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The Ministry of the Apostles

 4

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.


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1. Let a man so account of us As it was a matter of no little importance to see the Church in this manner torn by corrupt factions, from the likings or dislikings that were entertained towards individuals, he enters into a still more lengthened discussion as to the ministry of the word. Here there are three things to be considered in their order. In the first place, Paul describes the office of a pastor of the Church. Secondly, he shows, that it is not enough for any one to produce a title, or even to undertake the duty — a faithful administration of the office being requisite. Thirdly, as the judgment formed of him by the Corinthians was preposterous, 207207     “Pource que les Corinthiens iugeoyent de luy d’vne mauuaise sorte, et bien inconsidereement;” — “As the Corinthians judged of him in an unfavorable way, and very rashly.” he calls both himself and them to the judgment-seat of Christ. In the first place, then, he teaches in what estimation every teacher in the Church ought to be held. In this department he modifies his discourse in such a manner as neither, on the one hand, to lower the credit of the ministry, nor, on the other, to assign to man more than is expedient. For both of these things are exceedingly dangerous, because, when ministers are lowered, contempt of the word arises, 208208     “Facilement on viendra a mespriser la parole de Dieu;” — “They will readily come to despise the word of God.” while, on the other hand, if they are extolled beyond measure, they abuse liberty, and become “wanton against the Lord.” (1 Timothy 5:11.) Now the medium observed by Paul consists in this, that he calls them ministers of Christ; by which he intimates, that they ought to apply themselves not to their own work but to that of the Lord, who has hired them as his servants, and that they are not appointed to bear rule in an authoritative manner in the Church, but are subject to Christ’s authority 209209     “Ils sont eux-mesmes comme les autres sous la domination de Christ;” — “They are themselves, in common with others, under the dominion of Christ.” — in short, that they are servants, not masters.

As to what he adds — stewards of the mysteries of God, he expresses hereby the kind of service. By this he intimates, that their office extends no farther than this, that they are stewards of the mysteries of God In other words, what the Lord has committed to their charge they deliver over to men from hand to hand — as the expression is 210210     Our Author makes use of the same expression when commenting on 1 Corinthians 11:23, and 1 Corinthians 15:3. — Ed. — not what they themselves might choose. “For this purpose has God chosen them as ministers of his Son, that he might through them communicate to men his heavenly wisdom, and hence they ought not to move a step beyond this.” He appears, at the same time, to give a stroke indirectly to the Corinthians, who, leaving in the background the heavenly mysteries, had begun to hunt with excessive eagerness after strange inventions, and hence they valued their teachers for nothing but profane learning. It is an honorable distinction that he confers upon the gospel when he terms its contents the mysteries of God. But as the sacraments are connected with these mysteries as appendages, it follows, that those who have the charge of administering the word are the authorized stewards of them also.

2. But it is required in ministers 211211     “Entre les dispensateurs;” — “Among stewards.” It is as though he had said, it is not enough to be a steward if there be not an upright stewardship. Now the rule of an upright stewardship, is to conduct one’s self in it with fidelity. It is a passage that ought to be carefully observed, for we see how haughtily 212212     “Et d’une facon magistrale;” — “And with a magisterial air.” Papists require that everything that they do and teach should have the authority of law, simply on the ground of their being called pastors. On the other hand, Paul is so far from being satisfied with the mere title, that, in his view, it is not even enough that there is a legitimate call, unless the person who is called conducts himself in the office with fidelity. On every occasion, therefore, on which Papists hold up before us the mask of a name, for the purpose of maintaining the tyranny of their idol, let our answer be, that Paul requires more than this from the ministers of Christ, though, at the same time, the Pope and his attendant train are wanting not merely in fidelity in the discharge of the office, but also in the ministry itself, if everything is duly considered.

This passage, however, militates, not merely against wicked teachers, but also against all that have any other object in view than the glory of Christ and the edification of the Church. For every one that teaches the truth is not necessarily faithful, but, only he who desires from the heart to serve the Lord and advance Christ’s kingdom. Nor is it without good reason that Augustine assigns to hirelings, (John 10:12,) a middle place between the wolves and the good teachers. As to Christ’s requiring wisdom also on the part of the good steward, (Luke 12:42,) he speaks, it is true, in that passage with greater clearness than Paul, but the meaning is the same. For the faithfulness of which Christ speaks is uprightness of conscience, which must be accompanied with sound and prudent counsel. By a faithful minister Paul means one who, with knowledge as well as uprightness, 213213     “Auec science et bonne discretion, et d’vn coeur droit;” — “With knowledge and good discretion, as well as with an upright heart.” discharges the office of a good and faithful minister.




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