Chapter 26: Of the Church

Chapter 26 is divided into two sections. The first section, paragraphs 1-4, deals with the universal church. The second section, paragraphs 5-15, concerns the local church.

UNIVERSAL CHURCH

PARA -1 – The Universal Church as invisible People of God

1._____ The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Hebrews 12:23; Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:10, 22, 23; Ephesians 5:23, 27, 32 )

OUTLINE

Internal Aspects of Universal church

  1. Formed by the internal work of Spirit and truth of grace
  2. They are invisible
  3. Consists the whole number of elect
  4. Bride of Christ
  5. Body of Christ
  6. Fullness of him that fills all in all
  7. They shall be gathered into one under Christ, their head.

PARA -2  The Universal Church as visible the People of God

2._____ All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.
1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 11:26; Romans 1:7; Ephesians 1:20-22 )

OUTLINE

External/visible Aspects of Universal church

All persons throughout the world,

  1. Professing the faith of the gospel, and
  2. Obedience unto God by Christ according unto it,
  3. not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or
  4. unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.

PARA 3 – The Perpetuity of the Universal Church

3._____ The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan; nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.
1 Corinthians 5; Revelation 2; Revelation 3; Revelation 18:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12; Matthew 16:18; Psalms 72:17; Psalm 102:28; Revelation 12:17 )

OUTLINE

  1. No church is pure on earth.
    • The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error
  2. Some degenerate and become churches of Satan.
    • some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan;
  3. Yet Christ will always have his church in this world till the end of age.
    • nevertheless Christ always hath had, and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, to the end thereof, of such as believe in him, and make profession of his name.

PARA 4 – The Government of the Universal Church

4._____ The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father, all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner; neither can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof, but is that antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God; whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.
Colossians 1:18; Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11, 12; 2 Thessalonians 2:2-9 )

OUTLINE

  1. Universal church is structured under the Headship of the exalted Jesus (under the rule of Christ exercised through His Spirit and scriptures given through apostles).
    • The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom, by the appointment of the Father,
  2. Lord Jesus appoints elders and deacons and exercises His supreme rule through them
    • all power for the calling, institution, order or government of the church, is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner
  3. Pope can never be head of the church as he is
    1. antichrist,
    2. that man of sin, and
    3. son of perdition,
    4. that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and
    5. all that is called God;
    6. whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.

LOCAL CHURCH

Features of Local Church – Para 5-7

PARA 5 Building and the purpose of local church

5._____ In the execution of this power wherewith he is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of his word, by his Spirit, those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his word. Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which he requireth of them in the world.
John 10:16; John 12:32; Matthew 28:20; Matthew 18:15-20 )

1. Jesus builds His church with the power intrusted to Him by

  1. Calling out of the world unto himself,
  2. Through the ministry of his word,
  3. By his Spirit,
  4. Those that are given unto him by his Father, that they may walk before him in all the ways of obedience, which he prescribeth to them in his word

2. Dual purpose of local church – horizontal and vertical

  1. Horizontal – Edification
    • Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification
  2. Vertical – Worship of God with Regulative Principle
    • the due performance of that public worship, which he requireth of them in the world.

PARA 6 – Membership in the Local Church

6._____ The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.
Romans. 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 2:41, 42; Acts 5:13, 14; 2 Corinthians 9:13 )

OUTLINE

  1. Evangelical definition of members of local church
    • The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and
  2. Believers become members voluntarily
    • Do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ;
  3. Believers commit themselves and submit to local church
    • Giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.
      (Commitment to local church include things like attendance at the stated meetings, tithing, family life, evangelism, exercise of liberties, church discipline and submission to the recognized leadership of the church are some of the things described in the section of the Constitution having to do with church membership.)

PARA 7- The Power and Authority of the Local Church

7._____ To each of these churches thus gathered, according to his mind declared in his word, he hath given all that power and authority, which is in any way needful for their carrying on that order in worship and discipline, which he hath instituted for them to observe; with commands and rules for the due and right exerting, and executing of that power.
Matthew 18:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 5:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8 )

OUTLINE

  1. Christ has granted authority to each local church through his word
    • To each of these churches thus gathered, according to his mind declared in his word, he hath given all that power and authority.
  2.  Scope of church authority
    • Any way needful for their carrying on that order in worship and discipline, which he hath instituted for them to observe; with commands and rules for the due and right exerting, and executing of that power.

(Comments:  This asserts local church autonomy and independence and argues against any ecclesiastical structure erected over the local church that intervenes between the local church and the Lord Jesus the head of the church)

Government of the local church – Para 8-13

PARA 8 – The Officers in the Government of the Local Church

8._____ A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.
Acts 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1 )

OUTLINE

  1. Local church to be organized so as to represent the rule of Christ should have officers
    • A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and
  2. Christ appointed officers are be chosen and ordained by the local church
    • the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered),
  3. Responsibility of officers
    1. for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and
    2. execution of power or duty, which he intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.
  4. Scripture recognizes only two officers of church to the end of the world
    • Bishops or elders, and deacons to be continued to the end of the world.

(The ordinances refer to worship which comprises the public means of grace such as preaching, public prayer, and the administration of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.   The execution of power or duty would entail pastoral prayer, laboring in the Word and doctrine, and pastoral visitation and counselling).

