Sunday, January 4, 2009

January 4
Ordination of Officers in a church
“Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” I Timothy 4:14“Appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God's household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” Titus 1:5-7 TNIV

John Calvin- Commentary on Titus: Luke relates that Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in every church. ( Acts14:23.) Not that they alone, in an authoritative manner, appointed pastors which the churches had neither approved nor known; but that they ordained fit men, who had been chosen or desired by the people. From this
passage we do indeed learn, that there was not at that time such equality among the ministers of Christ but that some one had authority and deliberative voice above others;

To give a lay person authority to govern the church may seem to some too risky. Most Christians live under a hierarchical (episcopal) form of government where the preacher or bishop runs the church. However, Calvin lived in a day in which he saw the problems of one person ruling the church. Pope Leo X was running the church as a business with little appreciation of the faith. He was a de’ Medici who known for his extravagant spending and political conniving. There had been problems with sexual immorality and the politicizing of the church before. But Leo’s idea of selling forgiveness (indulgences) to raise money was the straw that broke the camel’s back This encouraged Luther and many others to begin open criticism of the pope. The backlash was that the Protestant church was formed. Calvin wanted to insure that no one person would corrupt the church again- so he entered into a checks and balances system. He encouraged the fourfold office of deacons, elders, teachers, and preachers. This was a middle way between letting one man lead and the Anabaptist solution to get rid of the clergy altogether and have the whole church vote on everything.
Today in my church (Lake Murray Presbyterian) we will ordain and install elders and deacons. In fact, the Presbyterian church’s name means “people of the elder.” The biblical precedent is found in the Old Testament elders that preceded Moses (Ex 3:18), Moses confirmed (Num. 11;16), and the appointing of elders in Acts (14:23) and by Paul. It is one of the most moving worship services of the year. There have been many times in my ministry in which I have needed advice of elders to steer the church in the right direction. Scripture says, “with many advisors plans succeed” (Pr. 15:22). There were times that Calvin struggled against the elders (and especially the Little Council of Geneva). But he never advocated abolishing them- even when he went into exile because of them. Calvin was never to proud to refuse correction or to be deaf to advice. His modesty made sure that the elders had real power in the church.

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