The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government

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AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks for that, how long are you going to last in the CofE?

I could do a Thomas Cartwright ;) But on a serious note, over the next year I shall be where I am at now geographically which means I shall stay at the evangelical congregation I am at now. But once my MSc is done I will DV relocate. The course is internationally recognised so "The world is my oyster" in one sense. But Scotland seems attractive (for a whole host of reasons), possibly Northern Ireland (the same applies but an Englishman in NI?). New Zealand and the States are also attractive but time will tell. Would value prayers :pray2:
 

VaughanRSmith

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks for that, how long are you going to last in the CofE?

I could do a Thomas Cartwright ;) But on a serious note, over the next year I shall be where I am at now geographically which means I shall stay at the evangelical congregation I am at now. But once my MSc is done I will DV relocate. The course is internationally recognised so "The world is my oyster" in one sense. But Scotland seems attractive (for a whole host of reasons), possibly Northern Ireland (the same applies but an Englishman in NI?). New Zealand and the States are also attractive but time will tell. Would value prayers :pray2:
I am in almost exactly the same position as you. :handshake:
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks for that, how long are you going to last in the CofE?

I could do a Thomas Cartwright ;) But on a serious note, over the next year I shall be where I am at now geographically which means I shall stay at the evangelical congregation I am at now. But once my MSc is done I will DV relocate. The course is internationally recognised so "The world is my oyster" in one sense. But Scotland seems attractive (for a whole host of reasons), possibly Northern Ireland (the same applies but an Englishman in NI?). New Zealand and the States are also attractive but time will tell. Would value prayers :pray2:
I am in almost exactly the same position as you. :handshake:

Would you care to elaborate?
 

VaughanRSmith

Puritan Board Sophomore
I could do a Thomas Cartwright ;) But on a serious note, over the next year I shall be where I am at now geographically which means I shall stay at the evangelical congregation I am at now. But once my MSc is done I will DV relocate. The course is internationally recognised so "The world is my oyster" in one sense. But Scotland seems attractive (for a whole host of reasons), possibly Northern Ireland (the same applies but an Englishman in NI?). New Zealand and the States are also attractive but time will tell. Would value prayers :pray2:
I am in almost exactly the same position as you. :handshake:

Would you care to elaborate?
Well, over the last few months, I have become more and more convinced of Presbyterian polity. As a young married guy about to start his first year of a BTh, I've come to the conclusion that now is the best time for this to happen rather than 30 years down the road ;)

So, not exactly the same position, but a young Anglican moving towards Presbyterianism strikes a chord with me. Good to know I'm not alone!
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Well I may as well start an argument given that I'm not a Presbyterian. :D

I struggle with whether the so-called "ruling-elder" can be justified from Scripture given the paucity of evidence. The so-called classic verse used to prove such a position is 1 Tim. 5:17 isn't, in my mind, good enough to justify the distinction between the teaching and ruling elder:

1Tim 5:17 "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially [malista] those whose work is preaching and teaching."

The word for "especially", malista, could mean "especially". But it has another meaning being "namely, I mean". The former rendering leads to a certain ambiguity (are the so-called "ruling elders" to deserve double honour or not). And the latter rendering fits better with the notion that all elders in 1 Tim. 3:2 must be "skillful in teaching" (didaktikos).
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Marty,

Perhaps someone can dig it up but I recall reading a quote from an ante-Nicene Father (Origen or Jerome perhaps) lamenting the passing of the Office of Ruling Elder in the Church.

I don't believe Presbyterianism rises or falls on the Office of an Elder that rules but does not teach (in fact, technically, most Church claim to only have deacons and Elders) but the issues are:

1. A plurality of Elders in each Church (which is supported by more than one Scripture)
2. Elders appointed from within the congregation
3. Elders which assemble from the Churches to council together to decide Church matters.

I think Episcopal and Congregational forms fail at one or more of the three points.
 

AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
Marty,

Perhaps someone can dig it up but I recall reading a quote from an ante-Nicene Father (Origen or Jerome perhaps) lamenting the passing of the Office of Ruling Elder in the Church.

I don't believe Presbyterianism rises or falls on the Office of an Elder that rules but does not teach (in fact, technically, most Church claim to only have deacons and Elders) but the issues are:

1. A plurality of Elders in each Church (which is supported by more than one Scripture)
2. Elders appointed from within the congregation
3. Elders which assemble from the Churches to council together to decide Church matters.

I think Episcopal and Congregational forms fail at one or more of the three points.

What I found interesting was the distinction, which I have seen for a couple of years, between the church in a local place and a congregation.


Of Classical Assemblies.​
THE scripture doth hold out a presbytery in a church.[44]

A presbytery consisteth of ministers of the word, and such other publick officers as are agreeable to and warranted by the word of God to be church-governors, to join with the ministers in the government of the church.[45]

The scripture doth hold forth, that many particular congregations may be under one presbyterial government.

