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Dear Brethren and Friends,
Welcome to the Filipino Bible Fellowship!
Today is a special privilege for us to fellowship with our church leaders. The Bible commands us to “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (Hebrews 13:7). – Bro Jose
BIBLICAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT (1/2)
(by Pastor Jeffrey Khoo, True Life BPC Weekly, Vol. XII No 3, 19 October 2014)
There are three main forms of church government, namely (1) the Episcopal which is rule by one (eg Anglican, Methodist churches), (2) the Congregational which is rule by all (eg Baptist, Brethren, Independent churches), and (3) the Presbyterian which is rule by some (Reformed, Presbyterian churches).
As Bible-Presbyterians, we hold to the Presbyterian form of church government which we believe to be the form taught in the Scriptures.
What is Presbyterianism?
Presbyterianism is that form of church government where appointed or elected presbyters or elders assume the spiritual and administrative oversight of the church. The word “Presbyterian” comes from the Greek presbuteros which generally means an old or elderly man in terms of age. In the church, it is used of spiritually qualified and mature men who govern or rule the church. For instance in 1 Timothy 4:14, we read of the “Presbytery” ie, Council of Elders. In 1 Timothy 3:1 we see the elder as a distinct office in the church. The word used there is the Greek episcope (KJV “bishop”, literally “to watch over”) which describes the function of the elder as an “overseer”. The terms “bishop” and “elder” are used interchangeably (see Acts 20:17, 28, Tit 1:5–7, Phil 1:1).
The Old Testament supports the Presbyterian form of church government. The nation of Israel for instance was governed by God’s appointed servants (eg Moses, David, the kings and priests) together with the “elders of Israel” or “elders of the congregation” (Exod 3:16; 4:29; 17:5, 6; 18:13–27; 19:7; Lev 4:15; 9:1–2; Num 11:14–17; Deut 5:23, 22:15–17, 27:1; Josh 7:6, 8:33; Judg 21:16; 1 Kgs 8:1–3; 1 Chron 21:16; Ps 107:32). There is divine wisdom in this for “in multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Prov 24:6). Hence, there is a certain measure of security when a society is ruled by a plurality of qualified men.
This Old Testament pattern of rule by a plurality of elders is carried forward into the New Testament. For instance, in Titus 1:5, Paul instructed Titus to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee”. It was the practice of the Apostle Paul as he did the work of church planting to appoint a group of elders to take charge of a church before he went on to plant another church (Acts 14:23). It is significant to note that whenever the word “elders” is mentioned in the New Testament with regard to church government, it is always found in the plural (Acts 11:30, 14:23, 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 16:4, 20:17, 21:18; James 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1–2).
Qualifications of Elders
The qualifications of an elder can be found in 1 Timothy 3:2–7 and Titus 1:6–9. Basically, he must be (1) “blameless” (ie, a man of integrity and cannot be accused by others of wrongdoing), (2) the husband of one wife (ie, a monogamist and faithful in his marriage), (3) sober (ie, serious-minded in his ways and not happy-go-lucky), (4) apt to teach (ie, he is knowledgeable of the Scriptures and able to give proper biblical instruction or counsel to others), (5) not given to wine (ie, a teetotaller), (6) no striker (ie, not one who is physically abusive or violent), (7) not greedy of filthy lucre (ie, not a lover of money), (8) patient (ie longsuffering, not short-tempered), and (9) not a novice (ie, not a young, immature or inexperienced believer).
Types of Elders
There are two types of elders in the church, (1) teaching elders and (2) ruling elders. In 1 Timothy 5:17 we see a distinction between a teaching elder and a ruling elder, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” There are elders who rule, and there are elders who not only rule but also “labour in the word and doctrine.”
The Form of Government of the Bible-Presbyterian Church states, “We believe that government by two kinds of presbyters, ministers and ruling elders, who are to be joined in the oversight of the Church, is founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God, and is highly expedient” (IV.2). The teaching elders are the ministers or pastors of the church. They are men who have received a call to full-time ministry, who are theologically trained and ordained as “Ministers of the Gospel”. As ordained ministers, they have the authority to preach and teach God’s Word from the pulpit and administer the sacraments instituted by Christ (ie Holy Communion and Water Baptism).
The ruling elders on the other hand “are representatives of the people, chosen by them from their own number, for the purpose of joining with the pastors or ministers in the government and discipline of the Church.” (Form of Church Government VI). In 1 Corinthians 12:28 we have those who are described as having the gift of “governments.” The ruling elders would be men with such a gift. The ruling elders are thus lay elders who will assist the minister or pastor in taking care of the overall administration and spiritual discipline of the church.
In the Constitution of True Life Bible-Presbyterian Church, “The spiritual oversight of the Church in matters of doctrine, principles of government, church elections, admission and discipline of members, and the administrative oversight of the Church shall be the responsibilities specifically of the Board of Elders. Unless expressly provided for in this Constitution, the Church Session shall not decide on any matters reserved to the Board of Elders in this Constitution, including but not limited to this Article.” There is thus a distinction between the Board of Elders and the Session (which comprises the deacons as well). The role of the deacons as found in Acts 6:1–7 is to assist the elders in carrying out their administrative responsibilities. “The Scriptures clearly point out deacons as distinct officers in the Church, whose business it is to take care of the poor, and to distribute among them the collections which may be raised for their use.” (Form of Government VII).
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