Early Christian Quotes on Ministry
Didache (1st Century) 11:4-6:
Welcome every apostle on arriving, as if he were the Lord. But he must not stay beyond one day. In case of necessity, however, the next day too. If he stays three days, he is a false prophet. On departing, an apostle must not accept anything save sufficient food to carry him till his next lodging. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.
Didache (1st Century) 11:12:
But if someone says in the Spirit, "Give me money, or something else," you must not heed him. However, if he tells you to give for others in need, no one must condemn him.
Didache (1st Century) 13:1-7:
Every genuine prophet who wants to settle with you "has a right to his support." Similarly, a genuine teacher himself, just like a "workman, has a right to his support." Hence take all the first fruits of vintage and harvest, and of cattle and sheep, and give these first fruits to the prophets. For they are your high priests. If, however, you have no prophet, give them to the poor. If you make bread, take the first fruits and give in accordance with the precept. Similarly, when you open a jar of wine or oil, take the first fruits and give them to the prophets. Indeed, of money, clothes, and of all your possessions, take such first fruits as you think right, and give in accordance with the precept.
Didache (1st Century) 15:1-2:
You must, then, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons who are a credit to the Lord, men who are gentle, generous, faithful, and well tried. For their ministry to you is identical with that of the prophets and teachers. You must not, therefore, despise them, for along with the prophets and teachers they enjoy a place of honor among you.
Epistle of Barnabas (1st Century) Chapter 19:
Thou shalt love, as the apple of thine eye, every one that speaketh to thee the word of the Lord.
The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Vision 3, Chapter 9:
Wherefore I now say to you who preside over the Church and love the first seats, “Be not like to drug-mixers. For the drug-mixers carry their drugs in boxes, but ye carry your drug and poison in your heart. Ye are hardened, and do not wish to cleanse your hearts, and to add unity of aim to purity of heart, that you may have mercy from the great King. Take heed, therefore, children, that these dissensions of yours do not deprive you of your life.
Odes of Solomon (1st or 2nd Century) 6:
As the wind glides through the harp and the strings speak,
So the Spirit of the Lord speaks through my members, and I speak through His love.
For He destroys whatever is alien, and everything is of the Lord.
For thus it was from the beginning, and will be until the end.
So that nothing shall be contrary, and nothing shall rise up against Him.
The Lord has multiplied his knowledge, and He was zealous that those things should be known which through His grace have been given to us.
And His praise He gave us on account of His name, our spirits praise His Holy Spirit.
For there went forth a stream, and it became a river great and broad; indeed it carried away everything, and it shattered and brought it to the Temple.
And the barriers which were built by men were not able to restrain it, nor even the arts of them who habitually restrain water.
For it spread over the surface of all the earth, and it filled everything.
Then all the thirsty upon the earth drank, and thirst was relieved and quenched;
For from the Most High the drink was given.
Blessed, therefore, are the ministers of that drink, who have been entrusted with His water.
They have refreshed the parched lips, and have aroused the paralyzed will.
Even living persons who were about to expire, they have held back from death.
And limbs which have collapsed, they have restored and set up.
They gave strength for their coming, and light for their eyes.
Because everyone recognized them as the Lord's, and lived by the living water of eternity. Hallelujah.
Ignatius’ Letter to Polycarp (Late 1st or Early 2nd Century) 4:1:
Let nothing be done without thy consent; neither do thou anything without the consentof God
Ignatius’ Letter to the Smyrneans (Late 1st or Early 2nd Century) Chapter 8:
See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is[administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude[of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.
Ignatius’ Letter to the Smyrneans (Late 1st or Early 2nd Century) Chapter 9:
Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness[of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does[in reality] serve the devil. Let all things, then, abound to you through grace, for ye are worthy. Ye have refreshed me in all things, and Jesus Christ[shall refresh] you. Ye have loved me when absent as well as when present. May God recompense you, for whose sake, while ye endure all things, ye shall attain unto Him.
Ignatius’ Letter to the Trallians (Late 1st or Early 2nd Century) Chapters 2-3, 7:
It is therefore necessary that, as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire.
In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrin of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church…
…he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience.
Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians (Late 1st or Early 2nd Century) Chapter 3:
Now it becomes you also not to treat your bishop too familiarly on account of his youth, but to yield him all reverence,
Ignatius’ Letter to the Magnesians (Late 1st or Early 2nd Century) Chapter 7:
As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and presbyters. Neither endeavour that anything appear reasonable and proper to yourselves apart; but being come together into the same place, let there be one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope, in love and in joy undefiled.
Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians (Late 1st or Early 2nd Century) Chapter 6:
Now the more any one sees the bishop keeping silence, the more ought he to revere him. For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself.
Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians (Early 2nd Century) Chapter 11:
I am greatly grieved for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you, because he so little understands the place that was given him [in the Church]. I exhort you, therefore, that ye abstain from covetousness, and that ye be chaste and truthful. "Abstain from every form of evil." For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others ? … I am deeply grieved, therefore, brethren, for him (Valens) and his wife; to whom may the Lord grant true repentance! And be ye then moderate in regard to this matter, and "do not count such as enemies," but call them back as suffering and straying members, that ye may save your whole body. For by so acting ye shall edify yourselves.
Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles (Late 2nd Century to Early 3rd Century):
[Jesus speaking] “Heal the bodies first, therefore, so that through the real powers of healing for their bodies, without medicine of the world, they may believe in you, that you have power to heal the illnesses of the heart also.”
Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book 4 (Late 2nd Century), Chapter 26, Paragraphs 2-3:
…it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church,-those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake of lucre and vainglory…
Those, however, who are believed to be presbyters by many, but serve their own lusts, and, do not place the fear of God supreme in their hearts, but conduct themselves with contempt towards others, and are puffed up with the pride of holding the chief seat, and work evil deeds in secret, saying, "No man sees us," shall be convicted by the Word, who does not judge after outward appearance (secundum gloriam), nor looks upon the countenance, but the heart; and they shall hear those words, to be found in Daniel the prophet: "O thou seed of Canaan, and not of Judah, beauty hath deceived thee, and lust perverted thy heart. Thou that art waxen old in wicked days, now thy sins which thou hast committed aforetime are come to light; for thou hast pronounced false judgments, and hast been accustomed to condemn the innocent, and to let the guilty go free, albeit the Lord saith, The innocent and the righteous shalt thou not slay." Of whom also did the Lord say: "But if the evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite the man-servants and maidens, and to eat and drink and be drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day that he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers."
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Find more of what the early Christians thought on my Christian History page!