“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…”
“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
OT Continuity 2
Pastor: Distinct Office from Ruling Elder
Two Orders of Regular Offices: Elders & Deacons
Nature of the Office’s Authority
Higher Offices contain Calling, Authority & Functions of Lower
May Change Offices
Holding More than One Office at a Time
May Church-Officers Hold Civil Office?
Calvin, John – 3. ‘Of the Teachers & Ministers of the Church. Their Election & Office’ in Institutes of the Christian Religion tr. Henry Beveridge (1559; Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), vol. 3, bk. 4, pp. 56-73
Bucanus, William – 42. ‘Of the Ministry & Ministers of the Church’ in Institutions of Christian Religion... (London: Snowdon, 1606), pp. 530-70
Whence comes this word ‘ministry’?
Why do you call this function a ministry?
What is ministry?
What is a minister of the Church?
How many sorts of Church ministers are there in the Scriptures?
What were the patriarchs?
What were priests?
What are Levites?
What were scribes?
What were prophets?
How were true prophets made to prophecy?
How did prophets differ from priests?
How many kinds or sorts of ministry are there of the New Testament?
How many orders of teachers are there?
What were apostles?
Who were called ‘prophets’?
Who are evangelists?
May not other pastors and doctors of the church be called apostles, prophets and evangelists?
Who are called ‘pastors’?
What were doctors?
Are not doctors and pastors all one, as Augustine thought?
What degrees were substituted unto these?
How do pastors and doctors differ from apostles, prophets and evangelists?
What be the orders of them that minister?
Which be the deacons?
Do you deny that the pastors had any care of the poor imposed upon them?
Who is the author of the ministry?
And is not the ministry of teaching taken away in the church of the New Testament by the saying of Jer. 31:34, ‘A man shall not any more teach his neighbor, but all shall be taught of God’?
What is the form of the ministry?
What does ‘calling’ signify?
How manifold is vocation or calling?
Is the calling to the ministry necessary?
What is lawful calling?
How many sorts are there of lawful calling?
Which is the mediate or ordinary calling?
What manner of men are to be called and elected?
How, or after what manner are they to be chosen?
Of whom ought they to be chosen? Of the bishop and governors of the Church
With what right or ceremony are ministers to be ordained or consecrated, and put into possession of their office?
How long must we observe the visible and ordinary calling and succession of pastors?
What is extraordinary calling?
What if any do brag that he has an extraordinary calling by the inward inspiration of God alone, is he therefore presently to be heard?
What, when ordinary calling ceases, ought every Christian that has skill in the Scriptures to impugne false doctrine and to deliver the true, for that cause go up into the pulpit?
Which be the testimonies or notes of extraordinary calling?
May not they that are sent extraordinarily of God err and slide in their doctrine?
Of what sort is the calling of the preachers of the Gospel in our age?
What if the Romish bishops should free themselves and their churches from the tyranny of the Pope and should purge them from all idolatry and would purely preach the Word of God in their churches, thus reformed, have they need of any other calling save that which they have already?
Are there any certain testimonies in the Scriptures that after the coming of Christ there should be extraordinary callings for the restoring of the Church?
Why does not the Lord rather teach by Himself, or by angels, than by men?
Are there or ought there to be degrees among ministers?
Did our Savior Christ, when He added 70 other disciples to the twelve apostles, Lk. 10:1, ordain two orders of the ministers of the Gospel, and divide them into two classes or forms, differing in dignity and authority?
With what titles are the ministers of the Word adorned in the Scriptures?
What is the office of pastors?
What is the cause that should move the pastors to such an earnest desire of feeding the sheep of Christ?
Is it lawful for the pastor in the time of persecution to flee and to forsake his flock?
Is it lawful to seek an ecclesiastical function?
May hire be lawfully required and received of godly pastors, seeing that, Jn. 10:10, hirelings are reprehended?
What is the end and use of the holy ministry?
What end ought the minister to propound unto himself?
What are the things disagreeing hereunto?
Polyander, Johannes – 42. ‘On the Calling of Those who Minister to the Church, & on their Duties’ in Synopsis of a Purer Theology: Latin Text & English Translation Buy (1625; Brill, 2016), vol. 2, pp. 620-60
ch. 27, ‘The Government of the Church, & Particularly the Commissioning of Ministers’, pp. 107-31
ch. 28, ‘The Offices of Minister, Elder & Deacon’, pp. 131-57
a Brakel (1635-1711) was a contemporary of Voet and Witsius and a major representative of the Dutch Further Reformation.
