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At Christ Covenant Church, we strive to possess the ancient Christian Faith of Jesus and the apostles. And that includes in the area of church polity (i.e., the operational model or governing structure established by God for His church). Hardly a simple task, this puzzle has alluded many throughout church history (including our pastor for almost twenty-two years). Hence the reason there exists at least seven models: 1) Presbyterian 2) Presbyterian w/a synod, 3) Plurality of elders, 4) Plurality of elders w/congregational affirmation, 5) Congregational, 6) Congregational w/pastors, 7) Episcopal, 8) Episcopal w/connexion. Continued study of Scripture and history, however, has allowed our pastor to finally put all the pieces of this important puzzle in their proper place. Said differently, to see the model presented in Scripture that alleviates all the problems created by the previous models adopted by our church. That model is also the oldest and first in church history. As such we can be confident that it was the polity of the first Christian churches. It is the episcopal model – or ancient Christian polity of Jesus, priests and deacons (JPD).

1. Jesus is our High Priest, Prophet and King.

1.1. The term “messiah” (or “christ” in the Greek) means “anointed one” and referred those who had received the (Holy) Spirit of authority for the purpose of salvation and judgment in relation to right doctrine and direction for the covenant community. This anointing (or ordination[1]) was limited to three offices: priest, prophet and king (priests – Exo 28:29-30; Lev 10:10-11, 17; Exo 40:12-15 w/Psa 132:16; Mal 3:6-7; prophets – Psa 105:15; kings – [1Sa 16:1,13; 2Ki 9:1-3] w/1Sa 24:6 and 2Sa 1:14-16; also 1Ch 11:1-3; With respect to it being limited, see Num 11:29).

1.2. Jesus became the first (and last) Person to combine all three offices in their superlative and divine form. He is the Christ: our Heavenly High-Priest, God’s Final Prophet and Divine Davidic King (or King of kings) (Mat 3:16-17: 1] as Heavenly High Priest – Heb 3:1, 4:14, 8:1-2; 2] as Final Prophet – Deu 18:15, 18-19 w/Joh 5:46 and Act 3:22-23 w/Heb 1:1-12; also Mat 21:11; 3] as Davidic King – Isa 11:1, 10; Psa 2:2, 45:1-7, 110:1 and 2Sa 7:12-13 w/Mat 1:1, 21:1-9; Rom 1:3; 2Ti 1:8; Heb 1:8-9 and Rev 11:15).

1.3. What all of this means for Christ Covenant Church from a church polity/government perspective: Jesus is our highest authority, the final “Word” in all things, the One for whom we exist (Joh 1:1-4; Col 1:16). Hence the reason we proclaim at the end of every service, “All for King Jesus!”

2. Priests are our ordained pastors (elders/overseers [Grk., episkopei = Bishop[2]]).

2.1. God promises to re-establish the offices of priest and Levite for the new covenant community (Isa 66:18 w/21).

2.2. As discussed, priests are an anointed/ordained office or the office possessing God’s special spirit of authority for the purpose of salvation, and judgment in relation to justice, doctrine and direction for the covenant community. Given the identification and requirements of elders/overseers/pastors[3]/pastor-teachers (1Ti 3:1; Tit 1:5; Eph 4:113), they represent the new covenant community’s priests. Hence the reason they are:

2.2.1. said to possess authority (1Co 5:4; 2Co 10:3-8, 13:10; Tit 2:15)

2.2.2. anointed/ordained (2Co 1:21; Tit 1:5 w/Heb 8:3 “appointed” = anointed; Act 14:23 “appointed” = Different word than Tit 1:5 but same idea is being communicated as confirmed by texts like Heb 8:3 [“appointed” – same word and subject as Act 14:23)

2.2.3. required to demonstrate competency in teaching (1Ti 3:2 w/Tit 1:5 w/7 w/9 [notice he calls the elders, “overseer”]). Hence why they are called “pastor-teachers” (again, Eph 4:11). Hence why also, those seeking to be ordained were often commissioned to assist and be trained by those already ordained (e.g., Joshua – Num 11:28; Timothy – Act 16:1-3).

2.2.4. deputized by Jesus (through their ordination/anointing/receiving of the Holy Spirit of authority) not only for judgment in relation to justice, right doctrine and direction, but also to extend or withhold His forgiveness/justification/salvation (Mat 16:17-19; Joh 20:21-23; 2Co 3:1-6; Heb 13:17).

2.3. As additional support: 1) Paul identifies himself as a “priest” (Rom 15:15-16), 2) Jesus provides the same support/backing to the judgments and decisions of new covenant elders as those given to old covenant priests (Mat 16:17-19 w/18:17-20 w/Deu 17:9-13; in this respect consider also Num 15:30-31 w/Mat 12:22-32), 3) James speaks of new covenant elders (Jam 5:14-18) in the same way that Josephus speaks of old covenant priests,“[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.” (Antiquities of the Jews)

2.4. If then, ordained pastors are the promised priests of the new covenant community, then it is only reasonable that they (like their old covenant counterparts) would also wear special garments associated w/their anointing/ordination (Exo 29:29). Hence the reason for the long legacy of vestments in church history.

