Friday, October 29, 2010

Rejection of the Primacy and Titles for the Pope

It was not until 325 AD during the Council of Nicaea that there was any primacy assigned to the Roman see. Julius, the bishop of the Roman see, was not present at this council, but his representatives were given a fourth place rank at the council. Calvin then asks the question, "if Julius had been recognized as the head of the church, why were his delegates relegated to fourth place?" Even 124 years later at the Second Council of Ephesus, the patriarch of Alexandria was over the council, not the patriarch of Rome. This indicates to us that the patriarch of Rome did not hold first place over all other bishops.

At the Council of Chalcedon, the emperor allowed the representatives of Rome to have the highest seat. Leo had requested this position. His reasoning was that the bishops from the East had caused unnecessary conflict at the Council of Ephesus. After this council, the Roman representatives did not hold the top chair at the following councils.

The early church did not recognize the primacy of the bishop of Rome or the Roman see. Cyprian, who was the 3rd century bishop of Carthage, called Cornelius, the bishop of Rome, "brother," "fellow bishop," and "colleague." He gave no indication in his letters that Cornelius held any higher position than any other bishop. At the Council of Carthage, it was decided that no one should ever be called "prince of priests" or "first bishop." The bishop of Rome could be referred to as "bishop of the prime see." Jerome, the 4th-5th century translator of the Bible into Latin, spoke out against the idea of the authority of one bishop over all others.

The late 6th century Gregory the Great was opposed to the title "universal bishop" or "ecumenical bishop." He thought that this was profane, sacrilegious, and the precursor of Antichrist. He said, "The whole church falls from its condition if anyone who is called 'universal' falls." Gregory was highly critical of anyone wishing to gain this or any similar title. He wrote, "No one ever wished to be called by such a name; no one seized upon this presumptuous title lest, by snatching to himself in the pontifical rank the glory of uniqueness, he should seem to deny it to all his brethren."

Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.5-4.7.10

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Peter in Rome

The Romanists have always defended their position that Peter was bishop of Rome for many years. Eusebius wrote in his history that Peter was over the Roman church for 25 years. Gregory on the other hand said seven years. Based on other facts, Calvin thinks it was a very short time that Peter was in Rome. We know that the time between Jesus' death and the end of Nero's reign was about 37 years. Peter was killed while Nero was still in power. We also know that Peter was in Jerusalem for 20 years after Jesus' death. We also know that he went to Antioch for a period of time. That leaves little time for him to be in Rome, certainly not 25 years. Calvin also notes that Paul is silent about Peter being in Rome even though he names other Christians who are there in his epistle to the Romans. Why would he ignore the bishop of Rome, especially if it were Peter?

Paul went to rome as a prisoner. Luke records in Acts that he was received by the believers in Rome, but again there is no mention of Peter. From Rome Paul wrote to other churches, and even though he sent greetings from the believers in Rome, no mention of Peter being one of them. The Romanists also argue that there is a direct succession from Peter, even though there is not agreement on who the next is. Some say it was Clement and others claim that it was Linus. Calvin writes, "I do not quarrel with the notion that he (Peter) died there, but I cannot be persuaded that he was a bishop, especially for a long time." Calvin does mention here that Paul's ministry is somewhat more significant to us since he was sent to the Gentiles while Peter was sent to the Jews. There is no real evidence in Scripture that Peter was ever the bishop of the Roman church.

The Romanists claim that there must be one head of the church in order to maintain unity. We believe that this head is Christ alone and not a mortal man. Calvin observes three reasons why particular honor was given to the church in Rome. The first is because some maintain that Peter started the church there. The second is because it was a very modern city of the time where many educated people lived. These early believers would have been skilled in doctrine an other disciplines more than anywhere else. Finally, other churches had dissension among themselves, but Rome remained clamer and whole. These other churches would then appeal to Rome with their disputes.

