Early Christian Decision-Making: And Now for the Vote (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

The famous Twelve Articles which preceded the Peasants War of Luther’s day are very modest by today’s standards. In their own day they were conservative and presented no challenge to the feudal system. They began with the demand that “every municipality shall have the right to elect and remove a preacher if he behaves improperly. The preacher shall preach the gospel simply, straight and clearly without any human amendment, for, it is written, that we can only come to God by true belief.” Luther had written words quite similar, with the difference that he named the congregation as the deciding body. In those days, of course, there usually wasn’t much difference between congregation and municipality. Now if this type of congregational control had been standard practice in 1520, neither the Twelve Articles nor Luther’s tract would have ever been written. Indeed, most political and religious leaders in those days did not take well to it. It would take over three centuries before independent congregations which chose their ministers were generally tolerated in European nations.

But the whole idea of congregations choosing their ministers would have seemed anything but radical in Jesus’ day. As I have related in previous articles, the concept of towns, cities, organizations, or religious congregations voting for their leaders was a widespread practice. The common (but not only) word for voting in the Greek language was cheirotoneo. Its second occurrence in the New Testament is in 2 Corinthians 8:19:

And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind. (KJV)

In this verse cheirotoneo is translated “chosen” by the KJV, NIV and NKJV and “appointed” by the NASB, ESV, RSV, and NEB. The BDAG lexicon gives the translation in this passage “choose” (by election). The Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon (LSJ) gives the translation “appoint” (like the high priest of Judaea).

LSJ says that there are three basic meanings for cheirotoneo.

  1. To stretch forth the hand (and thus vote)
  2. To select (without explaining how)
  3. To span with the hand

Obviously, the third meaning has no bearing on the two NT passages. So for the usage in 2 Corinthians 8:19 the question is whether the representative was chosen by a vote in each church or selected without a vote. Commentators who say cheirotoneo here describes an election include Alford, Barrett, Bernard (EGT), Calvin, Fausset, Lenski and H.A.W. Meyer. Commentators who say the representative was appointed include Harris (EBC), Hughes (NIC), and Lohse (TDNT). Alfred Plummer does not decide in his comments which translation is right, but he points out that cheirotoneo had a shift in meaning from “elect” to “appoint” over the process of time. This shift was well explained by Edwin Hatch in his article “Ordination” in the Dictionary of Christian Antiquities in 1875.

To a large extent, writers focus on one or the other meaning of the word. On the one hand, the primary meaning of cheirotoneo is “to elect.” On the other hand, the word changed in meaning to “appoint” even before the NT was written. Both Josephus and Philo (contemporaries of the NT authors) frequently use the word to mean “appoint.” Thus John MacArthur asserts that the translation of “elect” here in 2 Corinthians 8:19 is “exaggerated literalism.”

But in all of this discussion, wrong assumptions are being made. Commentators are not performing a thorough study of the word in its various contexts (do they really have the time?). But, in fact, thorough study of that kind is precisely what is necessary since cheirotoneo appears only twice in the entire New Testament.

I have not studied the word in all of its contexts. That would require using a Greek search engine to look at every instance of cheirotoneo, then read the passage in the literature in which it occurs. The whole study would be worthy of a PhD project (perhaps I can inspire someone to do just that). But I have made a preliminary study and have found the following:

  1. Though the word cheirotoneo did change its meaning, it never ceased to be used with its original meaning, “elect,” as well. During the time of Christ and long after, cheirotoneo was used by Greek authors to mean “vote” (e.g. by Plutarch, Lucian, Strabo, and Diodorus of Sicily). Likewise, although Philo and Josephus used the word to mean “select,” they also used it to mean “elect.” Among the church fathers, it frequently had the meaning of elect (e.g. Didache 15.1; Ignatius Letter to the Smyrnaeans 11.2, Letter to the Philadelphians 10.1, etc). In fact, even in AD 400, church leaders used the word to mean “elect” (e.g., Philostordius in h.e. 7.6).
  2. Another Greek word, proteineo, demonstrates the same history. It began with the meaning “extend the hand” and later came to mean “propose” but never lost the more literal meaning. Josephus also uses proteineo with both meanings.
  3. It appears that every time cheirotoneo is used unequivocally to mean “appoint,” it is done by one person. Thus, for example David was chosen (cheirotonetheie) by God to be King (Josephus, Antiquities, 7.53). But when a group was selecting, it had the meaning “elect” (Josephus, Antiquities 19.287—when Tiberius was elected to counsel for the second time).

Now, let’s read the sentence in 2 Corinthians 8:19 again: “He was chosen (cheirotoneo) by the churches to accompany us as we carry the offering” (NIV). A group does the selection. Thus the churches each elected the man (whom I would suggest was Aristarchus—a well-tested team worker of Paul from Macedonia). So each church voted “yes” or “no” on one man, it seems. A careful reading of 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 makes this kind of action even more apparent. It was only natural for Paul to think that the churches had the say in who would handle the money they gave.

Did churches in New Testament times vote? I am rather convinced they did, though the Bible lays no stress on any word to express it. In the case of 2 Corinthians 8:19, it seems rather clear that the churches in Macedonia were instructed by Paul to vote. It was not a vote between multiple candidates, but rather a vote of confidence on one person who would carry the Christians’ money. It was a vote, nonetheless. This action really shouldn’t amaze us. Believers in those times may not have had electricity, cell phones, and the Internet, but they did a lot of the same things we do today.

