The Office of Holy Ministry

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In the past I have presented two posts that I would categorize as Eccelsiology (Study of the Church).  The first one was a refutation of Modern Apostles and the second on the modern office of Pastrix.  Both of those posts rebuke false teachings.  In this one I want to present what is true from Scripture.

The Office of Holy Ministry (Pastor) can’t be properly presented without fitting it into an Ecclesiological framework.  So along with a positive presentation of the office I want to also present a Biblical exposition on Ecclesiology.  In my experience most seem to rely too heavily on their tradition here.  And I don’t mean just the Roman Catholics,  evangelicals do this too.  They just use modern traditions of their own invention instead of ancient Christian ones.

How you can tell when someone who claims Sola Scriptura is eisegeting their tradition is when they go straight to Acts for their Ecclesiology.  Acts is historic narrative and thus lends itself well to eisegesis.  This is why you will see me start in the gospels and epistles and work my way to Acts from there.

Below are the arguments that I am going to make in this post from scripture as a foundation for presenting the Biblical office of Pastor.

  1. The connection of the “keys” between the Apostles, the Church, and Peter.
  2. The “keys” that apply to the Apostles also apply to the Church.
  3. The office of the “keys” is given to the Church by God.

The “Keys” of the Christian Church

The three passages below use very similar language with regards to binding and loosing, forgiveness of sins, and the keys of heaven.  The first passage is addressed to Peter, the second to the Church, and the third to the Apostles.

This is most easily identified by the context and the word “you”.  Which for example, is singular in Matt 16 and plural in Matt 18.  Check the passages in the KJV and you will notice they use a different word for “you” to convey this properly.

“15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”Matt 16:15-10 ESV 

“15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.  16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.  18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matt 18:15-20 ESV 
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:22‭-‬23 ESV

What you do next is going to depend on your methodology.  If I take a Biblicist approach I would pit these verses against each other and then declare which one I believe is correct over and against the others.  Instead of doing that though I am going to believe that all are true and try to figure out how by comparing them to other scripture.

The manner I believe is most honest is to accept these teachings as the same keys being given to three different recipients equally.  The language is a bit different each time, but gives us a different perspective on the gift as a whole.

Aspects of the Keys

Peter

Church

Apostles

Keys of Heaven

X
Binding and Loosing

X

X

X

Forgiveness of Sins

 

 

X

Withholding forgiveness

X

To be clear, I would apply all four aspects of the keys to all three categories equally.  Peter, the Church, and the Apostles were given the same keys.  So when it’s all put together it would look like below.

Aspects of the Keys

Peter

Church

Apostles

Keys of Heaven

X  X
Binding and Loosing

X

X

X

Forgiveness of Sins

 X

X

Withholding forgiveness

X  X

X

Peter and the apostles are in heaven now so we don’t see them using these things today.  But the Church is still with us and thus so are these four aspects of the keys given by Christ.  Because of the connection between these three we can look at how the apostles used them make fair conclusions about what believers are called to do when using the keys.

The “Keys” of the Apostles

Peter and the Apostles had the authority given to them by Christ to forgive sins.  How did they do this?  The answer is the same as it is for the church today, through Word and Sacrament (Rom 10:17)(1 Pe 3:21)(Mat 26:26-28).  The only difference is that instead of being called by the Church to do it they were sent by Jesus directly.

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18‭-‬20 ESV

“And he 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” Ephesians 4:11‭-‬12 ESV

We above see that Christ commissioned the apostles to give forgiveness of sins out with Baptism.  I have made the case in an older post on Justification that the same Gospel received in Baptism is the same as the one received in hearing the Word preached.

What am I saying?  I’m simply saying that Christ commissioned the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel in all its forms and that doing so is a use of the keys, specifically in the loosing of sins (Matt 16:15-10)(Matt 18:15-20)(John 20:22‭-‬23).  Just as the apostles had the commission and power from the Word to do this so does the Assembly of Believers today.

Below notice that to accomplish this commission the apostles established and directed Bishops and Elders in the Church with their apostolic authority given to them by Christ.  In addition to that, they also granted to the Bishops the ability to appoint elders.  As with above, I would then argue that the Church has the commission and authority by God to appoint the same functions with the same Keys.

