Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
one who acts as the less (from minus or minor) or inferior agent, in obedience or subservience to another, or who serves, officiates, etc., as distinguished from the master, magister (from magis), or superior. It is used in the A.V. to describe various officials of a religious and civil character. The words so translated in the Scriptures are the following:
1. מְשָׁרֵת, meshareth', which is applied,
(1) to an attendant upon a person in high rank, as to Joshua in relation to Moses (Exodus 24:13, Sept. παρεστηκὼς αὐτῷ ; Aquila and Symm. ὁ λειτουργὸς αὐτοῦ; comp. Exodus 33:11, Sept. θεράπων Ι᾿ησοῦς; Numbers 11:28; Joshua 1:1, Sept. ὑπουργὸς Μωυσῆ ; Alex. λιτουργός), and to the attendant on the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4:43; 2 Kings 6:15, Sept. λειτουργός ; comp. 2 Kings 3:11; 1 Kings 19:21);
(2) to the attaches of a royal court (1 Kings 10:5 [Sept. λειτουρός, where, it may be observed, they are distinguished from the "servants" or officials of higher rank [עֶבֶד, a more general term, Sept. παῖς ], answering to our ministers, by the different titles of the chambers assigned to their use, the "sitting" of the servants meaning rather their abode, and the "attendance" of the ministers the ante-room in which they were stationed); persons of high rank held this post in the Jewish kingdom (2 Chronicles 22:8); and it may be in this sense, as the attendants of the King of kings, that the, term is applied to the angels in Psalms 103:21(λειτουργοί ); comp. Psalms 104:4 (Hebrews 1:7; and see Stuart's Comment. ad loc.);
(3) to the priests and Levites, who are thus described by the prophets and later historians (Jeremiah 33:21; Ezekiel 44:11; Joel 1:9; Joel 1:13; Ezra 8:17; Nehemiah 10:36), though the verb, whence meshareth is derived, is not uncommonly used in reference to their services in the earlier books (Exodus 28:43; Numbers 3:31; Deuteronomy 18:5, etc.). Persons thus designated sometimes succeeded to the office of their principal, as did Joshua and Elisha. Hence the term is used of the Jews in their capacity as a sacred nation, "Men shall call you the ministers of our God" (Isaiah 61:6).
2. פְּלָה, pelach' (Chald.), Ezra 7:24, "minister" of religion, λειτουργός (comp. פלחן, Ezra 7:19), though he uses the word משרתים in the same sense, Ezra 8:17. In the N.T. we have three terms, each with its distinctive meaning.
3. Λειτουρός , a term derived from λεῖτον ἔργον, "public work," and the leitourgia was. the name of certain personal services which the citizens of Athens and some other states had to perform gratuitously for the public good. From the sacerdotal use of the word in the N.T., it obtained the special sense of a " public divine service," which is perpetuated in our word "liturgy." The verb λειτουργεῖν is used in this sense in Acts 13:2. It answers most nearly to the Hebrew meshareth, and is usually employed in the Sept. as its equivalent. It betokens a subordinate public administrator, whether civil or sacerdotal, and is applied in the former sense to the magistrates in their relation to the divine authority (Romans 13:6), and in the latter sense to our Lord in relation to the Father (Hebrews 8:2), and to St. Paul in relation to Jesus Christ (Romans 15:16), where it occurs among other expressions of a sacerdotal character, "ministering" (ἱερουργοῦντα), "offering up" (προσφορά, etc.). In all these instances the original and special meaning of the word, as used by the Athenians, namely, with respect to those who administered the public offices (λειτουργίαι ) at their own expense (Bockh, Staatshaush. der Athener, 1:480; 2:62; Potter's Gr. Ant. 1:85), is preserved, though this comes, perhaps, yet more distinctly forward in the cognate terms λειτουργία and λειτουργεῖν applied to the sacerdotal office of the Jewish priest (Luke 1:3; Hebrews 9:21; Hebrews 10:11),to the still higher priesthood of Christ (Hebrews 8:6), and in a secondary sense to the Christian priest who offers up to God the faith of his converts (Philippians 2:17, λειτουργία τῆς πίστεως), and to any act of public self-devotion on the part of a Christian disciple (Romans 15:27; 2 Corinthians 9:12; Philippians 2:30).
