Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Ministers and the Ministry. . .

Article 13 of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession says,“If ordination is understood as carrying out the ministry of the Word, we are willing to call ordination a sacrament” (Ap 13:9). And a little further on the Latin text continues: “For the Church has the command to appoint ministers, which should be most pleasing to us, because we know that God approves this ministry and is present in this ministry.” 
Article VIII has been approved entirely, in which we confess ... Ministers act in Christ’s place and do not represent their own persons,according to Luke 10:16. Ungodly teachers are to be deserted because they no longer act in Christ’s place, but are anti-christs. [quia ministri funguntur vice Christi, non repraesentant suam personam]. (Apology 7:47)

The apostolic ministry is bound to certain persons and is not simply theory. Christ did not institute abstract functions of a ministry, but He has called concrete people into this concrete ministry.  One of the greater dangers to the Church today is to create a divide between the functions and the office in such way that the functions are important but the office is not.  Christ Himself has not only authorized this office but is present in this office.  He is the One acting through the ministry of those He has called, authorized and sent and they do not exist or act apart from His own authority and promise.  Therefore any who would mandate the functions without the office, that is, what the ministry does apart from the ministers, is in violation not only of the Lutheran Confessions but of Scripture itself.  There is no purely functional understanding of the Ministerial Office or ministry in theory, since “publicly teaching, preaching and distributing the sacraments” (CA XIV) always the charge of given to concrete people and on behalf of concrete people who receive them.  Let us be blunt here.  
To speak of the presence of Christ in the Word, in the sacraments, in the Church within the scope of confessional Lutheranism is not possible without at the same time speaking of the presence of Christ in the ordained Pastoral Office.  [Lutheran Theological Review, Lutheran faculties of the Seminaries of the Lutheran Church-Canada 2013]
How strange it is that in our day we are so quick to pass off on certain things as merely apostolic custom.  If anything, to cite apostolic custom is not to be dismissive but to elevate what has the authority of apostolic custom to a level whereby the Church must take it seriously and cannot afford to disregard it as something unimportant or even adiaphora.  The Office of the Ministry does not exist because apostolic precedence or for the sake of good order.  The Office of the Ministry exists by virtue of Christ’s will and for the sake of the salvation of sinners and therefore the Lutheran Confessions locate this office within the God's plan of salvation.  What it is that confers the authority of this office is itself not unimportant or trivial but of the greatest seriousness.  It is for this reason that the Confessions were willing to call ordination a sacrament.  It has nothing to do with an ontological change in the ordained but reverence and devotion to Christ's saving will and purpose and the most devout and solemn attention to that Office for what Christ says it is and not for what we esteem it to be.  In nearly every case over history and in our present day, when the holders of that Office are diminished, the Office suffers and when the Office suffers those who are served by that Office suffer and therefore the work of God suffers.  When we honor those who deliver to us the means of grace, we are not elevating them above others in some hierarchical fashion but remembering with thanksgiving our Lord Jesus Christ and His saving will and purpose in accomplishing salvation for us and then delivering that saving grace to sinners to forgive their sins and to those marked for death to give them life.  There are those who love to forget this just as there are pastors who hate to remember the true nature and gift of this Office.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent, provocative thoughts on the Pastoral Office.
GOD BLESS THE PREACHERS!(as Pastor Brandt, formerly of Concordia Portland used to always close his teachings)
Timothy Carter,
simple country Deacon.