Scripture teaches that the church should be unified, however no supreme church or universal bishop is ever mentioned. Cyprian wrote on the subject of the universal church, "The episcopate is one, a 'whole' of which a part is held by each bishop. And the church is one, which is spread abroad dar and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strong trunk grounded in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although a goodly number seem outpoured from their bounty and superabundance, still at the source unity abides undivided... So also the church, bathed in the light of the Lord, extends its rays over the whole earth: yet there is one light diffused everywhere. Nor is the unity of the body severed; it spreads its branches through the whole earth; it pours forth its overflowing streams; yet there is one head and one source." This one source is Christ alone, not any bishop (even Peter).

Tomorrow's reading: 4.7.1-4.7.6

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Arguements Against the Primacy of Peter and Rome

Peter was given special rank above the other disciples. Even though Calvin does not mention it, there is some thought that he may of been older and that is why he was given this position. Just because Peter was put in this position among the apostles it does not make this position universal and for all perpetuity according to Calvin. He was chief among the disciples, but there were only a few of them. And this position did not give him power over the other disciples. Calvin compares his position to that of a consul in a senate or the chairman of a committee (which all presbyterians can relate). He writes, "in any assembly, even though all are equal in power, one should be the moderator, as it were, to whom the others look." The papists claim that hierarchical examples stem from nature as an example for the church. They point to cranes and bees who have leaders. Calvin argues that this is nonsense and not applicable to the church. Anyway, bees and cranes to not elect the heads of their groups like the church does. The papists also point to examples from literature, such as works by Homer. Once again, it makes no sense to pattern the church after literature instead of God's Word!

Christ alone is the sole head of the church. There is no other head according to Scripture. Ephesians 4:15-16 reads, "but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." He is the head and the church is the body. The romanists consider this a non-issue because they claim that the pope is Christ's vicegerent on earth. Calvin responds to this by writing, "...since Scripture attests that Christ is Head and claims this honor for him alone, it ought not to be transferred to anyone else except whom Christ himself has appointed his own vicar." Supporting passages include Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Colossians 1:18 and 2:10.

Scripture does not mention anywhere that after Christ there should be a human monarch over the church. Calvin writes, "By his ascension Christ took away from us his visible presence; yet he ascended to fill all things. Now, therefore, the church still has, and always will have, him present... The Lord (he [Paul] says) is in us all, according to the measure of grace which he has bestowed upon each member." We recently discussed Ephesians 4:11 where Paul writes that some are appointed as apostles, teachers, evangelists, etc. No where does Paul state that anyone is appointed by Christ to be supreme pontiff.

The idea of the supremacy of a location is counter to the teachings of Scripture. For Christ was in Jerusalem, and He did not claim power for that city. He writes, " this reasoning the Israelites of old ought to have established the primate's see in the desert, where Moses the supreme teacher and prince of prophets, had carried out his ministry and died." Tying the head of the church to a particular location is not Scriptural nor is it logical.

If the location does matter, then why isn't the head city Antioch instead of Rome? Peter was the leader of the church in Antioch before moving to Rome. Therefore, according to their own logic, the papists should have Antioch as their capital. Calvin brings up three legal arguments against transferring power to Rome from Antioch. First, if this power is personal, then it belongs to the person (Peter) and not to the place (Rome). Secondly, if it is real, then it cannot be removed by the departure of a person. If it is mixed, "then it will not be a simple consideration of place unless the person corresponds." It is apparent then that Rome cannot claim primacy for itself.

There is not logic in their ranking of other cities. Calvin claims that it would make the most logical sense if Rome is the capital city of the church, then Antioch should at least be in second place, but it does not. Peter may have held first place among the apostles, but James and John were up there with him. Since they were the leaders of the churches in Jerusalem and Ephesus, why are they not considered second and third? Calvin tells us that among the churches established by the patriarchs, Jerusalem holds last place. Alexandria, founded by Mark (who was a disciple and not an apostle), is second in the Roman church, and holds a higher rank than the other "apostolic" sees.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.6.14-4.6.17

Monday, October 18, 2010

Primancy of Rome

For centuries, the Roman church has made the claim that all Christians shall submit to Rome's authority. Calvin takes some time to examine and refute this claim. The Roman church was so currputed by the 16th century, that it was a church in name only. In reference to his earlier evidence of the corruption of the Roman church, Calvin writes, "This we have done that the godly reader might judge from comparison what sort of church the Romanists have, for the sake of which they make us guilty of schism, since we have separated from it." This claim of the primacy of Rome is not biblical, not commanded by Christ, nor was it in practice in the early church.

