Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Article 24
XXIV. Of the Ministry of the Church.
In reference to the ministers of the church we reverently consider that God is not a God of disorder (1 Corinthians 14:33) and that the Lord Jesus Christ in order to promote the above mentioned unity and edification of His people (Ephesians 4:12-15) instituted various offices and conditions in His church (1 Peter 4:10), in that He gave some to be apostles and some prophets and some evangelists and some pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of His body (Ephesians 4:11-16), etc.
Now, although our Lord did this directly (Mark 3: 14; Luke 9:1, 2) and by original authority (John 15:16) as long as He was here on earth and as far as the first founders of His church were concerned (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; Ephesians 2:20, 21), whom He therefore also endowed with much grace (2 Corinthians 4:5, 6) and extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), we yet know full well that He must have willed and commanded (as Acts 1:2, 3 cf. Romans 15:18 suggests) that later on this be done indirectly, in respect to the regular and ordinary ministers of His church who should simply continue to build on. the foundation already laid (1 Corinthians 3:11) and for this reason ever remained subordinate to the first, "the apostles." 1 Corinthians 14:37. Moreover we hold ourselves assured of this partly because good order requires it (Matthew 12:25) and the promise of Christ's presence is given to the ministers of the gospel even unto the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20) and partly because it accords with the constant practice and directions of the apostles. Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5.
Therefore we believe it is the duty of all assemblies of saints that they observe this order after the example and direction of the apostles (2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15), namely, that they pray, as Christ commanded, that the Lord of the harvest send forth laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9:38); that they, however, also look about for such men as are of good report, possessing the gift of the Spirit and true faith (Acts 6:2-5) and other essential characteristics (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Titus 1: 6-9) in the highest measure obtainable; further, that to such men, chosen with prayer (Acts 1:24) and with the greatest possible unanimity (thus not doing violence to the rights common to the whole brotherhood, much less disregarding the same) (Acts 6:5; James 2:1-9; 1 Peter 5: 1-4), the administering of the affairs of the church shall be committed (Acts 6:3) and they solemnly installed in their office (1 Timothy 4:14) provided they accept the call and have first been examined and proved. 1 Timothy 3:10, 1 Corinthians 9.
Those who have been thus lawfully chosen to the office of overseer (1 Timothy 3:1) and have accepted the same in faith as of the Lord (Colossians 4:17) have in consequence resting on them very weighty obligations toward the church, as the latter also has toward them. It is incumbent upon the shepherds and teachers to pasture the church of God, speaking always as is proper according to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:13; Titus 1:9; 2:1; 1 Peter 5:1, 2), to proclaim unto her the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-28) and, as much as in them is, as faithful and wise stewards (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Luke 12:42) to impart unto each one in particular according to his circumstances and condition (1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Timothy 5:1; 1 Peter 4:10), to watch over the church (Hebrews 13:17) and to set before her a good example in a godly life. 1 Peter 5:3; 1 Timothy 4:12.
The deacons have likewise and in many points similar holy responsibilities. 1 Timothy 3:8-13. They must help to rule the church in the fear of God (1 Timothy 5:17), collect the useful offerings, exercise faithful stewardship with these, and whatever other gifts there may be, and according to need distribute in the best way, impartially, with kindness and love. 2 Corinthians 8:19-21; 9:5-14.
The church on her part owes it to hold them in honor (Philippians 2:29), to obey them (Hebrews 13:17), to esteem them for their work's sake (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13), not lightly blame them (1 Timothy 5:19), much less to grieve them and quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) but to pray for them (Colossians 4:3, 4; Philippians 1:19; 4:10-19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2; Hebrews 13:18) and kindly care for them with a proper competence (Galatians 6:6; Matthew 10:10; 1 Corinthians 9:7-14; 2 Corinthians 11:7-9; 1 Timothy 5:18); yet in all this is the respect for their office and administration not to be in any wise binding upon the conscience, except in so far as their words and management are in accord with the Word of God (Matthew 15:9; Philippians 3:17; 1 John 4:1; Matthew 7:16) as the only rule of faith and life. 1 Timothy 6:3-5.
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