Blog 173: 4.3.1 - 4.3.7
For Calvin the Christian ministry was a glorious calling from God, but it was never grounded in the superior qualities of the minister himself. This therefore raises the question for everyman the church member: "Why should I listen to this man who is in many respects inferior to me?" Calvin's answer is full of insight. This is the divine way--what greater proof of, and challenge to, our teachability could there be than that we hear the word of God preached by "even . . . those of lower worth than we are." In this remarkable way God takes the "weakness" of ministers and their ongoing ministry of the word and transforms them into the "knot" by which the whole church is powerfully held together.
Such word ministry is essential for the church's life and growth--even more so, Calvin comments daringly, than the light and heat of the sun and the provision of food and drink are for sustaining natural life.
The New Testament knows of five central word-centered ministries: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. The first three, in Calvin's view, belonged to the earliest epoch of post-Pentecost revelation: apostles of Christ personally called by him; prophets who brought revelation as they spoke; evangelists who acted essentially as apostolic lieutenants. Now and again, Calvin holds, God may revive these ministries--or perhaps more accurately, ministries that have certain similarities to them. Only the ministries of pastor and teacher continue. The latter's task is education rather than biblical exposition and exhortation, and sacramental administration.
Theodore Beza, Calvin's successor, recorded that at the height of his preaching powers in Geneva, over a thousand people might crowd into the Church of Saint Pierre each weekday when Calvin preached. In the pulpit Calvin grew to his full height, and engaged in a preaching ministry exercised in the power of the Spirit, that transformed the lives of multitudes.
May his tribe increase!