In the New Testament history of the apostolic church we see three kinds of presbyteries: congregational presbyteries, or sessions of local churches;
regional presbyteries, which are referred today simply as presbyteries; and synodical presbyteries, or general assemblies....These three types of presbyteries in the Christian church were modeled after the Jewish system of church government with its three ecclesiastical courts: the Sanhedrin, corresponding to the synodical
presbytery; the Presbytery, corresponding to the regional presbytery; and the Synogogue, with its rulers, corresponding to the session in the local congregation. (359)
First, in the New Testament we see elders given the authority by Christ (through calling, election and ordination), to govern the congregation (local church) of which they are members....Each local church had a plurality of elders, and when the elders were officially in session, together they ruled and managed the local church. (359)
Second, in the apostolic church we see broader presbyteries representing
several churches regionally, which we know today simply as presbyteries, to distinguish them from sessions. The New Testament speaks of a plurality of elders associated and assembled together as a presbytery, governing the congregations which they represented. (350-360)
"There is in the Word of Christ a pattern of one presbyterial government in common over several single congregations in one church." 80. Hall, The Divine Right of Church-Government, 217. (361)
Third, in the apostolic church in the New Testament, we see the existence of synodical presbyteries, or what we call today general assemblies (Heb. 12:22f) or synods....This would mean that as the session has oversight of the local region, and the presbytery over a specific region, synod would have oversight over all the church in all regions of a larger region. Furthermore, it would mean that as church
members have the right to appeal a session’s decision to a presbytery, so they have the right to appeal a presbytery’s decision to a synod or general assembly. (362-363)
Now, what is the Biblical basis for believing that the apostolic church had synodical presbyteries? ...
First, the Old Testament presents us with a church court in Israel superior to her other courts (Ex. 18:22–26; Deut. 17:8, 12 compared with 2 Chron. 19:8, 11; Ps. 122:4–5). If the ecclesiastical government of the church of Israel in the Old Testament had “synagogues in every City which were subordinate to the Supreme Ecclesiastical Court at Jerusalem, then there ought to be a subordination of particular Churches among us to higher assemblies.” 88
Second, Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15–21 infer such synodical presbyteries as church courts of appeal.
Third, the unity and catholicity of the visible church is the theological foundation for church government by synodical presbyteries. Christ has one visible catholic church. He has given this church His form of government for her in the Bible. The ordinances Christ has instituted belong to the entire visible church for her edification, and not just to single congregations.
Fourth, the apostolic church provides us with a model for synodical presbyteries in the New Testament, i.e., Acts 15 and 16. The regional presbyterial church at Antioch, and probably the churches of Syria and Cilicia as well (vs. 23, 41) sent representatives to a broader synodical presbyterial church at Jerusalem to settle an issue that was troubling the less broad region of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia.
88. Hall, The Divine Right of Church-Government, 239. (363-365)
The power of presbyteries is limited by the lordship of Christ and the Word of God. It is the spiritual power of the keys of the kingdom, not the political power of the sword. It is neither absolute nor infallible, but limited and fallible. All of its decrees and decisions are to be in total agreement with the Word of God. And if the decision of any presbytery is not consonant with that Word, a member or a presbytery has the right of appeal, from the local session to the regional presbytery to the synodical presbytery or general assembly. Furthermore, the power of presbytery is not only persuasive, it is also juridical. In other words, the presbytery is not only able to give solemn advice and counsel with forceful moral persuasions, but every one within its bounds is “obliged reverently to esteem, and dutifully to submit unto so far as agreeable to the Word of Christ.”95 Hall, The Divine Right of Church-Government, 224. (366)
 The Standard of Christian Authority
The presbytery at Jerusalem settled the dispute in Antioch by the exposition
and application of the Word of God (15:16), as the only way of understanding
God’s providence and of refuting false teachers. This teaches us that the only standard by which the affairs of the church are to be regulated is the revealed will of God. (368)
 The Authority of Church Officers
"The inspired record of this Council of Jerusalem plainly sanctions the Presbyterian principle of the right of the office bearers of the church, as distinguished from the ordinary members, to decide judicially any disputes that may arise about the affairs of the church,—to be the ordinary interpreters and administrators of Christ’s laws for the government of His house." 98 Cunningham, Historical Theology, 1:50. (368)
 The Place of Church Members
"Now, the way in which they are here introduced, plainly implies that they did not stand upon the same platform in the matter with the apostles and elders… It does imply, however, that after the apostles and elders had made up their minds as
to what was the mind and will of God in this matter, and what decision should be pronounced, the subject was brought before the people,—that they were called upon to attend to it, to exercise their judgment upon it, and to make up their mind regarding it." 102. Cunningham, Historical Theology, 1:55–56 (371)
 The Subordination of Church Courts
"The whole transaction here recorded… naturally and obviously wears the aspect of the church at Antioch referring an important and difficult question, because of its importance and difficulty, and because of its affecting the interests of the whole church, to the church of Jerusalem, as to a superior authority; and of that church accordingly entertaining the reference, and giving an authoritative decision upon the subject referred to them." 103. Cunningham, Historical Theology, 1:59–60. (372)
 The Obligation of Apostolic Practice
It was a deliberative assembly, proceeding by discourses and disputes, not by apostolic Spirit-produced words. In Acts 15, we see the ordinary procedures of presbytery: debate, dispute, exposition and application of the Bible, and voting.
