The sixth office, that of deacon, is essential to the health of the church—physically, spiritually, and socially—for another reason. It is “the office of love” in the church. His [the deacon's] concern is love in that it shows Christians how to love one another practically and effectively. (443-444)
As the word, “oversight,” summarizes the work of the elder, so the word “service” summarizes the work of the deacon. It is a physical, material and social work in that it is concerned with the relief of physical, material and social needs in the congregation.
Because of the spiritual, serving, caring nature of the office of deacon, his serving ministry draws a sharp line between the church and the world....The church dispenses the mercy of Christ to Christ’s people and to the world Christ made....Significantly, the Bible tells us that of the seven deacons chosen by the church in Jerusalem, Stephen and Philip were active also as evangelists.
The office of deacon is rooted in the sympathy for the poor and needy that characterized the covenant community of the Old Testament: “You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land” (Deut. 15:11)...The apostolic church took seriously its responsibility to care for the needy. It systematically cared for its widows (1 Tim. 5:3f) and frequently received offerings for its needy members (2 Cor. 8–9). It believed that “pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27). (444)
The function of the deacon is to manage the financial affairs of the church, especially with reference to the collections and distributions of the churches monies and properties to the needy.
Deacons must be men of piety, sound judgment, prudence, knowledge of the Word and world, and weight of character. (446)
The Bible does not assign to deacons any role in the government of the church. The responsibility is in the hands of the ruling elders. Therefore, although they may be invited to Session meetings, they have no vote as the rulers of the church. (447)
Deacons serve Christ when they serve the church. And the service they give involves the giving of food and drink, extending shelter, providing clothes, visiting the sick, loaning or giving money to the needy, giving work to the needy, expressing sympathy and compassion in observable and practical ways, like being present in times of crisis or giving financial advice if needed. (448)
"[T]he deacons must also care for the souls of their poor, for they are as fathers to them; and whatever one member is obligated to do to another, they must excel in doing to those over whom the Lord has placed them. (1). They must instruct the ignorant, and bring them to the church services and to catechism instruction. (2). They must exhort, rebuke, and comfort according to individual circumstances. (3). They must visit the sick, either preparing their souls for the hour of death, or exhorting them to increase in godliness if they may again become healthy. In doing so they will “purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith
which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3:13)." 205 Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 2:151–52. (449)
From all this above we can conclude:
First, the greatest Deacon who ever lived, upon whom our lives and salvation depends is the Lord Jesus Christ. His deaconing work in our behalf is the basis for the forgiveness of our sins and our acceptance in the family of God. (453)
Second, those who hold the office of deacon are not the only ones who are to do the work of a “deacon.” All Christians are called to the “work of service” (διακονιασ) (Eph. 4:12). All Christians are to be servants and ministers of God to each other, deaconing to each other in the name of Christ. (456)
Third, Isaiah 58:5–12 teaches us that service is power. This text presents us with three fundamental truths: (1) true repentance is characterized by concrete and practical service to those in need; (2) Christian service is the giving of ourselves to people in need; and (3) God promises that Christian service will have great effects. (457)
Seventh, according to The Westminster Form of Presbyterial Church-Government, the New Testament church had the office of teacher (“doctor”) (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11): “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” He, as a minister of the word, as well as the pastor, has the authority to administer the sacraments. (459)
"Pastors and Teachers are supposed by some to denote one office, because the apostle does not, as in the other parts of the verse, say, “and some, pastors; and some, teachers;”… but and some, pastors and teachers.… I partly agree with them,
that Paul speaks indiscriminately of pastors and teachers as belonging to one and the same class, and that the name teacher does, to some extent, apply to all pastors. But this does not appear to me a sufficient reason why two offices, which I find to differ from each other, should be confounded. Teaching is, no doubt, the duty of all pastors; but to maintain sound doctrine requires a talent for interpreting
Scripture, and a man may be a teacher who is not qualified to preach. Pastors, in my opinion, are those who have the charge of a particular flock; though I have no objection to their receiving the name of teachers, if it be understood that there is a distinct class of teachers, who preside both in the education of pastors and in the instruction of the whole church. It may sometimes happen, that the same person is
both a pastor and a teacher, but the duties to be performed are entirely different." 221 John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, trans. by Rev. William Pringle, 21:279. (459-460)
The final office of the church is that of Evangelist.
