The gist of preaching is “Behold your God.”

Say to the cities of Judah: Behold your God! He mentions the doctrine that should be preached. This is the gist of your preaching: Behold your God! “Promote God alone, His mercy and grace. Preach Me alone.” The rest, the ungodly, preach the doctrines and works of men, their own rules and righteousnesses. This herald must avoid that kind of teaching and speak of Christ alone. In Him alone rests all our salvation.

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66


Luther on Isaiah 40:2

2. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.

So here, the heart, groaning and sighing, is comforted by the Spirit, for the Spirit speaks to the heart as He wills. Do you want a gracious God? He answers: “You have a gracious God.” Do you want to be comforted? He answers: “You are comforted.” Here, then, you observe God’s people, afflicted and sad. To them the Gospel is spoken, to their heart and feeling. For Gospel preachers are commanded to say joyful things, more than the heart can grasp, as Paul says (Rom. 8:26), “with sighs too deep for words.” So these groans are comforted with consolations too deep for words. Let the preacher say, then: “I not only preach Christ to you as the One who forgives, but I also give you His righteousness, so that, clothed with Him, you may have all that is His. The comfort is therefore far more excellent than all groanings. Do you want to be holy? I will make you holy, yes, most holy through Christ.”

Martin Luther
Luther’s Works Vol. 17: Lectures on Isaiah Chapters 40-66

Article V of the Augsburg Confession & Preaching—from Pastor Donavon Riley

Pastor Donavon Riley wrote this in 2011. It’s very informative and greatly helped my class prep for tonight’s discussion on Article V. I recommend that you read what he wrote. When you’re done, subscribe to his blog for more sweet Lutheran goodness. 


Article V of the Augsburg Confession states: “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the Gospel and the sacraments” (German). That means, no more prophets who have the Spirit fall on them one day so they can go out and bring about repentance, no more temple sacrifice and Levitical priesthood, and no more covenant signs like circumcision. All these “means” have now become “old” on account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Instead, the office of preaching offers something entirely “new” in the form of a public service where God gives his Word and sacraments to sinners as through means (German) or instruments (Latin). Thus, the Augsburg Confession understands ministry as an instrument, – not a “co-redeemer” – a holy instrument played by the Holy Spirit.

God institutes this office of preaching by sending his Son, who is the living Word, to be a preacher: preaching forgiveness, cross, and resurrection. Jesus then gives his words to those he calls, authorizing them to preach what he preached, and so the preacher becomes the preached. That is, “we preach Christ and him crucified.”

Through these preachers, preaching the two words of law and the Gospel “he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel.” Equally as important for this confession, then, is the assertion that the Holy Spirit never speaks a word apart from or in addition to Jesus Christ. The Spirit of God lets the letter of law kill, and then gives life. Through the office of preaching alone the Spirit does this. The office of preaching is therefore the fulcrum of the universe, “not on account of our own merits but on account of Christ, [who] justifies those who believe that they are received into grace on account of Christ.” (Latin).

An important matter must now be addressed because here, at this point, the old Adam will attempt to assert himself and make the office anecdotal, but killing and making alive is never the preacher’s job as a personal responsibility. Killing and making alive is what the Holy Spirit is doing with the preacher who is God’s instrument.

Therefore, Article V continues, condemned are the Anabaptists and others (German and Latin) “who think that the Holy Spirit comes to human beings without the external Word through their own preparations and works” (Latin). That the Holy Spirit works in this particular way, apart from “their own preparations and works,” through preaching, has greatly disturbed this old world and its normal religions. Why?

Because the Word of God is both external (which angers the Anabaptists) and a Word (which angers the Papists). So it is not the Eucharist as the pinnacle of the sacramental system that makes the true church, but oral preaching and the giving of the sacraments as proclamation. Such as assertion, both Anabaptists and Papists alike have argued, is an attempt at constraining the Spirit. But Lutherans say, “on the contrary, the Spirit has never been freer!” “We have the Word of God apart from false-preachers who claim to have swallowed the Spirit – feathers and all, and apart from false assurances of an Episcopal institution that claims the Spirit for their human traditions – magisterium and all.”