4. The second Greek term, ὑπηρἐτης , differs from the two others in that it contains the idea of actual and personal attendance upon a superior. Thus it is used of the attendant in the synagogue, the חָזָן, chazan, of the Talmudists (Luke 4:20), whose duty it was to open and close the building, to produce and replace the books employed in the service, and generally to wait on the officiating priest or teacher (Carpzov, Apparat. p. 314). It is similarly applied to Mark, who, as the attendant on Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:5), was probably charged with the administration of baptism and other assistant duties (De Wette, ad loc.); and again to the subordinates of the high-priests (John 7:32; John 7:45; John 18:3, etc.), or of a jailor (Matthew 5:25= πράκτωρ in Luke 12:58; Acts 5:22). Josephus calls Moses τὸν ὑπηρέτην θεοῦ (Ant. 3:1,4). Kings are so called in Wisdom of Solomon 6:4. The idea of personal attendance comes prominently forward in Luke 1:2; Acts 26:16, in both of which places it is alleged as a ground of trustworthy testimony ("ipsi viderunt, et, quod plus est, ministrarunt," Bengel). Lastly, it is used interchangeably with διάκονος in 1 Corinthians 4:1, comp. with 1 Corinthians 3:5, but in this instance the term is designed to convey the notion of subordination and humility. In all these cases the etymological sense of the word (ὑπὸ ἐρέτης) comes out. It primarily signifies an under-rower on board a galley, of the class who used the longest oars, and consequently, performed the severest duty, as distinguished from the θρανίτης, the rower upon the upper bench of the three, and from the ναῦται , sailors, or the ἐπιβάται, marines (Dem. 1209, 11, 14; comp. also 1208, 20; 1214, 23; 1216, 13; Pol. 1:25, 3): hence in general a hand, agent, minister, attendant, etc. The term that most adequately represents it in our language is "attendant."
5. The third Greek term, διάκονος, is the one usually employed in relation to the ministry of the Gospel: its application is twofold, in a general sense to indicate ministers of any order, whether superior or inferior, and in a special sense to indicate an order of inferior ministers. In the former sense we have the cognate term διακονία applied in Acts 6:1; Acts 6:4, both to the ministration of tables and to the higher ministration of the Word, and the term διάκονος itself applied, without defining the office, to Paul and Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:5), to Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7), to Epaphras (Colossians 1:7), to Timothy (1 Thessalonians 3:2), and even to Christ himself (Romans 15:8; Galatians 2:17). In the latter sense it is applied in the passages where the διάκονος is contradistinguished from the bishop, as in Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13. The word is likewise applied to false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:15), and even to heathen magistrates (Romans 13:4), in the sense of a minister, assistant, or servant in general, as in Matthew 20:26. The term διάκονοι denotes among the Greeks a higher class of servants than the δοῦλοι (Athen. 10:192; see Buttm. Lex. 1:220; comp. Matthew 22:13, and Sept. for משרת, Esther 1:10; Esther 2:2; Esther 6:3). It is worthy of observation that the word is thus of very rare occurrence in the Sept., and then only in a general sense: its special sense, as known to us in its derivative "deacon" (q.v.) seems to be of purely Christian growth. (See MINISTRY).
MINISTER is a Latin word applied in that portion of the Christian Church known as the Western to designate that officer who is styled deacon in Greek. The word was applied generally to the Anglican clergy about the time of the great rebellion, since which time it has come into general use, and is now applied to any preacher of the Gospel. Even the Jews have adopted the use of this word, and rabbi is scarcely ever heard in English- speaking congregations of that people. Ministers are also called divines, and may be distinguished into polemic, or those who possess controversial talents; casuistic, or those who resolve cases of conscience; experimental, those who address themselves to the feelings, cases, and circumstances. of their hearers; and, lastly, practical, those who insist upon the performance of all those duties which the Word of God enjoins. An able minister will have something of all these united in him, though he may not excel in all; and it becomes every one who is a candidate for the ministry to get a clear idea of each, that he may not be deficient in the discharge of that work which is the most important that can be sustained by mortal beings. Many volumes have been written on this subject, but we must be content in this place to offer only a few remarks relative to it.
1. In the first place, then, it must be observed that ministers of the Gospel ought to be sound as to their principles. They must be men whose hearts are renovated by divine grace, and whose sentiments are derived from the sacred oracles of divine truth. A minister without principles will never do any good; and he who professes to believe in a system should see to it that it accords with the Word of God. His mind should clearly perceive the beauty, harmony, and utility of the doctrines, while his heart should be deeply impressed with a sense of their value and importance.
