Monday, July 29, 2013
Thomas Vincent on the duties of churches and ministers (flowing from the Fifth Commandment)
Note: Sunday afternoon I continued our “series (on the fifth commandment) within a series (the ten commandments) within a series (on the Baptist Catechism)” with a sermon titled The Fifth Commandment: Part 4. I was once again flowing the wider implications of the fifth commandment, this time addressing its implications for how ministers and churches are to relate to one another. And, again, I was using Thomas Vincent’s Puritan exposition of the Westminster Shorter Catechism as a guide. Here are my notes riffing off Vincent’s listing of mutual duties between ministers and churches:
Six duties of the people to their ministers:
First: High estimation of them, and endeared love to them for their work’s sake.
1 Thessalonians 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
Paul could write to the Galatians (Gal 4:14-15) and remind them of how they had received him as “an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” and would have plucked out their own eyes for him.
Second: Diligent attendance upon the word of God preached, and other ordinances administered by them.
Luke 10:16: “He that heareth you, heareth me.”
Well has it been said that full pews and attentive listeners lift the preacher as if on wings, while empty pews and disinterested listeners take the wind from his sails.
Third: Meek and patient suffering the word of reproof, and ready obedience unto the word of command, which ministers shall, from the Scriptures, make known unto them, together with submission unto the discipline intrusted with them by the Lord.
In James 1:21 we read of the necessity of receiving with meekness “the ingrafted word.”
Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Fourth: Communicating to them of their temporals.
That is, the church should, as it is able, give to provide for the material needs of the pastor and his family so that he might pursue with full devotion of his time the ministry of the word and sacrament.
1 Corinthians 9:14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
Galatians 6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
Fifth: Prayer for them.
Paul in his letters often asked the churches to pray for him. Consider: “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thess 5:25).
Sixth: Shutting their ear against reproaches and slanders, believing nothing without proof; and standing up in their defense against an ungodly world, and many false brethren, and rotten hearted hypocrites, who are made of the devil to cast dirt upon them, and thereby people receiving prejudices against them, might be kept either from hearing them, or receiving benefit from their doctrine, and so be either drawn to ways of error, or hardened in ways of profaneness.
1 Timothy 5:19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
Correspondingly, five duties of the minister to their people in the church:
First: Dear and tender love of their souls.
Consider the example of the apostle Paul:
1 Thessalonians 2:7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
Second: Diligent, sincere, and frequent preaching of the word unto them, with administration of all ordinances.
Consider Paul’s charge to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
The minister’s primary calling and duty is to preach.
Third: Watchfulness over them, with willingness and cheerfulness.
1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Well has it been said that the minister is to feed the sheep and not to fleece or beat the sheep.
Fourth: Prayer for them, and praise for the grace of God which is in them.
In Paul’s letters he very often thanks and blesses God for the churches and their dear members to whom he writes. For example:
Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;
So ministers are to be addicted to prayer for their people.
Fifth: Showing themselves an example of holiness and good works unto them.
Consider again Paul’s word to Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.