Calvin on the Ministry (5)
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop [overseer], he desires a good work. 1 Timothy 3.1
Overseers for good
The Greek word for “bishop” translates literally to “overseer.” Overseers – pastors, elders, anyone in a leadership role in the congregation – is charged with watching over the souls of God’s people for good (Heb. 13.17; Acts 20.28; 1 Thess. 5.12, 13). While the primary duty of watching over the Lord’s flock falls on pastors and elders, all who serve with them function in a role of overseeing, that all the members of the congregation might benefit from the continuous care and shepherding of those who lead them.
In Calvin’s view, the overseers of the church should even advise the civil government on how to fulfill its calling as a servant of God for good (Rom. 13.1-4): “The ministers must on their side enquire whether there be any lack or want of anything, in order to ask and desire the Seigneury [civil government] to put it in order. To do this, some of their company with the procurators [deacons] should visit the hospital every three months, to ascertain if all is in order” (Draft Ecclesiastical Ordinances).
Pastors were responsible to make sure that all was well with the flocks of God. Their work included advising the civil government where their help was needed in supplying any want; mostly, however, the churches took care of such matters on their own.
This system of pastoral oversight and ecclesiastical and civil order helped to make Calvin’s Geneva one of the great Christian cities of 16th-century Europe. The Church needs pastoral care to flourish, and pastoral care cannot be exercised apart from the order outlined in Scripture.
Resources for Shepherds
We’ve just finished our InVerse Theology series, “An Essay on Preaching.” In case you missed any of these, here are links to all five installments:
An Essay on Preaching Part 1
An Essay on Preaching Part 2
An Essay on Preaching Part 3
An Essay on Preaching Part 4
An Essay on Preaching Part 5
If you have not visited our Resources for Shepherds page in a while, I encourage you to do so. There you’ll find websites, insights, and reviews to help you in your work as an overseer in the Lord’s flock.
I also encourage you to listen to Rusty Rabon’s podcast, “A Song to the Lord”. Here are wonderful insights to great hymns from the Christian tradition to help make your singing to the Lord richer and more meaningful.
The Christian vantage point of life looks in four directions at once – up, back, ahead, and around. How we can learn to do this is the subject of our book, Vantage Point. Order your free copy by clicking here.
From the Celtic Revival
Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).
“Draw the attention of each one to his sins that so you may save his soul.”
- Rule of Ciarán, Irish, 8th century
“Among other evidences of holy life, he gave his clergy an inspiring example of self-discipline and continence, and the highest recommendation of his teaching to all was that he and his followers lived as they taught.”
- Bede, on Aidan of Lindisfarne, Ecclesiastical History, British, 8th century
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.