On Old Testament Church Precendent & Continuity for New Testament Church Offices
An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the Points of Ruling-Elders... (Edinburgh: Bryson, 1641), ch. 3, pp. 17-20
“Having showed what ruling elders are, it follows to show Scripture and divine right for them. Our first argument is taken from the governement and policy of the Jewish Church thus: Whatsoever kind of office-bearers the Jewish Church had, not as it was Jewish, but as it was a Church, such ought the Christian Church to have also. But the Jewish Church, not as it was Jewish, but as it was a Church, had elders of the people who assisted in their ecclesiastical government and were members of their ecclesiastical consistories. Therefore such ought the Christian Church to have also.
The proposition will no man call in question, for quod competit alicui qua tali competit omni tali. That which agrees to any Church as it is a Church, agrees to every Church. I speak of the Church as it is a political body and setled ecclesiastical republic. Let us see then to the assumption.
The Jewish Church, not as it was a Church, but as it was Jewish, had an high priest, typifying our great high Priest Jesus Christ…
But as it was a Church, and not as Jewish, it had four sorts of ordinary office-bearers, priests, Levites, doctors, and elders, and we conformably have pastors, deacons, doctors and elders. To their priests and Levites, Cyprian does rightly liken our pastors and deacons, for howsoever sundry things were done by the priests and Levites, which were typical and Jewish only, yet may we well parallel our pastors with their priests, in respect of a perpetual ecclesiastical office common to both, viz. the teaching and governing of the people of God, Mal. 2:7; 2 Chron. 19:8, and our deacons with their Levites, in respect of the care of ecclesiastical goods and of the work of the service of the house of God in the materials and appurtenances thereof, a function likewise common to both, 1 Chron. 26:20 & 23:24-28.
The Jewish Church had also doctors and schools, or colleges for the preservation of true divinity among them, and of tongues, arts and sciences, necessary thereto, 1 Chron. 15:22-27; 2 Kings 22:14; 1 Sam. 19:20; 2 Kings 2:3-5; Acts 19:9. These office-bearers they had for no typical use, but we have them for the same use and end for which they had them. And all these sorts of office-bearers among us we do as rightly warrant from the like sorts among them as other whiles we warrant our baptizing of infants from their circumcising of them, our churches by their synagogues, etc.
Now that the Jewish Church had also such elders as we plead for, it is manifest: for besides the elders of the priests, there were also elders of the people joined with them in the hearing and handling of ecclesiastical matters, Jer. 19:1, ‘Take of the ancients of the people and of the ancients of the priests.’ The Lord sending a message by the prophet would have a representative body of all Judah to be gathered together for receiving it, as Tremellius notes. So 2 Kings 6:32. Elisha sat in his house and the elders sat with him. We read, 2 Chron. 19:8, that with the priests were joined some of the chief of the fathers of Israel to judge ecclesiastical causes and controversies.
And howsoever many things among the Jews in the latter times, after the captivity, did wear to confusion and misorder, yet we find even in the days of Christ and the apostles, that the elders of the people still sat and voiced in council with the priests, according to the ancient form, as is clear from sundry places of the New Testament, Mt. 16:21 and 21:23 and 26:57-59 and 27:1-12; Mk. 14:43; Lk. 22:66; Acts 4:5.”
Voet, Gisbert – Ecclesiastical Politics (Amsterdam: Waesberge, 1663), vol. 3, pt. 2, bk. 2, ‘Of Ministers & the Ecclesiastical Ministry’, Tract 3, ‘Of the Ordinary Ministers of the Old and New Testament’
1. Of the Ordinary Ministers of the Old Testament 391
That Pastors are a Distinct Office from Ruling Elders
Brown of Haddington, John – ‘The Difference Between Elders & Pastors’ from Systematic Theology (RHB), pp. 568-69
Brown was a minister and professor in the Scottish secession Church.
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 there are Only Two Orders of Regular Offices: Elders & Deacons
While the four regular offices of the Church (Pastors, Doctors, Ruling Elders & Deacons) each have their distinct callings, authority, functions and ordinations (which may not be blended, confused or transgressed), yet pastors, doctors and ruling elders are all known and encompassed in Scripture by the term ‘elder’, or ‘presbyter’, and ‘overseer’, or ‘bishop’, and may all sit on the presbytery (unlike deacons).
A Dispute Against the English-Popish Ceremonies... (1637), pt. 3, ch. 8, Digression 1, ‘Of the vocation of men of Ecclesiastical order’
“Now beside the apostles, prophets and evangelists, which were not ordained to be ordinary and perpetual offices in the Church (Fr. Junius, Animadversions on Bellarmine, Controversy 5, bk. 1, ch. 11), there are but two ecclesiastical orders or degrees instituted by Christ in the New Testament, viz. elders and deacons.
