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The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

Chapter 8 : The Elder

Paragraph 1 : Titles of the Office

8-1. This office is one of dignity and usefulness. The man who fills it has in Scripture different titles expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed bishop or pastor. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, an example to the flock, and to govern well in the house and Kingdom of Christ, he is termed presbyter or elder. As he expounds the Word, and by sound doctrine both exhorts and convinces the gainsayer, he is termed teacher. These titles do not indicate different grades of office, but all describe one and the same office.

[Historical Summary : Chapter 8 was originally titled “The Teaching Elder” in PCA 1973 and Chapter 9 concerned "The Ruling Elder". By adoption of amendment in 1980, these two chapters were combined and renumbered accordingly. The current text of this paragraph has not been changed since that time.
On a minor note, the printing of the BCO in M1GA, p. 130 erroneously capitalizes “…As it is His duty…” and in this printing it reflects an error in the typed manuscript of the Proposed Book of Church Order, page 7.
The PCUS 1867 and 1869 drafts at IV-2-1 have a paragraph that is not retained in subsequent editions:
“I. Pastors, Teachers, and Evangelists, are ascension gifts of the Lord Jesus Christ to His Church; and though these titles describe distinct offices or functions, they all belong to the one class of Teaching Elders, usually styled Ministers of the Gospel.

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:
1. PCA 1973, 8-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, pp. 130-131
and
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 8-1, Proposed text,
This office is the first in the Church, both for dignity and usefulness. The person who fills it has in Scripture different titles expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed Bishop. As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed Pastor. As he serves Christ in the Church, he is termed Minister. As it is His duty to be grave and prudent, and an example to the flock, and to govern well in the house and kingdom of Christ, he is termed Presbyter or Elder. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed Ambassador. As he bears the glad tidings of salvation to the ignorant and perishing, he is termed Evangelist. As he stands to proclaim the Gospel, he is termed Preacher. As he expounds the Word, and by sound doctrine both exhorts and convinces the gainsayer, he is termed Teacher. As he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed Steward of the mysteries of God. These titles do not indicate different grades of office, but all describe one and the same officer.

PCUS 1933, IX, § 33
and
PCUS 1879, IV-2-1
This office is the first in the Church, both for dignity and usefulness. The person who fills it has in Scripture different titles expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed Bishop. As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed Pastor. As he serves Christ in the Church, he is termed Minister. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example to the flock, and to govern well in the house and kingdom of Christ, he is termed Presbyter or Elder. As he is the messenger of God, he is termed Angel of the Church. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed Ambassador. As he bears the glad tidings of salvation to the ignorant and perishing, he is termed Evangelist. As he stands to proclaim the Gospel, he is termed Preacher. As he expounds the Word, and by sound doctrine both exhorts and convinces the gainsayer, he is termed Teacher. As he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed Steward of the mysteries of God. These titles do not indicate different grades of office, but all describe one and the same officer.

PCUS 1869 draft, IV-2-3
This office is the first in the Church, both for dignity and usefulness. The person who fills it hath in Scripture different titles expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed Bishop. As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed Pastor. As he serves Christ in His Church, he is termed Minister. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example of the flock, and to govern well in the house and kingdom of Christ, he is termed Presbyter or Elder. As he is the messenger of God, he is termed Angel of the Church. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed Ambassador. As he bears the glad tidings of salvation to the ignorant and perishing, he is termed Evangelist. As he is commissioned and sent forth by the Church on his errand of love and mercy, he is termed Apostle or Missionary. As he stands in the great Congregation to proclaim the gospel, he is termed Preacher. As he expounds the Word, and by sound doctrine both exhorts and convinces the gainsayer, he is termed Doctor or Teacher. And as he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed Steward of the mysteries of God. These titles do not indicate different grades of office, but all describe one and the same officer.

