The Ministry is Necessary
Thursday of Pentecost 18
27 September 2018
Many people reject as unnecessary the ministry of the church in the service of God's people. The ministry is often considered a useless appendage, even a blight on the church's life and work. Some years ago, our congregation sponsored a fundraising event in Houston for the seminaries of our church body. We were busing guests from the hotels to the event and we had parishioners directing those who were attending to the buses in the hotel lobbies. Those members of my congregation were deeply shocked and offended when they were verbally attacked by laypeople in the hotel lobbies, who carped, "Why would we go to a fundraiser for the seminaries? The seminaries are the problem in our church body!" If we could just get rid of those pesky pastors things would be far better in the church! Not only is the ministry not necessary, but actually the cause of the church's problems. This rabid anti-clericalism founders on the Bible's own teaching. The Bible is full of testimony about the honor and necessity of properly called ministers.

The rejection of a called office of the ministry in the church is hardly new. Abraham Calov (1612 - 1686) recognized in his day that the ordained ministry was rejected by the Socinians (an anti-Trinitarian sect), in the Rachovian Catechism, and by some Dutch Arminians. The Rachovian Catechism recommended to the church acceptance of the preaching of those who do not have legitimate calls to the holy ministry: "They go forth of their own accord, excited by a regard for the divine glory and the salvation of men, for the purpose of regulating and settling the church, and excel in these two qualifications, innocence of life, and aptness to teach, they ought deservedly to have just authority among all men." This view of the ministry is common today in the United States, where charisma and zeal for God recommends preachers to the attention of the church. Unfortunately, this rejection of the much-despised "office of the ministry" destroys the office in favor of officiousness in those who recommend themselves and barge through the churches with self-certification and self-recommending zeal.

The Bible's view of the ministry is quite different from this. The ministry is an office, which God bestows on His church as a gift through a proper call into a divine institution. God no longer confers this office through a direct call, that is, without proper churchly means. He uses the church herself to call proper ministers to the company of the preachers. We want our pastors to be called by God through the church, not self-appointed; busy about God's work, not busy-bodies; subject to good order, not subjecting others to their own authority; serving the children of God, not childishly demanding to be served by the church; and feeding the sheep, not feeding on the sheep. The church confers what is God's on her ministers, that they might serve her according to God's word, will, and command. Oh, yes, the ministry of the word is necessary in the church.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Abraham Calov
"Is the ministry of the word necessary in the church?

"All destroyers of hierarchy are not afraid to be seen rejecting the necessity of the ministry, such as the Socinians, the Rachovian Catechism, the Remonstrants, and Simon Episcopius in his Apology for the Remonstrants.

"Although God truly is able to manifest His Son to us by immediate illumination, as He did for the apostles, however it has pleased Him through the foolishness of preaching to give salvation to those who believe (1Co 1:21). Therefore, the ministry of the word is absolutely necessary according to His divine will. This is true both by necessity of command (Jn 20:21-22; Mt 28:19) and also by necessity of means (Rm 10:18). Christ wished to ascend into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of God for this purpose that he might send from heaven teachers and pastors for equipping his body (Eph 4:8, 12; 1Co 12:18) so that He might be present with and work together with the preachers of the gospel (Mk 16:15, 19, 20; Mt 28:19-20). He also walks in the midst of the seven golden candle stands so that his watchfulness might be testified to in the church through the ministry (Rev 1:13), where the ministry is called an angel of the churches of Asia Minor (Rev 1:20), just as here and there they were given other names (Acts 20:28; 2Ti 1:13-14; 2:2, 4; 4:1-2, 5; Tit 1:9; 1Pt 5:1, and others)."

"If you would like to object that without the ministry of the word people were commonly converted, such as the Samaritan woman (Jn 4), the eunuch of Queen Candace (Acts 8), and the centurion (Acts 10), and others, we reply that they were not converted without the word, which the eunuch was also reading on the road (Acts 8:28). These people, although they believed in the coming Messiah, would not have been able to believe after the Messiah came and was manifested without the ministry to lead them by hand. Therefore, Philip was sent to the eunuch and Peter was sent to the centurion. Although without means Paul was converted when Jesus manifested Himself to him from heaven, however afterward he was confirmed in the faith also by the ministry of Ananias, so that he might give proper respect to the ministry of the word. Just as even the Levitical ministry was worthy of being honored when the cleansed lepers were ordered to present themselves to the priests (Mt 8:4; Lev 13:2; 14:2)."

Abraham Calov, A System of Theological Commonplaces, 8.316-317
Acts 20:28-38

"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
Almighty and gracious God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, You have commanded us to pray that You would send forth laborers into Your harvest. Of Your infinite mercy give us true teachers and ministers of Your Word who truly fulfill Your command and preach nothing contrary to Your holy Word. Grant that we, being warned, instructed, nurtured, comforted, and strengthened by Your holy Word, may do those things which are well pleasing to You and profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For the catechumens of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they may rejoice in and confess the fullness of the faith once delivered to the saints

For LouAnn Weber, that the Lord of the church would grant to her health and healing in accordance with His good and gracious will

For Andrew and Ericka Coulter, Jack Ogden, Troy Gaub, Heidi Baker, Robert Baker, Chaplain Donald Ehrke, and Alyssa Brim, and all other military personnel, that the holy angels would guard and guide them
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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