Why Do I Grovel beneath Pastors?

The former President of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod is decrying clergy dominance. The FiveTwo network is calling on people to become sacramental entrepreneurs, by which anyone, with or without a rightly ordered call, might publicly teach in the Church or administer the sacraments. Confessional Lutherans have been writing and speaking against such violations of Augsburg Confession, Article XIV, which says:

Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call.

The freelancers rejoin that this is servitude.life as a confessonal lutheran layperson

I’ve written supporting the requirement of rightly ordered calls. Why? Why do I grovel beneath pastors? Why do I say they are the only ones to publicly teach in the church or administer the Sacraments? Am I a masochist? Have I been Talibanized?

Recently a BJS reader earnestly asked some sincere questions about why, as she understood the stance, not every believer can spread the Word. It seems that most Lutheran laity thinks we hold the pastoral office in special regard simply because of tradition. Perhaps only a few know that it is a formal part of our confession. Perhaps even fewer know why we confess it. All this could really mean not many of us are confessing it.

So I am going to take the opportunity of some recent questions posted here to present my layman’s understanding of this matter.

Ephesians 4:11-12: Can’t Evangelists Evangelize?

One commenter said she was, “slightly confused by some of the posts that make it sound like only pastors make disciples.” She said, “I read something like Ephesians 4 and feel that Christ has given gifts through the Spirit to all Christians, not just called pastors, to build up his church.”

The idea one gets from Ephesians 4:11-12 from modern English translations is quite different from reading those verses in Greek or older translations, such as the KJV. Here are those verses in the ESV:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

From that rendition, it appears that ministry is divided into two categories:

  1. the general ministry of the Church, and
  2. four or five specialized ministries.

It sounds like all the believers have the general ministry of the Church, and that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (shepherds), and teachers (probably actually pastor-teacher being one, not two offices) have a specialized ministry. It sounds like those four or five offices only equip the saints so that the saints, not the pastors, carry out the general ministry. In other words, those four or five offices do only one thing. They are given by Christ to the Church:

  1. to equip the saints for the work of ministry.

Under that scenario, who spreads the Word? Who evangelizes? Well, get a load of this: not evangelists. We’d be excluding evangelists from evangelizing! We’d be excluding apostles, prophets, and pastors from evangelizing! We’d be moving from, “The saints can’t evangelize” to “The evangelists can’t evangelize.” That cannot be the right interpretation of the verses.

Here are the verses in the KJV, which, insofar as these verses are concerned, does a better job of portraying the Greek meaning in English.

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:

From that rendition, Christ gives the four or five offices to the Church:

  1. for the perfection of the saints,
  2. for the work of the ministry,
  3. for the edifying of the body of Christ.

Under this scenario, those four or five offices do three things, and evangelists are back to evangelizing, which makes more sense.

Notice that this is done by Christ, and that through this he orders the Church. Verse 11 says “he” gave.” From context, “he” is Christ. Lenski explains the word “gave” as “’he set or placed’ [which] denotes authority or rule.”

This accords with the whole counsel of God when we bring to bear upon Ephesians 4:11-12 the rest of Scripture. Those two verses don’t float above the rest of Scripture unaffected by anything else the Scriptures say. Let’s consider other Scriptures that bear upon those two verses.

Christ Himself Had a Call and an Appointment

Hebrews 5:1-6, makes quite a point about no one himself taking on the office of priest. To be a proper priest, one must be called, chosen, and appointed.

To underline the requirement, emphasis is laid on the fact that even Christ did not promote himself in to the office. Instead He was called and appointed, like Aaron was. Think of that. Christ needed a call and an appointment as priest, and He needed it like Aaron did.

So, at the risk of sounding snarky, if Christ was required to have a call and an appointment, and you don’t think you are required to have one, who do you think you are?

Korah’s Rebellion

In Korah’s rebellion, Numbers 16, from which I used the term rebellion in FiveTwo: Spiritual Montanans, consider what the rebels said: “All in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” The question was put to them, “And would you seek the priesthood also?”

In other words, they sought to perform the office of priest without a rightly ordered call. To this, Moses said, “It is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together.” That is why I said in FiveTwo: Spiritual Montanans, that the rebellion is against the King.

Ready to Make a Defense

What we have been looking at so far applies to the priestly office, to the offices of pastor, apostle, prophet, evangelist, and teacher. It applies to teaching publicly in the Church and administering the sacraments.

