Pastoral Authority: Teaching by means of supervising or supervising by means of teaching?
In Acts 20:28, Paul tells the elders in Ephesus, “Pay special attention to yourselves and of all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.”
Pastors/Elders (according to its Biblical meaning, that is, pastor) /Presbyters/Bishops are supposed to supervise doctrine, caring for the church of God. But how do they do this? We know they are supposed to teach. So do they teach by means of supervising or do they supervise by means of teaching? Jesus tells His disciples how they are to make disciples of all nations, namely by baptizing and instructing them in the doctrine of Christ (Matt 28:18-20). Paul mandates to Timothy (1 Tim 4:11-16):
Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the doctrine. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
So the gift Timothy was given is the task to teach doctrine, read doctrine, and apply doctrine. Does Paul say to Timothy, “Make sure these things get done as long as it is under your watch.”? No! Rather, he says, “Command and teach these things.” Timothy is supposed to teach, and this is how he supervises and cares for the church of God.
This is exactly what AC XXVIII says is the power of bishops, namely, to teach and preach the gospel, to remit and retain sins, and to administer the sacraments. The bishops do not have any supervisory power outside of this authority given by Christ. They cannot preach, teach, administer the sacraments, forgive or retains sins by means of supervising. It is the other way around. One cannot just say that he teaches because he supervises.
So what are the present-day implications of this? Well, it seems a bit backwards when women are allowed to read (preach) the lessons from the lectern as long as they are being supervised by the pastor. This is because it is not the pastor’s job to merely supervise, but rather to teach, which includes reading and preaching (speaking aloud in the public assembly; lalein). To say that it is alright for a women to read the lessons because she is doing so under the authority of the pastor is to say that the pastor’s authority is not only in the office/task he has been given to preach, teach, and administer the sacraments, but also in him. This is like having a women preside over the sacrament, and say the Words of Institution, but have something in the bulletin which says “It’s ok! The pastor already consecrated the elements!” It is sacerdotalism to say that the practice of women lectors does not violate God’s command in 1st Timothy 2:12 and 1st Corinthians 14:34 as long as the pastor “supervises” it.
If we want to understand the task of the office of the ministry, we cannot confuse ourselves by trying to make conclusions based on certain unclear examples in the Scriptures. Rather, we should look to the mandates of God. God says that Pastors should teach, baptize, read the Scriptures, administer the Lord’s Supper (Just as Christ said to His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”), and to forgive and retain sins.
And why is this so important? First, we are no different than the Theological Liberals who ordain women if we allow women lectors. Also, people are not saved by being supervised or by being “active” in the church service. Rather, they are saved by Pure Doctrine, doctrine which is preached to them, taught to them, washes them, and feeds them. Jesus did not tell Peter to merely supervise His lambs. Rather, He said, “Feed my lambs!” (John 21:15-17) That is to say, “Feed My lambs with My Gospel, My Scriptures, My body, and My blood, given and shed for them for their forgiveness, life, and salvation.”
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