Ruling Elders and the Sacraments

Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by G, Jul 18, 2018.

  1. Yes

    8 vote(s)
  2. No

    11 vote(s)
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  1. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

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  2. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    So for Practical purposes it is being said that Preaching a sermon (from a minister of the word) and exhorting a sermon (from a RE for example) may not sound that different from a Pulpit to our ears, but the difference is "WHO" is performing the sermon.
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  3. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    So what is the final simple answer to the original post? Thanks
  4. G

    G Puritan Board Junior my opinion The BCOs are correct and best practice. I think my mind has been changed. I would consider myself to have the 2-office view (described in the below linked article), which happens to line up with the PCA.

    This link helped me:
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  5. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    I'm glad to see you have found a good conclusion. So what would the answer be for why RE can preach but not administer the sacraments? Thanks
  6. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Due to my new stance... I may not be the best to answer.....
    but I will try:
    sense sacrament and word go hand in hand. The sacraments are best administered by the Elder given the specific order of “the minister of the word” (aka TE). Since TEs are generally required to be more fully devoted (vocation), well versed (training and evaluation), and focused (primarily teaching the word to the congregation regularly) on the ministry of the word, then they should be the ones to do the sacraments. The article gives some scripture proofs showing the general distinctions between TE and RE.

    I think the BCOs try to set forward the most sure and proper guidances in church government based on the Biblical principles (after all the Bible was not specifically written to detail every aspect and scenario of church government). Some have more abundant scriptural support than others. In other words, deducing some guidances off of good and necessary consequence in a cautionary manner (after all these are the sacraments we are dealing with) .
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  7. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    We take the Supper every Lord's Day. A few weeks ago our RE preached in the evening. If he preached the Word, why shouldn't he have administered the Supper attended with the Word as well?

    Would the church say biblically that's okay, but governmentally they just want to make orderly distinctions (tradition)?
  8. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    Really? God has not told us how he orders his church? Why not 'Ole faithful Ethel "preach" the word?
  9. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    I'm sure I missed something, but where would be the best place in the Bible to see ruling elders being excluded from administering the sacraments? Thanks!
  10. Gforce9

    Gforce9 Puritan Board Junior

    Where is Ole faithful Elthel prohibited in the bible? Rev. Buchanan made a compelling case earlier today that elders are laity. Why not Ethel?
  11. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    Coming into this late, but a few observations:

    1. I'll limit my comments to the PCA and OPC, though there are differences additionally with Presbyterians in the Covenanter/Seceder lines (and the Reformed lines from the Continent).

    2. The OPC sees licensure entirely as part of the process of becoming a minister. The historic term for one licensed is a probationer. He has been licensed by the Presbytery to preach the gospel (yes, a licentiate preaches, not simply exhorts) and is on trial to be a minister. Once called, he endures a further battery of tests before presbytery permits him to proceed to ordination/installation.

    3. The PCA has, as has been noted, the additional provision of licensing an RE. What he does is preaching (anyone licensed in Presbyterian polity preaches), even though he is not otherwise in training to become a minister (i.e., he is not a probationer).

    4. Anyone, whether an RE or not, who is not licensed (e.g., an unlicensed intern, elder, etc.) and exposits the Word from the pulpit is exhorting (though in all cases the product is properly called a sermon). In the Continental tradition, only those ordained as ministers are said to be preaching. Everything short of this is exhorting for our Reformed (Continental) brethren.

    5. Having said all of that, in all of the traditions mentioned, only one ordained as a minister of the Word and Sacrament is eligible to administer the dominical sacraments (Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper).

    6. The preaching of the Word is a necessary accompaniment to the sacrament but it is not sufficient. A licentiate of any sort, though he properly is said to preach, may not administer the sacrament (and certainly an unlicensed RE may not). The sacrament is not only tied to the preaching of the Word but to the office to which the preaching is properly committed (not to those preparing for office--like OP licentiates--or those who preach, like PCA RE licentiates, and are not preparing for the ministerial office). Part of the reason for this is that there is an authority of identification associated with Baptism and the Lord's Supper (as part of the exercise of the keys).

