Thursday, October 15, 2009
Calvin on Church Government: Part Two
This is the second in our series from Calvin's Institutes (Book Four; Chapter Three) on church government.
2. The significance of the ministry for the church:
By these words [see the previous reference to Ephesians 4:8, 10-16 in part one] he shows that the ministry of men, which God employs in governing the Church, is a principal bond by which believers are kept together in one body. He also intimates, that the Church cannot be kept safe, unless supported by those guards to which the Lord has been pleased to commit its safety. Christ “ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10). The mode of filling is this: By the ministers to whom he has committed this office, and given grace to discharge it, he dispenses and distributes his gifts to the Church, and thus exhibits himself as in a manner actually present by exerting the energy of his Spirit in this his institution, so as to prevent it from being vain or fruitless. In this way, the renewal of the saints is accomplished, and the body of Christ is edified; in this way we grow up in all things unto Him who is the Head, and unite with one another; in this way we are all brought into the unity of Christ, provided prophecy flourishes among us, provided we receive his apostles, and despise not the doctrine which is administered to us. Whoever, therefore, studies to abolish this order and kind of government of which we speak, or disparages it as of minor importance, plots the devastation, or rather the ruin and destruction, of the Church. For neither are the light and heat of the sun, nor meat and drink, so necessary to sustain and cherish the present life, as is the apostolical and pastoral office to preserve a Church in the earth.
Analysis: Calvin rejects any "Anabaptist" notion that scriptural offices be done away with. He argues for a distinct role for "ministers" committed with the office of teaching and edifying the body (see Eph 4:10-12). He warns against those who attempt to "abolish this order."