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Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff – thanks for the article. Your clarity is unsurpassed and attention to detail brings sobriety and confidence to all you say!

I do want to respond but before I do, I just want to remind your readers that your articles on voting are a response to my April 6, 2011 article on Sharper Iron, “Is Congregational Voting Biblical?” My answer was “no,” because the there aren’t any commands or examples of congregational votes in the NT.

However, your article above is sober and worthy of serious consideration. Essentially, you identify the 2 Cor. 8:19 as an ‘affirmation’ vote – a simple “up or down” vote (cf. Lohse, TDNT, "cheirotoneo"). Either the Corinthians would approve of Aristarchus(?) to take the money to Jerusalem with Paul, or not. I agree with your judgment! But we need to go further, for when we do, I think we will discover that the congregational vote in 2 Cor. 8:19 is very far from the kind of voting that goes on in churches today.

#1 – The 2 Cor. 8:19 vote had no authority whatsoever. If the Corinthians had voted “no” on Aristarchus, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit. He was still going to Jerusalem with Paul, bringing the money. The ”up or down” vote wasn’t for Aristarchus but for them. Paul was giving them an opportunity to identify themselves with his mission to Jerusalem and to let the Jerusalem church know they identified with them too. Again, their vote had no authority! As a result - 2 Cor. 8:19 - which at first looks to some as a support for congregational voting and congregational authority ends up undermining congregational polity. Here is the only clear example of a congregation vote in some manner in the NT, and its purpose was to align the church under Paul.

#2 – let’s take Kevin Bauder’s article on July 11, 2011 (2 days ago) and apply it here. He writes

Quote:
“An “is” never constitutes an “ought.” Sound theological method draws a sharp distinction between historical narrative and didactic requirement.”

Is Paul teaching that churches should vote in 2 Cor. 8:19? Congregationalists say ‘yes’ and load the 2 Cor. 8:19 vote up to look like what goes on today in churches. But they violate Kevin’s words,
Quote:
First, we must rely upon biblical teachings rather than examples. In other words, we look for didactic texts rather than historical narratives. Our evidence should aim to be normative rather than descriptive (we should base our theology on ought statements rather than is statements).
Second, we must support our theology from clear passages rather than obscure ones. Of course, we may debate which passages are really clearest. Too often we assume that a passage is clear if it supports our preconceived notions, but it is obscure if it appears to contradict them. A better way of understanding clarity is this: a clear passage is one that permits only one likely interpretation, while an obscure passage might permit two or more plausible interpretations. When evaluating evidence, we must grant decisive weight to the former kind of passage rather than the latter.
Third, we must look for evidence that aims to address the question we are asking rather than evidence that is marginal or tangential. It is poor practice to base our theology upon passages that merely address our question incidentally. Rather, we should locate the passages that aim to deal with the topic in which we are interested.

Like I said in my original article, there is no command anywhere for Jesus or an apostle to do church votes. Have you answered for yourself the question of “why not?”

#3 – Gee, idk, I would get really queasy trying to support congregational voting from the NT… don’t you? I mean, here you have the thinnest of evidence - the usage of cheirotoneo in the NT (Acts 14:21, 2 Cor. 8:19) and have had to back off both of them as teaching the kind of voting that churches do today. But you still support congregational voting as a NT doctrine, and cheirotoneo is one of your best supports? Again, let’s use Kevin’s post on how to arrive at biblical theology and apply it to church polity. There are no commands in the NT for congregations to vote. Yet there are commands and examples of a plurality of elders who are appointed by apostolic pattern and measures (Titus 1:5-9, 1 Tim. 5:22). They are not appointed by the congregation but by those who are likewise biblically qualified to make such appointments. Congregational votes, such as are practiced today, only mess the apostolic pattern up. For some reason when it comes to congregationalism good men flee the didactic and rely on the thinnest of biblical evidence. It’s no different than paedo-baptists relying on the thin evidence of ‘household baptisms including infants’ to help prove their doctrine.

#4 – Why not examine in detail the matter of a plurality of elders who quite clearly have full-charge authority in the church? Here you have an amazing array of not merely single words in isolated texts, nor even single verses, but entire paragraphs to study! Go to Acts, the pastoral epistles, 1 Peter 5:1-4. There are words to study too. Words like “have charge over you” “esteem them highly in love”, and “obey” “submit” (1 Thes. 5:12-13 and Heb. 13:17). Check out why John the apostle calls himself an “elder” and not an “apostle” in 3 John. It governs the whole book! God tells us exactly how the congregation is to relate to leaders, and never once does a congregation have the right to elect and depose. Instead they have to power of Scripture to call their leaders to obey God. Why is that insufficient?

#5 – Did Martin Luther want women voting in the church?.....

Yours for the gospel - Ted

Jeff Brown's picture

Unfortunately I do not have a lot of time today, Ted. So I will only answer part of your comment. First, I sincerely thank you for your compliments. I am amazed that anyone would say that about anything I have written, ever.

