By Joel A Hess –
In his commentary on Galatians, Luther makes a big deal of the call as he comments on the first couple of verses of the letter. Of course, the apostle Paul does too! He hangs his hat on his call as he begins the letter, stating, “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead!” Paul drops some credentials to remind his readers that he is an official ambassador of the king, unlike the wolves in shepherd clothing who were trying to put the shackles of the Law back on the Galatians.
While pastors outside of Paul and the Apostles cannot claim to be called immediately by the risen Jesus, they can claim to be called by Christ, in the flesh, mediately, through His body: the Church! Being called literally and officially by God Almighty Himself does not benefit the one who is called. In fact, it may well put a bull’s eye on his back. The Spirit’s call through the Church benefits those whom the man is set aside to shepherd! Doctor Luther rightly explains, “We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy pride.”
You who are called by God through His Church, beware! This is not a trivial matter. Jesus has the words of eternal life! You are the vessel through which they are poured out among His sheep! Be careful not to speak what God does not speak. Be careful not to be silent where God is not silent. You are His ambassadors. He is not yours. As Paul says in his same letter to the Church in Galatia, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed!” If a pastor doesn’t preach Christ’s Gospel, then to hell with the call! Paul says this not just because the Gospel of Jesus is true, but also because it is the only words that give LIFE!
Yet pastors should not only beware; they should BE BOLD! Brothers, you have been called by God to speak! Exalt in your calling as Luther encourages! Do not be afraid in the pulpit or at the bedside! Speak! Your words are the King’s words. They are no less effective than if Christ Himself spat in your people’s eyes and laid his very hands on them. So call a thing a thing. Strip the sin naked where it hides. Clothe the repentant outcast with the King’s declaration of remission. Shelter the mourning with certain words that promise resurrection. Be bold to walk into places you would not otherwise enter. Be bold to walk with people whom you assume do not want to have anything to do with the Lord. Believe in your calling to go. Believe in the power of God’s words, which kill the Devil and raise the dead! Don’t be afraid—you hold His commission! Who knows? God’s words do amazing things—turning enemies into friends and dead men into servants of the living God.
Be bold, you overseers of God’s flock! You have been called by God, maker of heaven and earth, and His Son, whom He raised from the dead, who clearly said, “I will be with you always!” Don’t be afraid to tell someone how it is. Don’t be afraid to knock on strangers’ doors. Don’t be afraid to say, “I forgive you!”