The Appointment Of Elders:
Inasmuch as there has been considerable discussion in The Forum in regard to the elders in the churches of Christ, a few remarks might not be amiss concerning the appointment of elders. In Acts 14:23 we read, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on Whom they believed.” Barnabas and Paul appointed a spiritual leadership in the churches of Galatia, a leadership capable of guiding in all church affairs.
Today there exists a variety of opinions in regard to the ordination of elders. There are assemblies which each year elect new elders; there are other assemblies which elect elders for the duration of life or as long as they have the use of their faculties. There are still other assemblies which without any formality invite men in whom they have recognized the capabilities of eldership to assume such work in their midst. It is obvious that the ordination of elders here and at Crete (Tit. 1:5) was not performed by the assemblies at all.
It must also be obvious, that the apostles possessed an authority which they in turn could delegate to their immediate associates that no man now possesses. For example, Paul delivered Hymeneaus and Alexander to Satan, and definitely no one man has the authority to do that today. Moreover, no man would dare to threaten an assembly as did Paul Corinth (1 Cor. 4:21).
The deep and striking implication of 1 Tim. 3 cannot be carelessly dismissed. Verse one according to MSS. might properly be paraphrased, “This is a true saying, if a man have the appetite for bishoprick, he has a hunger for a good work.” The word “office” is not in the text. God does not have offices to fill but tasks to perform. How are we to recognize such brethren with such an appetite? Their character and qualifications are carefully delineated throughout the remainder of the chapter.
The question then arises in the mind, who actually appoints the elders, and how are the Lord’s people to recognize them. The first part of the question might be answered by Acts 20:28, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made (hath set or hath appointed) you overseers to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.” The second part of the question might be answered by 1 Thess. 5:12-13, “We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” The verb “to know” means to be aware of or to consider.
Be slow to take new steps in the Lord’s service, or in your business, or in your family. Weigh everything well. Weigh all in the light of Holy Scripture and in the fear of God. —George Muller