The thesis of this study is to argue that the term “office” and its meaning, as found in the New Testament, cannot be applied without reserve to the understanding of office in the present-day institutionalised church. The focus of this study is on the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa, officially named the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika. For the past few decades, the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika, gave much consideration to the view it holds of “office”. It is nonetheless still necessary to obtain more clarity on the matter insofar as it pertains to the meaning and practical execution of ministry. In this regard, almost every theological discipline can contribute towards obtaining such clarity. From a Biblical and Reformed perspective, the logical place to look for the answer would be in the documentation of both the New Testament and the early church of the second and third centuries CE. This study investigates the origin of “office”, as well as the intention of office as found in the New Testament and writings of the early church. The use of the term “office” and its meaning, as found in the New Testament, would not be appropriate for an understanding of office in the present-day church, as it would amount to an anachronistic use of what early Christians called “ministry”. When explained from a kerygmatic perspective, ministries in the New Testament can only serve as a guideline for the understanding and intention of office in the present-day church. The development of “office” is explained particularly in terms of the development of the concept of “elder” from early Judaism until the times of the church of the second and third century CE. This development is illustrated against the background of the group of Jesus followers surrounding the historical Jesus, the Pauline and deutero-Pauline epistles, including the Pastoral Epistles, as well as the early church. A basic assumption of this study is that the understanding of office and church cannot be separated from one another. Therefore, the development of office is explained against the background of the developing institutionalisation of the earliest church. As the church increasingly began to have a character of institutionalisation, the understanding of office developed within more fixed structures. This study illustrates that Paul’s view of the church, ministries, kerygma and charismata, is of central importance for the understanding of the New Testament’s intention of ministries.
Dissertation (MA(Teologie))--University of Pretoria, 2007.