Saturday, February 02, 2013

Evangelism Series (Part Eight): Quotes "Against Lay Preaching"

Note:  I ran across this collection of quotes "Against Lay Preaching" [posted on a PRC website] from various Reformed stalwarts.  The quotes challenge the revivalistic assumption of many contemporary evangelicals who see preaching the gospel (euangelizo) as open to non-ordained ministers and sometimes border on hyper-egalitarianism, arguing that this kind of public ministry is expected of all Christians under the duty of "personal evangelism."  They might be surprised to find that men like A. W. Pink, for example, called such views "ecclesiastical socialism" (see below).  Chapter 26 of The Second London Baptist Confession (see paragraph 11) might be added to the quotes in that it notes that the Pastors are to be instant in preaching while only allowing others to peach the gospel who are "approved and called by the church." Here are the quotes:

John Calvin: "God has repeatedly commended its dignity by the titles which he has bestowed upon it, in order that we might hold it in the highest estimation, as among the most excellent of our blessings. He declares, that in raising up teachers he confers a special benefit on men, when he bids his prophet exclaim, 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace' (Isa. 52:7), and when he calls the apostles the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13-14). Nor could the office be more highly eulogised than when he said, 'He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me' (Luke 10:16). But the most striking passage of all is that in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, where Paul treats as it were professedly of this question. He contends that there is nothing in the Church more noble and glorious than the ministry of the Gospel, seeing it is the administration of the Spirit of righteousness and eternal life. These and similar passages should have the effect of preventing that method of governing and maintaining the Church by ministers, a method which the Lord has ratified for ever, from seeming worthless in our eyes, and at length becoming obsolete by contempt ... Now seeing that in the sacred assembly all things ought to be done decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40), there is nothing in which this ought to be more carefully observed than in settling government, irregularity in any respect being nowhere more perilous. Wherefore, lest restless and turbulent men should presumptuously push themselves forward to teach or rule (which might otherwise happen), it was expressly provided that no one should assume a public office in the Church without a call (Heb. 5:4; Jer. 17:16). Therefore, if any one would be deemed a true minister at the Church, he must first be duly called; and, secondly, he must answer to his calling; that is, undertake and execute the office assigned to him. This may often be observed in Paul, who, when he would approve his apostleship, almost always alleges a call, together with his fidelity in discharging the office. If so great a minister of Christ dares not arrogate to himself authority to be heard in the Church, unless as having been appointed to it by the command of his Lord, and faithfully performing what has been entrusted to him, how great the effrontery for any man, devoid of one or both of them, to demand for himself such honour" (Institutes 4.3.3, 10).

Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. & A. 158:
"Q. By whom is the word of God to be preached?
A. The word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office."

George Gillespie: "The act of ordination stands in the mission to the deputation of a man to an ecclesiastical function with power and authority to perform the same; and thus are pastors ordained when they are sent to a people with power to preach the Word, minister the sacraments, and exercise ecclesiastical discipline among them. For 'How shall they preach except they be sent?' ... If it were an intolerable usurpation, in a man's own family, if any man should take on him the steward's place to dispense meat to the household, not being thereunto appointed, how much more were it an intolerable usurpation in the church ... Suppose they be well gifted, yet they may not preach except they be sent ... Thus sending needs be ordination, not the church's election; a people may choose to themselves, but they cannot send to themselves ... There are five necessary means and ways which must be had and used by those who look to be saved: (1) calling on the name of the Lord; (2) believing on him; (3) hearing his Word; (4) a preaching ministry; (5) mission or ordination. If the first four be perpetually necessary to the end of the world, so must the fifth be; for the apostle lays almost as great necessity on this last as on the rest ... There can be no ministerial office without a mission or ordination" (Aaron's Rod Blossoming).

John Owen: "... for a public, formal, ministerial teaching, two things are required in the teacher: — first, gifts from God; secondly, authority from the church (I speak now of ordinary cases). He that wants either is no true pastor. For the first, God sends none upon an employment but whom he fits with gifts for it, 1. Not one command in the Scripture made to teachers; 2. Not one rule for their direction; 3. Not one promise to their endeavours; 4. Not any end of their employment; 5. Not one encouragement to their duty; 6. Not one reproof for their negligence; 7. Not the least intimation of their reward, — but cuts off ungifted, idle pastors from any true interest in the calling. And for the others, that want authority from the church, neither ought they to undertake any formal act properly belonging to the ministry, such as is solemn teaching of the word; for, — 1. They are none of Christ’s officers, Ephesians 4:11. 2. They are expressly forbidden it, Jeremiah 23:21; Hebrews 5:4. 3. The blessing on the word is promised only to sent teachers, Romans 10:14-15. 4. If to be gifted be to be called, then, — (1) Every one might undertake so much in sacred duties as he fancies himself to be able to perform; (2) Children (as they report of Athanasius) might baptize; (3) Every common Christian might administer the communion. But endless are the arguments that might be multiplied against this fancy. In a word, if our Saviour Christ be the God of order, he hath left his church to no such confusion" (Works, vol. 13, p. 43).

