Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Necessity of the Pastoral Office

In the passage below, John Calvin writes on the importance of the ordained leaders of the church. He and other Protestant Reformers taught the importance of the Bible as the final standard that judges all human authority, as well as the necessity of direct and personal faith in Christ. Some modern Protestants have taken this truth to mean that the organized church and its officers are unnecessary or even a hinderance. Yet the Reformers also realized that Christ, in this same Bible, also appointed the ministry of evangelists, pastors, and teachers to build up the church in this prophetic and apostolic Scripture. Here Calvin comments on Ephesians 4:4-16, which speaks of how Christ "gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ..." (Ephesians 4:11–13).
"By these words he shows that the ministry of men, which God employs in governing the Church, is a principal bond by which believers are kept together in one body. He also intimates, that the Church cannot be kept safe, unless supported by those guards to which the Lord has been pleased to commit its safety. Christ “ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10). The mode of filling is this: By the ministers to whom he has committed this office, and given grace to discharge it, he dispenses and distributes his gifts to the Church, and thus exhibits himself as in a manner actually present by exerting the energy of his Spirit in this his institution, so as to prevent it from being vain or fruitless. In this way, the renewal of the saints is accomplished, and the body of Christ is edified; in this way we grow up in all things unto Him who is the Head, and unite with one another; in this way we are all brought into the unity of Christ, provided prophecy flourishes among us, provided we receive his apostles, and despise not the doctrine which is administered to us. Whoever, therefore, studies to abolish this order and kind of government of which we speak, or disparages it as of minor importance, plots the devastation, or rather the ruin and destruction, of the Church. For neither are the light and heat of the sun, nor meat and drink, so necessary to sustain and cherish the present life, as is the apostolical and pastoral office to preserve a Church in the earth." (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.3.2)

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