Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament 
MINISTRY. —The word ‘ministry’ as now used in English has two leading senses: ( a ) service rendered, and ( b ) an official class, especially ecclesiastical. The latter has no place in this discussion, which has regard to the public service rendered by our Lord during His life on earth. In this connexion it describes both the period of the service and its contents. The word comes from the Latin minister , properly an adjective, but in its substantive use signifying an ‘attendant’ or ‘servant’ who usually performed services of a personal and more or less menial nature. It was also sometimes used of public or religious functionaries. In Greek there are three words which more or less nearly correspond to the Latin minister , namely, διάκονος, λειτουργός, ὑπηρέτης. See preceding article.
i. The Nature of our Lord’s Ministry. —In the mind of Jesus Himself there lay the ideas of both sacrifice and service as the essential principles of His mission among men.
1. The first element to be noticed is service . This presents a threefold aspect: ( a ) It was notably and characteristically a ministry of teaching . The frequent mention of His teaching, the reports of His discourses and sayings, and the fact that He was often called ‘Teacher,’ emphasize as all-important this function of His ministry. The varied character, the weighty contents, the marvellous power and the sweet charm of His teaching, are familiar thoughts to students of His life. But we must remember also the arduous nature of this work. The bodily toil, the mental strain, the spiritual intensity, all were great; and these were increased by the constant opposition of critics and foes, and by slowness of comprehension on the part of His friends. ( b ) But incidental to and accompanying this work of teaching was Christ’s great ministry of help and healing . All the narratives show how large a place this occupied in His public life. Here, too, His labours were vast in sum, and made extraordinary demands—as many indications show—upon His sympathy and strength. ( c ) Closely related to His teaching, but not exactly identical with it, was our Lord’s ministry of founding His Church . The selection and training of His Apostles and other disciples, involving many details of precept in regard to both the principles and the positive institutions of the Kingdom of God, were elements of the first importance in the earthly work of Jesus.
2. The other element is that of sacrifice . This was no less prominent in the ministry of Jesus than service. ( a ) In the Synoptics there is a progress of thought in regard to the fact and meaning of His sufferings. After Peter’s confession near Caesarea Philippi, Jesus began to impress on His disciples the certainty of His approaching death ( Matthew 16:16; Matthew 16:21); at the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah talked with Him of His ‘decease (ἔξοδος) which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem’ ( Luke 9:31); soon after ( Matthew 17:22 f.) He again spoke of His coming death. The self-giving character of His sufferings is indicated in the manner in whch they are spoken of in Luke 9:22-24, Matthew 20:22, as compared with Luke 12:50; and the severity of this experience as being something more than death alone, however painful, is indicated in the passages noted, and powerfully enforced by the Agony in Gethsemane and the events of the Crucifixion. Finally, the atoning value of Christ’s sacrifice is pointed out in Matthew 20:28—the words ‘and give his life a ransom for many,’ and in the accounts of the Last Supper ( Matthew 26:27-28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:19-20). ( b ) In the Fourth Gospel the sacrificial note is even more distinct. It appears in the announcement of the Forerunner ( John 1:29; John 1:36), in the great saying to Nicodemus ( John 3:14-16), in the discourse at Capernaum ( John 6:32-33; John 6:48-51), in the parable of the Good Shepherd ( John 10:11; John 10:15; John 10:17-18), in the remarks on the visit of the Greeks ( John 12:20-33), and in the words of comfort to the disciples ( John 15:13). ( e ) How strongly the Lord must have impressed this view of His ministry upon the minds of His disciples, is shown in utterances of Peter and of Paul in their addresses and in their Epistles, in the elaborate argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in the representations of the Lamb in the Apocalypse.
ii. The Extent of our Lord’s Ministry. —In regard to the extent of the public ministry of Jesus, three main questions present themselves: How long did it last? How much territory did it cover? How much labour did it include?
1. Duration .—On the point of duration the principal things to be considered are the limits, the dates, and the resultant theories of scholars.
(1) The limits of the public ministry of Jesus are properly placed between His baptism and His burial, leaving out at the beginning the thirty years of retirement and preparation at Nazareth, and at the end the forty days of occasional appearances after His resurrection. The determination of the time between is a hard problem.
(2) The principal dates to be determined in our Lord’s life are those of His birth, baptism, and crucifixion—the duration of the ministry depending upon the latter two, but involving the first. If it were possible to fix with certainty any two of these, the problem would practically be solved; or, if even one could be placed beyond doubt, it would be greatly simplified. But as a matter of fact scholars have never been able to decide positively on any one of the dates. A full discussion is not called for here (see art. Dates), but the salient points must be presented.
( a ) For the Birth of Jesus, we know that it occurred in the reign of the emperor Augustus ( Luke 2:1-6), and not long before the death of Herod the Great ( Matthew 2:1; Matthew 2:19). Herod died probably not later than b.c. 4, as is made out from statements of Josephus (see Dates), and thus it appears that by an early error (of Dionysius Exiguus, an abbot of the 6th cent.) the generally accepted era of Christ’s birth has been irrevocably fixed a few years later than the actual time. The probable date of the Nativity is somewhere between b.c. 6 and 4.
( b ) For the Baptism, we know that it took place at some time within the ‘fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’ ( Luke 3:1-2), for this was the time that John began to baptize, and Jesus was among those who received the rite at his hands ( Matthew 3:13, Mark 1:9, Luke 3:21); but none of the accounts gives any definite note as to the exact point during the ministry of John when the baptism occurred. St. Luke states ( Luke 3:23) that ‘Jesus when he began (presumably His ministry or teaching) was about thirty years old.’ But neither His exact age nor the exact point of His ‘beginning’ is indicated. The probability is that He was either just thirty, or from one to three years past that—hardly under thirty. So that here we have no certain number of years to add to the already uncertain year of the Lord’s birth. If we take b.c. 4 as the Birth date and add thirty years, it brings us to a.d. 26 as the probable year of the baptism; but if St. Luke’s ‘about thirty’ be extended two years, it would be 28. Now, as to the ‘fifteenth year of Tiberius,’ that was probably the year 28, but may have been 26. Augustus died in a.d. 14 (Aug. 19), and, if the beginning of the reign of his successor Tiberius be reckoned from that date, the ‘fifteenth year’ would begin in Aug. 28, and the baptism of Jesus would be at some time in the twelve months following. But it is possible that St. Luke dates the beginning of Tiberius’ reign from the time he was associated in the government with Augustus, i.e. in a.d. 12; and so the ‘fifteenth year’ could begin in Aug. 26. On this, however, it is proper to remark that the more common mode of reckoning would be from the actual sole reign, and not from the previous association of an emperor in the government.
( c ) For the Crucifixion, we know that it occurred during the governorship of Pontius Pilate in Judaea (all the Evangelists), and this administration covered about ten years, from a.d. 26 to 36. Other data (see Dates) help to fix upon near the central part of this period as the time of the Crucifixion, between 28 and 31, more likely 29 or 30.
(3) These uncertainties have given rise among scholars to a number of different theories of the duration of our Lord’s ministry. It will be sufficient to mention three, among which choice, according to what seems to be the greatest probability, should be made.