John Owen: "... God distinguisheth persons with respect unto office. He ... puts them into the ministry. This of old Korah repined against ... But the office is honourable; and so are they by whom it is discharged in a due manner. And it is the prerogative of God to call whom he pleaseth thereunto. And there is no greater usurpation therein than the constitution of ministers by the laws, rules, and authority of men. For any to set up such in office as he hath not gifted for it, nor called unto it, is to sit in the temple of God, and to show themselves to be God" (Hebrews, vol. 5, p. 362).

Thomas Manton: "Christ himself had his call to authorise him: ‘Thou hast sent me into the world;’ therefore much more should you have a call to authorise you. If the work doth not lie within the compass of your office, you do not glorify God, and cannot please him; and it will be ill for your account; you cannot, when you die, say as Christ, ‘I have glorified thee upon the earth, I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do’ (John 14:7). You do not glorify God with anything but that which He hath given you to do. It is notable that Christ would not intermeddle out of his calling. When one came to entreat him to ‘speak to his brother to divide the inheritance with him,’ He said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?’ (Luke 12:4). Who was fitter to judge than Christ? Yet this was not the work He came about" (Exposition of John 17, pp. 328-329).

Francis Turretin: "… no one, unless sent by God, ought to usurp the office of teaching in the church, whether a new doctrine is proposed or an old one, because it is always evident that no one ought to assume the part of a … minister unless he is sent by the Lord. And as many as teach in the church without being called or sent are said ‘to teach in their own name’ and not in the name of Christ (John 5:43) (i.e., not sent by God), by themselves and their own authority and thrust in by themselves, who on that account deserve the name of thieves and robbers and not of true shepherds (John 10:8)" (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3, p. 212).

Wilhelmus a Brakel: "Question: Is a divine commission necessary for the office of minister? Answer: Socinians and others answer negatively; however, we answer affirmatively. The need for a divine commission is first of all evident from several clear texts ... Ephesians 4:11, 'And he gave some, apostles ... and some, pastors and teachers.' As you can observe, Christ has given pastors and teachers as well as apostles 'for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ' (Eph. 4:11-12) ... Consider also Romans 10:15, 'And how shall they preach, except they be sent?' It is as much as being stated that no one can or may preach without being sent. One cannot evade the issue here ..." (The Christian's Reasonable Service, vol. 2, p. 118).

John Gill: "[Preachers] must have a call both from God and men to this work; 'No man takes this honour to himself, but he that is called of God;' which is the inward call, and is known by the kind of gifts bestowed upon a man, fitting for such service; and by the providence of God, inclining and directing the church to separate him to the work to which he has called him; and the outward call is by the church itself, upon trial of his gifts ... They must be sent forth, they must have a mission from Christ, and that by the church (Rom. 10:15), the apostles of Christ were sent forth by him, as he was by his Father (John 20:21), there were some in [Jeremiah’s] time who ran, and were not sent; prophesied, though not spoken to; but these were not true prophets and ministers of God" (Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, vol. 2, p. 666).

John Brown: "... none, without being regularly called to it, however well qualified, ought to exercise any part of the ministerial office. (1) The Scripture plainly distinguishes between gifts for, and a mission to that office (John 20:21, 23; Isa. 6:6-7, 9). (2) It most expressly declares a call absolutely necessary to render one a public teacher (Rom. 10:15; Heb. 5:4, 6; Jer. 23:21, 32). (3) The characteristics of preachers, heralds, ambassadors, stewards, watchmen, angels, messengers, etc. necessarily import a divine call (I Cor. 9:17; II Cor. 5:20; I Cor. 4:1-2; Heb. 13:17; Rev. 1:20). (4) Rules prescribed for the qualifications, election, and ordination of gospel ministers, are declared binding until the second coming of Christ (I Tim. 3:1-8; 5:21-22; 6:13). (5) God severely punished Korah, Saul, Uzza, Uzziah and the sons of Sceva, for their intermeddling with the work of the sacred office (Num. 16:3-11, 32-38, 40; I Sam. 13:8-14; I Chron. 13:9-10; II Chron. 26:16-18; Acts 19:13-16). (6) To rush into the ministerial office without a proper call is inconsistent with a proper impression of the awful nature of the work of it (II Cor. 3:5-6; 2:16; Eze. 3:17-21; 33:1-20; Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:15-16; John 3:27-28; Heb. 13:17; 5:4-5) and introduces wild disorder and error (Gal. 2:5). (7) Christ's manifold connection with this office—in his being the author of it (Eph. 4:11-12), his suspending much of the order and edification of his church on it (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1-3), his including such power and authority in it (Mat. 16:19; 18:18), his committing such an important trust to ministers (Col. 4:17; I Tim. 6:20), his enjoining his people to honour and obey them (I Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17), and his promising present assistance in, and future gracious rewards to, their faithful discharge of their work—manifests the necessity of a divine and regular call to it (Matt. 28:20; I Peter 5:4)" (Systematic Theology, p. 566).

