The Ruling Elder

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Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Dr. Nigel lee writes:

The infallible Jesus assures us in His infallible Revelation 1:20f that "the seven Stars are the Angels of the seven churches." Indeed, "Maimonides, Lightfoot, Prideaux and many others all maintain that this 'angelic' Officer was the permanent President and Director of Public Worship known as the 'Messenger' or 'Angel of the Congregation' -- the 'Preaching Elder' who moderated the Session meetings of the Elders of the Synagogue's Session.... One of these Elders ['of the Synagogue'] was selected as a permanent President and Director of Public Worship, under the name of 'Angel of the Congregation' (cf. Revelation 2:1)."

Dabney states that also "First Corinthians 12:28 contains all the Church Offices." There one finds, inter alios, "the 'Teachers' [or Preachers], the Deacons [or 'Helps'], and the Rulers [or 'Governments''].... Nor is there any doubt as to the Ruling Office [being an Office] other than that of Teacher.... Now these 'Governments' are not Preachers, surely!.... The Ruling Elder should be 'apt to teach' -- though he is never to mount the pulpit.

"Again, it is objected that the Scriptures indicate no such distinction of work and title as we make between the Preaching Presbyter and the Ruling Presbyter.... This we positively deny!... In Romans 12:8 and First Corinthians 12:28, we found the 'governing' mentioned as a gift, a charism -- bestowed on others than those who had the gifts of preaching. In First Timothy 5:17, a clear distinction is implied between those.who rule well, and those who also 'labor in Word and Doctrine.'

"And in Revelation, the closing book of the canon, where we would naturally expect to see the apostolic institutions in their matured form, we hear each church representatively addressed by its 'Angel' imitation of the well-known order and title in the Synagogue [of] the Preaching Presbyter who presided over his brethren the Presbyters -- and was the public Mouthpiece or Messenger of the church to God, and of God to the church (Mark 3:1f cf. Luke 4:20 and Revelation 2:lf). So, do we assert, the distinction between the titles and tasks of the Preaching and Ruling Presbyters is as plain in the New Testament as could be expected!"

Robert L. Dabney: Theories of the Eldership, in Discussions: Evangelical and Theological (London, England: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967, II:124-51.


Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Fascinating. It certainly makes more sense than thinking that Christ is writing to some angelic being at the Church in question as I've seen others note.

I think when we compare the corporate authority of elders in Israel from accounts in Scripture to what we see today I seem much dissimilarity. You see families and tribes that rise or fall according to the leadership of the head in the Scriptures. Such submission, or acknowledgement of authority, is rare these days.
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