( a ) The short period theory. This assigns but a little over a year to the ministry. According to it, the Baptism probably occurred early in the year 29, that is, during the fifteenth year of Tiberius, reckoning that to have begun in Aug. 28, and the Baptism to have taken place early in the year following. The first Passover ( John 2:13) came soon after, and the last Passover just a year later. Between these two Passovers lay the whole ministry, hence this theory is called the bipaschal view. To obtain this result, the feast of John 5:1 is held not to be a Passover; the text of John 6:4 is regarded as incorrect (on slight documentary evidence), and read as omitting ‘of the passover,’ and so leaving this also an unnamed feast. After disposing of these two feasts, the order of feasts mentioned in John is fixed as follows: Passover ( John 2:13), a.d. 29; Pentecost ( John 5:1), nameless or omitted ( John 6:4), Tabernacles ( John 7:2), Dedication ( John 10:22), and Passover ( John 11:55), spring of a.d. 30. With this scheme derived from the Fourth Gospel, the data furnished by the Synoptics is made to harmonize by slighting the indications of a time of nearly ripe grain ( Matthew 12:1, Mark 2:23, Luke 6:1), which it is hard to locate if there were only two Passovers in the whole series of events. But this theory is defended (see von Soden in Encyc. Bibl. ) on the following grounds: (i.) That the correct interpretation of the ‘fifteenth year’ of Tiberius is from the date of his sole reign, and therefore is a.d. 28–29. (ii.) The events of the Gospel narrative are too meagre to have extended over more than a year. (iii.) This view was held by many of the Fathers as early as the 2nd century. The only one of these grounds that has any real force is the first, and as to that it may be replied that we are not compelled to put the Crucifixion in 30, and thereby limit the time to one year. The second ground is entirely subjective—to many other scholars it seems far too short a time for all the events (with their implications of others and of intervals) to have taken place. As to the third ground, it may be said that the Fathers were not unanimous, and they had only the same data for forming opinions that modern and more accurate chronologers have. Besides its inadequacy to account for all the facts, this theory deals in an arbitrary way with the text of John 6:4 and with the indication furnished by the incident of the grain fields ( Matthew 12:1 etc.).
( b ) The long period theory. This holds that there were four Passovers in the ministry, and is hence called the quadripaschal theory. It dates from Eusebius in the 4th cent., and is held by many modern scholars. This takes the unnamed feast of John 5:1 to be a Passover, holds to the commonly received text of John 6:4, puts the Baptism early in 27 and the Crucifixion in 30, thus making the ministry extend over three years. But there is difference of arrangement of details even among those who hold this view, and it is not at all certain that the feast of John 5:1 can be fixed as a Passover.
( c ) The medium period theory. This holds that the feast of John 5:1 is not a Passover, and that there were only three Passovers in the ministry—so the tripaschal theory. As to what feast it was, and as to the arrangement of all the details, there is much difference among the advocates of the medium period. But from a year and a half to two and a half is the time allowed by those who reject both the other theories. If the Baptism occurred in the autumn of 28 or early spring of 29, then to get in three Passovers it will be necessary to put the Crucifixion in 31—to which there are serious objections. But if the Baptism was in 26–27, then the Crucifixion could be assigned to 29, which is not improbable. It must be said in view of all these difficulties, that no positive convictions in regard to the duration of the ministry are, in the present state of knowledge, tenable, but the probabilities are upon the whole in favour of a ministry of more than one and less than three years’ duration.
2. Localities .—In regard to the topographical extent of our Lord’s ministry we have a much simpler question to deal with. His labours extended throughout Palestine, and on a few occasions to contiguous lands. ( a ) Judaea, in several different places, and more especially Jerusalem, witnessed some of His most important deeds and teachings. ( b ) Galilee, however, was the principal scene of His teaching and healing work. The Lake and its cities,—Capernaum with others,—Nazareth, Cana, and other towns and a number of villages, the plains and mountains of populous Galilee shared in the deeds of His busy life. Two certainly, and probably three, separate tours of the whole of Galilee are mentioned: (1) Matthew 4:23, Mark 1:39, Luke 4:44; (2) Luke 8:1; (3) Matthew 9:35, Mark 6:6,—though it is possible that (2) and (3) are the same. ( c ) In passing through Samaria several times ( John 4:4 ff., Luke 9:52 f., Luke 17:11) He paused to perform some work of mercy. ( d ) Into Phœnicia, ‘the region of Tyre and Sidon,’ He went at least once ( Matthew 15:21, Mark 7:24). ( e ) Several visits to districts contiguous to Galilee, to the east and north, are mentioned, namely, the visit to Gerasa or Gadara during His Galilaean ministry ( Matthew 8:28, Mark 5:1, Luke 8:26), to Decapolis ( Mark 7:31), to the unknown Magadan ( Matthew 15:39) or Dalmanutha ( Mark 8:10), and Caesarea-Philippi ( Matthew 16:13, Mark 8:27). ( f ) In regard to the region beyond the Jordan commonly known as Peraea, there are interesting notices, but some uncertainties. The first notice is in the account of John’s baptism as taking place at Bethany beyond Jordan ( John 1:28). Much later there was a ministry of uncertain duration in Peraea ( John 10:40, Luke 13:22; Luke 13:32), and still later a journey through the same region on His last visit to Jerusalem ( Matthew 19:1, Mark 10:1).
3. Labours .—The extent of our Lord’s ministry is also to be regarded from the point of view of the labours He performed during its course. ( a ) The actual labours recorded by the Evangelists are considerable in sum. ( b ) That these were only samples and specimens of His work is distinctly and repeatedly implied. ( c ) Pointed allusions to the magnitude of His work are frequent ( Matthew 4:23; Matthew 4:25, Mark 1:32; Mark 1:34, Luke 4:14-15, and many similar passages). ( d ) There are many indications of the insistent demands upon His attention ( e.g. Mark 1:35-37; Mark 2:1-2; Mark 3:7-9; Mark 3:20 and similar ones), of His weariness and need of rest ( John 4:6, Mark 4:35 ff; Mark 6:30-32, and others), once of the anxiety of His relatives ( Mark 3:21-31). ( e ) The enormous amount of His unrecorded labours is distinctly asserted ( John 21:25).
The following conspectus may serve to present in clearer view some of the points already discussed:
The Thirty Years.
Birth to Baptism.
Bethlehem. Egypt. Nazareth.
b.c. 5 or 4 to a.d. 26 or 28.
Baptism to First Miracle.
Beyond Jordan. Wilderness. Judæa. Cana of Galilee.
26 or 28.
First Miracle to Beginning of Work in Galilee.
Capernaum. Jerusalem. Samaria.
Between 27 and 29.
Preceding Events and First Tour in Galilee.
Nazareth. Capernaum. Other Cities of Galilee.
Probably 28, 29.
Events connected with Second Tour in Galilee.
Cities and Villages of Galilee. Gadara. Nazareth.
Third Tour, and Departure from Galilee.
Cities and Villages. The Lake. Capernaum. Tyre and Sidon. Decapolis. Cæsarea Philippi.
Close of Galilæan Ministry to Triumphal Entry.
Galilee. Judæa. Peræa.
Probably 29 or 30.
Triumphal Entry to Crucifixion and Burial.
Jerusalem and vicinity.
The Forty Days.
Resurrection to Ascension.
Jerusalem. Galilee. Olivet.
iii. Results of our Lord’s Ministry. —When we attempt to sum up the results of our Lord’s ministry, we have to distinguish between those which were gathered during His life and those which have been maturing through the centuries following.
1. During His life .—Briefly, we should here have in mind: ( a ) the multitudes who were reached by His personal influence both in His teaching and His healing; ( b ) the number of particular adherents won, including the Twelve and all other disciples mentioned in the Gospels, together with those mentioned or alluded to in the early chapters of Acts; ( c ) the training of the Twelve for their work after His departure; and ( d ) the establishing of the institutions of the Kingdom of God—preaching, the ordinances, the Church.