    7. Yes, all the elders exercise the keys but it is the minister who carries out (who administers) this on behalf of the whole eldership (tied in with his giving the apostolic salutation and benediction). There's quite a rich biblical (as well as exegetical, systematic, and historical) theology associated with these convictions. Ed Clowney has some good stuff on this (in lecture form that I've heard--much better than his book on the Church). Hodge's Church Polity (as an older source), as Bruce noted, is also helpful here.

    8. I have mainly here stated the rules, not all the reasons (biblically and confessionally) for the rules. There are very good reasons for all of this (some of which I've hinted at) but I don't have time now to say more than this.

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  12. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  13. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

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  14. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    I was just noting that I had pointed you to the PCA historical site with at least one of the articles in question very early in this thread. Clearly the providence of God was at work in the later re-posting of links to that same site later in the thread. So all is good, brother.
  15. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner


    The Historical Center web page used to be organized so that the study papers were easy to find high on the left side of the page. Now they are pretty well buried and it takes a diligent search to find them even if you know they are there somewhere. That's why I always try to provide this link, rather than the historical center main page.
  16. G

    G Puritan Board Junior


    In using this site... are these various papers the official stance (or guidance rather) of the PCA? Just want to make sure I understand the site... as it is new to me.
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  17. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    First, they are not binding. They are for study, education, and guidance and show a sense of the Assembly where they are adopted.

    Second, they usually contain recommendations. You need to look to see if the recomendations were adopted, or not. (And sometimes, the minority report will be the one that wins out on the floor of the General Assembly) The papers themselves are usually 'received'.

    PCA REs and TEs - please correct me if I've gotten any of this wrong.
  18. JTB.SDG

    JTB.SDG Puritan Board Sophomore


    You have a valid point.

    Along with "recreation" on the Sabbath, this is indeed the singular exception I took to the Standards when up for ordination (in the PCA).

    For various reasons I think it should definitely be a TE who regularly administers the sacraments, just as it should be a TE who regularly preaches the Word. But I don't see biblical warrant for an unqualified forbidding of an RE administering the sacraments in certain circumstances.
  19. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    While I speak from an OPC perspective (we don't term confessional differences as "exceptions" and have a mechanism for recording such), I think that both OPC and PCA would see the secondary (the Westminster Standards) and the tertiary standards (our respective Church Orders) as operating on different levels with respect to each other.

    Namely, the doctrinal standards are something to which we subscribe (the PCA BOCO terms it "sincerely receive and adopt" the WS) and the church orders are something of which we approve. Here's the ordination question (#3) pertaining to the FG and BD:

    3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity?

    Notice the language of "approve" that which is deemed to be "in conformity the general principles of [polity]." This requires less specific and precise agreement than the doctrinal standards do.

    I point this out because a few brothers have mentioned differences with the doctrinal standards and church order in the same breath as if they were of the same significance. They are not in historic Presbyterianism.

    I don't imagine that anyone here thinks that they are of the same importance, but the language of exceptions suggest that they are. While it is not wrong for a Presbytery, for instance, to ask a ministerial candidate if he differs with the church order, it should not ask him if he takes exception to it in the same fashion that he might the doctrinal standards.

    I can differ with things in the church order and think that they should be otherwise but if I am willing to live with them and thus approve them then I am in full compliance. Who may administer the sacraments, of course, is a doctrinal matter (addressed in the WCF) and not merely a polity one addressed in the BOCO.

    The language of exceptions is warranted by the BOCO when the doctrinal standards are in view. It is not warranted when the polity standards, which must simply be approved as in keeping with general biblical principles, are in view. Polity standards are not doctrinal standards and the two must be clearly distinguished always.

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  20. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

    Edward: The "position papers" have been renamed "studies and reports," precisely for the reason you mentioned, that they are not binding.
    And for convenience, everything distinctly PCA is grouped together in the center column at the top of the Historical Center's home page. "Studies & Reports" is the fifth link in that center column.

