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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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MINISTRY. The foregoing art. has sufficiently dealt with the general idea of ministry, but something remains to be said more particularly of the foreshadowings and beginnings of an official Christian ministry as these are found in the NT. The earliest historical datum is the distinction drawn by the Twelve between the ‘diakonia of the word’ and the ‘diakonia of tables’ ( Acts 6:2 ; Acts 6:4 ) a distinction that constantly reappears in the writings of St. Paul ( e.g . Romans 12:6-8 , 1Co 1:17 ; 1 Corinthians 9:14 ; 1 Corinthians 12:28 ), though by and by the latter of these two ministries widens out so as to include many other matters besides the care of the poor. These two forms may be broadly distinguished as a general and prophetic ministry on the one hand, a local and practical on the other.

1. General and prophetic Acts 6:1 ff. shows that from the first the Twelve recognized that they were Divinely called to be ministers of the word, i.e . preachers of the gospel; and St. Paul repeatedly affirms the same thing regarding himself ( 1 Corinthians 1:17 ; 1Co 9:16 , 2 Corinthians 3:6 ; 2 Corinthians 4:1 , Colossians 1:23 ). But it was not the Apostles only who discharged this high spiritual function. Besides Apostles, a word which is used in a wider as well as a narrower sense (see Acts 14:14 , Romans 16:7 ; cf. Didache , xi. 4 ff.), the Church had also prophets and evangelists and teachers , all of them, in somewhat different ways no doubt, fulfilling this same task of proclaiming the word ( 1 Corinthians 12:28-29 , Ephesians 4:11 ; for prophets, see also Acts 11:27 ; Acts 15:32 ; Acts 21:10 ; for evangelists, Acts 21:8 , 2 Timothy 4:5 ; for teachers, Acts 13:1 , 1 Timothy 2:7 , 2 Timothy 1:11 ), and moving about from place to place in order to do so. That the prophetic ministry in its various forms was a ministry of function and not of stated office, is shown by the fact that the same person might be at once apostle, prophet, and teacher (cf. Acts 13:1 ; Act 14:14 , 1 Timothy 2:7 , 2 Timothy 1:11 ).

2. Local and practical. Of this the Seven of Jerusalem furnish the earliest examples. Their special duties, when we first meet them, are restricted to the care of the poor, and in particular to the charge of the ‘daily ministration.’ But, as the local Churches grew in size and Church life became more complex, other needs arose. There was the need of government and discipline, of pastoral counsel and comfort, of stated instruction by regular teachers as well as of occasional visits from wandering apostles and prophets. In the ‘ helps ’ and ‘ governments ’ of 1 Corinthians 12:28 we have a reference to some of these needs. And by and by we find that to meet the necessities of the situation the local ministry has blossomed out into two separate forms. ( a ) First there is the presbyter or elder, otherwise known as the bishop or overseer (for the substantial identity between the presbyter and the bishop, see art. Bishop), whose duties are to feed the flock and help the weak ( Acts 20:17 ; Acts 20:28 ; Acts 20:35 , 1 Peter 5:2 ) to visit and pray for the sick ( James 5:14 ), to rule and teach ( 1 Timothy 3:2 ; 1 Timothy 3:5 ). ( b ) Next there are the deacon , and his companion the deaconess ( Philippians 1:1 , 1 Timothy 3:8-13 ), whose duties are not clearly defined, but the description of whose qualifications suggests that their work lay largely in visitation from house to house and ministration to the poor ( 1 Timothy 5:8-11 ). The local ministry, it thus appears, came to discharge some of the functions that had originally belonged to the general ministry of Apostles and prophets. The latter, however, was still recognized to be the higher of the two. St. Paul summons the presbyter-bishops of the Church in Ephesus to meet him at Miletus, and addresses them in a tone of high spiritual authority ( Acts 20:17-35 ). And even in the Didache , which belongs probably to about the end of the 1st cent., we find that when a wandering prophet visits a Church and is recognized as a true prophet, precedence is given him over the resident bishops and deacons ( Did . x. 7, xiii. 3). See, further, Apostle, Bishop, Deacon, Evangelist, Laying on of Hands, Prophet in NT.

J. C. Lambert.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ministry'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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