Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Banner of Truth 2009 -- Calvin the Pastor by Ian Hamilton

Calvin the Pastor – Ian Hamilton Session #4

Philippians 3

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

John Calvin was many things. Above all, though, he was a pastor – by calling, choice and conviction. He never forgot for one moment that he was a pastor. What he was and did was shaped by this sense that he was a pastor. The goal of this paper is to have us more and more follow the example not of Calvin, but of the chief shepherd Jesus Christ.

Calvin saw pastoral ministry as both pulpit and personal admonitions to individual sheep. He sought to follow Jesus pattern. Lest we idealize Calvin we need to remember while he did well and what he aspired to, he himself was grieved by how far short of the idea he strove for he fell. He had a volcanic temper, which afterward caused him the deepest distress. Yet he is still a model for us.

Seven features of his ministry:

  1. Calvin's pastoral ministry was carried out in the conviction that Jesus Christ is the church's chief pastor.

We are to rule the church under him in no other way but in that he should still be the pastor. This should be key note of an pastoral ministry that goes by that name. We are under the chief shepherd and he is the one who will hold us to account. It is his people purchased with his own blood. People united to him, in whom he dwells, who he carries in his arms in spite of all their shortcomings. This is what brought him back. When first asked back his was response was something like “Over my dead body.” But a year later he came back in light of this view of Christ as the chief shepherd. He was a man truly subdued by God. He never lost sight of the fact he was answerable to Christ.

  1. It reflected his conviction that love for Christ is the animating pulse beat of Christian ministry

No man can faithful serve the church or feed the flock if he does not look higher than men. No man can complete this office unless the love of Christ directs him. If there was not love for Christ the man is disqualified from pastoral ministry no matter how gifted. If this is absent, everything else is absent as well. So Jesus asked Simon, “Do you love me?” What motives you in your pastoral ministry? Do you do what you do out of heart love for the Saviour?

  1. His ministry reflected the servant ministry

It is part of a good pastor to not only be aloof of all aspects of domineering but more so to look to how to serve believers. Pastors are servants of believers just as Christ came not to be served by to serve. We are their servants for Jesus' sake. We must speak but with a servants heart. If not we should keep our mouth shut. Calvin's ministry reflected this in many ways.

  1. The preaching and teaching of the gospel was God's principal means to feed sheep.

The ministry of the word under Christ. Not just the ministry of the word, but under Christ the head and only shepherd of the church and only true food of the soul. Christ is the essence, the content of our preaching. He is the only true food for the soul. We are to bring Christ to the people of God. As a pastor John Calvin immersed himself in preaching, teaching and writing this. The ministry of the Word has first place in ministry. Pastors have two voices, on to call the sheep and the other to drive away the destroying wolves so the people can recognize the voice of the chief shepherd. Preaching is addressed not to types but to individuals. Thus we need to know the individuals in our churches as individuals. Jesus knows his flock by name. We need to know the people we are called to pastor so we can direct the word to their particular needs.

  1. Emphasized pastoral visitation

Calvin believed the pattern was Acts 20, together and house to house. Pastors are to visit individually, but at the same time the sheep are to listen to the pastor when he comes individually to them. Open hearted reception of the pastor's ministry will only happen when the people come to know our hearts, that we love them and seek God's best for them. They can know that in part from the pulpit but only in part. We are sheep who are shepherds, and the people need to know we stand before them a clay jars. They need to have access to our humanity. [My thought is that often they don't want that, they want a super pastor who is not really human at all and opening up only results in a increased questioning of the pastor.] We need to visit.

  1. Never wearied of telling his congregation to get out of themselves and into Christ.

The sinner does not dwell on his own compunctions or tears, but always dwells on Christ. The better we know Christ the more nobly will his grace work in our souls. He constantly directed people to Christ in all situations. This is the burden of pastoral ministry to point people to Christ. Even when we think they know this remember they are never as far along as you think they are, nor are you as far along as you think you are.

  1. Was indelibly shaped and impregnated with his overflow of his union with Christ.

Union with Christ was both the context and inner dynamic of Calvin's ministry. His whole life was one of deaths and resurrections. Death of children, sins in the extended family, opposition of people and leaders, and more were part of his life. Seen in his humiliations and his risings. That is the pattern. It was not necessarily a huge visible theme in his writings, but was of his life.

Some lessons learned:

In Calvin:

  1. We see a humanity that endeared people to him. Being a great preacher is not enough, then need to see our humanity

  2. We a great sense of his own weakness so that any strength he had comes from God. We need to understand we are weak and rest in the great sufficiency of God.

  3. We find a reminder that the best and most useful theologians are those who labor daily in the Word to feed the flock. God raises up pastors because theology is not an end in itself.

  4. We see a pastor willing to lay down his life for the flock of Christ.


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