The Pursuit of Truth
Ernie was baptized as an infant on Christmas Day 1911 at Springdale Lutheran Church in Dane County, Wisconsin. He received his confirmation in the Lutheran Church at age 15, two years after his father's death, but peace with God was unknown to him until he was 21. The church program committee had designated him as the speaker for the Christmas Luther League meeting and Ernie was to read an article from a magazine. The article was set forth in the universal problem of sin and related how the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save us from our sins.
What started as a demonstration intended to impress others with how well he could "speak a piece", became before its completion the personal witness of a message that had gripped his heart. During the giving of that talk, the Lord had evidently saved him. How it came about remained a mystery to him. He went on to other speaking engagements, taught vacation Bible school, and was a delegate to a Luther League Bible camp where he was elected as president of the circuit of the young people’s society in the Norwegian Lutheran churches of southwestern Wisconsin. By the time Ernie’s mother went to be with the Lord that November, he was convinced that God had called him to be a preacher.
Being anything but a Lutheran minister had never entered his mind. He consistently set apart a time each day to pray and read the Bible. His personal study brought him to the disinct impression that baptism is presented in Scripture as a burial. Seeking to present salvation to youths at a vacation Bible School he read Mark 16:6, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” He told the youths that since they had been baptized as infants that they could be sure of their salvation if they would now believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He was suddenly struck with the reversed order of his statement in contrast with the Scripture. He began to question seriously if the Lutheran teachings were true to the Scriptures.
With the beginning of the Lenten season, another crisis arose. Ernie’s knowledge of the Scripture once again conflicted with the Lutheran teaching that there is "special forgiveness" in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. He contended that according to I John 1:7 the one who walks in fellowship with God has constant forgiveness and that the benefits of Christ’s finished work on the Cross are appropriated by faith rather than some outward means. He also contended that a person can only receive faith through the hearing of the Word not through the rite of infant baptism.
The call to preach was so definite and clear to him that it allowed for no deviation from service in the gospel ministry, but he began to question where he belonged. It became evident to him that at the ordination for entrance into the Lutheran ministry he would be required to take a vow to preach the Bible according to the interpretations set forth in the Lutheran symbolical books. That included the teaching that salvation is imparted through baptism. One thing was certain: He could never take a vow concerning something unless he was absolutely convinced that it was true. He turned to the portion of Scripture, “If ye abide in my word, then ye are truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” He had the assurance that God would see him through. He agreed that whatever the Lord wanted him to do he was willing to obey. He arrived at the decision: “If He wants me to quit the seminary and go out preaching, I’ll do it!” A deep internal struggle ensued.
"He contended that according to I John 1:7 the one who walks in fellowship with God has constant forgiveness and that the benefits of Christ’s finished work on the Cross are appropriated by faith rather than some outward means."
"The people of the church became so excited that they pleaded with Ernie to continue on the next week as well which resulted in the salvation of more people."
Ernie had a friendly visit with the seminary president in his office and told him of his plans. The most difficult experience came in an encounter with the church history professor who subjected him to a tongue-lashing, falsly accusing Ernie of thinking he was the only saved man in the seminary and all the other men were lost. It was with mixed feelings of heartache and relief that Ernie quietly made his departure from the seminary the next day. He returned to northen Minnesota, where the Lord graciously continued to open doors for evangelistic meetings, and Ernie had the joy of seeing people brought to Christ through the preaching of the Word. His departure from the Lutheran denomination was now complete albeit through much personal pain and anguish because his connections to the Lutheran church were so dear to him personally. But he determined: "I cannot but go where God wants me, regardless of the cost." On May 17, 1940, during an interval between preaching engagements, Ernie was buried in the baptismal waters at Thief River Falls in obedience to the command of Christ and on confession of faith in Him, bearing witness to his union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
After leaving the seminary, time was spent preaching in evangelistic services in various places, including Minnesota, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and New York. Then a number of years were spent serving as a pastor. In his first pastorate in Brainerd, Minnesota, Ernie met the girl who became his wife, Miss Ilene Dixon, to whom he was first attracted by her beautiful singing. He told the Lord, "If it is Thy will, I'd like to have that girl for my wife." They married in November 1941.
"While serving as a pastor in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Ernie attended the Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul where he graduated with honors and received the degree of bachelor of divinity."
While serving as a pastor in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, Ernie attended the Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul where he graduated with honors and received the degree of bachelor of divinity. During the St. Louis Park pastorate the Lord began to make real to Ernie the truth of his union with Christ as it is taught in Romans six and other portions of the New Testament. He learned to reckon himself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus and experienced a new constancy of victory and joy in the Lord. During this time he also began to learn something of the working of demonic powers in human lives and the deliverance which can be found through Christ. Directed of the Lord, Ernie entered into an independent Bible conference and evangelistic ministry. No invitation was ever sought, but the Lord graciously opened doors and kept him busy ministering in union meetings, Bible conferences and Bible camps, and in churches of various denominations.
