Friday, September 24, 2010

Offices of the Church: Pastors and Teachers

Today we start a chapter looking at the various positions within the church. God alone is the Head of the church. "He alone should rule and reign in the church as well as have authority or pre-eminence in it, and this authority should be exercised and administered by his Word alone." If He alone should rule, then why do we have church officers and leaders? It is because God does not dell among us in physical form. He uses men as His tools to work His will in the church. God "declares his regard for us when from among men he takes some to serve as his ambassadors in the world, to be interpreters of his secret will and, in short, to represent his person." He does care for us and calls some people to declare His love for us. If He were to speak directly to us from heaven, we would tremble in fear. But, when we hear a person rightly preaching God's Word to us and we respond, that demonstrates our piety and our obedience to God. There is a bond between a pastor and his flock: "one is appointed to teach the rest, and those bidden to be pupils receive the common teaching from one mouth."

In Ephesians 4, Paul writes about there being "one body" meaning the church. It is the ministry of the church that Calvin calls the "chief sinew" that holds the body together as one. He writes, "through the ministers to whom he has entrusted this office and has conferred the grace to carry it out, he dispenses and distributes his gifts to the church... Thus the renewal of the saints is accomplished; thus the body of Christ is built up; thus 'we grow up in every way into him who is the Head' and grow together among ourselves; thus are we all brought into the unity of Christ."

In Scripture, there is a certain honor given to those in the preaching office in the church. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isaiah 52:7, New King James Version). Jesus called His apostles "the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth," (Matthew 5:13-14, New King James Version). Christ showed His loyalty to His apostles when He said, "He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me," (Luke 10:16, New King James Version). About II Corinthians 4:6 and 3:9, Calvin writes, "He (Paul) therefore contends that there is nothing more notable or glorious in the church than the ministry of the gospel, since it is the administration of the Spirit and of righteousness and of eternal life."

In Ephesians 4:11, Paul writes about five different offices within the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Apostles were sent out directly by Jesus - namely the 12 disciples plus Paul. They were the first builders of the church. Paul uses the term "prophets" to "those who excelled in particular revelation." Calvin goes on to say that this group either no longer exists today or very rare. Evangelists are slightly lower in rank than apostles, such as Luke, Timothy, Titus, and possibly the seventy disciples that Christ appointed in Luke 10:1. These three positions (apostles, prophets, and evangelists) were not set up as permanent positions in the church, but as positions early in the church to help establish it. Calvin does say that God can occasionally still raise someone up to one of these positions when necessary. Pastors and teachers on the other hand are setup as permanent positions in the church. Pastors are "put in charge of discipline, administering the sacraments, warnings, and exhortations." Teachers are in charge of "Scriptural interpretation - to keep doctrine whole and pure among believers."

Even though apostles and prophets are not permanent positions, Calvin does compare the office of teacher to prophet and pastor to apostle. These permanent offices serve much of the same functions as the temporary offices. The office of teacher serves the same role as prophet. Calvin notes that pastors could even be rightly called apostles, but feels it necessary to distinguish the twelve with a special title.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.3.6-4.3.9

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