Minister of Word and Sacrament

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Unoriginalname

Puritan Board Junior
This is sort of a know why you believe what you believe question. Plenty of people point to Philip the deacon's baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch as evidence that the Reformed understanding that the sacraments should only be administered by Ministers as faulty. So what is our justification for this view. I understand that narrative texts are not the best place to derive doctrine.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
I'll let a few good Presbyterians answer:

"The facts recorded in the subsequent history regarding Stephen and Philip furnish no valid objection to the view now given of the office of deacon, as one in itself essentially distinct from the ministry of the Word and the oversight of the flock. That two out of the seven men first set apart to the deaconship in Jerusalem should have afterwards developed gifts obviously fitting them for different and higher work in the cause of Christ, and should, under the guidance of the Spirit and the Providence of God, have done such work with signal success, constitutes no argument whatever against the conclusions as to the true nature and functions of the deacon's office in itself to which we have been led by the direct evidence bearing on the subject."
(D. Douglas Bannerman, The Scripture Doctrine of the Church, p. 425)
"Philip undoubtedly preached and baptized, but he is expressly designated an evangelist (Acts vii. 5, xxi. 8). Two years also elapsed and he was evidently advanced to this special office in the interval. Having used the office of a deacon well, he had purchased to himself this good degree."
(James Moir Porteus, The Government of the Kingdom of Christ, p. 243)
 

sevenzedek

Puritan Board Junior
Being a newly reformed person myself, I have wondered the same thing. Our forefathers in the faith have gotten so many other doctrines right that I have simply trusted the knowledge of men greater than I until it is time for an answer to appear. Perhaps now is the time.
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
Why do we believe that the Philip who baptized the Ethiopian was the Deacon rather than the Apostle?

And even if he was the Deacon, have we never heard of a Deacon who went on to become a Minister? He is referred to later as Philip the Evangelist, "one of the seven". Isn't the Office of Evangelist one that infers a ministerial position?
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Senior
I would say that the Church, properly speaking, is the custodian of the Sacraments and that they are ordinarily administered by the ministers of the Church in keeping with biblical order. Are there circumstances in which someone other than a regularly ordained minister may administer the sacraments (like a church under intense persecution who has no pastor)? I would say yes, but only if that person is called upon by that church to administer them and only in the most extreme circumstances.

The example of Phillip is in no way to be taken as a normative pattern for the Church. His was an extraordinary time and circumstance.
 

sevenzedek

Puritan Board Junior
Maybe we could argue that Philip's administering the baptism was not normative. My wife was baptized at a young age by someone who may not even be a believer after all, but I know of some reformed elders who would say that her baptism was still valid. These same elders would also make a case for the sacrament of baptism to be ordinarily administered by "elders only" and that baptisms done by those who are not done by an elder are legitimate but not normative.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
Why do we believe the sacraments can only be administered by a "Minister?"
Being a newly reformed person myself, I have wondered the same thing. Our forefathers in the faith have gotten so many other doctrines right that I have simply trusted the knowledge of men greater than I until it is time for an answer to appear. Perhaps now is the time.

Our Lord entrusted the administration of the sacraments to men called and ordained to the appropriate office as "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). I would commend the following answer by George Gillespie to your reading:

Past PuritanBoard Threads:
 

sevenzedek

Puritan Board Junior
Why do we believe the sacraments can only be administered by a "Minister?"
Being a newly reformed person myself, I have wondered the same thing. Our forefathers in the faith have gotten so many other doctrines right that I have simply trusted the knowledge of men greater than I until it is time for an answer to appear. Perhaps now is the time.

Our Lord entrusted the administration of the sacraments to men called and ordained to the appropriate office as "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). I would commend the following answer by George Gillespie to your reading:

Past PuritanBoard Threads:
Thanks. I guess I know what I might be reading this Lord's day.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Plenty of people point to Philip the deacon's baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch as evidence that the Reformed understanding that the sacraments should only be administered by Ministers as faulty
Do these same people point to Cain's marrying his sister as evidence that the Reformed understanding of unlawful degrees of consanguinity is faulty? The church in Acts was in its infancy just as the human race was in Gen 4. The church is no longer in infancy and neither is the human race, therefore we look to more prescriptive passages of Scripture to inform our faith and practice.
 

