Catechism for Boys and Girls, Part Three: Salvation

Visit the Catechism for Boys and Girls page to read the entire catechism as it is posted.

Q.68: What is a covenant?

A. A covenant is an agreement between two or more persons.

( 1Samuel 18:3; Matthew 26:14-15 )

 

Q.69: What is the covenant of grace?

A. It is an eternal agreement within the Trinity to save certain persons called the elect, and to provide all the means for their salvation.

( Genesis 17:1-8; Romans 11:27; Hebrews 10:16-17; 13:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-28 )

 

Q.70: What did Christ undertake in the covenant of grace?

A. Christ undertook to keep the whole law for his people, and to suffer the punishment due to their sins.

( Romans 8:3-4; Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 6:17-20; 7:22; 9:14-15; 13:20-21 )

 

Q.71: Did our Lord Jesus Christ ever sin?

A. No. He was holy, blameless, and undefiled.

( Hebrews 7:26; Luke 23:47; Hebrews 4:15; 1Peter 2:22; 1John 3:5 )

 

Q.72: How could the Son of God suffer?

A. Christ, the Son of God, took flesh and blood, that he might obey and suffer as a man.

( John 1:14; Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7-8; Hebrews 2:14,17; 4:15 )

 

Q.73: What is meant by the atonement?

A. The atonement consists of Christ’s satisfying divine justice, by his sufferings and death, in the place of sinners.

( Mark 10:45; Acts 13:38-39; Romans 3:24-26; 5:8-9; 2Corinthians 5:19-21; Galatians 3:13; 1Peter 3:18 )

 

Q.74: For whom did Christ obey and suffer?

A. Christ obeyed and sufffered for those whom the Father had given him.

( Isaiah 53:8; Matthew 1:21; John 10:11,15-16, 26-29; 17:9; Hebrews 2:13 )

 

Q.75: What kind of life did Christ live on earth?

A. Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to the law of God.

( Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4; 1Peter 2:21-22 )

 

Q.76: What kind of death did Christ die?

A. Christ experienced the painful and shameful death of the cross.

( Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Matthew 26:47-75; 27:1-66; Mark 14:43-72; 15:1-47; Luke 22:47-71; 23:1-56; John 18-19 )

 

Q.77: Who will be saved?

A. Only those who repent of sin and believe in Christ will be saved.

( Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3,5; Acts 2:37-41; 16:30-31; 20:21; 26:20 )

 

Q.78: What is it to repent?

A. Repentance involves sorrow for sin, leading one to hate and forsake it because it is displeasing to God.

( Luke 19:8-10; Romans 6:1-2; 2Corinthians 7:9-11; 1Thessalonians 1:9-10 )

 

Q.79: What is it to believe in Christ?

A. A person believes who knows that his only hope is Christ and trusts in Christ alone for salvation.

( John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1Timothy 2:5; 1John 5:11-12 )

 

Q.80: How were godly persons saved before the coming of Christ?

A. They believed in the Saviour to come.

( John 8:56; Galatians 3:8-9; 1Corinthians 10:1-4; Hebrews 9:15; 11:13 )

 

Q.81: How did they show their faith?

A. They offered sacrifices according to God’s commands.

( Exodus 24:3-8; 1Chronicles 29:20-25; Hebrews 9:19-23; 10:1; 11:28 )

 

Q.82: What did these sacrifices represent?

A. They were symbolic of Christ, the Lamb of God, who was to die for sinners.

( Exodus 12:46; cf. John 19:36; Hebrews 9-10; John 1:29; 1Corinthians 5:7; 1Peter 1:19 )

 

Q.83: What does Christ do for his people?

A. He does the work of a prophet, a priest and a king.

( Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 1:5; Matthew 13:57; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 18:37 )

 

Q.84: How is Christ a prophet?

A. He teaches us the will of God, reveals God to us, and really was God in human flesh.

( Deuteronomy 18:15,18; John 1:18; 4:25; 14:23-24; 1John 5:20 )

 

Q.85: Why do you need Christ as a prophet?