Now, here is where Philip Melanchthon used a diplomatic slight of hand in Article V. He points his finger points directly at the Anabaptists for rejecting the external Word, thinking that the Holy Spirit comes directly and apart from Christ, in some secret inner movement, and so through “our own works and preparations.” But then the article adds, “and others,” like a blank line, where one can write himself in, if the shoe fits! By doing this Philip points also to the papal opponents for whom the sticking point with Lutherans was and will always be not that they hold to an “external,” word but, the “Word” alone.

For Melanchthon and the German Reformers the Word is the prevenient means of grace. Prevenient means, according to the Marburg Articles, Article 8, “On the External Word”: “The Holy Spirit, properly speaking, gives this faith or his gift to no one apart from preceding preaching,” (in direct contradiction of the Scholastic theologians who talked about the “preceding merit” of the person before final grace), because the externally preached Word of God comes before faith.

Previously, when free will was imagined, by the Scholastic theologians, as the main issue regarding sin, then words had a secondary place in salvation: after all, it was argued, what do words do for a human will that has gone bad? Answer: They exhort, encourage, prod, and scold. That means the Word of God did not make anything, it did not give Jesus, it did not establish a relationship, it only talked about God to a human will and hoped it would respond. The Scholastic theologians taught that justification is a gift, to be sure, but the Word of God never gives it. On the other hand, God’s Word, the Reformers contended, “will not return to him empty” (Isaiah 55; Hebrews 4:12) for the Word is a living, active thing “sharper than any two edged sword.”

Finally, for Melanchthon and the German Reformers, God has put his Word in a specific office, specifically located in the middle of creaturely life. His Word comes as a permanent interruption of the old Adam’s assumed life, killing him in order to raise him as a new Christ. The crux of the matter then is that in Christian preaching “everything in heaven, and earth, and under the earth” must be defined and distinguished in the crucified and resurrected body of Christ Jesus as old and new if one is to be certain he is hearing the true Word of God. In this way, through the office of preaching, God sends his inescapable Word: living, incarnate, deep in the flesh, so deep Christ Jesus never comes out. In this way, “as through means,” faith is created, bringing with it comfort, consolation, and certainty that the old sinner is justified and has received grace for Christ’s sake.

God speaks life. His final Word

(in the absolution that renews faith in him), just as his first Word (in the creation of Adam and Eve), springs from his mercy and conveys his steadfast love, his creative and creating joy at shaping creatures and children for himself. . . .

The Gospel, as a Word of re-creation and restoration, serves God as an instrument for delivering his love to those he has chosen and for doing battle in their behalf against Satan. God is the Lord of life, and Satan is a murderer. The two are in perpetual conflict with each other. God speaks truth, also in the Word made flesh, who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); Satan lies because that is his nature (John 8:44). The battle over life and death takes place, for Luther, in the confrontation of the two words, the devil’s deceit and God’s powerful, re-creative Word of life and truth. God discharges his responsibility for his creation through his Word.

In the midst of this struggle God’s chosen people remain his children. The creative Word of God has given his people their identity in his creation, as a gift, by pronouncing them his creatures and his children. For that identity flowed expectations for their performance in daily life. The righteousness of their God-given identity vanished as they mysteriously broke their relationship with God and placed their central and guiding faith in creatures rather than the Creator. The performance that flows from unfaith may approximate God’s plan for human performance but always falls short. Therefore, when God’s law evaluates sinners, it may assign a variety of grades to their activities in terms of their usefulness in human society, but in the case of the central trust, the affirmation of their identity, sinners always fail. God must restore them to faith in him; he must revive their humanity. He does so through his re-creative power in the gospel.

Robert Kolb
Bound Choice, Election, and Wittenberg Theological Method: From Martin Luther to the Formula of Concord
p. 46-48