Second, your articles on voting provided the occasion, but not the motivation for what I have written. All the articles I have written follow the general outline of my dissertation. That is now two years old, and I am expecting will go the way of most other dissertations and gather dust on a shelf or two. So I had had in mind to try to create something that would not require a lot of time and energy, yet give readers somewhere, the essence of what I have written. My writing is about how groups in the NT church made decisions. I find that a lot of writers make statements about polity substantiated only by what someone else has written (what Sovereign Grace Ministries says about elders and synagogues is a prime example). For nearly 30 years I also have heard and read a lot from people who are of my persuasion complaining about attacks on congregationalism. But the moment someone does extensive research and writes about it, their response is usually ho-hum. Maybe they just like to carp, or maybe they are waiting to write the mother of all polity books themselves. At least here, some have had a chance to read part of what I have found out, and I feel I have fulfilled an obligation. Your articles were the occasion, not the motivation.

I am a congregationalist, but I did not do my dissertation to prove congregationalism. My professor, Kevin Bauder, would not have allowed that. I wanted to find out what the NT said about group decisions. At the doctoral level, this requires nowadays an interaction with scholarship on the Social World of the New Testament. You will note that a little in what I have written here and there. One thing studies in the social world of the New Testament tell us is that democratic-type of activity, including voting was a normal thing in the New Testament world, including among Jewish groups and communities.

If Paul had had any horror at the the idea of voting, he surely would have laid out its offensiveness to God in very plain terms. He did not. BUT THIS IS REALLY NOT MY POINT. I am concerned at how and why groups made decisions in the New Testament. The New Testament does not say what method was used - except in 2 Corinthians 8:19. My dissertation devotes several pages to cheirotoneo. That is because it is forever brought up in commentaries and in polity or leadership books. In short, I think that I have well demonstrated that it should be translated "select" in Acts 14:23 and "elect" in 2 Corinthians 8:19. I would not for a moment suggest that my conclusion is the final word, but I could be convinced to change my views only on the basis of a study of every instance of the word in extant Greek literature, with application to the two verses in question. And frankly, I know that there are scholars so good, that if I am going at it wrong, they could thoroughly shred my conclusions. But my expectiation, through an initial study, causes me to anticipate that the translations will come out like I have given them. This word, is however, a small part of the whole subject which is my interest: group decision-making in the New Testament.

I have run out of time, and will stop.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

I really have not given the full reason why I am rather convinced that churches in NT times voted. That is a conclusion I would draw from all the instances in which the Bible records that churches decided as a group on issues, or that they are instructed to decide on issues as a group. In all I have written, I have only referenced these instances one time. Because churches in the NT made decisions as a group, I am rather convinced that they voted sometimes. Other groups around them did so. Voting is simply one method of group decision-making. But voting or not voting is not all that important. That churches make decisions as a group is.

There is a command in the NT specifically to vote. I just wrote about it.

The instructions about fitness for ministry in Titus 1 (and 1 Timothy 3) are not given to determine who may choose leaders, but to know what sort of leaders are to be chosen. And 1 Timothy 5:22 poses no conflict with a congregation choosing elders (vote or no vote). Laying on hands does not mean choose for office. I am willing to be corrected, but I don't think that one can make a case that laying on hands ever means "choose" either in the OT or the NT. cheiras epitithei is not equivalent to cheitotoneou.

Kevin Bauder's discussion about hermeneutics in his most recent "Nick of Time" is not new for him. He may have changed his mind about my arguments in the meantime, but but when I defended my dissertation he thought they were convincing. I agree with the point, Ted, that it is dangerous to build a doctrine on one verse. But I think you have misunderstood what I was doing with my two-part article. I was explaining how I think the word cheirotoneo in its two instances ought to be translated. Conclusion: Barnabas and Paul "selected" elders in the churches they had founded. Paul instructed believers in the church in Corinth to vote about the man who would carry their money. Further conclusions require a lot more of the Bible.

Jeff Brown

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff – you wouldn’t build a doctrine on a single verse, or even a series of disparate verses that simply appear to present a theme. I think I know you well enough for that. I doubt your hermeneutics and mine are different at all. And yet we’ve arrived at really different destinations on church polity. How does that happen?

Well, of course we all read Scripture through our experience, even if we do recognize when and where we are reading experiences into Scripture. We are also inconsistent in interpretation. And yes, those who are our teachers are incredibly powerful on our convictions. And then there is the problem of making good applications from valid interpretations.
Still, with those caveats, I want to make the point again: if you follow Kevin’s 3 points you will never arrive at congregational authority as taught in congregationalism, or voting as a wise decision making polity in church. Up until now my argument has been almost exclusively negative – showing how the NT offers such negligible evidence for the practice, and how various Scriptures forbid it (Heb. 13:17, 1 Thess. 5:12-13, Titus 1:5-7, 1 Tim. 5:17-22, 3 John).

But I don’t really dwell on those negative argument for not voting in my church because the real issue is moral. Procedures are secondary. The real issue is decision-making.

So allow me to present a positive argument for a decision-making process in the church that rejects voting – 1 Cor. 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” Christ requires us to make decisions in a way that produces 100% agreement. This means every time your church holds a vote that results in less than 100% unanimity it violates the express command of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, for it is not united in the same mind and judgment. It doesn’t get a pass because of where it is or what denominational affiliation it holds. It doesn’t even matter what happened in 1st Century culture, or even what the church of Corinth actually practiced. God’s standard supersedes that and is exceeding clear. And in case we miss the message in 1 Cor. 1:10, we have a vast amount of riches to teach us congregational decision making – Eph. 4:1-6, Phil. 2:1-5 for starters. The process of congregational voting, as practiced in the present day (parliamentary procedure) works against these utterly clear biblical principles that maximize preferring others before self and learning humility and submission.