2. Since His ascension .—The history of Christianity for nineteen centuries only partially describes the outcome of Christ’s short ministry upon earth. It is indeed a commonplace, but withal a glorious truth, to say that no other term of service in any man’s life, whether longer or shorter, was ever so potent an influence or so formative a force for all that is best in human affairs.
Literature.—The Lives of Christ, esp. Andrews. The Life of our Lord ; Broadus, Harmony of the Gospels , with Notes on dates by A. T. Robertson; art. ‘Chronology’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (Turner) and in Encyc. Bibl. (von Soden), and the literature adduced; art. in The Biblical World (Chicago) for Dec. 1905, by Professor Votaw.
E. C. Dargan.
Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible 
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.
King James Dictionary 
MIN'ISTRY, n. L. ministerium. The office, duties or functions of a subordinate agent of any kind.
1. Agency service aid interposition instrumentality.
He directs the affairs of this world by the ordinary ministry of second causes.
2. Ecclesiastical function agency or service of a minister of the gospel or clergyman in the modern church, or of priests, apostles and evangelists in the ancient. Acts 1 . Romans 12; 2 Timothy 4Num 4 3. Time of ministration duration of the office of a minister, or ecclesiastical.
The war with France was during the ministry of Pitt.
He abhorred the wicked ministry of arms.
Webster's Dictionary 
(1): ( n.) The act of ministering; ministration; service.
(2): ( n.) Agency; instrumentality.
(3): ( n.) The office, duties, or functions of a minister, servant, or agent; ecclesiastical, executive, or ambassadorial function or profession.
(4): ( n.) The body of ministers of state; also, the clergy, as a body.
(5): ( n.) Administration; rule; term in power; as, the ministry of Pitt.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 
min´is - tri :
I. The Word "MINISTRY"
Use of the Word in This Article
II. Two Kinds Of Ministry
1. The Prophet Ministry
2. The Local Ministry
III. Threefold Congregational Ministry
1. Insistence on Organization
(1) Aid Given in Selecting a Bishop
(2) Bishops and Presbyters
I. The Word "Ministry."
The common New Testament term for the ministry is diakonı́a ( διακονία ), and along with it we find diákonos ( δαίκονος ), "minister," ho diakonṓn ( ὀ διακονῶν ), "he who ministers," and diakoneı́n ( διακονεῖν ), "to minister." All these words have a very extensive application within the New Testament and are by no means restricted to denote service within the Christian church; even when so restricted the words are used in a great variety of meanings: e.g. (1) discipleship in general ( John 12:26 ); (2) service rendered to the church because of the "gifts" bestowed ( Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:5 ), and hence, all kinds of service ( Acts 6:2; Matthew 20:26 ); (3) specifically the "ministry of the Word" ( Ephesians 4:12 ), and most frequently the "apostleship" ( Acts 1:17; Acts 20:24; Acts 21:19; Romans 11:13 , etc.); (4) such services as feeding the poor ( Acts 6:1; Acts 11:29; Acts 12:25 ), or organizing and providing the great collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem ( Romans 15:25; 2 Corinthians 8:4 , 2 Corinthians 8:19 , etc.); (5) such services as those rendered by Stephanas ( 1 Corinthians 16:15 ), by Archippus ( Colossians 4:17 ), by Tychicus ( Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7 ), etc.
Use of the Word in This Article:
In this article the word has to do with the guidance and government of a united community, fellowship, or brotherhood of men and women whose inward bond of union was the sense of fellowship with Jesus their Risen Lord. In all ages of Christianity the call to become the follower of Jesus, while it is the deepest of all personal things and comes to each one singly, never comes solitarily. The devout soul must share his experiences with those like-minded, and the fellowship thus formed must be able to take outward shape, which cannot fail to render necessary some sort of rule and guidance. The very thought of the church with articulate expression of a common faith, administration of the sacraments, meetings and their right conduct, aid given to the spiritual and bodily needs of their fellow-members, implies a ministry or executive of some kind. To endeavor to explain what was the character of the ministry of the Christian church in the earliest centuries of its existence and how it came into being is the aim of this article.
II. Two Kinds of Ministry.
The earliest fact we have about the organization of the Christian church is given in Acts 6:1-15 , where we are told that "seven" men were appointed to what is called a "ministry of tables" ( diakoneı́n trapézais ), which is distinguished from the "ministry of the word" ( diakonı́a toú lógou ). This distinction between two different kinds of "ministry" which appears at the very beginning is seen to exist all through the apostolic church and beyond it into the sub-apostolic. It can be traced in the Epistles of Paul and in other parts of the New Testament. It is seen in the Didache , in the Pastor of Hermas , in the Epistles of Barnabas, in the Apology of Justin Martyr, in the writings of Irenaeus and elsewhere. (For a full list of authorities, compare Harnack, Texte u. Untersuchungen , II, ii, 111 ff.) The one ministry differs from the other in function, and the distinction depends on a conception to be afterward examined - that of "gifts." The common name, in apostolic and sub-apostolic literature, for the members of the one kind of ministry is "those who speak the Word of God" ( laloúntes tón lógon toú Theoú ). Modern writers have called it the charismatic, but perhaps the better term is the prophetic ministry; while to the other class belong all the names which are given to denote office-bearers in the local churches. The two existed side by side. The great practical distinction between them was that the members of the former were in no sense office-bearers in any one Christian community; they were not elected or appointed to any office; they were not set apart for duties by any ecclesiastical ceremony. The "Word" came to them and they were compelled by inward impulsion to speak the message given them to deliver. Some were wanderers; others confined themselves to their own community. They were responsible to no ecclesiastical authority. Churches were encouraged to test them and their message; for the "gift" of discerning whether a so-called prophet spoke a truly Divine message was always presupposed to be within the local church. But once accepted they took a higher place than the office-bearers, they presided at the Lord's Supper, and their judgment in cases of discipline could overbear ordinary ecclesiastical rules. The contest of Cyprian with the "confessors" at Carthage was the last stage of the long struggle which arose in the 2nd century between the two ministries. Out of the other kind of ministry came, by ordinary development, all the various kinds of ecclesiastical organization which now exist. Its members were office-bearers in the strictest sense of the word; they were selected to do ecclesiastical work in a given community, they were set apart for it in a special way, and they were responsible to the church for its due performance.
But it is important to remember that while the two kinds of ministries are thoroughly distinct from each other, the same individuals might belong to both kinds. The "prophetic gift" might fall on anyone, private member or office-bearer alike. Office-holding did not prevent the "gift." Polycarp, office-bearer at Smyrna, was a prophet; so was Ignatius of Antioch, and many others. The "gift" of speaking the Word of God was a personal and not an official source of enlightenment.
1. The Prophetic Ministry:
In the prophetic ministry we find a threefold division - apostles , prophets and teachers . Some would add a fourth, evangelists , i.e. men like the apostles in all respects save in having seen the Lord in the flesh. The distinction may hold good for the apostolic period, though that appears to be very doubtful; it disappears utterly in the sub-apostolic; evangelist and apostle seem to be one class. This triple division may be traced through early Christian literature from 1 Corinthians down to the Clementine Homilies , which can scarcely be earlier than 200 AD. It is hardly possible to define each class in any mechanical fashion; speaking generally, the first were the missionary pioneers whose message was chiefly to the unconverted, while to the second and third classes belonged exhortation and instruction within the Christian communities.
