The Bible presents two offices (or formal positions) within the local church: elders (also called overseers and pastors) and deacons, which means “servants.” But what exactly are deacons? Who should serve as a church’s deacons? How are deacons meant to function? And why are they so very, very important to the health and mission of a church? Matt Smethurst joins us to discuss these matters and more.
- The gospel saves, not just individuals, but a people that take the form of local communities (churches).
- These churches have definable boundaries—who it is that makes up the church.
- The NT depicts the Christian life occurring in the context of the local church.
- The church is a community of believers. So we don’t want to assume someone to be a part of our church without confirming they are in fact a believer.
- People belong to a church voluntarily. So we don’t want to assume someone to be a part of our church without them agreeing to it.
- In order to discipline someone out of the church, they first need to be considered a part of the church.
- Being able to identify who makes up our church clarifies who actually represents our church, thereby guarding our testimony.
- In order to conduct our affairs as a church (e.g., voting), we need to know who makes up the church.
- Elders/pastors need to know who they are accountable for.
- Members need to know who they are accountable to (which elders/pastors?)
Paul’s argument in Colossians 2:11-12 assume the following three things:
- Believers are baptized.
- Those who are baptized are believers.
- Baptism is immersion.
Allow me to briefly elaborate on each of these assertions.
1. Believers are baptized
You’ll notice in this passage, as Paul addresses the Colossians, he can assume all of them have been baptized (“you been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him”). It was assumed that believers were baptized, such that Paul can readily appeal to their baptism as part of his argument here. Paul, along with the rest of the New Testament, has no category or conception of an unbaptized believer.Continue reading
The following is a chart that seeks to capture the logic of the following confession from Article 29 of The Belgic Confession:
“The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church—and no one ought to be separated from it.“
Marks of a Church
Preaching the Gospel – What creates the church, a community of those who believe the gospel.
Administration of the Ordinances – What marks out and makes known the boundaries of that believing community.
- Baptism = the initiating rite to mark off those who belong to Christ and his church.
- The Lord’s Supper = the ongoing rite which continually marks off those who constitute the church.
Exercising Church Discipline – What maintains the proper boundaries of the church, i.e., those who demonstrate lives consistent with their profession of faith in Christ.
A chart I made on the various baptist positions on who is allowed to receive the Lord’s Supper.