Why would all this be needed if the apostles present were acting in a miraculous and extraordinary manner? (379)
 The Divine Right of Presbyterian Government
Who are the officers of the Church and what are their roles?
First, Christ is Head and King:
The first office in the church is the office of Head and King of the
church, which is the Lord Jesus Christ....“Christ is the real King and Head of the Church, as a visible organisation, ruling it by His statutes, and ordinances, and officers, and forces, as truly and literally as David or Solomon ruled the covenant people of old.”119 Walker, quoted in Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 582. (385)
Christ’s kingly authority is manifested in His church in a variety of ways. (1) He instituted the church...(2) He instituted the means of grace which His church must administer: the Word of God and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper ...(3) He gave to His church its constitution and officers, and bestowed on them authority to rule the church in His name...(4) He is always present with His church when it meets for worship, acting and speaking through its officers... (386)
The second and third offices in the church were those of the apostles and prophets in the New Testament. The apostles and prophets, as vehicles of verbal and inerrant revelation from God, constitute the foundation of the church with Christ as the “cornerstone,” i.e., the principal support and cause of growth: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow-citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19–20). The Spirit-revealed, written teachings of the Christ-commissioned apostles and prophets are
the doctrinal and organizational foundation of the Christian church through the ages to the very end of the world. (386)
Neither the office of apostle nor the office of prophet were meant to be perpetual offices in the church. They were extraordinary and temporary offices inseparably connected to the laying of the foundation of the Christian church in the first century (Eph. 2:19, 20). (387)
The office of the minister of the Word is a permanent office in the church. We know this to be the case for four reasons. (1) Christ commissioned His church to disciple, baptize and instruct all nations to the end of the world by the preaching and teaching of the Word of God (Matt. 28:18–20). (2) The Spirit-inspired and Christ commissioned apostles made provision in the New Testament for this history-long mission with the institution of the office of minister to succeed the apostles after they passed off the scene....(3) Ephesians 4:11–13 tells us that the ministerial
office will be needed “until we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (4) The permanency of the office of minister is assumed in the words of Jesus in Luke 12:42–43: “And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.’” (388)
As contemporary French Calvinist, Pierre Marcel has written: “the power of the preached Word is the very power of God… for it accomplishes the works which the Godhead alone is able to perform in the hearts of lost men; its effectiveness is divine.” 126 Pierre Marcel, The Relevance of Preaching, trans. by Rob Roy McGregor (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1963), 14. (393)
The point Paul is making is that the preaching of Christ is to be heard in the preaching of heralds of the gospel, and that it is heard with such power that it raises the spiritual dead to new life and subdues the rebel’s heart to faith and submission to Him. (394)
Not every Christian is called to “herald the gospel,” although all Christians are to evangelize. ...
So then, to be “sent” is to be commissioned by Christ to serve, represent and speak for Him officially in His own authority, as an ambassador and herald. (395)
Only ordained officers in the church specifically “sent” by Christ to “herald” the gospel are authorized by Him to proclaim His gospel. The point is that not all Christians are to be “preachers.” In fact, a person should think long and hard before he aspires to this teaching office. As James 3:1 warns us: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.” (398)
There are two parts to the call into the ministry of preaching: an internal call of the Holy Spirit and an outward call of the Church, both of which originate with Christ Himself. Furthermore, there are two parts of the internal call of the Spirit of Christ to the office of preaching: desire and fitness. (416)
 The inward call:
Wilhelmus á Brakel writes that this inner desire for the work of preaching grows out of "an extraordinary love (a) for Christ and a desire to make Him known; (b) for the church to present her as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2) and to cause her to shine forth with light and holiness to the honor of God; (c) for the souls of the unconverted to snatch them from the fire, as well as of the converted to strengthen, comfort, and continually provide them with spiritual food." 141 Wilhelmus á Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 4 vols (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1992), 2:122. (417)
The general attitudes flowing from the obedience to Christ that must be present in anyone called to preach are:
"1. Self-discipline, not just in academics, but in all of life, from prayer and Bible study to proper habits of rest and exercise.
2. Self-sacrifice, a genuine willingness to endure hardship in terms of finances, peer esteem, physical comfort if the cause of Christ demands it.
