Pastoral Letter and Correspondence between J. A. A. Grabau and the Missouri Synod: Pages 58 - 62


have not yet received your pardon. I had to retain the original since I still needed it. — On to matters!

First Part

First. The main point of our dispute is in addition to other points on the proper distinction between the spiritual priesthood of all believers and the shepherd and teaching office in the church. In your letter you, however, narrow the issue and limit yourself to an individual church operation, namely the ordination of the church servant. — I will gladly follow you here and state from God's word concerning ordination.

You place Christian ordination under vocation or choosing of the local congregation, declare the later necessary to office, the former unnecessary but useful. To this I must respond that within the ordering, one is as necessary as the other. Since 1) In Acts 6 the apostles command: Beloved brothers! look for seven men, who have good reputations and are filled with the Holy Spirit, etc. Thus they command the choosing or vocation of the congregation. 2) Then it follows: What we may order, etc. that was the ordination, as verse 6 shows. For evidence that ordination was the apostle's command, see 2 Timothy 2, 2 where St. Paul states imperatively: "this commands loyal men, who are capable, to also teach others." Said command of the office and its exercise is ordination. When St. Paul required that Timothy must order the office through ordination it was the same as an order by St. Paul. However whatever St. Paul orders is likewise ordered by all the apostles; thus ordination was an order of the apostles. Whatever the apostles have commanded be done in the church is necessary. Since ordination is commanded, it is necessary. Whatever is necessary may not be discontinued under ordinary circumstances; I say ordinary circumstances because the truly necessary and misfortunate circumstances lie beyond the possibility of ordinary matters. As said necessary and musfortunate circumstances compelled our ancestors in the times of pestilence and siege within a city or other tragic events. Then great God bound Himself freely, gracefully and paternally to His individual order as given by Christ through the apostles; therefore misfortunate circumstances of the church cannot be bound to it. In such cases, as for example when the war's devastation of 1806 and 1812 was with us, where many pastors were driven from their parishes by force and had to set up headquarters in foreign parts, having some of the cantors and sextons reading the word of God aloud to the people in the villages and giving a portion of them the authority to baptise, absolve, administer the eucharist *, performing marriages, etc., even through they were neither called to the vocation nor ordained. Compare here Acts 8, 4. Also found in 1 Corinthians 16, 15 no vocation in the local congregation. It could arise when there is pressing need, that both operations are lacking. However this does not nullify the divine order, grounded in the New Testament, when the need is past and the order must be reinstated. There is no passage in the holy scripture where the ordinary means of the calling by the local congregation is declared indispensible but Christian ordination is declared optional; rather in ordinary circumstances they are equally important and necessary, however in times of dire misfortune they are equally dispensible; indeed in the last case it is always better that at the very least a calling from the local congregation may occur and then after the misfortune has passed an ordination can and may follow, provided the person is found capable — **. In Acts of the Apostles one encounters more general ordinations than

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* Of which (administering the eucharist) I do not approve, since it was not necessary, as is baptism. Return to text

** However a speedy ordination could occur with an individual, whose ability has already been determined, without the choosing of the afflicted local congregation and thus he may help it. Return to text


callings by local congregations, as you can see in Acts 14, 23; 1 Timothy 4, 14 and 5, 22; 2 Timothy 1, 16 and 2, 2; Titus 1, 5. This was based on the genetic relationships of the new congregations as they came over out of heathendom. It does please me that you at least say that ordination is not to be discontinued without need, however I am not pleased that in general you say that it is less necessary than the choosing by the local congregation. To other points. You say: ordination is very useful and holy, partly because it assures the properly called of the divinity of his vocation and even this knowledge strengthens him in future attacks upon his office, and partly for the sake of faithful prayer, which is bound to the laying-on of hands and certainly does not remain ungranted, for through it the Lord of the harvest equips his workers with the spiritual gifts inherent to the office. — Admittedly this is already somewhat better and more honorable than our Missouri friends discuss in any portion of their text. But how should one bring it all together so that the called shall be assured in Christian ordination of the divinity of his vocation and yet ordination is an unmandated thing. Can an unmandated and perhap not necessary matter assure me of the divinity of my vocation? — My beloved brother! If you wish to speak honestly, you must say: No! if ordination has no apostolic mandate, it's a mere customary ceremony, which imparts no certainty and no comfort in times of attack; I must rely upon the general calling of the local congregation and from it take comfort in the divinity of my vocation. However, the most wholesome honesty would be this, that you unconditionally give the word of God the honor and you recognized that Christian ordination has apostolic mandate; and only for this reason can it impart a true assurance of the divinity of vocation and comfort in time of attack.

