following citation, Luther, the revolutionary, explains why every Christian
is a priest by virtue of his baptism and that the only difference among
Christians is a matter of office. The
pastor only acts in place of the congregation because the congregation gives
the pastor the authority to
act in its place.
that any group of committed lay people has the God given right to form its
own congregation, and call and ordain its own pastor.
to use synodically approved pastors is a choice of the congregation.
At this time, many District Presidents are telling congregations they
should not call a pastor who is not on the District President's "call
list" for the congregation. In
other words, LCMS congregations are being pressured to call the District
President's "preferred pastors" even though every LCMS
congregation is supposed to have the right to call any LCMS pastor they
receives numerous complaints from LCMS lay people that their
are vacant while they must wait six months, a year, or longer while the
District President prepares a special list for the congregation. Too often,
the call list is more about Synodical politics than the congregation's right
to have a pastor.
is Luther's advice about a congregation's God given right to call and ordain
the pastor of its choice before there was a Missouri Synod.
Christian Nobility" June, 1520 By Martin Luther The Christian in
Society Vol. 44 Lutheran Works CPH
have very cleverly built three walls around themselves. Hitherto they have
protected themselves by these walls in such a way that no one has been able
to reform them. As a result, the whole of Christendom has fallen abominably.
In the first
place, when pressed by the temporal power they have made decrees and
declared that the temporal power had no jurisdiction over them, but that, on
the contrary, the spiritual power is above the temporal. In the second
place, when the attempt is made to reprove them with the Scriptures, they
raise the objection that only the pope may interpret the Scriptures. In the
third place, if threatened with a council, their story is that no one may
summon a council but the pope." (Luther's Works Vol. 44 Page 126) . . .
Let us begin by
attacking the first wall. It is pure invention that pope, bishop, priests,
and monks are called the spiritual estate while princes, lords, artisans,
and farmers are called the temporal estate. This is indeed a piece of deceit
and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimidated by it, and for this reason:
all Christians are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference
among them except that of office. Paul says in I Corinthians 12[:12-13] that
we are all one body, yet every member has its own work by which it serves
the others. This is because we
all have one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike;
for baptism, gospel, and faith alone make us spiritual and a Christian
The pope or
bishop anoints, shaves heads, ordains, consecrates, and prescribes garb
different from that of the laity, but he can never make a man into a
Christian or into a spiritual man by so doing. He might well make a man into
a hypocrite or a humbug and blockhead, but never a Christian or a spiritual
man. As far as that goes, we are all consecrated priests through baptism, as
St. Peter says in I Peter 2[:9], "You are a royal priesthood and a
priestly realm." The Apocalypse says, "Thou hast made us to be
priests and kings by thy blood" [Rev. 5:9-10]. The consecration by pope
or bishop would never make a priest, and if we had no higher consecration
than that which pope or bishop gives, no one could say mass or preach a
sermon or give absolution.
a bishop consecrates it is nothing else than that in the place and stead of
the whole community, all of whom have like power, he takes a person and
charges him to exercise this power on behalf of the others. It is like ten
brothers, all king's sons and equal heirs, choosing one of themselves to
rule the inheritance in the interests of all. In one sense they are all
kings and of equal power, and yet one of them is charged with the
responsibility of ruling. To put it still more dearly: suppose a group of
earnest Christian laymen were taken prisoner and set down in a desert
without an episcopally ordained priest among them. And suppose they were to
come to a common mind there and then in the desert and elect one of their
number, whether he were married or not, and charge him to baptize, say mass,
pronounce absolution, and preach the gospel. Such a man would be as truly a
priest as though he had been ordained by all the bishops and popes in the
world. That is why in cases of necessity anyone can baptize and give
absolution. This would be impossible if we were not all priests. Through
canon law the Romanists have almost destroyed and made unknown the wondrous
grace and authority of baptism and justification. In times gone by
Christians used to choose their bishops and priests in this way from among
their own number, and they were confirmed in their office by the other
bishops without all the fuss that goes on nowadays.
, Ambrose, and Cyprian each became
[a bishop in this way].
Since those who
exercise secular authority have been baptized with the same baptism, and
have the same faith and the same gospel as the rest of us, we must admit
that they are priests and bishops and we must regard their office as one,
which has a proper and useful place in the Christian community. For whoever
comes out of the water of baptism can boast that he is already a consecrated
priest, bishop, and pope, although of course it is not seemly that just
anybody should exercise such office. Because we are all priests of equal
standing, no one must push himself forward and take it upon himself, without
our consent and election, to do that for which we all have equal authority.
For no one dare take upon himself what is common to all without the
authority and consent of the community. And should it happen that a person
chosen for such office were deposed for abuse of trust, he would then be
exactly what he was before. Therefore, a priest in Christendom is nothing
else but an officeholder. As long as he holds office he takes precedence;
where he is deposed, he is a peasant or a townsman like anybody else.
priest is never a priest when he is deposed. But now the Romanists have
invented "characteres indelebiles" and say that a deposed priest
is nevertheless something different from a mere layman. They hold the
illusion that a priest can never be anything other than a priest, or ever
this is just contrived talk, and human regulation.
Vol. 44, page 127-128)