Owen and Ferguson on the Work of the Pastor

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When you boil it all down, the work of the pastor can be summed up as follows. Our endeavor is, insofar as we are able, to make those who are not united to Jesus Christ realize that they are not united to Jesus Christ. And to make those who are united to Jesus Christ realize that they are united to Jesus Christ.

This is not original to me. Sinclair Ferguson introduced the thought to me, with a reference to John Owen's view of pastoralia. (Thanks for tracking the source down, John Tweeddale!).

"Wherefore, there are two things hard and difficult in this case:

1. To convince those in whom sin evidently hath the dominion that such indeed is their state and condition...

2. To satisfy some that sin hath not the dominion over them, notwithstanding its restless acting itself in them and warring against their souls; yet unless this can be done, it is impossible they should enjoy peace and comfort in this life." [John Owen, A Treatise of the Dominion of Sin and Grace (1688) in The Works of John Owen, ed. William Goold (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001), 7:517.]

In his book on Owen, Sinclair Ferguson summarized Owen's pastoral theology from this quote, stating, "Two practical, pastoral problems arise from this. The first is to convince those who are under sin's dominion that this is their predicament. The second is to convince others that they are not." [Sinclair B. Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2001), 127].

Dr Ferguson also referred to this quote by Owen in his sermon on James 1 preached at the 2005 Mid-South Men's Rally at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS. 

"Some of you, like me, deeply appreciate the writings of John Owen. And Owen says in one of his works, he says, ‘You know, there are actually at the end of the day only two pastoral problems.’ If you’re a little jaundiced, you say, ‘Well, it shouldn’t have taken you twenty-four volumes to help me understand it! But he puts it like this: he says, ‘You know, at the end of the day there really are only two pastoral problems. Pastoral Problem No.1 is dealing with the unconverted; Pastoral Problem No. 2 is dealing with the converted.’

Pastoral Problem No. 1 is persuading those who are under the dominion of sin that they are under the dominion of sin; and Pastoral Problem No. 2 is persuading those who are no longer under the dominion of sin that they are no longer under the dominion of sin, but that they are the first fruits of God’s new creation. And as the first fruits of God’s new creation, the guarantee that those first fruits will become a glorious final harvest. And it’s when I see that that I begin to have power to resist temptation."

Posted July 21, 2006 @ 4:50 PM by Ligon Duncan
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