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John Owen on Ministerial Training

By admin | January 29, 2008

From John Owen, Works, Volume 4:508ff, A Discourse of Spiritual Gifts (emphasis added)

The first great duty of the ministry, with reference unto the church, is the dispensation of the doctrine of the gospel unto it, for its edification. As this is the duty of the church continually to attend unto, Acts 2:42, so it is the principal work of the ministry, the foundation of all other duties, which the apostles themselves gave themselves unto in an especial manner, chap. 6:4. Hence is it given in charge unto all ministers of the gospel, Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; 1 Timothy 1:3, 4:13,16, 5:17; 2 Timothy 4:1-3; — for this is the principal means appointed by Christ for the edification of his church, that whereby spiritual life is begotten and preserved. Where this work is neglected or carelessly attended unto, there the whole work of the ministry is despised. And with respect unto this ministerial duty there are three spiritual gifts that the Holy Ghost endoweth men withal, which must be considered: —

1. The first is wisdom, or knowledge, or understanding in the mysteries of the gospel, the revelation of the mystery of God in Christ, with his mind and will towards us therein. These things may be distinguished, and they seem to be so in the Scripture sometimes. I put them together, as all of them denote that acquaintance with and comprehension of the doctrine of the gospel which is indispensably necessary unto them who are called to preach it unto the church. This some imagine an easy matter to be attained; at least, that there is no more, nor the use of any other means, required thereunto, than what is necessary to the acquisition of skill in any other art or science. And it were well if some, otherwise concerned in point of duty, would but lay out so much of their strength and time in the obtaining of this knowledge as they do about other things which will not turn much unto their account. But the cursory perusal of a few books is thought sufficient to make any man wise enough to be a minister; and not a few undertake ordinarily to be teachers of others who would scarcely be admitted as tolerable disciples in a well-ordered church. But there belongeth more unto this wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, than most men are aware of. Were the nature of it duly considered, and withal the necessity of it unto the ministry of the gospel, probably some would not so rush on that work as they do, which they have no provision of ability for the performance of. It is, in brief, such a comprehension of the scope and end of the Scripture, of the revelation of God therein; such an acquaintance with the systems of particular doctrinal truths, in their rise, tendency, and use; such a habit of mind in judging of spiritual things, and comparing them one with another; such a distinct insight into the springs and course of the mystery of the love, grace, and will of God in Christ, — as enables them in whom it is to declare the counsel of God, to make known the way of life, of faith and obedience, unto others, and to instruct them in their whole duty to God and man thereon. This the apostle calls his “knowledge in the mystery of Christ,” which he manifested in his writings, Ephesians 3:4. For as the gospel, the dispensation and declaration whereof is committed unto the ministers of the church, is the “wisdom of God in a mystery,” 1 Corinthians 2:7; so their principal duty is to become so wise and understanding in that mystery as that they may be able to declare it unto others; without which they have no ministry committed unto them by Jesus Christ. See Ephesians 1:8,9, 3:3-6, 18,19; Colossians 4:3. The sole inquiry is, whence we may have this wisdom, seeing it is abundantly evident that we have it not of ourselves. That in general it is from God, that it is to be asked of him, the Scripture everywhere declares. See Colossians 1:9, 2:1,2; 2 Timothy 2:7; James 1:5; 1 John 5:20. And in particular it is plainly affirmed to be the especial gift of the Holy Ghost, He gives the “word of wisdom,” 1 Corinthians 12:8; which place hath been opened before. And it is the first ministerial gift that he bestows on any. Where this is not in some measure, to look for a ministry is to look for the living among the dead. And they will deceive their own souls in the end, as they do those of others in the meantime, who on any other grounds do undertake to be preachers of the gospel. But I shall not here divert unto the full description of this spiritual gift, because I have discoursed concerning it elsewhere.

Topics: John Owen, Ministerial Training, Pastoral Ministry, Puritanism, Puritans, Seminary | Comments Off

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