April 07, 2003 Q & A

Ordination of elders


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


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.



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