We’ve studied the qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). Now, we’ll look at how these men are selected. Paul and Barnabas are said to have “ordained (appointed NASB/NKJV) elders in every church” in the region of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch (Acts 14:23). Titus is told by Paul to do the same in Crete (Tit. 1:5). Thus, Preachers had a role in the process.
Does the word “ordain” or “appoint” indicate that the preacher is to select the elders? No, the word in no way implies this. The original wording of Titus 1:5, also appears in Acts 6:3. A reading of Acts 6 reveals: (1) The “multitude of disciples” in the church at Jerusalem did the seeking out from among them and the choosing of qualified men – Acts 6:2, 3, 5; (2) The apostles (preachers) did the appointing – Acts 6:3-6. The people made the selection and the apostles formally or officially installed them. A preacher may teach on the subject. He may move the process along. He may preside over the installation ceremony. However, the people do the selecting.
The word ‘ordain’ in Acts 14:23 is different than the word in Acts 6:3 and Titus 1:5. The word means “primarily to stretch out the hand; secondarily, to appoint by a show of the hand; and thirdly, to appoint or elect without regard to method. Whether it designates here an act of Paul and Barnabas, or one which they caused the people to do, is not made clear. The force of the word favors the former view, while the previous act of the twelve in requiring the multitude to choose the deacons (6:1-3) favors the later” (McGarvey: New Commentary on Acts). Whatever the case, it seems clear the precedent or Acts 6 would indicate that the church members of the local congregation do the choosing [ “A Fortiori principle” (see article on qualifications of an elder for a fuller discussion of this principle). The process of the selection of the lesser office of deacon sets the precedent for the selection of the greater office of elder. This is especially evident when the process is specified for the lesser office but not explicitly stated for the greater, but related office.]
No authority exists for a committee to be set up which by-passes or circumvents this process.
Further, an eldership is not a self-perpetuating organization. The members of the church choose the elders. There is no authority for things to be done otherwise.
A man should maintain the qualifications and continue to do the work of an elder. Curtis Cates has written, “If he becomes disqualified or ceases to carry out the task, he should resign,” but then he cautions against resigning for the wrong reasons saying, “an elder should not resign in the midst of battle…” (TGJ Vol. 9, No. 2, page 8), to do such would be to abandon one’s duty.
What if one is concerned that an elder is no longer qualified, or is no longer doing his duties? The answer is the elder should be confronted with such, if the evidence is adequate (1 Tim. 5:19-20). Like anyone else he should be given the opportunity to repent. If repentance is not forth-coming, a congregation should handle the situation as one would other known sinners among them who refuse to repent.
A word of caution: one should not expect an elder to be one who never sins or falls short. We all do so from time to time. The real issue is how does the man deal with such?
Another word of caution, to rebel against God’s appointed men is to rebel against God (see Num. 12, Num 16), to murmur against them is to murmur against God (Ex. 16:1-2 cf. 7-8; Num. 14:1-2 cf. 27; Num. 16:11). One should be careful when complaining against elders, deacons, or preachers.
Their qualifications were studied (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Remember that the apostles seem to have functioned as the authority in the local church at Jerusalem, prior to the establishment of the eldership (see Acts 4:35, 37; 5:2 cf. 11:30). Therefore, following the precedent of Acts 6, the eldership should decide if they need to add deacons, and how many.
The congregation then seeks out and chooses men qualified men. The congregation, not the elders or the preacher alone, does this. If a deacon is no longer qualified, what was said under the elders above holds true here, as well. Also, if the deacon has fulfilled his duties and the elders have no more assignments for him. Then he really is no longer a deacon. One should not be a deacon in name alone.
Again, I would caution all to remember, there is only one sinless man who ever lived. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of those who serve.
God has not specified which individual is to preach any given Sunday in the pulpit before the assembly. The elders have authority in unspecified matters [see The Work of Elders]. They decide who preaches and such should be accepted unless one is disqualified by God to preach (e.g. women preachers, non-Christians, etc.). The elders ordain the preacher not some denominational board. Note: It is hard to understand how some congregations have an eldership and yet the preacher is selected by a preacher selection committee. I never understood how an eldership could delegate such an important decision.
A preacher should not be dismissed for preaching the truth (cf. Gal. 4:6). Moreover, he should not be dismissed for some of the flimsy reasons given today, such as: (1) “He’s too young, or too old” (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Cor.16:10-11; 11:16); (2) “It’s just time for a change.” Is the man doing his work? Often it’s not just the preacher who needs to change. Congregations who change preachers frequently think that it’ll solve their problems or lack of growth history of the congregation usually shows little was solved by doing so. (3) Numbers alone (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:20). (4) “We don’t like his personality.” Folks, if we can’t get along here, what are we going to do in heaven? Or will we be there?
If, on the other hand: (1) The preacher is no longer doing his work as he should; (2) The preacher is no longer submissive to the elder’s authority as he should be; (3) He has sin in his life for which he refuses to repent; (4) The preacher’s influence and reputation is tarnished or gone in the community – then, it may well be time to move on to another preacher. The elders make this call and will be, no doubt, accountable before God.
Enjoyed this series much.