From the book, The Memoir of David King - Ministry in the Church of Christ.


The Minister (pages 251-258).

"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?" 1 Cor. iii:5.

Just as our attention was turned to writing this chapter, there came a circular, relating to an Annual Collection for the Birmingham Charities. The circular reads:-

"Rev. Sir, - We are directed to inform you that a General Meeting of the Clergy and Ministers of Religion, together with selected representatives of the Laity, will be held in the Committee Room of the Town Hall, on Monday, the 31st January, at half-past three precisely, to appoint a committee, etc. ..... Each Minister having the care of a church or chapel will have the privilege of giving admission to four gentlemen who are Parochial or Congregational officers, or other lay friends."

Now, had Paul come back to us upon a visit, and had this circular fallen into his hands, most certainly he would have been utterly unable to divine its meaning, until favoured with special revelation, either from heaven or from some one conversant with the ways of Babeldom. In the Church of Christ, by the Lord’s appointment, there are a variety of workers, some of whom have special designations; as Apostles, Bishops, Elders, etc.; but none of these have the title "Reverend," to mark them off from some other class of workers and from the people of the Lord in general. In the New Testament we never read of the "Rev." Simon Peter; nor of any other person, so distinguished.

Some object to the term Reverend as applied to men, because it is, as they suppose, appropriated to Jehovah Himself; and they charge those who use it with applying to man a term only applicable to the Divine Being. But such persons misunderstand the nature of the case. The term is applied to God -

"He sent redemption unto His people; he hath commanded His covenant for ever; holy and reverend is His name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Ps. cxi:9.

But it is not otherwise applied to Him than is the term holy, in the same verse; yet Christians, individually, are called "holy" and, collectively, a "holy nation". It then follows that the term "reverend" is not necessarily misapplied to man because applied to Jehovah. God is both holy and reverend, and His children are called to be, in these particulars, like their Father: and when they are so, they may very properly be so designated. The mistake has arisen from supposing that the term is to be appropriated exclusively to God. The same Hebrew term is applied both to things and places, and is generally translated dreadful, fearful, or terrible; and either of these words would have represented it in the Psalm just quoted. The Psalmist had been saying, "The works of His hands are verity and judgment;" and "Holy and reverend is His name" is immediately followed by the affirmation, that "the FEAR of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." In Gen. xxviii:17, it is applied to place, and rendered dreadful. In Ex. xv:11, it is associated with praises and translated fearful. In Deut. i:19, it describes a wilderness, and is represented by the word terrible.

Taking the term "Reverend," as applied to the clergy of our time, we have, of course, to deal with it in its common signification, and then it stands as "venerable" - "one worthy of reverence." It is not wrong to designate a person venerable who really is so; and it cannot be improper to apply the term reverend to any worthy Christian (man and woman) whose character really corresponds. But the use of the term, to designate the "clergy" as distinguished from the "laity," is of the Apostasy; both unscriptural and anti-scriptural. It amounts to an exclusive application of a term which is applicable to every Christian, whose age and character correspond thereto, to a class which, as a class, is very far from manifesting special sanctity.

But, returning to our circular - There are invited to the meeting the Clergy, the Ministers, and the Laity. Two of these classes we completely disposed of in a former article - the clergy and the laity. Pray who are the ministers? Surely they must be neither clergy nor laity. As such they are pretty generally treated. Of course those are intended who minister to Nonconformist Churches, as do the clergy to the State Church. Each minister having charge of a church, or chapel, has the liberty to introduce four lay friends. Here the terms church and chapel evidently denote buildings devoted to preaching and worship. Now the minister who has charge of the chapel in which we worship never ministers in doctrine, but is a worthy shoemaker, living near at hand, who, not having too much work, increases his income by taking charge of the chapel, which he is expected to clean, open, and close, as needful. He, then, is most truly the minister in charge of the chapel. Yet we presume they will not allow him to introduce "four lay friends."

But, again - The Minister! Who and what is he? It is quite common to hear persons allude to the minister of the church to which they belong. Independents, Baptists, Presbyterians, and other Nonconformists, almost invariably use the term in the singular; as "the minister of our church." We have, therefore, to ask from the New Testament an answer to the very reasonable question - What is that office in the Church of Christ which entitles the person who fills it to be termed THE MINISTER? The answer is short and simple - There is no such office; and, therefore, no such officer.