Comment: Just as seldom as the office of the called becomes legitimate by virtue of mere Ritus ordinationis, so too the office of the ordained becomes legitimate because of the mere Ritus vocandi. The ritual makes nothing legitimate; as such it is an adiaphore, rather it is the word and command of God, imparted in the rite, which makes the office legitimate.

Third. You can, as you say, not understand why I maintain that Christ the Lord instituted Christian ordination, however the apostles expressly gave the order. — Beloved brother, have you not read John 20, "as my Father sent me," etc. and Matthew 28, "Go forth," etc. Did the Lord not command and bind the office to His chosen apostles? Was this first ordination and command not at the same time the institution of the office for all times and lands? Was it also not at the same time the installation of the successio doctrinalis or succession of pure teaching? He offered us not by message but by example his command to the office with the laying of hands upon them (Luke 24). He called them to the vocatione immediata after he had St. John baptise them, as you can see in Matthew 4, Luke 5, Mark 6. As ones immediately called, they had to help Him in His special work, announcing the kingdom of God to the house of Israel. However, the subsequent command, "go forth," etc. was the unconditional empowerment to all offices and operations, just as today ordination still is.

Or did you mean, I was only thinking about this? or there is teaching that the Lord first chose his apprentices, ordained them and then quietly insinuated them within the church? In that case the evangelists and the apostles, even the Holy Spirit Himself, must have been insinuated. Thus I ask you to look at the following passages with proper earnestness.

I. Acts 1, 2, where St. Luke considers necessary 1) to declare that Christ the Lord first chose the apostles, 2) that he placed the order upon them and this order is in verses 4 and 8. This agrees with Luke 24, 48 - 50.


II. Secondly Acts 10, 41, 42. Here St. Paul says: God has chosen you (the apostles) first to be witnesses of Christ and to preach His resurrection.

III. Acts 13, 2. Here the Holy Spirit orders, "Set apart for me," etc. and verses 3 and 4 that they were sent forth after their commission and ordination by the Holy Spirit. Do these three passages not tell you that the Lord Jesus Christ, along with the Holy Spirit, created and instituted ordination? These proofs of God have been insinuated within the church just as seldom as the above teaching was insinuated, namely that the Lord, 1. chose 12 men to be apostles, 2. gave them the order to practice the office after His resurection or ordained them. However the other part, that the ordination was announced by His apostles after His ascension into heaven with the spreading of the church, without a doubt enlightens you to that fact. Kindly also consult 1 Peter 5, 2 (pertaining to nothing other than the ordinations held by the apostles, as in 2 Timothy 2, 2 and Titus 1, 5.) Within it is explained the analogy of scriptures and faith.

You will still want to consider the following examples from scripture: I. Matthew was the Apostle chosen 1. in a lottery by Christ 2. after which he was ordered or ordained by the 11 apostles.

II. St. Paul's calling is found in Acts 9, 15. This choosing was made known to him by the Lord on the road to Damascus. 2. His ordination in verse 17, and Chapter 22, 12: 13 - 16. Ananias must have performed it. In Romans 1, 1 he finds comfort in his calling to become an apostle of the Lord and his commission or ordination to preach the gospel. Also in verses 14 and 15; Acts 13: 46, 47.

