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Ensuring Conformity Churches are possessed of instruments of destruction as well as habits of appropriation. Conformity can be imposed by means of excommuni­cation and interdict, in their varying degrees. It is a mistake to imagine that those devices are obsolete…. The function of excommunications...

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The Fullness of Christ: J.H. Yoder – Part III

Posted by Radical Resurgence | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 16-01-2012

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4.    The Meaning of Ministry In the N.T.

The most striking general trait is what  we may call the multiplicity of the ministry. Under this label we gather three distinguishable  observations:

– The diversity of distinct ministries; that there are many, and the listing vary.

Plurality. The fact that in some roles, notably the oversight of some congregations, several brethren together carried the same office.

The universality of ministry: that “everyone has a gift” is said explicitly in 1 Cor. 7:7. 12:7; Eph. 4:7, and 1 Pet. 4:10, and implicitly in Rom.12:1.    Does this multiplicity have a  theological meaning?  The multiplicity of gifts assigned by the one Lord who fills all is thus itself an aspect of Christ’s saving work and of His rule from on high.

The “fullness of Christ” in Eph.4:13, or the “whole body working properly” of 4:16 is precisely the interrelation  of the ministries of 4:11,12 in line with the divine unity  of 4:3-6. ”Unity of the faith”, “mature humanity”, and “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” are not descriptions of a well-rounded Christian personality but of the divinely co-ordinated multiple ministry.

The conclusion is inescapable that the multiplicity of ministries is not a mere adiaphoron, a happenstance of only superficial significance, but a specific work of grace and a standard for the church.

The vestiges of the multiple ministry remained in the (theoretically) sevenfold ministry of the medieval church.  Yet despite the persistence of these vestiges, the anthropological constant ….. soon wore off  the originality, the universality of the first age.  The special clerical class was soon there again, with the term “lay” redefined as “non-ministerial”…. And Christianity had lost  it’s cutting edge.

Losing the specific and original trait of the primitive community, the church by and large became again subject  to the usual anthropologically universal pattern of the single, sacramentally qualified religionist.    By and large … this pattern has continued to our day in churches of every polity and theology.

5.  Renewal Efforts

It is a change, but not a fundamental one, when instead of serving a parish (the parish priest)…….or withdrawing from society (the monastics), the clergy goes “out into the world”.  This began with the teaching orders (Jesuits, Dominicans).

It is another change, but again not a fundamental one, when churchmen use laymen to help with the church.  The Reformers used statesmen, the princes in Luther’s Germany and the city governments in Zwingli’s Switzerland, to implement the Reformation when the bishops refused to do it. ……..Reformation proclamation of the priesthood of all and the right to read Scripture laid the groundwork for a different vision, but Reformation practice kept the church under the control of the statesmen and the university.

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