Eldership doesn’t merely tip the hat to these principles but relies entirely upon them for all decision-making at both congregation and elder levels. A church with qualified elders who humbly submit to Scripture and each other will be a church that knows great peace. I’ve pastored in 2 congregational churches and 2 eldership churches. I’ve also been a member in large and small of both kinds. Only eldership makes possible an environment in which 1 Cor. 1:10 can be lived out.

Jeff wrote:

The instructions about fitness for ministry in Titus 1 (and 1 Timothy 3) are not given to determine who may choose leaders....

Well, we should probably take notice one thing - in neither case did Paul ask the congregation to chose, right? Then, what happened when Timothy left Ephesus, and Titus left Crete? each church would have watched other godly leaders do the work of appointing further leaders (1 Tim. 5:22, Titus 1:5). If Paul wanted congregations electing and deposing their leaders, why didn't he just tell those congregations to do it?

Who appointed the future elders in those churches? The elders themselves - they "rule" (1 Tim. 3:3-4, 5:17), are the "stewards of God" (Titus 1:7). The congregational conclusion is that Paul wants these men to lead, rule, and be stewards over everything - but "Oh yeah, don't lead, rule, and be stewards of the future leadership appointments!"

Scripture drives the point further. Qualified leaders "have charge over you" (1 Thes. 5:13), have full charge governmental leadership over the church (Heb. 13:17). They alone "oversee" (1 Tim. 3:1, 1 Peter 5:2). To hand over the power to elect and depose leaders removes their "rule" "stewardship" and "oversight."

Going back to Bauder's excellent on how to derive good theology, not once, not ever, did the apostles ask, encourage, or give a single example to the congregation to appoint their leaders. Further, given a proper historic understanding of 1 Timothy (a divided elder board in Ephesus with some unqualified elders still on it - cf. 1 Tim. 1:20) and Titus (complete church reformation in every town - cf. Titus 1:5), it is easy to understand the need for Timothy and Titus doing the appointing in their respective environments and establishing the pattern that those elder boards would follow in the future.

In your study on congregational decision making, did you study the implications of voting and 1 Cor. 1:10?

Jeff wrote:
There is a command in the NT specifically to vote. I just wrote about it.

2 Cor. 8:19? That’s a command for churches to vote?, and is an apologia for you that Jesus Christ wants churches voting to arrive at decisions? You must have other Scriptures in your hip pocket.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

FWIW, I don't see why we need a command to vote.

I'm still where I was when we began this debate a few months ago (though several of the whys and wherefores are more clear to me... the debate has been instructive for me): there is clear instruction to group decision making by congregations and the will of the majority must be measured in some way, ergo, the vote. The data on cheirontoneo just further supports an already strong argument, IMO.

But, to clarify, my position is not that it's right for a church to vote to do wrong. Nor does a church vote to decide what to do when God has already provided the instructions clearly. Rather, churches vote to decide together how to apply the instructions they have to the group as a whole. Much as individuals must discern how to apply Scripture in their personal lives and parents must decide how to apply Scriptures to their families, congregations must decide to apply Scripture to congregations. They do this best with the active leadership of pastor(s) in the form of teaching, initiative, encouragement.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
the will of the majority must be measured in some way, ergo, the vote.

2 questions, Aaron. Why "must it be measured?" And, where do you find this "must" in Scripture?

OK - 3 questions - how do you reconcile "the will of the majority" with the will of Christ for unanimity in 1 Cor. 1:10?

Aaron wrote:
congregations must decide to apply Scripture to congregations. They do this best with the active leadership of pastor(s) in the form of teaching, initiative, encouragement.

But not by elders fulfilling their Scriptural mandate of "having charge," "ruling," and "overseeing?" We don't practice this "must" at our church, but ask our people to support the elders' decisions, give, serve, counsel, inform, rebuke when necessary, and all the other obligations we as individual believers have toward each other. We have Scripture to support both us and them (Heb. 13:17, 1 Thes. 5:12-13). Are we wrong?

Jeff Brown's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
#1 – The 2 Cor. 8:19 vote had no authority whatsoever. If the Corinthians had voted “no” on Aristarchus, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit. He was still going to Jerusalem with Paul, bringing the money. The ”up or down” vote wasn’t for Aristarchus but for them. Paul was giving them an opportunity to identify themselves with his mission to Jerusalem and to let the Jerusalem church know they identified with them too. Again, their vote had no authority! As a result - 2 Cor. 8:19 - which at first looks to some as a support for congregational voting and congregational authority ends up undermining congregational polity. Here is the only clear example of a congregation vote in some manner in the NT, and its purpose was to align the church under Paul.

Ted, I frankly find this explanation unbelievable, in all its parts.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:

Why not examine in detail the matter of a plurality of elders who quite clearly have full-charge authority in the church? Here you have an amazing array of not merely single words in isolated texts, nor even single verses, but entire paragraphs to study! Go to Acts, the pastoral epistles, 1 Peter 5:1-4. There are words to study too. Words like “have charge over you” “esteem them highly in love”, and “obey” “submit” (1 Thes. 5:12-13 and Heb. 13:17). Check out why John the apostle calls himself an “elder” and not an “apostle” in 3 John. It governs the whole book! God tells us exactly how the congregation is to relate to leaders, and never once does a congregation have the right to elect and depose. Instead they have to power of Scripture to call their leaders to obey God. Why is that insufficient?

