What do Presbyterians believe, and why are they so relevant within Protestantism? The first thing to distinguish is the difference between the Presbyterian government and the Presbyterian church of Scottish origin. In general, the Presbyterian Church uses a Presbyterian type of government. We must also remember that this type of government is used by other denominations or as a base.
Presbyterian local churches base their government on representative assemblies of elders called presbyteries. By comparison, bishops govern the Episcopal Church, and the same congregation governs congregational churches. The councils of elders or presbyters are elected by the church itself and must be made up of men with wisdom, experience, and gifts to exercise government and teaching in the church. Some presbyters, called “ teachers ” or pastors, train in seminaries and receive support from the church to dedicate themselves to teaching, according to the instruction of the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 5:17-18 (NIV):
“The elders who manage the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those who devote their efforts to preaching and teaching. The Scripture says: ‘Do not muzzle the ox while it is threshing,’ and ‘The worker deserves to be paid his salary.
However, the pastors do not exercise government alone, but in council with the other presbyters, seeking with this that a pastor never, through his personality, authority, or charisma, rule over the flock that does not belong to him, as 1 Peter says. 5:1-4 (NASB):
“Therefore, to the elders among you, I encourage, an elder like them and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that is to be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God among you, watching over him, not the obligation, but voluntarily, as God wishes; not because of greed for money, but with sincere desire; neither as having dominion over those who have been entrusted to you, but proving to be examples of the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
The Presbyterian Church believes in a “denominational” type of tradition. This means that believers reaffirm their faith using “confessions,” such as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed (325), or another statement of faith such as the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), or the Belgian Confession (1561).
But creeds or confessions do not replace or supersede the authority of the Bible. Presbyterians believe that the Scriptures are the main act of faith and life and that the confessions show the church as a community of believers and not just a “collection of individuals.” Presbyterians say confessions help guide them and remind them of what they believe.
Presbyterian ecclesiology seeks worship to be centered on faith in the sacrifice of Christ, having Him as the center at all times. It is also clear that those elements not commanded for worship in the Scriptures must be omitted or prohibited. This principle is known as the “ Regulatory Principle of Worship.”
The legacy of Presbyterianism reminds us that it is necessary to know our past and historical doctrine and that we must transmit and confess our faith openly. No Protestant church was born from nothing; they all have a historical background and a tacit confession, even if you are unaware of it.
Presbyterianism can also give us important lessons about avoiding pyramidal governments that concentrate the power of the churches on just one person or family. They remind us that the community should govern churches and that the community should guide the decisions of the church. The church is a community of believers, not private or multinational companies.