Eighth, the office of evangelist was an office in the New Testament church (Eph. 4:11, 12; Acts 21:8; 2 Tim. 4:5). The evangelist
"differed from the apostles and prophets in that, so far as we are informed, he did not possess the same extraordinary or higher charisms [miraculous gifts of the Spirit]; he differed from the pastors and presbyters, that he was not tied down to any particular district. He was simply an itinerating minister, whose duty was to preach the gospel to any who knew it not, and to organize a church in any locality where the material existed and opportunity offered. Having placed the new society [congregation] under officers of its own, he passed on to other districts and provinces where similar work had to be done. The evangelist of the apostolic age is the missionary, whose work was [and is] twofold:—the preaching of the gospel [to the lost] and the organization of churches [out of converts to his preaching].… The evangelist is a pioneer, opening up the way for the church and ministry." 222 Witherow, The Form of the Christian Temple, 38–9. (460-461)
First then, what is the source of the church authority and jurisdiction?
The authority of the church comes directly from God, “being exercised and enforced, not only or chiefly because of the permission or consent of its members,
but because it is a positive Divine institution, apart altogether from that consent.… In other words, the source of church power is not in the members, but in Christ [Matt. 28:18].” 226 Bannerman, The Church of Christ, 1:191–92. (462-463)
The standard defining the nature and extent of church authority is the entire Word of God written—sola scriptura—not the laws of the state, the civil constitution of a nation, nor the will of the members or officers. (463)
The authority of church officers and church courts is subordinate to Christ and His Word, and is, therefore, ministerial,
"having no authority or discretion of their own, and being merely ministers or servants to carry out the will and execute the appointments of Christ.… In reference to the office-bearers of the Church, of whatsoever place or authority in it, they, if they keep within their office, are but the instruments in the hands of Christ Himself, acting in His name, ruling by His authority, and carrying into effect no more than His instructions." 229 Bannerman, The Church of Christ, 1:219. (464)
Second, God’s authority is directly related to the exercise of church authority and the decisions of church courts. (464)
Jesus Christ, as Head and King of His church, has given church courts a threefold authority: authority in matters of doctrine; authority in matters of worship; and authority in matters of discipline. (465)
As the pillar, guardian and custodian of the revealed truth of God, the church
is to be a witness, interpreter and defender of Biblical truth to the consciences, minds, hearts and lives of people, both inside and outside the church. (465)
The church is the official custodian and teacher of the Word of God to those within her membership (1 Tim. 3:15; Matt. 28:19–20; 2 Tim. 2:2). The Head of the church has commissioned His church to guard His Word from supplementation, perversion, alteration or abridgement. (465)
The church is also commissioned by Christ to be the authoritative witness to the world on behalf of the truth of the Word of God (Acts 1:8; Phil. 2:15–16). In being Christ’s authoritative witness to the world, she is also to confess her faith solemnly, boldly and clearly in the face of the world’s unbelief and evil (Eph. 5:1f). This responsibility of confessing the truth of the Word of God to the world has been discharged by the church historically by the framing of summaries of the truth in confessions of faith or catechisms...Such confessions and catechisms, concisely and precisely bearing witness to revealed truth over against falsehood serves a twofold purpose: (1) A witness for the truth; and (2) A protest against false doctrines. (466)
The church has the authority to put into effect the institutions, ordinances and laws appointed by Christ in His church, which does NOT involve the power to bind the conscience of its members to the observance of new and additional ordinances enacted by itself. (467)
The authority of the church in matters of worship is concerned with the following three points. (1) The church is commissioned to preserve from generation to generation the public worship of God according to the way God Himself has commanded in His Word. (2) The church is to preserve from generation to generation the observance of the Christian Sabbath according to the way God
Himself has commanded for it to be observed in His Word. (3) The church has the responsibility to maintain the office of the minister of the Word from generation to generation... (467)
The church has the power to apply church discipline, to admit and to exclude from the fellowship of the church, and to govern the conduct of members while they continue as members. (468)
How is the purity of the church, in its doctrine and life, to be maintained? ...
First of all, church discipline is rooted in self-discipline....
