(Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 4, part 4)
Chapter 3. Of the teachers and ministers of the Church. Their 
election and office. 
    The three heads of this chapter are, - I. A few preliminary 
remarks on Church order, on the end, utility, necessity, and dignity 
of the Christian ministry, sec. 1-3. II. A separate consideration of 
the persons performing Ecclesiastical functions, sec. 4-10. III. Of 
the Ordination or calling of the ministers of the Church, sec. 
1. Summary of the chapter. Reasons why God, in governing the Church, 
    rises the ministry of men. 1. To declare his condescension. 2. 
    To train us to humility and obedience. 3. To bind us to each 
    other in mutual charity. These reasons confirmed by Scripture. 
2. This ministry of men most useful to the whole Church. Its 
    advantages enumerated. 
3. The honourable terms in which the ministry is spoken of. Its 
    necessity established by numerous examples. 
4. Second part of the chapter, treating of Ecclesiastical 
    office-bearers in particular. Some of them, as Apostles, 
    Prophets, and Evangelists, temporary. Others, as Pastors and 
    Teachers, perpetual and indispensable. 
5. Considering the office of Evangelist and Apostle as one, we have 
    Pastors corresponding with Apostles, and Teachers with 
    Prophets. Why the name of Apostles specially conferred on the 
6. As to the Apostles so also to Pastors the preaching of the Word 
    and the administration of the sacraments has been committed. 
    How the Word should be preached. 
7. Regularly every Pastor should have a separate church assigned to 
    him. This, however, admits of modification, when duly and 
    regularly made by public authority. 
8. Bishops, Presbyters, Pastors, and Ministers, are used by the 
    Apostles as one and the same. Some functions, as being 
    temporary, are omitted. Two, namely, those of Elders and 
    Deacons, as pertaining to the ministry of the Word, are 
9. Distinction between Deacons. Some employed in distributing alms, 
    others in taking care of the poor. 
10. Third part of the chapter, treating of the Ordination or calling 
    of the ministers of the Church. 
11. A twofold calling, viz., an external and an internal. Mode in 
    which both are to be viewed. 
12. 1. Who are to be appointed ministers? 2. Mode of appointment. 
13. 3. By whom the appointment is to be made. Why the Apostles were 
    elected by Christ alone. Of the calling and election of St. 
14. Ordinary Pastors are designated by other Pastors. Why certain of 
    the Apostles also were designated by men. 
15. The election of Pastors does not belong to one individual. Other 
    Pastors should preside, and the people consent and approve. 
16. Form in which the ministers of the Church are to be ordained. No 
    express precept but one. Laying on of hands. 
    1. We are now to speak of the order in which the Lord has been 
pleased that his Church should be governed. For though it is right 
that he alone should rule and reign in the Church, that he should 
preside and be conspicuous in it, and that its government should be 
exercised and administered solely by his word; yet as he does not 
dwell among us in visible presence, so as to declare his will to us 
by his own lips, he in this (as we have said) uses the ministry of 
men, by making them, as it were his substitutes, not by transferring 
his right and honour to them, but only doing his own work by their 
lips, just as an artifices uses a tool for any purpose. What I have 
previously expounded (chap. 1 sec. 5) I am again forced to repeat. 
God might have acted, in this respect, by himself, without any aid 
or instrument, or might even have done it by angels; but there are 
several reasons why he rather chooses to employ men. First, in this 
way he declares his condescension towards us, employing men to 
perform the function of his ambassadors in the world, to be the 
interpreters of his secret will; in short, to represent his own 
person. Thus he shows by experience that it is not to no purpose he 
calls us his temples, since by man's mouth he gives responses to men 
as from a sanctuary. Secondly, it forms a most excellent and useful 
training to humility, when he accustoms us to obey his word though 
preached by men like ourselves, or, it may be, our inferiors in 
worth. Did he himself speak from heaven, it were no wonder if his 
sacred oracles were received by all ears and minds reverently and 
without delay. For who would not dread his present power? Who would 
not fall prostrate at the first view of his great majesty? Who would 
not be overpowered by that immeasurable splendour? But when a feeble 
man, sprung from the dust, speaks in the name of God, we give the 
best proof of our piety and obedience, by listening with docility to 
his servant, though not in any respect our superior. Accordingly, he 
hides the treasure of his heavenly wisdom in frail earthen vessels, 
(2 Cor. 4: 7,) that he may have a more certain proof of the 
estimation in which it is held by us. Moreover, nothing was fitter 
to cherish mutual charity than to bind men together by this tie, 
appointing one of them as a pastor to teach the others who are 
enjoined to be disciples, and receive the common doctrine from a 
single mouth. For did every man suffice for himself, and stand in no 
need of another's aid, (such is the pride of the human intellect,) 
each would despise all others, and be in his turn despised. The 
Lord, therefore, has astricted his Church to what he foresaw would 
be the strongest bond of unity when he deposited the doctrine of 
eternal life and salvation with men, that by their hands he might 
communicate it to others. To this Paul had respect when he wrote to 
the Ephesians, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are 
called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one 
baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through 
all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace 
according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, 
When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave 
gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also 
descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended 
is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he 
might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some 
prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for 
the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the 
edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the 
faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, 
unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we 
henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about 
with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning 
craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the 
truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the 
head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together 
and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the 
effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of 
the body unto the edifying of itself in love," (Eph. 4: 4-16.) 