2. They should be mild and as fable as to their dispositions and deportment. A naughty, imperious spirit is a disgrace to the ministerial character, and generally brings contempt. They should learn to bear injuries with patience, and be ready to do good to every one be courteous to all without cringing to any; be affable without levity, and humble without pusillanimity; conciliating the affections without violating the truth; connecting a suavity of manners with a dignity of character; obliging without flattery; and throwing off all reserve without running into the opposite extreme of volubility and trifling.
3. They should be superior as to their knowledge and talents. Though many have been useful without what is called learning, yet none have been so without some portion of knowledge and wisdom. Nor has God Almighty ever sanctified ignorance, or consecrated it to his service; since it is the effect of the fall, and the consequence of our departure from the fountain of intelligence. Ministers therefore, especially, should endeavor to break these shackles, get their minds enlarged, and stored with all useful knowledge. The Bible should be well studied, and that, especially, in the original languages. The scheme of salvation by Jesus Christ should be well, understood, with all the various topics connected with it. - And in the present day a knowledge of history, natural philosophy, logic, mathematics, and rhetoric is peculiarly requisite. A clear judgment, also, with a retentive memory, inventive faculty, and a facility of communication, should by obtained.
4. They should be diligent as to their studies. Their time, especially, should be improved, and not lost by too much sleep, formal visits, indolence, reading useless books, studying useless subjects. Every day should have its work, and every subject its due attention. Some advise a chapter in the Hebrew Bible, and another in the Greek Testament, to be read every day. A well-chosen system of divinity should be accurately studied. The best definitions should be obtained, and a constant regard paid to all those studies which savor of religion, and have some tendency to public work. 5. Ministers should be extensive as to their benevolence and candor. A contracted, bigoted spirit ill becomes those who preach a Gospel which breathes the purest benevolence to mankind. This spirit has done more harm among all parties than many imagine, and is, in our opinion, one of the most powerful engines the devil makes use of to oppose the best interests of mankind; and it is really shocking to observe how sects and parties have all, in their turns, anathematized each other. Now, while ministers ought to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, they must remember that men always think differently from each other; that prejudice of education has great influence; that difference of opinion as to subordinate things is not of such importance as to be a ground of dislike. Let the ministers of Christ, then, pity the weak, forgive the ignorant, bear with the sincere though mistaken zealot, and love all who love the Lord Jesus Christ.
6. Ministers should be zealous and faithful in their public work. The sick must be visited, children must be catechised, the ordinances administered, and the Word of God preached. These things must be. taken up, not as a matter of duty only, but of pleasure, and executed with faithfulness; and, as they are of the utmost importance, ministers should attend to them with all that sincerity, earnestness, and zeal which that importance demands. An idle, frigid, indifferent minister is a pest to society, a disgrace to his profession, an injury to the Church, and offensive to God himself.
7. Lastly, ministers should be-consistent as to their conduct. No brightness of talent, no superiority of intellect, no extent of knowledge, will ever be a substitute for this. They should not only possess a luminous mind, but set a good example. This will procure dignity to themselves, give energy to what they say, and prove a blessing to the circle in which they move. In tine, they should be men of prudence and prayer, light and love, zeal and knowledge, courage and humility, humanity and religion.
See Dr. Smith, Lecture on the Sacred Office; Gerard, Pastoral Care; Macgill, Address to Young Clergymen; Massillon, Charges; Baxter, Reformed Pastor; Herbert, Country Parson; Burnet, Pastoral Care; Dr. Edwards, Preacher; Mason, Student and Pastor; Brown, Address to Students; Mather, Student and Preacher; Ostervald, Lectures on the Sacred Ministry; Robinson, Claude; Doddridge, Lectures on Preaching; Miller, Letters on Clerical Manners; Burder, Hints; Ware, Lecture on the Connection of Pulpit Eloquence and the Pastoral Care; Christ. Examiner; Plumer, Pastoral Theology; Tyng, Office and Duty of a Christian Pastor; Bridge, Christian Ministry; Kidder, The Christian Pastorate; Townsend, Tongue and Sword; Presb. Qu. and Princet. Rev. 1854, pages 386, 708; 1859, pages 15, 366; January 1873, art. 6 and 7; Universalist Qu. October 1872, art. 7; Kitto, Journal, April 1853, page 192; Meth. Quar. Review, July 1851, page 430. (See MINISTRY).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Minister'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/minister.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.