I have studied every passage on elders in the NT, in Greek, I think rather thoroughly. I have taught through every one of them. I have preached on most of them.

Here are some of the books I have read on Elders in Scripture: Crouch, A Biblical Theology of the Church; Getz, Sharpening the Focus of the Church and Elders and Leaders; MacArthur, Answering Key Questions about Elders (pamphlet) and TMaster's Plan for the Church; Strauch, Biblical Eldership; Clowney, The Church (section on church government); Robert Reymond's and James White's chapters in Perspectives on Church Government; Dever, Nine Marks of the Healthy Church (chapter on church leadership). All of them stress multiple elders. Most of them reject the idea that the congregation has any say in choice or rejection of elders. I have also carefully read the ecclesiastical sections of the theologies of Berkof, Calvin, Erckson, Grudem, Hodge, Shedd, Turretin, (most of which stress eldership). I haven't mentioned the numerous commentary sections and journal articles in my library and files on the subject which are well-marked.

I have obviously studied the matter of Elders in the New Testament quite thoroughly already, and continue to study it. We differ.

As I see it, our difference is this: your beginning thought for church order is elders. My beginning thought is the Lordship of Christ: His relationship to all in His church and the relationship of believers to one another. You continually stress that if we would understand the authority of elders, we would have church order straight (and of course would forbid votes in our churches). But I reject the idea that elders are the centerpiece of church order.

Jeff Brown

T Howard's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Ted Bigelow wrote:
#1 – The 2 Cor. 8:19 vote had no authority whatsoever. If the Corinthians had voted “no” on Aristarchus, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit. He was still going to Jerusalem with Paul, bringing the money. The ”up or down” vote wasn’t for Aristarchus but for them. Paul was giving them an opportunity to identify themselves with his mission to Jerusalem and to let the Jerusalem church know they identified with them too. Again, their vote had no authority! As a result - 2 Cor. 8:19 - which at first looks to some as a support for congregational voting and congregational authority ends up undermining congregational polity. Here is the only clear example of a congregation vote in some manner in the NT, and its purpose was to align the church under Paul.

Ted, I frankly find this explanation unbelievable, in all its parts.

I agree with the plurality of elders perspective, but I am in agreement with Jeff here. Ted, please substantiate how you derive at your understanding of this passage. Where does the text and/or context indicate that their vote wouldn't have mattered, or that this was a token vote for them to "identify themselves with [Paul's ] mission."

Ted Bigelow's picture

T Howard wrote:
Jeff Brown wrote:
Ted Bigelow wrote:
#1 – The 2 Cor. 8:19 vote had no authority whatsoever. If the Corinthians had voted “no” on Aristarchus, it wouldn’t have mattered one bit. He was still going to Jerusalem with Paul, bringing the money. The ”up or down” vote wasn’t for Aristarchus but for them. Paul was giving them an opportunity to identify themselves with his mission to Jerusalem and to let the Jerusalem church know they identified with them too. Again, their vote had no authority! As a result - 2 Cor. 8:19 - which at first looks to some as a support for congregational voting and congregational authority ends up undermining congregational polity. Here is the only clear example of a congregation vote in some manner in the NT, and its purpose was to align the church under Paul.

Ted, I frankly find this explanation unbelievable, in all its parts.

I agree with the plurality of elders perspective, but I am in agreement with Jeff here. Ted, please substantiate how you derive at your understanding of this passage. Where does the text and/or context indicate that their vote wouldn't have mattered, or that this was a token vote for them to "identify themselves with [Paul's ] mission."

All I’m saying is this: had the Corinthians voted themselves on the brother to go to Jerusalem – as the other churches of Macedonia had done – it was to show their alignment under Paul's choice of him since the brother was still going. He was already chosen by Paul. The Greek does not include an infinitive of result as English translations do: "to travel" but simply "our traveling (companion)"

“In this passage, the selection process seems to imply congregational action rather than administrative appointment” (Kent, Heart Opened Wide, 136). Kent was Grace Brethren, believed in congregational voting, and he’s probably right. Paul chose that man to go with him not predicated on the votes of men but on the man’s character (2 Cor. 8:18). The man “travels with us” to “show our good will” (to the Jewish Church). So why the votes? Paul wanted the gift to be above reproach before any Gentile critics (8:20-21) and to be above the accusation that he may have profited by it. An affirmation vote (Lohse, TDNT, 9:347) (non-authoritative, but simply to show support) is the only appropriate vote to show support for those traveling with Paul.