Three means are presented in the Bible whereby a church can preserve and advance its purity of doctrine and practice....(1) The careful admission of people into the church’s membership and to the Lord’s Table by the elders; (2) The practice of loving church discipline in the congregation; and (3) The careful, faithful preaching and teaching of the whole Word of God. (469-470)
The one requirement for church membership is a credible profession of faith in Christ and the Bible (Matt. 16:16–18; Acts 2:41; Matt. 28:19). A credible profession of faith is a profession of faith in Christ and the Bible that is believable, that is in general conformity with the teachings of the Bible and that is demonstrated in a life of obedience to God in the one making the profession. (470)
Elders must exercise great care and vigilance in this area of receiving people into the church, praying that God would give them discernment, courage and wisdom (James 1:5) so as not to expect too little or demand too much from those who would come under their shepherding oversight and join the congregation committed to their charge. (471)
Discipline and discipleship are the same thing. It is the training of a believer to live an increasingly faithful life of devotion to Jesus Christ, glorifying and enjoying God in all he is and does. Christian discipline or discipleship is comprised of three components: instruction, which is preventive discipline, chastisement, which is corrective discipline, and counseling, which is restorative discipline.
Preventive discipline is the exercise of the authority Christ gave His church to instruct and guide its members in the revealed ways of God (Deut. 29:29) and to promote purity and peace in the church (Matt. 16:19). It involves the active, vigorous and consistent preaching and teaching of the Word of God, catechizing, training and instructing the young and old in the true revealed religion....
Restorative discipline is essential to the purity of the church. It is not only to be practiced by the ministers and elders, but by all the members of the church, who, as they are filled with faith, goodness, knowledge and wisdom from the Word, are “competent to counsel” (Rom. 15:13–14). ...
Corrective discipline is needed in the congregation, because all congregations are comprised of believing sinners....When a church member wanders into sinful paths, inadvertently or deliberately, he needs loving correction and restoration, much as an erring child needs correction, even chastisement to learn that the way of the transgressor is hard so that he might be restored. (471-472)
[The latter point is further broken out in the following:]
First, the person who is offended and concerned because of some sin against him from another church member is to approach the offender in love about his sin and the problems arising from it, in an effort to set things straight, and to save the brother from further hurt and shame.
Second, if this fails, he is to take witnesses with him either to witness the offender’s refusal to repent, or to back up the pleas of the offended person that the offender make things right with God and with his brothers and sisters (James 5:19, 20).
Third, if this fails, the matter is to be brought before the rulerrepresentatives
of the church—the Session of elders—to offer a solution through prayer, love, counseling and the searching of the Scriptures. (472)
Fourth, if this fails, and the offender hardens himself in his impenitency, the Session is to excommunicate him from the fellowship of the church, and he is to be treated by the church as apostate and an unbeliever who is outside the warmth and safety of the church, that he might be forced to live by the consequences of his rebellious decision, be brought to his senses and to repentance, that he might be restored to Christ and to His church. The elders also make such a judgment for the sake of the purity of the church that Christ might be glorified and honored by all men. (474)
First, the reception of members.
Second, the edification of members.
Third, the exclusion of impenitent offenders.
Fourth, the restoration of penitents.
First, church authority is limited in that it is distinctly and exclusively
Second, church authority is limited by its Origin, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, from whom it is derived. The authority of the office-bearers in the church is subordinate to Christ’s authority and is purely ministerial, not legislative.
Third, church authority is limited by the Standard by which it is to be exercised, i.e., the written Word of God.
Fourth, church authority is limited by the subjects of that authority, that is, it is limited by the privileges and duties of the Christian people themselves.
The church, under Christ her King, is an independent domain, even as the state is. The church is a separate institution with its own powers, functions and jurisdiction....Ecclesiastical constitutions have no authority in civil government; and civil constitutions have no authority in ecclesiastical government. To reject this limitation is political, cultural and ecclesiastical suicide....Its government is in the hands of the officers of the church and is distinct from the civil magistrate.
After having said this, it must be reiterated emphatically that this institutional separation of church and state does not imply any antithesis between God and state, Christianity and state, Biblical morality and state, or Bible and state. Religious neutrality in politics is a myth the humanists try to impose on Christians, while they themselves are never neutral. (479)