The Great Omission
XXIII. Of Ministering in the Congregation.
It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have public authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.
~Book of Common Prayer (39 Articles).
Since preaching is a means of grace, this modern day thinking about the Great Commission that intermingles the layperson into believing he has been ordained, called, sent and commissioned to preach is dispensational and most times based in Arminianism; it is a break in reformed polity and an assault on God’s Regulative Principle of Worship.
I have entitled this paper, “The Great Omission” due to the fact that most believers are brainwashed into understanding the doctrine of the Great Commission in an eisegetical fashion. It is surely not exegetical for they intentionally omit the clear intent of Matthew chapter 28, verse 18-20. There are many reasons, but most of it will be explained in this paper.
Is there a difference between witnessing, evangelizing and preaching?
‘Scott, they’re the same thing.’
My response: Are they? Please show me one instance in scripture where the word ‘preach’ is used in regard to the layperson-just one, please?
Here is a quote from Tim Challies on the subject:
“I found myself thinking about the office of pastor. This, too, is an office that is meant to carry some kind of dignity. The Bible holds the office high—higher than Prime Minister or President—and provides a long list of qualifications for anyone who would hold it. It says that it is a noble office and that a pastor must be, among other things, sober minded, respectable and a man who manages his home with dignity. He must be upright, holy and disciplined. This is an age of radical egalitarianism in which we want to acknowledge no distinctions between one person and another, even if one of them represents an important office. And yet the Bible elevates this one office as the office of double honor. This does not mean that a pastor needs to be superhuman or unapproachable. Far from it! The pastor, too, can play in the church softball game and he can have fun at the youth retreat. But even while he has fun, and even while he is outside of his study and his pulpit, he represents both himself and his office. The office cannot carry more dignity or respect than the office-holder…”
Evangelism is a work of a specific office; There is no such thing as laymen evangelization-it is an oxymoron.
Your response might be: “All of the church is told to go; we are all evangelists! It is implied in the Great Commission in Matthew chapter 28”.
A few thoughts first:
The reformed are known for a few things; one of these is our solidly planted flag on the subject of scripture alone. We hold fast that confession. We will die on that hill if need be. Luther said it best when he was at Worms:
“Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.”
Since scripture alone is our guide, we will, in this treatise, prove that the two items, preaching and witnessing, are not one and the same.
In the past, I have noticed that when believers discuss the topic of the Great Commission, there is a varied understanding of this doctrine. Most people are either puppeting the Finneyism that is blatant here in America or they are ignorant on the subject.
God’s word says it best, “Hos. 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”
In this day of Tolerance, inclusivism and complacency, our claim to Sola Scriptura is beginning to pale. The term has been redefined by abuses. Being reformed is no longer gauged against Gods word and our Historic creeds but whether or not the person simply holds to TULIP and the Solas. These two sets of doctrines do not make one reformed; I say this only to show how things have become diluted over the ages and one of those dilutions is the doctrine of the Great Commission.
Lets look at this commission and the passage in Matthew:
Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Following a proper hermeneutic, letting the scripture in it’s simplest form speak to us, how is it that the majority of believers hold to the idea that the commission is to every single person in the church? Where does it imply that?
Was Jesus speaking to a crowd of listeners or just the apostles?
Verse 16 of the same chapter helps to answer that question:
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
Obviously, as we can see, it was just the apostles. Jesus had told them or Mary earlier where they were to meet Him.
This is essentially the laying on of Christ’s hands and ordaining the eleven. It is an ordination ceremony; one never to be repeated! The apostles are told to ‘go’. They are told to make disciples by educating them about Christ and baptize them.
The commission is specifically for the Apostles; They are the New Testament expression of the local church and they are the leaders of this church.
I want to add: Although all of us understand that God is immutable, in light of this passage, taking into consideration a aberrant outreach, can it be said that God is with these settings, ‘even unto the end of the world’? I would have to say, no. The command, taken out of context, does not support this idea. Christ is telling the church that when they are presenting the gospel, there He will be, ‘always with them’, supporting the cause, speaking on their behalf-it is not their words, but His! To be speaking on Christ’s behalf when in fact He has not sent you, is an error. We all understand that when the leadership gathers to judge a case of discipline in the local church, there Christ is in the midst where ‘two or three are gathered in my name’. Again, yes God is immutable, however to tear this idea out of context and use it in any wanton way is wrong and shows of a flawed hermeneutic. We must understand that God endorses only truth. He is not a God of error. It is only in light of truth that He will press his ring of authority on the wax of our lives and none otherwise.
Lets look at the definition of the word commission:
to give a commission to: to commission a graduate of a military academy.
16.to authorize; send on a mission.
17.to give the order that places a warship, military command, etc., in a state of complete readiness for active duty.
If we consider our military, the officers are commissioned in a similar manner like our church officers. The enlisted people are not commissioned, in fact they are called ‘non commissioned officers. There is a big difference between the polity of the non com’s and the commissioned. Both camps have a specific designation and an official job classification. The officers, lead and the enlisted ranks submit to that leadership. If this level of hierarchy is aborted, the campaign suffers greatly and generally, as history has proved, the side that has a weak leadership, generally falls under destruction. The officers are set apart from the enlisted ranks. In fact, the military has a fraternization rule dividing the camps so as not to create a false unity for the sake of the safety of the troops.