In the New Testament and in the other literature of the early church the word "apostle" is used in a narrower and in a wider sense, and it is the more extensive use of the word which denotes the first division of the prophetic ministry. The Lord selected the Twelve, "whom also he named apostles" ( Mark 3:14 , the Revised Version margin), to be trained by personal fellowship with Him and by apprentice mission work among the villages of Galilee for that proclamation of His gospel which was to be their future life-work. Two things strictly personal and excluding every thought of successors separated the "Eleven" from all other men: long personal fellowship with Jesus in the inner circle of His followers, and their selection by Himself while still in the flesh. They were the "Apostles" in the narrow sense of the word. But the name was given to many others. Matthias, who had enjoyed personal intercourse with Jesus both before and after the resurrection, was called by the disciple company, confirmed by decision of the lot, to the same 'service and sending forth' ( diakonı́a kaı́ apostolḗ ) ( Acts 1:25 ). Paul was called by the Lord Himself, but in vision and inward experience, and took rank with those before mentioned ( Romans 1:1 ff; Galatians 2:7-9 ). Others, called apostles, are mentioned by name in the New Testament. Barnabas is not only an apostle but is recognized to have rank equal to the "Eleven" ( Acts 14:14; Galatians 2:7-9 ). The correct rendering of the text ( Romans 16:7 ) declares that Andronicus and Junias were apostles who had known Christ before Paul became a believer. Chrysostom, who thinks that Junias or Junia was a woman, does not believe that her sex hindered her from being an apostle. Silas or Silvanus and Timothy, on the most natural interpretation of the passage, are called apostles by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 , 1 Thessalonians 1:6 . The title can hardly be denied to Apollos ( 1 Corinthians 4:6 , 1 Corinthians 4:9 ). Paul praises men, whom he calls "the apostles of the churches," and declares them to be "the glory of Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 8:23 margin). One of them, Epaphroditus, is mentioned by name - "your apostle," says Paul writing to the Christians of Philippi ( Philippians 2:25 margin); and there must have been many others. "Apostles" are distinguished from the "Twelve" by Paul in the rapid summary he gives of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection ( 1 Corinthians 15:5 , 1 Corinthians 15:7 ). Besides those true apostles the New Testament mentions others who are called "false apostles" ( 2 Corinthians 11:13 ), and the church of Ephesus is praised for using its "gift" of discrimination to reject men who "call themselves apostles, and they are not" ( Revelation 2:2 ). This wider use of the word has descended to the present day; "apostles" or "holy apostles" is still the name for missionaries and missioners in some parts of the Greek church. The double use of the word to denote the "Twelve" or the "Eleven" is seen in the sub-apostolic age in the Didache , which recognizes the narrower use of the word in its title ("The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles"), and in the text portrays the itinerant missionaries to whom the name in its widest use belonged.
Those "apostles," to whatever class they belonged, had one distinguishing characteristic: they had chosen as their life-work to be the missionary pioneers of the gospel of the Kingdom of Christ. They were all engaged in aggressive work, and were distinguished from others not so much by what they were as by what they did. They were wanderers with no fixed place of residence. The requirements of their work might make them abide for long periods in some center (as did Paul at Corinth and at Ephesus, or some of the "Eleven" at Jerusalem), but they had no permanent home life. As the earlier decades passed, their numbers increased rather than diminished. They are brought vividly before us in such writings as the Didache . They were to be highly honored, but as severely tested. They were not expected to remain longer than three days within a Christian community, nor to fare softly when there ( Didache ii. 4-6). The vindication of their call was what they were able to accomplish, and to this Paul, the greatest of them, appeals over and over again.
Prophets had been the religious guides of Israel of old, and the spirit of prophecy had never entirely died out. John the Baptist ( Matthew 11:9 ), Simeon ( Luke 2:25 , Luke 2:26 ), and Anna ( Luke 2:36 ) had the gift in the days of Christ. It was natural for the Samaritan woman to believe that the stranger who spoke to her by the well was a prophet ( John 4:19 ). The reappearance of prophecy in its old strength was looked on as a sign of the nearness of the coming of the Messiah. Jesus Himself had promised to send prophets among His followers ( Matthew 10:41; Matthew 23:34; Luke 11:49 ). The promise was fulfilled. Christian prophets appeared within the church from its beginning. Nor were they confined to communities of Jewish Christians; prophecy appeared spontaneously wherever Christianity spread. We are told of prophets in the churches of Jerusalem and Caesarea where the membership was almost purely Jewish; at Antioch where Jews and Gentiles united to make one congregation; and everywhere throughout the Gentile churches - in Rome, Corinth, Thessalonica and in the Galatian churches ( Acts 11:27; Acts 15:32; Acts 21:9 , Acts 21:10; Romans 12:6 , Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 14:32 , 1 Corinthians 14:36 , 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 5:20; Galatians 3:3-5 ). Prophets are mentioned by name - A gabus ( Acts 11:28; Acts 21:10 ), Symeon and others at Antioch ( Acts 13:1 ), Judas and Silas in Jerusalem ( Acts 15:32 ). Nor was the "gift" confined to men; women prophesied - the four daughters of Philip among others ( Acts 21:9 ). From the earliest times down to the close of the 2nd century and later, an uninterrupted stream of prophets and prophetesses appeared in the Christian churches. The statements of New Testament writers, and especially of Paul, imply that prophets abounded in the earliest churches. Paul, for example, expected the prophetic gift to appear in every Christian community. He recognized that they had a regular place in the meeting for public worship (1 Cor 14); he desired that every member in the Corinthian church should possess the "gift" and cultivate it ( 1 Corinthians 14:1 , 1 Corinthians 14:5 , 1 Corinthians 14:39 ); he exhorted the brethren at Thessalonica to 'cherish prophesyings' ( 1 Thessalonians 5:20 ), and those in Rome to make full use of prophecy ( Romans 12:6 ). If he criticized somewhat severely the conduct of the "prophets" in the Corinthian church, it was to teach them how to make full use of their "gift" for the right edifying of the brethren.
Prophecy was founded on revelation; the prophets were men especially "gifted" with spiritual intuition and magnetic speech. Sometimes their "gift" took the form of ecstasy, but by no means always; Paul implies that prophets have a real command of and can control their utterances. Sometimes their message came to them in visions, such as we find in the Apocalypse and in Hermas; but this was not a necessary means. The prophets spoke as they were moved, and the Spirit worked on them in various ways.
The influence of those prophets seems to have increased rather than diminished during the earlier decades of the 2nd century. While the duty of the apostle was to the unbelievers, Jewish or heathen, the sphere of the activity of the prophet was within the Christian congregation. It was his business to edify the brethren. Prophets had a recognized place in the meeting for the public worship of the congregation; if one happened to be present at the dispensation of the Lord's Supper, he presided to the exclusion of the office-bearers, and his prayers were expected to be extempore ( Didache x.7); he had special powers when matters of discipline were discussed, as is plain from a great variety of evidence from Hermas down to Tertullian. From Paul's statements it seems that the largest number of the prophets he speaks of were members of the communities within which they used their "gift" of prophecy; but many of the more eminent prophets traveled from community to community edifying each. When such wandering prophets, with their wives and families, dwelt for a time in any Christian society, preaching and exhorting, it was deemed to be the duty of that society to support them, and regulations were made for such support. According to the Didache (chapter xiii): "Every true prophet who shall settle among you is worthy of his support ... Every first-fruit then of the products of the winepress and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, thou shalt take and give to the prophets ... In like manner also when thou openest a jar of wine or oil, take the first of it and give it to the prophets; and of money and clothing and every possession take the first as may seem right to thee, and give according to the commandment." Only, the receivers were to be true prophets. Each congregation had to exercise the "gift" of discrimination and sift the true from the false; for "false" prophets confronted the true in early Christianity as well as in the old Judaism.