The Romanists point to the Old Covenant as proof of the hierarchy that they have established. Even though there was a type of hierarchy in Israel, Christ did not establish this type of government in the church. In the Old Covenant, the primacy of Jerusalem was established because the Jewish people were surrounded by pagan nations. This provided unity and structure. This was useful since it was one nation, not the entire world. As far as one person being at the top of this hierarchy, Calvin writes, "No one is ignorant of the fact that the high priest was a type of Christ; with the priesthood transferred, the right should be transferred... not to the pope (as he dare shamelessly boast) when he takes the title unto himself, but to Christ, who, as he alone keeps that office without vicar or successor, consequently resigns that honor to no one else." Christ himself reigns eternally, not humans in his place.

There are two sentences which Christ spoke that Rome uses as prooftexts for their claim of authority. Matthew 16:18 reads, "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." The other is John 21:15 where Christ asks Peter if he loves Him and then tells Peter to "Feed my sheep." Peter was not given any more authority by Christ in these verses than the other apostles. Christ did not place him in a leadership position in these texts. Even Peter tells the entire church to feed Christ's sheep in I Peter 5:2, "Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly."

In Matthew 16:19, Christ said to Peter, "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” In John 20:23, Christ explains that binding and loosing is about the forgiveness of sins. Calvin explains about these "keys" that Christ speaks of here by saying, "Since heaven is opened to us by the doctrine of the gospel, the word "keys" affords an appropriate metaphor. Now men are bound and loosed in no other way that when faith reconciles some to God, while their own unbelief constrains others the more." These keys are a common gift, given to all the apostles because the preaching of the gospel was assigned to all the apostles. Even though Christ is speaking to Peter, this gift was given to them all. Cyprian said, "In the person of one man the Lord gave the keys to all, to signify the unity of all." Augustine said, "If the mystery of the church had not been in Peter, the Lord would not have said to him, 'I shall give you the keys'; for if this was said to Peter alone, the church does not have them. But if the church has them, Peter, when he received the keys, was a symbol of the whole church.'"

Calvin concedes that it is not recorded that Christ ever told anyone else directly, "on this rock I will build my church." But at the same time Calvin states that Christ would not say anything more about Peter than Peter and Paul say about all Christians. Even though chronologically Peter may have been first in believing or the first to start building the church, he still does not hold power above any other Christians. There is only one foundation of the church. Paul says it best in I Corinthians 3:11, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Peter is equal to the rest of the apostles. He was their companion, not their master. Acts 15 is proof of this. Calvin writes, "He indeed refers to a council anything that is to be done, and advises what needs to be done. But at the same time he listens to others, and he not only lets them express their views, but leaves the decision to them; when they have decreed, he follows and obeys." By submitting to the authority of the council, Peter does not show dominance over anyone or claiming more power than anyone else. Instead, he humbles himself to being equal with them all. According to Calvin, Paul uses almost two chapters of Galatians to speak to the fact that he and Peter are equals and that neither holds authority over the other.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.6.8-4.6.17

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More Abuses and Greed in the Church

We touched on this in the last reading, but Calvin gets deeper into the problem of absenteeism. So many bishops had flocks placed in their care, but they never stepped foot into that church. Even though they take no care of their people and turn their responsibilities over to others, they still wish to be known as pastors. Calvin compares this to a money lender who has never been outside of the city gate wanting to be known as a plowman or a soldier who has never been inside of a court of law wanting to be known as a lawyer. He writes, "Many throughout life devour the revenues of the churches without ever coming to the point of even taking a look at them." At that time, it was exceedingly rare for a bishop to actually be in the church assigned to him. Calvin says that natural sense "repudiates the notion that he how has never seen a sheep of his flock is the shepherd of it."