Lets look at the protocol that the Marine officer is to abide by:
The Marine Corps fraternization policy is contained in Marine Corps Manual 1100.4.
“Fraternization is the term used to describe improper personal and business relationships among Marines of different ranks or positions. When contact and relationships exceed these standards and become those of “buddies” or peers, then fraternization exists. Under the Marine Corps policy, commanders are instructed to look at the facts and circumstances of each case:
(1) Is there a compromise of the chain of command?
(2) Is there an appearance of partiality? (REMEMBER: when dealing with the subject of fraternization, perceptions are as deadly as reality).
(3) Is there the potential for good order, discipline, morale, or authority to be undermined?
If the commander determines that the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” then he/she may determine that the offense of fraternization occurred.”
One can see from this statement that the officers have a wide divide between the enlisted ranks of men and woman. Having said all of this, I wanted to just show that there is a level of separation between officers and the people under them; The same can be said for the Church, after all, the hierarchy that our military follow is akin to the church’s hierarchical system.
So much can be said in regards to the Ecclesia Militans or church militant. Without this hierarchy, this system would fail as well. When Christ said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, He meant it. All believers are soldiers in God’s army and rightfully submit to the will of God.
2Ti 2:3-4 “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
Eph. 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Eph. 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
In light of this paper, it should go without saying that the hierarchical system is repeatedly emphasized and endorsed in scripture. Look throughout the Old testament and you will find that whenever Israel was called into battle, God was with them, leading them. Israel had an earthly leader, a specific man, called of God, ordained and sent with a specific purpose; None of these examples were flying by the seat of their pants. There were often times, 10,000 men in these battles. Do you believe that all these thousands of men were all commissioned and ordained? Of course not. That would be silly. Many of these thousands, were foot soldiers, much like myself. The campaign worked well because of the obedience of these foot soldiers.
The hierarchical system is part and parcel with our walk. God is a God of order and discipline. We have not volunteered for this assignment mind you. We were drafted, supernaturally. Christ is our federal head; He tells us what to do and we rightly (hopefully) submit. He is the general, we are the soldiers. Soldiers never function independently. Someone is always over them, guiding and directing. Independency is at odds with God and His word. Independency is a sign of pride and discontent. This was Lucifer’s issue. He wanted to change the program to fit his needs or to quote a wise man, ‘he began lusting after Gods job-as if the system wasn’t working properly’. In the same way, the Great commission works when the laws of the system are maintained. If we break rank, problems are sure to arise.
The commission that the apostles received was at a Heavenly level. They were ordained as officers in the church. They were called and sent by Christ. They were specifically ordained to preach the gospel, make disciples and place the sacrament on the disciples that they taught.
Robert Dabney writes:
“With these preparatory truths, we wish to remind our readers of a few admitted Scripture facts. Christ, though Head of the church, has himself ordained the mode in which he wills his gospel shall be preached to mankind. He has instituted in the world a visible church, and appointed it to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). He has given it, at least in outline, its form, laws and officers, and has enjoined upon it though species of didactic and disciplinary functions it is to perform. He has taught this church that her public organic functions are all to be performed through these officers, whose names and places he has himself assigned. When he was pleased to ordain that “by the foolishness of preaching” those who believe are saved, he provided expressly how the preachers were to be selected and appointed.”
One might say, “Scott, but we are priests! We are royalty!”
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
My reply: We are priests! We are royalty! Surely God did not intend for believers to think that His exhortation here in 1 Peter to be used to usurp the hierarchical system He has put in place for our well being; it makes God out to be a bit schizophrenic. He is a God of organization and yet, His people, who are reflections of His character are not. That as well would be simply foolish at best. In fact, a great example is Exodus 19:
Ex. 19:1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. 3 And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. 5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
This is an amazing passage. God gives the nation of Israel the royal gauntlet. Everyone is a priest now. Look at the next passage, however:
7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.
Moses calls for what? The elders? Yes. The system of checks and balances remains. Just because we are now royalty and part of the priesthood, it does not abrogate the hierarchical system. Think of it another way; if Israel was all priests, why was there still a need for the Levites in temple sacrifices? If all of Israel was priests, anyone could just stroll into the holy of holies, no? Absolutely not! There would be a bunch of burnt up people in the temple. Israel was well aware that that was not what God meant when he told them they were now priests. They may have been (p)riests, but they were never to be (P)riests! That was for the Levites alone.
In the same way, to think that in these New Testament days of the church, especially when Matthew 28 is so clear, that the priesthood we enjoy is meant to usurp everything else God has said, is again, silly.
“Hold the presses, Scott-I thought the commission is to the whole church, not just the officers?”
There is some truth in that statement; but it needs to be explained in light of what I have already shown, to which I will do later in this paper.
