Posted by: erinelizabeth1983 | February 8, 2010

The Office of the Holy Ministry

This is a paper I wrote for Lutheran Confessions I.  The assignment was to examine the Augsburg Confession, Apology, and Scripture and to then explain the Office of the Holy Ministry. We were allowed to write no more than two pages. Dr. Masaki really liked my paper. 🙂

The Office of the Holy Ministry exists because of God’s mandate. Pastors are given to preach the Word of God and administer the sacraments. This is the work that Christ Himself has given them to do. Christ places pastors into the Office of the Holy Ministry through the call of the church.

So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and the sacraments as through instruments the Holy Spirit is given, who effects faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the gospel, that is to say, in those who hear that God, not on account of our own merits but on account of Christ, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace on account of Christ. Galatians 3:14b: “So that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (AC V Latin Text).

The Confessions claim to be the true exposition of Scripture. As such, all of their teachings should be readily found in Scripture. One major text that should be considered when studying the Office of the Holy Ministry is Matthew 28:16-20.

Matthew 28:17 says that the disciples “worshipped Him.” They recognized Him as the King and they knelt down in acknowledgement of His kingship. Christ uses His authority to mandate the Office of the Holy Ministry. Because of His authority, He is able to send out His disciples to do the work He is giving them to do. His authoritative Word establishes the Office of the Holy Ministry. He tells the disciples, “While you are going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).” The disciples were doing what they were given to do: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them (Matthew 28:16).” Like the disciples did what Jesus gave them to do, so also pastors do what Jesus has given them to do.

This also means that when pastors are teaching, they must also be baptizing. And when they are baptizing, they must also be teaching. Teaching and baptizing go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. How will people know that they are in need of baptism unless they are taught? Why would one baptize without first teaching the person to be baptized why we baptize?

Matthew 28:18, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” is often misunderstood as Jesus giving His authority to His disciples. Instead, Jesus retains His authority. He does not give it away to the eleven. Whatever they do is connected to Him. So also, whatever pastors do is connected to Him. The Apology to the Augsburg Confession confesses just that,

Nor does this detract from the efficacy of the sacraments when they are distributed by the unworthy, because they represent the person of Christ on account of the call of the church and do not represent their own persons, as Christ himself testifies [Luke 10:16], ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me.’ When they offer the Word of Christ or the sacraments, they offer them in the stead and place of Christ (Ap VII, 28).

“To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel (AC V German text) This echoes Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” In the German text the Office of the Holy Ministry is called the Predigtamt or “preaching office”. This reflects the teaching of Romans 10:17. For,

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)

“It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe (AC V German text).” “God, not on account of our own merits but on account of Christ, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace on account of Christ (AC V Latin text).” Both of these statements are based upon texts such as 2 Timothy 1:9 “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,” as well as many other Scripture passages.

Why do the Confessions say that no one should “publicly teach, preach, or administer the sacraments without a proper (public) call (AC XIV German text)?” The pastor is acting in the place of Christ and it is Christ who places the pastor into this office through the call of the church. Therefore, it is fitting that we show respect for the Office of the Holy Ministry since Christ Himself has mandated this Office.

After having carefully examined the Scriptures, one would conclude that the Office of the Holy Ministry does in fact exist because of Christ’s mandating Word, that whatever pastors do is connected to Christ, and that pastors are given to teach and administer the sacraments in order that people may be brought to faith through the work of the Spirit in and through His Word and sacraments.

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