III. Timothy and Titus were ordained by St. Paul to the service of Christians without having been called by a local congregation. The ordination of St. Paul included the choosing but any local congregation could overturn the choosing and not include the ordination of St. Paul and the other apostles.

IV. It states in Acts 1, 17 concerning Judas Iscariot, "who was counted among us" (Luke 16); that is, was chosen to the service of Christ and through said choosing of the Lord had been accepted into the office with us, however he went and hanged himself and thus could not have been capable of exercising the office in this world.

So someone else took his place. Now you ask, why the Lord and His apostles instituted two ecclesiastic operations as divine order, whereby capable people should be brought to the office? — Here is the answer: so that hereafter out wits would have little to question; it is apparent that it also pleased the all-knowing Lord and Master to assure His servants of proper divine vocation through a twofold ecclesiastic operation and to help His church through orderly choosing and through ordination. Indeed a cripple can stand for a certain length of time on one foot; the ordinarily healthy man has two feet upon which he may stand firm and walk.

Finally you may wish to examine the following passages from holy scripture, from which you may see that this teaching was not insinuated into the church but was considered teaching in the entire church, which is contrary to how you interpret it, as depreciating the value of church ordination and wishing to insinuate itself into the church.

I. The Apology to the Augsburg Confession states: Si ordo (qui habet mandatum Dei) hoc modo intelligatur, etc. — quod scimus, Deum approbare ministerium illud et adesse in ministerio. Do you not see that the Apology discusses the divine mandatum ordinandi here? and thus calls for a mandatum de constituendis ministris and, note well, the Apology does not discuss vocation of the local congregation here but rather de ordinatione.


II. The Smalkaldic Articles, p. 334 : Idoneos ad hoc officium ipsi ordinare debemus et volumus; where debemus et volumus (ought and want to) do not merely exist in the mind one must attribute to the papist bishops rather than one being duty-bound to God's word.

III. Ibid, p.343: Hunc morem Cyprianus vocat, divinam traditionem et apostolicam observationem.

IV. Ibid 353. Quare necesse est ecclesiam retinere jus vocando et ordinandi ministros. Here both laws will be likewise posited. — idque etiam communissima ecclesiae consuetudo testatur etc. Here it is proven that each divine order has become the most communally shared church custom. Unfortunately you make mere approval or bearing witness to vocation out of confirmation of election (confirmatio electi). What moved you to insert the primary substitution word "mere"? And is it in the order to make mere bearing witness to vocation out of confirmation of election; to make it mere witnessing that he is called by the local congregation? —

The election or vocation of the local congregation is in itself divine law and needs no witness to vocation, nor approval nor confirmation but the choosing or the calling needs said approval and confirmation according to God's order and therefore accedebat episcopus, qui confirmabat electum, non electionem.

V. Dr. Lutherus states in his essay on corner masses and parish consecrations: "Also listen to how poorly (simply) St. Paul speaks of ordaining in 2 Timothy 2, 'what you have heard of me' etc." — Here there is (with ordination) neither chrism nor butter (in the papal manner), only the command to teach God's word. Whoever has that, is what St. Paul considered pastor, bishop, et. al. — What might holy Luther say about ordination, if when he considered it, St. Paul spoke of ordination not as an office given by God and not primarily belonging to divine order?

Further he states: "our consecration shall be called ordination of vocation to office," where the word "vocation" is similarly used in the above command. — Further he states, "and when the person's fingers are not smeared with chrism (as in papal ordination), they shall be sufficiently anointed when they have touched the sacrament." These words convey no other sense than that the exercise of the office begins with ordination, which pleases God even without chrism because God's command and his order are present.

VI. Aegidus Strauch, the Lutheran hero against the Syncretists, says in the sermon on the worker in the vineyard: "In holy ordination the blessed preacher's office is entrusted to the servant of God and thus the bond cannot be broken by man for it is a matrimonial tie." In this it may be seen that Aegidus declares ordination a divine order made unbreakable by God's power.