It does not exclude every believer from “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15. In fact, all believers are exhorted to be ready and to give an answer as occasion arises while we are going about our vocations.

One of my controversies with FiveTwo is that they are promoting public teaching in the Church and administration of the sacraments by persons without rightly ordered calls. In AC XIV, we confess that Scriptures teach, from the passages I have mentioned and others too voluminous to mention all in one blog post, that only persons with rightly ordered calls should publicly teach in the Church and administer the Sacraments.

Yes, all saints spread the Word as in 1 Peter 3:15 and through their vocations, but not all saints exercise the offices of priest, pastor, apostle, prophet, or evangelist.

Jesus Will Build His Church

Not to worry. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” He will. Ordering the church as He has ordered it will not restrain him in building his church. This truth is an object of faith, as are all the truths essential to the Gospel.

What We Build Will Not Be His Church

Not ordering the church as He has ordered it may produce what looks like growth, but really is not growth. Why not? Because the Gospel itself becomes altered in the process. How does this alteration happen? By removing the kingdom element from what the Evangelists repeatedly call the “gospel of the kingdom.”

The idea of the kingdom is prominent in the Gospel. Jesus was born King of the Jews, which made King Herod and all Jerusalem troubled.1 Jesus said the law and prophets were until John, and since then the kingdom has been preached.2 John preached the kingdom.3 Jesus preached the kingdom during his earthly life.4 The twelve preached the kingdom.5 The seventy preached the kingdom.6 The apostles preached the kingdom.7 The beatitudes begin8 and end9 with the kingdom. So many of the parables say, “the kingdom is like.”10 The kingdom is what we are to seek first.11 The kingdom is more important than burying our dead.12 The end of the world is keyed to preaching the kingdom in all the world.13 The purpose of being converted is so that we can enter the kingdom.14 The purpose of being born from above is to see and enter the kingdom.15 Pilate inscribed over Jesus’ cross that he was the king of the Jews.16 The kingdom is what the thief on the cross asked for and was promised.17 After his resurrection, Jesus taught the kingdom.18 We pray in the Second Petition that the kingdom would come also to us. In the Second Article of the Nicene Creed we confess that Christ’s kingdom will have no end.

Disobeying the King while proclaiming the kingdom is inimical to gospel proclamation. If we won’t let the King order his church, our conduct of rebelling against the King in the very act of trying to proclaim the kingdom shouts down our claim that He is the King. From the get-go, the authority of the “word of the kingdom”19 is undermined. Spiritually, that seed will sprout and yield after its own kind.


Americans have a real problem with this because we don’t understand kingdoms and we don’t want a kingdom. We wish it were the “gospel of democracy” or the “gospel of committee consensus” or the “gospel of entrepreneurship.” We want a gospel of starting new and starting our own thing. We want designer religion. We are Korah at heart.

Of this, we must repent.

Why do I grovel beneath pastors? Because the King who commands that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the sacraments without a rightly ordered call is my Savior, who submitted to his Father in Gethsemane, and gave himself into death for me. His first words to his disciples are, “Follow me,” and after that He says, “and I will make you fishers of men.”20 Following, then fishing. Not fishing without following.

In other words, its not groveling. It’s following and fishing.


Endnotes —

  1. Matthew 2:2-3.
  2. Luke 16:16.
  3. Matthew 3:2.
  4. Mark 1:14-15.
  5. Luke 9:1-2.
  6. Luke 10:1, 9-11.
  7. Phillip, Acts 8;12. Paul for 3 months in a synagogue, Acts 19:8. Paul for two years at the end of Acts, Acts 28:30-31.
  8. Matthew 5:3.
  9. Matthew 5:10.
  10. Matthew 13:24, The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. Matthew 13:31, The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Matthew 13:33, The kingdom of heaven is like leaven. Mark 4:26, The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. Matthew 13:44, The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. Matthew 13:45, The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls. Matthew 13:47, The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet. Matthew 18:23, The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. Matthew 20:1, For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Matthew 22:2, The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son. Matthew 25:1, The kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Matthew 25:14, The kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country.
  11. Matthew 6:33.
  12. Luke 9:60.
  13. Matthew 24:14.
  14. Matthew 18:34.
  15. John 3:3-5.
  16. Luke 23:38.
  17. Luke 23:32-43.
  18. Acts 1:3.
  19. Matthew 13:19
  20. Matthew 4:19.

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