Chapter 26. Of the Church
Article 1. The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, who have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, its head. This church is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all.
Article 2. All persons throughout the world may be called visible saints who profess the faith of the gospel and obedience to God by Christ according to it, and who do not destroy their own profession by any error overturning the foundation or by unholy conduct. Of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.
Article 3. The purest churches under heaven are subject to mixture and error, and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, Christ has always had and ever shall have a kingdom in this world, comprised of such as believe in Him and make profession of His name.
Article 4. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, in whom all power for the calling, institution, order, or government of the church is invested in a supreme and sovereign manner by the appointment of the Father. No other man, including the Pope of Rome, can in any sense be head of the church.
Article 5. In the execution of this authority, the Lord Jesus calls out of the world to Himself, through the ministry of His Word and by His Spirit, those who are given to Him by His Father, so that they may walk before Him in all the ways of obedience, which He prescribes to them in His Word. He commands those thus called to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification and the due performance of that public worship which He requires of them in the world.
Article 6. The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and conduct) their obedience to that call of Christ. They also consent willingly to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ, giving up themselves to the Lord and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel.
Article 7. To each of these churches thus gathered, Christ has given all that power and authority which is in any way needful for their carrying on the proper order in worship and discipline according to His institution. He has also given commands and rules for the due and right exerting and executing of that power.
Article 8. A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, includes among its members officers, namely, pastors (elders) and deacons. These officers are to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered) for the administration of ordinances and the execution of the authority and duties with which Christ entrusts them.
Article 9. The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, to the office of pastor in a church, is that he be chosen by the common suffrage of the church itself and solemnly set apart by prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership, if there be any already constituted. A deacon is likewise to be chosen by suffrage and set apart by prayer and the imposition of hands.
Article 10. Since the work of pastors is constantly to attend to the service of Christ in His churches, in the ministry of the Word and prayer, and in watching over their souls, as they that must give an account to Him, it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister not only to give them all due respect, but also to give to them from their own wealth, according to their ability, so that they may have a comfortable supply without being themselves entangled in secular affairs and may also be capable of exercising hospitality toward others. This is required by the law of nature and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who has ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.
Article 11. Although it is incumbent on the pastors of churches to be instant in preaching the Word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the Word is not so singularly confined to them but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it and approved and called by the church may and ought to perform it.
Article 12. As all believers are bound to join themselves to particular churches, when and where they have opportunity, so all that are admitted to the privileges of a church are also under its censures and government, according to the rule of Christ.
Article 13. No church member, upon any offence taken by a fellow member, ought to disturb the order of the church or absent themselves from its assemblies or the administration of its ordinances, on account of such offence, but should wait upon Christ in the further proceedings of the church, having himself performed his duty toward the person.