Every Christian man is to be a minister. There is not one of God’s elect who is not to be “equipped by the saints for the work of ministry.” All saved men have spiritual gifts. All Christian men are to be involved in the making of disciples. All redeemed fellows are to labor hard for Jesus Christ. All believers are atoned for, forgiven, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, filled, gifted, and set forth to labor as slaves, servants, sons, disciples, saints, priests, ambassadors, and ministers of reconciliation. Young, old, new Christian, old Christian, educated, not educated, all of Christ’s men are to minister for him.
Every Christian man is to be a minister in accordance with God’s precepts. There are rules given for worshiping properly, and God’s rules are to be taken seriously by each and every man who ministers. Blessed are those who hear. Blessed are those who mediate day and night. Blessed are those who teach. And blessed are those who seek to do God’s will. Godly commandments and characteristics are found throughout the Bible, and those who hunger and thirst for Christ’s positional righteousness should also hunger and thirst for God’s progressive righteousness. Christian men who minister should pant to consistently display ministerial maturity more and more throughout all their days.
Every Christian man who ministers is serious law-breaker. Because there are no laws which are not taken seriously, all transgressions are to be placed in the “serious” category. We may consider adultery to be worse than pride, or stealing to be worse than lust, or anger to be worse than apathy, but Jesus has no weight system. In Timothy and Titus, the alcoholic, the arrogant, and the adulterous are found on the same list. And Jesus asks men:
- Who has kept this law?
- Who has kept that law?
- Who has kept every law?
- Who has kept every law in its entirety?
- Who has kept any law in its entirety?
- Who then is not guilty of breaking the whole law?
No, there is not one self-righteous minister, no not one, no not even yours.
Every Christian man is to be a minister who repents and experiences fresh forgiveness. The Word tells all men that if they claim to be without sin, they deceive themselves and the truth is not found in them. However, if they claim their transgressions, and confess their odiousness, sweet forgiveness awaits. And oh how quickly does God cast our sins into the Sea of Forgetfulness. Whether our transgressions be …
- Siding with Lucifer as did Adam
- Drinking too much as did Noah
- Training our children to live as Sodomites as did Lot
- Dishonoring our spouse as did Abraham
- Loosing our cool and murdering as did Moses
- Sleeping with prostitutes as did Samson
- Sleeping with another man’s wife as did David
- Battling depression as did Elisha
- Stealing from laborers as did Matthew
- Posturing for prominent positions as did James and John
- Denying Jesus as did Peter
- Spiritual genocide as did Paul
- Turning back from the plow as did John Mark
- Encouraging racism as did Barnabas and Peter
… all these sins are forgiven quickly, thoroughly, and permanently by our compassionate High Priest. And yes, each of these sins are most serious. And yes, there are varying consequences that follow each and every incident. And yes, the reputations of these men are permanently harmed. And yes, the visible effectiveness of the church is hindered. But the cleansing forgiveness of Jesus covers each and every sin. On this point, no Gospel minister can argue. All are to confess and experience forgiveness from God. All are to confess and experience forgiveness from their Christian neighbors.
Every Christian repentant man should be restored to some sort of ministry. Following their sin, no one who repents is invalidated from serving Jesus. The prostitute in Samaria is to go minister to her family and city. Judah, the hypocritical, harsh, philandering, incestuous, abusive, father-in-law, is to shout mercy and show forth God’s love to his kin and village. Nebuchadnezzar is to use his post to assist in the worship of God. And Peter, following the prayer of Jesus, the working of the Spirit, and his personal repentance, is to go back to work and restore the brothers. Just because one seriously sins, that does not mean they are no longer fit for Christian ministry. They are still children of God, to be “equipped by the saints for the work of ministry,” who still have spiritual gifts, and who still harm the body if they use not their spiritual gifts. They are to be consistently involved in the making of disciples all their days. They do not get a vacation. They are not dishonorably retired. No, all repentant sinners reclaimed by Jesus Christ, are to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. They are to work for the night is coming.
But I hear you say, “Joe, you are skirting the question. What about formal ministry? Can a seriously fallen man be restored to the office of elder or deacon?” Well, I might say a better question is, “Why can some seriously fallen men be restored to the office of elder or deacon, and other seriously fallen men be passed by?” Here is my final thought:
When a man is called to a ministry post, he is called internally, externally, and individually.
Internally, the man is to have a strong desire to serve in a particular context. He is not to do so out of greed or compulsion, but out of an internal passion to sacrificially serve.
Externally, a community is to express their desire to have a certain man minister to them in an official post. They nominate, evaluate, vote, ordain, and install men to be their elders and deacons.
Individually, people are to look at the ministers in each community and determine if they are interested in having those sinful elders and deacons be their elders and deacons. If so, they join themselves to that assembly. If not, they seek communion elsewhere.
Therefore, since as Biblicists we see quite a few heinous but repentant men involved in ministry, and as Gospelists we rejoice in the renewing work of God, and as Cessationists we do not believe the Holy Spirit is revealing new divine, infallible, inspired information about a particular man and ministry, I suggest we not force our personal convictions on every one else. Let’s leave it up to the Holy Spirit.
Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to work inside an individual. Perhaps that person will decide formal ministry is no longer best for him. Maybe the Spirit will still inflame the burning passion within. Let’s not judge that which God is doing on the inside of our repentant brother.
Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to work inside an individual church, presbytery, or denomination. Perhaps they will deem it best to partner with the forgiven brother. Maybe they will at a later date. Perhaps never. Let’s not judge the decisions made by grace-loving, law-loving, seriously-considering congregations, sessions, and boards. The Holy Spirit doesn’t call all churches to make the same decisions.
Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to work inside individual families. There are only sinful elders and deacons from which individual families can choose. Which serious sinners they choose to lead and serve them are their own business. Some will choose you. Some will choose me. Some might even choose the one who calls himself the “Chief of Sinners.” Just because someone chooses a fallen minister to be their teacher, that does not mean you must choose him to be yours. Each family needs to do what is best for them. Their pastoral preference is between them and God. Let’s leave it there and carry on serving the God of grace together.