5 reasons you are congregational in government and not a Presbyterian

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Christopher88, Aug 4, 2013.

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  1. Christopher88

    Christopher88 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Reformed Baptist;
    List five reasons with scripture as to why you are congregational in government and not Presbyterian..

    Doing some research....

    If Presbyterians want to add there five reasons as to why they are Presbyterian I would like to hear it as well..

  2. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    I apologize that I cannot give you any reasons, because we are not congregational in government. We are elder ruled and elder led, with a plurality of elders. I am sure that perhaps there are other Reformed Baptists who are the same, although I recognize that there are many who are indeed congregational.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Piper’s Reasons for Elder-led, Congregationalism Polity in the local church | Jesus Christ is Better than All

    My bold-facing
  4. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Reason for Presbyterianism according to the Westminster Assembly of Divines

    More than five reasons perhaps for Presbyterianism. I am currently working on a new edition of the debate papers between the Congregationalists (aka the Independents) and Presbyterians at the Westminster Assembly (known as the Grand Debate). Below are the Presbyterian majority's propositions which were at the heart of the debates. The attached PDF has some source material in the margins. I hope to publish early at least sometime next year, D.V. View attachment GrandDebateProps.pdf
    The Third Proposition Concerning Presbyterial Government, as it was voted in the Assembly and sent up to both the Honourable Houses of Parliament

    The Scripture does hold forth that many particular congregations may be under one Presbyterial government.
    This Proposition is proved by instances.

    1. Instance, of the church of Jerusalem, which consisted of more congregations than one, and all those congregations were under one Presbyterial government.
    This appears, thus,

    i. The church of Jerusalem consisted of more congregations than one, as is manifest.

    1. By the multitude of believers, mentioned in divers texts collated:

    Both before the dispersion of the believers there, by means of the persecution (mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 8, in the beginning thereof). Witness Acts 1:11, and Acts 2:41, 46, 47, and Acts 4:4, and Acts 5:14 and Acts 6:1, 7. And also after the dispersion, Acts 9:31 and Acts 12:24, and Acts 21:20.

    2. By the many apostles and other preachers in the church of Jerusalem. If there were but one congregation there, then each apostle preached but seldom, which will not consist with Acts 6:2.

    3. The diversity of languages among the believers, mentioned both in the second and sixth chapters of the Acts, does argue more congregations than one in the church.

    ii. All those congregations were under one presbyterial government, because,

    1. They were one church, Acts 8:1 and Acts 2:47, compared with Acts 5:11, Acts 12:5 and Acts 15:4.

    2. The elders of that church are mentioned Acts 11:30 and Acts 15:4, 6, 22 and Acts 21:17, 18.

    3. The apostles did the ordinary acts of presbyters as presbyters in that church; which proves a presbyterial church before the dispersion, Acts 6.

    4. The several congregations in Jerusalem being one church, the elders of the church are mentioned, as meeting together for acts of government (Acts 11:30 and Acts 15:4, 6, 22 and Acts 21:17, 18, and so forwards); which proves that these several congregations were under one presbyterial government.

    And whether these congregations were fixed or not fixed, in regard of officers or members, it is all one as to the truth of the proposition.

    Nor does there appear any material difference between the several congregations in Jerusalem, and the many congregations now in the ordinary condition of the church, as to the point of fixedness in regard of officers or members.

    Therefore the Scripture does hold forth, that many congregations may be under on presbyterial government.

    II. Instance of the church of Ephesus; for,

    i. That there were more congregations than one in the church of Ephesus, appears by Acts 20:31, where is mention of Paul’s continuance at Ephesus, in preaching for the space of three years; and Acts 19:18, 19, 20 where the special effect of the Word is mentioned, and verses 10 and 17 of the same chapter, where is a distinction of Jews and Greeks, and 1 Corinthians. 16:8, 9 where is a reason of Paul’s stay at Ephesus until Pentecost, and verse 19 where is mention of a particular church, in the house of Aquila and Pricilla then at Ephesus, as appears, chapter 18, verses 19, 24, 26, all which laid together do prove that the multitudes of believers did make more congregations than one in the church of Ephesus.

    ii. That there were many elders over these many congregations as one flock, appears, Acts 20: 17, 25, 28, 30, 36.

    iii. That those many congregations were one church, and that they were under one presbyterial government, appears, Revelation 2:1–6 joined with Acts 20: 17, 28.