3. Self-giving, not only to the powerful and wealthy, but also to the weak, the poor, to any who are in need in any way.
4. Self-control, a sense of the Spirit’s sanctifying work in one’s own life, an awareness that Christ alone is one’s Master." 147. Nederhood, “The Minister’s Call,” 55–6. (419-420)
 The outward call:
Those who are called of God must cheerfully submit themselves to the examination, approval and ordination of the church. Christ sends men to preach through the
“sending” of the church (Acts 13:2; 15:26). A person’s sense of an inward call must be checked and confirmed by the elders of the church, lest he be guilty of appointing himself to the office of preaching, and therefore preach “unsent.” (420)
In every organized church there should be three classes of officers: (1) At least one minister of the Word, or preaching elder, (2) At least two ruling elders, and (3) Deacons. The office of ruling elder is of vital and necessary importance in the church, because “the laws which Christ has appointed for the government and edification of his people cannot possibly be executed without such a class of officers.” 152. Miller, The Ruling Elder, 172. (422)
Ruling elders are absolutely necessary for a healthy and useful church....Neither the purity nor the beauty nor the orderliness of the churches of Christ, nor the credible witness to the world of the majesty and authority of Christ, can be maintained for long without ruling elders in each church, faithfully carrying out the shepherding duties Christ has assigned them. (423)
The office of elder goes all the way back to the days of Moses, some 3500 years
ago. The New Testament office of elder is a continuation and clarification of the Old Testament office of elder. He was a man of maturity and experience deserving honor...OT elders were the representative heads of families, who had the wisdom, discernment and experience to rule in the life of the covenant community, socially, judicially and morally. (423)
Why are elders so vitally important to the health and usefulness of the church?...Because ruling elders are to be the guardians, managers, shepherds
and servants of the church which Christ purchased with His own blood...They serve the church as Christ serves the church as her Guardian, Governor and Good Shepherd. (424)
The two chief services rendered to the church by the ruling elder are INSTRUCTION and GOVERNMENT. (425)
In 1846, the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland adopted this excellent summary of the duties of elders:
"1. That they sit in session along with the minister, and assist in the administration of discipline and in the spiritual government of the church.
2. That they take a careful oversight of the people’s morals and religious principles, of the attendance upon public ordinances, and of the state of personal and family religion.
3. That they visit the sick from time to time in their several districts.
4. That they superintend the religious instruction of the young, and assist the minister in ascertaining the qualifications of applicants for admission to sealing ordinances.
5. That they superintend and promote the formation of meetings within their districts for prayer, reading of the Scriptures, and Christian fellowship among the members of the church." 159 David Dickson, The Elder and His Work (Dallas, TX: Presbyterian Heritage
Publications, 1990), 10. (426-427)
Elders are to be elected by the congregation in which they will serve, and ordained by the session of that church with the laying on of hands. They are elected for life and not for a limited term. This election to the office of elder “continues through life, unless the individual be deposed from office. Like a minister of the gospel, he cannot
lay aside his office at pleasure.” 162 . Miller, The Ruling Elder, 270. (427)
The Positive (pages 430-432):
Lover of Good
Sensible and Sober-Minded
The Negative (pages 432-433)
Addicted to Wine
Fond of Sordid Gain
A New Convert
...Jesus would have us obey, submit, appreciate, and esteem very highly in love those whom He makes ruling elders by His Spirit. We are to give to them loving submission as they work diligently overseeing us (“have charge over you”) and instructing/counseling us (“instruction”). We are to submit to their faithful, personal shepherding oversight of ourselves and our families in the church;
and to their faithful instruction in and preaching of the Word of God. (434)
When they must painfully exercise church discipline, we must not be offended with them for the faithful performance of duty. Rather, we must make the words of the psalmist our own: “Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; it is oil upon the head; do not let my head refuse it” (Ps. 141:5). (435)
The office of ruling elder is a permanent office in the church....Moreover, “term eldership” is contrary to the implications of election and ordination to office.
However, elders may be removed from office for a variety of reasons. He may be removed for false doctrine, ungodliness, the absence of those gifts necessary for him to function as an elder, inability to exercise the functions of an elder—either because of age, infirmity or change of location....But, an elder may not simply leave office by a letter of resignation, unless that request is approved by the Session. (438)
First, the fact that the elder was considered qualified for the office because of the gifts of the Spirit qualifying him for office argues against “term eldership. (438)
Second, election of a man to the office of elder by the congregation and his ordination by the Session also argue against “term eldership.” The congregation elects him and the Session ordains him because they are convinced he is qualified by the Holy Spirit to hold the office of elder. Through this process, Christ the Head of the church, and the Holy Spirit who indwells the church, are calling this particular man to the office of elder. (439)
Third, if the teaching elders and the ruling elders have parity in the exercise of church authority, then “term eldership” seems out of the question. The teaching elder is ordained to that office for life....It is inconsistent with the idea of parity for ruling elders not to be elected and ordained on an equally permanent basis. (440)