The vocation of the Church is to make out of lost and condemned people children of God, who have received grace and are saved, with the liv- ing hope of eternal life enflamed in dark, dead hearts. Our Savior said this very clearly at the conversion of St. Paul: “[I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen Me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom] I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’” [Acts 26:16–18].
Now, what is the means through which the Church accomplishes this? These means are not all sorts of self-chosen methods and regulations. Christ said, “In vain do they wor- ship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” [Matthew 15:9]. Neither is the divine Law the means. To be sure, the Church shall preach the Law, but not in order in doing so to fulfill its proper task, but in order to show people the forlorn, condemned condition in which they find themselves, and that they with their sins have merited God’s wrath and displeasure, temporal death, and eternal damnation. The only means through which people will be saved and redeemed is the sweet Gospel, the amazing teaching that God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son, and that Christ, through suf- fering and death, already has found an eternal redemption for all, and every sinner now should lay hold of it in confidence. This is why the Resurrected One said in the circle of His disciples: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” [Luke 24:46–47].
-- C.F.W. Walther