This proposition is proved by instances:

I. First, Of the church of Jerusalem, which consisted of more congregations than one, and all these congregations were under one presbyterial government.

This appeareth thus:

First, The church of Jerusalem consisted of more congregations than one, as is manifest:

1st, By the multitude of believers mentioned, in divers [places], both before the dispersion of the believers there, by means of the persecution,[46] and also after the dispersion. [47]

2dly, By the many apostles and other preachers in the church of Jerusalem. And if there were but one congregation there, then each apostle preached but seldom;[48] which will not consist with Acts vi. 2.

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

Secondly, All those congregations were under one presbyterial government; because,

1st, They were one church.[49]

2dly, The elders of the church are mentioned. [50]

3dly, The apostles did the ordinary acts of presbyters, as presbyters in that kirk; which proveth a presbyterial church before the dispersion, Acts vi.

4thly, The several congregations in Jerusalem being one church, the elders of that church are mentioned as meeting together for acts of government;[51] which proves that those 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 doth there appear any material difference betwixt the several congregations in Jerusalem, and the many congregations now in the ordinary condition of the church, as to the point of fixedness required of officers or members.

Thirdly, Therefore the scripture doth hold forth, that many congregations may be under one presbyterial government.

II. Secondly, By the instance of the church of Ephesus; for,

First, That there were more congregations than one in the church of Ephesus, appears by Acts xx. 31,[52] where is mention of Paul's continuance at Ephesus in preaching for the space of three years; and Acts xix. 18,19,20, where the special effect of the word is mentioned;[53] and ver. 10. and 17. of the same chapter, where is a distinction of Jews and Greeks;[54] and 1 Cor. xvi. 8,9, where is a reason of Paul's stay at Ephesus until Pentecost;[55] and ver. 19, where is mention of a particular church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, then at Ephesus,[56] as appears, Acts xviii. 19,24,26.[57] All which laid together, doth prove that the multitude of believers did make more congregations than one in the church of Ephesus.

Secondly, That there were many elders over these many congregations, as one flock, appeareth.[58]

Thirdly, That these many congregations were one church, and that they were under one presbyterial government, appeareth.[59]

[44] 1 Tim. 4:14. Acts 15:2,4,6.

[45] Rom. 12:7,8. 1 Cor. 12:28.

[46] Acts 8:1. Acts 1:15. Acts 2:41,46,47. Acts 4:4. Acts 5:14. Acts 6:1,7.

[47] Acts 9:31. Acts 12:24. Acts 21:20.

[48] Acts 6:2.

[49] Acts 8:1. Acts 2:47. Compared with Acts 5:11. Acts 12:5. Acts 15:4.

[50] Acts 11:30. Acts 15:4,6,22. Acts 21:17,18.

[51] Acts 11:30. Acts 15:4,6,22. Acts 21:17,18.

[52] Acts 20:31.

[53] Acts 19:18,19,20.

[54] Acts 19:10,17.

[55] 1 Cor. 16:8,9.

[56] 1 Cor. 16:19.

[57] Acts 18:19,24,26.

[58] Acts 20:17,25,28,30,36,37.

[59] Rev. 2:1,2,3,4,5,6. Joined with Acts 20:17,28.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Dear Rich,

Thanks for your response. Let me briefly respond to your points. But before I do, let me say that my own position is that I don't think we find a blueprint in the NT for how the ordering of office is to occur. Yes, we are to have leadership in the church that can teach. But how we structure this I don't think is specifically commanded by Scripture. That is why there has been so many intractable differences between believers who hold a reformed soteriology. Witness the Puritans and their disagreements as an example. The parties tend to appeal to different parts of the NT that display a snapshot of the trajectory concerning office.

I don't believe Presbyterianism rises or falls on the Office of an Elder that rules but does not teach (in fact, technically, most Church claim to only have deacons and Elders) but the issues are:

1. A plurality of Elders in each Church (which is supported by more than one Scripture)

Well it hangs on how one uses verses to do this: are they prescriptive or descriptive verses? I find plenty of verses describing elders in congregations. But I find no prescriptions that we must have multiple elders. There is a big difference.

2. Elders appointed from within the congregation

What about Titus who was to appoint elders in every town on crete (Titus 1:5)? There is one man in the lead appointing elders, not the congregation. Moreover, we have the example of Stephanas who appears to have naturally take on leadership himself (1 Cor. 16:15). We can say that these are exceptions to a rule, but the problem is that it is an argument from silence.

3. Elders which assemble from the Churches to council together to decide Church matters.

Again, you have the prescriptive / descriptive issue here. There may be examples of elders doing this (say Acts 15, but even then it involved the apostles). But can you find direct commands or principles that this must be the case? Moreover, congregationalists will point to Matthew 18 and 1 Cor. 5 where the "church" seems to be the final court of appeal for church discipline. In Matthew 18 elders do not appear to be involved in the church discipline process.

