Ministry (16): Interwoven with its bearer
It is quite obvious that a ministry requires a bearer. Otherwise it would remain invisible and incapable of action. But what demands does it place on the person in question? And how are the ministry and the minister interconnected?
The biblical approach to the answers we seek starts with Apostle Paul’s understanding of his own ministry. So explains the freshly printed Divine Service Guide – Special Edition 2/2022 in an article entitled “The New Apostolic understanding of the spiritual ministry”.
The epistles to the Galatians, Corinthians, and the Romans reveal three key points: Paul understands his calling as an act of God’s grace. He not only proclaims the gospel through his words, but stands behind it with all his being. And the mission “among the Gentiles” as “fellow workers for your joy” is always related to a specific congregation.
Response to divine designation
The following results for the New Apostolic understanding of ministry: “God is the one who designates an individual for a ministry,” as the Catechism puts it (CNAC 2.4.5). “Thus the ministry is not a human work, nor is it ultimately that of the congregation. Rather it is God’s gift to His church.”
“God’s election requires a response from the individual who has been so designated,” the Divine Service Guide article goes on to say. However, this far transcends the spoken yes expressed by the minister at his ordination. This agreement only really takes effect when the person “endeavours to live up to” the demands of his election “with all his being”.
Gifts and duties
So it is that ministry and person are interwoven. On the one hand, this applies to the personal talents of the minister and, on the other hand, to his personal lifestyle.
We read as follows in CNAC 7.7 . “Through the ordination, the minister is blessed and sanctified for his work. Available talents are awakened and consecrated for the exercise of the ministry.” The Divine Service Guide article goes on to supplement: “The good abilities and characteristics that this person possesses are placed into the service of ministerial exercise through the act of ordination.” This makes it clear that “ordination is not associated with the imparting of new ‘talents’.”
The article emphasises that the minister’s “affinity for the congregation…can only succeed when both the ministry and the person, the exercise of ministry and lifestyle, are consistent… To live up to the gospel is therefore also a matter of lifestyle. In this way, a person who bears a ministry can be an example to others.”
Connected with the role model
In theological terms, the key to understanding church and sacrament also applies to the concept of ministry. The foundation for this is the doctrine of the dual natures of Jesus Christ as true Man and true God. “Like man and God in Jesus, or the visible and invisible church, or the bread and wine with the body and blood of Christ,” ministry and person comprise a single entity.
“In the ordination, the ministry—which is holy, and is imparted by the power of the Holy Spirit—enters into a bond with a sinful human being,” states the doctrinal article. “However, this entity is not perfect, but is rather vulnerable and fragile, owing to the sinfulness of the person.”
A blessing, not a sacrament
While the divine and human natures are united for all eternity in Jesus Christ, the union between ministry and person can still be dissolved. The ministry does not enter into the possession of the person who bears it, nor does it leave an indelible mark upon the person, as is the case, for example, in Holy Baptism with water or Holy Sealing. After all, ordination is not a sacrament in the New Apostolic Church, but rather an act of blessing.
What is indelible, however, is the connection with a very specific person: “Ministry and sacrament are manifestations of the heavenly Christ.” Once Jesus Christ Himself is present in person after His return, there will be no further need for ordained ministers.
Photo: Costin Constantinescu