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Question and Answer

Ordination of elders

Question:

Would you be able to direct me to helpful materials regarding the theology of ordination of elders.

Answer:

I take it from the words, "theology of ordination of elders," that you are acquainted with the duty and nature of the office. If I'm wrong, please get back to me. And again, I presume you are interested in that which has to do with Presbyterian eldership. I would make two suggestions:

First, that you would secure a copy of the OPC Book of Church Order. If you are a member of the OPC, your pastor can easily make it available. The entirety of the "Form of Government," the "Book of Discipline," and the "Directory for the Public Worship of God" should be familiar to a candidate, not that he must sustain an examination in them, but that he might be able to take the following vow without reservation: "Do you approve of the government, discipline and worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church?"

Secondly, there is another vow a candidate must be able to take without reservation: "Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?" A candidate should more than read through the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. He should understand them sufficiently to be able to make judgments and decisions required of elders. In fact, he must be able to sustain a reasonable examination as to the system of doctrine known as the Reformed Faith before standing for election to the eldership.

Put in another way, he should be able to grasp the beauty and wholeness of biblical doctrine. And the Westminster Confession of Faith is a comprehensive statement of that system of doctrine. This does not mean that an elder needs to be as thoroughly imbued with that knowledge as is required of a minister, but he must understand it at the minimum so as to make all kinds of judgments that a session needs to make, and to be able to deal with members of the church on the basis of that firm knowledge and conviction.(Titus 1:9).

So training and maturity in the Word is his goal. Of course, no man can be expected to have perfect knowledge of the Word. "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). This applies preeminently to elders.

If you yourself are considering the elder's office, the doctrinal knowledge set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith (primarily) should be your challenge. G.I. Williamson's book, The Westminster Confession of Faith, is the best current written guide. But, one way or another, try to digest the whole range of Reformed Doctrine so that it becomes a part or your thinking and living.

Having said all the above, there are books available on the Biblical teaching and requirements for the eldership. Twenty-five years ago, I (Lawrence Eyers) wrote a small book, The Elders of the Church, which is still in print. It is available from P & R Publishing,

Phillipsburg, New Jersey, which also publishes Williamson's commentary on the Confession. I am also aware of another more recent book of the same nature. Timothy, Titus & You: A Workbook for Church Leaders, by Rev. George Scipione.

I hope this will be a help to you. Get back to us again if we can help you further.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

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You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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