by Rev. Michael Schuermann
“Pastor, isn’t it enough that you just speak what God’s Word speaks and leave it at that?”
A faithful and wise member of my congregation spoke these words to me. We had been talking about her anxiety with the increasingly unashamed depravity of our culture. I had expressed my difficulty in finding ways to preach the reality of certain sins publicly, without making the issues seem to be my hobby horse or scandalizing some of the members of my congregation by preaching the Law too harshly.
Thus, we arrived at my member’s wise rhetorical question; words, I might add, that I am convinced were given her by the Holy Spirit. Her question – while certainly convicting me of my weakness and ineptitude in carrying out my vocation as pastor – also provided the reassurance that I needed. I had convinced myself that, while God’s Law certainly needed to be preached, I needed to discover some sort of secret formula for preaching it. How had I forgotten the simple instruction that God gives to His pastors? “[P]reach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).
When it comes down to it, this is the simple task that our Lord Jesus, Christ has given to His pastors. It’s the simple truth that my dear member reminded me of: My task is to preach the Word. It may not be welcomed, and it may not be popular. But it is the task of the pastor in Christ’s Church. Every Christian has been similarly tasked to speak the Word, and we all have the sure and certain promise of Christ that His Word works. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Is. 55:10–11).
If we’re called upon to speak God’s words of Law to our friends, neighbors or family, we can be assured that God’s desired effect is occurring. If and when there is repentance, we are also called to speak God’s words of Gospel, without hesitation or condition. For the Gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).
We do need to speak plainly that God condemns sin. Yet we also have the privilege of clearly speaking that He likewise forgives it for the sake of Christ.
“Isn’t it enough that you just speak what God’s Word speaks and leave it at that?” Yes; assuredly, yes.