More Thoughts on the "call to ministry"
This is the english translation of this post. The thoughts in this short post come out of my studies, over the last couple of years, on the calling of God, ecclesiology, and 1 Timothy. Most of these thoughts have been written in French. Some more thoughts (which I have not yet had the liberty to translate from French into English) concerning the appointing of church elders can be found here, and here. Other observations and reflections (also only in French) on divine calling and election can be found here, here, and here.
It is not, according to the New Testament, Gods normal procedure to call, in a personal and special way, believers into his service. The Apostles were chosen, individually and exceptionally, by Jesus to accomplish a very important and unique task. According to Ephesians 2: 20 and 4: 11 the Apostles also occupy a very unique role in the church which cannot be occupied by anyone else. Why do I say this?
First of all, there were more than 500 eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Jesus-Christ (1 Cor 15: 3-8.), but only 12 of them (those which Jesus has chosen at the beginning of his earthly ministry) were appointed as apostles and sent by Jesus with a specific mission. Secondly, Jesus, in his priestly prayer in John 17, prays specifically for the apostles, who have received a special mission, from Jesus himself, to go into the world with the Gospel (John 17: 14-18). In this prayer Jesus makes a distinction between the twelve apostles (which were given to him by God the Father (John 17: 6), selected and trained for this task (John 17: 6-8, 14)) and all other believers (who would believe in him because of the word of the apostles (John 17: 20) and who have a single task - to keep unity among themselves (John 17: 21-23)).
Indeed, God does not choose, in the same way that he chose the apostles, other believers. The New Testament simply does not teach that God chose believers to accomplish specific ministries (as we have already seen, the calling and the election of God have no relation to what he wants us to do as ministry or mission, but, rather, with personal sanctification. Quick note, you would need to look at the French posts concerning what the Bible teaches about God’s calling and election in order to get this point.). Instead, the New Testament teaches that the apostles chose (cf. Acts 15: 36-40, 16: 1-3), and consecrated to the ministry (cf. Acts 16: 1-3, 1 Tim 4: 14), their own disciples; and it is by this same apostolic authority that the elders/pastors were set up in every church (cf. Acts 14: 21-23, Titus 1: 5.). This appointing was based upon three things: (1) that the man who was to be appointed as an elder, desires to be an elder (cf. 1 Tim. 3: 1, 1 Peter 5. 2a), (2) that his reasons for wanting to be an elder are honorable (“not for shameful gain, but of good heart (or eagerly)” 1 Peter 5: 2b), and, (3) that he be qualified (cf. 1 Tim. 3: 1-7, Titus 1: 5-9). The above observations demonstrate that one can say, of a man who is thus appointed (his appointing being based upon the three principles just mentioned, to some ministry (that is to say, a man who is appointed as pastor, missionary, deacon, etc.)), that he was, at the same time, appointed both by apostolic authority and by the Holy Spirit (compare Acts 20: 28 and the Paul’s practice as seen in Acts 14: 23 and in Titus 1: 5). In other words, the Holy Spirit gave us these three principles for the appointing of people to ministry, so, when we adhere to these principles, the people who we appoint to ministry are also established in that ministry by the Holy Spirit. In this way, and only in this way, according to the New Testament, can we say that someone was elected or called for some ministry. It should also be noted that the deacons were also chosen, by the authority of the apostles, based upon qualifications (cf. Acts 6:3-6, 1 Tim 3: 8-13).
What we see, then, is that aside from the setting a part of the apostles (by Christ himself), and the companions of the apostles (cf. Acts 13: 1-3), no other person in the New Testament was chosen by God (or Jesus), called by God (or Jesus), or sent by God (or Jesus), for a particular mission or ministry. What we see in the New Testament, for all other believers (that is, all believers other than the apostles and their immediate companions – even here, only one other person, other than the apostles, was specifically chosen and sent by God to perform some ministry – Barnabas. See Acts 13:1-3.), is that God gave them gifts to use (see Romans 12: 4-8, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4:11, etc.), which are to be confirmed, and dedicated to ministry, by the church elders (cf. 1 Tim. 4: 14); and that God expects believers to use those gifts for the good of the church (beginning in the local church and extending to the universal church).