PCUS 1867 draft, IV-2-3
This office is the first in the church, both for dignity and usefulness. The person who fills it hath in Scripture different titles expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed bishop. As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed pastor. As he serves Christ in his church, he is termed minister. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example of the flock, and to govern well in the house and kingdom of Christ, he is termed presbyter or elder. As he is the messenger of God, he is termed the angel of the church. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed ambassador. As he bears the glad tidings of salvation to the ignorant and perishing, he is termed evangelist. As he is commissioned and sent forth by the church on his errand of love and mercy, he is termed apostle or missionary. As he stands in the great congregation to proclaim the gospel, he is termed preacher. As he expounds the word, and by sound doctrine both exhorts and convinces the gainsayer, he is termed doctor or teacher. And as he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted
by Christ, he is termed steward of the mysteries of God. These titles do not indicate different grades of office, but all describe one and the same officer.


PCUSA 1789, Chapter 3
The pastoral office is the first, in the church, both for dignity and usefulness. The person who fills this office, hath, in the Scripture, obtained different names expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed bishop. As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed pastor. As he serves Christ in his church, he is termed minister. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example of the flock, and to govern well in the house and kingdom of Christ, he is termed presbyter or elder. As he is the messenger of God, he is termed the angel of the church. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed ambassador. And, as he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed steward of the mysteries of God.

Pardovan's Collections[Church of Scotland], 1707, rpt 1771, I-1-§2
Pastors, bishops, and ministers are they who are appointed to particular congregations : in respect whereof, sometimes they are called pastors, because they feed their congregations; sometimes bishops, because they watch over their flocks; sometimes ministers, because of their service; sometimes also presbyters or seniors, for the gravity of manners which they ought and are supposed to have. See Polity of the Kirk, cap. 4. By the act of Assembly, December 17, 18, 1638, art. 19. seeing the office of diocesan or lordly bishop is removed and abjured by this kirk, it is thought fit that all titles of dignity, favouring more of Popery than of Christian liberty, as chapters, with their elections and consecrations, abbots, priors, deans, archdeacons, preaching deacons, chanters, sub-chanters, and others, having the like title, be no more used hereafter, under pain of church-censure.

OTHER COMPARISONS:
BPC 2003, ch. 5
The office of the minister is first in the Church, both for dignity and usefulness. The person who fills the office has, in Scripture, obtained different names expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed bishop. As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed pastor. As he serves Christ in his Church, he is termed minister. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example of the flock, and to govern well in the house and kingdom of Christ, he is termed presbyter or elder. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed ambassador. And, as he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed steward of the mysteries of God, and in humility he is the servant of Christ, separated unto the Gospel of God.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. 46-48), on IV-2-1 :
Section II.--Of the Ministers of the Word.
Afer a paragraph on the dignity and functions of this officer, and another on his qualifications, a third points out different works to which he may be called, of which three different works are named particularly ; and then follows a paragraph on each of these three sorts of work, and a paragraph on the unclassified sorts of work.
35.--I. This office is the first in the Church, both for dignity and usefulness.
There are, then, three grades of office, of which the Minister of the Word is the highest, and the Deacon is the lowest.
The person who fills it has in Scripture different titles expressive of his various duties.
Some of these titles may also be given to Ruling Elders, since they share in the functions of this office in one aspect of it.
As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed Bishop. As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed Pastor.
This is the Latin word for shepherd.
As he serves Christ in the Church, he is termed Minister. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example to the flock, and to govern well in the house and kingdom of Christ, he is termed Presbyter or Elder.
(Greek and English terms of the same meaning).
As he is the messenger
(the Greek for which is angel)
of God, he is termed Angel of the Church. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed Ambassador. As he bears the glad tidings of salvation to the ignorant and perishing, he is termed Evangelist. As he stands to proclaim the Gospel, he is termed Preacher. As he expounds the Word, and by sound doctrine both exhorts and convinces the gainsayer, he is termed Teacher. As he dispenses the manifold grace of God, and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed Steward of the mysteries of God. These titles do not indicate different grades of office, but all describe one and the same officer.

These ten terms, though applied even to Apostles in the New Testament, do not designate what is peculiar to their extraordinary office, but only what office they had in common with all other officers of this class. Even then their special functions were not dependent upon their holding a higher grade of office (for the Apostles themselves did not belong to a higher grade of officers than ordinary Ministers of the Word), but upon their miraculous gifts. And now Ministers should be set to different sorts of work, according to their different enduements and gifts ; but this specialization in functions does not destroy parity in official rank
.


Chapter Index [links are to Paragraph 1 in 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]

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