The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel: Thesis XX

“In the sixteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when a person’s salvation is made to depend on his association with the visible orthodox Church and when salvation is denied to every person who errs in any article of faith” (C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel reproduced from the German edition of 1897 by W.H.T. Dau (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986), 4).

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6 thoughts on “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel: Thesis XX

  1. What exactly does Walther mean by “association.”

    My concern: The means of Grace are only offered through the visible church. So, in this context, one must be associated with a visible church.

  2. I think he’s responding to the possible criticism of the LCMS, that it seems to hold that it is the only true visible church and therefore the only church body in which one can be saved (a la Rome). I don’t think he’s saying that one can be saved completely outside the church, or that one’s salvation is not in danger if he or she is not connected to a congregation.

    Tim

  3. The church is recognized via the marks of the church–the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. Without the marks, there is no true church. So, really, one must be associated with the Word and sacraments, not simply with a “visible church.”

    Walther also stressed the hidden nature of the church; thus his thesis targets those who put their hope in some church rather than in Christ for their salvation. The church may be leading them to hell rather than to paradise.

  4. Michael: “the proclamation of the Word…”

    Isn’t the Word properly divided only in the LCMS, and therefore, the LCMS is the only true visible church?

  5. Isn’t he affirming that salvation is by grace alone and through faith alone? I think so. It is not by participation in church or by subscribing to correct doctrine.

  6. Kyle, you are right in one sense. But, “salvation by grace alone and through faith alone” is itself a part of doctrine. Doctrine simply means “teaching,” so anytime you are taught something, you are taught doctrine. I should say, doctrine is the whole of what the Christian faith is, and it is made up of various parts. The part that holds the whole thing together is “salvation by grace through faith alone.”

    Tim

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