Now American evangelicals, who consider the church a democratic army of activists, social engineers, moral reformers, event planners, and life coaches, must understand that Christ has given different gifts and different callings to those in the church (1 Tim. 2:5). Ministers are not elevated ontologically above the laity, as Rome believes by having infused grace poured into them. Rather, ordained ministers are set apart to serve the church with gifts given them by the Holy Spirit. Ministerial power and authority comes only by the Word and Spirit. Their power is ministerially built on the foundational ministry of the Apostles, who gave us the Word that guides and norms the church. Pastors in turn use that foundation to build and strengthen the church. These men do not perform any service they choose, but are bound to the administration of Word and sacrament.
Our very own Canons of Dort 1.3 states, “And that men may be brought to believe, God mercifully sends the messengers of these most joyful tidings to whom He will and at what time He pleases; by whose ministry men are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? (Rom. 10:14, 15). The Reformed church locates herself most decisively in the Word, a Word proclaimed by ministers. When ordained ministers proclaim this Word something amazing happens: it creates a kingdom of priests that share in the same baptism; hear the same word of judgment and grace; pray and sings together; receives together the body and blood of Christ, confessing her sins and her common faith. Ministers and elders posses the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:19) to open the door of grace and shut the door in church discipline, in that whatever they, “bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,” and whatever they “loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (v. 19). Along with this power comes the authority to “forgive the sins of any, [and] they are forgiven them,” and to “withhold forgiveness from any, [and] it is withheld” (John 20:23). The power to do this is declarative based on the Word and Spirit alone.
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