Be fruitful and multiply…but get married first!

I seriously doubt that anyone in the LC-MS would take God’s command in Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply” as a blanket command meaning that everyone, regardless of their marital status, should be having sex, should be “multiplying.” Outside of marriage, sex is considered fornication. Within marriage, it is a good and holy thing, the fruit of which is new life.

So why do we automatically apply Christ’s commands to His disciples to preach the Gospel and forgive sins to every Christian, regardless of his or her Stand (vocation/estate). Don’t these commands assume the institution of the Holy Ministry just as God’s command in Genesis assumes marriage? Sure, Christ wants every Christian to bear witness to Him in their daily life, as if anyone who believed could stop themselves from telling others about the great news of the resurrection, but does He want everyone to preach and to forgive sins in His name? Not unless they are pastors.

“Preach the Gospel…but get ordained first!” Maybe we should get this imprinted on pens or T-shirts or something (and then we could put “In honor of Oscar Feucht” at the bottom in small print).

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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10 Responses to Be fruitful and multiply…but get married first!

  1. Mike Baker says:

    …because that would destroy the lucartive market for “Church as a Business” strategies, concepts, gurus, initiatives, and books. We’ve got alot of legalistic energy invested in these things. Don’t ruin it for us.

  2. Rev. Jon Bakker says:

    Ha! Great post, and of course you’re correct. It’s kind of like the communion fellowship questions – Receive the body and blood of the Lord…but be a Lutheran first!

  3. Rev. Mike Grieve says:

    I’m not sure how we get the preaching so confused in the LCMS. Perhaps because I’ve heard way too many people who say they are missionaries because they “felt the call from God” (what does this mean?). On the forgiveness of sins, could it be that we get it confused because of the poor job of catechizing we do in regards to the distinction of “forgiving in His name,” and the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren (Smalcald Part III, Article IV). It really is sad that the Fifth Chief Part of the catechism is the most ignored by our churches.

  4. Robert says:

    Good points, Pastor Beisel. We still can’t get our heads around “be fruitful”: Is it a command? Is it a blessing? Is it a command/blessing?

    Goodness. It is a command with a promise. Luther is so easy sometimes!

    Robert at bioethike.com

  5. Carl Vehse says:

    “Sure, Christ wants every Christian to bear witness to Him in their daily life, as if anyone who believed could stop themselves from telling others about the great news of the resurrection, but does He want everyone to preach and to forgive sins in His name? Not unless they are pastors.”

    This claim may be contrasted to what Dr. Luther stated in his sermon on the first Sunday after Easter on John 20:19-31, preached in 1522 at Borna:

    Here the power of absolution is given to all Christians, although some, like the Pope, bishops, priests, and monks, have appropriated it to themselves alone. They say publicly and shamelessly that this power is given to them alone and not to the laymen as well. But Christ is speaking here neither of priests nor monks. on the contrary, he says: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost .” This power is given to him who has the Holy Ghost, that is, to him who is a Christian. But who is a Christian? He who believes. He who believes has the Holy Ghost. Therefore every Christian has the power, which the pope, bishops, priests and monks have in this case, to forgive sins or to retain them… To be sure, all of us possess this power; but no one except him who was chosen by the congregation to do so should presume to practice it publicly. In private, I certainly may use this power. If, for instance, my neighbor comes and says: My friend, I am burdened in conscience, speak a word of absolution to me; then I am at liberty to do so. But in private, I say, this must be done.

    In his sermon on the first Sunday after Easter, 1540, in Dessau on the John 20 text, Dr. Luther again states:

    But who can express what an unspeakable, mighty and blessed comfort it is that a human being can with one word open heaven and lock hell to a fellow mortal? For in this kingdom of Grace Christ has founded through his resurrection, we do indeed nothing else than open our mouth and say, I forgive thee thy sins, not on my account, nor by my power, but in the place of, and in the name of, Jesus Christ, for he does not say: ye shall forgive sins on your own account, but: ‘I send you, as my Father hath sent me.’ I myself do not do this of my own choice or counsel, but I am sent by the Father. This same commandment I give to you unto the end of the world, that both ye and all the world shall know that such forgiveness or retaining of sin is not done by human power or might, but by the command of him who is sending you. This is not said alone to the ministers or the servants of the church, but also to every Christian. Here each may serve another in the hour of death, or wherever there is need, and give him absolution.

  6. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Don’t you dare quote Luther to me, Mr. Vehse. I can easily come up with as many Luther quotes that say the exact opposite. It was Luther who said that Jesus was “speaking to all preachers in the person of Peter when he said, ‘feed my lambs.’ It was Luther, according to Francis Pieper, who said that if a person could save the whole world by preaching one sermon, he should desist if he is not called to do so, for he would be doing a work that is displeasing to God.