Nagel on Matthew 4:1-11

        The names put on Jesus at His baptism were Son of God and Suffering Servant. With those names came what was His to do. The voice from heaven spoke words from Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42. “Son of God” was used to describe the people of Israel; the people of Israel are gathered up in their king. The Davidic title, Son of God, is put on Jesus at His baptism, which is His anointing to kingship. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). “Beloved” and “with whom I am well pleased” were said in Isaiah of that Son of God, that Servant of God. We will hear the names “Son” and “Servant” again at Jesus’ transfiguration as He stands with Moses and Elijah, speaking of the death that He would accomplish.
Then we are told Christ would make Himself a sacrifice for sin. He will make many to be accounted righteous, for He will bear their iniquities. Such is the Son, Servant of God, the King who stands for His people, the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The next thing that Matthew tells us is that
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted
by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and
                                               afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to
                                               him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to
become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man
shall not live by bread alone,but by every word that proceed
from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4 RSV)
The last words from the mouth of God to Jesus were “This is My beloved Son, in whom I well pleased (Matthew 3:17). The tempter cast doubt on these words: “If You are the Son of God.” This is similar to the first temptation that involved us all: “Hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'” (Genesis 3:1). The devil is saying, “Doesn’t God want you to have food? Doesn’t He want you to have what is good for you? Doesn’t God love you? So take the fruit.” Eve did take the fruit. And with her sin, her taking, her unbelief, she brought all her children into bondage, one from which, try as they may, they can never get free. All their efforts bring them deeper into slavery, no matter how many styles of fig leaves they try.
In Jesus’ temptation, when everything that is wrong with us hangs on Jesus, He did not sin. The words of God come first and are sure: “It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus’ victory is not with some magical blast but in the strength of the words of the Lord. The same words have been give to you too. Jesus was tempted to slip away from the words of God, away from the cross, into the bondage and slaveries of power. For Him to grasp power as the way of being a Servant/Son/King would make bad news out of the Good News. It would mean that is indeed the way everything goes. Everybody wants power, even God. Those who look for a big power god get that kind of god. The ways of power and coercion and necessity. God does not want to deal with us with coercion. That is not His saving way with us in Jesus. Jesus came to set us free—no whip, no rope, no slaves. (p. 86-87)

        Religion comes in the next temptation. And what could be more religious than the temple and its pinnacle? The devil knows how to behave himself in church. A telling word of Scripture would be just the thing that is called for. He has one, but one fixed to fit his purpose. No captive is more delicious to the devil’s taste than one he captures by using the words and the name of God. Verbal inspiration is not his primary problem. The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose, says Shakespeare. And every heretic can too, says Tertullian. So Satan tempts: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge of you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone'” (Matthew 4:6 RSV). You can trust God’s promises, can’t you? Satan certainly sometimes sounds like s reasonably good Lutheran, doesn’t he?
Jesus sees it straight because He says God’s word straight. There won’t be any tempting of God, calling Him up for a miracle, or all those more subtle ways in which we try to get in on God’s power and use it to our purpose–even good purposes, perhaps. But with us, getting control of God, binding Him, is the native meaning of the word religion. Thant can be a dirty word.
Jesus, who refused to do a spectacular miracle in the temple, could not be taken captive there. A few years ago it was quite the thing to say, “You won’t find Jesus here in church. He is out there in the world doing what people need to have done for them there. That is the real Jesus.” Satan seems to follow something of the same line of thought. The devil took Jesus to a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdom of the world and their glory, and said to Him, “All these I will give You if You will fall down and worship Me. You can be king of the lot, Jesus. All the power that is mine I will put at Your disposal. The two of us together can hardly fail, if You will only do things a bit more my way.” (p. 88)

        Satan’s sort of king is not the one who hangs on the cross, the one who resists temptation on His way to the cross. Along that way we follow again with Jesus this Lent, deeply rejoicing in what He does for us, in what is only His to do, in what He does that counts for us, in what He does on the cross by which we come to be forgiven and righteous. “By one man’s obedience. . . shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). Only God (who doesn’t have to prove He is God) does it. So hidden, so human, so weak, so hungry, so declining to make it big in the church or in the world. Here is the way of the cross. That is the way Jesus does it.
One expectation of the Messiah would be that He would be invulnerable. Nothing could hurt Him, not even a fall from the pinnacle of the temple. Now there is a sensible sort of Christ. And Satan rides along on our natural way of projecting God and getting maximum mileage with our “religion,” No wonder they had no use for a man who got Himself crucified! There was never such a way of being a king before, of being God’s Son, the Suffering Servant, of being Christ, of being Savior, of being Jesus for you, even to His body broken and His bleed shed—for you. Amen. (p. 89)

Select Sermons of Norman Nagel
First Sunday in Lent
Matthew 4:1-11
Concordia Seminary (1995)

What is Christian Pastoral Counseling?

