Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government
Of The Officers Of The Church.
The officers which Christ hath appointed for the edification of his church, and the perfecting of the saints, are, some extraordinary, as apostles, evangelists, and prophets, which are ceased. Others ordinary and perpetual, as pastors, teachers, and other church-governors, and deacons.
Question 1.—Has Christ appointed officers for the edification of his church, and the perfecting of the saints?
Answer.—Yes. Eph. 4:11, 12. Thus do the Quakers and other Fanatics err denying that Christ has appointed officers for the edification of the church and the perfection of the saints. They are confuted for the following reasons: 1.) Paul holds forth the appointment by Christ of church officers by divine institution as the gifts and trophies of his ascension, Eph. 4:8, 11. Likewise, he is clear that God has set them in the church, 1 Cor. 12:28. Now, that God did this by Christ is evident, Matt. 28:19, 20. 2.) They are given manifold church employments from Christ, that they might minister to those under them, 1 Cor. 4:1, 2. 3.) Elsewhere they are called ambassadors of Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20; but we know that they were sent forth to work in the work of the ministry of the church, Matt. 9:38; 1 Thess. 5:12. 4.) The Lord Christ charges his flock and people with many duties to be performed to his officers, that they may profit by them, 1 Thess. 5:12, 13; Heb. 13:17.
Question 2.—Does the Word of God distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary officers?
Answer.—Yes. 1 Cor. 13:10. Thus do the Anabaptists and other Enthusiasts err maintaining that this distinction is not warranted by the Scriptures. They are confuted because: 1.) Paul holds forth the qualifications and rules for both elders (i.e., pastors, teachers and ruling elders) and deacons, 1 Tim. 3:1-13, that only those known to be fit before men may be chosen to these offices; but there are no qualifications set forth for the choosing of extraordinary officers. 2.) Those offices which we call extraordinary are known by their very working, apart from rules set forth for their choosing, 2 Cor. 12:12; Ps. 74:9; 2 Tim. 4:5; Acts 21:8; 8:6, 13.
Question 3.—How may we distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary officers?
Answer.—Those three functions, which are designated extraordinary, were not instituted in the Church to be perpetual, but only to endure so long as churches were to be formed where none previously existed, or at least where churches were to be transferred from Moses to Christ. We call them extraordinary, because they have no place in churches duly constituted. The apostles, for the original molding of the Christian church, were to gather the churches by the voice of the Gospel, Mark 16:15; by infallible authority to deliver the lively oracles to them (together with the prophets), Eph. 2:20; and to appoint evangelists to remain for a time to settle the churches gathered, Tit. 1:5. Those offices which we designate ordinary, are those ordered and continued in all the churches as they are duly constituted and settled, Acts 14:23; 2 Tim. 2:2.
Question 4.—Are apostles, prophets and evangelists extraordinary officers; and are they ceased?
Answer.—That apostles, prophets and evangelists are extraordinary officers appears from the following: 1.) The apostles were immediately called of Christ, Luke 6:13; Mark 3:14; Gal. 1:1. 2.) The apostles were such as had seen Christ, 1 Cor. 9:1. 3.) Their commission was to the whole world, Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:15. 4.) They had power to ordain in all churches, Acts 6:3, 6; and to appoint elders, Tit. 1:5. 5.) They, along with the prophets, were endued with a spirit of infallibility in delivering the truths of doctrine to the church, John 16:13; 14:26; Eph. 2:20. 6.) They had the power to give the Holy Ghost, Acts 8:14-18; 19:6. 7.) They only, by special commission, were set apart to be personal witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, Acts 1:22; 10:41. 8.) The apostles did immediately receive the keys from the hand of Jesus Christ, and did use and exercise them in all the churches of the world, Matt. 16:19; John 20:21-23; 1 Tim. 1:20; 3 John 9, 10. 9.) The apostles had power to determine controversies of faith and cases of conscience, in all churches, by lively voice or by writing, 1 Cor. 11:34; Gal. 5:2, 3. 10.) The evangelists were ordained persons, 2 Tim. 1:6, whom the apostles took for their companions in travel, Gal. 2:1, and sent them out to settle and establish such churches as the apostles themselves had planted, Acts 19:22, and, not being fixed to any particular place, they were to continue till recalled, 2 Tim. 4:9. 11.) Prophets are those moved by extraordinary revelations to bring forth a word in due season, Acts 21:10, 11. Touching the question of whether or not these extraordinary offices are ceased, we distinguish. The primary purpose and function of these offices being to plant, establish and organize churches, once the churches are duly constituted and settled, there remains no more reason for them to continue in those churches. At the time of the Reformation and after, at the time of the Second Reformation, there appeared those who exercised themselves extraordinarily in prophesying. Moreover, as Calvin notes, “I deny not, that afterward [i.e., after the initial constituting and settling of the church] God occasionally raised up Apostles, or at least Evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time. For such were needed to bring back the Church from the revolt of Antichrist.” The church entering upon an ordinary course, we can confess that the extraordinary need is removed and those offices have ceased. Nonetheless, always recognizing, in the words of our Second Book of Discipline, that though they “now have ceased,” God may yet be “pleased extraordinarily for a time to stir some of them up again.”
Question 5.—Are pastors, teachers, and other church-governors, and deacons ordinary and perpetual?
Answer.—That pastors, teachers, and other church-governors, and deacons are ordinary and perpetual appears from the following: 1.) There are qualifications laid down for those subsequent to the apostolic era, 1 Tim. 3:1-13. 2.) They were officers ordained in the churches in order to their settling, Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5; Phil. 1:1; Acts 20:28. 3.) Special provision is made for the continuance of these officers in the church, 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Tim. 5:22. 4.) Elders and deacons are set over local precincts, Acts 20:17, 28; Tit. 1:5; Jas. 5:14; Acts 6:1-4; Phil. 1:1. 5.) Though the working of the extraordinary officers is temporary in the church, the work of these officers remains to be done throughout the New Testament dispensation, Jer. 3:15; Luke 12:42, 43; Rom. 10:14; 1 Pet. 5:1-4; 1 Tim. 3:8, 13.