The quotation which follows is from Jesus of Nazareth (p. 46-47) by Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI.
Both Evangelists designate Jesus’ preaching with the Greek term evangelion—but what does that actually mean?
The term has recently been translated as “good news.” That sounds attractive, but it falls far short of the order of magnitude of what is actually meant by the word evangelion. This term figures in the vocabulary of the Roman emperors, who understood themselves as lords, saviors, and redeemers of the world. The messages issued by the emperor were called in Latin evangelium, regardless of whether or not their content was particularly cheerful and pleasant. The idea was that what comes from the emperor is a saving message, that it is not just a piece of news, but a change of the world for the better.
When the Evangelists adopt this word, and it thereby becomes the generic name for their writings, what they mean to tell us is this: What the emperors, who pretend to be gods, illegitimately claim, really occurs here—a message endowed with plenary authority, a message that is not just talk, but reality. In the vocabulary of contemporary linguistic theory, we would say that the evangelium, the Gospel, is not just informative speech, but performative speech—not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform. Mark speaks of the “Gospel of God,” the point being that it is not the emperors who can save the world, but God. And it is here that God’s word, which is at once word and deed, appears; it is here that what the emperors merely assert, but cannot actually perform, truly takes place. For here it is the real Lord of the world—the living God—who goes into action.
—Benedict XVI in Jesus of Nazareth
Benedict XVI may not clearly proclaim that the power of the Gospel is in the purity of its gift of life. Nonetheless, those words are still a powerful statement about the efficacy of God’s word. God’s word has power. God’s word has power in the mouths of all who speak it. This is true no matter who they are, no matter what denomination to which they belong, and no matter what rank they hold in the Church. God’s word never returns to Him empty. (Isaiah 55:10-11).
One of the cornerstone teachings of the Lutheran Reformation was that God’s word alone has the power to reach people and change the sinful human heart. And yet today, there are numerous so-called “Lutheran” pastors who believe God’s word needs their efforts. They believe that without their methods and salesmanship God’s word will not even be heard.
According to them, “To reach people no one else is reaching, [they] must do things no one else is doing.” According to them, instead of God’s Word reaching people and performing great miracles through us, these false teachers are the ones who reach out and perform great miracles using the word. They are the performers, not God. They act as if without their money, their wisdom, their entertainments, their personalities, and their speaking abilities the elect will be lost.
Jesus taught us to judge teachers by their fruit, in other words, their teachings and practices. (Matthew 7:15-23). The fruit of these Church Growth pastors is rotten. Do they trust the evangelion? Do they trust God’s Word? No. Their practices show that they trust themselves.
How sad when the pope is more Lutheran than these so-called “Lutheran” pastors. Should we not feel burning shame when we see the pope speak so clearly about the efficacy of God’s word while numerous “Lutheran” pastors see God’s word as a hindrance? Of course, those who obstinately plagiarize false teachers in their sermons not only despise His word, but they also display a seared conscience incapable of shame. (1 Timothy 4:2).
To these so-called “Lutheran” pastors Christ crucified is not the Rock upon which the Church is built, but rather a hindering stone in the path of church growth. “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 9:32-33, Acts 17:25-30).