I Should Be Putting This in My Paper… (More on Matthew 28)

But why not get feedback from all the good people who are nice enough to read what we write?

More on Matthew 28: As I think about how it is that we’ve come to take it for granted that every individual Christian is supposed to carry out the “Great Commission” in the world, I think I know the cause of so much of the acrimony that goes along with the subject. That is, as soon as the issue is broached of the “who go” (as my professor likes to say), the hearer thinks that he or she is being told not to tell people “about Jesus.”

[Now, there is a question whether the New Testament even speaks that way, i.e., “telling people about Jesus.” In some ways, “sharing Jesus” is closer to, though not quite the same as, euangelizo-ing someone. Different subject, though.]

But the interpretation of Matthew 28:16-20 does not really have anything to do with who is allowed (a Law way of speaking, if there is one) to speak Jesus (in)to people. It is more about whom Jesus Himself put in place to deliver His gifts to people. The question is not: is it given to pastors or to the people? That’s “who is the greatest” nonsense. The gifts of God, namely, Jesus Christ and His forgiveness of sinners, are given to the big “C” Church catholic. But no one can give gifts to himself. So, Jesus gave the Church the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors/teachers to: 1. equip the saints; 2. to do the work of ministry; 3. build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:8ff.). It is a Gospel gift of the Lord that we have pastors to give us the Word and the Sacraments, to do the work of the Church as it makes disciples by means of baptizing and teaching.

For far too long, the “making disciples” has been discussed with little or no reference to “baptizing” and “teaching.” Or, because of the presuppositions about making disciples, we get into arguments about why everyone can’t baptize, and why everyone can’t teach (whether they know what they are teaching or not).

Just some thoughts on a cloudy St. Louis day. But this is very good for that.


7 thoughts on “I Should Be Putting This in My Paper… (More on Matthew 28)

  1. An interesting response Dr. Masaki gave was this to paraphrase:

    If these matters were a matter of qualifications, quality, or quantity,
    why couldn’t:
    Women be pastors?
    Children be pastors?

    The ministry is being set apart and aside and is not entirely a matter of qualifications. Those who have faith accept this gift of vocation. If we try to reason the will of God in these matters we deny our faith and lead ourselves to judge by the means of the law listed above.

    God’s will be done.

  2. I’m not a fan of “sharing Jesus” either, unless you’re talking about communion. It’s too platonic. “Evanglesism” is more like “Gospeling,” which really is “confessing the risen Christ.” It’s not “witnessing to my relatinpship” or to “what God has done for me in my life.” It is “speaking what Jesus Christ has done in His life for my sake.” That’s evangelism.

    But as for the “teaching and baptizing” part, I think you’re on to something tim.

  3. Timotheos wrote: “But the interpretation of Matthew 28:16-20 does not really have anything to do with who is allowed (a Law way of speaking, if there is one) to speak Jesus (in)to people. It is more about whom Jesus Himself put in place to deliver His gifts to people. The question is not: is it given to pastors or to the people? That’s “who is the greatest” nonsense.”

    You’re wasting your time trying to tapdance with sophistic strawmen. As noted in a previous post, Matthew 28 is understood from Scriptural explanations from Rev. Kalthoff in excerpts from his “The Pastor: God’s Servant for God’s People”. An included quote from Hermann Sasse also supports the same position. The Missouri Synod Lutheran understanding on Matthew 28 is given in “A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod” (1932) (http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/mosynod/web/doct-11.html):

    “30. The Original and True Possessors of All Christian Rights and Privileges — Since the Christians are the Church, it is self-evident that they alone originally possess the spiritual gifts and rights which Christ has gained for, and given to, His Church. Thus St. Paul reminds all believers: “All things are yours,” 1 Cor. 3:21, 22, and Christ Himself commits to all believers the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 16:13- 19, 18:17-20, John 20:22, 23, and commissions all believers to preach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments, Matt. 28:19, 20,; 1 Cor. 11:23-25. Accordingly, we reject all doctrines by which this spiritual power or any part thereof is adjudged as originally vested in certain individuals or bodies, such as the Pope, or the bishops, or the order of the ministry, or the secular lords, or councils, or synods, etc. The officers of the Church publicly administer their offices only by virtue of delegated powers, and such administration remains under the supervision of the latter, Col. 4:17. Naturally all Christians have also the right and the duty to judge and decide matters of doctrine, not according to their own notions, of course, but according to the Word of God, 1 John 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:11.”

    And in a thesis from the Synod’s official “A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles” (1973):

    “‘III. Mission of the Church: We believe teach, and confess that the primary mission of the ***church*** [emphasis added] is to make disciples of every nation by bearing witness to Jesus Christ through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.’ Specifically cited in the study edition of this statement as the scriptural basis for this thesis are Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, and Romans 10:17.”

    These references have also been pointed out on the LCMS FAQ web page (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=6472).

