From the June 1, 2009 edition of Tabletalk
Q. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all of which are made effectual to the elect for salvation. (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q&A 88)
Presbyterian and Reformed churches are ruled by elders. In fact, the term Presbyterian comes to us from the Greek word presbyteros, meaning “elder.” It is closely related to the term episkopos, often translated “overseer” (as in the ESV). Both Presbyterian and Reformed churches are churches ruled by men (elders or overseers, and ministers) whose duties are spelled out throughout the New Testament — especially in the so-called Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) but also in James and 1 Peter.
While many people’s eyes wax over with disinterest when the subject of church government comes up, how churches are to organize and govern themselves is a major theme throughout the New Testament. Church government is an important topic in virtually all the Protestant confessions and in most of our major systems of theology. Whether the subject piques our interest, the biblical writers thought it very important and devoted much time and attention to direct those who would come after them as to how to organize and govern their congregations. Remember that all those who trust in Jesus Christ are part of His body and are to be members of a local church. Christ’s church must ensure that the souls of God’s people are cared for, that they are protected from heresy as well as from those who confess their faith in Christ but who still behave like pagans.
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