A More Biblical Church Polity

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Mar 1, 2020

What we have learned (over the years in relation to the subject of) church polity (i.e. how the leadership of the covenant community/church is to be structured):

  1. SACRED ELDERS (elder = leader/shepherd/pastor)

1.1. Though there were other elders in the OCC (e.g. heads of each tribe/clan), God established the entire clan/tribe of Levi to be His “sacred elders” in two offices: priests and Levites (Exo 19:6, 28:1 w/29:1, 32:26-29 and Num 8:14//Two sacred offices during the reign of David and the kings: priests and Levites – 1Chr 15:11, 23:2, 24:5, 31; 2Chr 8:14-15, 11:13, 17:8, 23:4-6, 18, 24:5, 29:4, 11//Hence Num 12:1-12, 16:1-4, 35; 2Chr 26:16-21).

1.2. God’s plan for the NCC/Church would be the same: priests and Levites (Isa 66:20-21; Rev 1:6, 5:10 w/Exo 19:6; Since the CC would no longer be tribal, these distinctions would be distributed as “gifts” – Eph 4:4-11).

1.3. God also established a sacred king for the OCC who functioned as the chief elder/shepherd/pastor of the people and overseer of the priests and Levites (1Chr 11:1-3 = David).

1.4. The same would likewise be true for the NCC (1Pe 5:1-4 – “chief shepherd” = Jesus).


 In the NCC/Church, the priests and Levites are identified (biblically) as “teaching shepherds/pastors” and “shepherds/pastors”. Historically, this distinction has been known as teaching elders and ruling elders (Eph 4:11-12).


 Like the priests, the teaching elders are anointed, whereas the Levites are (only) appointed:

3.1. Anointed (Ordained) = The authority of the Holy Spirit has been placed on that person by God (e.g. Moses, Jesus, the apostle Paul – Gal 1:15-24 w/Act 9:15) directly or through the laying on of hands by another anointed person (e.g. Moses to Aaron and His sons – Num 29:1-7) (Hebrew word for “ordain” means, “to fill the hand w/divine authority for atonement and judgment” – Exo 28:41, 29:7-9 w/Exo 30:10 and Deu 17:8-13// Exo 30:31-33; Lev 8:1-5, 12, 22, 33//1Ti 4:14 w/2Ti 1:6, 2:22 w/Tit 1:5 w/Act 14:23 w/Act 13:1-3 w/Luk 4:1-14 = fasting and prayer is another sign of anointing [along w/laying on of hands -see again Num 29:1-7]).

3.2. This (again) is the designation of the OC/NC priest (or teaching elder) (Rom 15:16 = Paul refers to himself as a priest; Act 21:18 = Notice that James is identified as separate from the other elders [It does not say “James and the other elders were present” but “James and all the elders…” identifying him as among the elders yet somehow separate/distinct]. This distinction strongly implies that James was the church’s anointed/teaching elder and the rest were simply ruling elders).

3.3. Those teaching elders who are good “examples” to the flock are promised a king’s “crown”  (1Pe 5:1-4 w/Rev 3:1 – “angel” = pastor of Sardis w/11 – “you…your” is singular; see Rev 4:4 = Elders are the ones w/”crowns”; “If you have been called to be a king, do not stoop to anything less”).

3.4. The OC/NC priest’s (or teach elder’s) official duties in re: to the Church/CC (teaching, judgments, blessings, prayers, issuing of salvation/loosing of sins through the sacraments, binding of sins/declarations of apostasy) are to be viewed as backed by Christ in heaven and therefore effectual on earth (Lev 10:10-11, 17, 16:24 and 30; Num 6:24-27, 29:1-7; Deu 17:8-13, 31:9-13; 1Chr 17:6, 9 w/23:4, 26:29; 2Chr 6:41, 19:11, 31:4; Mal 2:1-9//1Ti 1:3-11, 4:13-16; 2Ti 2:25, 4:2; Act 6:4; Psa 132:13-16 = NC priests w/Mat 16:18-19, 18:17-20 w/Joh 20:21-23; 1Pe 3:21 w/Jam 5:14-16// Num 15:30-31 w/Mat 12:22-32). They are the CC’s representative to God and Christ’s representative to the CC (Exo 28:29-30; Heb 13:17).

“[The priest] it is that must put up prayers for you to God, who will readily hear them, because God will receive them as offered by one that he hath himself chosen to this office.” – Josephus

3.5. Appointed (Deputized) = Commissioned by the CC to function as authorities under the authority (or oversight) of/in submission to the OC/NC priests (Num 8:9-10//Num 3:9, 32, 4:19 = The priests “appoint” them to their duties; Num 4:27-28, 8:1; 1Pe 5:5-6 – “younger” = Ruling elders [see again context in vv1-4]).

3.6. The duties of the OC/NC Levite (or ruling elder) are to:
1) help in teaching, judgment, and administering of the sacraments (Neh 8:1-8//2Chr 31:4//Num 18:2, 6; 1Chr 23:3-4; 2Chr 19:1-11 = Though the final judgment belongs to the anointed priest, the Levites help as judges; Act 21:19-25 = Though James is the official rep for the church, the judgment is viewed as collective [v20 – “they said to him…v24 – “Do therefore what we tell you…v25 – we have sent a letter with our judgment”]. The teaching elder’s decision is not w/o the support/help of his ruling elders; See Act 15:4-22 = Though James is the final decision maker, his decision has the support of the elders [ruling] and CC – Consider again 2Chr 19:8 = Lay leaders can assist in judgments for the CC – but always under the authority of God’s sacred elders//Act 8:12 w/2Chr 29:34 and 30:16-17),
2) protect the Church, the CC and OC/NC priests (or teaching elders) from harm (Num 1:53, 3:6-8, 18:3-4),
3) provide for the non-spiritual needs of the CC/Church (1Chr 26:20-32; 2Chr 31:11-19 w/Act 6:1-3).

3.7. This (once more) is the designation of the OC/NC Levite (or ruling elder). Like the teaching elders, those who “serve well” are promised a reward (1Ti 3:13).

  1. No Diakonos Membership

 The designations in 1Timothy 3:1-12 refer to teaching elders (vv1-7, See especially v2) and ruling elders (vv8-10, 12) with verse 11 in reference to the wives’ of all sacred elders. This (then) in contrast to our prior understanding which viewed the latter section (vv 8-12) as referring to a category among members – both men and women referred to as “diakonos”  (literally, “ministers” or “ministering members”). The new understanding is more congruent w/God’s established church polity which includes two sacred offices versus one (as previously understood). As further support, it should be noted that the term “minister” is used exclusively of the priests and the Levites in the OT when referring to those who serve/minister in God’s house (the context of 1Ti 3:1-12 – see vv 14-15; e.g. Deu 18:5-7).