The Ordained Ministry
To be a Christian is to be in the covenant of grace. It is to belong to God in Christ who shed the blood of the covenant, that is His own blood, for the redemption from sin of those whom He came to save.
To be in the covenant is a great privilege. But it also entails loving loyalty to God who redeemed us with the precious blood of His Son. To be in a saving relationship with God is to be wholly devoted to Him.
God deserves all our love, service, and worship. He did not only create us in His own image. He also redeemed us from sin and from sin's dominion. He did this that we may serve, live and die for, and conform to the image of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The call to wholehearted devotion and undivided allegiance to God is especially crucial to those who would become official spokesmen of God. Pastors or shepherds of the Lord’s flock and preachers of the gospel of grace are set apart for a holy service.
The ordained ministry is a ‘dangerous calling,’ as one author puts it. It will cost the minister his whole life. It may cause him to feel extreme emotions for the people he's called to serve. At times he will feel the pain and suffering of God's people. At other times he may experience frustration and disappointment in life and ministry as he seeks to obey God.
Such was the calling of the prophets in the Old Testament. Take the prophet Hosea, for example. One lesson that we can learn from his story is that, “By forcing His prophet to marry the adulteress Gomer [Hosea 1:2], the Lord made Hosea feel something of the pain He Himself suffered because of His unfaithful people."
One pastor-preacher wrote, "Through the events in his own life, Hosea was made to feel and understand the complaint of God's wounded love - if only in a weak way. Prophecy and life became one for him. Hosea was not a parrot repeating God’s words but a living, animated witness. He spoke not just through his mouth but out of a broken heart. That’s an important lesson for all who speak for God and about Him.
“A second lesson taught us by the story of Hosea is that the Lord wants to make 'total' use of His servants. He doesn't just ask for their services as spokesmen but claims all the aspects of their lives, making demands even on their marriage and their most intimate feelings.
“Because Hosea serves God in all that he is and does, he is like his great namesake Jesus. When we encounter Hosea in the Scriptures as someone who has come to do God's will, we are really encountering Christ. God has given us an example in the person of Hosea, in the hope that we will walk in Hosea's footsteps. The Lord does not need servants who are wiling to do 'something' for Him: He needs people who are willing to give themselves 'totally'" (Herman Veldkamp, "Hosea: Love's Complaint," 21).
This view of the ordained ministry must discourage many who aspire for it just for its glamor or benefits. But it should serve as a strong motivation for those who are really called by God into it. For those who have fire in their bones if they remain silent, they can say with the apostle Paul, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16).
Yes, the ministry is a sacred calling. It is dangerous to one's life for it demands one's whole life to the service and for the sake of the One who offered Himself to death for our salvation. Yet it is a noble calling one may consider pursuing with great care.