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Do You Desire the Office of Overseer?

In expounding Paul’s comment on people desiring the office of overseer (1 Timothy 3:1), Calvin deals extensively with sinful (arrogant) and proper desire for such a position. He notes the difficulty of the work and that in Paul’s day as in his own, a man could not be a Minister of the word of God unless he completely hazard himself to become a martyr. On the other hand, Calvin notes, God provides the sufficiency. Then he stated:

A man will well be content to be set on work in this charge, especially seeing he knows that it is an acceptable sacrifice to God, and that we cannot bestow our lives and our deaths better than by bringing poor souls who were lost, and on their way to everlasting death, to salvation.  Therefore upon this condition we may desire to be Ministers of the word of God; but yet if we mark what a hard matter it is, if we consider our own ableness, out of doubt we will flee from it as much as we can, and would gladly be delivered from it.  Or if we have this charge, it is upon this condition, that we would gladly that God would call more able men, that they might serve the Church better.  We may not here be angry, we may not seek any specific way out; but no doubt he who has not this consideration when he desires this office, he is only a windbag carried away by naughty affections if he thinks he has a good zeal yet we know that there is nothing but ambition and vainglory in that man, if he has not this fear to hold back himself, and does not desire to have the Church served by others than himself.

This contains another strong statement from Calvin on the importance of evangelism- this is how he preached to his people! One thing that should properly draw men to pastoral ministry is the desire to labor for the salvation of souls. Then, Calvin notes that any man possessing merely the humility arising for basic self-awareness and affection from the church will yearn for God to raise up better men than he for this office. If you are grateful the church has you, you better think again. He who thinks he is God’s gift to the church, is a “gift” from a different source. But, brothers, if you find yourself weighted down with the care of souls, at times crying out to God wondering why he has not provided better for the shepherding of his people- realize, that in this you discover the seal of God’s approval on your calling. God is at work. You and I are not sufficient; but God is, and he is pleased to work through people like us when we realize it is all of him. Better men than us, who have gone before us, have felt this inadequacy. Let us join them in clinging desperately to God while standing fast at our posts.

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