    Grant: I want to commend you on your diligence in pursuing the office of deacon. I have every expectation that you will honor the Lord in your service.

    Another link that might be of some help gives a set of articles on the diaconate,:

    The first article in this list, by James B. Ramsay, is particularly good.

    [Skip the back and forth articles between Girardeau and Lefevre, as they were arguing some picky point, for the most part].

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  21. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Wayne I hope/and will strive to serve faithfully. I have also been given the opportunity to teach Adult SS through Malachi for a few Sundays under the guidance and direction of the session. I just want to make sure (as much as possible for my brain) that I can stand boldly on first and foremost the Holy Scriptures then the Standards and then the BCO.

    So far this thread has helped me tidy up (and correct) some loose ends for me on the BCO (which I now see, on this particular matter, had implications on the standards as well).

    So at this point I believe I am in full agreement and acceptance with the Standards with no exceptions and Will be able to approve in Good conscience the BCO.

    It is a true blessing to now be apart of a confessional body and know that my daughters will have the blessing I did not have of being raised in a confessional church whose general practices have stood a long test of time!:detective:
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  22. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    A another question in getting back to the OP:

    Do the Westminster standards ever make a distinction between “minister of the gospel” and “Elder”? I do not have the standards with me currently, but I am not sure if the actual confession or catechism deal with The specific term Elder. Did the standards view “minister of the gospel” as the full office of the elder?... looking for loving correction if I am wrong. So don’t be hasty! And in the words of the great theologian Nacho Libre... “Take it Easy”.
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  23. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    The Westminster Assembly chose to address questions of polity in the Form of Presbyterial Church Government (which I linked to in post 35), not in the Confession of Faith or catechisms. Most Presbyterian churches, however, have not adopted the Westminster Form of Government.

    It strikes me that no one (so far as I can tell) has mentioned WCF XXVII: iv on this thread:
  24. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Tyler, thanks.... I think that quote from the standards helps me now see the hard line in the standards.
  25. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    No actual distinction
    ch 27 of the WCF:

    IV. There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the gospels, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord: neither or which may be dispensed by any but a minister of the Word, lawfully ordained.

    Robert Shaw:
    We acknowledge only two sacraments instituted by Christ in the gospel, and these are baptism and the Lord's supper; the former being the sign and seal of our spiritual birth, and the latter of our spiritual nourishment. The Church of Rome has added five spurious sacraments–ordination, marriage, confirmation, penance, and extreme unction. None of these have any divine appointment as sacraments; and the three last, as used by Papists, have no warrant at all from Scripture. None of them are seals of the covenant of grace, and, therefore, they are no sacraments, but are to be considered as gross corruptions of the purity and simplicity of the Christian ritual. In opposition, also, to the Church of Rome, which permits laymen and women to administer the sacrament of baptism in cases of necessity, our Confession asserts that none but a minister of the Word, lawfully ordained, has any warrant to dispense the sacraments.
  26. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    I just saw Tyler made I was posting. But, again, no distinction between RE and TE.
  27. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Scott do you personally hold the 2-office view or the 3 office view?
  28. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    4 office view:

    Minister, elder, and deacon and teacher.
  29. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    Tyler do you personally hold the 2-office view or the 3 office view?
  30. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The WCF refers synonymously to "minister of the gospel" and "minister of the Word." Reference to The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government will show that the minister's office is distinct from Other Church Governors (ch. heading). "Which officers reformed churches commonly call Elders."

    The term "elder" is not found in the Standards. Nor in the Directory for the Publick Worship of God.

    Those reformers definitely believed the church had clergy, distinct from laymen, just as much as the Jewish elders were distinct from the priests and Levites of old; and as the non-ministers in that age were not permitted to do certain things for which they were not ordained--never mind expediency--so laymen are not ordained to administer the sacraments.

    That is part of the reason for the language of 24.4 of the WCF, which states: "neither of which may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained."

    most of this has already been posted while I was writing this
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