    Concordat Cum originali.
    Adoniram Byfield, Scriba
    The Propositions concerning the Subordination of Assemblies as they were voted in the Assembly of Divines.

    1. Synodical assemblies may lawfully be of several sorts, as provincial, national, and ecumenical.

    2. It is lawful and agreeable to the Word of God that there be a subordination of congregational, classical, provincial and national assemblies for the government of the Church.

    {Proof of it,

    Matthew chapter 18 holding forth the subordination of an offending brother to a particular church, it does also by a parity of reason hold forth the subordination of a congregation to superior assemblies.

    3. In the several sorts of assemblies of the government of the Church, it is lawful and agreeable to the Word of God that appeals may be from the inferior to the superior respectively.

    The proof brought for the subordination of Assemblies, proves the lawfulness of appeals from the inferior to the superior.

    It is agreeable to the light of nature, that he who is wronged and deprived of his right by one power, should have recourse to another power, which may restore unto him his right again, and rescind the sentence whereby he was wronged; else there would be no powerful remedy provided to remove wrong and to preserve right.}

    *The text in braces does not appear in the draft Directory of December 11, 1644, and the three points without proofs are condensed to one with an additional paragraph added, in the final version of the Directory (see Minutes, 5.212).

    The Proposition concerning Ordination, as it was voted in the Assembly of Divines.

    It is very requisite that no single congregation that can conveniently associate, do assume to itself all and sole power in ordination.

    1. Because there is no example in Scripture that any single congregation which might conveniently associate, did assume to itself all and sole power in ordination; neither is there any rule which may warrant such a practice.

    2. Because there is in Scripture, example of an ordination in a presbytery over divers congregations; as in the Church of Jerusalem, where were many congregations; these many congregations were under one presbytery, and this presbytery did ordain.
    Concordat Cum originali.
    Adoniram Byfield, Scriba
  5. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

  6. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate


    Congregationalism has nothing to do with whether or not you are elder led, it has to do with whether or not there is any ecclesiastical authority that exists beyond the church level. If you are Baptist as you indicate, I can assure you that your church is congregationally governed.
  7. sevenzedek

    sevenzedek Puritan Board Junior

    I never heard of a Baptist session. I haven't heard of a Baptist presbytery. A Baptist G.A.? Never heard of that either. That would be Baptyterianism.
  8. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Presbyterians believe (1) Jesus Christ is the only head of the church (against Popery); (2) He has appointed a church government distinct from the civil magistrate (against Erastianism); (3) the power of governing flows from Jesus Christ equally and in parity to the whole ecclesiastical order of government called bishops/elders (against episcopacy); (4.) this power vests the presbyterate with a subordinate authority for governing and ordering the church of Jesus Christ according to His will (against congregationalism); and (5) this radical power is distributed and exercised in such a way so as not to divide the one body of Christ (against Independency). Obviously there are divisions among Presbyterians, but these are the result of different views of faith and life which make it either impractical or impossible to be wholly united, not the result of a radical theory of separation which seeks independence for its own sake.
  9. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    I apologize, I was thinking of something else other than the correct definition of congregationalism. I was rather thinking about how each individual church manages its affairs (some churches have it that all members vote on everything, and the elders are only there as a guide or moderator). You are right then, that based on a proper definition of congregationalism, my church is indeed that.
  10. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Do you mean because of theological liberalism, apostasy?
  11. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I just added this to my Great Quotes file.
  12. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I just wanted to make sure there wasn't a new form of Baptist church government that I was unaware of. Even though your church is still technically congregationally governed, it does make a huge difference that you have a plurality of elders as opposed to just a pastor. Many Baptist churches employ the "CEO" model, where the pastor is completely in charge and the only authority the deacons have would be to remove the pastor from his position, but that would only happen in the event of a serious offense. Even worse is the committee led model, where the church has 15 different committees. each with a chairman, running every minute detail of the church and no one is really in charge. The Elder led model is by far the best in that the pastor is not alone in leading the church and is not free to make wacky decisions completely free of challenge, but at the same time authority is kept within a small, distinct group so that there is no question who makes the decisions.
  13. Christopher88

    Christopher88 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks for all the answers; very helpful indeed. I have no comment as I am still in the learning of polity.
  14. R Harris

    R Harris Puritan Board Sophomore

    In Scott's long post above, sections 1(E) and 2(A) provide what I believe to be the strongest evidences for presbyterian government.