PARA 9 – Selection and Ordination of Officers

9._____ The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein; and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.
Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14; Acts 6:3, 5, 6 )

OUTLINE

Identification and selection of Officers

  1. Christ appoints a man for church office by fitting and gifting him by the Holy Spirit
    • The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church,  (The fitness and giftedness of a potential officer is described in 1 Tim 3:1-13; Tit 1:5-9 and 1 Pt 5:1-4).
  2. Process of recognizing officers is by common voting process by local church
    • The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself;

Ordination of Officers

  • The ordination is a sober event hence to be done  
    • solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein;
  • Same procedure to be followed for selection of deacon
    •  of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.

PARA 10 – Duties and Support for Pastors

10.____ The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches, in the ministry of the word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him; it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability, so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others; and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.
Acts 6:4; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Timothy 5:17, 18; Galatians 6:6, 7; 2 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Corinthians 9:6-14 )

OUTLINE

  1. Duties of Pastor:  The work of pastors
    1. being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in his churches,
    2. in the ministry of the word and prayer,
    3. with watching for their souls,
  2. Attitude with which to perform these duties
    • as they that must give an account to Him
  3. Church is responsible to provide material support to pastors
    • it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect,
    • but also to communicate to them of all their good things according to their ability,
  4. Extent of material support
    1. so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs; and
    2. may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others;
  5. Basis for this support – Nature and Gospel commands
    1. this is required by the law of nature, and
    2. by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.

PARA 11 – Prepare other men to preach

11.____ Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved and called by the church, may and ought to perform it.
Acts 11:19-21; 1 Peter 4:10, 11 )

OUTLINE

  1. Preaching is primary but not exclusive responsibility of pastors
    • Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them
  2. Hence other men can be prepared and used for preaching who are
    1. Gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and
    2. Approved and
    3. Called by the church, may and ought to perform it.

PARA 12 – Discipline of the Local Church

12.____ As all believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do; so all that are admitted unto the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government thereof, according to the rule of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15 )

OUTLINE

  1. All true Christians bounded duty and desire is to join a local church
    • As all believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity so to do
  2. Christians are not only admitted to the privileges, but also to be under formative discipline of the church
    • so all that are admitted unto the privileges of a church, are also under the censures and government thereof, according to the rule of Christ.

PARA 13 – Interpersonal conflicts of the Local Church

13.____ No church members, upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at, ought to disturb any church-order, or absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow members, but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church.
Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:2, 3 )

OUTLINE

Situation:  Offense has emerged between two or more members in the church. The offended brother has performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at. In other words, the procedure of Mt 18:15-17 has been followed but the offense has not been removed.   When this process fails between two members of the local church, and there is interpersonal conflict, the Confession urges those involved to continue to maintain their involvement in the church, not allow personal concern as cause for disturbance in the church, nor should he justify a disorderly walk by absenting himself from the gatherings of the church. He should not launch into a campaign to vindicate himself and build a case against the offending brother by gossiping, or any public display of disturbance. Instead he should pursue the directives of Mt 18:15-17. and to look to Christ to act through the ministry of the church to bring about a peaceful resolution.

  1. Interpersonal conflict between church members should not disturb the order of the church. 
    • No church members, upon any offence taken by them, having performed their duty required of them towards the person they are offended at,
  2. Don’ts
    1. ought not to disturb any church-order, or
    2. absent themselves from the assemblies of the church, or
    3. administration of any ordinances, upon the account of such offence at any of their fellow members
  3. Dos
    • but to wait upon Christ, in the further proceeding of the church.

The encouragement to wait upon Christ, in further proceeding of the church reminds us that Christ lives with His people and is present when we gather before Him. The various disciplinary issues cited in Rv 2 and 3 are all seen as being addressed by Christ Himself. There is none more zealous for the purity and well-being of the church than Jesus.

INTER-CHURCH RELATIONS

PARA 14 – Nature of inter-church communion

14.____ As each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ, in all places, and upon all occasions to further every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces, so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves, for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification.
Ephesians 6:18; Psalms 122:6; Romans 16:1, 2; 3 John 8-10 )

OUTLINE

  1. Inter-church fellowship through prayer for one another
    • As each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ, in all places
  2. Inter-church teams to build one another with gifts
    • upon all occasions to further every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces,
  3. Regional Inter-churches to hold communion
    • so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves,
  4. Purpose of Inter-churches communion
    1. for their peace,
    2. increase of love, and
    3. mutual edification.

PARA 15 – Directives to resolve inter-church differences in doctrine or practice.

15.____ In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers.
Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23, 25; 2 Corinthians 1:24; 1 John 4:1 )

OUTLINE

  1. Situation of inter-church differences in doctrine or practice.
    • In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order:
  2. Resolving the inter-church differences according to mind of Christ
    1. Many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and
    2. give their advice in or about that matter in difference,
    3. to be reported to all the churches concerned;
  3. A word of caution
    1. Messengers does not constitute an authoritative body over any regional churches (or suprachurch structure).
      • howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves,
    2. Messengers do not have any authority to discipline church or members
      • to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers.

Messengers are assembled simply to give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned. As a gathering of counselors they are not to seek to do those things that Christ has assigned the local church do to.  By the pooling of many counselors, it is hoped that the way of wisdom and gospel resolution will be obtained and that the counsel of the messengers would then be reported to all the churches concerned

Misunderstanding of this has led to the all suprachurch structure institutions, committees, regional bishops, associations, boards, and unbiblical forms of church government we see in all non-baptistic churches with wrong understanding of so-called “Jerusalem Council.”   This has destroyed the biblical mandate of autonomy and independence of local churches.  The last two paragraphs of the Confession, although advocating local church independence and autonomy, does not advocate local church isolation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s