Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back to Classics: John Gill on the Office of Elder

For those who want to peruse the rest of Dr Gill’s excellent treatise on church offices, please see here.

Excerpted from John Gill, A Body of Practical Divinity, Book 2, Chapter 3.

1. Pastors: these are shepherds under Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls; who take the care of the flock, and feed it, as their name signifies; such were promised to be given under the gospel dispensation; and such Christ has given to his churches, #Jer 3:15 Eph 4:11 and still gives; to whom he says, as he did to Peter, "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep", #Joh 21:15,16. Who,

1a. Are the same with "teachers", according to #Eph 4:11 "Some pastors and teachers"; not "some pastors" and "some teachers", as if they were different; but "and teachers", the kai or and, being exegetical, explaining what is meant by pastors, even such who are teachers, to instruct in the knowledge of divine things; which is the pastor's work, to feed men with knowledge and understanding: and it may be observed, that in #1Co 12:28 where each of the officers of the church are enumerated, mention is made of "teachers", but "pastors" omitted, because they are the same; for they are not to be distinguished with respect to the place where they perform their work, as if the office of pastors was in the church, the flock they are to feed; but teachers or doctors in the school; whereas, it is certain, that a teacher is an officer in the church, as well as pastor, #1Co 12:28 nor are they to be distinguished as two distinct officers in the church, because of the subject of their ministry; the one, the pastor attending to exhortation, to things practical, and the teacher to things doctrinal, asserting, explaining, and defending the doctrines of the gospel, and refuting errors; since both belong to one and the same: if these were distinct, it should seem rather that teachers design gifted brethren, called to minister the word, but not to office power; and are only assistants to pastors in preaching, but not in the administration of the ordinances; yet it is pretty plain, that those who have a commission to teach, have also a commission to baptize, and to attend to whatsoever Christ has commanded; yea, it may be observed, that even extraordinary officers are called "teachers"; as apostles and prophets, #Ac 13:1 1Ti 2:7.

1b. These pastors and teachers are the same with "bishops", or overseers, whose business it is to feed the flock, they have the episcopacy or oversight of, which is the work pastors are to do; which office of a bishop is a good work; and is the only office in the church distinct from that of deacon, #1Ti 3:1,8 Php 1:1.

1c. And these bishops are the same with "elders" {1}; when the apostle Paul had called together at Miletus the elders of the church at Ephesus, he addressed them as "overseers", episkopouv, "bishops", #Ac 20:17,28 and when he says, he left Titus in Crete, to ordain elders in every city, he proceeds to give the qualifications of an elder, under the name of a bishop; "A bishop must be blameless", &c. plainly suggesting, that an elder and a bishop are the same, #Tit 1:5-7 and the apostle Peter exhorts the "elders", to "feed the flock of God, taking the oversight", episkophv, acting the part of a bishop, or performing the office of one, #1Pe 5:1,2.

1d. These pastors, teachers, bishops, and elders, are called rulers, guides, and governors. A pastor, or shepherd, is the governor and guide of his flock; a teacher, and a ruling elder are the same, #1Ti 5:17. One qualification of a bishop is, that he know how to rule his own house; or how shall he take care of the church of God, to rule that well, which is a considerable branch of his office? #1Ti 3:1,4,5 these, indeed, are not to lord it over God's heritage, or rule according to their own wills, in an arbitrary manner; but according to the laws of Christ, as King of saints; and then they are to be respected and obeyed; "Remember them that have the rule over you, and obey them"; for they are over the churches in the Lord, and under him as the great Lawgiver in his house; and though they are described as such who have the rule over churches, and are guides to them, #Heb 13:7,17 yet they are the churches servants, for Jesus's sake, #2Co 4:5.

1e. These are sometimes called the angels of the churches; so the pastors, elders, bishops, or overseers of the seven churches of Asia, are called the angels of the seven churches; and the pastor, elder, bishop, or overseer of the church at Ephesus, the angel of the church at Ephesus, #Re 1:20 2:1 so called because of their office, being sent of God, and employed by him in carrying messages of grace to the churches, and publishing the good tidings of salvation.

1f. They are said to be "ministers of Christ", or his "under rowers", as the word uphretav signifies, #1Co 4:1 the church is the ship or boat, which they work; Christ is the pilot, who is at the helm, under whom, and by whose direction, they row; and the oars they row with are the word, ordinances, and discipline they administer. And in the same place,

1g. They are called, "Stewards of the mysteries of God"; and sometimes, "Good stewards of the manifold Grace of God"; that is, of the more sublime truths of the gospel, and the various doctrines of divine grace, #1Pe 4:10 so a bishop or elder is called a "steward of God", #Tit 1:7 a steward in his house or family, to give to everyone in it their portion of meat in due season: and which office requires wisdom and faithfulness, to execute it aright, #Lu 12:42 1Co 4:2.


ddd said...

Eh... did you preempt my post? I was thinking of expositing on 1 Tim. 5:17...

vincit omnia veritas said...

Do check out this excellent yet simple enough study on 1 Tim 5:17:

Keller, Brian R. Exegetical Brief: 1 Timothy 5:17 - Did All presbuteroi Proclaim God's Word?

How's your exams coming? Still tormented by ghoulish visions of the examiner? :)

Jenson said...

Ahh, John Gill. Nuff' said.

By the way Vincent, Esther has finished the proof-reading. I have emailed you a document, 36 pages long. Enjoy.

ddd said...

'ghoulish visions of the examiner'

Huh? No lah. It's not oral grilling, just a paper.