Almost one thousand years before Calvin, this practice of absenteeism had already begun. Pope Gregory I, also known as Gregory the Great, spoke out about this abuse. He said, "The world is full of priests, but in the harvest a worker is rarely found; for we indeed take upon us the priestly office but do not fulfill the work of that office." By the time of St. Bernard in the 11th-12th centuries, the practice of absenteeism had gotten even worse so he rebuked those who did not properly care for their flocks. Calvin suggests that the practice of absenteeism had grown even worse in his own day.

Calvin becomes even more critical of the Roman church government, saying that it is worse than a robber's den. "Surely everything there is so unlike, indeed, so alien to, Christ's greater injury can be done to Christ than when they put forward his name to defend such a disordered government." The Roman church's leaders claim to be "vicars of Christ" and that apostolic power has been passed down to them, but really they have nothing in common with the apostles. In his humorous way, Calvin lets his readers know what he really thinks about these bishops, "...bishops are for the most part rude asses who do not grasp even the first and commonplace rudiments of faith, or sometimes big boys fresh from their nursemaid..."

And not wanting the Roman priests to feel left out, he writes, "Today there is no order of men more notorious in excess, effeminacy, voluptuousness, in short, in all sorts of lusts; in no order are there masters more adept or skillful in every deceit, fraud, treason, and treachery; nowhere is there as great cunning or boldness to do harm. I say nothing about their arrogance, pride, greed, and cruelty. I say nothing about the dissolute license of their entire life." He declares that not even one in a hundred bishops would not be excommunicated from the church and not just deposed from their office if they were judged according to the standards and canons of the early church. "The order that they have, it is clear, is neither from Christ, nor from his apostles, nor from the fathers, nor from the ancient church."

Deacons were created by the very early church (as Luke records in Acts) to collect and distribute alms to the poor. By Calvin's time they were no longer doing this. They were charged with "ministering at the altar, reading or chanting the gospel, and goodness knows what other trifles." Being a deacon at this point was seen more as a stepping stone to the priesthood rather than an important office in the church. Deacons were the "stewards of the poor" and charged with distributing alms. "Today the poor get nothing more of those alms than if they were cast into the sea." He says that these deacons "mock the church with a false diaconate."

The clergy was growing rich off the collections from the congregation and the poor received nothing. The poor should have received at least one half according to the ancient canons. One quarter of the collections were to go directly to the poor and another quarter were to be given to the bishops to "distribute in hospitality and other offices of generosity." Instead, they were keeping it all for themselves and for the building of fancy churches.

The clergy claimed that "the dignity of the church is decently sustained by this magnificence." This was their excuse for spending so much on making the church downright ostentatious and for spending so much on themselves. Times had changed since the days of Ambrose who presided over the Synod of Aquileia. Out of this synod there came the statement, "Glorious is poverty in the priests of the Lord." No longer were the priests impoverished, but instead they were often quite wealthy.

Still on the subject of excesses by the church, Calvin writes, "Nothing at all pleases except what savors of excess and the corruption of the times. Meanwhile, so far are they from taking due care of living temples that they would rather let many thousands of the poor die of hunger than break the smallest cup or cruet to relieve their need." The offerings given to the church are dedicate to Christ. Since they are dedicated to Christ, they should be distributed according to His will, and not hoarded by the clergy and the church.

The last section is almost a summary of everything covered in this chapter. There is no real church order in the Roman church. The early church fathers lived simple lives and met in simple buildings (usually houses). By Calvin's day the clergy lived lives of excess and assembled the people in large, opulent churches. Jerome wrote, "the glory of the bishop is to provide for the poor; the disgrace of all priests, to seek after their own riches." Once again, Calvin declares that the diaconate has disappeared from the Roman church.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.6.1-4.6.7

Monday, October 11, 2010

Corruption of Church Offices

The Roman church during the Reformation was totally corrupt. There were so many issues with the ordination of ministers. Few were qualified at all to serve. Calvin writes, "for a hundred years scarcely one man in a hundred has been elected [to a church office] who has comprehended anything of sacred learning... If their morals are appraised, we shall find few or almost none whom the ancient canons would not have judged unworthy." The most egregious cases according to Calvin involved children as young as ten years old being made bishops.