‘Excellenter Canones d•…os tantum sacros ordines appellari censent, Diaconatus scilicet & Presbyte∣rat•…, quia hos solos primitiva Ecclesia legitur habuisse, & de hi•… sol•… praeceptum Apostli habe•…,’ says the [Medieval] Master of Sentences [Peter Lombard] (bk. 4, Distinction [?]).
…Scripture makes no difference of order and degree betwixt bishops and elders; it shows also that they are one and the same order. For in Ephesus and Crete, they who were made elders were likewise made bishops, Acts 20:17 with 28; Tit. 1:5 with 7. And the Apostle, Phil. 1:1, divides the whole ministry in the Church of Philippi into two orders, bishops and deacons. Moreover, 1 Tim. 3, he gives order only for bishops and deacons, but says nothing of a third order. Wherefore it is manifest, that beside those two orders of elders and deacons, there is no other ecclesiastical order which has any divine institution or necessary use in the Church.
Now elders are either such as labor in the Word and doctrine, or else such as are appointed for discipline only. They who labor in the Word and doctrine, are either such as do only teach, and are ordained for conserving in schools and seminaries of learning the purity of Christian doctrine and the true interpretation of Scripture, and for detecting and confuting the contrary heresies and errors, whom the apostle calls doctors or teachers: Or else they are such as do not only teach, but also have a more particular charge to watch over the flock, to seek that which is lost, to bring home that which wanders, to heal that which is diseased, to bind up that which is broken, to visit every family, to warn every person, to rebuke, to comfort, etc., whom the apostle calls sometimes pastors, and sometimes bishops or overseers.
The other sort of elders are ordained only for discipline and Church government, and for assisting of the pastors in ruling the people, overseeing their manners and censuring their faults… and many more of our divines, who teach that the apostle, 1 Tim. 5:17, directly implies that there were some elders who ruled well, and yet labored not in the Word and doctrine, and those elders he means by them that rule, Rom. 12:8 and by ‘governments’, 1. Cor. 12:28, where the apostle says not ‘helps in governments,’ as our new English Translation corruptly reads, but ‘helps, governments,’ etc. plainly putting ‘governments’ for a different order from ‘helps’, or deacons.
Deacons were instituted by the apostles (Zanchi, in 4 Prae., col. 766-67) for collecting, receiving, keeping and distributing of ecclesiastical goods, which were given and dedicated for the maintenance of ministers, Churches, schools and for the help and relief of the poor, the stranger, the sick and the weak, also for furnishing of such things as are necessary to the ministration of the sacraments (Junius, Animadversions on Bellarmine, Controversy 5, bk. 1, ch. 13). Beside which employments the Scripture has assigned neither preaching, nor baptizing, nor any other ecclesiastical function to ordinary deacons.”
An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the Points of Ruling-Elders…. (Edinburgh: Bryson, 1641), ch. 2, pp. 8-10
“Notwithstanding of all the multiplicity of Popish orders, yet Peter Lombard (pt. 4, distinction 4) treading the vestiges of the primitive simplicity, did observe that the apostles left only two sacred orders to be perpetual in the Church, the order of deacons and the order of elders.
The administration of deacons is exercised about things bodily. The administration of elders about things spiritual. The former about the goods: the latter about the government of the Church. Now elders are of three sorts: 1. Preaching Elders, or Pastors, 2. Teaching Elders or Doctors, 3. Ruling Elders. All these are elders, because they have voice in presbyteries and all assemblies of the Church, and the government of the Church is incumbent to them all: nor only to the pastor and elder, but to the doctor also.
The bishop of Dune, in his Examen conjurationis Scoticae [‘Examination of the Scottish Conjuration’], p. 35, alleges that our Church of Scotland did never yet determine whether doctors and deacons have right of voicing in the consistories and assemblies of the Church. But had he read our book of Policy, he might have found that it excludes deacons from being members of presbyteries and assemblies, ch. 8, but admits doctors into the same, ch. 5.
The doctor being an elder, as said is, should assist the pastor in the government of the Kirk and concur with the elders, his brethren, in all assemblies, by reason the interpretation of the Word, which is [the] only judge in ecclesiastical matters, is committed to his charge. But they differ in that the pastor labors in the Word of exhortation, that is, by the gift of wisdom, applies the Word to the manners of his flock, and that in season and out of season, as he knows their particular cases to require. The doctor labours in the Word of doctrine, that is, without such applications as the pastor uses, by simple teaching he preserves the truth and sound interpretation of the Scriptures against all heresy and error. The ruling elder does neither of these, but labours in the government and policy of the Church only.