While the third class of the prophetic ministry, the teachers, is found joined to the other two both in the New Testament and in sub-apostolic literature, and while Paul assigns a definite place for their services in the meeting for edification ( 1 Corinthians 14:26 ), we hear less about them and their work. They seem, however, to have lingered much longer in active service in the early church than did the apostles and the prophets.
2. The Local Ministry:
As has been said, the first notice we have of organization within a local church is in Acts 6:1-15 , where at the suggestion of the apostles seven men were selected to administer the charity of the congregation.
The conception that "the Seven" were a special order of office-bearers, deacons , is a comparatively late suggestion. These men are nowhere called deacons; the official designation is "The Seven." It may be that the appointment of those men was only a temporary expedient, but it is more probable that "the Seven" of Acts 6:1-15 are the elders of Acts 11; for we find those "elders" performing the duties which "the Seven" were appointed to fulfil. If so, we have in Acts 6:1-15 the narrative of the beginnings of local organization as a whole. When we turn to the expansion of Christian communities outside Jerusalem, we have no such distinct picture of beginnings; but as all the churches in Palestine evidently regarded the society in Jerusalem as the mother church, it is likely that their organization was the same. Acts tells us that Paul and Barnabas left behind them at Derbe, Lystra and Iconium societies of brethren with "elders" at their head. The word used suggests an election by popular vote and was probably the same as had been used in the selection of the "Seven" men.
When we examine the records of the distinctively Pauline churches, there is not much direct evidence for the origins of the ministry there, but a great deal about the existence of some kind of rule and rulers. For one thing, we can see that these churches had and were encouraged to have feelings of independence and of self-government; a great deal is said about the possession of "gifts" which imply the presence and power of the Spirit of Jesus within the community itself. We find names applied to men who, if not actually office-bearers, are at least leaders and perform the functions of office-bearers - proistámenoi , poı́mēnes , epı́skopoi , diákonoi - and where special designations are lacking a distinction is always drawn between those who obey and those who are to be obeyed. In all cases those leaders or ministers are mentioned in the plural.
It may be said generally that about the close of the 1st century every Christian community was ruled by a body of men who are sometimes called presbyters (elders), sometimes but more rarely bishops (overseers), and whom modern church historians are inclined to call presbyter-bishops. Associated with them, but whether members of the same court or forming a court of their own it is impossible to say, were a number of assistant rulers called deacons . See Bishop; Church Government; Deacon; Elder . The court of elders had no president or permanent chairman. There was a two-fold not a threefold ministry. During the 3century, rising into notice by way of geographical distribution rather than in definite chronological order, this twofold congregational ministry became threefold in the sense that one man was placed at the head of each community with the title of pastor or bishop (the titles are interchangeable as late as the 4th century at least). In the early centuries those local churches, thus organized, while they never lacked the sense that they all belonged to one body, were independent self-governing communities preserving relations to each other, not by any political organization embracing them all, but by fraternal fellowship through visits of deputies, interchange of letters, and in some indefinite way giving and receiving assistance in the selection and setting apart of pastors.
The question arises, How did this organization come into being? We may dismiss, to begin with, the idea once generally accepted among the Reformed churches, that the Christian society simply took over and made use of the synagogue system of organization (Vitringa, De synagoga vetere ). The points common to both reveal a superficial resemblance, but no more. The distinctive differences are great. When we add to them the decisive statement of Epiphanius ( Haeresis , xxx. 18), that the Jewish Christians (Judaizing) organized their communities with archons and an archisynagogos like the Jewish synagogues of the Dispersion and unlike the Christian churches, all the evidence makes it impossible to believe that the earliest Christian organization was simply taken over from the Jewish. On the other hand, there is little evidence that the apostles (the Twelve and Paul) received a special commission from our Lord, to appoint and ordain the office-bearers of the earliest Christian communities, so exclusive that there could be no legitimate organization without this apostolic authority and background. We find, on the contrary, the church in Rome exercising all the disciplinary functions of a congregation without this apostolic ecclesiastical rule supposed to be essential. Even in the mother-church in Jerusalem, the congregational meeting exercised rule over the apostles themselves, for we find apostles summoned before it and examined on their conduct ( Acts 11:1-4 ). The whole question demands the recognition of several facts:
(1) Evidence abounds to show that the local churches during the apostolic and sub-apostolic age were self-governing communities and that the real background of the ministry was not apostolic authority but the congregational meeting. Its representative character and its authority are seen in the apostolic and sub-apostolic literature from Paul to Cyprian.
(2) The uniquely Christian correlation of the three conceptions of leadership, service and "gifts"; leadership depended on service, and service was possible by the possession and recognition of special "gifts" which were the evidence of the presence and power of the Spirit of Jesus within the community. These "gifts" gave the church a Divine authority to exercise rule and oversight apart from any special apostolic direction.
(3) The general evidence existing to show that there was a gradual growth of the principle of association from looser to more compact forms of organization (Gayford, article "Church" in Hdb ; also Harnack, The Expositor , 1887, January to June, 322-24), must not be forgotten; only one must remember that in young communities the growth is rapid.
(4) We must also bear in mind that the first Christians were well acquainted with various kinds of social organization which entered into their daily life and which could not fail to suggest how they might organize their new societies.
Examples occur readily: ( a ) Every Jewish village community was ruled by its "seven wise men," and it is probable that the appointment of the "Seven" in the primitive Jewish church was suggested by familiarity with this example of social polity. ( b ) It was and is an almost universal oriental usage that the "next of kin" to the founder was recognized, after the founder's death, to be the head of the new religious community founded, and this usage accounts for the selection of James, the eldest male surviving relative of our Lord, to be the recognized and honored head of the church in Jerusalem. James has been called the first bishop; but when we read in Eusebius ( Historia Ecclesiastica , III, 11,1, 2; 32,4; IV, 22,4; III, 20,1-8) how his successors were chosen, the term seems inappropriate. A succession in the male line of the kindred of Jesus, where the selection to office is mainly in the hands of a family council, and where two (James and Zoker) can rule together, has small analogy to episcopal rule. ( 100 ) The relation of "patron" to "client," which in one form or other had spread throughout the civilized world, is suggested by a series of kindred words used to denote rulers in local churches. We find proistámenoi ( προΐστάμενοι ), prostátis ( προστάτις ), prostátēs ( προστάτης ), proestṓs ( προεστώς ), in various writers, and the last was used as late as the middle of the 2nd century to denote ministry in the Roman church ( Romans 12:8; Romans 16:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hermas, Pastor . Vis . 2, 4; Justin, Apol , i. 65). ( d ) The Rom empire was honeycombed with "gilds," some recognized by law, most of them without legal recognition and liable to suppression. These confraternities were of very varied character - trades unions, burial clubs, etc., but a large proportion were for the purpose of practicing special religious rites. The Jewish synagogues of the Dispersion seemed to have been enrolled among those confraternities, and certainly appeared to their heathen neighbors to be one kind of such private associations for the practice of a religion which had been legalized. Many scholars have insisted that the Gentile Christian churches simply copied the organization of such confraternities (Renan, Les Apotres ; Heinrici, Zeitschrift f . wissensch . Theol ., 1876-77); Hatch, Organization of the Early Christian Churches ). There must have been some external resemblances. Pliny believed that the Christian churches of Bithynia were illicit confraternities (Ep. 96; compare Lucian, Peregrinus Proteus ). They had, in common with the churches, a democratic constitution; they shared a "common meal" at stated times; they made a monthly collection; they were ruled by a committee of office-bearers; and they exercised a certain amount of discipline over their members. Multitudes of Christians must have been members of such confraternites, and many continued to be so after accepting Christianity (Cyprian, Ep ., lxvii. 6).
