Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Character of the Faithful

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed. — Titus 1:7

The virtues here spoken of by St. Paul are necessary for all ministers of the Word of God, who must show the way to others. . . Is it a small matter to be a minister of God, and governor of His house? St. Paul showeth in this place that those to whom God hath committed His Word, and called to preach the gospel, ought to conduct themselves in an exemplary manner.

St. Paul saith a good shepherd must be blameless; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre: as if he had said, the man that is given to these vices, doth nothing but infect the place he is in, and injure the church. He that is blemished with any of these faults is not a fit man to serve God: these things must therefore be purged out from among us. The first virtues required by St. Paul, in order to qualify a man to preach the Word of God, is to abstain from the faults which are here condemned.

If he be stubborn and self-willed, he will offend the flock of God, and make a breach in the church. . . Thus we have the meaning of St. Paul in a few words: namely, those who are called to preach the Word of God must take heed that they be not self-willed, but willing to be taught: they must be meek and quiet spirited; not puffed up with pride, but endeavoring to edify others; they must not think that they know all things, but on the contrary desire to learn continually and be gentle in their behavior. Those who are lofty spirited, and self-willed, often become schismatics: that is to say, they trouble the church of God, and divide it into sects.

They must be no strikers nor brawlers: they must not be like soldiers or contentious men, who are always ready to fight and wrangle; this fault must be corrected also. . . . (John Calvin, The Mystery of Godliness and Other Sermons, “The Character of the Faithful” [Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Ministries] 158–160)