Editorial Keynotes

The Ministerial Call and Calling—No. 1

L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry.

To be truly called to the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, to be chosen as a spokesman for the living God, to be ap­pointed an ambassador by the Most High, a messenger of reconciliation to a revolted world, is indeed the greatest privilege and the highest honor ever conferred upon mortal man. Such a call is divine in its origin, not human. It is from God, not from man. The true min­ister is chosen, called, and sent of God. The work of the ministry is the most important, sacred, and vital of all the work in the world, for it has to do with eternal realities. It re­lates to character transformation. It has to do with personal redemption. It pertains to this life and the present world only as they relate to the future life and the world to come.

Many have too tame and conventional a way of thinking of this heavenly vocation. We need to penetrate to its great heart and authority. When Andrew Jackson became President of the United States, he was over­whelmed with office seekers. One was a min­ister. When President Jackson learned this, he said, "Go home, my dear man, and preach, for I have no office so high as that." What a stinging and merited rebuke!

In the reaction from sacerdotalism, and the papal idea of priesthood, Protestantism has tended to swing to the other extreme, and in the eyes of many, the ministry of God has been degraded from a divine vocation to a mere profession. In the concept of not a few, the minister is to be hired and dismissed at will. We need to return to that sublime conception of the minister as the appointed ambassador of God, the steward of the mys­teries of God, accountable to God, and bound to declare the whole counsel of God, whether men hear or whether they forbear.

Men choose the worldly professions, such as law, medicine, teaching, business, the arts or sciences; but one does not of himself choose the ministry. Into this office no man may rightfully enter unbidden. "No man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." Heb. 5 :4. Aaron was duly called and accredited to his priestly office.

"Take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's sons." Ex. 28:1. Similarly, one does not look over the offerings of the various professions with a careful eye of appraisal, and then select this from among others in accordance with his fancy. It is not a pursuit to be chosen from among many equally open and honorable lines of endeavor, but one accepted upon the per­suasion and conviction of a direct call to this sacred office.

A man so called, chosen, and sent has but one aim and object in life—to rescue souls, and to build them up in Christ. He does not enter the gospel ministry to make a living, but to live a life. He is not actuated by pros- ' pects of profit and loss, but by the impetus of love and service. He recognizes his to be a divine calling and vocation. There is a funda­mental difference between a business and the ministerial calling. In a business, one tries to get the most out of life; in the ministry, to put the most into life. In a business, one seeks to get all the money he can; in the min­istry, to do all the good he can. Business is founded on dividends; the ministerial call­ing is based on service. Many find their busi­ness, but miss their calling. Verily, preaching is a poor business, but a most sublime calling.

The true minister holds a divine commis­sion; he is animated by a divine purpose; he accomplishes divine results, and is dependent upon the divine Spirit therefor. The ministry is not a business or a profession in the sense in which law and medicine are. The worldly professions deal with the things of time; the ministry, with the things of eternity. The ministry centers about that which money can­not buy and death and the grave cannot de­stroy. And it pays dividends in a joy that is unapproached in any other form of service to God or man. It is unmatched in its possi­bilities, unparalleled in its opportunities, and unequaled in enduring results. Really, the "work" of the ministry is not work at all. It is a holy passion, consuming, overwhelming, sublime. It was that passion that made Paul, Luther, Knox, Whitefield, and Wesley what they were. Such a man is the mouthpiece of God to the people, their spiritual guardian, the watchman on the walls of Zion. Chosen of God, sealed with the blood of consecration, he stands in a position that is both awful and sublime—awful in its responsibility, and sub­lime in its privileges and noble dignity.

The man who enters or continues in the ministry should be vividly conscious of a divine summons before him—that he is indeed called of God. He should be wholly possessed by a divine conviction within him, inwrought by the Spirit of God, that he is under bonds to preach for God. And he should have the dynamic consciousness of a divine commission behind him—that he is "a man sent from God." He should enter and abide in the ministry only under the profound belief that this and no other form of Christian service can satisfy either God or his own conscience. He rests under the continual conviction that he did not choose the office, but that God chose him for the office.

The reflex effect of such a call to such a calling upon a minister's character and effi­ciency is unavoidably profound. It is bound to spiritualize all his activities and uplift his whole life. If a man is thus possessed by the deep conviction that he is appointed of God in a way in which men are called to no other pursuit, then once and forever it is to him a - sacred calling, a divine work, not to be prose­cuted except with absolute consecration and fidelity, and never to be secularized or made subservient to selfish ambitions or interests.

Again and again Paul states succinctly the certainty of the divine origin and nature of his call to the ministry. Hear him: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apos­tle, separated unto the gospel of God" (Rom.  1:1) ; "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God" (I Gar. i it ; also 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 5:1; 2 Tim. 1:1) ; "Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Fa­ther)" (Gal. I :I) ; "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who bath enabled me, . . . putting me into the ministry" (I Tim. I :12) ; "whereof

I am made a minister, according to the dis­pensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God." Col. 1:25.

A profound conviction that one is God's own chosen servant, through whom He speaks, is imperative for the successful minister of God. Nothing else will sustain a man amid hours of disappointment, apparent failure, hardship, misunderstanding, or deferred hopes. Nothing else will so empower to heroic effort and nerve to fruitful toil. Such is not mere enthusiasm or effervescent emotion, but a solemn conviction rooted in substantial evi­dence. And a ministry of growing power must be a ministry of growing conviction over the divine origin and validity of one's great call and commission. Valuable as is the initial call, it will never suffice to continue as a mere memory. It must be a daily, living, virile reality.

Every minister of God is entitled to clear. convincing evidence of his call. Even Christ did not begin His public ministry until visibly pointed out by the Father at the time of His baptism. As before asserted, the mode of the call differs, but not the fact. God is sover­eign, and He appoints His representatives to please Himself, irrespective of human plans and expectations. Sometimes it is in one way, and sometimes in another. After all, the man­ner is nothing, but the surety of the call is everything.

One day during the Boer War, just as a certain train was starting from Waterloo Sta­tion, London, a fine-looking young man entered the railway coach and seated himself, saying simply, "I'm called." He was evidently a fire­man, or stoker, for the marks of soot were still upon him. He fell asleep. Later he awoke and again exclaimed, "I'm called." Then he explained that he was called to join his regi­ment at Aldershot immediately. He was obey­ing the call of his king. Now the divine call to the ministry may not be so simple in its summons. But God works in ways and by processes that can be analyzed and understood to the satisfaction of any honest mind.

The ministerial call consists essentially in such an impress of the divine will upon a man as produces the conviction that it is both his privilege and his imperative duty to devote his life to the Christian ministry. The method by which God creates this conviction in the human soul may be unexplainable, but the result is sure. A real call is capable of vin­dication in the court of reason and before the bar of conscience and common sense.

What, then, are the basic evidences of the divine call and commission as revealed in the Word ? Reduced to their underlying prin­ciples, we find four:

1. An. inner conviction, wrought in varying ways by the Holy Spirit.

2.   An outward convergence of providential circumstances.

3.   The approving judgment and ordaining action of the church.

4.   The witness of fruit from one's labors.

—To be concluded in December


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L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry.

November 1940

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