One reason for the lack of qualified people being made bishops was that the people's right to elect a bishop had been taken away by the church and given to a handful of people within the church. This had gone on for hundreds of years. Pope Leo I and Cyprian both were opposed to this practice, but it continued anyway. Those who were choosing bishops and priests declared that the times were so corrupted that the decisions should be made by just a few select persons. Calvin argues that these new traditions go against instruction found in Scripture. "The people once had an excellent canon, I say, to whom the Word of God prescribed that a bishop ought to be above reproach, a teacher, not contentious, etc. Why, then, has the responsibility of choosing been removed from the people to such fellows?"

Those who claim that the right to choose was taken away from the people as a remedy to the issues are lying according to Calvin. He reminds the reader that there were plenty of situations before where there was controversy over who was elected in cities, but no one dared to take away this right from the people. There have always been remedies prescribed in Scripture for dealing with unqualified bishops and none have included having a handful of people selecting bishops. Calvin notes that this practice came about in part because the people became lazy when electing bishops. They somewhat gave the responsibility to the presbyters and went along with their recommendation. The presbyters used this opportunity to gain too much control by issuing new canons so the people were excluded. Then, in many cities, princes were able to weasel their way into the process so they had a right to nominate who was selected. Calvin writes that this "caused no new loss to the church, because the election was taken away only from the canons, who had seized it without right or had actually stolen it."

At some point, bishops declared that is was their right alone to select presbyters and deacons for the church. This was just further corruption of the church. Plus, some of these presbyters served no function for they were free of any pastoral obligation. The Council of Chalcedon had already declared that this was wrong, because a church should not be burdened with the expense of having a presbyter who does nothing and it is wrong to thing of this election as being an honor rather than an office with solemn duties to preform.

Presbyters should not be elected just to "perform a sacrifice". They are charged with governing the church. Similarly, deacons are charged with gathering and distributing alms. Calvin claims that the examination process of presbyters is not relevant. The questions of the exam have nothing to do with spiritual maturity, but "whether they can read their masses, whether they can decline some common noun that occurs in the lesson, whether they can conjugate a verb, whether they know the meaning of one word; for it is not necessary that they even know how to render the meaning of a single verse."

There were several truly corrupt practices that went on at this time and Calvin was not the first to speak out about them. One of them was the practice of simony. Simony is basically a bribe given by someone to church officials in order to be made a bishop or other church position. This was common during this period of the church. Another abuse was pluralism which went along with absenteeism. Pluralism was managing to become the bishop for multiple cities or being the priest for multiple churches. Absenteeism was the practice of being over a church or city and never being there to actually govern. This was common for priests who had multiple churches (especially when those positions were bought to begin with). Calvin writes, "But I say these are both monstrous abuses, which are utterly contrary to God, nature, and church government - that one robber occupy several churches at once, and that a man be named pastor who, even though he wish to, is unable to be present with his flock."

Calvin then complained about monks being pastors. The Roman church had two classes of priests: monks and seculars. Through much of history, having a monk be a pastor was not allowed. "For he [Pope Gregory] wishes those who have been made abbots to leave clerical office, on the ground that no one can properly be both a monk and a cleric, since the one would be a hindrance to the other." Calvin uses more historical evidence to prove that these two offices are incompatible with each other, therefore no one should be both a monk and a priest at the same time.

Of the seculars, some of them receive their income from the church, but do absolutely nothing for their pay. They are known as "benefices". They hire out the duties that they are charged with to hired priests. These hired priests perform masses and the like for fees. Calvin writes about these priests, "I say briefly: if it be the presbyter's office (as God's Word prescribes and the ancient canons require) to feed the church, and administer the spiritual Kingdom of Christ, all such sacrificers who have work or wages only in the hawking of masses not only fail in their office, but have no lawful office to exercise. For no place is given them for teaching; they have no people to govern."

