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What Luther Says

The Office Of The Holy Ministry: 'Not Merely A Divine Suggestion, But A Divine Mandate'

I've noticed a lot of talk in recent days about "The Office of The Holy Ministry"/"The Office of The Public Ministry" -- what it is, what it isn't, and why it's important.

I'll admit, the whole concept is certainly one of the things that was very different for me when I first escaped American Evangelicalism and became a Confessional Lutheran.

What I was completely resistant to at first, I've now grown to appreciate and love for many reasons. That's why I think it's good to see "...But We Will Devote Ourselves To Prayer And The Ministry Of The Word" and "Bishop Tyranny And Heresy" published within the past few days, because both do a good job of explaining the office and role of a Pastor to us laymen.

There’s a ton of confusion in the Church today surrounding the pastoral office. Do we really even need pastors? What is he supposed to do with his time? Is he supposed to be a leader, a counselor, a CEO, a visionary, or what? 
The early church had a problem with the neglect of widows. As godly and important of a task as it was to provide for them, the Twelve knew other people could be recruited to do it. But not just anybody could preach the Word: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables,” (Acts 6:2). “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the Ministry of the Word,” (Acts 6:4). 
In an age where the social Gospel garners more respect than the actual gospel, it’s becoming harder and harder to find sympathy for the concern of the Twelve. Time spent in prayer and Scripture doesn’t produce any tangible result, so there’s often pressure on pastors to spend less time doing those things in favor of more “practical” tasks. 
Nevertheless, God wants His pastors to be devoted to prayer and the Ministry of the Word. This is why St. Paul says those who preach the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). Likewise, when our Lord sent out the twelve among the lost sheep of the house of Israel, He instructed them to take no money, “for a laborer deserves his food.” (Matthew 10:9–10). God wants the Church to provide for the temporal needs of Her pastors so that they can give their full attention to the Word and Sacrament ministry. 
Tentmaking is a noble enough profession, and there are circumstances where a worker-priest arrangement is necessary, but it is certainly not ideal. It reduces the amount of time the pastor can devote to prayer and the Ministry of the Word. The more time a pastor spends in prayer and Scripture, the better his preaching, teaching, and pastoral care will be. The best thing for a congregation is for its pastor to live and breathe Scripture as much as possible. It is impossible to be too devoted to prayer and the Ministry of the Word. 
Pastors should demonstrate a constant and ready ministry centered in the Gospel. This will be put to the test especially in providing pastoral care to the hurting, sick, and dying. Sermons and bible classes can be prepared ahead of time. When a woman comes into the pastor’s study to tell him she just was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer or the pastor gets a call from a father saying his son was just killed in a car accident, his theology is put to the test and shown for what it really is. The best way for a pastor to demonstrate a constant and ready ministry centered in the Gospel is to devote himself to prayer and the ministry of the Word.

That was the opening to Pastor Eric Andersen's piece.

In a sense, it sort of goes hand-in-hand with our last post about the whole so-called "Church Growth Movement" and how it views the Pastor and his office. It also reminds me of C.F.W. Walther's "The Church & The Office of The Ministry" that I've been slowly working my way through for several months now.

I will say that it's a lengthy treatise on the subject, but it's given me a new appreciation and reverence for Pastors and their calling if not also a new appreciation and reverence for Christ's Church.

Anyway, the timing of seeing those commentaries at Steadfast Lutherans was perfect though, because at the end of my daily reading this morning, I came to a short article in my Lutheran Study Bible at the end of Acts that addresses this same subject.

The Office of The Public Ministry 
The Office of The Public Ministry is not merely a divine suggestion, but a divine mandate. God has declared that the church should carry out its functions not only in private, individual actions and speaking, but also corporately by selecting men who meet God's criteria and whom He then places into the office of the public ministry. 
The office and its functions are not called "public" because the functions are always discharged in public, but because they are performed on behalf of the church. The acts of one who is called to fill the office of the public ministry are "public" even when they are performed privately with one individual. Moreover, the word "public" connotes accountability to those who have placed them into "public" office. ...As a father manages his household, so the bishop stands at the head of his congregation as one who is charged with the duty of caring for the church of God (1 Timothy 3:1; other passages on the office include 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:7; Ephesians 4:11-12). 
Of great significance for the nature of the New Testament ministry are the expressions: the "ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4); the "ministry of a new covenant" (2 Corinthians 3:6); the "ministry of the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:8); the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18); and Paul's reference to himself as a "minister of the Gospel" (Colossians 1:23). 
Paul writes in Titus 1:5, "This is why I left you in Crete that you might amend what was defective (what is absent, lacking, missing) and appoint elders in every town as I directed you." In Acts 14:23, the examples of the apostles are recorded. They appointed ordained elders for them in every church. In Acts 20:17 and Acts 20:28, the terms elder and bishop are used interchangeably, as in Titus 1:5 and 7. In Acts 20:28, Paul admonishes the elders: "Take heed 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 the blood of His own Son."  
A picture emerges from these references of an office that was instituted by God, in and with the apostolate, for which very specific qualifications are listed. The essence of this is properly defined in the Augsburg Confession as "teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments" (AC V) on behalf of and with the accountability to the church (AC XIV). 
The supervision of the shepherd-elder-bishop is a supervision of the teaching of the Word and administration of the Sacraments. In this way they are leaders to be obeyed in their speaking of the Word of God. They are supervisors of spiritual life, faith, and Christian service of the Church and its members. This is a heavy responsibility that no man can take upon himself; rather to which he must be legitimately called by the church (cf. Acts 1:23-26; Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23; 2 Corinthians 8:19; AC XIV). 
*- V. Indrenath Stanley, "Transition From A Missionary To A Post-Missionary Era In The Ambur District of the India Evangelical Lutheran Church" (doctoral dissertation, Concordia Theological Seminary, 2003). 99-103

As previously stated, it's important to always remember that The Office of The Holy Ministry "is not merely a divine suggestion, but a divine mandate."

With that in mind, in a Lutheran layman's terms, the Pastor is not a CEO-type, but the divinely called and ordained servant of Christ and a minister of the Lord's precious gifts to His people.

NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

1 comment

  1. I completely forgot that I had written this related piece back in 2014...

    "Your Task, O Preacher..."

    Grace And Peace,


Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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