What does it mean to discriminate? We all know the negative meaning—to treat someone differently, not because of merit, but because of some trait like skin color, gender, age, or the like. And we know that kind of discrimination is wrong. But there is good discrimination. The real meaning of discrimination is to distinguish the differences between two things. A chef has a discriminating palate, distinguishing between high quality and cheap ingredients. A musician has a discriminating ear, distinguishing between well-practiced performances and someone who hasn’t put in the effort. Today Jesus tells us to be discriminating hearers of the Word because not everyone who preaches or teaches speaks the truth.
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.