Lecture 11 – Framework- Parity with Diversity

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3. The evidence for a parity of authority among the overseers
John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 2, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), pp. 346-347.
a. The requirements for the one office are uniform.
1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9
b. The responsibilities of this office are laid upon all the elders as a body.
Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4 ; Heb. 13:7, 17
c. The submission enjoined upon church members applies to all the elders individually and as a body.
Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Thess. 5:12-13
4. The evidence for realistic and harmonious functional diversity
1 Tim. 5:17
Rom. 12:6-8
1 Cor. 12:4-5
Douglas Bannerman, Scripture Doctrine of the Church, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1887), p. 546.
Gal. 2:11-12
Douglas Bannerman, Scripture Doctrine of the Church, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1887), pp. 548-550.



  1. This whole matter is once again being opened up and debated . In the April, 1983 edition of the Banner of Truth magazine, the leading article dealt with this subject.
  2. In volume two of Discussions of Robert Lewis Dabney, beginning on page 119, Dabney has an article entitled “Theories of The Eldership.” In his day, this issue was hotly debated within the Presbyterian denomination in America. pp. 119-157.
  3. Among the other matters under debate within the broad category of concerns for a biblical view of the eldership, that which has come to be known as the “two or three office theory” of church government was the focal point of very agitated debate and discussion.
  4. In the opening paragraph of his masterful article, Dabney makes this profound statement: “Each generation must do its own thinking, and learn for itself its own lessons and the first truths and general principles.”
  5. He then goes on to say that “If we insist that this generation of Presbyterians [any denomination or group of churches] shall hold our father’s principles on trust, and by mere prescription, the result will be that they will not hold them sincerely at all.”

3. Some necessary admonitions 

1. Beware of an irresponsible, unrealistic, and simplistic literalism in applying the biblical standard for the office.
2. Beware of a precipitous pragmatism in seeking to attain the norm of plurality.

Eph. 4:11

3. Beware of an incipient brethrenism in attempting to express parity of office.

John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 2, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977), p. 347.

4. Beware of a hierarchal clericalism in the actual functions of the eldership.

Westminster Larger Catechism #131 & 132:
Q 131 – What are the duties of equals?  A.  The duties of equals are, to regard the dignity and worth of each other, in giving honour to go one before another; and to rejoice in each others gifts and advancement, as their own.
Q 132 – What are the sins of equals?   A.  The sins of equals are, besides the neglect of the duties required, the undervaluing of the worth, envying the gifts, grieving at the advancement of prosperity one of another; and usurping pre-eminence one over another.

Summary and conclusion:

1. John Owen, vol. 15, pp. 502- 506
2. Dabney, vol. 2, pp. 119-157
3. Thornwell, vol. 4, pp. 43- 142 (Give a sampling of the debate-page 121- 58 A)
4. Murray, vol. 2, pp. 345-365
5. Douglas Bannerman, pp. 530-553
6. Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership ( In my judgment, this is the finest one volume book setting forth a Biblical view of the eldership- a must read if you are serious about this
matter )
7. Lawrence Eyres, The Elders of the Church, P. & R.
8. Witmer, Tim, The Shepherd Leader

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