A. Because I am ignorant.

( Job 11:7; Matthew 11:25-27; John 6:67-69; 17:25-26; 1Corinthians 2:14-16; 2Corinthians 4:3-6 )

 

Q.86: How is Christ a priest?

A. He died for our sins and prays to God for us.

( Psalm 110:4; 1Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:24-25; 1John 2:1-2 )

 

Q.87: Why do you need Christ as a priest?

A. Because I am guilty.

( Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:19-23; Hebrews 10:14,27-28; 1John 1:8-9 )

 

Q.88: How is Christ a king?

A. He rules over us and defends us.

( Psalm 2:6-9; Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 1:19-23; Colossians 1:13,18; Revelation 15:3-4 )

 

Q.89: Why do you need Christ as a king?

A. Because I am weak and helpless.

( John 15:4-5; 2Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:13; Colossians 1:11; Jude 24- 25 )

 

Q.90: What did God the Father undertake in the covenant of grace?

A. By His goodness and mercy, God the Father elected,and determined to justify, adopt and sanctify those for whom Christ should die.

( Exodus 33:18-19; Ephesians 1:3-5; Romans 8:29-33; Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 10:9-10; 1Corinthians 1:8-9; Philippians 1:6; 1Thessalonians 4:3,7 )

 

Q.91: What is election?

A. It is God’s goodness as revealed in his grace by choosing certain sinners for salvation.

( Ephesians 1:3-4; 1Thessalonians 1:4; 1Peter 1:1-2 )

 

Q.92: What is justification?

A. It is God’s regarding sinners as if they had never sinned and granting them righteousness.

( Zechariah 3:1-5; Romans 3:24-26; 4:5; 8:33; 2Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 8:12; Philippians 3:9 )

 

Q.93: What is righteousness?

A. It is God’s goodness as revealed in his law, and as honored in Christ’s perfect obedience to that law.

( Exodus 33:19; 34:6; Psalm 33:5; Hosea 3:5; Romans 11:22 )

 

Q.94: Can anyone be saved by his own righteousness?

A. No. No one is good enough for God.

( Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-23; Philippians 3:8-9 )

 

Q.95: What is adoption?

A. It is God’s goodness in receiving sinful rebels as his beloved children.

( John 1:12; Ephesians 1:5; 5:1; Galatians 4:7,31; 1John 3:1-3 )

 

Q.96: What is sanctification?

A. In sanctification God makes sinners holy in heart and conduct so that they will demonstrate his goodness in their lives.

( John 17:17; Ephesians 2:10; 4:22-24; Philippians 2:12-13; 1Thessalonians 5:23 )

 

Q.97: Is this process of sanctification ever complete in this life?

A. No.  It is certain and continual, but is complete only in heaven.

( Philippians 3:12-15; 2Peter 1:4-8; 1John 3:1-3 )

 

Q.98: What hinders the completion of sanctification in this life?

A. The Scripture says “The flesh lusts against the Spirit so that you cannot do the things you would.”

( Galatians 5:17 )

 

Q.99: Since we are by nature sinful, how can one ever desire to be holy and to gain heaven where God lives?

A. Our hearts must be changed before we can be fit for heaven.

( Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:5-12 )

 

Q.100: Who can change a sinner’s heart?

A. Only the Holy Spirit can change a sinner’s heart.

( John 3:3; Romans 8:6-11; 1Corinthians 2:9-14; 2Thessalonians 2:13-14; Titus 3:5-6 )

 

Q.101: What did the Holy Spirit undertake in the covenant of Grace?

A. He regenerates, baptizes, and seals those for whom Christ has died.

( Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:1-8; 4:30; 1Corinthians 12:13; 2Corinthians 1:22 )

 

Q.102: What is regeneration?

A. It is a change of heart that leads to true repentance and faith.

( Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 2:5-8; 2Thessalonians 2:13 )

 

Q.103: Can you repent and believe in Christ by your own power?

A. No. I can do nothing good without God’s Holy Spirit.

( John 3:5-6; 6:44; Romans 8:2, 5, 8-11; 1Corinthians 2:9-14; Galatians 5:17, 18; Ephesians 2:4-6 )

 

Q.104: How does the Holy Spirit baptize believers?

A. He puts them into the body of Christ by making them a living part of all those who truly believe in Him.

( 1Corinthians 12 )

 

Q.105: How does the Holy Spirit seal believers?

A. He comes to live within them to guarantee that they will receive the wonders God has promised those who love Him.

( Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 2Timothy 1:9; 2Corinthians 1:22 )

 

Q.106: How can you receive the Holy Spirit?

A. God has told us that we must pray to him for the Holy Spirit;

( Luke 11:9-13; John 4:10; 16:24 )

–but the evidence of His presence is seen most clearly in our trusting and loving the Lord Jesus Christ.

( Luke 12:8-10; John 3:3-5,16,20-21; 14:17-21; 1Corinthians 12:3; 1Peter 1:2; 1John 5:6-12 )

The Baptist Catechism – Questions 33-41, The Application of Redemption

Q.33: How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ, in our effectual calling.

( John 6:37,39; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8; 3:17; 1Corinthians 1:9 )

 

Q.34: What is effectual calling?

A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and our misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the Gospel.

( Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 6:44-45; Acts 2:37; 26:18; Philippians 2;13; 2Timothy 1:9; 2Thessalonians 2:13-14 )

 

Q.35: What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?

A. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.

( 1Corinthians 1:30; Romans 8:30; Ephesians 1:5 )

 

Q.36: What is justification?

A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all of our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

( Romans 3:24-25; 4:6-8; 5:17-19; 2Corinthians 5:19-21; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9 )

 

Q.37: What is adoption?

A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.

( John 1:12; Romans 8:14; 1John 3:1 )

 

Q.38: What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

( Romans 4:4-6; Ephesians 4:23-24; 2Thessalonians 2:13 )

 

Q.39: What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?

A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

( Proverbs 4:18; Romans 5:1-2,5,17; 1Peter 1:5; 1John 5:13 )

 

Q.40: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at their death?

A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory, and their bodies being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection.

( Job 19:26-27; Isaiah 57:2; Luke 23:43; 2Corinthians 5:1,6,8; Philippians 1:23; 1Thessalonians 4:14 Hebrews 12:23 )

 

Q.41: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

A. At the resurrection believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged, and acquitted in the Day of Judgment, and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity.

( Matthew 10:32; 25:23; 1Corinthians 13:12; 15:43; 1John 3:2; 1Thessalonians 4:17-18 )

LBCF of 1677/1689 – Chapter Eighteen, Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation

1. Although temporary believers, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God and state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.
( Job 8:13, 14; Matthew 7:22, 23; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14, 18, 19, 21, 24; 1 John 5:13; Romans 5:2, 5 )

2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel; and also upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made, and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; and, as a fruit thereof, keeping the heart both humble and holy.
( Hebrews 6:11, 19; Hebrews 6:17, 18; 2 Peter 1:4, 5, 10, 11; Romans 8:15, 16; 1 John 3:1-3 )

3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it; yet being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of means, attain thereunto: and therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.
( Isaiah 50:10; Psalms 88; Psalms 77:1-12; 1 John 4:13; Hebrews 6:11, 12; Romans 5:1, 2, 5; Romans 14:17; Psalms 119:32; Romans 6:1,2; Titus 2:11, 12, 14 )

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light, yet are they never destitute of the seed of God and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due time be revived, and by the which, in the meantime, they are preserved from utter despair.
( Psalms 51:8, 12, 14; Psalms 116:11; Psalms 77:7, 8; Psalms 31:22; Psalms 30:7; 1 John 3:9; Luke 22:32; Psalms 42:5, 11; Lamentations 3:26-31 )

LBCF of 1677/1689 – Chapter Thirteen, Of Sanctification

1. They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are also farther sanctified, really and personally, through the same virtue, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
( Acts 20:32; Romans 6:5, 6; John 17:17; Ephesians 3:16-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23; Romans 6:14; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 1:11; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:14 )

2. This sanctification is throughout the whole man, yet imperfect in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
( 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 7:18, 23; Galatians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:11 )

3. In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much prevail, yet through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, pressing after an heavenly life, in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in His Word hath prescribed them.
( Romans 7:23; Romans 6:14; Ephesians 4:15, 16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 7:1 )

Pragmatic Churches and Pastoral Ministry Students, The Duties of the Elders

For context, be sure and read the first eight articles listed here.

The tests mandated in Scripture are to be conducted in one particular setting: the local church. Elders are expected to have a good reputation with those outside the local body (1Tim 3:7). Nonetheless, the local body, by the leading of the word and the Spirit, has the ultimate duty of testing and approving a candidate for ministry (John 10:1-3, 16, 26-27; 1Jn 4:1-6).

Duties, unlike responsibilities, cannot be delegated. An example of this concept can be seen in the structuring of the United States military. Leaders in the military are duty bound to ensure that certain tasks and policies are upheld. They cannot abdicate or delegate these duties, but must personally fulfill them. They may, however, delegate certain responsibilities to their subordinates to ensure that the unit’s mission is accomplished in a safe and efficient manner.[1] A church might delegate some responsibilities to para-church institutions like Bible colleges and seminaries, but the moment that it abdicates its duties as they regard the ministry student, it has ceased to function in one of the most vital roles it has been given. This article will focus specifically on the duties of the elders to test and disciple elder candidates.

Discipleship of the pastoral ministry student. According to Scripture, the elders and the congregation have each been given unique gifts for this task of testing the ministerial student. Elders are uniquely qualified, if for no other reason, because they have experience in the office to which the student aspires. This is not to say that future pastors can learn nothing from mature members of the congregations, but the elders will have specific knowledge and experience of the traps of the world, the flesh, and the enemy that are unique to the office of the elder. A godly pastor, after having been faced with such pitfalls, will have already consulted Scripture and found the answers necessary for perseverance in faith, hope, and love.

As a result, it is particularly necessary for elders to have close, personal, relationships with pastoral ministry students. History abounds with examples of this type of discipleship. The Lord himself set such an example, travelling and teaching his disciples for three years before commissioning them to carry the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth. The apostle John recalled his intimate relationship with the Lord by referring to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). Paul was close enough with Timothy and Titus to refer to them as his sons in the faith (1Tim 1:2; 2Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4).

Even the pagans in the ancient world understood the value of having and keeping close relations with their students. The teacher / student lineage from Socrates to Plato to Aristotle to Alexander is well documented. In fact, Plato was so fond of Socrates, his mentor, that he used him as a character in most of his books in order to convey his interpretation of the master’s teaching. Also of note is Cicero’s fondness of his son. Cicero’s concern for his son’s education was so important to him that he wrote his philosophical and political treatise On Duties particularly for his benefit.

Continuing in the footsteps of the Greeks and of Christ and His apostles, Athanasius and Augustine each wrote books to disciples whom they loved dearly. Athanasius wrote On the Incarnation to his protégé, Marcarius,[2] and Augustine wrote the rather lengthy tome City of God to his disciple, Marcellinus.[3] In the address line of a letter Augustine wrote to Marcellinus on another occasion, Augustine, like Paul before him, refers to his disciple as his “very dear son.”[4] Such endearments and personally addressed treatises could not have been the result of trivial, Sunday afternoon relationships. They were the result of committed relationships that resulted in an invested desire for the other party’s well-being, success, and returned affection.

In like manner, Martin Luther conducted sessions with the pastors he was in the habit of grooming called Tabletalk. He also sought to reform education in Germany so that the average person could read the Bible he had labored so rigorously to translate into the language of the people.[5] Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, was well known for having started a Bible study that ultimately splintered off and became the seed of the Anabaptist movement. Early on, however, Zwingli included his students in every aspect of his sermon preparation, demonstrating for them how to rightly handle the word of God. Charles Spurgeon was well known for taking a personal interest in investigating the ministry qualifications of every student at the Pastors’ College and requiring that they be actively involved in ministry while they were studying there.[6] Discipleship has always been a key duty of any pastor, but particularly as it regards those who are being raised up for ministry.

Spheres of discipleship. Recognition must now be given to the biblical concept of ministerial spheres. Pastors have certain spheres of duty to which they ought to give well reasoned attention. For instance, the Bible mandates that an elder “must be one who manages his own household well” (1Tim 3:4). Thus, if he is not discipling his own family, a man should not be expected to properly disciple God’s family. From there the question must be asked of whom within the church he must take a personal interest. The question is necessary if for no other reason because, if a pastor is spread too thin, he is of no good to himself, his own family, or anyone else in the church. So, pastors would be wise to take advantage of the spheres of responsibility God has already put into place.

God has given headship in the family to the husband (1Cor 11:3).[7] Thus, if there are twenty families in a church, the elders can eliminate much busy work by specifically singling out the twenty heads of households for discipleship. They can charge those men to disciple their own families and check in on them from time to time to assess their progress.

The second group to consider for this specific attention are the older ladies in the church. In Titus 2:3-5, Paul charges Titus to have the older women teach and disciple the younger women on how to lead godly lives. William Mounce suggests that Paul might be giving this instruction to Titus (Tit 2:4) in order to ensure that Titus will be able to more surely obey the command to treat “younger women as sisters in all purity” (1Tim 5:2b).[8]

All of this discipleship is for naught if pastors neglect the discipleship of the church’s next generation of leaders. It is not enough for pastors to say that they do not have time to disciple future leaders. If a pastor does not have time to disciple future leaders, with whom does he hope to share the ever-growing responsibility of discipling the rest of his flock? If a pastor does not make time to disciple leaders early on, he will eventually find that he has no time to properly disciple anyone, because he has raised up no one with whom he might share this responsibility.

The creedal test. Elders are responsible to disciple pastoral ministry students, but they are also meant to lead the congregation in their testing. Elders, due to their unique vocation, ought to have more time and more resources at their disposal for honing their theology and rooting it in a rich, historical tradition. Their libraries alone should give them a considerable advantage over the average congregant in the pursuit of acquiring sound doctrine. The elder’s special circumstance comes with a distinct obligation to ensure the theological specificity of the local church in general and future pastors in particular. The primary way in which this obligation is fulfilled is through expository preaching.

Many pastors do not even know how great a disservice they do to their flocks by neglecting their duty to preach the word. In seeking to preach all application, they inflate their congregation with baseless morality which can only ever lead to a damnable legalism or an enduring hopelessness. In seeking to preach all doctrine, they puff up their congregation with a dead orthodoxy that will often lead to an arrogant self-centeredness or to certain forms of antinomianism. The only way to avoid such extremes is to preach the word. Preach expositionally and preach theologically, for “true biblical preaching is both expository and theological in substance.”[9] By preaching the word, the people will be grounded in the theological roots of their faith and begin to manifest the practical fruits that spring from it.

As they study for such preaching, pastors will also be able to put the time-tested creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the faith to the test of Scripture. They will have the privilege of seeing for themselves whether those documents hold up against the critique of the Bible. As they prayerfully embark on this journey, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, pastors will assuredly come to a greater understanding of Christian orthodoxy, and have a more robust faith to pass on to the next generation of pastors.

Also beneficial to the cause of testing the confession of prospective pastors is the delegation of certain teaching and preaching responsibilities in the church. As the candidate studies to teach in Sunday school, to teach a Bible study, or to fill the pulpit on occasion, he will be forced to groom his theology and improve it. Often, the best way for one to learn something is to commit oneself to teaching it to others.[10] Through this process, elders also have the opportunity to observe and examine prospective elders’ exegesis, conclusions, connections, and applications of the text. Also in this process, elders will be granting congregations more opportunities to test the ministry student on the creedal front.

The character test. In regard to testing the character of the prospective elder, elders must intentionally assert themselves into his life. If the apostle Paul did not think himself to have obtained a perfect Christian maturity (Phil 3:12), how much less should elders assume the maturity of their students. Rather, if the church is expected to confess their sins to one another (Jas 5:16; 1Jn 1:8-9), all the more the elders ought to lead by example, confessing their sins to one another, and exhorting their students to confess their sins.

The implication, then, is that the elder will be working out his own salvation, mortifying his own sins, so that he is not ashamed or hypocritical when he seeks to help his student work out his salvation and mortify his own sin. Perhaps the most salient thing a pastor can do in his testing of a pastoral student’s character is to model for him the character he is to have (Phil 3:17; 2Thess 3:7, 9; 1Tim 4:12; Tit 2:7; 1Pt 5:3). Of course, no one ever set an example for someone in their absence. Therefore, it is necessary that pastors both exemplify the character they expect out of their students and be in their lives enough that they can see it.

The aptitude test. If anyone is equipped to both recognize true giftedness for the ministry and have empathy for a pastoral candidate in the early years of his formative education, it is his elders. Undoubtedly, both of these elements are necessary for the process of examination and confirmation. Pastors should know, both scripturally and experientially, what is necessary for carrying out the duties of the office and what difficulties arise in the process of carrying them out. Thus, they are uniquely qualified to spot the gifting of a particular candidate for ministry when it surfaces.

The term gifted is an intentional term that should not be brushed over. The pastoral candidate does not have innate skills endowed upon him by nature, nor does he have acquired skills mined from personal determination. Rather, his skills ought to be recognized as just what they are: gifts from God. Granted, God may instill certain gifts in men from birth, or He may cause them to undergo a series of challenges whereby they acquire these gifts, but they are nevertheless gifts that He has given. It is Christ Himself who “distributes gifts from the fullness that he himself possesses, because he has triumphed and fills all things.”[11] The moment the elder candidate begins to assume personal ownership of these gifts he runs the risk of falling prey to either pride or self-reliance or both.

Too often pastors use their skills for personal gain to the detriment of the church and the name of Christ. The elders’ goal ought to be to safeguard the church against such men. The gifts given to pastors are mighty weapons that can be used for either great good or great harm. The elders’ duties then are to aid the prospective elder in acquiring, sharpening, and properly respecting the gifts he has been given by God. As such, his gifts will be weapons used safely, honorably, and with precision to accomplish the tasks predestined for the pastoral candidate to accomplish.


[1]http://www.armystudyguide.com, “Duties, Responsibilities, And Authority Explained,” Army Study Guide, April 03, 2006, http://www.armystudyguide.com/content/army_board_study_guide_topics/duties-responsibilities-of-nco.shtml/ (accessed December 4, 2011).

[2]Athanasius, On the Incarnation, trans. A Religious of C.S.M.V (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 25.

[3]Augustine, City of God, trans. Henry Bettenson (London: Penguin Books, 1972), 5.

[4]Augustine, Saint Augustine Letters – Volume III: 131-164, trans. Wilfrid Parsons (New York: Fathers of the Church, Inc, 1953), 6.

[5]William F. Leonhart, “Luther’s Vision of Free Education for Family and Church” (thesis, The College at Southwestern, Fort Worth, TX, 2011), 2-3.

[6]William F. Leonhart, “Spurgeon, Education, and the Local Church” (thesis, The College at Southwestern, Fort Worth, TX, 2011), 8-9.

[7]Paige Patterson, The Troubled Triumphant Church (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1983), 178-179.

[8]William D. Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker, Pastoral Epistles (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 270.

[9]Joel Breidenbaugh, Preaching for Bodybuilding (Bloomington: CrossBooks, 2010), 16.

[10]From the popular saying, “The best way to learn is to teach,” often attributed to Frank Oppenheimer.

[11]Vern S. Poythress, “Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit within Cessationist Theology,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39, no. 1 (1996): 71.