    No where in the NT is schism or division approved of, especially with regard to doctrine. So, what happens when a church body, not just an individual believer, starts teaching strange and false doctrine?

    Now apply this to the straightforward teaching of Acts 16:4, where Silas and Paul delivered the decrees of the Jerusalem Council (i.e., a Synod) to ALL the churches for THEM TO OBSERVE.

    What if one of the churches rejected the decree? What if Corinth had said, "well, that's fine what the Council decreed, but we are going to still have circumcision be a requirement for belief and inclusion into the church, because we are independent and will do what we want to do."

    How do you think Paul and Silas would have responded to such a statement? The answer is obvious.

    I believe at least a regional synod is required, a national general synod could be debatable, but again, if the regional presbytery cannot settle the dispute, the larger national body would be needed.

    If the party ruled against by the regional or national body left or split off because they did not like the decision and could not clearly prove scripturally their position, the NT would regard this as sinful schism and division.
  15. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    Just a question on this topic. How is it that Paul began traveling and teaching without approval from what is considered by Presbyterians to be the Presbytery or Synod? (See Galatians 1-2)
  16. reformedminister

    reformedminister Puritan Board Sophomore

    Actually, in true historic congregationalism, the local church was lead by a plurality of elders.
  17. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I would agree with Joshua that there is absolutely nothing about the experience of Paul that can be taken as normative. I also agree that it can be clearly shown in Scripture that there is some level of authority beyond the local church. The question that I would have as a Baptist is whether or not it can be shown that the decisions and recommendations of the apostles and others, i.e. the Jerusalem Council, were binding as they would typically be in a Presbyterian system, or were they simply non-binding recommendations, similar to the ones passed yearly by the SBC.
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Or EP vs. non-EP
  19. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That is one reason, and obviously calls for radical separation. There are lesser forms of separation based on lesser differences.
  20. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    It is not five, but seven; and it has nothing to do with me. But here are seven points that seem to have a reasonable claim to be rather basic principles in the Congregational theory of church government. From "The Institution of Churches, and the Order Appointed in Them by Jesus Christ" attached to the Savoy Declaration:

  21. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Would, for example the two v. three office view difference between OPC and PCA be an example of what you are thinking of here, or would that really be an inconsequential one that ought not be?
  22. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Good point. And while there is a credible basis for ordering some different forms of church government, Acts 17 is strong support for a Presbyterian form, both explicitly and implicitly the way the spiritual court were shown to operate in the apostolic era.
  23. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That was extraordinary and immediate (being apostolic and out of time); but even in this peculiar case there was due submission to the regular order, as Galatians 2 indicates. Verse 2, "And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain." Verse 9, "And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision."
  24. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That should probably be inconsequential, but I suppose it has the capacity to become consequential in the case of ruling elders overstepping their limits or hindering ministers from fulfilling what is their distinctive calling. It is probably worth pointing out that the way people choose to handle such differences are the cause of division. Other differences are genuine causes of division, i.e., adherence to the Confession of Faith or to the purity of worship practised by the church or to some disciplinary case.
  25. Rev. Todd Ruddell

    Rev. Todd Ruddell Puritan Board Junior

    In the case of the Apostle Paul, there was an extraordinary call, a recognition and also the sending (or mission) by a Presbytery. See Acts 13.1ff, and then at the end of that first missionary journey, when he returns to Antioch to report on what he had accomplish by the grace of God. I would call his sending by the Presbytery of Antioch normative. The multiplicity of teaching elders points to the existence of a Presbytery. These prophets and teachers went to Antioch upon the persecution of Acts 7. Note also that after the Jerusalem Synod the Apostle is again "recommended to the grace of God by the brethren". (Acts 15.40-41) It was during this tour that they carried the authoritative decree from the Jerusalem Synod, comforting the brethren in the Asian churches. And, at the end of this tour, like the first, Paul was careful to return to Antioch. (Acts 18.22-23) These actions point to an extraordinary, Apostolic set of actions, and an ordinary set of actions. Paul was called in an extraordinary manner by Christ, but he was sent and recommended to the grace of God by the Presbytery in an ordinary, or normative manner.
  26. John Lanier

    John Lanier Puritan Board Junior

    I kind of figured that was the case. Thank you all.
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