Tuesday, February 17, 2009

February 17- Discipling

Picture of Theodore Beza- Calvin's successor in Geneva

“Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites.” (Ex. 17:9)
“Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up.” (Ex. 24:13)
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aid Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” (Ex. 33:11)
“Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses.” (Numbers 27:22,23)

Calvin: “When it is said that Joshua departed not from the tabernacle, we gather that the dwelling-place of Moses was in the camp; and perhaps the fact of his being a young man is mentioned, f366 in order more highly to illustrate God’s grace, in choosing that he should have the charge of the
sanctuary. It is true that Joshua at this time was of mature age; but God’s special blessing was manifested in him, in that God passed over many old men, and set him who was younger to be the keeper of His tabernacle.”
“By the word glory, not only external splendor, but rather spiritual honor is signified, whereby God
commands reverence towards His servants; not that he was stripped of his own virtues by transferring them to Joshua, but because, without diminution of his own gifts, he made the person who was about to be his successor his associate in their possession. It was fitting that this should be done before all the people, that all might willingly receive him as presented to them by God.
The charge given to him partly tended to confirm the authority of Joshua, and partly to bind him more solemnly to discharge his duties; for, inasmuch as Moses commanded him what he was to do in the name of God, he exempted himself from all suspicion of temerity; and, on the other hand, by the introduction of this duly authorized engagement, Joshua must have been more and more encouraged to faith and diligence.” (Commentary on Numbers 27 Harmony of the Law)

Disciple making is an important process. It is passing the faith on to the next generation. It is NOT the same as education- or even Christian education, though it could be thought of as a kind of Christian education. It is different in that education is teaching material and technique. Disciple-making is going further – letting someone see not just your teaching but your life.
In his commentary Calvin notes that the passing of authority from Moses to Joshua was so very important. Calvin noted that Joshua was young when he was being groomed as a successor. He saw the passing on of his gifts as something to be noted by the people. Calvin was not so concerned with passing things on by ordination and the laying on of hands as much as God’s Spirit passing on our abilities, and calling us to do our duty.
Calvin wrote much against the idea of apostolic succession- that is the idea that it was so important to be able to trace the laying on of hands all the way back to Peter and Jesus. The Roman Catholics were using this as a weapon to say non-Roman ministers were not real and had no authority. Calvin points out the Romans do not recognize the apostolic succession of the Greek Orthodox church (IV.2.2). Calvin said it is not by the outward rites or appearances (like laying on of hands) that the church exists. He quotes Jeremiah’s retort that the people were relying on “the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” on the outside instead of relying on God inside. Calvin says Ishmael was the firstborn and was circumcised but was rejected. It is not the outward rite and who gives it that is important as much as that the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in the succession itself.
Calvin was conscious of passing on his faith. He started the “company of pastors” in Geneva, and they became in effect, his disciples. He passed the torch in Geneva on to Beza whose first act was to write a biography of Calvin so that his teachings would not be lost, but upheld. Beza was, like Calvin, a scholar and it is clear he came back to Geneva toward the end of Calvin’s life to receive the mantle of Calvin’s leadership.
When I began my ministry, I wanted to make sure I passed what I knew on to others. I have not done such a good job. Perhaps it is because I am no Calvin. Yet, I know I have reproduced faith in some- most clearly in my daughters, and the church has grown not diminished under my watch. If God has taught us anything about Himself and life by the power of the Holy Spirit, I hope we can make sure to pass that on somehow to the next generation.
There is a lady speaking at our church in a couple of weeks about passing on your memories to the next generation. She helps people with genealogies, albums, scrapbooks. Yet while these things are important, they are not enough. The main thing to pass on is not found in such things- it is found in our souls. It is our faith.

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