heavenly treasures in peace. The Church has therefore continually used the Word of God not only as its soul's pasture but also as a weapon with which to battle unceasingly against false teachers. If the Church ceases struggling, it can no longer remain a Church, for as the spring sun awakens the noxious insects at the same time as the sprouting seed, so is Satan ever awakened at the blessed preaching of the Word of God. He tries to sow his tares among the wheat to smother the wheat.
Do we ask: Why does God permit his flock not only to be pastured by his shepherds but also attacked by wolves, who disguise themselves as shepherds in order to seize the sheep on the sly and tear them? God could prevent this; why doesn't he do it? God's Word mentions two reasons particularly. God permits it partly to test his children, partly to punish unthankful hearers. St. Paul says to the Corinthians: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (I Cor. 11:19).
If the treasure of the pure doctrine would not be attacked, it never would become really clear to what one should hold fast. But if false preachers appear, it will become clear who is faithful to the pure Word; the faith of the upright is then tested and proven. If the pure doctrine would never be attacked, Christians would soon become lazy, lax, and indifferent; but the more apparent the deviations of others from God's Word are, the more Christians are driven to search it earnestly and note every word attentively.
The more false teachers attack an honest teacher, the more exactly he must search everything; the more he grows in divine knowledge and certainty. Heretics are nothing else than the whetstone of the Church, whereby she learns to use the Sword of the Spirit with increasing expertness. God's hand knows how to turn the evil into good.
Then, too, God often executes his severest judgments through false teachers. He may give a land or a Church faithful servants for a long time. If they think little of their pure preaching, if they don't thank God for it, if they think more highly of earthly treasures than the pure Word and Sacrament, if they are ashamed of the pure doctrine, if they want to do nothing to maintain the office of the pure ministry, if they hear God's Word with a sleepy heart and finally learn to despise it completely, God then allows such thankless scholars to lose the heavenly treasure.
They who had despised the bread of the divine Word should now be fed with the stone of the powerless doctrine of men. Thus St. Paul says of the Christians of the last times: "Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." (2 Thess. 2:10.11).
My dearly beloved hearers, do not despise being able to hear the pure Word of God each and every Sunday. I know I do not preach to you the thoughts of my heart, but God's counsel for your salvation. I preach what is revealed in God's Word and repeated, explained, and confessed in the Confessions of the orthodox Church. I know that if you will take to heart and guard what I preach to you, you will be saved.
In carrying out the duties of my office, I should not only powerfully admonish you through sound doctrine but also reprove the gainsayers. It is my duty not only to lead you on the pasture of the Gospel but also to warn you against false teachers.
In honor of the month of in which we celebrate the Reformation of the Church, next month I will supply to you words from The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther.
With you IN Christ Jesus,