Beware of Trusting in Your Faith, Struggles, Emotions, Works or Experiences
My friends, do not believe that only the rejection of absolution is involved in the question whether a preacher has the privilege of daring to say the words: “I forgive you your sins in the stead of Christ.” No; this denial has a deeper foundation. It deals not only with the question of whether the Word of God is merely a direction to true Christians and whether the Holy Sacraments are merely powerless ceremonies, but whether both Word and Sacraments are actually the means, the tools, the hands through which God offers, gives, and seals to us grace and the forgiveness of sins. The question involved is whether a person can actually rely on the Word of the Gospel and the promises that are united with the Sacraments as on God’s voice, even if one’s heart and conscience says No to God’s promises and condemns us. It therefore confirms the highest, the comfort we sinful human beings most need. Though the sects may reject this comfort, let us hold the more firmly to it. Though false teachers may despise us for doing so, let us not despise God who has given us this means for imparting and assuring us of His grace. Though enthusiasts may rely on what they do and suffer andexperience, on their prayers, on their struggles and wrestling, on their self-denial, on their visions, on their feelings, on their repentance and sanctification, we will rely on what God has done for us and what He gives us in His Word and Holy Sacraments. Undoubtedly also among the sects there are many true children of God who are in the state of grace and will be saved. But they will not be saved through their great exertions, nor through their many works, nor through their prayers, running, and chasing, but alone through this: that they find no peace in all their efforts and finally come before God naked and destitute, relying alone on the Word of grace. Let us therefore not wait until we are nearly in our last hour to reject all our doings, works, righteousness, and worthiness before we hold fast alone to the Word and Sacraments. Let us even now begin to throw this ballast overboard, so that our little boat does not sink in the storms of temptation and death. Let us build on that word that announces grace to all in preaching and imparts it to us especially in the absolution. Let us build on our Baptism by which we have been received into God’s covenant of grace—for this covenant stands firm forever. Let us build on the comfort of the Holy Supper whenever we partake of it. There Christ gives us His body and blood as pledges that we have a share in His redemption. That gives us that comfort which will remain even if our heart condemns us; that gives us that very comfort in the hour of death, even if our whole life accuses us and the world and Satan appear against us; that gives us comfort for the Day of Judgment, for God will, He must, keep what He has promised.
— Dr. C.F.W. Walther, Sermon on the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter, Walther’s Gospel Sermons
Forthcoming publication from Concordia Publishing House