Jeff Brown's picture

Now, it may be that Paul chose the man too, I will not dispute that. But the Bible does not say that Paul chose him. It only says in 2 Corinthians 8:19 that the man was chosen (cheirotonetheis) by the churches. Check most any English translation. Did the believers align themselves with Paul? Did they voice agreement with Paul? Did they vote for both the man and Paul? Did they simply affirm Paul's plan? The text does not say this. It only says that they voted for the man to accompany Paul. That is all. And regarding v.18, which came first, Paul's decision to send the man along with Titus to Corinth, or the choosing of the man by the other churches? Does Paul say in v.18 that he chose the man on the basis of his character, or that the churches were convinced of the man's character? "And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel." (NIV)

It also makes perfect sense that the churches would each vote for the man who would handle their money. In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul tells the church in Corinth to choose reliable people from their church to take the offering. In fact, Paul says that they are to be confirmed from the Corinthian church by letter: a common practice for people who carried money for others in that day. The Jewish pattern for taking donations to Jerusalem in Paul's day was, that each community chose representatives to carry their money there (Philo, Spec. 1.78). Would it be at all strange that Paul would use a procedure basically demanded by both Jew and Gentile in that day? By the time of the second letter to the Corinthians, the situation had changed. For whatever reason, Paul's method has shifted to one person, instead of someone from each church (perhaps because threats on his life required a more simple procedure?). Still, the vote on the carrier would have been the normal practice for any group of people giving funds to be transported. It is also possible that the one man was voted on by the Macedonian churches, and the Corinthian church would still send along the money carriers they had selected. This point is somewhat unclear. In any case, the churches chose whoever carried the money. "I affirm you" had little to do with financial accountability either than or now. How you could call this event non-authoritative is beyond my comprehension.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Quote:
So allow me to present a positive argument for a decision-making process in the church that rejects voting – 1 Cor. 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” Christ requires us to make decisions in a way that produces 100% agreement. This means every time your church holds a vote that results in less than 100% unanimity it violates the express command of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, for it is not united in the same mind and judgment. It doesn’t get a pass because of where it is or what denominational affiliation it holds. It doesn’t even matter what happened in 1st Century culture, or even what the church of Corinth actually practiced. God’s standard supersedes that and is exceeding clear.

Gene Getz, one of the most well-known writers on the subject of Elder rule held pretty much this view originally. Then he realized that he was stifiling his elders' honesty. He still did not believe in the members voting, but he introduced the idea that his elders do it. The result was a lot more honest talking of the elders with one-another. Voting thus promoted honesty in his church.

I have discussed the principle of unity within the context of church order in my book, Form and Freedom (available at Amazon for anyone reading this), and cite at least 15 passages which talk about it: "To be of one mind does not mean that no differing viewpoints are allowed. Rather, it means that differing viewpoints are subordinated to the purpose of the Gospel and the testimony of Christ . . . . Unity of purpose in the local church does not arise from convincing ourselves that we don't have any differences, to repeat: the local church patterned after the New Testament is a diverse group. Nor is unity achieved when differing viewpoints are muzzled, or criticism is disallowed. . . . It will not be a unity in the Holy Spirit." (71)

A vote is simply a method of expressing one's viewpoint. Romans 14, in fact, allows for differing viewpoints and requires Christians to respect them. No passages about church unity forbid or discourage believers from expressing differing viewpoints. If a vote comes out not 100%, no unity is damaged in any way. The damage comes when believers decide they are going to go ahead and do what they jolly well wanted to do anyway, regardless of how the rest of the body has spoken.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Quote:
Well, we should probably take notice one thing - in neither case did Paul ask the congregation to chose, right? Then, what happened when Timothy left Ephesus, and Titus left Crete? each church would have watched other godly leaders do the work of appointing further leaders (1 Tim. 5:22, Titus 1:5). If Paul wanted congregations electing and deposing their leaders, why didn't he just tell those congregations to do it?

Please give us one verse where Scripture says that Elders appoint elders: exactly elders appoint elders.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Quote:
Scripture drives the point further. Qualified leaders "have charge over you" (1 Thes. 5:13), have full charge governmental leadership over the church (Heb. 13:17). They alone "oversee" (1 Tim. 3:1, 1 Peter 5:2). To hand over the power to elect and depose leaders removes their "rule" "stewardship" and "oversight."

I agree that qualified leaders have charge over the congregation. I do not agree that elders embody all there is to government in a church.

In most places in the world where leaders are elected they have enormous capacity to rule. In churches where pastors are elected by the congregation, it is in fact not true that their rule, stewardship, and oversight are removed. The authority of a pastor or elder grows through his exercise of stewardship. It isn't automatic, no matter how he gets placed there. On the other hand, "the power to depose leaders removes their rule stewardship and oversight" is a true statement, only when that power is exercised. In some cases, it is a needful exercise. In other cases, it has, like anything else been abused.

I know lots of pastors who were elected by their congregations. Your statement says that they have/had neither rule, stewardship, or oversight. I think you need to rework your statement. When applied it becomes patently false. Maybe you meant that differently.

Jeff Brown

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Unfortunately I do not have a lot of time today, Ted. So I will only answer part of your comment. First, I sincerely thank you for your compliments. I am amazed that anyone would say that about anything I have written, ever.

I meant it. You are precise and well-thought. I appreciate the discussion.

Jeff wrote:
At least here, some have had a chance to read part of what I have found out, and I feel I have fulfilled an obligation. Your articles were the occasion, not the motivation.

Yes. You were waiting, huh? Wink

Quote:
If Paul had had any horror at the the idea of voting, he surely would have laid out its offensiveness to God in very plain terms. He did not. BUT THIS IS REALLY NOT MY POINT. I am concerned at how and why groups made decisions in the New Testament. The New Testament does not say what method was used - except in 2 Corinthians 8:19.

I too am concerned about Christ's meek children making decisions in a manner that reflects their calling into His life. Voting doesn't reflect that calling, and is not taught as the way congregations make decisions in Scripture. I'm happy to wrestle 2 Cor. 8:19 with you all day long, hoping that at some point you'll cry "uncle." because you are simply putting too much weight on it.