  7. Carl Vehse says:

    “It was Luther, according to Francis Pieper, who said that if a person could save the whole world by preaching one sermon, he should desist if he is not called to do so”

    The Luther quotes I gave dealt with a Christian forgiving the sins of a neighbor in Jesus’ name, not publicly preaching one sermon in a worship service to save the world.

    As J.T. Mueller (Christian Dogmatics, CPH, 1934, p.459) noted: “Absolution has been well defined as “that special form of administering the Gospel according to which a minister of the Church or any other Christian forgives one or more persons, upon their confession, their sins.” (Cp. Luther, St. L., XVI, 1795; X, 1235)

  8. Mike Baker says:

    Pr. Beisel,

    This is a great point that you have made. I agree with it.

    Taking the comments in a slightly different direction, what is the proper conduct of the laity in the “extreme exceptions” that can occur? This is not a hypothetical exercise, but actually more of a request for advice (as I am in what one would consider one of those extreme exceptions.)

    What would be the best thing for the laity do in situations of prolonged isolation from the pastoral office (months to years)? I am currently deployed to Iraq. There are several Lutherans in my unit, but there are no confessional Lutheran chaplains in our area (I cannot count the ELCA chaplain who allows an anabaptist chaplain to be the celebrant at the Lord’s Supper when he is away) and the majority of the other chaplains have abdicated their responsibility to preach and teach anything that looks like sound doctrine.

    To what extent can/should the individual Lutheran Christians organize and worship in this kind of situation? In your opinion, what should such an “exiled” group of believers look like since we have no one in the Pastoral office?

  9. Rev. Paul L. Beisel says:

    Hi Mike–thanks for the comment. In extreme cases like the one you mentioned, I would say that one needs no other authority to preach than the need of him and his neighbor (wife and children). I think Luther said something like that.

    I do not think that it is necessary for them to have the Eucharist. In that case the Word of God would be sufficient food for their souls, and the comfort of their baptism. As we say with baptism, it is not the lack of baptism that damns, but the lack of faith. Where one is not able to receive baptism, it is enough that they believe in the Son of God. Same with the Sacrament: they are not despising it by not being able to receive it.

    I told a soldier this who was from my congregation and was deployed to Iraq. He asked if he should take communion at the Protestant service. I said he should not, but that he could by all means listen to the Word. Hope that helps and that I don’t sound like too much of a heretic.

  10. Mike Baker says:

    I am in total agreement with you on the Eucharist. That has been my practice since I arrived. The respectable pastors that I have spoken with about the Lord’s Supper agree with your advice. The abuses that I have seen at the Altar of the various denominational services have only served to confirm my resolve to abstain.

    This is the other side of closed communion that few talk about… and to be honest it is a much truer test of one’s dedication to a pure confession and the proper teaching of the Sacrament. It is a principled stand that, while gut wrenching at times, should be encouraged among our Soldiers who do not have LCMS chaplains available.

    As to the Word, I agree that one should listen to the Word where it is preached… but where does one find it in the modern chaplaincy? I’ve looked and looked, but I have no idea where to find it. There are over 14 chaplains where I am at and I have yet to find one that preaches anything but fluff or error. In my experience, “spirituality” in the military these days is on the leading edge of theraputic universalism to the point of being an emotional opiate that is used to maintain Soldier morale and combat readiness.

    It is hard to find a Protestant service that even bothers to read Holy Scripture in worship. I attend the Roman Catholic services because at least they have a lectionary. Once in a while you can find a liturgical Protestant that has a lectionary, but that is a rare find. My trails with the chaplaincy is a list too long to enumerate here. It is heart-breaking. The church is so poorly cared for in the combat zone that to demand real spiritual care is almost considered an imposition.

    I had a chaplain pull me aside and talk to me after he saw me spending “too much time” in the chapel. I explained to him about the daily office with Matins and Vespers. He told me that, while prayer is certainly a good thing, he would caution me not to be “too scrupulous about it”. He was concerned that so much time in prayer might contribute to feelings of isloation and lead to depression.

    I have “preached” over here once. Our chaplain refused to preach at a unit service because getting up at the event would make him feel uncomfortable (it was for Black History Month and he is white). I volunteered so that there would be an actual sermon, but it was not something that I was able to do lightly. After the service, he commented that my sermon was “very evangelistic”. I told him, “I was unaware that there could be any other kind of preaching, Sir. It’s the Gospel… how can you preach it properly and not sound evangelistic?”

    The idea of leading services, preaching, and/or providing spiritual counsel out here without formal training and a call weighs heavily on my conscience. It is a monumental task that is the call of a pastor and not mine to undertake.

    …but the alternative is spiritual starvation by being subjected to generic, American spirituality.

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