But while the Christian churches may have learned much about the general principles of associated life from all those varied forms of social organization, it cannot be said that they copied any one of them. The primitive Christian societies organized themselves independently in virtue of the new moral and social life implanted within them; and though they may have come to it by various paths, they all in the end arrived at one common form - a society ruled by a body of office-bearers who possessed the "gifts" of government and of subordinate service embodied in the offices of presbyter and deacon.
III. Threefold Congregational Ministry.
During the 2nd century the ministry was subject to a change. The ruling body of office-bearers in every congregation received a permanent president, who was called the pastor or bishop, the latter term being the commoner. The change came gradually. It provoked no strong opposition. By the beginning of the 3century it was everywhere accepted.
When we seek to trace the causes why the college of elders received a president, who became the center of all the ecclesiastical life in the local church and the one potent office-bearer, we are reduced to conjecture. This only can be said with confidence, that the change began in the East and gradually spread to the West, and that there are hints of a gradual evolution (Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries , 180,183-85). Scholars have brought forward many reasons for the change; the need for an undivided leadership in times of danger from external persecution or from the introduction of Gnostic speculations which disturbed the faith of the members; the convenience of being represented to other local churches by one man who could charge himself with the administration of the external affairs of the congregation; the need of one man to preside at the solemn and crowning act of worship, the administration of the Lord's Supper; the sense of congregational unity implied in the possession of one leader - each or all are probable ways in which the churches were influenced in making this change in their ministry.
This threefold congregational ministry is best seen in the Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch. They portray a Christian community having at its head a bishop, a presbyterium or session of elders, and a body of deacons. These form the ministry or office-bearers of the congregation to whom obedience is due. Nothing is to be done without the consent of the bishop, neither love-feast, nor sacrament, nor anything congregational. The ruling body is a court where the bishop sits as chairman surrounded by his council or session of elders; and the one is helpless without the other, for if the bishop be the lyre, the elders are the chords, and both are needed to produce melody. Ignatius compares the bishop to Jesus, and the elders to the apostles who surrounded Him. There is no trace of sacerdotalism, apostolic succession, one-man government, diocesan rule in those letters of Ignatius; and what they portray is unlike any form of diocesan episcopacy.
1. Insistence on Organization:
It is interesting to remark how all throughout the 3century and later every body of Christians, even if consisting of fewer than twelve families, is instructed to organize itself into a church under a ministry of office-bearers, consisting of a bishop or pastor, at least two elders and at least three deacons. Should the bishop be illiterate - for character more than erudition determined his choice - the congregation was told to elect a reader, and provision was made for a ministry of women. It was possible to obey such instructions, because the ministry of the early church received no stipends. The ministry were office-bearers, to whom ecclesiastical obedience was due in virtue of their call and election and their being set apart by prayer, and perhaps by laying on of hands, for sacred office; but they were at the same time merchants, artisans, or engaged in other secular callings, and supported themselves. Buildings, set apart for public worship, did not exist until the very close of the 2nd century, and then only in a few populous centers in towns which had felt persecution but slightly. The only property which a church possessed, besides its copies of the Scriptures, its congregational records and perhaps a place of burial, were the offerings which were presented by members of the congregation, mostly in kind, after the Eucharist; and these offerings were distributed to the poor of the congregation. If office-bearers received a share, it was only on account of their poverty and because they were on the roll of widows, orphans and helpless poor.
This threefold congregational ministry has been called by some scholars "monarchical episcopacy," a title as high-sounding as it is misleading. The kingdom over which those so-called monarchs presided might and often did consist of less than twelve families, and their rule was fenced in with many restrictions. We can collect from the Epistles of Ignatius what were the powers and what the limitations ( Epistle to Polycarp ) of the bishop. He administered the finances of the church; he was president of the court of Elders; he had the right to call and presumably to preside over the court of discipline; and he had the regulation of the sacraments in his hands. On the other hand, it is very doubtful whether he, or even he in conjunction with the elders, could excommunicate; that appears to have remained in the hands of the congregational meeting. The bishop might convoke the congregational meeting for the purpose, but it belonged to the meeting and not to the bishop to appoint delegates and messengers to other churches; and the meeting had the power to order the bishop to go on such a mission.
(1) Aid Given in Selecting a Bishop.
From what has been said it is plain that the selection of a bishop became one of the most important acts a congregation was called upon to perform. Accordingly, provision was made for its assistance. It is declared in the Apostolic Canons that if a congregation contains fewer than twelve men competent to vote at the election of a bishop, neighboring, "well-established" churches are to be written to in order that three men may be sent to assist the congregation in selecting their pastor ( Sources of the Apostolic Canons , 7,8). This is evidently the origin of what afterward became the custom and later a law, that the consecration of a bishop required the presence of three neighboring bishops - a rule which has given occasion to the saying that "all Christendom becomes Presbyterian on a consecration day." This custom and rule, which in its beginnings was simply practical assistance given to a weak by stronger congregations, came to bear the meaning that the bishop thus consecrated was an office-bearer in the church universal as well as the pastor of a particular congregation. It is also more than probable that this practice of seeking assistance in an emergency is the germ out of which grew the Synod - the earliest recorded synods being congregational meetings assisted in times of difficulty by advice of experienced persons from other churches.
(2) Bishops and Presbyters.
When a small group of villagers had been won to Christianity through the efforts of the Christian congregation in a neighboring town, they commonly were disinclined to separate from it, and came from their villages into town to join in the public worship. "On the day called Sunday," says Justin Martyr, "all who live in the city and in the country gather together into one place" ( Ap. , i. 67). The earliest collections of canons show that the bishop was able in time of absence or sickness to delegate his duties to elders or even to deacons; and this enabled him, when occasion for it arose, to be, through his office-bearers, the pastor of several congregations. We can see the same process at work more clearly in large towns where the number of Christians had become very large. The bishop was always held to be the head of the Christian community, however large, in one place. He was the pastor; he baptized; he presided at the Holy Supper; he admitted catechumens to the full communion of the brotherhood. By the middle of the 3century the work in most large towns was more than one man could do. No record exists of the number of members belonging to the Roman church at this time, but some idea of its size may be obtained from the fact that it had more than 1,500 persons on its poor-roll; and before the close of the century the Roman Christians worshipped in over 40 separate places of meeting. It is obvious that one man could not perform the whole pastoral duties for such a multitude, and that most of the pastoral work must have been delegated to the elders or presbyters. The unity of the pastorate was for long strictly preserved by the custom that the bishop consecrated the communion elements in one church, and these were carried round to the other congregations. The bishop was thus the pastor in every congregation; the elders and deacons belonged to the whole Christian community; they served all the congregations and were not attached to one distinctively. In Alexandria, on the other hand, something like a parochial system gathered round the bishop, for individual presbyters were set over the separate congregations within the city. But always and without exception the original pastoral status of the bishop was preserved by the fact that one portion of the pastoral duties was invariably left in his hands - the rite of confirmation whereby catechumens were admitted to full communion.
