A TIMELY SUBJECT
In a general sense it may be said that the matter of the calling to Ministry of the preaching of the Gospel is ever a timely one. Are we not living in the dispensation of the grace of God which is ours by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word? Is it not true what we confess in Question 65 of the Heidelberg Catechism that faith “proceeds from the Holy Ghost who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the Sacraments”?
Such preaching presupposes preachers of the Word!
The subject is, therefore, a perennial one, and is from this viewpoint too a very timely one.
However, it is emphatically a timely one today. Not only is there a rather emphatic shortage of preaching power in our churches due to the emeritation of our beloved Rev. Ophoff, and through the fact that both the Revs. E. Emanuel and J. McCollam have left us, but also due to the fact that through the labors and industry of our Home Missionary the Lord has seen fit to add other churches to our number. (See the timely contributions of both Miss Jannet Hauck and Miss Ilene Griess in this issue.) Besides, time and tide wait for no one. Many of our ministers have entered the fifty year and more bracket in our churches. These will not, by the law of God’s average dealing with men, be able to preach for too many years to come.
To write an article on the calling to the ministry and to emphasize the need of our young men to seek entrance into the ministry may indeed by regarded as being timely.
This article is written for all of our young people to be sure. But it is meant especially as an added challenge and inducement to our young men in our churches.
WHO MUST ENTER THE MINISTRY?
Not everyone must seek to enter the ministry of the Word, to be sure. No one must in anyway attempt to “intrude” into the ministry. He may never by indecent means seek to enter into the office of minister of the Word, but is bound to wait till it shall please the Lord to call him! (Belgic Confession, Article 31.)
But how shall a man who “desires the office of a bishop” (I Timothy 3:1) know that he is not intruding into the office, and have the testimony of his calling, and be certain and sure that it is of the Lord?
The Reformed Church Order and also Dogmaticians have distinguished a twofold calling to the office of the ministry.
There if first of all the internal calling. This is not simply a mystic calling, hearing a voice form heaven as did little Samuel of old in the tabernacle. It is more than a “feeling” of being called. It is, to quote Dr. Herman Bavinck “the way of calling (vocation) examination and ordination”. And continues Bavinck “it is the agreement of the inward and the outward calling”!
The inward calling must not be confused with supernatural calling. The inward calling consists: 1. In the granting of the gifts which are required by the office. These are the natural qualifications. The natural is first and then the spiritual. No one, who cannot study theology and the Bible and who does not have the natural ability to teach, ought to consider himself called to the ministry. Nor does this ability to teach per se mean that one is called to the ministry. All who are called to the ministry need to have the natural talents, yet all who have the natural talents may not be called. 2. In the pure and upright and constant desire to serve the Lord in the office of the ministry. He who thus desires the ministry desires a good, honorable work. This is the spiritual side of the inward calling. 3. In the providential opening of the way on the part of the lord which leads to the ministry and the preparation for the same.
These are the elements that enter into a determining of one’s inward calling to the Ministry!
And they who, after careful and prayerful self-examination, find these requisites in themselves may very well ask the question whether they are walking obediently to Christ, their Lord, should they fail to prepare and seek preparation for the ministry!
Then too there is the outward calling. This outward calling is in no way to be separated from the inward calling but is to be regarded as being the earmark and the seal of God’s approval upon the internal calling which one believes to have. Thus we read in the Form of Ordination to the ministry “I ask thee, whether thou feelest in thy heart that thou art lawfully called of God’s Church, and therefore of God himself, to this holy ministry?”
Such an outward calling is the seal of the inward calling. And this is sealed finally in the ordination! Then God sets such a one aside to the ministry of the Word as His chosen vessel to preach the Gospel.
Young men, think these elements over and ask yourself: Does the Lord call me?!
CALLING NOT CONTRACT!
The undersigned once heard the expression that the contract between the congregation and me has been broken and therefore I will no longer consider it binding. Such a view of the office as being a “contract” makes the vote of the congregation somewhat of a natural democratic right to call a minister to enter into a contractoral relationship with him. As soon as things go wrong the contract is broken by one of the parties that made the “contract”. It is a conditional contract rather than a calling from God through the Church of God!
However, such is not the view of the Bible nor of the Reformed fathers. We read in Romans 10 “…and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad-tidings of good things!” Isaiah 57:2.
In a contract there is no power. But when we see in the ministry a “calling” from God, that makes one strong and obedient.
Contract or “calling”! What will it be, young men?
Originally Published in:
Vol. 19 No. 7 October-November 1959