Whose job is it to primarily teach disciples? The leadership of the church. The officers! Those gifted by the holy Spirit to teach. Not everyone has that gift-at least not at the level Jesus is commissioning these leaders with.
Look what Calvin says about this topic:
“19. Go out, therefore, and teach all nations. Though Mark, after having related that Christ appeared to the eleven disciples, immediately subjoins the command to preach the gospel, he does not speak of these as an unbroken series of events, for we learn from the enumeration of them which is given by Matthew, that the latter event did not take place before they had gone into Galilee. The meaning amounts to this, that by proclaiming the gospel everywhere, they should bring all nations to the obedience of the faith, and next, that they should seal and ratify their doctrine by the sign of the gospel. In Matthew, they are first taught simply to teach; but Mark expresses the kind of doctrine, that they should preach the gospel; and shortly afterwards Matthew himself adds this limitation, to teach them to observe all things whatsoever the Lord hath commanded.
Let us learn from this passage, that the apostleship is not an empty title, but a laborious office; and that, consequently, nothing is more absurd or intolerable than that this honor should be claimed by hypocrites, who live like kings at their ease, and disdainfully throw away from themselves the office of teaching. “
“In short, whoever does not fulfill the duties of a teacher acts wickedly and falsely by assuming the name of an apostle; and what is more—the priesthood of the New Testament consists in slaying men, as a sacrifice to God, by the spiritual sword of the word. Hence it follows, that all are but pretended and spurious priests who are not devoted to the office of teaching.”
That’s pretty cut and dry.
The Presbyterian Church in America’s Book of Church order states:
“8-6. When a teaching elder is appointed to the work of an evangelist, he is commissioned to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments in foreign countries or the destitute parts of the Church. The Presbytery may by separate acts from that by which it commissioned him, entrust to the evangelist for a period of twelve months the power to organize churches, and, until there is a Session in the church so organized, to instruct, examine, ordain, and install ruling elders and deacons therein, and to receive or dismiss members.”
How could one do the work of an Evangelist without a title? Thats why I said, you need to make the distinction between witnessing versus evangelizing.
It would seem that to do the specific work of an Evangelist, one must be called, sent and are a minister with ordination.
Lets look at the Old Testament and see if we can get an answer on this subject.
We know that God is immutable. This great commission is the New Testament application of God’s creation plan; God is now doing something with His church that he hadn’t done in the Old Testament. Sure, there was a commission in the Old Testament; it just wasn’t called ‘commission’. This is not to say that the Church is a New Testament phenomenon, it is not! God is taking the scattered church of previous ages and now gathering it and establishing the official polity so as to grow it exponentially. He uses the Great Commission to accomplish that.
God has always called and sent men. He has always used heralds. He has always had leaders. Did the heralds have a message? Yes. What was that message? Is that message different from the message in the Great Commission? Yes and no. Yes, in that Christ is now reality. Before the message was about the messiah to come. The prophets were called, ordained, sent and commissioned. How did God deal with his spokespersons in the Old Testament? In the same fashion He does in the New. He decreed them before time, ordained from the womb. He gave them the message. They took the message, then delivered it . You recall that Jeremiah preached for how many years and it is noted that not one person came to faith. Faith in what? Christ? Yes, Christ. How is this different from our sent men today?
Jeremiah 25 tells us his message:
“And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever: And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt. Yet ye have not hearkened unto me, saith the LORD; that ye might provoke me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.”
How long did Jeremiah preach to deaf ears? Twenty Three years of pleading. How many of us would have quit well before that? The name ‘Jeremiah’ says much. In the Hebrew it means, ‘whom Jehovah appoints’. Adam was the first herald. I will not belabor the point. I will simply refer you to scripture: Read the rest of all the sent men of God. It is an example of the New Testament commission. Even though it is informal, it is a commission and much like the official one we know of.
So we can now see that the heralds of God’s message have been men who are decreed, called, ordained and sent. It is not an issue of spontaneity or free-lance persons. It is a plan of God-it is not by chance. It is organized, it is not disorganized with no foundation other then an idea.
Lets look at the idea that the Great Commission sends lay people out to fulfill the component of preaching and teaching. Are all men called to ‘preach’ and ‘teach’?
Are all men called to preach? Preaching comes from an official office.
Eph 4:11. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12. For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
14. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
The word ‘evangelist’ in the Greek is rendered:
2099. eujaggelisth/ß euaggelistes, yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace´; from 2097; a preacher of the gospel: — evangelist.
“Pastors and Teachers are supposed by some to denote one office, because the apostle does not, as in the other parts of the verse, say, and some, pastors; and some, teachers; but, tou\ß de«, poime÷naß kai« didaska¿louß, and some, pastors and teachers. Chrysostom and Augustine are of this opinion; not to mention the commentaries of Ambrose, whose observations on the subject are truly childish and unworthy of himself. I partly agree with them, that Paul speaks indiscriminately of pastors and teachers as belonging to one and the same class, and that the name teacher does, to some extent, apply to all pastors. But this does not appear to me a sufficient reason why two offices, which I find to differ from each other, should be confounded. Teaching is, no doubt, the duty of all pastors; but to maintain sound doctrine requires a talent for interpreting Scripture, and a man may be a teacher who is not qualified to preach.
Pastors, in my opinion, are those who have the charge of a particular flock; though I have no objection to their receiving the name of teachers, if it be understood that there is a distinct class of teachers, who preside both in the education of pastors and in the instruction of the whole church. It may sometimes happen, that the same person is both a pastor and a teacher, but the duties to be performed are entirely different.
It deserves attention, also, that, of the five offices which are here enumerated, not more than the last two are intended to be perpetual. Apostles, Evangelists, and Prophets were bestowed on the church for a limited time only, except in those cases where religion has fallen into decay, and evangelists are raised up in an extraordinary manner, to restore the pure doctrine which had been lost. But without Pastors and Teachers there can be no government of the church.”
Notice the last statement that Calvin emphasizes:
“But without Pastors and Teachers there can be no government of the church.”
This implies that if the commission and the command to go, i.e. preach is abused, the polity of the church is lost, “there can be no government of the church.” It is important that the polity of Christ’s church is preserved. Obviously poor teaching is the result of this breakdown we are all aware of. We see it everyday.
The other problem in the ill defined understanding of the great commission is that when I ask, are ‘all men’ called to preach, we have women in that set of peoples that are being addressed. The reformed know that women cannot hold an office. It would then follow that they cannot ‘preach’. This fact immediately cancels out that women are called to the commission. You might ask, “Scott, what about teaching? It is important to make the distinction between (t)eaching and (T)eaching. The teaching my wife does with our daughter is not the same teaching that is enveloped in the Great Commission. According to Titus 2 woman are called to teach:
Titus 2:1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave,temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
What does the book of Revelation say?
“Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which called herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed with idols.” Revelations 2:20.
The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed:
Isaiah 3:12 “as for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths”
The (t)eaching my wife does with our daughter is not the same (T)eaching that is decreed in the great commission. She understands that. I am thankful to God my wife understands these things.
The same can be said of married lay-men. They as well have a job of teaching; yet, it is not the same teaching. As mentioned, Fathers are called to (t)each their wives and children. It is not a commission; they are NOT officers and have not been officially called in the same fashion as the officers in our church nor the heralds of scripture. The local church did not identify their giftb by its officers, working through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Most of these street preachers are self appointed men and woman, most likely moving in the flesh and in ignorance of the doctrine.
What does the prophet Ezekiel say about this confusion?
Ezek. 13:1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 Son of man, be a prophet against the prophets of Israel, and say to those prophets whose words are the invention of their hearts, Give ear to the word of the Lord; 3 This is what the Lord has said: A curse on the foolish prophets who go after the spirit which is in them and have seen nothing! 4 O Israel, your prophets have been like jackals in the waste places. 5 You have not gone up into the broken places or made up the wall for the children of Israel to take your place in the fight in the day of the Lord. 6 They have seen visions without substance and made use of secret arts, who say, The Lord has said; and the Lord has not sent them: hoping that the word would have effect. 7 Have you not seen a vision without substance and have you not falsely made use of secret arts, when you say, The Lord has said; though I have said nothing? 8 So this is what the Lord has said: Because your words are without substance and your visions are false, see, I am against you, says the Lord. 9 And my hand will be against the prophets who see visions without substance and who make false use of secret arts: they will not be in the secret of my people, and they will not be recorded in the list of the children of Israel, and they will not come into the land of Israel; and it will be clear to you that I am the Lord.
Ezekiel explains that men are going without a sending. They say, God has sent them, when in fact, He has not!
“He speaks of the exiled prophets, as will be evident from the context: for among the captives there were those who assumed the name of God, boasting themselves endowed with the prophetic spirit: but meanwhile they intruded into the office, and then vainly boasted in their deceptions.”
“When therefore they heard of returning after three years, they easily suffered themselves to be deceived by such blandishments. But although God is so vehemently enraged against those impostors, it does not therefore follow that when he charges them with their crime, he absolves the people, or even extenuates their fault. Nor could the people object that they were deceived by those falsehoods, since they willingly and knowingly threw themselves into the snare”
“They (Israel) were not destitute of true prophets; and God had distinguished his servants from false prophets by well-known marks, so that no one could mistake except willfully. (Deuteronomy 13:3.) But in the midst of light they blinded themselves, and so God suffered them to be deceived. But that was the just reward of their pride, since they could not be subject to God and his servants.”
“He that entereth not by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber (murderer).”
“Likewise, in the matter of preaching we must make selection that order may be preserved…”
Note how Luther makes mention that if a man climbs into the position without God actually sending him, there is loss of order.
“Ezek. 34:1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 Son of man, be a prophet against the keepers of the flock of Israel, and say to them, O keepers of the sheep! this is the word of the Lord: A curse is on the keepers of the flock of Israel who take the food for themselves! is it not right for the keepers to give the food to the sheep? 3 You take the milk and are clothed with the wool, you put the fat beasts to death, but you give the sheep no food. 4 You have not made the diseased ones strong or made well that which was ill; you have not put bands on the broken or got back that which had been sent away or made search for the wandering ones; and the strong you have been ruling cruelly. 5 And they were wandering in every direction because there was no keeper: and they became food for all the beasts of the field. 6 And my sheep went out of the way, wandering through all the mountains and on every high hill: my sheep went here and there over all the face of the earth; and no one was troubled about them or went in search of them. 7 For this cause, O keepers of the flock, give ear to the word of the Lord: 8 By my life, says the Lord, truly, because my sheep have been taken away, and my sheep became food for all the beasts of the field, because there was no keeper, and my keepers did not go in search of the sheep, but the keepers took food for themselves and gave my sheep no food; 9 For this reason, O you keepers of the flock, give ear to the word of the Lord; 10 This is what the Lord has said: See I am against the keepers of the flock, and I will make search and see what they have done with my sheep, and will let them be keepers of my sheep no longer; and the keepers will no longer get food for themselves; I will take my sheep out of their mouths so that they may not be food for them.”
If the polity of the church fails, the troops scatter. This is a big part of the problem. We all know men or woman who go out onto the street corners proclaiming (if you can call it that) God’s message, yet God has not actually officially called them or sent them to say anything. They call themselves preachers. Yes He has called all laypersons to witness, to share and bring Him glory. But this is not the same thing as what is in the commission to Gods ordained leaders. Many of these ‘street preachers’ are not sent. Many times these individuals have no local church oversight. This is not to say that they are not attached to a local church, but that that they are actually attached to has not officially ordained them for the ministry nor sent them. Most all missionaries are not sent down the street!
Can one rightly use the title preacher if one is not ordained to the office? Is there a subset of preachers or is this an abuse of the title? For instance, (e)vangelist vs (E)vangelist?
The Reverend Matthew Winzer writes in this regard:
“This small “e” evangelism which has been discussed obviously does not include baptism. In the New Testament we see “be baptised” as an essential part of evangelizing. For that reason I doubt that the work and witness of individuals can properly be called Evangelism or evangelism. It is, at the very least, something to which a person is called by the church and is charged with the moral obligation to fulfill. It is by very nature a specified task. Perhaps most significant of all, there are two distinct groups in the New Testament — teachers and learners, governors and governed (see especially Hebrews 5 for the former and Hebrews 13 for the latter). It is never suggested that the learner or the governed has equal right and responsibility to assume the tasks of the teacher or governor. The categorical distinction of the New Testament requires the theologian to make categorical distinctions in the way he presents the matter.”
As Winzer notes, to think otherwise about evangelism is a formula for political disaster.
As I asked in the beginning of this article, please provide me with one passage where the term ‘preach or preacher is used in regards to the layperson.
The Westminster Larger Catechism states:
“Q. 158. By whom is the Word of God to be preached?
A. The Word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office.
Q. 159. How is the Word of God to be preached by those that are called thereunto?
A. They that are called to labor in the ministry of the word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, with fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.”
The Belgic Confession states:
“Article 30: The Government of the Church
- We believe that this true church ought to be governed according to the spiritual order that our Lord has taught us in his Word. There should be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and adminster the sacraments. There should also be elders and deacons, along with the pastors, to make up the council of the church.By this means true religion is preserved; true doctrine is able to take its course; and evil men are corrected spiritually and held in check, so that also the poor and all the afflicted may be helped and comforted according to their need.
By this means everything will be done well and in good order in the church, when such persons are elected who are faithful and are chosen according to the rule that Paul gave to Timothy.
1 Tim. 3
Article 31: The Officers of the Church
- We believe that ministers of the Word of God, elders, and deacons ought to be chosen to their offices by a legitimate election of the church, with prayer in the name of the Lord, and in good order, as the Word of God teaches. So everyone must be careful not to push himself forward improperly, but he must wait for God’s call, so that he may be assured of his calling and be certain that he is chosen by the Lord.
As for the ministers of the Word, they all have the same power and authority, no matter where they may be, since they are all servants of Jesus Christ, the only universal bishop, and the only head of the church.
Moreover, to keep God’s holy order from being violated or despised, we say that everyone ought, as much as possible, to hold the ministers of the Word and elders of the church in special esteem, because of the work they do, and be at peace with them, without grumbling, quarreling, or fighting.”
Notice that the Belgic emphasizes, “So everyone must be careful not to push himself forward improperly, but he must wait for God’s call, so that he may be assured of his calling and be certain that he is chosen by the Lord.”
Many times in most of the present day churches, they do not understand this doctrine; they allow for this error in their ignorance. They see it as honorable what these freewheeling persons are doing. They herald a call with absolutely, most times, no follow through. They give out random messages, and then move on. The great commission is to herald the message, disciple and baptize. There is follow through. One cannot disciple a person on one single occasion. As well, how can a man who has no ordination place the sign on the person? I have yet to see a street preacher baptize anyone on the spot. That would be novel if I saw that one. One problem might be that most of these street preachers are credo Baptist in their theology and they don’t have the depth of water to submerge anyone. It would be much easier for the Presbyterian as he could just take his bottled water and get the job done.
The issue of baptizing is important to note; The components of the commission are specific. Disciple, teach and baptize. Since when can lay people place the sign on individuals? There are interesting arguments on this detail. Most dance around it and say that this shows that there are more than officers involved. One cannot divorce the command to teach all nations from the baptizing of them.
The present day understanding is not reformed. In fact, it is dispensational and most times a process which is held by the Arminian.
This angst to get out there and save people is based on the urgency that some will be lost if they do not get the message of Christ out there. The dispensational Arminian rushes out for two reasons. One, so that none will fall through the cracks and secondly, to usher in Christ’s return. The dispensational Arminian understands that Christ will return when the fulfillment of the gentiles converts have been reached.
Here is the passage:
Luke 21:24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
This ideology has permeated even the ranks of the reformed. I used to be a leader in D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion movement years ago. If you look over the material, you will see what I am talking about. The actual tracts used by this outreach have a ‘sign here’ at the back of the tract. It has been permeated by heresy. I am not saying that what Kennedy proposed is heresy, but that the Arminianism that is imbedded in it, heretical. I do see the E.E. program itself to be at odds with the purpose of this paper as it is like most mainline understandings of the doctrine of the commission, which is flawed and certainly not reformed.
This brings us to the differences between preaching, teaching and witnessing or sharing. As earlier mentioned, preaching and teaching are characteristics of a church office. Can it ever be said that laypeople preach or teach? Not technically. For instance, I teach a basic theology course at my church. I am sitting under oversight of one of our pastors who routinely audits the class. This level of teaching is considered the same type of teaching I do with my family. Is what I do when I catechize my wife and daughter, teaching? Yes. But I make the distinction. I understand the implications and know the difference. To explain this further, what I do is (t)each, not (T)each. Is this semantics? I have shown that it is not. It is much more than just words; and as stated earlier, if you blow this, the system suffers and eventually breaks down completely.
For instance, Calvary Chapel is a great example. They have elders, yet they have no membership. They have no polity per se. Everyone just exists in his or her own little worlds. If you are amidst their gatherings, you can tell that there is no biblical oversight. With no membership, are you truly connected? Well Calvary Chapel would say, “We are the body of Christ! We need no membership-that’s just church religion-it is not biblical”. Calvary Chapel misses an important distinction of the local church versus the universal church. Yes, the elect make up the Body of Christ, however the doctrine of membership is for the benne esse of the local church. Without membership, how can one practice discipline. How can one be excommunicated from a thing they are not officially communicated with? Having said all of this, the system suffers and God’s people perish for lack of knowledge.
All of the laypeople are out there teaching, preaching, evangelizing, etc. One of the important aspects of oversight is that the leadership has an idea of your personal theology that you are teaching when you hit the streets. That’s exactly why before churches send anyone, in the ordination process, they ordain according to the requirements noted in 1 Tim:
“1Tim. 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
They know your walk and are comfortable in sending you off with a valid message. These churches mentioned do not do this per se. They just tell believers to get out there without even knowing what they will be saying. They may be out there teaching heresy in this local groups name. That’s not good. Ultimately, as I have previously mentioned, all of this is because the leadership lacks the theological backbone to know and understand this stuff and because of that, the sheep are scattered because the shepherds are teaching when they have no real knowledge of God’s ways and really have no right to the pulpits they inhabit. Sad, but true.
In some ways, indirectly, the great commission is to all peoples of God; The church’s main mission is to preach the gospel to a lost world. This is better known as fulfilling the great commission; It is a great co-mission; It is a co-op. Cooperation, between God and man. One cannot work outside of this cooperation. It is designed this way. Men cannot be saved outside of the preaching of the Word and the regenerating power accompanying that message. The preacher, preaches and the laypersons, pray. They witness; they share what God has done in their lives. Have you ever read ‘Foxes Book of Martyrs’? This book is a valuable witness to Gods power. In the same way, we are called to be part of the commission in this way. What does 1 Peter say?
15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Be ready to give a reason, for the hope that is within you. This exhortation is not preaching nor evangelizing; In fact, the word evangelist is used 3 times in the New Testament:
Acts 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
Eph. 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
2Tim. 4:5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
This is Strongs #2099 in the Greek:
2099. eujaggelisth/ß euaggelistes, yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace´; from 2097; a preacher of the gospel: — evangelist.
Matthew Henry writes on Eph 2:
“The gift of the ministry is the fruit of Christ’s ascension. And ministers have their various gifts, which are all given them by the Lord Jesus. The officers which Christ gave to his church were of two sorts—extraordinary ones advanced to a higher office in the church: such were apostles, prophets, and evangelists.”
“The evangelists were ordained persons (2 Tim. i. 6), whom the apostles took for their companions in travel (Gal. ii. 1), and sent them out to settle and establish such churches as the apostles themselves had planted (Acts xix. 22), and, not being fixed to any particular place, they were to continue till recalled, 2 Tim. iv. 9. And then there are ordinary ministers, employed in a lower and narrower sphere; as pastors and teachers. Some take these two names to signify one office, implying the duties of ruling and teaching belonging to it. Others think they design two distinct offices, both ordinary, and of standing use in the church; and then pastors are such as are fixed at the head of particular churches, with design to guide, instruct, and feed them in the manner appointed by Christ; and they are frequently called bishops and elders: and the teachers were those whose work it was also to preach the gospel and to instruct the people by way of exhortation. We see here that it is Christ’s prerogative to appoint what officers and offices he pleases in his church. And how rich is the church, that had at first such a variety of officers and has still such a variety of gifts! How kind is Christ to his church!”
“ And some, evangelists. There are two views of the nature of the office of the evangelists. Some regard them as vicars of the apostles—men commissioned by them for a definite purpose and clothed with special powers for the time being, analogous to the apostolic vicars of the Romanists; or to the temporary superintendents appointed after the Reformation in the Scottish church, clothed for a limited time and for a definite purpose with presbyterial powers, i. e. to a certain extent, with the powers of a presbytery, the power tc ordain, install and depose. Evangelists in this sense were temporary officers. This view of the nature of the office prevailed at the time of the Reformation.13”
“According to the other view, the evangelists were itinerant preachers, oi˚ periiŒonteß e˙kh/rutton, as Theodoret and other early writers describe them. They were properly missionaries sent to preach the Gospel where it had not been previously known. This is the commonly received view, in favour of which may be urged—1. The signification of the word, which in itself means nothing more than preacher of the Gospel. 2. Philip was an evangelist, but was in no sense a vicar of the apostles; and when Timothy was exhorted to do the work of an evangelist, the exhortation was simply to be a faithful preacher of the Gospel. Acts 21, 8; Eph. 4, 11; and 2 Tim. 4, 5, are the only passages in which the word occurs, and in no one of them does the connection or any other consideration demand any other meaning than the one commonly assigned to it. 3. ∆Eujagge÷lisqai and dida¿skein are both used to express the act of making known the Gospel; but when as here, the eujaggelisth/ß is distinguished fromr the dida¿skaloß, the only point of distinction implied or admissible is between one who makes known the Gospel where it had not been heard, and an instructor of those already Christians. The use of eujagge÷lisqai in such passages as Acts 8, 4; 14, 7; 1 Cor. 1, 17, and 2 Cor. 10, 16, serves to confirm the commonly received opinion that an evangeli1st is one who makes known the Gospel.”
“In the New Testament, the absence of minute directions for Church government and ceremonies, shows that a fixed model was not designed; the general rule is obligatory as to ceremonies, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (compare Article XXXIV, Church of England); and that a succession of ministers be provided, not self-called, but “called to the work by men who have public authority given unto them in the congregation, to call and send ministers into the Lord’s vineyard”
Romans chapter 10 gives great insight:
“But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14How, 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? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Notice that the passage in Romans says “how can they preach unless” what? They are sent. If our church sends someone, it is official. Our missionaries are generally sent with the intent of either putting in place as soon as possible, an officer or they are officers themselves that are sent. This is biblical polity.
It is important to note that to give the rights of the officers to laypersons is a break in the Regulative Principle of Worship. Since preaching is an ordinary means of grace and as I noted as described in the varied confessions cited in this document, to preach without being ordained and sent is a break in the RPW. It is akin to Nadab and Abihu’s strange fire they offered in vain, even to their demise.
There are important distinctions that need to be acknowledged in this doctrine. Failing to understand some of these things will result in a break in the regulative principle of worship as well, destroy biblical Polity.
One might say that I am straining the gnat or, “Scott, isn’t that just a bunch of semantics?”. No, and I believe I have adequately demonstrated that.
My friend Josh Hicks said it well:
“The official ministry of reconciliation falls upon the shoulders of ministers. Lay folk should certainly be engaged in acting and speaking in the gates with Christian fervor, telling others the great things the Lord has done for them, and lovingly addressing the issues of the day while inviting others to church where they may hear the gospel preached, become disciples, and come under the authority of Christ’s appointed undershepherds.”
And here he describes the support that the layperson brings to assist in the fulfillment of Gods great commission:
1. Praying for the ministry of the Pastors/Elders (preaching, sacrament, community exposure, etc.)
2. Supporting them financially that they may be singly devoted to their calling
3. The Deacons take up duties that might otherwise keep Pastors/Elders from fulfilling their duties in Word, Sacrament, & Prayer
4. Acting in the Gates according to our Christian Confession:
a. being excellent in our callings, whether a student, plumber, doctor, or home maker.
b. being kind, giving, generous, forgiving, charitable, etc. toward others, especially to those who are of the household of faith
c. not being conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds, etc.
5. Speaking in the Gates according to our Christian Confession:
a. of the great things God has done for us
b. proclaiming His excellencies
c. inviting others to Church
d. praying for others
As you can see, the support of the layperson is important. God makes it such as to make the process of completing this great commission a cooperation between the church’s officers who are ordained to this commission and the laypeople who make up the body of Christ locally. It is a teamwork. Think of it like a football team:
The Miami Dolphins are a football team; 11 players at one time. There is the coach. Is he a dolphin? He’s not technically a player. How about the owner? The fans? Are the fans an instrumental aspect to the game-does it matter how the fans react? Are they part of the team? It is important to note that all of these segments mentioned have a direct impact on the outcome. It is an effort brought together by a system. In the same way, the Great Commission works like this.
The commission is fulfilled in 2 ways, through the local church and it’s leadership and through it’s members individually.
Thomas Boston writes in regards to missions:
“HOW DOES CHRIST MAKE MEN FISHERS OF MEN?
In answer to this question, consider spiritual fishing two ways: first, as to the office and work itself; and second, as to the success of it.
First, he makes them fishers as to their office, by his call, which is twofold, outward and inward, by setting them apart to the office of the ministry; and it is thy business,
O my soul, to know whether thou hast it or not.”
“MINISTERS ARE FISHERS BY OFFICE
They are catchers of the souls of men, sent ‘to open the eyes of the blind, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God’. Preachers of the
gospel are fishers, and their work and that of fishers agree in several things.”
“2. There is a promise annexed to the duty
Wherein we may consider:
(a) The benefit promised; that is to be made fishers of men; which I take to be not only an investing of them with authority, and a calling of them to the office, but also a
promise of the success they should have, that fishing of men should be their employment, and they should not be employed in vain, but following Christ, they
should indeed catch men by the gospel.”
Here’s a quote from Wilbur Bruinsma from the PRC:
“A proper view of the doctrine of the church will have a direct bearing on the work of missions. What the Bible teaches us about the church and its work will determine who is called to do mission work, as well as the way such work is carried out. We began our consideration of this proposition in the last article when we established that it is the calling of the church to carry out mission work. Christ commissioned the church institute to do this work (Matt. 28:19; Eph. 3:10; I Tim. 3:15; Acts 13:2). The church does this through the offices of pastor, elder, and deacon, but especially through the office of pastor and teacher. The missionary himself is properly trained, called, and sent out by the church to perform the work of missions. Not just anyone sent to a field of labor in missions is a missionary. A missionary is an ordained pastor in the church. His task is to preach and teach the gospel. That is the calling of the church in missions: preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).”
In regard to the practical aspect of fulfilling the commission:
Here is some stats presented by Mark Dever on church growth:
14.8% decline in the United Church of Christ
11.6% decline in the PCUSA
6.7% decline in the United Methodist Church
5.7% decline in the American Baptist Churches
5.3% decline in the Episcopal Church
5% growth in the Southern Baptist Convention
18.5% growth in the Assemblies of God
21.8% growth in the Christian and Missionary Alliance
40.2% growth in the Church of God
42.4% growth in the PCA
57.2% growth in the Evangelical Free Churches
* Statistics from the last 10 years in denominational life found in Dave Shiflett’s book Exodus.
Dropping tracts are abused when you believe that it is all that is required. It is akin to an altered call if you just drop them. Much of this type of outreach is rooted in present day Finneyism. It is more than error. Discipling and relationship is biblical. It should be the goal of all believers, whether witnessing or (P)reaching, to tie themselves to the person they are speaking to. One cannot speak into the life of another person by having a 5 minute conversation. The initial goal should be just like any other conversation when first meeting an individual. Introduction, where one lives, occupation, interests, residence area, does the person have an interest in religion and what religion that person was raised in, etc. It should not be a conversation that is pressed for time; in other words, the clock is not ticking and we should not give the impression that we are more concerned with giving the tract or verbal message than listening and making a relationship. We should look to see if there is a need to be met, first. Remember what Jesus said:
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
I used to attend a large, non-denominational church w/ no membership-they were Arminian in their theology and they adopted much of C. Finney’s approach to outreach. Here is a birds eye view of these falty apporaches:
Here, let me innumerate it for you:
When I attended, there were 3 Lord’s day meetings, 2 on Wednesday night, 2 on Saturday. Thats a total of 7 meetings a week. 7 x 52=364 meetings per year. Now, at an average, the altar call drew 25 people; many times 100! But for the sake of this conversation, we will stick to the smaller number. I have been walking with the Lord for over 20 years. I left CC about 15 years ago. Lets look at the numbers:
364 x 25=9,100 people who made an altar call commitment.
Let’s continue: 9,100 x 5=45,500. Thats not counting their largest outreaches, easter at the baseball stadium and Xmas at the Sunrise Musical Center.
lets continue: 9,100 x 20 years=182,000 people. Where are they? 182k people; and that was a low estimate. If you took into consideration the big events they held where they drew 200 people up to the altar…..well, do the math.
The altar call is a man made invention started by Arminians. It is theologically inept and reduces God to a begging servant.
I pray this paper is edifying to your soul.
*An excellent follow up paper, written by Brian Schwertley, on this doctrine can be found here: The Great Commission