2.5. Their ordination typically happens through the recognition of an existing body of professing believers and the laying on of hands by existing ordained men (1Ti 4:14, 5:22; 2Ti 1:6-7; Act 6:1-6, 8:14-19, 9:15-18 [laying on of hands precedes Paul’s baptism for the HS] w/Gal 1:1, 15 and 2:9 = Paul equates his encounter w/Ananias [likely the ordained pastor at Damascus] w/his ordination as a apostle).

2.6. Last but not least, those serving as new covenant priests (or ordained elders/overseers/pastors): 1) must be men who meet the character qualifications in (1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9 = Both of these passages assume the possession of the right gospel – especially Tit 1:9 “sound doctrine” since this is the prerequisite to the existence of a Christian church, the HS’ empowerment and Christ’s backing of that pastor)[4], 2) will be judged more strictly by God – most especially in what they say and so must become masters over their tongues (Jam 3:1-2), 3) are destined for a great heavenly reward if they are faithful (1Pe 5:1-4; Rev 4:4 = Elders are the one’s possessing a king’s crown – See 2Ti 4:8).

 

2.7. What all of this means for Christ Covenant Church from a church polity/government perspective: 1) never will there be women pastors/elders 2) never should there be elders/pastors who are not ordained/anointed, 3) those who “aspire” (1Ti 3:1) to be elders/overseers/pastors – i.e., new covenant priests are seeking a good thing and must be trained so that they can be ordained/anointed, 4) the new covenant priest is second in authority to Jesus and therefore possessing His support/backing when making judgments/decisions on justice, doctrine or direction for the church – even when wrong on issues (other than the gospel) due to ignorance. (Consider Deu 17:9-13 w/Lev 4:22ff = Due to ignorance, leaders can sin/be wrong in their judgments. Such fallibility does not mean obedience to their judgments is optional or will be excused by God. Hence Paul’s response in Act 23:5 and his instruction in Rom 13:5). 5) Until others are ordained, pastor Scott is the only one who should be addressed this way (“pastor”).

3. Levites are our deacons and judicial council (or JUDCO)[5].

3.1. As discussed, Levites were also promised to the new covenant community. Their office is realized in the role of deacons who like them are:

3.1.1. to submit to and protect their priests/ordained pastors (their person and personal integrity) – as well as God’s house (Num 1:53 w/3:10, 18:3-4, 7; 1Ch 9:14-27; Act 23:1-5 [man who struck Paul was most likely a Levite guard]; 1Ti 5:19 [“elder” = ordained/anointed pastor]w/Exo 22:28 [applied to all rulers including priests as demonstrated by Paul’s violation w/Ananias]; 1Pe 5:5; e.g., O-line protecting their QB).

3.1.2. deputized by the priests/ordained pastors w/a portion of the Spirit/spiritual authority (Num 8:9-10 “lay their hands” = Deputize w/authority versus anoint/ordain w/ authority)[6] to help their priests/ordained pastors w/:

3.1.2.1. the sacrifices (i.e., the Lords Table) (Num 18:2-7 w/2Ch 29:34, 35:10-12) = The sacrifices (“the obligations of the tent of meeting”): 1) can only to handled by the sons of Levi (priests and Levites). Outsiders are not allowed to “come near”, 2) the Levites role ends outside the veil – i.e., they can prepare and distribute the sacrifice but cannot make it (i.e., make atonement for the people).[7]

3.1.2.2. the offerings (e.g., counting the offerings, seeing that the monies are used properly) (1Ch 26:20; 2Ch 31:14).

3.1.2.3. determining justice, right doctrine and direction for the covenant community (e.g., JUDCO) (1Ch 26:29; Neh 8:7-9).

3.1.2.4. worship (e.g., the worship leader sb a deacon) (1Ch 6:1 w/31-33, 16:4, 25:1-3).

3.2. Given Paul and Law’s prohibition against women serving as judges – or determining justice/equity, right doctrine and direction of the covenant community (See 1Co 14:34 w/Deu 19:21) – and the fact that this is the majority and most important portion of the deacon’s role, the office of deacon (like its former iteration) also remains open only to men. Though there a women ministers [women who minister in the church – e.g., Phoebe – Rom 16:1, Euodia and Syntyche – Phi 4:2], there are no women deacons [women in offices of spiritual authority]).

3.3. In keeping with their predecessors there should exist for the new covenant Levite or deacon: 1) a “head” (or high) Levite/deacon who was responsible for managing the others (Neh 12:24), 2) limited periods of service (versus perpetual service as in the case of priests) (Num 8:24-26), 4) a reward for faithful service (Deu 33:8-11 w/1Ti 3:13). 3) a number representative of the congregation (Num 3:12).

