In what I wrote in my previous article on this general subject (cf. January 15 issue, in which the sub-title, “Are You Qualified?” was omitted through a printer’s error), it was already presupposed that one who prepares for the ministry must desire the office. This is also true of the other offices in the church; but it would seem to be especially evident in this case, since the initiative comes from the aspirant himself, who applies for admission to the seminary and prepares with a view to an eventual call. This aspect we have already considered in connection with our discussion last time. This holy desire for the office of minister of the Word also presupposes that the aspirant possesses certain spiritual qualifications. To these we now direct our attention.
A Minister Must Be A Child Of God
This is undoubtedly the first and most basic spiritual qualification. An aspirant to the ministry of the gospel must have the conscious assurance that he is a child of God and that he partakes of the life of the church, that is, the life of Christ. Without this consciousness it is, of course, impossible even to desire the office in the true sense of the word, that is, with a holy desire. And without this consciousness it is certainly impossible to be a true minister of the Word of God.
An impossibility this is, both from an objective and a subjective point of view.
For consider for a moment what an abominable hypocrite a man is when he pretends to be a minister of the Word of God and is himself not a child of God, not a living partaker of that which he proclaims to others, not a living example of what he proclaims to be the sacred calling of others. Because he is not a child of God, he cannot possibly be a living witness. A hypocrite such a man is, before God and before men and before his own consciousness. How vile! What a horrible incongruity! What excruciating pangs of conscience such an one must have every time he occupies the pulpit, every time he administers the sacrament of holy baptism, every time he administers the signs of the Lord’s broken body and shed blood!
No, undoubtedly such an one may succeed to be a minister of the Word for a time. There is even mention in Scripture of men who preached Christ from an evil motive. Does not Paul speak of such in Philippians 1:15, ff., when he writes: “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice?” But true preachers of the Word men who are not children of God cannot be.
Nor is it possible ultimately for one who is not a child of God, who is a reprobate, who has no living part in that whereof he preaches, who loves not God, who loves not Christ, who loves not the church, who loves not nor believes the Word of God, to be a true minister of the Word of God, objectively speaking. Such an one may be used by God for a time. God is able for a time to build and edify His church through the labors of a reprobate. But eventually such an unbeliever will fall away, will forsake the truth of the gospel, will forsake the flock of Jesus Christ. He will reveal himself as an hireling, who flees when he sees the wolf coming. He will manifest himself in the office of a preacher just as those hearers who are compared by the Lord to the seed sown on stony ground. He will endure but for a time; and afterward, when affliction or persecution arises for the word’s sake, he will immediately be offended.
That being a child of God is the basic spiritual qualification of a minister and of an aspirant to the ministry may be accepted, therefore, as axiomatic. Herein are also implied all the various spiritual virtues, principally, which must characterize a minister.
Specific Spiritual Qualities
It is not my intention to give a detailed exposition of the various spiritual requirements for the office of pastor. Rather I wish to call attention to these requirements, and that too, in the light of Scripture, in order then to make a few general observations in regard to them.
As we would expect, it is especially in the pastoral epistles that we find rather frequent mention of these spiritual qualifications. Sometimes requirements are mentioned which apply to the offices of elder and deacon as well as that of pastor; sometimes the apostle speaks specifically of the office of minister of the Word, applying what he says to Timothy and Titus personally.
Let us take note of some of these passages.
In I Timothy 3:1-13 there are several requirements for the office of elder and deacon mentioned, which, in general, are also applicable to the office of minister: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
To his son Timothy the apostle writes in I Timothy 4:7-b that he must exercise himself unto “godliness.” And in the same chapter, verse 12, he writes: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” According to II Timothy 1:5, Timothy was characterized by “unfeigned faith.” And in verse 7 of that chapter the apostle speaks of the fact that God has not given them the “spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” II Timothy 2:1-3 speaks of the requirement of faithfulness,’ of ability to teach others, and of the ability to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” In II Timothy 2:22-25 there are several spiritual virtues mentioned, as follows: “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do. gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves . . . .” In II Timothy 3:10 the apostle speaks of his own “doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience.”
Also in the epistle to Titus there are some pertinent passages. In chapter 1, verses 7 to 9, we read: “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word.” To the young men Titus must show himself a pattern of good works, and in doctrine show “uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned.” Titus 2:6-8.
It is well, however, that we have a proper understanding of these requirements. Sometimes the impression is left as if a minister must be perfect, or well-nigh perfect, in distinction from other Christians. But this is surely not the case; and we must not draw a sharp line of demarcation between officebearers, or aspirants to the office, and the rest of God’s people. The church must in no wise be divided into ranks of holy, holier, and holiest. Hence, we call attention to the following:
1. In general, all the requirements which Scripture mentions are requirements for all God’s people. All must be blameless, sober-minded, temperate, patient, given to hospitality, sound in doctrine, holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience, not given to wine, to covetousness, adultery, slander, doubletonguedness, etc. We may generalize still further, and say that except for a few special qualities, the apostle says little more than that officebearers must be sound in faith, endowed with Christian graces, and pure in walk.
2. Because the offices are excellent offices, the various Christian graces are needed and are specially emphasized. Thus, for example, both a member and a minister must be sober minded. But whereas a man that is not as yet as sober minded as he might be may be a member, he is unfit for the office. Thus it is with virtues such as gentleness, patience, etc. These virtues must be present, and must even be present in special measure, therefore, in a pastor. And is it not a fact of Christian life, after all, that all God’s children do not possess the same graces in the same measure?
3. Thirdly, these gifts are especially necessary in the man who aspires to the office because, in the first place, the glory of Christ and the name of Christ in and through them appears emphatically on the foreground also before the world. They above all must be blameless. And, in the second place, this is necessary for the well-being of the church. The pastor must lead, must teach, must rule, must minister to the church. He must, therefore, be an example; and he must be an exemplary Christian, whose pattern and example other children of God may and will emulate. And it is in a large measure true: as are the officebearers, so is the church.
But in all this no young man must be moved by pride, nor by a false sense of modesty. For if he possesses these gifts, he has nothing whereof to boast in himself. For he has nothing that he has not received of the Lord.