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Sermons & Study Guides

Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds Pt. 9 - (Creeds and Confessions and their Relation to Public Teachers in the Church)

James Dodson

Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds

(Creeds and Confessions and their Relation to Public Teachers in the Church)


And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (2 Tim. 2:2)

Question.—What is the basis upon which the responsibility of teachers to the confession of the church arises?

Answer.—The fact is that the ministry of the Word, or the teaching office, is not a human or merely ecclesiastical invention but a work which displays the divine wisdom, 1 Cor. 1:21; and an office established by God in the church, Ps. 68:11; Jer. 3:15.  This office is made manifest ordinarily by a two-fold outward call, primarily, by the congregation, or assembly of believers, which is a choosing out one particular to the ministry, Acts 6:3; secondarily, by the presbytery, or representative assembly, for the confirming and sending of the one chosen, 1 Tim. 4:14.  As such, he is subject to a series of responsibilities:

First, to the Lord who has called him to that office, 1 Tim. 1:12, 13.  Teaching is a gift that is not so much learned as received, 1 Cor. 4:7; especially in the context of the divine institution, Eph. 4:11, 12.  Therefore, no man can simply take this office upon himself because no man can gift himself, Heb. 5:4.

Second, to the congregation over which the Holy Ghost has made him an overseer, Acts 20:28.  This teaching office is given to feed the flock, Jer. 3:15; and not for personal gain or preferment, Ezek. 34:3.  It is to be undertaken willingly and not by any external constraint, 1 Pet. 5:2, 3.

Third, to the presbytery, or representative church, as part of a regular ministerial order, 2 Tim. 1:6.  As a member of the presbytery, there exists a responsibility both outward, 1 Tim. 4:6; and inward submission, 1 Cor. 14:32, 33.  There is a responsibility to speak and minister as the institution of the representative church. 1 Pet. 4:11; 1 Tim. 3:15.

Question.—How comes the church to make this establishment of the teaching office?

Answer.—The teaching office, or ministry of the apostles, is by Christ’s command to continue till the end of time, Matt. 28:19, 20.  Thus, the church must constantly be concerned to establish true public ministry for the upholding of the means of grace from generation to generation, 2 Tim. 2:2.  This is necessitated because not all are called to teach, 1 Cor. 12:29.  Only those who by a special and legitimate call have been separated for this office by God, Acts 13:2; Jer. 23:4.  This legitimacy is confirmed by voice of the church ordinarily, 1 Tim. 3:1-7.  The purpose of maintaining the ministerial institution is to keep the vision of God before His congregation, Prov. 29:18.

Though the ministry, or office of teaching, is distinct from the priesthood of all believers, John 6:45; Jer. 23:21; yet, it is not some special state of Christian, or degree of communion, higher or more holy than the assembly of believers, 1 Pet. 2:9.  They are as those who minister amongst a priestly people, 1 Cor. 3:5; 2 Cor. 4:5.  And that, although there is to be admitted a certain power granted unto the ministry of the Word, 2 Cor. 13:3, 4.  Nonetheless, this power is not a different confession but rather the confessional message sent forth to those who would hear, Rom. 10:14, 15.

This means that the mouth of the teacher must speak for the church to the congregation, or assembly, Ps. 40:9, 10.  This must be done according to the analogy of faith, Rom. 12:6; and in the language of the church, 1 Cor. 14:16.  The mouth of the teacher must stay upon the confession of the true religion lest he corrupt the covenant amongst the people, Mal. 2:7, 8.  Thus, the church, in confirming the teacher in his office, places a demand that he speak with the consent of the ministerial institution, 2 Tim. 1:13.  In this way, he is fitted to lead the assembly in their common spiritual priesthood, Rom. 15:16.

Question.—What authority do ministers, or teachers, have in relation to the confessions and constitutions of the church?

Answer.—Since the church is no kingdom of rulers and ruled but one holy brotherhood of common confession, Matt. 23:8; none, including teachers of the church, ought to seek to exercise authority over others, Matt. 20:25, 26.  The fact is that all ministers are equal and, furthermore, the church is greater than the ministers, 1 Cor. 3:6, 21, 22.  Thus, the power of the keys lies not with one man, but with the presbyterial, or representative, church, Matt. 18:18-20.  The ministerial demeanor must be exercised with due patience and submission to both the congregation and the representative church, Rom. 12:10, 16.

If a public teacher of the church speaks beyond his commission, he is speaking contrary to the example of Christ, 1 Pet. 2:22; whose speech followed the heavenly pattern, Matt. 17:5.  Men who take upon themselves to speak contrary to the church ought not to be countenanced regardless of other excellencies of person, Gal. 2:11.  Furthermore, those who speak to deform speak contrary to the true authority of the church which is only to reform, 2 Cor. 10:8.  The speech of the faithful teacher should always be seeking the purity and peace of the church, 1 Cor. 11:34.

Question.—How may we confirm that public teachers are not authorized to speak contrary to the church and her confession?

Answer.—The subordination of the public teacher is made evident in the matter of church discipline wherein it is clear that jurisdiction over the offender is held by the presbyterial, or representative, church, Matt. 18:15-20.  And, by the fact that the carrying out of a sentence cannot be accomplished apart from the consent of the congregation, or assembly, of believers, 1 Cor. 5:4, 13.  Since all discipline is tied to confessions and constitutions of faith and order, 2 Cor. 2:6; 1 Tim. 5:20; there can be no individual right existing in a public teacher to teach anything contrary to the faith or practice of the particular church wherein he exercises ministry, Rom. 16:17, 18.  Such teachers are not to be received, Prov. 19:27.