These benefices "have cast off as burdens too troublesome the preaching of the Word, the care of discipline, and the administering of the sacraments." They are performing no ministry for the church. By ignoring their called duties, they are going against Christ's commands and the commands from the church. They are refusing to conform to the examples set before them by the early church. They should have no place within the government of the church and their titles should be taken away.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.5.11-4.5.19

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ordination of Ministers

In ancient times, writers recorded that there were youth who, with the consent of their parents, were taken under the wing of bishops to train them in the ministry. They were given the general name "clerics," but Calvin wishes they had been given a more proper name. Because they were set apart at a young age to be brought up under special instruction of the church, it was assured that only well-prepared persons were ordained as ministers. There were a couple of sub-groups of these young clerics. There were "doorkeepers" who were entrusted with opening and closing the doors of the church. As they grew, they became "acolytes" who assisted the bishops in many day-to-day functions. They accompanied the bishops wherever they went. Acolytes were also given the privilege of reading Scripture from the pulpit in part so they became used to speaking in public. As they continued to grow, they would eventually become sub-deacons.

Pastor candidates in the ancient church were subjected to rigorous scrutiny. They were selected with reverence and prayer. They were tested against the standard of Paul's life, however, Calvin claims that the church sometimes sinned in its scrutiny by requiring more of the candidates than Paul would have required - especially in regard to celibacy. No pastor in the ancient church was ordained without the consent of all the people. Cyprian broke this custom and wrote about it stating that the person he ordained would have passed because he had long been in training and had high moral standards. No one was made even a sub-deacon without first spending many years as a cleric. He had to prove himself as a sub-deacon before becoming a deacon, and from there he had to prove himself in order to become a presbyter. There were many canons in place to punish the shortcomings of any church officer, so if a deacon or presbyter fell short of their responsibilities the church "need not suffer...unless it neglected the remedies." Ordinations took place at particular times so that "no one might creep in secretly without the consent of believers."

It was at the Council of Antioch in 341 that it was decided that no one could be ordained into church office unless it was the will of the people. This was confirmed by Pope Leo I. Therefore, even if a bishop named his own successor, it was not valid unless the people approved it. An example of this was cited by Calvin when Augustine named Eraclius as his successor.

Calvin notes, "For it scarcely ever happens that so many heads can unanimously settle any matter." The Council of Laodicea in 369 sought to remedy this problem. They proposed that the clergy make a choice, then they can offer the choice to the "magistrates or senate and leading citizens." If they find the candidate acceptable, he is brought before the people. If not, they can propose their own candidate. The people could accept or reject this candidate, but they could not "raise a tumult" about it. The people could also nominate a candidate.

This system was preserved at least through the time of Gregory (540-604). He wrote about it and when the bishop of Milan was elected, he suggested seeking the approval of the Milanese who previously fled to Genoa due an invasion by the barbarians. The emperor's consent was sought in both Rome and Constantinople because these were imperial capitals. "But at Rom of old the emperor's authority so prevailed in the naming of the bishop that Gregory says he was established in the government of the church by the emperor's command, even though he had already in a solemn rite been called by the people."

There has always been a solemn rite in initiating ministers into their positions. The Latin word is translated as "ordination" or "consecration." The Greek term is "raising of hands" or "laying on of hands." The "raising of hands" actually more refers to the election of the minister. I find it interesting that we typically call it "ordination" and part of that rite is the laying on of hands. The Council of Nicaea declared that there should be an assemble of the metropolitan as well as all the bishops of the province to ordain a minister. If for some reason distance or health prevented some bishops from attending, at least three bishops must be present while the ones absent send their approval by letter.

Eventually, candidates sought election from the bishop of a city because of ambition and no good reason. Throughout Italy, people sought ordination from Rome, except in Milan. The procedure was still the laying on of hands. Bishops wore special "trappings" to distinguish themselves. Bishops also ordained their own presbyters, therefore they were called "his". Ancient writers stated that the only difference between these presbyters and the bishops was the lack of power for the presbyters to ordain.

