6. The Practice of Biblical Ministry
The Scriptures teach that each local church is to be governed by a plurality of elders (Acts 14:23; 15:22; 20:17; 1 Thess 5:12–13; 1 Tim 5:17–18; Titus 1:5; Heb 13:17; Jas 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1–4), men who exhibit unimpeachable Christlike character (1 Tim 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9), who rightly handle God’s Word (1 Tim 5:17–18; 2 Tim 2:15), who administer the ordinances and practice church discipline (MaL 18:15–18; 28:19–20; 1 Cor 5:9–13; 11:23–26; Titus 3:10–11), and who lead, feed, and protect the flock of God for whom they are responsible (Ezek 34:1–15; John 21:15–17; Acts 20:28–31; Heb 13:7, 17; 1 Pet 5:2–3), all according to the authority of the Scripture and unto the glory of God and the good of His people.
Biblical Ordinances: Believers’ Baptism and Communion
Jesus Christ has commanded that believers be identified both with their Lord and with one another by means of the signs of baptism and communion. Baptism into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the act wherein the church immerses a believer in water to symbolize his union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (MaL 28:19–20; Acts 2:41; 8:36–38; 10:46–47). In baptism, the believer publicly professes death to his old life of sin, allegiance to his risen Lord, and a commitment to walk in newness of life (Rom 6:3–4; Col 2:12). Baptism is neither regenerative nor an instrument of justification but is only a sign of such realities (1 Pet 3:21; cf. John 3:8; Rom 3:28–4:5; Gal 2:16).
Communion is the ongoing sign of this vital relationship with Christ as His people. It is to be observed only by believers in good standing, who partake of the bread and the cup to commemorate their Lord’s sacrifice for sin on the cross, and to pledge their faithfulness to Him and to each other (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 10:16–17, 21; 11:23–31). Though the elements of communion are sometimes called the body and blood of Christ, these are figurative expressions that stand for what they represent, so that the bread and the cup are merely signs and undergo no physical transformation (1 Cor 11:26–28; cf. John 6:48–58).
While all united to Christ by faith immediately become a part of the universal church, the Lord desires His followers to live out that relationship by means of a formal commitment to membership in a visible, local church. Such congregations of believers have joined together under the oversight of qualified elders for the worship of the Lord, the discipleship and edification of the saints, the practice of the ordinances, and to be equipped to evangelize the lost (Rom 12:3–6; 1 Cor 12:12ff; Eph 4:11–16). Given Scripture’s prescriptions for church government, corrective discipline, and mutual love and service, there must be a reciprocal commitment of membership between the believer and the local church: the church commits to protect and care for the believer, and the believer commits to submit to the teaching, oversight, and discipline of the church (1 Thess 5:12–13; 1 Tim 5:17–18; Heb 13:17).