As for deacons I frankly don't know what they are. We are not told in 1 Tim. 3 what they do. And I see no reason to believe that the appointment of the seven in Acts 6 is to the office of "deacon". The office is not mentioned, and the verb "to serve" used there is used of all sorts of people who aren't deacons elsewhere in the NT.

In short, I don't think the way we structure leadership is an issue that should divide reformed Christians. It was this that contributed to the downfall (amongst other things) to the English Puritan movement of the 17th century. The indisputable point about office in the church is godliness. That's the dominant theme of Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. If whoever holds the power is godly that will make the issues of government work well.

God bless you Rich.
 

Coram Deo

Puritan Board Junior
Titus was a Evangelist, which was an office connected with the Apostles. We see that the Evangelist had special Apostolic Spiritual Gifts which ceased along with the office of the Evangelist. Apostles, Evangelist, Prophets all ceased at the end of the Apostolic Era along with all the spiritual gifts and special privileges of those offices.

I am decidedly Presbyterian in Polity, so I see a eldership rule at a local level and at courts e.g. Presbytery, Synod, etc. But I do not see a "Ruling Elder" instead I believe the office of Elder must consist of teaching/Ruling together.. A Plurality of teaching/ruling elders. In recent times I have also come to accept the office of Doctor/teacher as a seperate office. I am not sure where precentors falls in yet, but I am leaning that they are elders within the plurity of elders. So in Sum, I see Elders, Doctors, and Deacons as offices of the new covenant.

What about Titus who was to appoint elders in every town on crete (Titus 1:5)? There is one man in the lead appointing elders, not the congregation. Moreover, we have the example of Stephanas who appears to have naturally take on leadership himself (1 Cor. 16:15). We can say that these are exceptions to a rule, but the problem is that it is an argument from silence.


Acts 15 is not a isolated case..... But just taking Acts 15 in itself it said the Elders were involved.. The Apostles could have decided without the elders they were after all Apostles but they gathered the elders and the elders voiced. It was an a example for us today after the apostles were gone. But you must take into account Continuity... The Old Testament Sanhedrin was a God ordain Presbytery... How do we know? In Luke 22:66 The greek word for Sanhedrin was Presbytery. Along with the Fact that God called Moses to form the Sanhedrin in Exodus, so it was an office that was God Ordained... Now with the fact that Timothy is called to ordain Elders with the laying on the hands of the Presbytery and with Act 15 taken into account you see the Sanhedrin/Presbytery is a continuing office from the Old Testament and continued well after the Apostles with Timothy who was an elder told to ordain elders by the laying on of hands by the Presbytery is in normancy for today.

Also church discipline in Matthew 18 does not say local/nor does it say by the congregation... Yes, church discipline starts at the local church level but if need be it go further... Matthew 18 tell us to take it to the church.. Well a presbytery is the church made up of a plurality of congregations.. So is the local congregation a church but it does not tell us to take it to the congregation, but tell us to take it to the church.. So it starts with the elders at the local church, if need be go to the next court which is a presbyterial church, and if need be go to the synodical church.... Also taking Continuity into account again, church discipline is handles in the old testament by the Sanhedrin through the old testament which is the presbytery. I know others can say all this better then me... My head is fussy this morning..... Tough night.....

Anyway, I might add more later........

Michael

Again, you have the prescriptive / descriptive issue here. There may be examples of elders doing this (say Acts 15, but even then it involved the apostles). But can you find direct commands or principles that this must be the case? Moreover, congregationalists will point to Matthew 18 and 1 Cor. 5 where the "church" seems to be the final court of appeal for church discipline. In Matthew 18 elders do not appear to be involved in the church discipline process.
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Dear Michael,

Thanks for your thoughts.

Titus was a Evangelist,

Where does the Bible say that?

[An evangelist] which was an office connected with the Apostles.

Where does the Bible say that?

We see that the Evangelist had special Apostolic Spiritual Gifts which ceased along with the office of the Evangelist.

Where does the Bible say that?

Apostles, Evangelist, Prophets all ceased at the end of the Apostolic Era along with all the spiritual gifts and special privileges of those offices.

I'm happy to agree that Apostles and Prophets ceased (a la Eph. 2:20), but I see nowhere in the Scriptures that evangelists did to.

So in Sum, I see Elders, Doctors, and Deacons as offices of the new covenant.

Where does the Bible say that?

Acts 15 is not a isolated case..... But just taking Acts 15 in itself it said the Elders were involved.. The Apostles could have decided without the elders they were after all Apostles but they gathered the elders and the elders voiced. It was an a example for us today after the apostles were gone.

