Elders Represent the Knowlege of Christ in the Church – Conclusion

This brings us, finally, back to our beginning text, wherein is shown the manner in which those who preach and teach the church must regard those whom they teach; in other words, their example of living by the Spirit imparting the grace of God in Christ Jesus to their own lives, in various circumstances, demands that they see the results of that great sacrificial death in those they are preaching and teaching the doctrine of Christ too.

The proposition put forth is that of not seeing those who are bought by the death of Christ as if they were in their carnal estate, but as if they are already in their eternal estate. The second proposition put forth is that the first is done because they no longer look to Christ as He was before His glorification, but indeed, as having died and risen in glory. We might well reverse these propositions thusly: Since Christ has suffered death for those He purchased for God, and has risen in glory as the first to be resurrected, preceding all those encompassed in that propitiatory death, we do not look at Him as He was before that death, but as He is, sitting on the right hand of majesty; since all He died for are, indeed, encompassed in His death and resurrection, we view them according to the work of our Lord which was completed upon their behalf. These propositions necessarily entail our looking at one another according to the new creation God began in the resurrection of His Son, so that we all consider ourselves according to that new creation, and not in light of the old creation, which has commenced passing away, and which new creation will be fully realized at the eschaton, where we are given, of God, those new, glorified bodies which will be like our Lord’s glorified human body, to dwell in the perfection of God’s completed new creation eternally, per His glory in Christ Jesus.

Noticed, by saying “we” here, Paul is now not only showing how those who lead and feed the church of Christ must view those under their charge, but invites those so being nourished by the preaching, teaching, prayers and manner of life of the elders to partake of this same referent. This is the ultimate covenant of God in Christ Jesus realized, and the eschatological reality that will be (to which we look forward) is to be perceived in the interadvental relations of not only the elders to the flock they shepherd, but indeed, is to be that view of the sheep of Christ for one another. It is looking with eyes of hope which see the eternal state as already being present, in part, in joining to worship their God together; it is a piece of the eschatological culmination of God’s new creation that is to be both the perspective and experience of His children now, especially in corporate worship, but extending to all relations in and among those of the church of Christ.

As the office of those who teach and preach the Word of God is to be exemplary, according to the value of He whom they represent (that is, the value derived from beingin Christ,” for no matter the reputation they hold, it cannot be of equal value, but draws from the excellency of God’s grace in Christ by the power of His Spirit acting upon their regenerate nature), such received example of His virtue which inhabits their teaching and conduct towards those entrusted to their care also instructs them, by the same teaching and example, through the same power of God by His Spirit, how they ought to act towards one another, which is “to regard no one according to the flesh.” Since the apostle has shared this truth with the Corinthians, they are now both obligated and privileged to follow his example and see themselves, separately and corporately, as those who are not walking in the manner which they formerly did. Because it is the love of Christ controlling them, just as with those who teach them, the principles of a covenant community of believers must be followed, and chief among these principles, as with those who lead and teach, is seeing all who are a part of that covenant community with the eyes that look towards the culmination of all things, to God’s glory, as being presently applied to each and every member of said covenant community. This is what it means to be “a new creation;” it is not enough to regard one’s self, as an individual, as created anew in Christ, but to regard each and every man his neighbor, in the covenant community, as part and parcel with that new creation which is hidden in Christ in God, the former principle and manner of living having been put to death by His crucifixion (Colossians 3:1-4). This is the whole of the appeal of the apostle when he shares not only the doctrine of Christ, but the sufferings he and his companions have endured, just as Christ, for the sake of all His elect, endured hostility and suffering, and ultimately death.

We count ourselves as crucified with Him as to our old life, and raised in power with Him in His glorious estate, as to our new life (Romans 6:4-5). This we have from the Scripture, and this we have as the example and teaching of our elders by example and God’s prescription in Scripture; in fact, it is right to say this we have by God’s decree from Scripture, because it is not just prescribed commandment, but assured promise, which again, the apostles, in instructing those who are elders, commends to them, as well as to those they teach (2 Timothy 3:10-12; cf. Acts 14:22; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:12-13).

Notice, again, it is according to that which has been accomplished that the elders give teaching and example, not by their own power; notice, again, also, the eschatological focus on the eternal state as if it were here and now.

The outcome of such instruction and example is laid out by the apostle Paul, for interaction in the covenant community, which focuses on the eschatological reality presented over and over, by the practical experience of that reality here and now in many places (See, for example, Ephesians 4:20-32; Colossians 3:12-17; Philippians 2:1-3, and the list may easily be greatly multiplied).

Finally, the entirety of the force is to make known what God has done in Christ, which is the provision of forgiveness of sins and the blessing of eternal life. This has been given to us now, to enjoy the fruits of as if we are already entered into the final state of dwelling in glorified bodies with our King, Redeemer and God forever, and it is the foundation of all of the means of grace which He has provided us with to partake of such eschatological blessedness at the present time.

Although the remaining vv. in chapter five were not intended at the beginning of this study, a fitting conclusion, regarding the heading and theme, can be found in the last part of Calvin’s comments of vv. 18-19:

2 Corinthians 5:18-19: All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

The ministry of reconciliation – “Here we have an illustrious designation of the gospel, as being an embassy for reconciling men to God. It is also a singular dignity of ministers — that they are sent to us by God with this commission, so as to be messengers, and in a manner sureties. This, however, is not said so much for the purpose of commending ministers, as with a view to the consolation of the pious, that as often as they hear the gospel, they may know that God treats with them, and, as it were, stipulates with them as to a return to his grace. Than this blessing what could be more desirable? Let us therefore bear in mind, that this is the main design of the gospel — that whereas we are by nature children of wrath, (Eph_2:3,) we may, by the breaking up of the quarrel between God and us, be received by him into favor. Ministers are furnished with this commission, that they may bring us intelligence of so great a benefit, nay more, may assure us of God’s fatherly love towards us. Any other person, it is true, might also be a witness to us of the grace of God, but Paul teaches, that this office is specially entrusted to ministers. When, therefore, a duly ordained minister proclaims in the gospel, that God has been made propitious to us, he is to be listened to just as an ambassador of God, and sustaining, as they speak, a public character, and furnished with rightful authority for assuring us of this…And hath committed to us. Again he repeats, that a commission has been given to the ministers of the gospel to communicate to us this grace. For it might be objected, “Where is Christ now, the peacemaker between God and us? At what a distance he resides from us!” He says, therefore, that as he has once suffered, (1Pet. 3:18) so he daily presents to us the fruit of his suffering through means of the Gospel, which he designed, should be in the world, as a sure and authentic register of the reconciliation, that has once been effected. It is the part of ministers, therefore, to apply to us, so to speak, the fruit of Christ’s death.” [1]

We only add this further observation: Not only do the ministers communicate the grace of God in Christ’s death, but that grace which is presently in His life, by those means we have designated throughout the body of this article. It is through preaching, teaching, life example in suffering and bearing all things for the sake of the gospel of Christ, of which the last is communicated in fellowship amongst the believers the elders shepherd (whether in worship, most especially, but by other forms also, such as teaching doctrine through writings), that the members of the covenant community are likewise to be empowered for living by and for He who died that they might live. This is the importance of not only proper gospel preaching and teaching, but that Spirit empowered life of Christ formed in us through these gifted channels who lead, feed, and protect the flock of which they have been given charge, according to the gifts given them for such. Thus, the elders exhibit that life of Christ through their dying to self in these employments of the various means of grace by which our Lord has willed to have His sheep in local covenant communities led, fed and protected, by both positive example and prohibitive modeling, so that the life that flows from Him may flow through that structure He instated in His church, whereby each member, when properly functioning, becomes a conduit of that grace to each other member (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 4:11-16; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

This, then, is the full-orbed revelation of the knowledge of Christ, which is not merely expounding of doctrine to be understood intellectually, but also works out in showing that faith which cannot fail to trust Christ during the best and under the worst of circumstances, and that He has willed for this to be modeled, by the power of the Spirit and the Word, to show those who lead, feed and protect His sheep that such grace is always available to them under similar conditions, that doctrine that is first learned by the mind infuses the entirety of the life of the elders, and so those they shepherd, even as Christ’s life infused the entirety of the life of God through the power of His Spirit and doctrine to these, whom we have called, truly, the first elders of the church, and that paradigm which can say “follow me as I follow Christ” and “fill up the sufferings of Christ in you as you see me do; let us both die to self together, that the life of Christ may be manifest to others through our death.”

This concludes this series of articles; I hope they have been beneficial to those who read them.

SDG – Bill

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Introduction

[1]Calvin, Commentary on all the Epistles of Paul (1548) – spelling and formatting changed to modern in part.

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4 thoughts on “Elders Represent the Knowlege of Christ in the Church – Conclusion

  1. Pingback: Elders Represent the Knowlege of Christ in the Church – Part 5 | MEANS OF GRACE

  2. Pingback: Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church-Conclusion | Reformedontheweb's Blog

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