The Biblical doctrine of elders and pastors' authority

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:


Perhaps time to specifically make more of the Office of Evangelist? The background I come from did (and still does) set aside men for this work.


What prompted my question - these sentiments from the new Vanguard Presbytery in TN:

… While other Presbyterian denominations have historically had evangelists, we believe the absence of the actual office of Evangelist has had devastating consequences for Presbyterians for well over one hundred years. We have generally failed to evangelize the lost. We tend to emphasize theology and sound exposition of Biblical texts, which are vital, but we have not always emphasized the task of raising up men to take the gospel intentionally and directly to our communities.

Reported from here:

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As Pastor @tbbayly has pointed to John MacArthur’s denial of Pastoral’s authority, I found this bit of news interesting.

Would we say that John MacArthur is discovering his Pastoral authority or merely rebelling against the civil authority.

It’s a tough question, especially as we are but outside observers not living in California and perhaps living in locations less heavily impacted by COVID-19. Though that is not my case. Arizona’s numbers are worse than California’s but we haven’t shut down worship services.

MacArthur and Johnson’s response to the virus until now has been indistinguishable from Warhorn’s response.


Something incredibly absent from their statement — masks. Maybe because they actually aren’t deviating much from their prior position/are more in line with Warhorn than those who have been calling for defiance since March.

I’m not so sure that there is that much unity of thought here. MacArthur is making the case for parallel and distinctly separate spheres. Warhorn has made the case for spheres, but those that have overlapping and mutual obligations between them. If I’ve misstated Warhorn’s position I welcome clarification. Nevertheless, this is a very different position from MacArthur’s. It’s also why those in John MacArthur’s circle rarely if ever get involve in political issues like abortion. Which is exactly the sort of hypocrisy Warhorn has been calling out.

I would also add, MacArthur’s leaky dispensationalism prevents him from having a fully orbed view of God’s law, which is necessary in order to avoid those political debates.


They are two very different positions — I didn’t mean to imply they are the same. But even with their differences the two positions were yielding similar admonishments to the sheep to not rail and murmur against the state or be quick to rebel when they seek to make hard decisions about the health and safety of the nation.

His dispensationalism does prevent him from properly understanding the law and sphere sovereignty. But I’ve known many avid MacArthur followers/churches that are evangelistic and involved at abortion clinics. So even if the church itself “stays away” from the political realm, most of the time I’ve found the members/followers are less likely to adhere to that. And at times the church and MacArthur can’t help but be political, like when they denounced social justice as an evil political ideology that is dangerous to Christians.


MacArthur has even said, in the past, that the American Revolution was not justified biblically, riling many usual suspects from Moscow and Phoenix.

MacArthur’s dispensational, “literal” reading caused him to take a firm Romans 13 stance at first. Why has he changed his tune? Hard to say.

The more I have been humbled and chastened during all of this, the more i begin to think that pastors steering clear of political issues is a wise course. It’s wrong to accuse MacArthur of saying nothing about abortion. Search the old Bayly Blog archives for a personal story from David Bayly about MacArthur’s bona fides.


My church here in Arizona is a MacArthur styled church, Masters Seminary MDIVs etc. Although I’d say they are perhaps now closer to Jerry Wragg’s Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter Fl. Jerry Wragg was very close to MacArthur.

But all that to say, we do have an evangelistic outreach near the college campus, but the church officers who run it were very particular with me that abortion protest was an individual choice and not a Biblical function of the church.

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The language in that news article as well as the blog post from Grace Church is not entirely accurate. They both make the common English mistake of confounding a building for an ekklesia (assembly). The new order prohibits indoor operations at many establishments, not just church buildings. It requires bars to cease indoor and outdoor operations. As such it’s hard to construe as a form of religious persecution. In fact, in San Diego, the mayor has expanded outdoor options for churches, allowing them to expand operations into private parking lots.


I guess it just depends on the church and the elders. My previous church in California is very MacArthurite, and the pastors and elders strongly urge the members to actively participate in evangelism and opposing abortion in the public square. They have not been meeting in person and have urged obedience to the state by not meeting (it’s also an older congregation with lots of already vulnerable sheep) but I wouldn’t doubt they would be ready to defy state orders if the pastors and elders sensed the Gospel was on the line.

May the Lord give wisdom to His churches and ministers.


I haven’t looked at MacArthur’s stance on either the American Revolution or COVID-19, but it seems to me that there are worlds of interpretation between “pay a tax on tea,” “wear a face mask” and “do not gather for worship.” I’d like to give most everyone the benefit of the doubt for how they apply Romans 13 to each of those situations, but telling your mayor/governor that you are gathering for worship is hardly comparable to “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary etc.”


Thank you John. My comment was awkwardly worded. MacArthur’s literalism is actually something I love him for. I disagree with dispensationalism, but the simple faith of dispensationalists in the simple words of Scripture puts Reformed intellectuals to shame. We could learn a thing or two from them. Same with many simple Arminians and Baptists.


Some more thought on this. I don’t disagree with your point about the authority of pastors and elders - the Pentecostal background in which I grew up understood that very well - and I think I get your point about the problems with “sharing the Gospel”, because it turns the command of the Gospel into an offer of the Gospel, as you put it. But from what I can see, most people who now come to faith as adults do so through the consistent witness of friends - and understanding the command of the Gospel call comes later. Your mileage, of course, may vary.