Where does the Bible say that Acts 15 is an example for us today to follow? It's a description of something that happened (like Paul getting his head shaved later in Acts). But why is it a prescription? And how exact do we have to be with it?

But you must take into account Continuity... The Old Testament Sanhedrin was a God ordain Presbytery... How do we know? In Luke 22:66 The greek word for Sanhedrin was Presbytery.

The use of a word like that doesn't prove your case at all. For example, the word for "church" (ekklesia) is used in Acts 19 for a riot. Moreover, elders could be a separate group from the chief priests and scribes.

The background to "elder" in the NT is either to be found in (i) the OT, which may well be unlikely because OT elders are rather different to that described in Titus 1 and 1 Tim. 3; or (ii) in the Graeco-Roman background, where they were distinguished seniors in well-known families. The family of course was not nuclear but extended. And we know that certain families hosted the early church gatherings. You can read more about this in:

R. A. Campbell, The Elders: Seniority with Earliest Christianity. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994. I don't agree with his final conclusions but his examination of the background to eldership is compelling.

My NT colleague Allan Chapple wrote a Ph.D. on this very topic back in the early 80s:
“Local Leadership in the Pauline Churches”. Unpublished Ph. D. The University of Durham, 1984.

Also church discipline in Matthew 18 does not say local/nor does it say by the congregation... Yes, church discipline starts at the local church level but if need be it go further... Matthew 18 tell us to take it to the church.. Well a presbytery is the church made up of a plurality of congregations..

No, the NT never uses the word "church" (ekklesia) to mean presbytery. The basic meaning of ekklesia is "gathering" and the word is used in basically four ways: (i) the heavenly eschatological gathering (Heb. 12:22-24); (ii) the local church community (1 Cor. 1:2); (iii) an actual gathered group of believers itself (1 Cor. 14:19, 28. 34); and (iv) Christians generally (Gal. 1:13, Phil. 3:6; 1 Cor. 15:9).

The best fit meaning of "church" in Matthew 18 surely must be either (ii) the local church community or (iii) the gathered church. But it certainly can't be a presbytery.

God bless Michael.
 

JonathanHunt

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks for that, how long are you going to last in the CofE?

I could do a Thomas Cartwright ;) But on a serious note, over the next year I shall be where I am at now geographically which means I shall stay at the evangelical congregation I am at now. But once my MSc is done I will DV relocate. The course is internationally recognised so "The world is my oyster" in one sense. But Scotland seems attractive (for a whole host of reasons), possibly Northern Ireland (the same applies but an Englishman in NI?). New Zealand and the States are also attractive but time will tell. Would value prayers :pray2:


There are some presbyterians in England, you know!
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Thanks for that, how long are you going to last in the CofE?

I could do a Thomas Cartwright ;) But on a serious note, over the next year I shall be where I am at now geographically which means I shall stay at the evangelical congregation I am at now. But once my MSc is done I will DV relocate. The course is internationally recognised so "The world is my oyster" in one sense. But Scotland seems attractive (for a whole host of reasons), possibly Northern Ireland (the same applies but an Englishman in NI?). New Zealand and the States are also attractive but time will tell. Would value prayers :pray2:


There are some presbyterians in England, you know!

For example, Presbyterian Reformed Church - Stockton-on-Tees. :pilgrim:
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Also, the FPCS and FCS both have congregations in England.

For reference purposes, the Westminster Assembly Project has a couple of versions of the Form of Presbyterian Church Government here.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
First, the Form of Presbyterial Church Government speaks of other church offices.

Secondly, 1 Tim. 5:17 should be examined in connection with the fact that the apostolic church contained an office of ruling distinct from teaching, as is clear from Rom. 12:8, "he that ruleth," and 1 Cor. 12:28, "governments."
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
By the way Marty, thanks for the charitable response to my post. I'll respond a bit more later to this but have been tied up. I have some thoughts that I want to share but I've been tied up with Baptists. ;)
 

JohnOwen007

Puritan Board Sophomore
Secondly, 1 Tim. 5:17 should be examined in connection with the fact that the apostolic church contained an office of ruling distinct from teaching, as is clear from Rom. 12:8, "he that ruleth," and 1 Cor. 12:28, "governments."

Yes, thanks. The only problem I have with these verses is that they're speaking of "gifts" in context, not so much office. Moreover, they're not connected explicitly with eldership. And finally, it's difficult to know precisely what the "ruling" and "governing" actually involves. For example, is the "ruler" (or "one who presides over") of Rom. 12:8 one who presides over the house-church because it meets in their home? Is it one who presides over help with the poor? In the end there is simply not enough exegetical evidence to draw a certain conclusion one way or another.

Hence, I don't see that the "ruling elder" is unbiblical; I just don't think the evidence is strong enough for it to be prescribed by Scripture.

Yes, I guess on that note, Matthew, you were right: we are back to the RPW. :)

God bless.
 
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