3.4. The qualifications for deacons (or new covenant Levites) are not nearly as strict as those for new covenant priests (1Ti 3:1-7 versus 1Ti 3:8-12; e.g., no mention of deacons [like elders] needing to be “above reproach” [approved by legitimate and strict scrutiny], “temperate” [even keeled in his emotions/behavior] “prudent” [wise]). In modern terms the qualifications for deacons can be summarized as: 1) you can’t be a loser, dork, wimp, weirdo or ghetto (8 “dignified”), 2) you can’t be two-faced, a politician, a manipulator, given to flattery or brown-nosing, living for appearances, living a double-life, untrustworthy, insincere or dishonest in what you say (8 “double-tongued”), 3) you can’t be addicted to any unnecessary foreign substances that impede your ability to fulfill your God-given duties (8 “addicted to much wine”), 4) you can’t be open to committing crimes to make money or positions of authority to push your agenda or preferences on others (8 “fond of sordid gain” – 1Ti 6:5), 5) you must be prone to – and possess a reputation of protecting – versus insurrecting or causing division in the church or casting doubt in the minds of others as to the Christian doctrine being taught by her pastors (9 “holding to” = Bold or strong in protecting/possessing [1Co 7:37; Isa 13:8; no cowards or quiet men]; “the mystery of the Faith” = The church and her teachings/gospel [Eph 3:8-10]; “with a clear conscience” = Not prone to or possessing guilt in relation to division/dissension/insurrection [e.g., 2Co 1:12]); 6) you have a track record demonstrating you meet the prior qualifications (10; e.g., cap crimes/EOTC < 1yr after restoration/issued), 7) if you have a wife, she likewise is not a loser, wimp, weirdo, dork or ghetto, nor is she reckless with her tongue saying stupid, baseless stuff that hurts others or an emotional mess or unreliable and disobedient when given a command or task (11), 8) you can’t be sexually immoral (12 “husband of one wife”), 9) your home and children are not a mess (12 “good managers”).

3.4. What all of this means for Christ Covenant Church from a church polity/government perspective: 1) Tim is a deacon (and our head deacon). 2) we need more deacons (a good representation) of our current congregation (i.e., we need to elect 6 more [total of 9 or ~ 10% rep. of the congregation/ ~1/3 of our men]). 3) we have men who meet the qualifications (which now includes single men and those who by 2024, have served one year [versus two for elders] after restoration/EOTC issuance; except for Forrest Stinnett, none of our other men are disqualified due to discipline.). 4) repentance w/respect to women deacons and women in judgment. 5) though laymen and women can serve in other ministries (e.g., worship, offerings, security, etc – See 1Ch 9:2 – there are “temple servants” [Hbr. Netinims]), only the deacons can serve in the sacred roles of the Lord’s Table and JUDCO. 6) men must be re-elected to continue serving (elections every two years; next election in/for 2026). 7) these men ARE NOT ELDERS (and therefore should not be held to that standard). 8) There will be a special ceremony in January (2024) to commission those chosen/confirmed. 9) Because these men will be officers of the church (being deputized w/some authority), we will address them using the honorary title of “officer” (e.g., officer Tim, officer Andrew, officer Robert).

[1] (Exo 28:41) “ordain” = Fill their hand…w/wisdom (to judge – vv29-30) and authority to atone (30:10).

[2] Bishop is the term used in Episcopal churches and other ancient forms of Christendom to refer to their priests/pastors.

[3] “pastor” which means shepherd is the term used by God when speaking about his priests or ordained/anointed leaders (e.g., Num 27:17; Isa 56:11, 63:11, Jer 10:21, 12:10, 22:22, 23:1-4, 25:34-36, 50:6; Eze 34:2-10).

[4] “When the pastor reads and preaches the Word, he symbolizes Christ, the Husband, speaking to His holy Bride (which is, by the way, one of the main reasons why women cannot be pastors; they cannot publicly symbolize Christ the Husband to His Bride, the Church, 1Co 11:2-10, 14:33-38; Eph 5:22-33; 1Ti 2:11-15).” – Jeffrey J. Meyers (The Lord’s Service)

[5] Viewing them as ruling elders yet using 1Ti 3:8-13 to support this theory misses the obvious: Paul’s use of the term “elder” – or teaching on the qualifications for elders ends at verse 7.

[6] The authority of the Levites is therefore by proxy (i.e., only valid/enforceable when it was in agreement w/the priests). We see the same thing in relation to those tribal elders and officers God gave to Moses as additional help (Num 11:16-17).

[7] Unlike the priests, the Levites cannot make atonement (e.g., See the contrast between the Levites and the priests in 1Chr 6:1-48 w/49). As such, only the ordained pastor – or new covenant priest can baptize (the point at which atonement is rec’d/the power of binding and loosing or forgiveness).