If faithful Athanasius in his day had been content to proclaim his doctrine that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father in eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, and if he had not at the same time vigorously attacked Arius and the Arians, who denied this doctrine, he would undoubtedly have finished his life in honor and pleasant peace, for he was a highly gifted man.

Had Luther followed the example of Staupitz of quietly teaching the pure Gospel to his brother monks without at the same time attacking the abominations of the Papacy with great earnestness, not a finger would have been raised against him.

For even before Luther’s day there had been monks who had come to understand the Gospel and made no secret of their knowledge, but they did not come out in public to fight against the errors of the Papacy. Accordingly they were allowed to live in peace and quiet as long as they held to the core point in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope.

Worldly men and all false Christians cannot but attack those who teach a faith and doctrine different from theirs and to regard them as disturbers of the peace, as peace-hating, quarrelsome, and malicious men. These unfortunate people have no idea of the blindness which enshrouds them. They do not know how gladly the boldest champions of Christ would have kept peace with all men, how much they would have preferred to keep silent, how hard it was for their flesh and blood to come out in public and become targets for the hatred, enmity, vilification, scorn, and persecution of men.

However, they could not but confess the truth and at the same time oppose error. Their conscience constrained them to do this because such conduct was required of them by the Word of God. They remembered that Jesus Christ had said to His disciples not only, “You are the light of the world,” but also, “You are the salt of the earth.” That is, you are not only to proclaim the truth, but you are also to salt the world that is full of sins and errors.

You are to sprinkle sharp salt on the world to prevent its corruption. They remembered that Christ had distinctly said in Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Not as though the Lord took pleasure in wars that destroyed peace. It is not as though He had come into the world to start dissensions and discord among men, but He means to say, “My doctrine is of such a nature that, if it is properly proclaimed, in its thesis and antithesis, peace among men cannot possibly be preserved.

For as soon as My Word is proclaimed men will divide into two camps. Some will receive it with joy while others will be offended by it and will begin to hate and persecute those who receive it.” Moreover, pastors of the right character remember that the Church is not a kingdom that can be built up in peace because it is located within the domain of the devil, who is the prince of this world. Accordingly, the Church has no choice but to be at war.

It is ecclesia militans, the Church Militant, and will remain such until the blessed end. Wherever a Church appears to be not ecclesia militans, (Church Militant) but ecclesia quiescens, (Church at Peace), it is a false Church. Moreover, an honest pastor knows that he is also a shepherd. Of what use, however, is a shepherd who leads the sheep to good pasture but flees when he sees the wolf coming? The occasion that is to test his caliber is when he must go to meet the wolf that wants to devour the sheep.

That means to fight for the kingdom of God. Lastly, an honest pastor knows that he is to be a regular sower of seed. Of what use is it for him to sow good seed and then to look on while another sows the tares of false doctrine among his wheat? Soon the tares will outstrip the wheat and choke it. Keep these facts stored up in your memory, my dear friends.

If you wish to be faithful ministers of Christ, you cannot possibly become such without striving and fighting against false doctrines, a false gospel, and false belief. In the view of worldly men your kind will not be particularly enviable. Even wise Sirach says, “If you come to serve the Lord, prepare your soul for temptation.” He means to say: It is impossible for you to escape affliction if you wish to be a faithful servant of God.

Anyone who is without affliction may be ever so zealous about fulfilling the duties of his office, yet his zeal is nevertheless not of the right sort. Where there is genuine zeal, there is not only planting and building going on, but the workmen also have the sword girded about them and are going out to wage the wars of the Lord. Let this be your slogan: Here men’s scorn and frown, Yonder glory’s crown; Here I’m hoping and believing, There I’m having and perceiving; For we reach our crown Through men’s scorn and frown. Let this slogan be at the same time your comfort.

For, as I have said, your cause will be rejected as evil. So ignore any view that people would express in opposition to your teaching. Doing this will let your cause shine with even greater luster in heaven. On the Last Day God will say to you the words of Matthew 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Then will come the times of your refreshing, when you will have quit this wicked world and the association of false Christians who have shamefully vilified your best endeavors, calling them the worst abominations.

Then your Lord Jesus will say to you, “Well done! You were right. You did not look for ease and comfort. You only strove faithfully to keep what was entrusted to you.” But remember that when errors are hidden, they are all the more harmful. It is therefore necessary that they be dragged into the light and fought.

C.F.W. Walther

End notes:

[1] C.F.W. Walther (2011-12-29T05:00:00+00:00). The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel (Kindle Locations 5255-5302). Pirate Christian Media. Kindle Edition.

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