THE WORD IS
John. 10:27 "My sheep hear my voice."
Speaking to those who believe in Jesus Christ, the Apostle Peter says: "You are a royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:9). Who then are priests? we ask. The answer is a bit surprising. According to the New Testament all those who in their hearts believe that their sins are forgiven for Jesus' sake are priests. On the basis of the priesthood of all believers, a believer has the right to confess his faith individually. But his rights do not end there. As a member of a local Christian congregation he has the right, together with other believers, to call a pastor for the congregation, who in the name of the congregation serves in the office of the public Ministry. Even after the call, a believer on the basis of the priesthood of all believers has the right to see to it that the pastor does his work according to God's Word.
The pastor is a servant, the servant of Christ as well as of the congregation. The pastor is responsible for the souls that have been committed to his care. The Bible, addressing pastors, says: "Shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness, not yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory" (1 Pet. 5:2-4).
In our day there is much confusion concerning these matters. There are many different kinds of opinions. Some believe that on the basis of the priesthood of all believers, they have the right, even without a call from a congregation, to preach publicly and to administer the Sacraments (cf. Heb. 5:4). The Lutheran Confessions says: "No one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regurlarly called." Some pastors forget that they are to be priests, or in other words believers, that they are to continue in the true doctrine and to refute false doctrine, and that that they will have to give an account of every soul entrusted to their care.
Someone once asked me how I take care of a congregation. When I talked to her about preaching, administering the Sacraments and performing other pastoral duties, she did not seem to be at all satisfied with my answer. It became apparent that what she wanted to hear about was the keeping of church records and the giving out of certificates.
A great percentage of the people of our nation have an official pastor. But how many of them would agree that their pastor is responsible for the care of their soul and that he risks losing his own salvation if he is unfaithful in this task. Would not many be offended upon hearing this and be of the opinion that a pastor fulfilling such a responsibility would be meddling in their private affairs. Most assuredly this would be the case. The office of the ministry has been weakened and secularized. It has not always been like this, nor is it like this everywhere even today. Nevertheless, the situation today is much the same as it was in the time of Christ. It is said of Jesus, that "seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest'" (Matt. 9:36?38).