New Testament Royal Priesthood: Pastoral And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabus had not small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabus and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. . . . Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said. . . . Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabus and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: . . . I judge that we should not trouble those among the Gentiles who are turning to God. . . .” Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabus. (Acts 15:1-22) The functioning government of the New Testament Church has what Jethro called captains. Here they are designated Apostles, Elders, and deacons, who are not expressly mentioned although they were surely part of the meeting. They are clearly arranged I some sort of hierarchy. There are Apostles and Elders. There is also James, who was not an Apostle according to the standards required of the replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:21-22). He was called an apostle (Galatians 1:19), but he was not a primary apostle; he did not meet the qualifications. He had not traveled with the Lord for years of His ministry, nor had he directly been called by Christ, as Saul was on the Damascus road. He was a Presbyter with some kind of special appointment as a secondary Apostle. He was not like any normal Presbyter (From the Greek, presbuteros translated elder). He was distinct from the others. He presided over the Jerusalem Council, over Apostles and Elders. He does not act like a simple moderator. He listened for a consensus, but He speaks to the issue, something which is not allowed in standard non-Episcopal settings without stepping down and handing the chair to someone else. There is no indication from the text that he did such a thing. Furthermore, he virtually makes the final decision for the entire body on the basis of a general – page 24 – Captains and Courts consensus (Acts 15:19). He represented the whole body; this is the point. A moderator only moderates. He is not the embodiment of the whole. James was. He allowed some sort of democratic process, but he went beyond this by personally drafting the letter to the churches and in commissioning specific individuals. He was no moderator in any normal, modern sense of the word. He was chief overseer, the Presiding Bishop of the first General Council of the Church. Moreover, after the Jerusalem Council, James continues to function as a first among equals Presbyter over the rest of the Jerusalem Church, what later came to be called a Presbyter/Bishop. He was what has come to be called a standing presiding Presbyter, a bishop. He was not simply the moderator for meetings. He was a functioning overseer of other Apostles and Presbyters. When the Apostle Paul goes up to Jerusalem, he seeks out “James and the elders” (Acts 21:18). Why doesn’t the text simply say that Paul went to see the “presbytery of Jerusalem”? It doesn’t because he didn’t. The text specifically says, “He went to James and the other Presbyters.” This is different from saying, “He went to the presbytery.” He went to one man, a captain, as well as a larger group of advice. Yes, other “presbyters were present.” They came as the wider court, which we will examine in the next chapter. But James is somehow different to such an extent that attention is specifically called to him apart from the group. He was the one to whom Paul was going to see. Why? The Apostle Paul was going to James and the other Presbyters for pastoral advice. The second trip to Jerusalem was not for a trial or a court of the Church; actually, he would be tried by a secular court. Paul had said that he was going “bound in the Spirit, not knowing what to expect” (Acts 20:22). He only knew that trials would begin even if they were not the official trials of the Church (Acts 20:23). He needed counsel. So, he went to James and the others. He met in a pastoral setting with them. But James stands out as a pastor to pastors, an Episcopal role. James was a Presbyter with oversight over a larger sphere, including other Presbyters, which is confirmed by the way the letters to the churches in Revelation are addressed to “angels” (Revelation 2:1ff), being historically interpreted as bishops; the letters were not addressed to groups but to individuals. Thus, James had this role in Jerusalem as is apparent from the text. At a later point, I will present a more extensive defense of the Episcopacy. For now, this will suffice to combine with the other obvious aspects of the New Testament structure (Apostles, Elders, and Deacons) to establish that Acts 15 and 21 present a hierarchy of captains, to use Jethro’s terminology. We should initially see, however, that this hierarchy was pastoral, consisting of pastors to pastors. – page 25 – New Testament Royal Priesthood: Pastoral Representation and Presence The members of the Ecclesiastical ministry of the Church were representatives of Christ’s ministry. They were elected and ordained in a similar manner to the process described by Jethro. “The pastoral office implies a clearly definable distinction between laity (general ministry) and clergy (ordained ministry). The difference is based not on supposed moral superiority or political expediency but upon the inward call of God to representative service, outwardly confirmed by the whole church in ordination.”6 The pastors of Acts 15 are not an empty kind of representative: they are filled with the Living Christ through the Holy Spirit, possessing the presence of Jesus, which is one of the cardinal principles of Christianity manifested in the Sacraments and their ministry. The ministers of the New Testament extend the presence of the ministry of the Living Christ to the Church, similar to the way that the captains of Jethro’s system did. But the ministers of the New Testament have a greater manifestation of presence because the presence because the presence given to them is that of Christ Himself, as the larger context of the Book of Acts indicates. When Saul persecuted the Church, the Living Christ appeared to him saying, “Why do you persecute Me. . . . I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5). Saul was killing Christians, yet Christ said that his actins were tantamount to His own death. The Church on earth was an Incarnation of the Living Christ through he Holy Spirit. This Incarnation should be understood under the same mysterious explanation of the Trinity itself. As the Persons of the Godhead are distinct but not separate, the Church is distinct but not separate fro Christ. Christ’s Incarnation on the earth is unique; He was born of a virgin and lived a sinless life. Yet, the Church is united to His Humanity and should not be viewed as separate. Remember, Christ didn’t see the Church as separate when He said to the future apostle, “Why do you persecute Me?” Christian ministry is the ministry of Christ because it begins with Christ’s ministry. Jesus prayed, “As thou has sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). A