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Walther on Epiphany 3 – Matthew 8:1-13

by pastorjuhl ~ January 17th, 2011

I commend C.F.W. Walther’s Gospel Postil sermon to you. The theme is “The Heterodox Also Have Upright Disciples of Christ”. If you have God Grant It from CPH, the devotions for Sunday and Monday of Epiphany 3 are from this sermon. Here are some other quotes.
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Our Lutheran forefathers most decidedly rejected and condemned all false doctrine, falsification of the truth, and deviation from God’s Word; yet they have just as decidedly also confessed that many pious people, many upright children of God and disciples of Christ are to be found among the heterodox. This important truth is well worth remembering.

Although the centurion most keenly recognized his unworthiness, he does not doubt that Christ’s goodness would be greater than his sins. Bear also in mind: the centurion was certain that Christ could help even from a distance; he would not have to see and speak to his sick servant. Yes, still more: he desired, as we hear, nothing more than a word from Christ’s mouth; that was sufficient. He believed with unshakable certainty that, since his own word accomplished so much, Christ’s word would do much more. Yes, at Christ’s word even sickness, death, and hell would have to flee in a moment. In short, nothing was impossible for him.

Christ says of the Pharisees who nevertheless taught much error along with the Word of God, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do” (Matthew 23:2-3). If therefore also much error is taught among the sects and the Word of God is preached only in part, nevertheless that which is God’s Word retains its divine, enlightening, awakening, converting, comforting power. If only the principle part of the Law is preached along with many errors concerning the Law, it nevertheless remains a thunder which awakens sleeping souls, a hammer which smashes stony hearts. If only the most important part of the sweet Gospel is preached with much false doctrine, it nevertheless remains the heavenly dew which refreshes frightened sinners and instills in them confidence in God’s mercy.

And so it also is with the Sacraments. If Holy Baptism is administered according to Christ’s institution among those who deem it a powerless ceremony, it remains a baptism, a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. If he is baptized he will be taken up into God’s covenant of grace and be reborn a child of God and become an heir of eternal life as long as he believes it. And if they administer the Last Supper according to Christ’s institution, the guests eat of his body and drink of his blood. He strengthens all believers in their faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, and all the fruits of his suffering and death.

As certainly as among the sects the Word of God, insofar as it is still preached among them, and the Sacraments, insofar as they are administered according to Christ’s ordinance, retain their power, so certainly are there also upright disciples of Christ among them. Yes, the greater the temptation of being destroyed by the poison of false doctrine and letting oneself be torn from the rock of salvation, so much the more noble must those souls be who do not surrender the foundation of salvation. For that reason Luther calls those believers languishing under the tyranny of the Roman antichrist “the true patterns of the Christian Church and much more pious than great saints.”

Wherever the voice of the Gospel has reached, there, according to his promise, the heavenly Word has not returned void. It has won souls for Christ. Wherever Holy Baptism is administered according to the Gospel, the doors of the kingdom of grace have opened and thousands and millions have entered in. Not only in one corner of the earth does Christ have his spiritual temple. The field where he sows the seed of his Word is the whole world. Everywhere he has his true believers. even in the midst of spiritually proud enthusiasts Christ has his humble pupils; even in the midst of the self-righteous monks Christ has his souls hungry for grace; even in the midst of a wicked Sodom Christ has his believing, righteous Lot; even in the midst of his enemies Christ has his friends; in short, I repeat, even in the midst of the sects Christ has his true disciples.

Let us bear in mind that we who possess the pure evangelical teaching and the unadulterated Sacraments have a great advantage over those who had error preached to and impressed upon them from their youth. Let us not think that it is enough to remain in the true Church only in name and only have the pure doctrine, diligently hear it, approve of it, and praise it. Ah no; let us bear in mind that to whom much is given much shall be required. The purer our doctrine is the more highly let us esteem it, the more zealously let us hold fast to it, the more carefully let us guard ourselves against false doctrine. The richer our comfort which is explained to us from the Gospel the more faithful let us be in the faith. The greater the spiritual benefits which God gives us the more ardent let us be in our love, and so much the more let us do good works through which we show God our thankfulness. Yes, if we are children of the kingdom here, happy will we be, when we do not walk as children of this world but as children of the kingdom. Some day we will not be cast out but will be received into the kingdom of eternal glory. That grant us, Jesus Christ, praised to eternity. Amen.

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