WCF 30.1 The Lord Jesus, as King and Head of His Church, hath therein appointed
government, in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.
I. Has the Lord appointed authority in the church which is different than that of the
3. What are the limits of the civil magistrate with respect to the church? They may not minister the Word or sacraments, or administer the power of the keys of the kingdom.
a. \u201cFor a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government
will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the
increase ofHi s government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his
kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then
on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this\u201d (Isa.
b. \u201cAnd Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, \u2018All authority has been given to
Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you
always, even to the end of the age\u2019\u201d (Matt. 28:18-20).
(i) \u201cFrom Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.
And when they had come to him, he said to them, \u2018You yourselves know,
from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time .
. . Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy
Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He
purchased with His own blood\u2019\u201d (Acts 20:17,18, 20).
(ii) \u201cTherefore, I exhort the elders among you, asyour fellow elder and witness
of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be
revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not
under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for
sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to
your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock\u201d (1 Pet. 5:1-3).
b. What kind of authority do they have?
(i) Their authority is declarative and ministerial only.
(ii) They are to declare Christ\u2019s Word and minister His will.
(iii) \u201cExercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to
c. How are God\u2019s people to respond to this authority?
(i) Because it is Christ\u2019s authority, God\u2019s people are to submit to it.
(ii) \u201cBut we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently
(iii) \u201cObey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your
souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not
with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you\u201d (Heb. 13:17).
(v) \u201cSlaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh,
with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by
way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of
God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to
men\u201d (Eph. 6:5-7).
WCF 30.2 To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed, by
virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that
kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto
penitent sinners, by the ministry of the Gospel; and by absolution from censures, as
occasion shall require.
II. What authority has the Lord entrusted to the church?
1. What is the visible kingdom of heaven?
a. It can mean the entire Creation, but in this case it refers to the visible church.
b. What is the invisible kingdom of God?
2. What does it mean that they have the authority to open the doors of the visible
a. It means they have authority to admit men, women and children into the
a. \u201cI will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven\u201d (Matt. 16:19).
b. \u201cIf he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen
even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say
to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and
whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven\u201d (Matt. 18:17,18).
c. \u201cSo Jesus said to them again, \u2018Peacebe with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.\u2019 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, \u2018Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain thesins of any, they have been retained\u2019\u201d (John 20:21-23).
B. What are the grounds upon which the elders open or shut the doors of the visible
1. They open them on the basis of a credible profession of faith.
a. What is a credible profession of faith?
(i) A correct knowledge of the Gospel.
(ii) A life consistent with that profession.
(iii) What are some of the things we would expect to see in the life of one who
b. The elder is to examine the applicant and determine whether or not the evidences of a genuine conversion are present. If they are, they simply recognize and affirm what Christ has already attested to.
a. What would constitute the lack of a credible profession of faith?
(i) An incorrect knowledge of the Gospel.
(ii) Evidence that the applicant does not believe the Gospel to be true.
3. Why don\u2019t they have authority to open and shut the doors to the invisible kingdom?
a. No one can see the heart but God.
b. He alone can qualify and allow anyone to enter into the eternal kingdom.
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