4. The Nature and Extent of Church Power

  1. The power which Christ has committed to His Church vests in the whole body, the rulers and the ruled, constituting it a spiritual commonwealth. This power, as exercised by the people, extends to the choice of those officers whom He has appointed in His Church.
  2. Ecclesiastical power, which is wholly spiritual, is twofold: the officers exercise it sometimes severally, as in preaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments, reproving the erring, visiting the sick, and comforting the afflicted, which is the power of order; and they exercise it sometimes jointly in Church courts, after the form of judgment, which is the power of jurisdiction.
  3. The sole functions of the Church as a kingdom and government distinct from the civil commonwealth, are to proclaim, to administer, and to enforce the law of Christ revealed in the Scriptures.
  4. The Church, with its ordinances, officers, and courts, is the agency which Christ has ordained for the edification and government of His people, for the propagation of the faith, and for the evangelization of the world. The power of the Church is exclusively spiritual; that of the State includes the exercise of force. The constitution of the Church derives from divine revelation; the constitution of the State will also be determined by human reason and the course of providential events. The Church has an obligation to speak prophetically to the civil magistrates, reminding them their authority is from God and they are to rule according to God’s Law; the Church has no authority to construct or modify a government for the State, and the State has no authority to frame a creed or polity for the Church. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”[1]
  5. The exercise of ecclesiastical power, whether joint or several, has the divine sanction, when in conformity with the statutes enacted by Christ, the Lawgiver, and when put forth by courts or by officers appointed thereunto in His Word.

  1. Matthew 22:21.


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