Friday, November 18, 2011

Pastors & Laity

In a blog post entitled How Should We Celebrate Reformation Sunday? the following paragraph stirred up some thoughts for me:

Though Luther was, at times, threatened, he did not die a martyr’s death. Neither did Fr. Johannes Bugenhagen, who was given charge of Luther’s wife and children following his death. And neither did the famous lay theologian of the Lutheran Reformation, Philip Melanchthon.

As I read this paragraph, I was moved to consider the three men mentioned and especially the fact that two were pastors and one was not. There was a considerable difference between the “lay theologian” and the two pastors regarding the Gospel and the absolute necessity of it being administered purely without adulteration or compromise. This moved me to ponder the pastoral office and those who are called and ordained to administer the means of grace as contrasted to those who gather to receive the benefits of the sacrifices of their pastors.

In Ephesians 4 St. Paul speaks of the purpose of the pastoral office and how Christ gives to His Church pastors/teachers that this purpose may be effected.

     And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

When a man is called and ordained into the teaching office, does God bring forth in that man something different than what is found in the rest of the body of Christ?

This question is not comprehensive, actually. It seems that more definition is required in order to understand the real issue. Do those who extend a call to a man to serve as their pastor really understand this calling? Do they grasp that this ordination is not a mere ritual by which they hire someone to fulfill certain tasks? Does the one being called and ordained truly appreciate the office to which he is being called?

In the comments section of the article quoted above the following is presented:

Luke Sampson says:
Pr Genig: You mentioned three uses for red: Pentecost, Martyrdom, and Ordination. Once you knocked down Martyrdom you immediately state the "only other" signification would be Pentecost. What happened to the third option, Ordination? In this case it would be a celebration of the Holy Spirit's equipping of a specific man, Luther, for a specific task, the restoration of the Gospel message.

patricksarsfield says:
Luke Sampson writes:

"What happened to the third option, Ordination? In this case it would be a celebration of the Holy Spirit's equipping of a specific man, Luther, for a specific task, the restoration of the Gospel message. "

So much for Sola Scriptura. Where in the Bible does it record that Luther was ordained by the Holy Spirit to restore the Gospel message? Nowhere, of course. Protestants made up the unbiblical rule of Sola Scriptura to justify their rejection of the long-standing Tradition of the only Church Jesus ever founded, but they feel no compunction to judge the foul-mouthed, vow-breaking founder of their own religion by hjis own test of Sola Scriptura.

While Luke Sampson is busy trying to defend the use of a liturgical color, he does ask a worthy question, but from a less than full understanding of what ordination really is. Patrick Sarsfield responds with a total lack of understanding and demonstrates that hatred is his primary motivation.

Ordination is about a specific man, as Luke Sampson states. However, it is not really about the man on whom it is conferred, but about the man who has ordained it, the one who has descended from heaven and ascended again to the same place. Ordination is about Christ. The office is His office. He has ordained it. He is the one who brings to effect that holy motivation by which His servants of the Word go forth in His name and perform the ministry that He has ordained for the sake of His Church on earth.

Sadly, most pastors have no real understanding of this important matter. Most of the lay members of the Church likewise are clueless. Melanchthon, a “lay theologian,” was very willing to compromise in order to accomplish peace among the factions of those professing to be Church. Luther and Bugenhagen were much less willing.

The reason that this difference existed seems to be the difference in understanding the pastoral office and the purpose of that office. Melanchthon was not ordained to this office. He never had the burden placed upon his shoulders that the liturgical stole represents. Perhaps this explains in part the lack of understanding that he manifested. Perhaps this is why he later departed from the clear statements of the Augsburg Confession, those wonderfully accurate statements drafted by his own hand.

Most pastors seem to lack this sense of burden as well. While many will speak of having a “burden for the lost,” few express true knowledge of the burden for the Church, for the true unity of the communion of saints, the holy catholic Church. Many who confess the importance of pure doctrine and practice do not believe in the absolute necessity of this purity in the life of the Church. Most imagine that the Church can exist in communion with impurity. Most outright deny the clear doctrine taught by St. Paul as it is quoted above. They deny that the unity which St. Paul declares can exist in this world. They say it can only exist in heaven or after the Day of Judgment. Thus they deny the purpose of the pastoral office to which they are called and ordained. They deny the power of the Word to accomplish what it promises. They deny what St. Paul declares to be the very outcome of the preaching and teaching entrusted to the called and ordained servants of the Word and so they allow to continue the propagation of “children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

The problem is that they do not believe the office of the keys to be a real office with real authority in heaven. They imagine that it is only an earthly office to which they have been hired. They perceive the pastoral office to be a function of worldly tactics and orchestrations. Thus they imagine that the “perfecting of the saints” or the “complete furnishing of the saints” is to be accomplished through teaching “how to” sermons and through various programs. The emphasis becomes what the Church does rather than what the Church receives. The preaching becomes instructions for doing and for giving and for sacrificing and for becoming more Christlike and for committing oneself to Christ and for making Christ the center of one’s life. And thus the true center of the life of the congregation becomes the attempts at being better and more devoted followers of Jesus.

Through this the true work of the ministry is lost. The true “work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” is reduced to attempts at obedience and faithfulness rather than the powerful work of the Word in connection with the means of grace. The work of the ministry is reduced to the miserable attempts of sinners to accomplish what only God can do. Compromise becomes the only option, for who but God can accomplish perfect unity?

The pastoral office is founded upon the belief in accomplishing the impossible. It is grounded upon the perfecting of the saints. It is established upon the absolute perfection that the Holy Spirit works through the means of grace. It is the preaching that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.” (Hebrews 11:1-2) It is the preaching that through water God saved Noah in the days of old and that today He likewise saves us through the water in which His Word works to purify us so that we stand before God with the answer of a good conscience by the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21) It is the preaching of the unity of the communion of the body and blood of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

This is real unity. It is not just the preaching of what will be at some future time. It is created here and now, where it is actually preached and practiced as Christ has ordained it for His Church on earth.

And this unity is not just a glorious vision or hope. It is not merely something for which to strive. It is what must exist in order for salvation to be administered. For these means are the very means of salvation. They stand uncorrupted or else they do not exist as that which is from God for our salvation. Christ’s means of grace do not exist in forms other than those which He has ordained. To change them is to make them something that is not of God and has no power to do what God promises to work through His ordained means.

When a pastor understands this as the ordination with which he is ordained, it does indeed effect a change in his being and in his perception of what is required of him. He does indeed carry a burden, a burden that is far beyond what he can carry by his own strength. And so he relies upon the one from whom this ordination has its authority and power and proclaims Him and His ministry through the pure and unadulterated means that He has ordained for this purpose. And so the pastor kneels to receive that which he administers, acknowledging first his own great need, and then also administering the same to those entrusted to his pastoral care.

Since this is by the working of the Holy Spirit and by the redemption price of the blood of Christ, certainly red is a fitting color for this divine ordination of gifts for Christ’s Church on earth, the ordination placed upon every man who stands in Christ’s stead to offer freely the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation to all whom the Holy Spirit gathers for this purpose in every age and place.

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Gary Cepek said...

Pastor Siems,

You've given a lot to ponder. Your words are clear. I will reread this post a number of times.
Thank you.

Gary Cepek

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear Gary,

Thanks for your comments and feedback.

God's peace to you,

~ Paul