Posted by: Johnold Strey | October 27, 2010

So as not to be misunderstood

I came across these words today from C.F.W. Walther during my devotional reading time today.  Walther’s words are quite self-explanatory, and I’ll let his words speak for themselves, but pastors and church musicians would do well to apply Walther’s standard to preaching and to musical texts used in worship, lest we give an inadvertent pass on unbiblical theology that we never meant to condone in the first place.  We communicate in worship not only so that we are understood correctly; we must communicate so as not to be misunderstood.  Here is Walther in his own words:

[A] point [that pastors] should bear in mind when writing your sermons is not to say anything that might be misunderstood.  For instance, the following statement could be misunderstood: “Anyone sinning deliberately and knowingly will fall from grace.”  For even true Christians occasionally sin with intent and knowledge, namely, when sin attacks them deep inside or externally.

Such sins are called hasty sins.  Some people are hot-tempered, even though they are otherwise kindhearted.  Something crosses their path, and they suddenly boil over with angry words.  This is when the Spirit of God rebukes them: “Look what a miserable creature you are!” and then they ask God’s forgiveness.  To be fair, in any case, a Christian who sins intentionally most certainly grieves the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit does not want to take part in that activity.  This is why you must tell the people: “You are walking on dangerous ground.  The Holy Spirit will withdraw from you, and instead of making progress in your Christianity, you will be thrown back.  If you do not repent and remain genuinely penitent, this sin may be your ruin.”

This statement, too, could be misunderstood: “Good works are not necessary.  Only faith is necessary.”  Rather, it would be correct to say, “Good works are not necessary to obtain salvation.”  But I cannot remain on the road to heaven if I am not doing any good works.  Besides, God has certainly commanded good works.  He wills us to do good works.

The following statement, too, could be misunderstood: “Sin does not harm a Christian.”  True, a sin committed because of the weakness of the flesh does not immediately put you on God’s blacklist.  Nevertheless, it does harm you.  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” says Paul [Romans 8:1].  But he does not say, “There is nothing sinful in them.”  In a nutshell, you cannot be too careful in your preaching.

-C.F.W. Walther, Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible

page 62, emphasis in original

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