LBCF 1689 Reflections. Part 224

Reflections on the Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

23 Aug 14 began a perhaps unbroken, orderly, and personal journey through my favorite written confession of faith. These are my personal reflections on this beloved historic Particular Baptist confession of the Christian Faith.


Chapter 26. Of the Church. Paragraph 10: “The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him; it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.”

The pastoral role has a lot of backing and clear identification.

From the days of Moses there was the establishment of the office of the High Priest with Aaron, and of the priests his sons conducting the day-to-day operations of the Hebrew ministry. The high priest alone would bring in the blood annually and had duties all his own. He couldn’t delegate them. He had his own dress and responsibilities, and the lower priests had theirs. There were many appointed tasks given out in the construction and movement of the tabernacle among the tribes, and much of it was carried on in the temple built much later by Solomon. There were roles given to the priests.

The kings of Israel were not to attempt to be priests. Doing so even temporarily actually marked the end of Saul its first. 1 Samuel 13. David had an unusual prophetic ministry, but none of the kings were to try to be priests, and not many functioned as prophets at all. Several kings were sent private counselor prophets for a time, and most failed in the divided kingdom after Solomon in even their one divinely appointed role. There were roles given to the kings.

All such given roles were judged by God as such. Priests as priests, high priests as high priests, kings as kings, prophets as prophets, etc.

There are roles in the New Covenant church as well. In God’s greater New Covenant, there are chiefly the offices of pastor and deacon (all male roles) in the church given most attention. We have Christ as any true church’s head and then us his membered body. Under Jesus himself, the Apostles are first among us all. The first twelve disciples (Matthias later replacing Judas in Acts 1:26) did not all have post-Resurrection ministries that we can today identify with much accuracy. Some more than others are known to history sure, but none like those captured in Scripture. The twelve are named in Matthew 10:2-4 and amazingly honored in Revelation 21:14. No doubt God used them all greatly, but only three of the original twelve (Matthew, John, and Peter) were among those selected by God to write Scripture. Our connection to these writers, now so much later, is much stronger since we have their words. There are the first twelve Apostles of the Lord as the foundation of the Faith with their first roles, and then eight or nine New Covenant writers scrolling our twenty-seven inspired letters. Several other Apostles are also named in the early days like Paul and Barnabas. The Apostles had and still have an inimitable role. We also have prophets, evangelists and teachers identified by Paul in Ephesians 4:11. Each had and/or have their purposes. The wider enduring spiritual giftings to men and women are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 and are all to be cherished and sought after with love shown to be the crest and seal of them all in 1 Corinthians 13. Gifts like tongues (actual languages and never once extemporaneous babblings) in 1 Corinthians 14 have passed away from use. If the true language gift occurred, it would be by far an exception. Other gifts show up seldomly in prophecies, sings, encouragements, and anomalies in the gospels and the era of Acts, but it would seem that as the generation of the Apostles passed away, and as the church emerged as that pillar and ground of the truth, 1 Timothy 3:15, God gave way in all things to what today endures in the ministry of the word and the consummate miracle of the elect’s progressive sanctification. This was his design. The offices of pastor and deacon stand firmly above what continues today. The pastoral epistles don’t leave us to assume much here when we stick with them. The office of pastor/teacher is more reflected on in the epistles than any other. Evangelists, for example, aren’t given strict criteria for their assignment. How prophets today function isn’t much distinguishable from any preaching ministry. Preaching is prophecy. God is speaking to his church today by the Son (Hebrews 1:1-2) which is by his Gospel illuminated in the evangelist’s gospels themselves and in the twenty-three other epistles (including Acts) he’s given as that very spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:10. The lives and inspired words of the Apostles having laid the foundations will never be added to or diminished in any church with a qualified pastor and so they’re for each generation. The offices of pastor/elder/teacher and deacon remain the two major distinct offices in the pastoral epistles. This is clear.

The birth of the deaconate is as a result of knowing the higher importance of the pastoral ministry. In Acts 6, there was a need to be filled by wise and godly men, but not by the highest called. There was a ministry in the Jerusalem church to feed the widows rightly added to their church (Acts 6:1; 1 Timothy 5:3-9). This ministry was to be filled only by godly and qualified men, but their attending to that important work was to free up the time of the pastors of the church to pray and exposit the Scriptures in the church. “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.” Acts 6:2. Pastors have the highest role in the church. There are many qualifications for these leaders, therefore. Deacons can show their callings and qualifications for pastoral work, but pastors do not show themselves qualified by pastoral work for the deaconate. Pastors are charged to safeguard the doctrine (Titus 2:1) in the church and are responsible overall for the spiritual health of their church. Deacons are servants and don’t typically hold a church office of authority as its teachers do.
Pastors will be judged by God for their role as overseers. They’ll be judged as any man, but also judged more highly as pastors. James teaches us this. “Do not become teachers in large numbers, my brothers, since you know that we who are teachers will incur a stricter judgment.” James 3:1. Hebrews 13:17a reads: “Obey your leaders and submit to them—for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account…” If the sheep are dying, infected, week, devoured, and starved, the shepherds will be called failures. This is why we should esteem them and pray for them. They’ll stand before God on account for things no layman will.

Pastors do not operate on their own authority or power. They operate on and by the power of the Holy Spirit who called, equipped, sends and empowers them. Their authority comes from God directly. Submitting to them is as submitting to Christ himself. The word of God alone is the safeguard for their spiritual work. We can know their authority comes from God only by testing the pastors by the word. We can trust the authority of the church pastors by their fealty to God and God’s word.

Good pastors are a precious commodity. We are to make sure their living from the Gospel is plentiful and honorable. “The elders who lead well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” 1 Timothy 5:17. The following must be said in our for profit “prophet” age. Any “pastor” living in a mansion, flying on a private jet, and driving a Bentley is a hireling. Worthless, hell-bound, sulfurous. Nonetheless, true pastors must be able to provide for themselves and their families well if they have one without unnecessary pain of living. 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 alone makes this plain.

Take care of your pastor or elders in your church. Thank God for them. Pray for them. Give money to the church in part to pay their salary. Protect them. Honor them. Be their friend. If you have a good pastor, here’s his reason for living: “Not that we domineer over your faith, but we are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.” 2 Corinthians 1:24. It’s your joy they’re after! That is all we want for you is joy. Joy in Christ forever. That is why we pastor. Or how about the even more endearing pastoral heart seen in 3 John 1:4: “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” Imagine your pastor thinking and praying as such for you. Studying for you. Fasting for you. Loving his wife (if he’s married) for you. Preparing and proving himself to be there whenever you need him in sickness and health. These are the kind of men God calls to the pastorate. They are so wonderful and so much of a blessing.

Joseph Pittano

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