Grimmson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Plenty of people point to Philip the deacon's baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch as evidence that the Reformed understanding that the sacraments should only be administered by Ministers as faulty
Do these same people point to Cain's marrying his sister as evidence that the Reformed understanding of unlawful degrees of consanguinity is faulty? The church in Acts was in its infancy just as the human race was in Gen 4. The church is no longer in infancy and neither is the human race, therefore we look to more prescriptive passages of Scripture to inform our faith and practice.
Personally I think saying that the church was in its infancy state as the excuse is actually a grave mistake, since the church was under the direct teachings of the Apostles (whom we should now we following today by scripture, since they followed and were taught directly by Christ). I think instead the focus should be on the circumstance and the extraordinary need for the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch probably could not stay in Jerusalem and be on the Apostles’ teaching, because he probably had responsibilities in his home country. Instead, I think the focus of this text shows the in extraordinary circumstances, someone like a deacon, can minister word and sacrament to the people of God. And when I say sacrament, I am also including the Lord’s Supper. Now if you agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith 29.1 that people are spiritual nourished by the “sacrament of his body and blood” then would you not want the people of God to receive that in which our Lord has commended his church to partake until his return? Of course you would want the people of God to partake because it is for the good of his church, both his body in urban and rural communities. Now I say urban and rural for a reason. And the reason is this, where I live I have observed that confessional reformed people in urban communities seem to ignore the needs of their brothers’ and sisters’ needs in rural comminutes. I know of several examples from Alaska to Arizona. If you believe that baptism is necessary and that the people need the Supper then you have three options. The first is sending a minister, so that they are not in an extraordinary circumstance. The second is to allow deacons to fulfill the role of the ordained minister, so that the people of God maybe cared for and their needs meet. Or three, you can do nothing and let the people not be cared for and starve. As far as I am concerned the third option is not really an option if you truly are a part of Christ’s Church. If such allowance to allow for a church to starve and not be allowed for new converts to join in by baptism in these areas then as far as I am concerned then that theology, even though confessed to be reformed, is not Christian. And neither is the person promoting the third option to any degree. And this is not a theoretical exercise, but of a practical theology and one that is a reality here in Northern Arizona.
 

Dearly Bought

Puritan Board Junior
Now if you agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith 29.1 that people are spiritual nourished by the “sacrament of his body and blood” then would you not want the people of God to receive that in which our Lord has commended his church to partake until his return? Of course you would want the people of God to partake because it is for the good of his church, both his body in urban and rural communities. Now I say urban and rural for a reason. And the reason is this, where I live I have observed that confessional reformed people in urban communities seem to ignore the needs of their brothers’ and sisters’ needs in rural comminutes. I know of several examples from Alaska to Arizona. If you believe that baptism is necessary and that the people need the Supper then you have three options. The first is sending a minister, so that they are not in an extraordinary circumstance. The second is to allow deacons to fulfill the role of the ordained minister, so that the people of God maybe cared for and their needs meet. Or three, you can do nothing and let the people not be cared for and starve. As far as I am concerned the third option is not really an option if you truly are a part of Christ’s Church. If such allowance to allow for a church to starve and not be allowed for new converts to join in by baptism in these areas then as far as I am concerned then that theology, even though confessed to be reformed, is not Christian. And neither is the person promoting the third option to any degree. And this is not a theoretical exercise, but of a practical theology and one that is a reality here in Northern Arizona.
Sir, please be careful with your statements here. I am alarmed by your readiness to declare the third option as unChristian. The Reformed confessions speak of the sacraments as confirming and sealing the promises of the Gospel (cf. Heidelberg 65 & 66; WLC 162; WCF 27). While there certainly is spiritual nourishment in the Supper, a congregation without the Supper for a time will not "starve." See where the prophet Amos locates the primary source of nourishment:
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord"(Amos 8:11)
Unlike Lutherans, Anglicans, or Romanists, Reformed divines have not seen such a drastic need for the administration of the sacraments that would require the suspension of the biblical requirements for stewards of the mysteries of God. Unbaptized children are not thereby damned and congregations deprived of the supper will not thus "starve." The sacraments are truly of great benefit to Christians, but they derive their sanctifying power from the Word. It is the presence or absence of the Word which is key.
 
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