    In Der Lutheraner, Vol. 17(22) (June 11, 1861), pp.169-71, reprinted in _The Congregation’s Right to Choose a Pastor_, translated by Fred Kramer, Concordia Seminary Publications, St. Louis, 1997, C.F.W. Walther wrote:

    “The church by no means receives God’s Word and Sacrament first through her mediately called pastors, but these [pastors] rather receive them through the church….

    “God also did not found a mute church, which is condemned to permit only persons of a certain rank to preach the Word of God, while she herself has to keep silent. No, she is not only to have the Word herself she herself is to preach it. The church or the ordinary Christians can by no means say: ‘What business is it of ours, whether the Word of God is preached or not. Let the pastors take care of that; they, not we, are responsible for that!’ No, the command of Christ ‘to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name among all nations, Luke 24:47, is by no means given only to the apostles and to their successors in public office, but to his entire church on earth.'” [Kramer, pp. 137-8]

    “Is that which is according to those Bible passages every Christian’s duty, and even more his right, by any means something different from that which a pastor or preacher or minister of the church has the duty and right to do? Must he by chance preach something different, preach, teach, and confess it admonish, comfort, rebuke with something else than common Christians? Clearly not. The difference consists only in this, that the pastor does this publicly and before the entire congregation, the common Christian however does it privately, as his calling and circumstances call for. Therefore the office itself, which the pastor and which every true Christian has, is entirely the same, only the manner of exercising and using it is different.” [Kramer, p. 140]

    In a sermon excerpt (http://www.godrules.net/library/luther/129luther_b27.htm) from Martin Luther’s writings found in the Erlangen edition, Vol. 2, p. 324; the Walch edition, Vol. 2, p. 989; and the St. Louis edition, Vol. 2, p. 724, Luther wrote:

    “13. The first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when he has become a believer, is to bring others also to believe in the way he himself came to believe. And here you notice Christ begins and institutes the office of the ministry of the external Word in every Christian; for he himself came with this office and the external Word. Let us lay hold of this, for we must admit it was spoken to us. In this way the Lord desires to say: You have now received enough from me, peace and joy, and all you should have; for your person you need nothing more. Therefore labor now and follow my example, as I have done, so do ye. My Father sent me into the world only for your sake, that I might serve you, not for my own benefit. I have finished the work, have died for you, and given you all that I am and have; remember and do ye also likewise, that henceforth ye may only serve and help everybody, otherwise ye would have nothing to do on earth. For by faith ye have enough of everything. Hence I send you into the world as my Father hath sent me; namely, that every Christian should instruct and teach his neighbor, that he may also come to Christ. By this, no power is delegated exclusively to popes and bishops, but all Christians are commanded to profess their faith publicly and also to lead others to believe.”

    And elsewhere Luther stated:

    “We hold fast to this, that there is no other Word of God save that only which all Christians are commanded to proclaim; that there is no other Baptism than the one which all Christians can give; that there is no other remembrance of the Supper of the Lord than that which Christians may celebrate. which also Christ has instituted to be kept; also that there is no other sin than the one which every Christian can bind and loose; likewise we hold that there is no sacrifice except the body of every Christian; also that no one can or may pray, save only a Christian; in addition, that no one is to judge doctrine save only a Christian… (Cf. Luther’s Works, Walch Edition, X, pp.1858,1859)” [see Kramer, p.142]

  4. That must have taken a long time to post, since I don’t think Der Lutheraner can be copied and pasted.

    It’s all good to post long quotes from good Lutherans, but what exactly is your disagreement? You never answered the questions in the previous post, and you still haven’t.


  5. By the way, I don’t subscribe unconditionally to any of those men or documents. I do, however, subscribe unconditionally to the Confessions, and you’ll look in vain for the individualist interpretation of Matthew 28–the only passage under discussion here–in the Confessions.

    I don’t think you realize the difference between saying that the Church is to carry out Matthew 28:16-20, and the position I’m arguing against, namely, that _each individual_ is supposed to do it. Further, you fail to indicate the specific problem Luther was addressing in each of those quotes. Luther can be bent like a wax nose outside of his context. Try Norman Nagel’s article in CTQ 61(4) (Oct., 1997) for a more balanced view of Luther on the priesthood of the baptized.


  6. Timotheos,

    The quotes in my last post addressed your attempt to restrict the Lutheran understanding of Matthew 28. The understanding of Matthew 28 held by the Missouri Synod, and presumably the one taught at Missouri Synod seminaries, though I’m started to wonder just what teaching my church offerings are being used to support, is the same as explained by the Rev. James Kalthoff in “The Pastor: God’s Servant for God’s People”, from Church and Ministry: The Collected Papers of The 150th Anniversary Theological Convocation of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/CTCR/ChurchMinistrybook%20anniv%20essays.pdf):

    “The Office of the Keys is entrusted to pastors for ‘public’ administration of them. But every Christian, as a priest of God, may use the Keys in private by sharing the Gospel with unbelievers and by absolving a brother or sister who confesses sin to them. This clearly is the teaching of Scripture and the Confessions In our day, we occasionally hear of controversy brought on by some pastors who are insisting that the work of the Great Commission of Matthew 28, that of ‘making disciples of all nations,’ was only given to the apostles and that therefore lay persons should not assume this responsibility belongs also to them. Or that only pastors may carry out the Great Commission.”

