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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 1 : The Doctrine of Church Government

Paragraph 3 : Its Members

1-3. The members of this visible Church catholic are all those persons in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and promise submission to His laws.

[DIGEST : The adopted PCA 1973 text was unchanged from that of PCUS 1933 and had stood since the 1867 PCUS draft. The current PCA text with its change in the final clause reflects a recommendation from the Constitutional Documents Committee in 1974 (M2GA 2-70, p. 55).]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:

PCA 1973, Adopted text, 1-3 [as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly (1973), page 129]
The members of this visible Church catholic are all those persons in every nation together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ, and of submission to his laws.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text, 1-3
The members of this visible Church catholic are all those persons in every nation together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ, and of submission to his laws.

PCUS 1879, I-3.

The members of this visible Church catholic are all those persons in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ, and of submission to his laws.

PCUS 1869 draft, I-3.
The Members of this visible Church catholic are all those persons in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ, and of submission to His laws.

PCUS 1867 draft, I-3.
The members of this visible church catholic are all those persons in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ, and of submission to his laws.

PCUSA 1789, I-2
The universal church consists of all those persons, in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ, and of the submission to his laws.[1]
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[1] Rev. 5:9--And hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Acts. 2:39--For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 1 Cor. 1:2 compared with 2 Cor. 9:13.

The Presbyterial Form of Church Government...Agreed upon by the Westminster Assembly of Divines...(1645), "Of the Church"
Particular visible churches, members of the general church, are also held forth in the New Testament.[c] Particular churches in the primitive times were made up of visible saints, viz. of such as, being of age, professed faith in Christ, and obedience unto Christ, according to the rules of faith and life taught by Christ and his apostles ; and of their children.[d]
[c] Gal. 1:21-22; Rev. 1:4, 20; 2:1.
[d] Acts 2:38, 41, 47 (cf. Acts 5:14); 1 Cor. 1:2 (cf. 2 Cor. 9:13); Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14; Rom. 11:16; Mk. 10:14; Mt. 19:13-14; 18:15-16.

PARALLEL TEXTS:
OPC 2005, Form of Government, II-2

The universal church visible consists of all those persons, in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and promise submission to his commandments.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, p. 14-15)
, on I-3 :
"Already by implication the membership of the Church is limited to saints; but here is a formal definition:
III. The members of this visible Church catholic are all those persons in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ, and of submission to his laws.
Catholic, which means universal, is added in order to lay emphasis upon the doctrine that the Church is not limited to some section of it, whatever name some section may assume for itself. Its members are persons who make profession of the religion of Christ. That this does not mean a profession of opinion merely, but of consent of will also, is made certain by the explicit mention of what is implied, "and of submission to his laws." And the word "holy" implies the same idea as the word "saints," for by such a profession one becomes a saint, or discloses that he is a saint, that is, one belonging to Christ in sacred covenant. Not only are all persons making this profession members of the Church visible, but their children also. This includes the children of parents that reject infant baptism; for it is not baptism that makes them members. Baptism recognizes the membership that exists before the baptism is administered; for whoever binds himself to Christ in sacred covenant, thereby binds his children in the same covenant ; so that his child is holy as well as himself.
If it be objected that an infant cannot be holy, the answer to the objection is to be found in understanding the meaning of holy as here used, belonging to Christ in sacred covenant; for these infants of the saints must either be classed with the saints or with the profane, and the definition classes them with the saints.
It is to be observed that the visible Church includes all who profess the religion of Christ; that is, profess subjection to his laws, whether they are regenerated or not, and does not include any regenerated persons that do not make such profession, since without such profession, they are not visible as members of the Church. But is the visible Church of this paragraph identical with the visible kingdom of grace of the preceding paragraph? Yes. Christ uses false professors, and uses them as parts of his visible Church or Kingdom; for they are, temporarily, in and of this organization, even as a dead tooth is a part of the body.
Against the doctrine that the Church is to be governed by all its members, the doctrine of Presbytery sets the assertion that all the powers of the Church are to be administered by officers, and against all claimants of right to exercise ecclesiastical power, besides the classes of officers here enumerated, it is denied that their claim is scriptural."



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Chapter Index [links to Par. 1 of each chapter]:
FoG..
1
2
3.
4
5.
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
I. King & Head of Church
.§1.
§4
§5
RoD
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
II. Preliminary Principles
§1
§2
§3
§4
§5
§6
§7
§8
DfW
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
[FoG = Form of Government ; RoD = Rules of Discipline ; DfW = Directory for Worship]