    2. By these words he shows that the ministry of men, which God 
employs in governing the Church, is a principal bond by which 
believers are kept together in one body. He also intimates, that the 
Church cannot be kept safe, unless supported by those guards to 
which the Lord has been pleased to commit its safety. Christ 
"ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things," 
(Eph. 4: 10.) The mode of filling is this: By the ministers to whom 
he has committed this office, and given grace to discharge it, he 
dispenses and distributes his gifts to the Church, and thus exhibits 
himself as in a manner actually present by exerting the energy of 
his Spirit in this his institution, so as to prevent it from being 
vain or fruitless. In this way, the renewal of the saints is 
accomplished, and the body of Christ is edified; in this way we grow 
up in all things unto Him who is the Head, and unite with one 
another; in this way we are all brought into the unity of Christ, 
provided prophecy flourishes among us, provided we receive his 
apostles, and despise not the doctrine which is administered to us. 
Whoever, therefore, studies to abolish this order and kind of 
government of which we speak, or disparages it as of minor 
importance, plots the devastation, or rather the ruin and 
destruction, of the Church. For neither are the light and heat of 
the sun, nor meat and drink, so necessary to sustain and cherish the 
present life, as is the apostolical and pastoral office to preserve 
a Church in the earth. 
    3. Accordingly, I have observed above, that God has repeatedly 
commended its dignity by the titles which he has bestowed upon it, 
in order that we might hold it in the highest estimation, as among 
the most excellent of our blessings. He declares, that in raising up 
teachers he confers a special benefit on men, when he bids his 
prophet exclaim, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of 
him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace," (Isa. 3: 7;) 
when he calls the apostles the light of the world and the salt of 
the earth, (Matth. 5: 13, 14.) Nor could the office be more highly 
eulogised than when he said, "He that hearth you hearth me; and he 
that despiseth you despiseth me," (Luke 10: 16.) But the most 
striking passage of all is that in the Second Epistle to the 
Corinthians, where Paul treats as it were professedly of this 
question. He contends, that there is nothing in the Church more 
noble and glorious than the ministry of the Gospel, seeing it is the 
administration of the Spirit of righteousness and eternal life. 
These and similar passages should have the effect of preventing that 
method of governing and maintaining the Church by ministers, a 
method which the Lord has ratified for ever, from seeming worthless 
in our eyes, and at length becoming obsolete by contempt. How very 
necessary it is, he has declared not only by words but also by 
examples. When he was pleased to shed the light of his truth in 
greater effulgence on Cornelius, he sent an angel from heaven to 
dispatch Peter to him, (Acts 10: 3.) When he was pleased to call 
Paul to the knowledge of himself, and ingraft him into the Church, 
he does not address him with his own voice, but sends him to a man 
from whom he may both obtain the doctrine of salvation and the 
sanctification of baptism, (Acts 9: 6-20.) If it was not by mere 
accident that the angel, who is the interpreter of God, abstains 
from declaring the will of God, and orders a man to be called to 
declare it; that Christ, the only Master of believers, commits Paul 
to the teaching of a man, that Paul whom he had determined to carry 
into the third heaven, and honour with a wondrous revelation of 
things that could not be spoken, (2 Cor. 12: 2,) who will presume to 
despise or disregard as superfluous that ministry, whose utility God 
has been pleased to attest by such evidence? 
    4. Those who preside over the government of the Church, 
according to the institution of Christ, are named by Paul, first, 
Apostles; secondly, Prophets; thirdly, Evangelists; fourthly, 
Pastors; and, lastly, Teachers; (Eph. 4: 11.) Of these, only the two 
last have an ordinary office in the Church. The Lord raised up the 
other three at the beginning of his kingdom, and still occasionally 
raises them up when the necessity of the times requires. The nature 
of the apostolic function is clear from the command, "Go ye into all 
the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," (Mark 16: 15.) 
No fixed limits are given them, but the whole world is assigned to 
be reduced under the obedience of Christ, that by spreading the 
Gospel as widely as they could, they might every where erect his 
kingdom. Accordingly, Paul, when he would approve his apostleship, 
does not say that he had acquired some one city for Christ, but had 
propagated the Gospel far and wide - had not built on another man's 
foundation, but planted churches where the name of his Lord was 
unheard. The apostles, therefore, were sent forth to bring back the 
world from its revolt to the true obedience of God, and every where 
stablish his kingdom by the preaching of the Gospel; or, if you 
choose, they were like the first architects of the Church, to lay 
its foundations throughout the world. By Prophets, he means not all 
interpreters of the divine will, but those who excelled by special 
revelation; none such now exist, or they are less manifest. By 
Evangelists, I mean those who, while inferior in rank to the 
apostles, were next them in office, and even acted as their 
substitutes. Such were Luke, Timothy, Titus, and the like; perhaps 
also, the seventy (disciples whom our Saviour appointed in the 
second place to the apostles, (Luke 10: 1.) According to this 
interpretation, which appears to me consonant both to the words and 
the meaning of Paul, those three functions were not instituted in 
the Church to be perpetual, but only to endure so long as churches 
were to be formed where none previously existed, or at least where 
churches were to be transferred from Moses to Christ; although I 
deny not, that afterward God occasionally raised up Apostles, or at 
least Evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time. For 
such were needed to bring back the Church from the revolt of 
Antichrist. The office I nevertheless call extraordinary, because it 
has no place in churches duly constituted. Next come Pastors and 
Teachers, with whom the Church never can dispense, and between whom, 
I think, there is this difference, that teachers preside not over 
discipline, or the administration of the sacraments, or admonitions, 
or exhortations, but the interpretation of Scripture only, in order 
that pure and sound doctrine may be maintained among believers. But 
all these are embraced in the pastoral office. 
    5. We now understand what offices in the government of the 
Church were temporary, and what offices were instituted to be of 
perpetual duration. But if we class evangelists with apostles, we 
shall have two like offices in a manner corresponding to each other. 
For the same resemblance which our teachers have to the ancient 
prophets pastors have to the apostles. The prophetical office was 
more excellent in respect of the special gift of revelation which 
accompanied it, but the office of teachers was almost of the same 
nature, and had altogether the same end. In like manner, the twelve, 
whom the Lord chose to publish the new preaching of the Gospel to 
the world, (Luke 6: 13,) excelled others in rank and dignity. For 
although, from the nature of the case, and etymology of the word, 
all ecclesiastical officers may be properly called apostles, because 
they are all sent by the Lord and are his messengers, yet as it was 
of great importance that a sure attestation should be given to the 
mission of those who delivered a new and extraordinary message, it 
was right that the twelve (to the number of whom Paul was afterwards 
added) should be distinguished from others by a peculiar title. The 
same name, indeed, is given by Paul to Andronicus and Junta, who, he 
says, were "of note among the apostles," (Rom. 16: 7;) but when he 
would speak properly he confines the term to that primary order. And 
this is the common use of Scripture. Still pastors (except that each 
has the government of a particular church assigned to him) have the 
same function as apostles. The nature of this function let us now 
see still more clearly. 
    6. When our Lord sent forth the apostles, he gave them a 
commission (as has been lately said) to preach the Gospel, and 
baptise those who believed for the remission of sins. He had 
previously commanded that they should distribute the sacred symbols 
of his body and blood after his example, (Matth. 28: 19; Luke 22: 
19.) Such is the sacred, inviolable, and perpetual law, enjoined on 
those who succeed to the place of the apostles, - they receive a 
commission to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments. 
Whence we infer that those who neglect both of these falsely pretend 
to the office of apostles. But what shall we say of pastors? Paul 
speaks not of himself only but of all pastors, when he says, "Let a 
man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of 
the mysteries of God," (1 Cor. 4: 1.) Again, in another passage, he 
describes a bishop as one "holding fast the faithful word as he has 
been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort 
and convince the gainsayers," (Tit. 1: 9.) From these and similar 
passages which everywhere occur, we may infer that the two principal 
parts of the office of pastors are to preach the Gospel and 
administer the sacraments. But the method of teaching consists not 
merely in public addresses, it extends also to private admonitions. 
Thus Paul takes the Ephesians to witness, "I kept back nothing that 
was profitable to you, but have showed you, and have taught you 
publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and 
also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord 
Jesus Christ." A little after he says, "Remember, that, for the 
space of three years, I ceased not to warn every one night and day 
with tears," (Acts 20: 20, 31.) Our present purpose, however, is not 
to enumerate the separate qualities of a good pastor, but only to 
indicate what those profess who call themselves pastors, viz., that 
in presiding over the Church they have not an indolent dignity, but 
must train the people to true piety by the doctrine of Christ, 
administer the sacred mysteries, preserve and exercise right 
discipline. To those who are set as watchmen in the Church the Lord 
declares, "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and 
thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from 
his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in 
his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand," (Ezek. 3: 
18.) What Paul says of himself is applicable to all pastors: "For 
though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for 
necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the 
Gospel," (1 Cor. 9: 16.) In short, what the apostles did to the 
whole world, every pastor should do to the flock over which he is 
    7. While we assign a church to each pastor, we deny not that he 
who is fixed to one church may assist other churches, whether any 
disturbance has occurred which requires his presence, or his advice 
is asked on some doubtful matter. But because that policy is 
necessary to maintain the peace of the Church each has his proper 
duty assigned, lest all should become disorderly, run up and down 
without any certain vocation, flock together promiscuously to one 
spot, and capriciously leave the churches vacant, being more 
solicitous for their own convenience than for the edification of the 
Church. This arrangement ought, as far as possible, to be commonly 
observed, that every one, content with his own limits, may not 
encroach on another's province. Nor is this a human invention. It is 
an ordinance of God. For we read that Paul and Barnabas appointed 
presbyters over each of the churches of Lystra, Antioch, and 
Iconium, (Acts 14: 23;) and Paul himself enjoins Titus to ordain 
presbyters in every town, (Tit. 1: 5.) In like manner, he mentions 
the bishops of the Philippians, and Archippus, the bishop of the 
Colossians, (Phil. 1: l; Col. 4: 17.) And in the Acts we have his 
celebrated address to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus, (Acts 
20: 28.) Let every one then, who undertakes the government and care 
of one church, know that he is bound by this law of divine vocation, 
not that he is astricted to the soil, (as lawyers speak,) that is, 
enslaved, and, as it were, fixed, as to be unable to move a foot if 
public utility so require, and the thing is done duly and in order; 
but he who has been called to one place ought not to think of 
removing, nor seek to be set free when he deems it for his own 
advantage. Again, if it is expedient for any one to be transferred 
to another place, he ought not to attempt it of his own private 
motive, but to wait for public authority. 
    8. In giving the name of bishops, presbyters, and pastors, 
indiscriminately to those who govern churches, I have done it on the 
authority of Scripture, which uses the words as synonymous. To all 
who discharge the ministry of the word it gives the name of bishops. 
Thus Paul, after enjoining Titus to ordain elders in every city, 
immediately adds, "A bishop must be blameless," &c., (Tit. 1: 5, 7.) 
So in another place he salutes several bishops in one church, (Phil. 
1: 1.) And in the Acts, the elders of Ephesus, whom he is said to 
have called together, he, in the course of his address, designates 
as bishops, (Acts 20: 17.) Here it is to be observed, that we have 
hitherto enumerated those offices only which consist in the ministry 
of the word; nor does Paul make mention of any others in the passage 
which we have quoted from the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the 
Ephesians. But in the Epistle to the Romans, and the First Epistle 
to the Corinthians he enumerates other offices, as powers, gifts of 
healing, interpretation, government, care of the poor, (Rom. 12: 7; 
1 Cor. 12: 28.) As to those which were temporary, I say nothing, for 
it is not worth while to dwell upon them. But there are two of 
perpetual duration, viz., government and care of the poor. By these 
governors I understand seniors selected from the people to unite 
with the bishops in pronouncing censures and exercising discipline. 
For this is the only meaning which can be given to the passage, "He 
that ruleth, with diligence," (Rom. 12: 8.) From the beginning, 
therefore, each church had its senate, composed of pious, grave, and 
venerable men, in whom was lodged the power of correcting faults. Of 
this power we shall afterwards speak. Moreover, experience shows 
that this arrangement was not confined to one age, and therefore we 
are to regard the office of government as necessary for all ages. 
    9. The care of the poor was committed to deacons, of whom two 
classes are mentioned by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, "He that 
giveth, let him do it with simplicity;" "he that showeth mercy, with 
cheerfulness," (Rom. 12: 8.) As it is certain that he is here 
speaking of public offices of the Church, there must have been two 
distinct classes. If I mistake not, he in the former clause 
designates deacons, who administered alms; in the latter, those who 
had devoted themselves to the care of the poor and the sick. Such 
were the widows of whom he makes mention in the Epistle to Timothy, 
(1 Tim. 5: 10.) For there was no public office which women could 
discharge save that of devoting themselves to the service of the 
poor. If we admit this, (and it certainly ought to be admitted,) 
there will be two classes of deacons, the one serving the Church by 
administering the affairs of the poor; the other, by taking care of 
the poor themselves. For although the term "diakonia" has a more 
extensive meaning, Scripture specially gives the name of deacons to 
those whom the Church appoints to dispense alms, and take care of 
the poor; constituting them as it were stewards of the public 
treasury of the poor. Their origin, institution, and office, is 
described by Luke, (Acts 6: 3.) When a murmuring arose among the 
Greeks, because in the administration of the poor their widows were 
neglected, the apostles, excusing themselves that they were unable 
to discharge both offices, to preach the word and serve tables, 
requested the multitude to elect seven men of good reports to whom 
the office might be committed. Such deacons as the Apostolic Church 
had, it becomes us to have after her example. 
    10. Now seeing that in the sacred assembly all things ought to 
be done decently and in order, (1 Cor. 14: 40,) there is nothing in 
which this ought to be more carefully observed than in settling 
government, irregularity in any respect being nowhere more perilous. 
Wherefore, lest restless and turbulent men should presumptuously 
push themselves forward to teach or rule, (an event which actually 
was to happen,) it was expressly provided that no one should assume 
a public office in the Church without a call, (Heb. 5: 4; Jer. 17: 
16.) Therefore, if any one would be deemed a true minister at the 
Church, he must first be duly called; and, secondly, he must answer 
to his calling; that is, undertake and execute the office assigned 
to him. This may often be observed in Paul, who, when he would 
approve his apostleship, almost always alleges a call, together with 
his fidelity in discharging the office. If so great a minister of 
Christ dares not arrogate to himself authority to be heard in the 
Church, unless as having been appointed to it by the command of his 
Lord, and faithfully performing what has been intrusted to him, how 
great the effrontery for any man, devoid of one or both of them, to 
demand for himself such honour. But as we have already touched on 
the necessity of executing the office, let us now treat only of the 
    11. The subject is comprehended under four heads, viz., who are 
to be appointed ministers, in what way, by whom, and with what rite 
or initiatory ceremony. I am speaking of the external and formal 
call which relates to the public order of the Church, while I say 
nothing of that secret call of which every minister is conscious 
before God, but has not the Church as a witness of it; I mean, the 
good testimony of our heart, that we undertake the offered office 
neither from ambition nor avarice, nor any other selfish feeling, 
but a sincere fear of God and desire to edify the Church. This, as I 
have said, is indeed necessary for every one of us, if we would 
approve our ministry to God. Still, however, a man may have been 
duly called by the Church, though he may have accepted with a bad 
conscience, provided his wickedness is not manifest. It is usual 
also to say, that private men are called to the ministry when they 
seem fit and apt to discharge it; that is, because learning, 
conjoined with piety and the other endowments of a good pastor, is a 
kind of preparation for the office. For those whom the Lord has 
destined for this great office he previously provides with the 
armour which is requisite for the discharge of it, that they may not 
come empty and unprepared. Hence Paul, in the First Epistle to the 
Corinthians, when treating of the offices, first enumerates the 
gifts in which those who performed the offices ought to excel. But 
as this is the first of the four heads which I mentioned, let us now 
proceed to it. 
    12. What persons should be elected bishops is treated at length 
by Paul in two passages, (Tit. 1: 7; 1 Tim. 3: 1.) The substance is, 
that none are to be chosen save those who are of sound doctrine and 
holy lives, and not notorious for any defect which might destroy 
their authority and bring disgrace on the ministry. The description 
of deacons and elders is entirely similar, (see chapter 4 sec. 
10-13.) We must always take care that they are not unfit for or 
unequal to the burden imposed upon them; in other words, that they 
are provided with the means which will be necessary to fulfil their 
office. Thus our Saviour, when about to send his apostles, provided 
them with the arms and instruments which were indispensably 
requisite. And Paul, after portraying the character of a good and 
genuine bishop, admonishes Timothy not to contaminate himself by 
choosing an improper person for the office. The expression, "in what 
way", I use not in reference to the rite of choosing, but only to 
the religious fear which is to be observed in election. Hence the 
fastings and prayers which Luke narrates that the faithful employed 
when they elected presbyters, (Acts 14: 23.) For, understanding that 
the business was the most serious in which they could engage, they 
did not venture to act without the greatest reverence and 
solicitude. But above all, they were earnest in prayer, imploring 
from God the spirit of wisdom and discernment. 
    13. The third division which we have adopted is, by whom 
ministers are to be chosen. A certain rule on this head cannot be 
obtained from the appointment of the apostles, which was somewhat 
different from the common call of others. As theirs was an 
extraordinary ministry, in order to render it conspicuous by some 
more distinguished mark, those who were to discharge it behaved to 
be called and appointed by the mouth of the Lord himself. It was 
not, therefore, by any human election, but at the sole command of 
God and Christ, that they prepared themselves for the work. Hence, 
when the apostles were desirous to substitute another in the place 
of Judah, they did not venture to nominate any one certainly but 
brought forward two, that the Lord might declare by lot which of 
them he wished to succeed, (Acts 1: 23.) In this way we ought to 
understand Paul's declaration, that he was made an apostles "not of 
men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father," (Gal. 
1: 1.) The former viz., "not of men" he had in common with all the 
pious ministers of the word, for no one could duly perform the 
office unless called by God. The other was proper and peculiar to 
him. And while he glories in it, he boasts that he had not only what 
pertains to a true and lawful pastor, but he also brings forward the 
insignia of his apostleship. For when there were some among the 
Galatians who, seeking to disparage his authority, represented him 
as some ordinary disciple, substituted in place of the primary 
apostles, he, in order to maintain unimpaired the dignity of his 
ministry, against which he knew that these attempts were made, felt 
it necessary to show that he was in no respect inferior to the other 
apostles. Accordingly, he affirms that he was not chosen by the 
judgement of men, like some ordinary bishop, but by the mouth and 
manifest oracle of the Lord himself. 
    14. But no sober person will deny that the regular mode of 
lawful calling is, that bishops should be designated by men, since 
there are numerous passages of Scripture to this effect. Nor, as has 
been said, is there any thing contrary to this in Paul's 
protestation, that he was not sent either of man, or by man, seeing 
he is not there speaking of the ordinary election of ministers but 
claiming for himself what was peculiar to the apostles: although the 
Lord in thus selecting Paul by special privilege, subjected him in 
the meantime to the discipline of an ecclesiastical call: for Luke 
relates, "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," (Acts 13: 2.) Why this separation and laying on of 
hands after the Holy Spirit had attested their election, unless that 
ecclesiastical discipline might be preserved in appointing ministers 
by men? God could not give a more illustrious proof of his 
approbation of this order, than by causing Paul to be set apart by 
the Church after he had previously declared that he had appointed 
him to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. The same thing we may see in 
the election of Matthias. As the apostolic office was of such 
importance that they did not venture to appoint any one to it of 
their own judgement, they bring forward two, on one of whom the lot 
might fall, that thus the election might have a sure testimony from 
heavens and, at the same time, the policy of the Church might not be 
    15. The next question is, Whether a minister should be chosen 
by the whole Church, or only by colleagues and elders, who have the 
charge of discipline; or whether they may be appointed by the 
authority of one individual? Those who attribute this right to one 
individual quote the words of Paul to Titus, "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," (Tit. 1: 5;) and also to 
Timothy, "Lay hands suddenly on no man," (1 Tim. 5: 22.) But they 
are mistaken if they suppose that Timothy so reigned at Ephesus, and 
Titus in Crete, as to dispose of all things at their own pleasure. 
They only presided by previously giving good and salutary counsels 
to the people, not by doing alone whatever pleased them, while all 
others were excluded. Lest this should seem to be a fiction of mine, 
I will make it plain by a similar example. Luke relates that 
Barnabas and Paul ordained elders throughout the churches, but he at 
the same time marks the plan or mode when he says that it was done 
by suffrage. The words are, "Cheirotonesantes presbuterous kat' 
ekklesian", (Acts 14: 23.) They therefore selected (creabant) two; 
but the whole body as was the custom of the Greeks in elections, 
declared by a show of hands which of the two they wished to have. 
Thus it is not uncommon for Roman historians to say, that the consul 
who held the comitia elected the new magistrates for no other reason 
but because he received the suffrages, and presided over the people 
at the election. Certainly it is not credible that Paul conceded 
more to Timothy and Titus than he assumed to himself. Now we see 
that his custom was to appoint bishops by the suffrages of the 
people. We must therefore interpret the above passages, so as not to 
infringe on the common right and liberty of the Church. Rightly, 
therefore, does Cyprian contend for it as of divine authority, that 
the priest be chosen in presence of the people, before the eyes of 
all, and be approved as worthy and fit by public judgement and 
testimony, (Cyprian, lib. 1 Ep. 3.) Indeed, we see that by the 
command of the Lord, the practice in electing the Levitical priests 
was to bring them forward in view of the people before consecration. 
Nor is Matthias enrolled among the number of the apostles nor are 
the seven deacons elected in any other way, than at the sight and 
approval of the people, (Acts 6: 2.) "Those examples," says Cyprian, 
"show that the ordination of a priest behaved not to take place, 
unless under the consciousness of the people assisting, so that that 
ordination was just and legitimate which was vouched by the 
testimony of all." We see then, that ministers are legitimately 
called according to the word of God, when those who may have seemed 
fit are elected on the consent and approbation of the people. Other 
pastors, however, ought to preside over the election, lest any error 
should be committed by the general body either through levity, or 
bad passion, or tumult. 
    16. It remains to consider the form of ordination, to which we 
have assigned the last place in the call, (see chap. 4, sec. 14, 
15.) It is certain, that when the apostles appointed any one to the 
ministry, they used no other ceremony than the laying on of hands. 
This form was derived, I think, from the custom of the Jews, who, by 
the laying on of hands, in a manner presented to God whatever they 
wished to be blessed and consecrated. Thus Jacob, when about to 
bless Ephraim and Manasseh, placed his hands upon their heads, (Gen. 
48: 14.) The same thing was done by our Lord, when he prayed over 
the little children, (Matth. 14: 15.) With the same intent, (as I 
imagine,) the Jews, according to the injunction of the law, laid 
hands upon their sacrifices. Wherefore, the apostles, by the laying 
on of hands, intimated that they made an offering to God of him whom 
they admitted to the ministry, though they also did the same thing 
over those on whom they conferred the visible gifts of the Spirit, 
(Acts 8: 17; 19: 6.) However this be, it was the regular form, 
whenever they called any one to the sacred ministry. In this way 
they consecrated pastors and teachers, in this way they consecrated 
deacons. But though there is no fixed precept concerning the laying 
on of hands, yet as we see that it was uniformly observed by the 
apostles, this careful observance ought to be regarded by us in the 
light of a precept, (see chap. 14, sec. 29; chap. 19, sec. 31.) And 
it is certainly useful, that by such a symbol the dignity of the 
ministry should be commended to the people, and he who is ordained, 
reminded that he is no longer his own, but is bound in service to 
God and the Church. Besides, it will not prove an empty sign, if it 
be restored to its genuine origin. For if the Spirit of God has not 
instituted any thing in the Church in vain, this ceremony of his 
appointment we shall feel not to be useless, provided it be not 
superstitiously abused. Lastly, it is to be observed, that it was 
not the whole people, but only pastors, who laid hands on ministers, 
though it is uncertain whether or not several always laid their 
hands: it is certain, that in the case of the deacons, it was done 
by Paul and Barnabas, and some few others, (Acts 6: 6; 13: 3.) But 
in another place, Paul mentions that he himself, without any others, 
laid hands on Timothy. "Wherefore, I put thee in remembrance, that 
thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of 
my hands," (2 Tim. 1: 6.) For what is said in the First Epistle, of 
the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, I do not understand as 
if Paul were speaking of the college of Elders. By the expression, I 
understand the ordination itself; as if he had said, Act so, that 
the gift which you received by the laying on of hands, when I made 
you a presbyter, may not be in vain.

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 4
(continued in part 5...)

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