There’s a reason why tonight’s Old Testament Reading didn’t have all Ten Commandments. We only heard the Second Table, those Commandments that deal with our earthly relationships, because the Second Table is where we get into the most trouble. It’s where we put all of our stock, thinking that if we can convince people we’re righteous in Commandments 4-10, then we must be just as good with Commandments 1-3. It’s why the Pharisees in the Gospel were more concerned with hand washing and tradition than their interactions with God. The reality is we’re all in the same boat as the Pharisees. It’s why we sang “Let not self your thoughts control.” We think that as long as we maintain an outward righteousness, a façade, all is well.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.