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Page 295

    The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:

    Feed the flock of God

    which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.

    - I Peter 5:1-2

4. It places primary church government at the local level - The Reformed/Presbyterian form of government honors this biblical principle. Each New Testament church was governed primarily by its local elders. This stresses the autonomy of the local church.

    And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

    - Acts 14:23

    For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

    If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

    For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.

    - Titus 1:5-7

5. It acknowledges appeals to a ruling of larger assemblies - When a disagreement arose in the New Testament church regarding the necessity to circumcise Gentile converts, the local church brought this question to the larger (or major) assembly of apostles and elders (Acts 15:2, 6, 27-29). The scripturally-based ruling of the larger assembly was viewed as binding upon the churches (Acts 16:4).

The larger assemblies (classes and synods) serve for the growth and welfare of the congregation in various doctrinal, judicial, and administrative ways.

  • They provide opportunity for consultation and wider insight, for "where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14). The larger -assemblies serve as a safeguard against personal prejudice in, or mishandling of, matters by church consistories.

  • They provide opportunity to appeal for those who feel that an improper decision was made.

  • They serve to limit widespread discrepancies between congregations and the problem of every church "doing that
 

And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:

And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia:

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: for which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle:

Which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation.

And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.

- Acts 15:1-2,4,6,22-23, 28-31; Acts 16:4

 
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