Have you ever pastored a church alongside other biblically qualified elders who collectively possess full charge authority over the church and make decisions based on the requirement of unanimity and preference (Phil 2:3-4)?

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Now, it may be that Paul chose the man too, I will not dispute that. But the Bible does not say that Paul chose him. It only says in 2 Corinthians 8:19 that the man was chosen (cheirotonetheis) by the churches. Check most any English translation. Did the believers align themselves with Paul? Did they voice agreement with Paul? Did they vote for both the man and Paul? Did they simply affirm Paul's plan? The text does not say this. It only says that they voted for the man to accompany Paul. That is all. And regarding v.18, which came first, Paul's decision to send the man along with Titus to Corinth, or the choosing of the man by the other churches? Does Paul say in v.18 that he chose the man on the basis of his character, or that the churches were convinced of the man's character? "And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel." (NIV)

It also makes perfect sense that the churches would each vote for the man who would handle their money. In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul tells the church in Corinth to choose reliable people from their church to take the offering. In fact, Paul says that they are to be confirmed from the Corinthian church by letter: a common practice for people who carried money for others in that day. The Jewish pattern for taking donations to Jerusalem in Paul's day was, that each community chose representatives to carry their money there (Philo, Spec. 1.78). Would it be at all strange that Paul would use a procedure basically demanded by both Jew and Gentile in that day? By the time of the second letter to the Corinthians, the situation had changed. For whatever reason, Paul's method has shifted to one person, instead of someone from each church (perhaps because threats on his life required a more simple procedure?). Still, the vote on the carrier would have been the normal practice for any group of people giving funds to be transported. It is also possible that the one man was voted on by the Macedonian churches, and the Corinthian church would still send along the money carriers they had selected. This point is somewhat unclear. In any case, the churches chose whoever carried the money. "I affirm you" had little to do with financial accountability either than or now. How you could call this event non-authoritative is beyond my comprehension.

You and i only differ on the matter of authority here, I think. So my question for you is this: Had the Corinthian church voted "NO" on the man Paul approved of, and the other churches approved of, would that man have been prevented from going to Jerusalem? This assumes they also, as a church, approved someone else to go with them (1 Cor. 16:3). However, their approach there seems to be more in line with deacon testing since Paul usesthe word for "testing" (cf. 1 Tim. 3:10) - an approach that can only work under the principle of unanimity, not voting.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff Brown<br /> I have studied every passage on elders in the NT, in Greek, I think rather thoroughly. I have taught through every one of them. I have preached on most of them.</p> <p>Here are <i>some</i> of the books I have read on Elders in Scripture: Crouch, <i>A Biblical Theology of the Church</i>; Getz, <i>Sharpening the Focus of the Church</i> and <i>Elders and Leaders</i>; MacArthur, <i>Answering Key Questions about Elders</i> (pamphlet) and <i>TMaster's Plan for the Church</i>; Strauch, <i>Biblical Eldership</i>; Clowney, <i>The Church</i> (section on church government); Robert Reymond's and James White's chapters in <i>Perspectives on Church Government</i>; Dever, <i>Nine Marks of the Healthy Church</i> (chapter on church leadership). All of them stress multiple elders. Most of them reject the idea that the congregation has any say in choice or rejection of elders. I have also carefully read the ecclesiastical sections of the theologies of Berkof, Calvin, Erckson, Grudem, Hodge, Shedd, Turretin, (most of which stress eldership). I haven't mentioned the numerous commentary sections and journal articles in my library and files on the subject which are well-marked. </p> <p>I have obviously studied the matter of Elders in the New Testament quite thoroughly already, and continue to study it. We differ.[/quote]</p> <p>Have you ever lived as an elder among elders - to whom you submit your ministry - and they their ministry to you - where you all have full-charge authority over the flock of God? No passages in the NT contradict this, yet many contradict the heart of congregationalism - i.e., Heb. 13:17. How can a congregation have authority to overturn an eldership decision - as congregationalism affirms - and still fulfill their obligation to "submit and obey" them?</p> <p>[quote wrote:
As I see it, our difference is this: your beginning thought for church order is elders. My beginning thought is the Lordship of Christ: His relationship to all in His church and the relationship of believers to one another. You continually stress that if we would understand the authority of elders, we would have church order straight (and of course would forbid votes in our churches). But I reject the idea that elders are the centerpiece of church order.

I would like to challenge you on that. I believe the Lordship of Christ is in the Scripture being obeyed, not His union with His people (Mat. 4:4 vs. Rom. 6:6-7). :bigsmile:

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:

Gene Getz, one of the most well-known writers on the subject of Elder rule held pretty much this view originally. Then he realized that he was stifiling his elders' honesty. He still did not believe in the members voting, but he introduced the idea that his elders do it. The result was a lot more honest talking of the elders with one-another. Voting thus promoted honesty in his church.

I hope you are sitting down. I'm not opposed to voting among elders, so long as decisions are only made once godly unanimity is attained.

Quote:
I have discussed the principle of unity within the context of church order in my book, Form and Freedom (available at Amazon for anyone reading this), and cite at least 15 passages which talk about it: "To be of one mind does not mean that no differing viewpoints are allowed. Rather, it means that differing viewpoints are subordinated to the purpose of the Gospel and the testimony of Christ . . . . Unity of purpose in the local church does not arise from convincing ourselves that we don't have any differences, to repeat: the local church patterned after the New Testament is a diverse group. Nor is unity achieved when differing viewpoints are muzzled, or criticism is disallowed. . . . It will not be a unity in the Holy Spirit." (71)

I have you book - its very well done - really thought provoking and even worship-provoking. Thanks for all your labor for our Lord Jesus Christ. I treasure it.