"Being anything but a Lutheran minister had never entered his mind. He consistently set apart a time each day to pray and read the Bible."
Homeless and with only $25 of his own he set out to prepare for the Lutheran ministry by enrolling at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Toward the close of the first year, Ernie was appointed gospel team manager by the board of religious activities. During his senior year he was elected to serve as chairman of the board of religious activities. He believed wholeheartedly in his denomination and what it stood for. When his college days came to a close, he applied for entrance at Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul and was accepted.
"During his senior year he was elected to serve as chairman of the board of religious activities. He believed wholeheartedly in his denomination and what it stood for."
"An Earnest Appeal"
At age 21, Ernie's parents were deceased. He was homeless with only $25. The generous citizens of Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin created "An Earnest Appeal to Friends of Ernest Rockstad" fundraiser to help him attend St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.
The appeal read,"When a young man has the talents and possibilities that Ernest Rockstad has, and has no parents to help, we friends ought to do something together. Ernest has work at college, as much as any student, but he needs more than that. One other congregation has helped. Contribute as much as you can to this worthy cause."
While attending the Minnesota Fundamentalists Conference in Minneapolis one afternoon, he heard Dr. Walter L. Wilson talk about the presence of the Holy Spirit and that a surrender to Him was necessary. That evening on his knees alone in his room, he presented his body as a living sacrifice to the Holy Spirit. Within a few days he led three souls to a saving knowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. It was clear to him that he had done little else than observe while the Spirit of God did His work in their hearts, realizing Ernie’s deepest desire to be an instrument through which God could work in winning souls. During a short break at the Fundamentalists conference he had also met V.L. Peterson, who after nineteen years as a Lutheran pastor left that denomination based on years of careful Bible study and the conviction that infant baptism and the doctrine of baptismal regeneration are not Scriptural.
Prompted by the Lord, Ernie contacted Mr. Peterson who in turn invited him to preach for pre-Easter meetings at the First Baptist Church of Three River Falls Minnesota. The Lord graciously worked in those meetings and on the second night four people were saved. The people of the church became so excited that they pleaded with Ernie to continue on the next week as well which resulted in the salvation of more people. The meetings continued for a third week and would have extended longer but Ernie was committed to begin services at Lancaster, Minnesota where he also saw the blessing of the Lord and the salvation of sinners. It was six weeks before he returned to the seminary, and he had preached almost forty times and seen a number of people come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. A definite conviction that his Lutheran connections must be severed was now in his heart and he informed his best friend at the seminary of his decision. Word spread and many fellow students expressed concern and sorrow at the news. One even urged him, "The seminary and our church need you perhaps more than you need them, Ernie."
"Ernie met the girl who became his wife, Miss Ilene Dixon, to whom he was first attracted by her beautiful singing. He told the Lord, 'If it is Thy will, I'd like to have that girl for my wife.' They married in November 1941."
For many years Ernie carried upon his heart a burden for the people in his home community of Mt. Horeb, and the surrounding area of southern Wisconsin. After praying that the Lord would send someone to begin a gospel work in the area it finally became evident that it was His will for Ernie to go himself. Going back to his old home town with the gospel was one of the hardest things he had ever done. A lot of tents were rented, and for three weeks meetings were held each night and twice on Sundays. Although he had planned to return to his traveling ministry after he brought a witness to his home town area, the response he received was beyond his expectations and he accepted it to be the Lord’s will to stay on indefinitely. In addition to Mt. Horeb, doors were opened to establish gospel churches in other communities, and it was Ernie’s joy to see people brought to the Lord and blossom out into fruitful Christian lives. Radio stations and weekly newspapers in the area were employed as means to present the Word and confront people with Christ. As time allowed he also accepted invitations to hold Bible conferences in other churches. Ernie began a writing ministry publishing booklets and tracts that reached across the country and various parts of the world. His message consistently proclaimed that salvation is not found through baptism, confirmation or the Lord’s Supper but only through entering into a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ by a personal faith in Him and His finished work.
"Ernie began a writing ministry publishing booklets and tracts that reached across the country and various parts of the world. His message consistently proclaimed that salvation is not found through baptism, confirmation or the Lord’s Supper but only through entering into a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ by a personal faith in Him and His finished work."
Although Ernie went to be with the Lord in 1986 his ministry continues to promote the Gospel of Christ, instruct the saints and expose doctrinal error. Faith and Life Ministries exists to provide a deeper understanding of God’s Word to the believer and the lost through Bible studies, tracts, books and audio seminars and sermons. With the help of these tools and resources, it is our hope for you to experience the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit, and that this material will help you learn how to resist Satan’s attacks and grow stronger in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the strength of His might.
"Faith and Life Ministries exists to provide a deeper understanding of God’s Word to the believer and the lost through Bible studies, tracts, books and audio seminars and sermons."