The apostle has distinguished these three sorts of elders, 1 Tim. 5:17, ‘Let elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the Word and doctrine,’ where, as Beza notes, he distinguishes the Word, which is the pastor’s part, from doctrine, which is the doctor’s part. Even as Rom. 12:7-8, he distinguishes teaching from exhortation: and 1 Cor. 12:8 puts the Word of wisdom and the word of knowledge for two different things. Now beside those elders which labour in the Word, and those which labor in doctrine, Paul speaks to Timothy of a third sort of elders, which labor neither in the Word nor doctrine, but in ruling well.”
The Nature of the Office’s Authority
“…there is another judgment [besides that proper to individual believing Christians] that is ministerial, official and authoritative… that what the shepherd teaches others God revealed to him first, and is put forth in a ministerial and official judging either in synods, or in public pastoral sermons and authoritative, but ministerial publishing the will and mind of Christ. Mal. 2:7, ‘They shall seek the Law from his mouth.’ Heb. 13:7,17. That way the people depends upon the ministerial judgment of synods and pastors…
For pastors and synods teach fundamentals of faith ministerially to the people, and by hearing of them is faith begotten in the hearers…
For this judgment authoritative as it is in the head of the Church (Christ) as in the fountain and only Law-giver, so it is ministerially only and by way of office in the elders, as the will and mind of the king is in the inferior judge, the ambassador or herald, not in the people; and the people are obliged ‘to obey those that are over them in the Lord, who watch for their souls, as those who must give an account’… and of this it is said, ‘he that heareth you’ (ministers of the Gospel, not the people) ‘heareth Me, he that dispiseth you dispiseth Me.’
And this is more than a privilege of order and honor, which one Christian has above another in regard of eminence of graces, gifts, and of wisdom, experience, and age: it is a privilege of office to speak in the name of the Lord, and yet it is inferior to a privilege of the law, because the Lord only imposes laws upon the conscience: for it is a middle judgment less than legislative, supreme and absolute over the conscience; this is in none save only in the King and head of the Church, and is royal and princely;
Yet is it more (I say not more excellent, it not being saving of itself as in believers) than a privilege of mere honor and order, for though it lay no more bands on the conscience to obtain faith, because it is holden forth by men, it having no influence on the conscience because of men, whose word is not the formal object of faith, yet has it an official authority from pastors (which is not merely titulary) so as they may ministerially and officially command obedience to their judgment as far as it agrees with the mind of Christ, no farther: and when it is disobeyed may inflict censures, which private Christians cannot do, and puts these who disobey under another guiltiness than if private Christians did speak the same word, to wit not only in a case of disobedience to the Second Commandment, but in a state of disobedience to the Fifth Commandment formally, as not honoring father and mother; whereas to disobey that same word by way of counsel in the mouth of a brother, though it be the breach of the Fifth Commandment also [if the brother be superior in age, gifts, etc.], yet not in such a manner as when we refuse to hear the messenger of the Lord of Hosts; and his judgment as a messenger of God is public and binds as public to [the] highest obedience to the Fifth Commandment; but as it is a judgment of faith common to the doctor with other Christians, it binds as the mind of God holding faith in the Second Commandment what we are to believe.”
“Synods should take care that no man despise their authority, as Timothy is exhorted by Paul, but their authority in matters of faith is conditional…”
That the Higher Offices Contain the Calling, Authority & Functions of the Lower Offices
Bayne, Paul – Commentary on Eph. 4
Gillespie, George – Miscellany Questions, on Ordination
The Dying Man’s Testament to the Church of Scotland, or a Treatise Concerning Scandal… (Edinburgh, 1659), pt. 2, ch. 2, p. 70
“2. We see also that though ministers are virtually both elders and deacons (as the apostles were), yet ought they to regulate their exercising of both these with respect to the former two. And,
3. that elders and deacons ought in governing and overseeing the poor to have special respect to keep ministers from being burdened or toiled with these, that they may have freedom to follow the ministry of the Word as the main thing: Yea, even to have much access to privacy and solitariness, which is both most necessary for and a well becoming duty to a minister; This is a special end of the appointment of these officers, and in reference to which they are helps, 1 Cor. 12:28, both to the people and to the ministers.”
That Persons may Change Offices
A Peaceable & Temperate Plea… (London, 1642), ch. 19, p. 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
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?
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.
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