Purity Of Doctrine
The following meditation is taken from the book Law & Gospel: How To Read And Apply The Bible, by C. F. W. Walther. Walther was a Lutheran scholar who lived and taught in the nineteenth century (1811 – 1887). He was born in Germany and came to the United States as a young man along with 700 other Lutherans who desired to worship the Lord away from the liberal and rationalist influences that had inundated the churches and seminaries in Germany. He was one of the key founders of the Missouri Synod in Saint Louis.
Law & Gospel was a series of Friday evening lectures that he delivered to seminary students between September 12, 1884, and November 6, 1885. Walther was a brilliant scholar with a passion for orthodox truth and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was a strong defender of the purity of biblical truth. He believed that after the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, the importance of being able to distinguish between law and gospel is most important in the believer’s life.
[Law & Gospel is published by Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, 2010].
From Thesis 1; Second Lecture – Pages 17 – 18:
“A person may pretend to be a Christian though in reality he is not. As long as he is in this condition, he is quite content with his knowledge of the mere outlines of Christian doctrine. Everything beyond that, he says, is for pastors and theologians. To understand as clearly as possible everything that God has revealed – all of that is irrelevant for non-Christians. However, the moment someone becomes a Christian, there arises in him a keen desire for the doctrine of Christ. If they have not yet been converted, at the moment of their conversion even the most uncultured peasants are suddenly awakened and begin to reflect on God and heaven, salvation and damnation, etc. They start to wonder about the deepest problems of human life.
Just take the Jews who flocked to Christ – or the apostles. All those people heard Christ with great joy and were astonished because He preached with authority – in contrast to the scribes. But the majority of those hearers never advanced beyond a certain feeling of delight and admiration. The apostles, too, were uneducated people, but they acted differently. They did not stop where the rest stopped but posed all kinds of questions to Christ. After hearing one of His parables, they said, ‘Explain to us the parable’ (Matthew 13:36). The conduct of the Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11) was similar. It is, therefore, quite true what the Apology says: ‘Men of good conscience are crying for the truth and proper instruction from the Word of God. Even death is not as bitter to them as when they find themselves in doubt regarding this matter or that. Accordingly, they must seek where they can find instruction’ (Muller, p. 191).
Striving to obtain truth and divine assurance is a necessary requirement even of an ordinary Christian. However, with a theologian this is even more so the case. A theologian who does not have the greatest interest in Christian doctrines would be unthinkable. Even someone with only a budding faith in his heart regards even the smallest point as of great importance. To such a one every doctrine is as precious as gold, silver, or gems. God grant that this may be true for you too! If it is, you will not come in a self-satisfied manner to these lectures but will ask over and over, ‘What is truth?’ – not in the spirit of Pilate, but like Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet and listened raptly to every word He spoke. Then, too, every one of these lectures will be of great blessing to you, even though the instrument through which the truth is to be conveyed to you is inferior.”
The Puritans adamantly maintained that a true believer in Christ hungers for gospel truth. The Apostle Peter said “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure…” We need to search our own hearts and ascertain the level of interest and desire we have to study and live God’s Word. I hope that this can be a regular practice for all of us.