Congregational Polity for Baptists


The following is a summary of AH Strong’s argument for a congregational church polity and it comes from volume 3 of his text of Systematic Theology.

The volume may be downloaded here:
AH Strong, Systematic Theology, Volumes 1,2, and 3

 

Congregationalism

Cambridge Platform (About), 1648, 10th chapter — “So far as Christ is concerned, church government is a monarchy. So far as the brotherhood of the church is concerned, it resembles a democracy.”

Proof that the government of the church is Congregational.

  1. From the duty of the whole church to preserve unity in its action.
    • Romans 12:16 — “Be of the same mind one toward another”
    • 1 Corinthians 1:10 — “Now I beseech you…that ye all speak the same thing,
      and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in
      the same mind and in the same judgment”
    • 2 Corinthians 13:11 — “be of the same mind”
    • Ephesians 4:3 — “giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the
      bond of peace”
    • Philippians 1:27 — “that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one soul striving
      for the faith of the gospel”
    • 1 Peter 3:8 — “be ye all like minded.”
  2. From the responsibility of the whole church for maintaining pure doctrine and practice.
    • 1 Timothy 3:15 — “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the
      truth”
    • Jude 3 — “exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once
      for all delivered unto the saints”
    • Revelations 2 and 3 — exhortations to the seven churches of Asia to
      maintain pure doctrine and practice.
    • Ephesians 3:18 — “strong to apprehend with all saints what is the breadth
      and length and height and depth.”
      Note: In all these passages, pastoral charges are given, not by a so called
      bishop to his subordinates, but by an apostle to the whole church [viz
      Congregation] and to all its members.
  3. From the committing of the ordinances to the charge of the whole
    church 

    • Luke 24:33 — “And they rose up that very hour…found the eleven gathered
      together, and them that were with them
    • Matthew 28:19, 20 — “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the
      nations, baptizing them…teaching them”
    • Note: …these passages show that it was not to the eleven apostles alone that Jesus committed the ordinances.

    • 1 Corinthians 11:2 — “Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things, and hold fast the traditions, even as I delivered them to you” (cf. 23, 24)
    • Note: …here Paul commits the Lord’s Supper into the charge, not of the body of officials, but of the whole church. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, therefore, are not to be administered at the discretion of the individual minister.

  4. From the election by the whole church of its own officers and
    delegates. In 

    • Acts 6:3, 5 — “Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven men of good report… And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen…and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus” [as deacons]
    • Acts 15:24, 22, 30 — “the brethren appointed that Paul and Barnabas and
      certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem…And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church and the apostles and the elders…Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas…So they…came down to Antioch; and having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle”
    • Note: Dr. Strong goes to great length to suggest that the appointment of not only deacons, but elders, was performed by the congregation as a whole, but there is too much information (and overmuch speculation) to reproduce it here.

  5. From the power of the whole church to exercise discipline.
    • Matthew 18:17 — “And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church:
      and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican. Verily I say unto you, What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
    • 1 Corinthians 6:4, 5, 13 — “ye being gathered together…to deliver such a
      one unto Satan…Put away the wicked man from among yourselves”
    • Etc.

      Note: “These words …refer …to the decisions of the whole body of believers guided by the Holy Spirit. If there had been in the mind of our Lord any other than a democratic form of government, he would have referred the aggrieved party to pastor, priest or presbytery.”

      Strong – “Passages, which show the right of the whole body to exclude, show also the right of the whole body to admit members.”

Summary

“The educational influence upon the whole church of this election of pastors
and deacons, choosing of delegates, admission and exclusion of members,
management of church finance and general conduct of business, carrying on of
missionary operations and raising of contributions together with responsibility
for correct doctrine and practice, cannot be overestimated. The whole body can
know those who apply for admission better than pastors or elders can. To put the
whole government of the church into the hands of a few is to deprive the
membership of one great means of Christian training and progress. Hence the
pastor’s duty is to develop the self-government of the church. …It should be
the ambition of the pastor not “to run the church,” but to teach the church
intelligently and in a Scriptural manner to manage its own affairs. The word
“minister” means not master, but servant.”

SELECT REFERENCES:

Congregationalism, Henry Martyn Dexter, Nichols and Noyes, 1865

The Christian ecclesia, Dr. F. J. A. Hort, Macmillan, 1897.

The ecclesiastical polity of the New Testament unfolded, Samuel Davidson, Jackson
and Walford, 1848.

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One thought on “Congregational Polity for Baptists

  1. Pingback: Plurality of Elders? - Christian Forums

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