    But this understanding of Matthew 28 is not just Rev. Kalthoff’s own personal view.

    -It is confessed in the Lutheran Symbols that the keys (which include the Gospel) are a function and power given immediately to the Church by Christ, whereby even a layman may baptize or pronounce absolution;

    – It is explained by Martin Luther in his various writings, including that “every Christian may and should teach, instruct, admonish, comfort, and reprove his neighbor from God’s Word whenever and wherever he is in need of it,… in such a way every Christian has and exercises his priestly works”;

    – It is included in the explanations C.F.W. Walther provides in support of the theses on the Church and Ministry;

    – It is stated in “A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod” (1932), which specifically refers to Matt. 28 and other Scriptural texts as referring to the Church and not just pastors;

    – It is included in A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles (1973), that it is the mission of the church to make disciples of every nation, with its study guide including Matthew 28 as the Scriptural basis;

    – It is stated in The Mission 21st Century Task Force, which “affirms that the Great Commission was given to all the baptized people of God”; and

    – It is answered in a LCMS FAQ (http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=6472) that John 20:22-23 and Matthew 28:18-20 are proof texts for the doctrinal position of the Synod that “Christians are the Church” and that “they alone originally possess the spiritual gifts and rights which Christ has gained for, and given to, His Church”, and that “it would be contrary to the doctrinal position of the Synod to hold that such texts ‘apply only to pastors.'”

    Furthermore, based on the 2001 Resolution 7-17A and Synod Bylaw 1.6.2 pastors who are ordained within the Missouri Synod promise that such doctrinal statements will be honored and upheld (“to abide by, act, and teach in accordance with” [1971 Res. 2-21]) until such time as the Synod amends or repeals them.”

    Now if you were to become a pastor in the Buffalo Synod under Johann Grabau or in a church following Wilhelm Loehe’s view on the Ministry, your restricted Matthew 28 interpretation would probably fit right in.

    But, Timotheos, if you were to be called and ordained in a Missouri Synod church, would you honor and uphold the clear Lutheran and Missouri Synod understanding of Matthew 28 or would you have your fingers crossed when you sign on as a synodical member?

  7. Carl, you simply have not grasped my point. Clearly, and for the last time: I did not say that Matthew 28 was only for pastors. Read carefully now. The gifts of Matthew 28: pastors, baptism, teaching of the Word of God are given to the Church of God. I don’t know how things work in your congregation, but the normal procedure is not that every person in the congregation stands up and declares a collective absolution. It is given _by God_ that a church should call one person to deliver the gifts which God has given to the Church.

    And, apropos to the previous post, you still have not understood the difference between Matthew 28 and Matthew 18. Matthew 28 is not talking specifically about the Office of the Keys, which I grant you, is carried out by each individual in his or her own vocation. [bold for clarity] I AM TALKING ONLY ABOUT MATTHEW 28. Do not bring in other passages, thereby confusing the issue.

    Your quote of Kalthoff is significant: “In our day, we occasionally hear of controversy brought on by some pastors who are insisting that the work of the Great Commission of Matthew 28, that of ‘making disciples of all nations,’ was only given to the apostles and that therefore lay persons should not assume this responsibility belongs also to them. Or that only pastors may carry out the Great Commission.”

    I think Kalthoff has misunderstood, as you have, the nuance in teaching here (unless I subscribe also to Kalthoff’s view in my ordination). Kalthoff performs the same transfer of meaning that you do, namely, moving immediately from the Office of the Keys to Matthew 28, without any qualification. Yes, the pastor exercises the Keys publicly. I never denied it.

    But what exactly is Matthew 28 saying about making disciples? It does not just say “make disciples.” The question is, how is that done? It is an individualistic, Americanized interpretation of the verse to suggest that making disciples is done by individuals apart from the Sacraments and Word in the communion of the saints. That’s what I am arguing against. If you still cannot see the difference between the two views, and if you continue to argue against a position that I do not hold, I will ignore your comments. Read what I say, not what you want me to say.

    You are trying to make something that is ONLY collective and plural in the New Testament (i.e., “priesthood”) into something that is individualized and subjective (i.e., “every Christian is a priest”). The Bible does not speak that way, and neither should we. I do not know what experience you have had (perhaps with clergy who actually hold the view you disdain?) that makes you misinterpret what I’m saying, but maybe you could lay that out for me, so I can clarify further.


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