Tomorrow's reading 4.5.1-4.5.10

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Ancient Church and Its Government

By studying the early church, we can understand more of what the church government was like before the papacy. The early church tried its best to conform to a pattern of government that observed the guidelines of Scripture. For instance, Scripture speaks of three different orders of ministers. The early church had three orders of ministers: (1) presbyters - preachers and teachers (2) presbyters - ruling elders and (3) deacons who took care of the poor and distributed alms. Readers and acolytes were not ministerial offices, but they were positions held by those who were in training to become ministers.

In the early church, there would be one minister in each city who would be named "bishop". The point of this position was not to exalt one minister nor was it so he could have power over the other ministers. It was a position developed in order to prevent dissensions which might have arisen due to the equality of the ministers. Jerome shows that this position was around even at the time of Mark the evangelist. The bishop was to be elected by the other ministers in the city, but Jerome points out that a bishop and presbyter "are one and the same."

Throughout the history of the early church, the duties of the bishop and presbyters varied from place to place and from time to time. The primary roles throughout history that bishops and presbyters serve are to preach the Word and administer the sacraments. An exception to this was in Alexandria during the time of Arius. At that time, presbyters were forbidden to preach. However, during the time of Pope Gregory, all bishops were required to preach.

Each city had a bishop, but eventually each province had an archbishop to be the "tie-breaker" for the bishops in the area. At the Council of Nicaea, it was declared that patriarchs "were ordained to be higher in rank and dignity than archbishops." If a dispute came about which could not be settled with the patriarch and the synod, then the dispute went to the general council. Calvin states that the term "hierarchy" was inappropriate for this type of government in the early church, even though that is eventually what it became.

Even though the office of presbyter evolved over time, the role of deacon remained basically unchanged since the time of the apostles. The deacons were responsible for collecting the daily offerings and the yearly income of the church. They distributed some to the minister and some to the poor. They were required to distribute the funds according to the wishes of the bishop, then they had to show an account of how they did on an annual basis. Calvin states that the deacons were "under the bishop" and "the stewards of the poor." There came about the position of "sub-deacon" which were persons who would assist the deacons in their responsibilities, but eventually the distinction between the two became confused and the separate title disappeared. For a time there were also "archdeacons" who kept closer watch over the funds of the church and were held accountable if anything was lost due to negligence or fraud. They were also given the task of reading the gospel, prayer, and even "extending the cup in the Sacred Supper."

Calvin then looks at church property. He writes, "You will frequently find in the decrees of synods and in ancient writers that all that the church possesses, either in lands or in money, is the patrimony of the poor." Bishops and deacons are encouraged "keep good faith" by not wasting the church's money. Ministers and other church workers should expect to be paid by the church. They should receive enough to meet their needs, but not so much that they lead lives of luxury and excess. Jerome stated that if a clergy member can be supported by his parents, then it is a sin for him to receive money from the church because that belongs to the poor.

The church's funds should be split four ways. One part to the clergy, one to the poor, one to the maintenance of the church building, and one more part for the poor (both foreign and indigenous). Some historical canons have designated the fourth part to bishops, but this is not for his personal use, instead it is for "the hospitality required of the rank." If a bishop is leading a luxurious life with these funds, he should be removed from his position.

When the early church first started out, it had little money for itself. Very little was spent on ornate things for the church. Even as the church gradually gained more money, moderation was still key. Calvin points out actions by different bishops throughout history who recognized that moderation was key for the church. For instance, Cyril sold vessels and vestments when a famine was upon Jerusalem in order to feed the poor. Acacius of Amida melted down sacred vessels in order to buy food and pay ransom for the poor. He is quoted as saying, "Our God need neither plates nor cups, for He neither eats nor drinks." Ambrose said, "He who sent out the apostles without gold also gathered churches without gold. The church has gold not to keep but to pay out and to relieve distress."

Tomorrow's reading: 4.4.9-4.4.15
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