“God teaches both outwardly and inwardly at the same time.  Christ reserves his authority to himself and does not transfer it to any other, ‘so that he might stand idly by as a spectator while his ministers work.’  Yet when they do what their Lord commands, they may be said to open the kingdom to the obedient and shut it to the disobedient. . . .

Such a conjunction between the work of the Spirit and human ministry suggests how congregations should honor the latter.  ‘As we receive the true ministers of the Word of God as messengers and ambassadors of God, it is necessary to listen to them as to God himself’ (Genevan Confession 20).  The first chapter of the Second Helvetic Confession deals with Scripture as the true Word of God. . . . ‘When this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed and received by the faithful.’  As the sub-heading puts it, in a memorable phrase, ‘The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.'”

David F. Wright, “Word, Ministry and Congregation in the Reformation Confessions,” in Pulpit & People, edited by Nigel Cameron and Sinclair Ferguson (Edinburgh, 1986), page 48.  Italics original.

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Ray Ortlund


Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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