R. L. Dabney: "[Christ] has taught [his] church that her public organic functions are all to be performed through these officers, whose names and places he has himself assigned … It was thus the highest evangelists were appointed (Acts 16:1-3; I Tim. 4:14; II Tim. 1:6). Thus the ordinary ministers of the church are to be perpetuated (II Tim. 2:2). We thus see that Christ has not left anything to human invention, as to the instrumentality for preaching his gospel; that matter is distinctly settled. It should be enough for the humble Christian that thus Christ has ordained. Hence, we are as sure that Christ’s plan is the wisest, as any human experience can make us; we do not need the lessons of church history, so often repeated, where the betterments which man’s officious zeal has insisted on making upon Christ’s plan have borne their regular fruits of mischief and confusion, to make us content with the ordained method. Amidst all the plausibilities and excitements of the human inventions, we remain quiet in the conviction that Christ knows best ... If, for instance, such laymen as the late Mr. Brownlow North and Mr. Moody have the qualifications and the seal of the divine blessing which their friends claim for them, this is, to our mind, a demonstration that God calls them into the regular ministry, and they should seek a regular ordination like other ministers, each in that branch of the church which has his conscientious preference ... Let all Presbyterians, then, bear in mind, as one 'fixed fact,' that the recognition of laypreaching means broad-churchism" (Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, vol. 2, pp. 78-79).

A. W. Pink: "It is true, blessedly true, and God forbid that we should say a word to weaken it, that all believers enjoy equal nearness to God, that every one of them belongs to that 'holy priesthood' who are to 'offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ' (I Peter 2:5). Nevertheless, all believers are not called by God to occupy the same position of ministerial honour, all are not called to be preachers of His Gospel or teachers of His Word (James 3:1). God calls and equips whom He pleases to engage in His public service, and bids the rank and file of His people 'obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves' (Heb. 13:17). Yet, sad to say, in some circles the sin of Korah is repeated. They demand an ecclesiastical socialism, where any and all are allowed to speak. They 'heap to themselves teachers' (II Tim. 4:3). This ought not to be" (Exposition of Hebrews, p. 374).

Gordon Clark: "Exercising the office without ordination is a sin ... Ordination confers authority to preach, administer the sacraments, and exercise discipline ... The dunamis or ability of gifts is one thing; the exousia or authority to it is another thing ... Ordination ... is not simply an apostolic function to cease with the first century. Preaching is ordinary and regular. Therefore, mission or sending is too. The Great Commission of Matthew 18:19-20 shows that mission is perpetual, and thus sending likewise. To the same effect Luke 12:42. Since the illustration describes the work of a steward, its lesson is not applicable to all Christians. The immediate application is to the disciples or apostles themselves. The extended application is to future stewards. The steward of the parable and the minister of a church have therefore been appointed with authority. The connection between a steward and a bishop is made in Titus 1:7 ... Hebrews 6:1-2 list some elementary teachings, such as might be required of catechumens before baptism or even before a church was organized. One of these elementary points is ordination, clearly necessary to the organization of a church. Thus in addition to repentance and faith, ordination ranks as an elementary doctrine ... I Timothy 4:14 shows that ordination is an act of presbytery. I Timothy 5:22 warns against laying hands suddenly on some attractive neophite. And Titus 1:5, by the words 'in every city,' shows that ordination is regular and ordinary ... Ministers of the Gospel are called shepherds, entering by the door and not breaking in; they are called angels, ambassadors, and rulers. But men do not give themselves the position of ambassador or even of shepherd. They must be appointed and sent ... Paul calls himself a steward in I Corinthians 4:1, and calls all bishops so in Titus 1:7. Ministers are therefore servants; they invite guests to the wedding feast. But clearly no one can properly invite guests to a lord's wedding feast, unless the lord has previously appointed him. Paul was so appointed: 'Wherefore I am ordained a preacher and an apostle' (I Timothy 2:7), in which phrase we note that Paul was ordained a preacher as well as an apostle. He repeats this in II Timothy 1:11. Preachers, therefore, are to be given authority to preach by ordination" ("The Presbyterian Doctrine of Ordination," in The Church Effeminate, pp. 192-201).


AJ said...

Many of these quotes would seem to paint lay"teaching" in the same light. What does this say about Sunday School teachers or laity that might lead in a devotional at a church gathering. If Eph 4:11 indeed is listing the pastor-teacher as a single office, then this would seem to exclude un-ordained men from teaching in any capacity within the formal gatherings of the church.

What are your thoughts?

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


I think it does challenge the typical idea of getting anyone from the church who is deemed to have "the gift of teaching" (or even merely a warm pulse) to lead an Adult Sunday School class. From my past experience in SBC life, I know that this has been disastrous spiritually for many churches.

On the other hand, there does seem to be Biblical sanction for those other than ministers to do teaching in the church. The 2LBCF calls attention to this. John Owen describes a four-fold office (pastors, ruling elders, deacons, and teachers) {see "Gospel Church Government"]. "Teachers" would be those who teach but do not rule. The early Particular Baptists, likewise, spoke of "gifted brethren" who might not be elders but who were sanctioned by the church to preach and teach under the elders' guidance.

Also, men who aspire to the mininstry or the office of teacher must have opportunities to teach or preach publically as a trial of their gifts. Consider the old (c. 19th century) Baptist language of the "trial sermon" and of being "licensed to preach."