Interpreting the PMW: The Wider Sense

To what does the wider sense of “The Public Ministry of the Word” refer in the newest ELS doctrinal statement? In answer to that question, here is the fourth point from the summary of my explanation of that document. Again, comments are welcome.

The wider sense refers to the Church’s God-given freedom to establish other offices that carry some of the responsibilities which belong both to the Church as a whole and to the pastoral office. It may be considered “divinely instituted” insofar as we recognize that God wishes these duties to be performed. This is not the same kind of divine institution as we find in the narrow sense.

In the previous point about the narrow sense, the concept of divine institution was bound to a command and promise of God. Regarding the narrow sense, we can point to specific texts where Jesus said these things in relation to the pastoral office. (For a description of the term “pastoral office,” see that post.)

In this case, however, the concept of divine institution is different. Regarding the wider sense, the Church’s freedom to establish these offices reflects the will of God, generally presented in the Bible, that certain public duties should be carried out. Now, these duties are included by definition in the pastoral office. However, the wider sense recognizes that some of these public duties may also be carried out by other churchly offices.

The question naturally arises: What other churchly offices? Answer: the ones that the Church creates in her freedom. It should be obvious that such offices can’t be considered divinely instituted in themselves, as the pastoral office is divinely instituted. After all, they do not proceed directly from particular commands and promises of God the way the pastoral office does. However, we can recognize the Church’s God-given responsibility to see that these public duties are performed, and in that unique sense, the Church’s freedom to establish other churchly offices is divinely instituted.

That’s what the PMW refers to as the wider sense.

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