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THE CHURCH: ITS OFFICERS.
Officers in the church are of divine constitution. They can, therefore, be neither changed nor multiplied nor abrogated by human authority. Nor can the power belonging to a church office by divine appointment be increased or lessened by man. This is evident from the pledge Christ gave of his perpetual presence with the ministry to the end of the world, from his perpetuation of the ministry after his ascension by bestowing special gifts for it, and from the institution of the ministry by the apostles in every congregation. Church officers, being thus divinely established, are to be received as appointed by God, and are to be perpetuated unchanged to the end of time; and in exercising the power God has given to their office, they are to be recognized as acting by his authority. Other officers, though proper and useful, are only of human authority, and may be changed with the varying exigences of the church.
The officers of the new dispensation are thus indicated : “When he ascended on high, 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. iv. 8-13). And Paul, when addressing the church, speaks of it as organized with “bishops and deacons" (Phil. i. 1; 1 Tim. iii. 1-13). These officers may be divided into two classes :
FIRST: EXTRAORDINARY OFFICERS. This class consists of those who either belonged exclusively to the first age of Christianity or are not essential to the full organization of a church.
I. THE TEMPORARY OFFICERS, BELONGING ONLY TO THE APOSTOLIC PERIOD. In this division we place:
1. The apostles. Twelve were originally appointed, that being the number of the tribes of Israel to whom was their special mission. The thirteenth, afterward added, was specially sent to the Gentiles (Matt. xix. 27, 28; Gal. ii. 7-9; Acts xxii. 17-21). The qualifications of an apostle were—a commission from Christ in person (Acts i. 24; Gal. i. 1); an actual sight of him in the body after he had risen, so as to attest, in the character of a witness, the fact of his resurrection (Acts i. 22, 23; 1 Cor. ix. 1); a reception of the gospel, without human intervention, by the direct personal instruction of Christ (Gal. i. 11-20); and finally, the power to impart the Holy Spirit or confer ability to exercise supernatural gifts (Acts viii. 14–17). All these qualifications are either expressly stated as necessary to an apostle, or, in Paul's defence of his apostleship, are urged as evidences of his apostolic authority. The apostleship, like the office of Moses and Joshua at the introduction to the old dispensation, had a special design. Its purpose was the introduction of Christianity and the full organization of the church. When this was accomplished the office ceased. Hence, there is neither command nor suggestion in regard to its perpetuation, and the papal and ritualistic assumption that prelatical bishops are the successors of the apostles does not rest on even the semblance of divine authority.
2. Prophets.—These had a twofold function-to foretell future events, and thus confirm the divine origin of the gospel, as in the case of Agabus; and to unfold by special inspiration the truths of the gospel, and thus supply the lack of the completed revelation now contained in the books of the New Testament (Acts xxi. 10, 11; 1 Cor. 14). These books were at that time either unwritten, or,
if written, in very limited circulation, and the gospel was known only as revealed in the Old Testament, or as expounded in the oral discourses of the apostles and their assistants. Hence, there was need of the gift of special inspiration in each church, through which these truths might be unfolded to the people. This office was also temporary. Its necessity ceased with the completion of the New Testament canon.
II. OFFICERS PERMANENTLY EXISTING, BUT NOT ESSENTIAL TO THE FULL ORGANIZATION OF A CHURCH. Here belong:
1. Evangelists. This term occurs only three times. It seems to designate the itinerant ministry, or missionaries. Such were Apollos, Timothy, Titus, Silas, and Philipmen who, without a permanent local charge, were dained to preach the gospel, administer ordinances, and constitute and strengthen churches, either in regions unevangelized or among feeble churches. Thus, Barnabas is sent from Jerusalem to Antioch to guide and assist in the great awakening in that heathen city. Silas and Timothy remain at Berea to organize and strengthen the infant church when Paul is driven away by persecution. Titus is left in Crete to "set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city” (Acts xi. 22–24; xvii. 14; Tit. i. 5).
2. Teachers and preachers—terms which designate, in a general way, all those who were gifted for public instruction and were set apart to it. The simple worship of the church of the New Testament naturally called forth all the gifts of the body; it is probable, therefore, that many were thus recognized as public instructors.
It is evident that these officers, though not essential to the full organization of a church, are, from the nature of their work, permanent as Christianity itself; for the work of evangelization and instruction belongs to all ages. But they have no official authority in the church as church officers. They are members of it, entitled to its privileges and amenable to its discipline; and in their relation to the church they differ from other members only in the fact that they are invested with authority to preach the gospel and administer ordinances as God may call them
SECOND: ORDINARY OFFICERS. Of these, the church, as divinely constituted, has only two classes-pastors and deacons. For in Scripture these are the only officers mentioned as ordinary, and the qualifications and duties of these only are stated in connection with the usual officers of a church. This is confirmed, also, by the fact that, in the Post-apostolic age, these officers alone are found in the churches. This position is opposed : 1. By the Papal Church, in which three orders of clergy exist–bishops, priests, and deacons, all subordinate to the universal bishop, the Pope of Rome. 2. By the Episcopal Church, which has these three orders of clergy, but denies papal supremacy. 3. By the Presbyterian Church, which makes a distinction of order between the presbyter and the ruling elder, the latter being not a clerical but a lay officer. In all these, also, the clergy exist as
a self-perpetuating and self-regulative body, distinct from, and for the most part independent of, the congregation.
I. PASTORS. On this class we submit the following propositions:
1. The terms presbyter, bishop, pastor, are designations of one office.
For, (a.) These terms are used interchangeably in Scripture. The elders of Ephesus are called also overseers or bishops. Paul, in giving charge to Titus respect
ing the ordination of this class, terms them, interchangeably, elders and bishops. And Peter exhorts elders to take the oversight, or act as bishops, of the flock (Acts xx. 17-28; Tit. i. 5-7; 1 Pet. v. 1, 2). (6.) The qualifications and duties required of these are identical (1 Tim. iii. 1-7; Tit. i. 5). (c.) Ordination, which Episcopacy claims as a prerogative of bishops, was plainly conferred by elders; for Timothy was set apart to his work by the presbytery, or eldership (1 Tim. iv. 14). The New Testament gives
. no intimation of a distinction between bishops and elders, the term bishop being simply the Greek word for designating the person whom the Jews called elder; while pastor indicated the same person, as one to whom God had committed the oversight and guidance of the flock. This view has now the sanction of nearly all biblical scholars, English and German, Episcopal and non-Episcopal, and must be regarded as definitely settled.
2. The duties of pastors are the preaching of the gospel, the administration of the ordinances, and the government and spiritual oversight of the church. (a.) Preaching the gospel. In Paul's address to the elders
.. of Ephesus, he plainly implies that their work was substantially identical with his own teaching "publicly and from house to house;" for he proposed to them his own example of labor. “Apt to teach” is made an essential qualification in the pastor, and he is required to be “able by sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers." The highest work of the ministry, as presented in Scripture, is to act as "ambassadors for Christ” in proclaiming God's message
to man. (6.) The administration of the ordinances. In the commission Christ makes it the duty of the ministry not only to “teach," but also to baptize, thus including the administration of ordinances in their work. Philip the