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:1‭-‬3 ESV

“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.” Acts 20:28 ESV

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 ESV

“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” Acts 14:23 ESV 

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:5‭-‬9 ESV

The office of the “Keys”

The Church has the authority to call Bishops and appointing Elders.  That said, these offices are Biblically defined.  The authority that the Church has to call people into these offices only extends as far as the scripture allows.

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” 1 Timothy 3:1‭-‬7 ESV

That is a long list of demands that sets the moral bar very high.  Does this mean Pastors should never sin?  I would argue that it means that they are to be sinless in Christ just as any believer is.  By that same token though this is the authority the scripture gives the Church to remove impenitent Pastors.

I don’t think it says that they must be married, my understanding is that in the Greek the meaning is “one-woman-man”.   This would mean though that we cannot forbid a pastor to marry (1Tim 4:3).

untitled

Source: Biblehub

My point is that the Church has the authority granted by God to appoint a Pastor into the office defined above.  If you redefine the office then it’s not the Biblical office of Pastor, it’s something else.

This is very similar to the qualifications of an Elder, which from what I understand, works as an assistant to the Pastor.

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Titus 1:5‭-‬9 ESV

Even though the Church has the authority to call pastors and elders, they ultimately oversee us with the authority given to them in that office.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 ESV  

The concept of Elder is similar to Pastor, we can appoint someone into that office but we cannot redefine it.  If we do so we end up with something different even if we call it by the same name.

What am I getting at here?

Well many Churches today practice women’s ordination.  To do that though you have to water down all the passages that actually define the office of pastor, so you don’t really have an office to call anyone into at that point.  I’m not slamming on women, I’m just slamming on the false teaching, it is not a matter of intelligence or physical ability.

Can the Church create other offices and fill those how they please?

Of course we can, there is nothing in scripture forbidding that.  Church secretary and grounds keeper are good examples, and we can fill them however we like.  The church can and does do this on many different man made offices.  Much of these come and go from one generation to the next but the Biblical office of Pastor remains the same.

There is no scripture forbidding that we add requirements to the office of Pastor either.  A masters degree in divinity from an accredited seminary wasn’t a thing in Paul’s day but it’s something most Churches require now.  This is a good thing too, shouldn’t I expect my Pastor to be an educated man the same as I would a doctor or lawyer?  Why should the bar be higher for a secular profession than a religious one?

Conclusion

In the future I intend to blog on Church authority.  What I have given here is more on the local Church congregation than it is anything else.  But there are good Biblical reasons which tie into what I have represented for larger bodies of believers that need an overseer of pastors and congregations at large.  That can wait though.

At the end of the day God has given his assembly of believers the same authority that he did the apostles in calling and appointing Pastors and Elders, who in turn have a divine authority over us granted by the Word.  Obviously other man made traditions have been incorporated over the millenia, probably to help protect the Church from error and schism.  But in spite of those traditions the teachings from scripture remain over them.

Where Word and Sacrament are present we can expect that the Church is also present.  And where the Church is present the ability to call some into the teaching office of the Holy Ministry exists.  Even if a missionary travels in a Godless land he has no calling to the office of Pastor until believers there recognize and appoint him either formally by a written letter or informally by paying his salary and submitting to his authority.

Additionally, when someone says they were “called” to the ministry it is fair to ask what they mean by that.  Was it a funny feeling in their heart or did they receive a letter in the mail from a Church formally calling them to an office?  Because the letter is an example of a Biblical call and the fuzzy feeling is a man made tradition. #ShotsFired

 

 

Below are my extra Biblical sources for the study outlined in this post…

Christian Dogmatics Vol III, Pg 397-427, F. Pieper

My Pastor Ken Burton III for breaking this topic down for me in plain english

Lastly, a well done video by Rev. Jonathan Fisk which you can find below:

 

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About ACTheologian

I am a layman who blogs my Biblical studies. Enjoy, please read with an open Bible and do double check with your pastor.
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One Response to The Office of Holy Ministry

  1. Pingback: Augsburg Confession Article V: About the Ministry | Armchair Theologian

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