Question 22 Who are the extraordinary officers, or rulers, or ministers of the church, appointed to serve the Lord Jesus Christ therein for a season only?

Answer [1] The apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, with [2] the evangelists and prophets, endowed with extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, associated with them and employed by them in their works and ministry.

[1] Matt. 10:2-4; Acts 1:26; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11. [2] Luke 10:1; 2 Tim. 4:5; Tit. 1:5; Acts 11:27,28,21:9-11; 2 Cor. 1:1.

Explication — That the church is a spiritual corporation, attended with rule and government, is evident from the nature of the thing itself and testimonies of Scripture. Only, as the kingdom of Christ is not of this world or worldly, so this rule and government of the church is not merely external and secular, but spiritual. Neither doth this rule at all belong unto it merely as materially considered, in men yielding obedience unto the call which is the foundation of the church; nor absolutely, as it is formally constituted a church by the consent and agreement described; but, moreover, it is required that it be organically complete, with officers or rulers.

Now to the constitution of such a society or corporation there is required, —

First, That the persons whereof it is constituted do consent together into it for the attaining of the ends which they design. Without this no society of any kind can exist. This is the form of men’s coalescency into societies; and that there is in the church such consent and agreement hath been showed.

Secondly, That there be rules or laws for the guidance and direction of all the members of the society, in order to their pursuit of the proper ends of it. That such rules or laws are given and prescribed by the Lord Christ unto the church will afterward appear, in our consideration of them in particular; so that the church is a society of men walking according unto rule or law for the attaining of the ends of the society.

Thirdly, That there be authority instituted to see to the due observation of these rules and laws of the society, which consists in this: — 1. That some be appointed to rule and govern in the church; 2. Others to obey and be ruled or governed; both according to the laws of the society, and not otherwise. And both these are eminently found in this church-state, as we shall see in the ensuing questions, with their answers and explications.

Now, that these officers or rulers should be of two sorts, both the nature of the thing itself required and so hath our Lord Jesus Christ appointed; for when the church was first to be called, gathered, and erected, it was necessary that some persons should be extraordinarily employed in that work, for ordinary officers antecedent unto the calling and erection of the church there could be none. And, therefore, these persons were in an extraordinary manner endowed with all the power which afterward was to reside in the churches themselves; and, moreover, with that which was peculiarly needful unto the discharge and performance of that special duty and work that they were appointed unto.

But when churches were called, gathered, erected, and settled for continuance, there was need of officers suited to their state and condition, called in an ordinary way, that is, in a way appointed for continuance unto the end of the world; and to be employed in the ordinary work of the church, that is, the duties of it were constantly incumbent on it by virtue of the command and appointment of Christ.

The Life and Works of John Owen Vol.15