VII. Blessed Carpzow introduced from the work of Dr. Hulsemann, a champion against Calvinism, a passage which states: "in ordinatione distinguendeum est inter id, quod ad essentiam vocationis necessarium est et id, quod ad capacitatem subjecti vocati declarandum, ejusque segregationem solemnem, a negotiis seculi nec non commodationem apud Deum et coram Ecclesia pertinet." The first part concerning essentiam vocationis, referring to the essence of the congregation's calling, does not require ordination; it does not add to the essence of vocation, which is a divine right within itself; however, ordination is necessary in the later part in that it relates directly to the character of the called person, whose ability is publically acknowledged, thereby declaring successio doctrinalis, separating the individual from the world and handing him over to the service of God. In this part Dr.


Hulsemann teaches that it is necessary by divine command and order. — And so it is that even if this essential nature of ordination should appear unnecessary and superfluous to our wits and reason, it remains necessary and shall be acknowledged as such with regard to the subjecti vocati, who is publically called as a proper servant of Christ according to God's order.

VIII. The blessed Pastor Krumholz (versus catholicismus protestantium in Dresden and Hamburg) states in the sermon of 4th Sunday of Advent: "if an evangeligal preacher is called, ordained and consecrated, as the holy scriptures and especially the New Testament would have it, if he also delivers the souls entrusted to him to Jesus, then one can find no fault with such an evangelical cleric." — He also teaches that Christ ordained his disciples (John 20).

Now you wish to demonstrate that he did not ordain them.

IX. The blessed Dr. Mengering (Superintendent in Halle) (informatio conscientiae) states in the sermon of Dom. Quasimod.: "thus he who is called (that is, chosen and ordained) to the preaching office *, as it is prescribed to us in the epistles of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus, resides in a proper Christian and godly vocation."

X. From the Golzi Church Agenda *, praised by the entire church and treasured by all, Frankfurt on the Oder, 1687. Here it states in the formula of ordination: "thus we will ordain and install, with the laying-on of hands and with yours and our prayers for the church and the preaching office, only an individual, in whom we see no deficiency; all power and authority, which the Lord Christ has handed over and bequeathed to his church and its servants, is handed over and completely transferred." Hic imponunt ipsi manus. "Thus we accept you as a servant of Christ and a preacher of His holy gospel; He gives you, with the laying-on of hands according to the apostle's habit and the first church's custom, complete power and authority to state publically God's word and to preach purely and diligently and truthfully; further we hand over to you similar power and authority of the Lord Christ to absolve and bind sins, to administer the holy sacrament and to adopt and use other customs in the office of the church of Christ, with our true and earnest warning that you allow yourself to be ordered in this office to the utmost and with complete seriousness. etc."

From the following prayer - "Thus you have wished that these, your servants whom you have called to this office through ordained means and whom we accept and install to the preaching office according to your command and order, shall be commanded in your great grace, etc." Here at the end - "diligently attend your office as you are called by God to it, that you shall be a true servant of Jesus Christ, to proclaim his holy name with pure teaching of the gospel, to which we call and send you through the authority of God, just as God has sent us."

Has this public formula and the teaching behind it been insinuated into the church? Surely not. Hasn't the church taught, it wouldn't or couldn't give rise to such a thing. It properly grounds itself with power and humility in God's word.

In the old Hamburg Church Agenda of 1726 the ordaining pastor speaks: I commend you to previously stated pledges and oaths,

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* Do not take it badly that I show you the church orders, to which the friends from Missouri have paid little attention; I do this according to the example of the old church teachers such as Conrad Portae, whose words state: "For this reason I did not want to place specific citations concerning ordination, because instruction concerning it can be found in other good books and church orders." Return to text


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Photocopy of text provided by Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, PA

Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks