Charles Hodge on the Teaching Office of the Church
Charles Hodge’s (1797-1878) writing on the teaching office of the Church argues that the primary mission of the Church is to make disciples of Christ through teaching.
The biblical basis for his argument is Matthew 28:19-20…
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.Matthew 28:19-20 (KJV)
The question Hodge asks is, “How is the duty prescribed in this commission to be performed? Or how is the end here set before the Church to be accomplished?
And his answer is: by teaching. He writes that, “If the nations are to be made the disciples of Christ, they must know his doctrines and obey his commands.”“Charles Hodge’s writing on the teaching office of the Church argues that the primary mission of the Church is to make disciples of Christ through teaching.”
The means by which the Church accomplishes its mission is through the teaching ministry. For one to be a Christian, one must know the plan of salvation, the person and work of Jesus Christ, the nature and office of the Holy Spirit, and the law of God.
As Hodge claims, “we undertake to change the opinions and convictions of all the inhabitants of the world on the whole department of religious and moral truth, the widest domain of human knowledge. This is the work which Christ has assigned to his Church.”
In other words, the Church must teach the whole Scripture, the whole history of Redemption, from Genesis to Revelation, and it requires a regular process of education.
Hodge rightly argues that the Church, since its beginning, must be an educational institute, because “this is and ever has been her distinctive character.”
Hodge then shows the contrast between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church.
The Roman Catholic Church is a ritual Church and its minister is a priest, while the Protestant Church is a teaching Church and its minister is a teacher who minister in word and doctrine.
In other words, we are to make disciples of all nations by teaching the words of Jesus.“Hodge rightly argues that the Church, since its beginning, must be an educational institute, because “this is and ever has been her distinctive character.”
According to Hodge, “It is a very humble and self-denying work thus to teach the first principles of the oracles of God; it is a very slow process; there is no éclat about it; it is very trying to the faith of the missionaries and to the patience of the churches. But it is God’s appointment.”
This is the biblical method of making disciples and converting the world. This is the vocation of the Church.
Hodge finishes his argument by asking, “What is meant by teaching? What is this educational process which is so necessary to the propagation of the gospel?”
His answer is short and clear, “it is that process by which men are brought really to know what the Bible reveals. The end to be attained is the actual communication of this divine knowledge.”
However, the methods of instructions can vary. It can be through preaching in the pulpit, it can be through lectures in a classroom, or as many missionaries do, in people’s homes.“The Church is an educational institute called to teach all the counsel of God found in all Holy Scripture to all the nations.”
Hodge writes, “Let it, however, be distinctly understood that we advocate no exclusive method of instruction. The business of the Church is to teach, and to teach in all the ways by which the truth of God can be conveyed to the understanding; but that work must be accomplished.”
Therefore, the Church is an educational institute called to teach all the counsel of God found in all Holy Scripture to all the nations.
The content of the Church’s teaching is the written revelation of God found in the Bible.
When we do that, the Holy Spirit acts and gives our teaching effect.
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Sunday: Going to Church Near Berchtesgaden, 1823, by Ferdinand Olivier, German, 1785-1841. Clarence Buckingham Collection. The Art Institute of Chicago. 1996.341.2.