2. Multiplication of Orders: Growth of a Hierarchy:
The middle of the 3century witnessed two changes in the ministry of the church. One was a multiplication of orders and the other the growth of a hierarchy; and while many causes went to produce these changes it can hardly be doubted that they were at least partly due to the imitation of pagan religious organization. Although we find the distinction between those who are to be obeyed and those who are to obey clearly laid down in the Epistles of Paul, we do not find a common term in general use to denote the former class until the beginning of the 3century. In the west the word was ordo , and in the east clerus , from which come our "orders" and "clergy." Ordo was the designation for the municipality in towns or for the committee which presided over a confraternity; and clerus denoted rank or class. The introduction of ministerial stipends and the implication that a paid ministry was expected to give its whole time to the service of the church made the distinction between clergy and laity more emphatic. When we investigate the matter, it is evident that the fact that the clergy are paid complicates the question; for the earliest lists are evidently those who are entitled to share in the funds of the church, and widows and orphans figure as members of the ordo or clerus . Setting this disturbing element aside we find that the earliest division of the ministry in the 3century is into bishops, presbyters and deacons (all congregational); but bishops and presbyters are sometimes said to form the special ordo ecclesiasticus . The earliest addition to those three orders is the reader, and there follows soon the sub-deacon. Then come such persons as exorcists, acolyths, singers, door-keepers and even grave-diggers; and to such the name "minor orders" is given. All are included within the clergy, all receive a proportionate share of the revenues of the congregational funds. The presence of bishops, presbyters and deacons needs no explanation. Readers, as we have seen, were needed at first to assist illiterate bishops or pastors; their retention and the insertion of exorcists have been plausibly accounted for by the idea that they represented the absorption of the old prophetic ministry. But in instituting the other minor orders the Christian church evidently copied the pagan temple usages where persons who performed corresponding services were included among the temple ministry and had due share of the temple revenues. In the institution of a graded hierarchy including metropolitans and patriarchs, the churches probably followed the example of the great pagan organization called forth by the imperial cult of the Divi and Divae (Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry , 335 ff). As Mommsen remarks, "The conquering Christian church took its hierarchic weapons from the arsenal of the enemy."
Synods to begin with were essentially democratic assemblies. They were, in their primitive form, congregational meetings assisted in times of emergency by delegates (not necessarily bishops) from "well-established churches," and they grew to be the instrument by which churches grouped round one center became united into one compact organization. The times were not democratic, and gradually the presence of the laity and even of presbyters and deacons and their combined assent to the decisions of the assembly became more and more a matter of form and gradually ceased altogether. The synods consisted exclusively of bishops and became councils for registering their decisions; and this implied that each local church was fully and completely represented by its pastor or bishop, who had become very much of an autocrat, responsible, not to his congregation nor even to a synod, but to God alone. Before the end of the 3century and onward, synods or councils had become a regular part of the organization of the whole church, and the membership was confined to the bishops of the several churches included within the group. It was natural that such assemblies should meet in the provincial capitals, for the roads converged to the cities which were the seats of the Roman provincial administration. A synod required a chairman, and various usages obtained about the natural chairman. At first the oldest bishop present was placed in the chair, and this continued long to be the practice in several parts of the empire. Gradually it became the habit to put into the chair the bishop of the town in which the council met, and this grew to a prescriptive right. It was then that the bishops of the towns which were the meeting-places of synods came to be called metropolitans. The title was for long one of courtesy only and did not carry with it any ecclesiastical rank and authority. But by the middle of the 4th century the metropolitans had acquired the right to summon the synods and even to exercise some authority over the bishops of the bounds, especially in the matter of election and consecration. When Christianity was thoroughly established as the religion of the empire, the more important bishops secured for themselves the civil precedence and privileges which had belonged to the higher priests of the abandoned Imperial Cult, and the higher ranks of the Christian ministry came into the possession of a lordship strangely at variance with their earlier position of service.
C. Vitringa, De synagoge vetere libra tres , Leucopetrae (Weissenfels), 1726; Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church , 1708-32; Bannermann, The Scripture Doctrine of the Church ; Hort, The Christian Ecclesia ; Lightfoot, Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians (dissertation on the ministry); Hatch, The Organization of the Early Christian Church , and articles on "Orders" in Smith's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities ; Harnack, The Expositor for January to June, 1887, and Entstehung u. Entwicklung der Kirchenverfassung ... in d. zwei ersten Jahrhunderten (1910) (English translation, The Constitution and Law of the Church ); Lindsay, The Church and the Ministry in the Early Centuries ; Schmiedel, article "Ministry" in Eb ; Gayford, article "Church" in Hdb .
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature 
( עֲבוֹדָה , Work; שָׁרֵת , Attendance,; Λειτουργία , waiting upon; Διακονία , Service). Besides the ordinary applications of this term to the common affairs of life, it is specially used in the Scriptures, chiefly those of the New Testament, to denote a devotion to the interests of God's cause, and, in a technical sense, the work of advancing the Redeemer's kingdom. It is in this sense, namely, of the Christian Ministry, that we propose here to treat of some features of this office, leaving to special titles other parts, such as the literary qualification for it, (See Ministerial Education), and a more general view of its relations to the article Pastoral Theology (See Pastoral Theology) . The essential functions of evangelical ministry are the following:
I. Preaching . — The duty of disseminating the Gospel is not confined to the ministry. A comparison of all the narratives relative to the event in the New Testament renders it clear that the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 was not delivered to the eleven apostles merely, but to the general body of the disciples then assembled ( 1 Corinthians 15:6). It is the great character of evangelization. In like manner it appears that, although the twelve apostles were originally sent out on a preaching tour of Galilee (Matthew 10), subsequently seventy others were despatched on a similar mission (Luke 10). So on the day of Pentecost the whole mass of believers at Jerusalem seem to have been inspired with preaching powers, and they actually exercised them ( Acts 2:4). Nor was this an occasional though extraordinary instance; on the contrary, a similar practice is implied in all the later exhibitions of the then universal gift of the Holy Spirit ( Acts 10:44-47; Acts 19:6-7; 1 Corinthians 12, 14). Indeed, the technical distinction between clergy and laity in this particular is almost ignored in the New Testament, and we find members of the Church, whether official or private, male or female, freely exercising their liberty in proclaiming Jesus everywhere ( Acts 6:8; Acts 8:4-8; Acts 9:20; Acts 18:24-28; Acts 21:9). This is in accordance with the universal impulse of the newly-converted soul to communicate the glad tidings of his own salvation to others, without waiting for any formal license or authorization. Such evangelization is the very essence of preaching, by whatever name it may be called, or by whatever conventionalities it may be surrounded. We may add that whoever loses this spirit of his early zeal, has lost, be his success or attainments in other respects what they may, the great divine seal of his call to preach. (See Lay Preaching).