But Paul called Timothy "a minister of God," and declared Epaphras "a faithful minister of Christ." Col. i:7, 1 Thes. iii:2. What did he mean? Simply that they were faithful servants of God and Christ. The term diakonos, in those instances rendered "minister," occurs in the New Testament about thirty times; and is translated minister twenty-one times, servant seven times, and deacon twice. Its meaning, according to the Lexicons, is - "one who serves; an attendant; a servant." It is said to mean "a deputy; a preacher; a disciple;" and so on; but it no more does so than our word servant means "cook, housemaid, shopman, clerk," and so forth. The word servant may be applied to any one whose service is rendered in the kitchen, shop, or counting house, but it never, in itself, expresses the kind of service: it merely marks off the person as one who serves. So also with diakonos - you may know that the person so designated serves by preaching, teaching, executing a commission, but the term expresses nothing of the preaching, teaching, or commission, but only declares the actor a servant. Accordingly we read in Matt. xx:26, "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant (diakonos); and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your slave" (doulos). Here we have a very expressive distinction - Let him who would be great be the servant of all: but let him who would be chief (more than merely great) serve still more intently, even as a slave or bond-servant; for such is the signification of doulos. He then who would be great in the church is not to become "the minister," in the sense in which the term is used by most churches, but a servant to his brethren in every good work. The same word is used to designate the servants of the king who were to bind the man who had not on a wedding garment (Matt. xxii:13); the servants at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee (John ii:5); and it is applied to females, as in Rom. xvi:1. "Phœbe our sister, who is a servant," of the church.

Ministry, Ministration, and Ministering, taken together, and as renderings of diakonos, are found between twenty and thirty times in the New Testament. Diakonia first occurs in Luke x:40 - "Martha was cumbered about much serving," and there we have expressed its true signification - serving; the doing of any kind of service, the word never expressing the nature of the service. The same word is used in reference to Martha’s house service, the service of Paul, the service of relieving the saints, and the service of God’s people as a whole. In no instance does the word itself express the nature of the service, the act of serving being alone expressed.

And so with diakoneo, which is found translated Ministered unto." It is found in Luke xxii:27 - "I am among you as He that serveth;" also in John xii:2 - "Martha served," and in verse 26, "If any man serve Me, let him follow Me;" and again, in Acts vi:2 - "It is not reason that we leave the word of God and serve tables." One and the same word, then, is used in relation to service done by Martha, by Jesus, by disciples generally, and by the table-servers in Jerusalem.

Then there is leitourgos, a public servant, occurring five times in the New Testament, and rendered minister. It applies to rulers; to the higher powers of the State; to Paul, as the public servant of Christ to the Gentiles; to Epaphroditus, as the servant or messenger of the Church, to minister to the wants of the apostle; and to a flame of fire, as the servant of God. Rom. xiii:6, xv:16; Phil. ii:25; Heb. i:7. There is, therefore, nothing clerical in this word.

Clerical ministry is also imposed upon us in the New Testament by means of the word hupeeretees. In four instances it is translated in the interest of the clergy - "Who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word." (Luke i:2); "And they had also John to their minister." (Acts xiii:5); "I have appeared unto thee to make thee a minister and a witness." (Acts xxvi:16); "Let a man so account of us as of ministers of Christ." (1 Cor. iv:1). But hupeertees, in its primary meaning, is an "under rower" one who sat on the rower’s bench under a superior officer. In its secondary sense it denotes an inferior officer, chiefly of the civil courts. It also came to denote any kind of servant - official or domestic. It is translated officer in Matt. v:25, and in other texts. It is rendered servant in Mark xiv:54; and elsewhere. Here, too, we find no trace of clerical meaning.

It thus appears that, in the New Testament, ministry is presented to us as service of any kind, rendered by disciples of Christ to God and His Church; and that, in the common English translation, the words rendered ministry, minister, etc., are occasionally weakened and perverted under the influence of clerical bias; that minister is never once used to denote a clerical functionary; and that there is no work or office in the Church of God, set apart for one individual, which entitles him to be designated THE MINISTER; also that there is no trace of a class of officers who are authorized specially and exclusively to designate themselves Ministers - in a word, that there is no more authority for one man to be regarded as the one minister of a Church, than there is for popes and cardinals. Not that the word minister is in itself inappropriate. It is derived from the Latin ministro, which signifies to serve, to wait on, etc. If the term, in Church usage, were applied to all departments of service, and to all who serve, there could be no objection to its use. Let it be deprived of its special parsonic application, and brought back to its proper and original use, and there will be no need to set it aside.

So far, we have been merely clearing the ground of the clerical rubbish, with which it was covered. "And you have cleared it," says one. "You have swept away the priesthood, the clergy, the minister; and what have you left?" Patience, dear friend! We have very much left. Go with us carefully, and we hope to show you the entire apostolic structure. Our purpose is to bring into view ministry in the Church of Christ as ordained by the Lord, and as it was when the apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, completed the God-given order of things.

First, then, both in time and importance stand Apostles.


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