Commentary on "Every Member Ministry"
Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, April 7, 2012 - Introduction
It's always a pleasant surprise when an author is clear about the subject he's writing. The key thought for the present week makes explicit the idea that will be the focus of the study: Too often evangelism and witnessing are seen as the pastor’s job alone; this attitude is wrong. The first reason presented in favor of this idea is the memory text: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). The author thinks that because all believers are a "royal priesthood" they are going to have a ministry as the priests in the Old Testament had a ministry. He assumes that there is a change between the Old Covenant order in which only some chosen people were priests and the New Covenant arrangement in which all members of the covenant, and not only a special few, are priests and consequently entrusted with a ministry. Nevertheless, this priesthood is not the most important element, but the personal relationship with God is the source of one’s ministry, involving a proclamation of the praises of the One who called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
On the positive side, there is, indeed, in the New Covenant a certain kind of "ministry" shared by all believers, as Peter wrote, to proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2;9). The interesting part is that the assumed transition from Old Covenant priesthood reserved for a few to a New Covenant priesthood of all is denied by the usage of the expression "kingdom of priests and a holy nation" in Exodus 19:6 with the reference to the Old Covenant people of Israel. Consequently, there is a similarity in the way in which God looked at the Old Covenant community and the New Covenant church as far as the priesthood of all believers is concerned. In spite of the fact that with a change of the priesthood (to a Melchizedek priest) there comes a change of the law (Hebrews 12:7), not every believer in the Old Covenant was a priest serving God in a special way, and not every believer in the New Covenant is serving as a minister. or pastor.
Not every believer is a minister, and this should be clear from the other illustration used by Jesus to describe the church: not every sheep is a shepherd, or rather an under-shepherd, since Jesus is THE Shepherd. In the local church, the first and foremost responsibility for preaching and teaching the gospel falls on the shoulders of the minister, and the sheep should not be made to feel that they share the same responsibility, that any possible failure of the church's evangelistic efforts is failure. It is a sign of spiritual abuse when members are intoxicated with shame and told that they failed in their work of spreading the gospel, that because of this fact, Jesus has not yet returned. One doesn't have to search very deeply into Ellen White's writings to find a lot of statements in which she puts the responsibility of delaying Jesus’ coming on the members’ shoulders. There are a lot of statements pronounced in relation to what would have been IF:
If all these conditions had been fulfilled, the logic goes, Jesus would have already came. But because the members had not activated as ministers, Jesus had delayed his coming, and they deserve their fate of being still in this world. Why not rather blame the pastors, under the guidance of a continuing prophetic influence, if indeed someone has to be blamed? Jesus’ words apply quite well in this case: They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. Matthew 23:4.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised April 9, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Casa Grande, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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