The call, as above defined, to preach the Gospel to the best of our ability and opportunity, is one that every Christian should recognise and obey. It is, however, a duty entirely distinct from, although in some cases closely related to, the general question of our vocation in life. It is precisely at this point that the thought of the ministry has probably occurred, sooner or later, to every considerate young man of the Church. If earnest and devoted, he is apt to infer the farther duty of giving himself exclusively as an avocation to the work of preaching. The idea having once been vividly presented to his imagination, is likely, in proportion to his conscientiousness, to fasten more and more deeply upon his convictions, while at the same time his judgment of his fitness, his inclinations, and his circumstances may be totally adverse to the course. Hence he is in a twofold danger of error; on the one hand he may mistake for a distinctive divine call his own general promptings to do anything, however uncongenial, for the sake of his Master; or, on the other, he may yield to a self-deprecating modesty and the force of obstacles, and neglect a real call. Under this balancing of arguments. perhaps the safest guides are two — one internal, the other external. In the first place let him carefully examine his own heart, and see what motive secretly prompts him in this direction. If it be the love of applause, a desire for distinction, a vanity for public prominence, or a wish to gain a ready mode of subsistence, of course he must conclude himself to be unworthy and unfit for the holy office. If, again, he is chiefly drawn to the work under a mere sense of condemnation if he refuse, we apprehend he has not reached the highest intimation of an incentive to duty in this path. He, like every other believer, of course, must quiet his conscience by being willing to do any duty, even this, if clearly made known; but it does not follow that he is called upon to do any and every disagreeable thing, simply because it would be a cross to him. A better and more decisive, as well as consistent test, is to ask himself, "Do I seek this place, or consent to assume it, because I look upon it as the most exalted and useful one I could occupy? Is it one in which I feel that I can most effectually glorify God and serve my generation?" If he still have doubt in answering the question, then let him turn to the other outward test. Let him try it, and experiment will soon satisfy him whether his call is genuine or not. This experience will especially determine four points; namely,
1. His natural qualification or disqualification, in point of physical, mental, and spiritual adaptation;
2. His probable measure of success, as evinced by the fruit of his efforts;
3. His greatest lack, and consequently the points where, by study and care, he should more fully prepare himself in the future;
4. The providential indications, by way of opening, means, etc., for his farther progress. The Church, meanwhile, through his friends, fellow- members, and the pastor, will thus have an opportunity of judging on all these points, and then advice will not only be welcomed by him, but must in the end be conclusive.
Our result, therefore, under this head is, that while preaching the Gospel in some form, and as a specific work, is the general duty of all believers, it is the sole or exclusive duty of those only who, by undoubted internal and external marks, are divinely called to the office, and sanctioned in it by the Church at large. This last is the ultimate or determinative sign.
II. Ordination . — The second great and peculiar function of the Christian ministry is the administration of the holy sacraments — namely, Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Other clerical offices — such as officiating at marriages, funerals, chaplaincy, expounding the Scriptures, dispensing ritual duties, etc. — are entirely subordinate and immaterial to these. The sacraments likewise may, no doubt, lawfully be administered by a lay unordained person, or even by a woman, in case of emergency or private celebration; but, for the sake of propriety and system, they should be a matter of Church order, and this is the meaning of the term "ordination." This, therefore, is a purely ecclesiastical distinction, which affects the ordained individual only as to certain churchly relations or functions appertaining to himself individually. For this reason it is performed but once, and as a ceremony. Whether it be executed by the bishop, a presbyter, or neighboring pastor, is entirely conventional. The true "apostolical succession" is maintained wherever the line is in accordance with the established Church usage in the case.
It will be observed that preaching and "orders" do not necessarily concur in the same person. Hence some churches have ordained elders who are not clergymen Hence, likewise. there are ordained local preachers and unordained travelling preachers. The election to clerical orders rests, in the Episcopal churches, with the bishop; in the Presbyterian churches, with the Presbyterial Synod; in Methodist churches, with the Annual Conference; among Congregationalists, Baptists, etc., with the congregation itself. III. The Pastorate. — This is the last and crowning office of the Christian ministry. It does not necessarily involve the two preceding, for in all churches there are occasionally pastors who are not ordained men. In the Methodist Church there are at least sub-pastors, namely, class-leaders, who have no other clerical functions; and many of the Roman Catholic priests do not preach at all, On the other hand, there are numerous "evangelists" who, as local preachers, have no pastoral relations, nor any ordained status. The pastorate, moreover, differs from the preaching element of the ministry in its local and transferable character. The commission to preach is world-wide, long as mind and body last; but the pastoral jurisdiction is necessarily limited to a particular community and on stipulated terms. The appointment under it always implies a mutual understanding and consent between the pastor and his people; and it is a piece of clerical imposition when the latter are permitted to have no voice in its formation and dissolution; as it is an act of prelatical tyranny when the former is not consulted, or allowed to express his wishes and judgment.
We have said that the pastorate is the highest function of the ministry. It is so, because it combines in their most complete, regular, and effective form all the elements of the ministerial relation. A man who has the hearts of his people, and can sway them from. the pulpit, as well as touch them in the tender and intimate connections of his pastoral ministrations; who introduces their babes to Christ, and dispenses to them the symbols of the body and blood of their Lord, wields a power which kings might envy, and holds a place with which Gabriel's cannot vie. He is God's ambassador to a dying community, and his angel in the Church.
IV. To the foregoing ministerial functions many are disposed to add a fourth, namely, Administration. This, so far as it applies to the execution of discipline in any particular Church, is merely a part of the pastorate; and even here it is very doubtful whether the pastor have legitimately any power beyond that of presiding in meetings, and guiding in a general way the affairs of the Church. His personal influence, of course, is very great; and if the people have confidence in his judgment, his advice will be freely sought and cheerfully followed. But the assumption of any dictatorial rights will quickly be resented and resisted as a "lording over God's heritage" equally unwarranted by Scripture or ecclesiastical law.
The extension of the clerical administration to the general Church, in distinction from the laity, is a prelatical usurpation characteristic only, and everywhere, of High-Churchism. It is the essence of popery, and is not the less offensive if advocated or practiced by a bishop in any Protestant Church. Even the Episcopal churches, strictly so called, do not hold this theory; the Methodist Church has lately discarded it, and the Presbyterians admit the lay elders to a full participation in the highest legislative assemblies.
Referring once more to our Lord's constitutional behest ( Matthew 28:19-20), we find four duties enjoined upon his disciples: 1. Preaching — that is, evangelization. 2. Discipling — that is, enrolling as followers of Jesus. 3. Baptism — that is, initiation by a public ordinance. 4. Instruction — that is, inculcation of Christian doctrine in detail. Not one of these is the essential or peculiar, much less exclusive prerogative of the ministry; although the minister, as such, naturally takes the lead in them, devoting himself professionally to them, especially in the more public and formal relations.. Of all the really characteristic functions of the ministry, we have found — to recapitulate — that the true basis of authorization arises in the Church itself, as the final earthly judge of qualification and fidelity; and that she expresses her decision with respect to it through the preacher's own immediate brethren; while she signs his credentials to the second through the ecclesiastical organism which he thereby, enters; and she issues her mandate respecting the third through the local community which thus invites his care. See, besides the works quoted under Minister Schaff, Hist. Apostol. Ch. page 495 sq.; Bearcroft, Thirteen Discourses on the Ministry; Boardman, On the Christian Ministry; Collings, Vindication of a Gospel Ministry; Crosthwaite, On the Christian Ministry; Edmonson, On the Christian Ministry; Fancourt, Nature and Expediency of a Ministry; Taylor, Institution and Necessity of the Ministry; Turner, The Christian Ministry Considered; Vinet, Theory of the Evangel. Ministry; Wallace, Guide to the Christian Ministry; Wayland (Francis), Letters on the Christian Ministry; Amer. Bible Repository, 9:64; Christian Exam. 5:101; 15:334; Christian Monthly Spectator, 3:401; 8:441; 9:487; Christian Observer, 14:13; 19:433; 20:533, 544; 22:329, 546; 28:137, 416; Christian Qu. Spect. 4:207; 6:542; 7:353; 8:411; Christian Rev. 1:15; 3:254, 576; 11:256; 13:501; 15:400; Edinb. Rev. 19:360; North Amer. Rev. 49:206; Kitto, Journ. of Sac. Lit. volume 29; Cumberl. Presb. Qu. October 1871. See also Poole, Index to Periodical Lit. s.v.; Malcom, Theol. Index, s.v.
- Ministry from Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- Ministry from Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- Ministry from King James Dictionary
- Ministry from Webster's Dictionary
- Ministry from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Ministry from Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature