“Decently and In Order” Presbyterian Practices: Church Government
The Nature of Church Power: Spiritual • Two potential errors: • Its authority is such that to hear the Church’s voice is the hear Christ’s voice with no possibility of dissent [Roman Catholic]. • The church has no legitimate authority over the lives of Christians save what is granted by believers themselves to the church [congregational/evangelicals].
The Nature of Church Power: Spiritual • By the very nature of the case, every society or organization, no matter what it is, has two characteristics necessary for its work: every society has officers and laws. • Officers are required to represent the group and to do the work of the organization. • Laws are necessary in order to guide the group in its work. In addition, these laws or rules provide warrant or authorization for the group. • Now the fact that organizations require officers and laws means that they must have power or authority to act and enforce the group’s laws.
The Nature of Church Power: Spiritual • The church as a society of those who believe in Jesus Christ has power or authority to carry out its tasks in three areas: • To declare its doctrine. • To order its worship. • To discipline its members.
The Source and Limit of Church Power • The Source of Church Power: King Jesus • All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus (Matt 28:18-20). • This means Jesus is the only head over his church (Eph 1:20-23) • This also means that Jesus alone is Lord over the conscience (WCF 20:2). • The Law and Limits of Church Power: Scripture • The will of Christ himself expressed in Holy Scripture is the law that regulates the church’s use of its power (1 Timothy 3:15)— • explicit law, normative examples, worthy deductions (WCF 1:6). • Elements and circumstances of church order
The Laws and Limits of Church Power: The Word of God • The will of Christ himself expressed in Holy Scripture is the law that regulates the church’s use of its power (1 Timothy 3:15)—explicit law, normative examples, worthy deductions (WCF 1:6). • Elements and circumstances of church order
Those entrusted with church power: officers • Church officers as gifts of Christ • The resurrected Christ received gifts which he gives to his church: officers (Ephesians 4:7-12) • Through these officers, whom Christ gives as his gift, and his Word, which he gives as his law, Christ visibly governs his church. • Church officers and church power • Church officers do not have power in distinction from the church as a whole. • But Christ has entrusted power more particularly to those believers within his church who are officers that they might administer and exercise it on behalf of the rest.
Those entrusted with church power: officers • Church officers exercise two types of “power” • “Power of order”—exercised by the officers individually under grant of authority through a session’s/congregation’s call and by a presbytery’s authorization (e.g. worship) • “Power of jurisdiction”—exercised by the officers jointly as church courts (e.g. discipline, doctrine).
Those entrusted with church power: officers • There are two classes of officers in Christ’s church: • Elders: “exercise government and discipline, and take oversight not only of the spiritual interests of the particular church, but also the Church generally when called thereunto” (BCO 8-3) • Teaching elders v. ruling elders (1 Timothy 5:17) • Deacons: • The deacon’s responsibilities of stewardship and service include ministering to those in need, the sick, the friendless, and to any in distress. • Deacons also seek “to develop the grace of liberality in the members of the church,” devising means for collecting the gifts of the people and for distributing the benevolences of the church.
The connectional nature of the church • Church session: teaching and ruling elders of a local congregation who have been called by Christ through the election of God’s people to exercise oversight in that congregation • Presbytery: “all the teaching elders and churches within its bounds that have been accepted by the presbytery.” When the presbytery meets as a court, it comprises all the teaching elders and ruling elders as elected by the session to represent the church • General Assembly: the highest court of the church, represents in one body all the churches of the denomination. In the PCA, all of the teaching elders are eligible to serve as commissioners as well as a proportional number of ruling elders from each church.
The connectional nature of the church • The great Presbyterian principle: The parts are in the whole and the whole is in the parts (Acts 15). • All of the courts of the church are equal in power. • The principle of review and control. • The parts have the right of appeal to the whole. • Each part of the church has responsibility to one another and to the whole.
The connectional nature of the church How does the PCA demonstrate the larger unity (or the connectional nature) of Christ’s church?: • In caring for the work of the General Assembly: • The Administrative Committee • In caring for the families and covenant children of the PCA: • In our Sunday schools: • Christian Education and Publications • In our colleges: • Reformed University Ministries • Covenant College • In camping: • Ridge Haven Conference Center
The connectional nature of the church • In caring for the future ministers of PCA churches: • Covenant Seminary • In caring for the present ministers and ministries: • PCA Retirement and Benefits, Inc. • PCA Foundation • In caring for our mission as a church here and abroad: • Mission to North America • Mission to the World