Monday, January 19, 2015

Solemnity in the Pastoral Office

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.  (Ti 1:7-9)

During the Reformation, Martin Luther responded to the Pope’s insistence that Lutheran ordination was invalid.  In the Smalcald Articles, Part III Article X, Luther agreed that Rome’s ordination authority might be acceptable, if the bishops rightly discharged their office and omitted “all comedies and spectacular display of unchristian parade and pomp.”*  Luther goes on to describe these bishops as
worldly lords and princes, who will neither preach, nor teach, nor baptize, nor administer the Lord’s Supper, nor perform any work or office of the Church, and, moreover, persecute and condemn those who discharge these functions….
A blistering description, but now ask yourself, “Am I reading a description of church authority in the sixteenth century or the twenty-first century?”  The descriptors Luther used for bishops abusing their office is equally appropriate in American Evangelicalism.

From Ed Young to Perry Noble, Chuck Pierce to Brian Houston, those who should be shepherds of God’s flock have increasingly promoted buffoonery in the name of Christ.  What has been for centuries recognized as a work to be approached with fear and trembling is once again trending in a dangerous direction—handed over to gifted, innovative communicators rather than faithful exegetes. The Word and worship of God is “packaged” to appeal and work toward the central theme of the preacher’s message.  Whether that message is derived from the text, from a desire for self-promotion, or from somewhere between, when theatrics drive the appeal, the gospel suffers.

Pastoral ministry is inherently a work of sober-mindedness (1 Ti 3:2).  He preaches not to appeal but to speak the truth of Law and the Gospel.  Paul told Timothy:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  (2 Ti 4:1-2)
Timothy was to be as faithful in delivering the message as the apostle had been.  Every preacher following Timothy has had that same commission.  Alistair Begg recently preached a message on this passage that addresses the solemnity and centrality of the office, along with the primacy of Scripture.  O, that pastors be as Isaiah and see themselves before a holy God bemoaning their sinfulness and need for cleansing; and gladly and joyfully remember the free, abundant grace of Christ that has cleansed them and preach what the Lord has so freely given.

*  References to corruptions that were being practiced in the Medieval church.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

These buffoons aren't pastors -- they are goatherds.

Steve Bricker said...

Too true, Glenn, but they have the title, so the need for the constant warning.

And Alistair Begg's message is good, and this provides a forum to promote it. :-)

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Oh, I heartily agree!