Confession of Faith (1617) - Article XX
Of the ordinance of the church of God, and the sending and electing of ministers.
Of this we confessed: That, as a house, city, or country cannot subsist unless it have laws and ordinances by which to be governed and upheld, and as no human body can subsist without the members performing the service appointed by God for the needs of the body; so also, God the Lord has appointed in His church divers ordinances, laws and commandments, by which it is to be built up, edified, and improved.
And, as the necessities of the body require, as its chief and most indispensable members, eyes, mouth, hands and feet, to see, speak, and labor for the body, that it may thereby be fed and sustained; so Christ the Lord ordained as necessary in His church, first, by His own, present, commanding voice, His apostles, whom He sent out to preach the Gospel among all nations, and to teach them to observe His commandments, which He caused to be confirmed by signs and miracles.
This the apostles, through the Holy Spirit again enjoined upon their followers; namely, that they should elect, in the church, pastors, teachers, helpers and rulers, who as fit shining stars, by their good walk and sound doctrine, should shine to edification in the spiritual firmament, and, as messengers of peace, proclaim the good new tidings everywhere, that thereby men may be turned from their evil ways, added to the church, and thus the body of Christ be perfected and edified.
And since it is a known fact that a lack of faithful ministers, and the erring of the sheep because of the lack of good doctrine, arise principally from the unworthiness of the people; therefore the people of God, needing this, should not turn to such as have been educated in universities, according to the wisdom of man, that they may talk and dispute, and seek to sell their purchased gift for temporal gain; and who according to the custom of the world do not truly follow Christ in the humility of regeneration. But the true members of Christ, must, according to the counsel of God, with humble fasting and praying, turn to the Father of the harvest, who is the true Sender, that by His divine wisdom He will raise up men, whom He may set as faithful and wise stewards over His household, that they may give them proper meat in due season, and may enkindle them in their hearts with His Spirit, and urge them into His harvest, that they may feed the flock of Christ, not for the milk and wool, but of a ready mind, with knowledge and understanding, and lead them on the right way to the kingdom of God; and thus execute the ministry imposed upon them by God, with the strength which God gives.
Hence, believers who are in need, in this respect, shall, after having sought the face of God with ardent prayer turn their eyes to a pious brother, who keeps his own body, and brings it into subjection, and in whom the fruits of the Holy Spirit are perceived and seen. Having been chosen thereto by the voice of the Church, he shall be examined in the faith by the elder and pastors of the church, whether he, according to the word of God, agrees with the church in every article, that he may teach others the way of truth, which he himself knows. And having been found to be sound, he may stand forth in the name of the Lord, to proclaim the will of God unto the people. And when it has thus been found that God has committed the preaching of the Gospel to him so that he rightly divides the word of God, and brings forth fruits with it, the church, if she require it, and he, after examination, has been found, according to the word of God, to be of the same faith with the church, may, by the voice of the church, choose him as an elder and teacher in the full ministry, and cause him to be confirmed by the imposition of the hands of the elders, and ordain him to labor and work in the vineyard of the Lord, and to administer and execute Christian baptism, and the Lord's Supper, with all that pertains thereto.
In like manner, the church shall, by the voice of the church, elect deacons over the poor, and, after they have been examined in the faith, and found to be sound, cause them to be confirmed by the imposition of the hands of the elders, as helpers and governors, that willing givers may give their contributions to them, that they may thereby supply the wants of the poor members of Christ who according to their ability diligently labor and work with their hands, and still are not able to support themselves; that there may be found no poor among the people of God, nor any want in temporal things, and that the good gifts of the donor may be hidden from men, but become manifest before God, according to the doctrine of Christ.
And if any of said ministers depart in faith or conversation from the adopted way of truth, the church which elected him when he was pious and sound, shall punish or remove him, according as his deeds deserve (Matthew 18: 8; 1 Timothy 1:20).
Of the ordinances of the church of Christ, read: "Joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ" (Colossians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 11:33; 14:40; 2 Corinthians 8:19).
How men are to pray to God, who is the true Sender, for faithful laborers, read: "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest" (Matthew 9:37, 38; Luke 10:2; Matthew 23:34; Luke 11:49; John 13:20; Matthew 10:40; Luke 10:16; Matthew 25:14; Luke 19:12; John 20:21).
How necessary these ministers are, and how they shall teach the word of God, and be qualified, read: "Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, which may go out before them, and which may go in before them and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd" (Numbers 27:16, 17).
"I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jeremiah 3:15).
"For him whom God hath sent, speaketh the word of God," etc. (John 3:34; 7:18).
"If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ," etc. (1 Peter 4:11).
"For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21).
"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: if any be blameless," etc. (Titus 1:5, 6).
Of their qualifications, and how they are to minister after their examination, read: 1 Timothy 3 throughout; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:7; Ephesians 4:11
Concerning the mode in which they are to be chosen, read: "We have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches; and not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us, with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord and declaration of your ready mind" (2 Corinthians 8:18, 19; Acts 1:23).
"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away" (Acts 13:2, 3; 20:28).
"The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2).
"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being fords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2, 3).
Of the election and confirmation of deacons, read: "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business." "Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them" (Acts 6:2, 3, 6; 1 Timothy 3:8-10).
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APA style: (1617). Confession of Faith (1617) - Article XX. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/C6653.html/c6653_20.