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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
Title:The Way Christ Runs His Church
Text:BC 30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


(Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-16)


The Way Christ Runs His Church



Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...


     I asked you a moment ago to keep your Bibles open at the letter of 1st Timothy.

          Why do you think I asked you to do that?


     Well, you’re perhaps thinking that the third chapter is very relevant to Article XXX.

          That spoke about the office bearers in a church – the elders and the deacons.


     Article XXX, though, isn’t only describing the offices in the church.

          And, in the same way, the letter of 1st Timothy isn’t only about the offices in the church and the qualifications needed to be such an office bearer.


     In fact, the whole of this letter is about the complete government of the Church.

          For 1st Timothy is a type of early New Testament Church Order.

              And a Church Order is about the way the church is organised.


     Now, how many of us know about our Church Order?

          Do you know that it’s a framework for how we operate as churches that we’ve decided upon together at Synod?

              Are you aware that there are some 96 Articles in it which lay out quite clearly the way the church is governed?

     These are Articles covering areas from the Offices of the Church, the Assemblies of the Church, the Supervision of Public Worship, and Christian Discipline.

          And these Articles are all based on Scripture.

              You see, the Lord through the apostle has told us that everything in the Church must be done decently and in order.

                   That’s what we read in 1st Corinthians 14 verse 40.


     But we also read it in 1st Timothy 3.

          In verse 15 Paul says that he’s writing this letter so that they “will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”


     So God’s Word is clear about THE WAY CHRIST RUNS HIS CHURCH!

          And that was quite a different view than the Roman Catholic church then and liberals later.

              Because they said that the congregational life of the early Christians had no fixed rules.

                   They say that things were rather vague and in a state of flux.


     But that’s only for a short time in the beginning of the New Testament Church.

          Through the Holy Spirit in the apostles you soon have very clear rules for church government.

              Just take 1st Timothy, for example.

     This letter begins by pointing out the wrong type of government in chapter 1.

          Then there are instructions for worship in chapter 2.

              This is followed by what we read in chapter 3 about Overseers and Deacons, chapter 4 with further instructions, chapter 5 with advice about widows, elders and slaves, and chapter 6 has Paul’s Charge to Timothy.


     We can see the difference between the Reformers and the Roman Catholics with the way they regarded the offices of the church.

          Rome said it had developed through history to the stage that there was a whole hierarchy of offices in the church.

              They not only have priests and nuns but they have bishops and archbishops and cardinals and the pope – and don’t forget mother superior!


     Article XXX begins, though, by saying, “We believe that this true Church must be governed by that spiritual polity which our Lord has taught us in His Word.”

          And that’s what we now go on to consider.

              In the words of a first aspect to Article XXX, THE TRUE CHURCH IS GOVERNED BY THE WORD.


     Congregation, this is where we begin by considering that “there must be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and to administer the sacraments.”

          You see, while 1st Timothy 3 speaks of two offices in the church – overseers and deacons – in chapter 5 Paul points out that there are two types of overseers, or elders as it’s also called.

              Verse 17 there says, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work in preaching and teaching.”


     This is what Article XXX means in speaking of ministers or pastors.

          This is an office in the Church because the Word of God must be at the heart of the true church.

              These are those men who have studied in a special way so that they can publicly preach the Word, teach Catechism, and minister that Word in visits in the congregation.

                   They have been commissioned to administer the sacraments.


     Then there are the other elders.

          We call them “ruling elders.”

              They supervise the teaching elders and the congregation.

                   They make sure the Word is hitting home!


     Now, the office of elder was an old one in Israel.

          The word is used over one hundred times in the Old Testament.

              And the word is used again by the Church of the New Testament.


     It’s interesting that another word used for “overseer” is “bishop.”

          That’s how the King James translates it.

              So every elder is, in effect, a bishop.

                   We have our own Bishop Brian, and Bishop Graeme, and Bishop Jacco!


     From Acts 14 verse 23 we know that Paul ordained elders in every city on his missionary journey.

          He ordered Titus to do the same in Crete, as Titus 1 verse 5 says.

              And in his letter to Titus and in 1st Timothy he lays down the requirements for eligibility for this office.


     The office of deacon was instituted in Acts 6.

          There the verses 1 till 6 tell us how they were especially commissioned to relieve the apostle of caring for the poor of the church.


     In 1st Peter chapter 4, the apostle speaks of two general types of gifting within the Church.

          The one was “teaching” which is very much what the eldership is about.

              And the other is shown in the deaconate, as he speaks of a “serving” ministry.


     So the diaconate is quite a different office.

          It calls for a gifting which some men don’t have, even though they are mature Christian men.

              And in the past our churches have understood it incorrectly by using it as a stepping stone into the eldership.


     What is closer to the biblical model, though, is having older and younger men with a compassionate character who give sacrificially for the Church.

          While they may not well be gifted to lead a bible study meeting, they are most helpful in getting next to people, seeing their needs, and helping in a practical way.


     It’s this team of office bearers who form the council of the Church.

          In our denomination we call it ‘the Session’.

              But it’s also known as ‘the Consistory’.


     So where do we read in Scripture about such a council?

          Because this is an important issue.

              Many other churches have quite different forms of church government.

     You have the Roman Catholic and Anglican hierarchy.

          And there is the congregational model where all the members of the church act as the council.


     Apart from this being somewhere in the middle, how do we justify this?

          Well 1st Timothy again helps us here.

