The Offices of the Church

“And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”

Eph. 4:11-12

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

1 Cor. 12:28

.

.

Order of Contents

Extraordinary Offices
Regular Offices
.     That Pastors are a Distinct Office from Ruling elders
That Persons may Change Offices
That Persons may Hold more than One Office at a Time
May Church-Officers Hold Civil Office?

.

.

The Extraordinary Offices

The Offices of Apostles, Prophets & Evangelists

.

.

The Regular Offices of Christ’s Church

Pastors

Teachers

Ruling Elders

Deacons

.

.

That Pastors are a Distinct Office from Ruling Elders

Isbell, Sherman – Order in the Offices, a Book Review  1995  13 paragraphs

This article is the best short piece on the Biblical teaching that the Minister is a separate office from, though it shares numerous functions with, the office of Ruling Elder, and that this was the view of the Reformation and Puritan eras.  

Isbell reviews Mark Brown’s book ‘Order in the Offices.’  Brown (of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) compiled numerous essays all related to the office of Minister, but the authors generally take the newer American view espoused by Charles Hodge and Thomas Smyth, and many in the OPC, that Ministers do not fall under the category of the Biblical Greek term ‘presbyter’, whereas the Reformation and Puritan eras did teach and practice that.

.

.

That Persons may Change Offices

A Peaceable & Temperate Plea  (1642), pp. 292

“Now if dea­cons ex officio [out of their office], turn preachers, and give themselves to the Word and prayer, then by the apostles’ reason, Acts 6:4, they cannot serve tables, but they must have other deacons to take the burden of the poor off them, that they may give themselves to the Word.”

.

.

That Persons may Hold more than One Office at a Time

Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries  (1644), pt. 1, p. 158

“Also, though it be true that one and the same man may both teach and exhort, and the comparison of the natural body [Rom. 12:4] does not in all things hold, for one member cannot both be the eye to see and the ear to hear [in the human body], but both are here a sort of eye to the Church; yet has Christ made the pastor and the doctor different.  It is needless to dispute if they differ in nature, and if it be a confounding of Christ’s order that one be both, when Christ has given gifts for both to one man, for first, the Word of God does difference them…”

.

.

May Church-Officers Hold Civil Office?

Intro

Christ gives persons, and their spiritual gifts, as gifts to the Church, for her government and upbuilding (Eph. 4:11-13).  Therefore, holding Church is office is for life (apart from disqualifying oneself or extraordinary circumstances).  Due to the importance of the spiritual work and calling (Mt. 6:33; Acts 13:2; 1 Cor. 14:1,5), Church-officers are admonished:  “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”  This was the example of our Lord on earth (Lk. 12:13-14; Mt. 8:20-22), and his instruction to his appointed officers (Mk. 1:17-18; 28:18-20).  Paul’s tentmaking was done out of necessity and was only temporary (for the greater good); the rule is that ministers ought to give themselves “continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word”, for “it is not reason that we should leave the Word of God, and serve tables.” (Acts 6:2,4)  If Church-officers serve in civil offices, a significant amount of their time will be spent on the temporal affairs of this life, contrary to their higher calling.

For these reasons and others, many reformed countries at the Reformation banned Church-officers from holding civil office.  The Romanists had also long and severely abused the practice, bringing in serious conflicts of interest while mixing jurisdictions.  The Anglican Church, however, and her prelates, commonly continued the practice.  The rise of the sects in London in the 1640’s, including congregationalism, commonly held that lay persons with ordinary, natural callings might regularly be pastors, as a matter of principle.  The New England puritans, being congregationalists, tended to hold this theological viewpoint, but also were in the unique circumstance of struggling for their communities’ survival in the wilderness, there being only so many gifted men in their small towns.

John Davenant  (1572–1641), being an Anglican, argues for the compatibility of Church-officers holding civil office.  It is true that Church-officers can hold civil office (such as the Judges, David, etc., though these were types of Christ in that capacity), however, this ought only to be for necessity out of extraordinary reasons in special circumstances.  Deacons and Ruling Elders commonly, today, hold secular positions while yet serving in the Church.  This is out of necessity, as Gillespie and Rutherford remarked during the Post-Reformation, due to the poorness of the Church, who has little to pay them for their labors.  In much of the Early Church and Middle Ages deacons and elders were able to be paid, and devote themselves, full-time.

.

Article

Davenant, John – ‘Civil Jurisdiction is Rightly Conceded to Ecclesiastical Persons’  in The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge  trans. Josiah Allport  (1634; 1846), pp. 275-279  bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia...  trans. Josiah Allport  (1631; London, 1846), vol. 2

.

.

.

Related Pages

Church

Church Government

The Regulative Principle of Church Government

Theories of Church Government

The Ruling of the Church

Church Membership