The LCMS Council of District Presidents (COP) has turned the LCMS into the
kind of church that C. F. W. Walther, the Synod’s first President, said
lay people should avoid.
The entire COP and the Synodical President claim that they hold the office
of Pastor. However, in the
newly revised Dispute Resolution Process, Resolution 801A, the COP exempts
itself from the same rules that are to govern parish pastors.
They have also made it impossible for laypeople to judge the doctrine and
practice and to file charges against any pastor, District President, or the
The following is part one of C. F. W. Walther’s sermon titled, “The
Sheep Judge Their Shepherds.” In
this sermon Walther shows from Scripture that God has given lay people the
right and the duty to judge the doctrine and practice of any pastor.
1. That the Sheep Are Judges.
Christ says in His sermon on the mount, where not
only disciples, but also a great multitude were present, "Beware of
false prophets… Ye shall know them by their fruits." This admonition
by the Son of God shows us plainly how entirely false the principle is that
the preachers should teach and the hearers only listen, that the shepherds
should lead and the sheep only follow, that the clergy should resolve and
the congregation only acquiesce.
All that is taught in the church of Christ concerns
our soul's salvation. In these matters no one shall be dependent upon some
other person. No one shall establish his faith upon another person. Each one
shall live in accordance with his own faith, and only by his faith be saved.
No other person can die for us, no other person can appear in our stead
before God. No other person can stand before his judgment seat in our place.
Everyone shall sometime answer to God for his own faith and his own life.
Then he will not be able to refer to another and say, "This one or that
one taught me thus and I have believed and followed him." No, in
matters which concern your soul, you shall not look with the eyes of another
person, but with your own eyes. If you permit yourself to be deceived, you
have deceived yourself. The responsibility is yours. God says, certainly,
that He will demand at the hand of the false teacher, the blood of those he
has led astray, but he says also that the deceived one shall die because of
his sin. (See Ezekiel 3:17-21; Ezekiel 33:1-9)
In God's Kingdom we are all equal. Holy Baptism takes
the purple from the king, and the rags from the beggar, and clothes them
both in the robes of Christ's righteousness. In divine matters it does not
depend upon learning, or holiness, or cleverness, or prudence. It often
happens, rather, that the most learned are the most perverse. Human wisdom
is foolishness to God. Human righteousness is to Him sin. If a learned man
would enter heaven, he must climb down from the heights of his human wisdom
and become a child. For God reveals His mysteries only to the babes who
humbly acknowledge their natural blindness and darkness. Therefore in divine
matters no one is excluded from the judicial office. All Christ's sheep are
judges, both learned and layman, man and wife, bachelor and spinster, young
and old, for it concerns each one's soul, his own life, his own salvation.
Therefore we find that even the holy infallible
apostle praised the Bereans because they did not receive the apostles
without testing them, but compared the revelation of the New Testament with
that of the Old, and daily searched the writings of the prophets to see
whether these things as preached by the Apostles were so.
Also St. John advises his hearers: "Beloved, believe not every
spirit, (1John 4:1) but try the spirits whether they are of God". But
above all it is noteworthy that St. Paul writes to the Corinthians whom he
had several years before brought to the faith, "I speak as to wise men,
judge ye what I say." 1Cor.10:15,
You see then, my dear ones, God does not desire that you shall,
without testing, receive either a human book, or a human lecture, or a human
resolution, or instruction. You
shall let no man rule over your conscience. "One is our master, even
Christ." (Mat. 23:10) Such matters are not to be decided by majorities. At the famous ecumenical church meeting at Nicea, there were
three hundred eighteen orthodox bishops gathered from the whole world.
One only, and he a bachelor by the name of Paphnutius, arose against
all, showed from God's Word the propriety of the marriage of the clergy, and
because of this one voice, all three hundred seventeen bishops withdrew
their vote and the one vote prevailed.
Oh, my dear friends, if you at one time had realized
that the office of judge belonged to you, you would not have entered upon so
many and such dangerous by-paths. Your preachers went on false paths and you
followed without testing, in false confidence in man. How sorrowful the
consequences have been. Therefore know and protect your right. "Prove
all things and hold fast that which is good." But this leads me to the
second part of our consideration, namely this, that if the sheep are to
judge the shepherds, then they should also know the true doctrine and be
sure of it.
For the entire sermon log on to http://reclaimingwalther.org/walther2/articles/sheep.htm