“The Ministry”


The ministry, in its broadest sense, includes all service for Christ and the Church, whether it be preaching, service at the tables (Acts 6), or deaconess work (Rom. 16:1); in its particular application, however, it is the ministry of the Word. This, since Christ is the fulfiller and end of the law (Matt. 5:17; Rom. 10:4), is not influenced by the provisions of the Old Testament. Christ is the prophet (John 6:14) and apostle (messenger) of God (Heb. 3:1). After the preliminary choice of disciples (John 1:35 ff.) follows the definitive special call (Matt. 4:18 ff.; Luke 5:15; Matt. 9:9), applied to the twelve (Matt. 10:1 ff.; Mark 3:14 ff.), representatives of the new Israel, who are named apostles (Luke 6:13), and called and sent immediately by Christ (John 15:16; 20:21; Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:1). They are not apostles in the general sense (Acts 14:14) in which many messengers of early Christendom received this name. They are to be the witnesses of Christ’s life and resurrection (John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8; 1 John 1:1). Endowed with special powers and God’s Spirit to proclaim the Word (Matt. 28:18,19; Rom. 15:18,19; 2 Cor. 12:12; Matt. 10:20; 1 Cor. 7:40; 1 Thess. 2:13), they became the founders of churches (1 Cor. 3:10; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 2:20), and gave them the authentic written Word of God (Gal. 6:11; 2 Thess. 3:17). On the apostles as bearers of divine revelation (Matt. 16:16 ff. ...) the Church was to rest, and they were to exercise the judicial power of the whole Church (Matt. 18:17 ff.; John 20:21 ff.). But in their special ministry, they occupy only a certain form of the one ministry, which they have in common with all servants of Christ (Rom. 10:15; 16:21; 1 Cor. 4:1; Phil. 2:25; 4:3; Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:11,12; 1 Thess. 2:6; 2 John 1; 3 John 1). They appoint directly or indirectly (2 Tim. 2:2; Tit. 1:3) elders or presbyters, [or overseers or bishops,] who are the same (Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1), and many in a church, until later, when there is only one (cf. angel, Rev. 2:1,8,12, etc.). The Church, however, votes for and approves of its elders (Acts 14:23), even in its specialized form of a single congregation (Matt. 18:20; Acts 14:23). The apostles did not then bestow their office and elect its successors. They perpetuated the ministry by showing the Church how to fill the office given it. ... They [the elders] coexisted with the apostolate, and did not bring about the office of presbyter, which existed previously (Acts 11:30). This arose from Jewish eldership, was a distinction of age and then of position. In heathen communities this congregational office was called episcopate, after the manner of sodalities and burying fraternities in the Roman empire. It was originally cultic (Acts 11:30), but soon received the ministry of the Word (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17). It became different from the office of the prophets (Acts 13:1), who ceased, but absorbed the evangelist (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:5), and teacher (Acts 13:1; 1 Cor. 12:28,29; Eph. 4:11), and was identical with the shepherd (Eph. 4:11; 1 Peter 2:25) and president (Rom. 12:8; 1 Thess. 5:17). Its governmental power was that of the Word. It was a service of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), given to announce the word of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18,19). Its bearers are servants of God and Christ (Rom. 13:4; 2 Cor. 6:4; 11:23; Col. 1:7; 1 Tim. 4:6), and minister to the Church (2 Cor. 8:4; 9:1; 1 Pet. 5:3). God gives them to the Church with the charismata (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11), to fill the service which he created for the administration of the Word (1 Cor. 12:28 ff.), and sacraments (Matt. 28:19; a word to the eleven but derivatively belonging to the whole Church); and also to remit sins (John 20:23, to be taken in conjunction with Matt. 16:19; 18:18, shows a right of the Church to be exercised by the office). The ministers are called mediately through the Church (Acts 14:32; Tit. 1:5). (“Ministry,” Lutheran Cyclopedia [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899], pp. 316-17 [emphases in original])

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