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Martin Bucer on Choosing Elders


Martin Bucer (1491-1551), who was the undisputed leader of the Reformation in the city of Strasbourg, France from around August of 1524 until the spring of 1549 when he moved to England and was appointed to serve as Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge where he passed into glory at the end of February 1551. The Reformed Church of Strasbourg and its pastors, Bucer being chief among them, exercised a great deal of influence in molding Calvin’s thought and practice during the period of the latter’s exile (1538-41) there from Geneva. It is, to be sure, difficult to over-estimate the influence of Bucer on evangelical teaching and practice, much of which was adopted in all the strongholds of Reformed Protestantism. In one of his most significant works, Concerning the True Care of Souls, Bucer included a chapter titled, “What Sort of People the Elders Are to Be, And How They Are To Be Chosen And Installed.” Therein Bucer cites the passages of 1 Timothy 3:1-12; Titus 1:5-9; 2 Timothy 2:1-10, 15-17a, 22-26, 3:14-17; 1 Timothy 4:12-16, 5:21-22b; and Acts 13:1-3. His comments on the prerequisite graces and virtues specified in these passages are very fascinating and display a clear presentation of sound, biblical teaching regarding the office of an elder.

He informs us in one of the passages from this chapter:

“It is for this reason that the ancient well-ordered and apostolic churches chose their elders from people of all classes and types, as is indeed customary in the community at large, on the basis of their common sense and experience, in order not only that the public peace might be better maintained in the community, but also that the public need might be dealt with more easily and liberally.”

May God, in His grace, impart to us His wisdom, and enable us to bear in mind these prerequisite graces and virtues when we contemplate officer nominations for Christ’s church.

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