              In chapter 4 verse 14 it speaks of the body of elders who laid their hands on Timothy when he was ordained.


     This is also shown to us in the book of Acts.

          In Acts 15 verse 6 we read of when the Apostles and the elders met to discuss the question of circumcision of the Gentiles.

              In Acts 20 verse 17 Paul calls the elders of the Ephesian church to meet with him.

                   And in Acts 21 verse 18, when Paul arrived in Jerusalem, all the elders came together to meet him.


     There is clear enough evidence of the elders in a local congregation forming a council of elders.

          And the connection of the deacons in 1st Timothy 3 with the elders shows that they are also ordained men and implicitly part of the governing of the church.


     This is why Article XXX joins them together in the wider church council.

          Because both offices are ordained and yet each office has it’s own distinct calling and gifting.

              It is also why Reformed churches have not had women deacons.

                   For whichever way you interpret the women mentioned in 1st Timothy 3:11, it is already clear from verse 8 before it and from chapter 2, that they cannot be in any position of formal church office.


     Sure, it’s good to have women involved in supporting the deacon’s work.

          Almost all churches do that.

              But authority is something else.

     And ordination certainly confers authority upon those who are ordained in respect of their office.

          So when Reformed churches ordain a man or a woman into the office of deacon but at the same time say it’s not a ruling office, they are being inherently contradictory.


      Congregation, when all this is faithfully done, THE TRUE CHURCH THUS PROCLAIMS THE WORD.

          Our second aspect.

              For now Article XXX goes on to state that “by these means the true religion may be preserved, and the true doctrine everywhere propagated, likewise transgressors punished and restrained by spiritual means; also that the poor and distressed may be relieved and comforted, according to their necessities.”


     Here the mandate for the church offices is spelled out – for the minister, the elder, and the deacon.

          And whether that’s in declaring or repairing, or in punishing or comforting, the glory goes to God.

              For we live in a day and age where so much of Christianity is all about what pleases man.

     That’s why the message is not a scriptural exposition but a motivational pep-talk.

          That’s why there’s no holding people to account.

              If they feel happier somewhere else, good on them.  

                   How does the expression go, “It’s all good!”


     But it’s far from good.

          And how much don’t we see this as poor and distressed fall by the wayside?

                   Because it’s all about me – or so they say – there’s no room for anyone else.

          You certainly see that in their leaders.

              The televangelists live the lifestyle of millionaires.

     In the States a number have their own private jet plane – or two or three!

          While they have all their flashy commercials showing them in parts of Africa or India, the bottom line is that there’s very little proportionately going into that charity.


     And they are certainly quite bold in their claims for the church government they have.

          One of them, Bob Lemon even put it this way in his book “God and Church Government”, “Since God created the universe and set up the family under a one man rule, it seems unlikely that he would decide that his church should run differently and put a committee in charge of it.”


     With all the scripture passages that speak of wisdom being found amongst many and not on your own, that doesn’t gel, does it?

          And we’ve already touched on those passages that speak of the body of elders in different places.


     We can return here to 1st Peter chapter 4.

          There it spoke of the Holy Spirit’s gifting of the Church through two distinct ways – teaching and serving.

              So all the gifts mentioned in the New Testament fall under either one of these two categories.

     Romans 12 gives a list of them.

          In verses 6 till 8 there it mentions prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leadership, and mercy.

              You can quite clearly see they belong in one or the other group.


     So elders and deacons are to be models for all those in the church.

          Because we are all blessed with gifts of one kind or the other.


     You see, when you compare those gifts over against Article XXX speaking of true religion being preserved, true doctrine everywhere propagated, the practice of church discipline, and the relief of the needs of the poor in the church, we see THE TRUE CHURCH THUS PROCLAIMS THE WORD.

          Because it’s not only what we say – it’s also what we do.

              No wonder a Roman historian said of the early Christians, “Look how much they love each other!”


     Congregation, the Lord Himself is the ruler of His Church.

          But since He’s not with visibly present with us, He uses the ministry of men.


     This doesn’t mean, however, that He transfers His right and honour to them.

          It is simply that He will use them as they are truly open to His leading.

              Then they’ll be His instruments and He’ll speak through their lips.


     The concluding sentence of Article XXX states this.

          “By these means everything will be carried on in the Church with good order and decency, when faithful men are chosen, according to the rule prescribed by St. Paul in his Epistles to Timothy.”


     This is what Paul had written of to the Ephesians also.

          For as chapter 4 verses 15 and 16 tells us there, this is when “we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

              “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”


     The Church is the community of new life in Christ Jesus.

          Here is revealed the secret of Christ’s transforming power among men.

              By His Word and Spirit He nourishes His people to everlasting life.

     That’s why the government of the church is vitally important.

          If you have the wrong rules or the wrong men – or both – you’re playing around with people’s souls!


     Congregation, the church run Christ’s way is the only way!

          Any other way takes you off track.

              But when you are on track you have a foretaste of the fellowship we’ll share forever in heaven above!





Let’s pray…

     Lord God, how privileged we are!

          For You have joined us to the Body of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ.

              Through faith in Him, we are together Your children, adopted, justified, sanctified and soon to be glorified!

     Please help us to show we are a church of Christ.

          Bless our elders and deacons to faithfully obey Your Word.

              And help us all, by Your Holy Spirit, to use our gifts to Your glory.

                   Through Christ our Lord, we pray, Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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