moving analogy here begins to unfold between incarnation and apostolicity, between God’s engagement in the world in Christ and our engagement in the world as ambassadors for Christ. As Christ is sent by the Father into the alienated world, so are his ministers sent into the darkened world by the Son. Listen to the analogy echo: ‘For their sake I now consecrate Myself, that they too may be consecrated by 6 Thomas C. Oden, Pastoral Theology (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), p. 53. – page 26 – Captains and Courts the truth’ (John 17:19). As Jesus is stranger in the world, so will the apostles be strangers. Jesus then prays, ‘that they may all be one’ as He is one, and ‘that the world may believe’ (John 17:21). There is a stunning congruity in all this. The apostolic mission is sent from God into the world and is therefore not finally explainable in terms of the world’s criteria, yet it is sent in service to the real world to proclaim the healing word, that the world may believe and be saved.”7 The apostles are sent with the promise, “Lo, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). They are given the pledge of Christ’s presence, meaning their ministry is His ministry. Their pastoral ministry was to present Christ to the world. He was called the Good Shepherd and they along with the future leaders of the Church are called “shepherds” (I Peter 5:2). The ministry of the Church is the ministry of Christ and His presence to the people of God, which has two sides to it that parallel the two natures of Christ. As Christ is Divine and Human and the pastoral ministry of the Church conveys the presence of Christ, the minister is leader and servant. He is an authority representing the Living Divine Lord. He is also a servant who represents the Living Human Friend. As a matter of fact, only through the power of the present Living Christ can the pastor adequately convey Christ as Very God of Very God and Very Man of Very Man. He represents both natures to the people of God even though he does not have both; he is only human. Yet, herein is the challenge and the tension of the pastoral role. Distortions of Pastoral Ministry Thomas C. Oden more accurately than anyone else talks about two problems in pastoral ministry that result from two distorted direction in which the pastoral task may become misunderstood: modern reductionism and archaic triumphalism. Both misplace the paradoxical core definition of ministry as pastoral service. “Reductionism, the characteristically modern misjudgment about ministry, attempts to reduce the essence of ministry to a human social function, or to philosophical insight, or to moral teaching, or to psychological counseling, or to political change advocacy. These views diminish the pastoral office by failing to see its distinctive self-understanding, its Divine commission, its Spirit-led calling, its dependence upon revelation, and its accountability to apostolic faith. The tension is lost between the Divine calling and the life of the world by viewing Divine calling as being socially determined and dissecting it as a quantifiable object. Reductionism dilutes the ministry of the incarnation to its fleshly side by reducing it to quirks or parenting or social determinism. 7 Ibid. pp.61-62. – page 27 – New Testament Royal Priesthood: Pastoral “Admittedly the pastor is friend to many, even as Jesus was friend to many, expressing through ordinary human relationships the extraordinary love of God. But reductionism makes the mistake of seeing this friendship purely by analogy to human friendship, rather than through the lens of the Divine-Human friendship. The reductionism that sees ministry only as objectifiable sociological or psychological phenomena is not wrong; it only needs to be placed in a larger context and evaluated in terms of a more basic norm. When the divine and human sides are held together, ministry can be seen more wholly as human response to divine gift, a beautiful amalgam of graced nature and naturally embodied grace. “Triumphalism, the opposite distortion of ministry, is a habit more characteristic of premodern consciousness. It loses track of the human, finite side of ministry in the interest of inordinately stressing its divine origin and eternal purpose. It is more prone to allow ministry to be elevated to a privileged caste or an exclusive sacerdotal order. Instead of being set apart for representative service, ministry may become separated from the people as something over against them, alien to their here-and-now world and hence perceived as irrelevant. The tension is lost between the holy calling and the ordinary spheres it is called to serve.” “This distortion misplaces human friendship in ministry in the interest of disproportionately asserting the divine companionship. It dilutes the ministry of the incarnation by ignoring the finite, temporal instruments of the divine will. This is the point at which classical Protestantism complained about medieval, sacerdotal conceptions of ministry wherein priesthood had itself become trapped in the subtle or overt management of power and prestige, amid its well-intended attempt to mediate between God and people. Ironically, Protestantism itself later fell into the same trap in different guise. “There remains something legitimate even about the triumphalist, sacerdotal view of an elevated priesthood, in that it rightly stresses the instituted office for the feeding of the vulnerable body of Christ in the hazardous world, that the holy should never be mistaken for the temporal, and that the church is not reducible to the world. However legitimate these emphases may be, the triumphalist excess has tempted priesthood to become inwardly turned toward its own self-importance and thus separated from the people as if it were intrinsically superior, to the neglect of engaged service in the life of the world. “In both of these misconceptins of pastoral authority ther is a distortion of the essential idea of ministry: holy calling – page 28 – Captains and Courts amid the life of the world.”8 The pastoral ministry is first and foremost pastoral in Acts 15, concerned over the “unsettling of your souls” (Acts 15:24), as the letter to the Gentiles produced by this gathering said. In practice, these ministers of the Gospel engaged a crisis in the Church. They applied Christ to the crises, the crying need of the modern Church and society. “Just as the passion for food, shelter, and services creates economies, or the passion for the order and relative justice creates governments, so there appears to be some deep underlying divinely elicited passion that continues to create communities of prayer and the social apparatus to guide them spiritually.”9 This is none other than the pastoral hierarchy of the New Testament Royal Priesthood. Thus, the New Testament system of polity has a captains organization that is pastoral. It is hierarchical while at the same time it is personal. It offers the closest attention to the needs of the people of God. Its very heart is the pastoral.