Christian pastoral counseling occurs within the framework of the church’s mission. This context becomes extremely important. Pastoral counseling should go hand-in-hand with the use of the means of grace—the Word and sacraments. Hulme notes that “to separate the church’s means of grace from pastoral counseling would divorce pastoral counseling from its Christian context.”* The pastoral counselor may also employ other distinctive Christian resources: prayer, individual confession, the giving of absolution, pastoral conversation and consolation. Christian fellowship, liturgical formulae, Christian teachings and theology, signs and symbols, and benedictions. Naturally, these resources may be an advantage or disadvantage depending upon how they are utilized. The pastoral counselor must avoid regarding these “resources of faith” as psychological palliatives or mere support therapy but must rather view them as avenues and channels for the reception of God’s healing grace.

The keys to the dynamics and distinctiveness of pastoral counseling is found in the Gospel. The Gospel is the Good News of a person’s reconciliation with God and with other people through Jesus Christ. The Gospel becomes the integrating factor in pastoral counseling because the forgiveness of sins is the source of its healing power and life-giving therapy. In what other kinds of counseling is forgiveness from God and others central and clearly sought after? The aim of pastoral counseling is not to get people merely to feel better or to act differently, but to be different. The “old self” must die and the “new self” come alive. Here, pastoral counseling does not differentiate between the redeemed and the unredeemed in its methadology. The forgiveness of sins is vital for sanctification as well as justification. No matter at what stage of relationship with God a person is, pastoral counseling is able to become an instrument through which the Holy Spirit can carry out a sanctifying work.

In the various kinds of psychotherapy, success often depends on the theory, techniques, and skills of the therapist. In pastoral counseling the same would be true to some extent; however, in pastoral counseling God works through the tools and resources. It is His power that effects change in people’s lives. This does not imply that pastoral counseling can be carried out in a shoddy manner; rather, quite the opposite should be the case. In all of pastoral counseling the pastor is acutely aware of God as the measure of all things.

Walter J. Koehler Counseling & Confession: The Role of Cofession and Absolution in Pastoral Counseling p. 40-41

* From William. E Hulme, Counseling and Theolgy page. 202

Sasse on the Theology of the Cross


Unum praedica, sapientiam crucis! [“There is one thing to preach, the wisdom of the cross!”] That is the answer (in a sermon fragment of 1515; WA 1:52) which Luther gives to the vital question of the ministry [Predigtant] of all ages: “What shall I preach?” The wisdom of the cross, the word of the cross, a great stumbling block to the world, is the proper content of Christian preaching, is the Gospel itself. So thinks Luther and the Lutheran Church with him. The Christian world regards that as a great one-sidedness. The cross is just one part, among others, of the Christian message. The Second Article is not the whole Creed, and even in the Second Article the cross stands in the midst of other facts of salvation. What a narrowing of the Christian truth Luther is guilty of (so we are told by some Lutherans today) by his limiting real Christian theology to the theology of the cross. Is not there also a theology of incarnation and a theology of resurrection? Must not the theology of the Second Article be supplemented by a theology of the Third Article, a theology of the Holy Spirit and His activity in the church? Luther had, indeed, very much to say about these things also, e.g., in his doctrine on incarnation and in his theology of the sacraments. Besides, he had a more profound understanding of the article of creation than most theologians who preceded him.

Thus the question arises as to what that alleged narrowing, that much criticized one-sidedness of Luther’s theologia crucis, means. The theology of the cross obviously does not mean that for the theologian the whole church year shrinks to Good Friday. It rather means that one cannot understand Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost without Good Friday. Luther was, alongside Irenaeus and Athanasius, one of the great theologians of the incarnation. He was that because he saw the cross behind the manger. He understood the victory of Easter as well as any theologian of the Eastern Church. But he understood it because he understood it as the victory of the Crucified. The same can be said of his understanding of the activity of the Holy Spirit. It is always the cross which illuminates all chapters of theology because the deepest nature of revelation is hidden in the cross. This being so, Luther’s theologia crucis wants to be more than one of the many theological theories which have appeared in the course of history of the Church. It claims to be, in contrast to another theology, which now prevails in Christendom and which Luther calls the theologia gloriae, the correct, the scriptural theology with which the Church of Christ stands and falls. Only of the preaching of this theology; Luther thinks, can it be said that it is the preaching of the Gospel.

Letters to Lutheran Pastors Vol. 1
Letter 18
Hermann Sasse
p. 387-388