OK, so we’re finally done with Lecture 9 and Thesis V. (By the way, we have switched from the first four positive theses about Law and Gospel, to the remaining 21, which point out how many ways Law & Gospel can be mangled). Here, in the introduction to the 10th lecture, Walther opens up with an introductory example that struck me as curiously decisionistic.
The most important resolution a person can make by the almighty grace of God is to become a true Christian. Yet this resolution cannot make him truly happy and save his soul if he is not in full earnest when forming this resolution. Many thousands have resolved to quit the world body and soul and to choose the narrow path of the children of God. … What has been the outcome? The majority of those who had formed this resolution did not carry it out. They postponed the execution days, weeks, months, years. Forming the resolution is as far as they got. Finally death overtook them, and they were lost forever.
Why was this? They were not in earnest when forming their resolution. True, God is so patient, kind, and gracious as to forgive Christians their sins of weakness and frailties daily and richly. But He dos this only to those who are really in earnest about being Christians. When this earnestness is lacking, a person is not a true Christian.
This is merely prefatory to Walther’s primary introductory point, that earnestness is required of pastors, and it takes the form of avoiding the error of:
In the second place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Law is not preached in its full sternness and the Gospel not in its full sweetness; when, on the contrary, Gospel elements are mingled with the Law and Law elements with the Gospel.
In the exposition of this Thesis, Walther sings a different tune than his introduction quoted above:
Rom. 4:16 the apostle tells us: Therefore it [righteousness] is of faith that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. Faith is demanded of us, not in order that there might be at least some little work that we are to do, as otherwise there would be no difference between those who go to hell and those who go to heaven. No; righteousness is of faith in order that it may be of grace. Both statements are identical. When I say: “A person becomes righteous in the sight of God by faith,” I mean to say: “He becomes righteous gratuitously, by grace, by God’s making righteousness a gift to him.” Nothing is demanded of the person; he is only told: “Stretch out your hand, and you have it.” Just that is what faith is — reaching out the hand. Suppose a person had never heard a word concerning faith and, on being told the Gospel, would rejoice, accept it, put his confidence in it, and draw comfort from it, that person would have the true, genuine faith, although he may not have heard a word concerning faith.
No Gospel element, then, must be mingled with the Law. Any one expounding the Law shamefully perverts it by injecting into it grace, the grace, loving-kindness, and patience of God, who forgives sin. He acts like a sick-nurse, who fetches sugar to sweeten the bitter medicine, which the patient dislikes. What is the result? Why, the medicine does not take effect, and the patient remains feverish. In order that it might retain its strength the medicine should not have been sweetened. A preacher must proclaim the Law in such a manner that there remains in it nothing pleasant to lost and condemned sinners. Every sweet ingredient injected into the Law is poison; it renders this heavenly medicine ineffective, neutralizes its operation.