Theology on the Go
Presbyterianism: The Pilgrim’s Religion
The Presbytery of Ohio (OPC) met for its Fall Stated Meeting on October 15–16, 2021 to discuss various matters surrounding its constituent congregations. In what was a distinctively Presbyterian meeting, I have noted a few brief observations below with a related commentary on Ephesians 4:11–14.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Evangelicals often associate giftedness with talented behavior or spiritual charismata. It is evident in the Christian religion that the Holy Spirit has, in sundry times and divers manners (WCF 1.1), dispensed particular gifts for the upbuilding of his church. The Apostle, however, in his letter to the Ephesians, distinguishes those spiritual deposits from churchly gifts received through a variety of vocations or offices.
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
In his ascension, the Lord Jesus administered gifts; namely, the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. This group he gave to equip the saints for a life of faith and maturity in God.
Children do things they should not. They lie, steal, fight, and harm themselves and others through immaturity and pride. Yet, not all their errors are civil. At times, a child’s behavior presents strain on the purity of their family’s home; by abandoning the pure doctrine of their parents for the legality of this world.
“…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
The officers of the church, like fathers of young children, kneel beside the erring child to offer a careful word. They are those who exercise authority and familial discipline. Heavenly children are like sheep, and sheep are quick to stray. Through the gifts of the church, God’s children-sheep are well-fed, returned, and protected.
The Presbytery of Ohio (OPC) is comprised of elders and undershepherds who have been ordained to the gospel ministry for the ministerial care of God’s sons and daughters. It was during the Presbytery’s Fall Stated Meeting that I became a witness to the seriousness of their call and the tenderness of their care.
The Lord did not leave his children to fend for themselves in this life. Instead, he appointed qualified men to rule in his church. Pastors and Elders are fathers to the brotherhood of Christ on earth and in their gathering together in the Presbyterian Courts, they seek to defend, promote, and restore purity to the doctrine of their home.
Why do they do this? Why do the courts spend a laborious amount of time examining the quality of pastoral candidates, arguing over confessional language, and offering hourly prayers of lament, petition, and thanksgiving on behalf of men like me and families like mine? It is because Presbyterianism is the pilgrim’s religion — distinctively Protestant and priestly; for the man and not the magisterium. Presbyterian courts are ministers of Christ for the upbuilding of his body until:
“…we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…”
The Goal of Presbyterianism
There are no orphans in the Kingdom of God. Through the washing of regeneration in the bath of Christ’s blood, men are granted the status of children — adopted as sons and daughters into the new family of the Father. And yet, they are also granted new citizenship, as it were, as sojourners in a foreign land, anticipating, through promise, the arrival of their blessed reward.
The Christian life is an epochal point between Elim and Zion — the garden of Eden and the New Jerusalem. It is the life of pilgrims, traveling in the Wilderness of Sin, through travail and burden, until, at last, they are welcomed home, with all the host of heaven; with every brother, sister, mother, and father who awaits them.
When someone asks: “Why are you a Presbyterian?” We answer with the aforementioned — not paedobaptism or Calvin. We answer with the fact that Presbyterianism is the pilgrim’s religion. It is the religion of those who hope, like young children, for the fullness of their inheritance; to mature manhood.
“…to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”
The Presbytery of Ohio (OPC) will assemble again on March 11–12, 2022 to seek the Lord’s help for us, we who pilgrim from this life to the next. Without such a body, how would we fare? The Lord has distributed his gifts — let us receive them in love.