We still have to play 1 Cor. 1:10 as it lies - a unanimity that is commanded down to the inner reasonings: "same mind and same judgment."

Jeff wrote:
If a vote comes out not 100%, no unity is damaged in any way. The damage comes when believers decide they are going to go ahead and do what they jolly well wanted to do anyway, regardless of how the rest of the body has spoken.

Bodies don't speak. Heads do. And when bodies do speak, it usually isn't pretty.

Who believes the majority of a church is the church's voice? Take the same vote a week later, and you may well get a different result. I would love for you to experience a unity that does away with church voting - where everybody in church is to determine what Christ say about any particular situation, and submits to His will.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Quote:
Well, we should probably take notice one thing - in neither case did Paul ask the congregation to chose, right? Then, what happened when Timothy left Ephesus, and Titus left Crete? each church would have watched other godly leaders do the work of appointing further leaders (1 Tim. 5:22, Titus 1:5). If Paul wanted congregations electing and deposing their leaders, why didn't he just tell those congregations to do it?

Please give us one verse where Scripture says that Elders appoint elders: exactly elders appoint elders.

Sure. 1 Tim. 5:22 and Titus 1:5.

But wait! You say, Titus and Timothy weren't elders, they were apostolic designates. Well they were that, but they were also elders.

Here's how to see it. How could Timothy or Titus know if any man was truly qualified by all the qualifications (cf. 1 Tim. 5:22)? Because they were themselves that mature, and knew by Christian experience what it meant to be elder qualified. A congregation of Christians doesn't know what it means to elder-qualified, and so can only guess at who is, and who isn't. Every man appointed into eldership by a congregation is therefore appointed by presumption. Every elder appointed into eldership by men who are are themselves elder-qualified are appointed by Scripture, since that is what Scripture-sensitive elders measure other men by. They can relate to Paul's admonition not to lay hands on anyone hastily, and know how not to do that - thorough elder-testing.

In the Bible you will always find leaders appointing other leaders except in cases of rebellion. In the NT this is true - Jesus appoints apostles, apostles appoint elders (Acts 14:23), apostolic designates appoint leaders (1 Tim. 5:22, Titus 1:5). So the principle is clear - leader appoint leaders.

Who is supposed to be in leadership in the local church? A group of elders. Who then should appoint future leadership in the local church? A group of elders.

You step out of the biblical world and outside of all Scriptural precedent when you ask the congregation to do the appointing. Ask yourself the question, "where does the NT ever show the congregation appointing its leaders? As well, reflect on 3 John - John, "the elder," doesn't ask the congregation to depose Diotrophes. Why not?

Jeff Brown's picture

Quote:
You and i only differ on the matter of authority here, I think. So my question for you is this: Had the Corinthian church voted "NO" on the man Paul approved of, and the other churches approved of, would that man have been prevented from going to Jerusalem? This assumes they also, as a church, approved someone else to go with them (1 Cor. 16:3).

I am not sure I understand your question. I will make an attempt to understand it. I assume you mean, that if every other church had approved of the man Paul mentions except the church in Corinth, would the man approved by every other church except by Corinth still go to Jerusalem carrying money? I did not live then. Neither did you. I assume he would have gone with the money from the other churches, but not the money from Corinth. I find this to be a silly question. Maybe you meant something else.

Ted, you left off with exegetical concerns and filled 2 Corinthians 8:19 with your own content a while back. Your explanation comes out contrary to what the text and near contest actually state. Now you try to come up with impossible situations to create contradictions. No need for me to cry uncle when you are wrestling with ghosts.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Quote:
Have you ever lived as an elder among elders - to whom you submit your ministry - and they their ministry to you - where you all have full-charge authority over the flock of God?

Ted, I have ministered together with other elders. We all submitted our ministry to one-another. God worked marvelously through us, and sometimes in spite of us. What is so unusual about that? But I would never, like you emphasize, keep the rest of the congregation from having any say about what I am doing, or whether I should continue as an elder.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Quote:
Bodies don't speak. Heads do. And when bodies do speak, it usually isn't pretty.

Who believes the majority of a church is the church's voice? Take the same vote a week later, and you may well get a different result. I would love for you to experience a unity that does away with church voting - where everybody in church is to determine what Christ say about any particular situation, and submits to His will.

Really? Then why do we often read, "The congress has spoken," "the parliment has spoken," "the board has spoken," "The American people have spoken,'" etc.? Is all that they have to offer ugliness.

The head of the church is Christ. He can speak through His church just as easily as He can through an elder.

Jeff Brown

Jeff Brown's picture

Quote:
Here's how to see it. How could Timothy or Titus know if any man was truly qualified by all the qualifications (cf. 1 Tim. 5:22)? Because they were themselves that mature, and knew by Christian experience what it meant to be elder qualified. A congregation of Christians doesn't know what it means to elder-qualified, and so can only guess at who is, and who isn't. Every man appointed into eldership by a congregation is therefore appointed by presumption. Every elder appointed into eldership by men who are are themselves elder-qualified are appointed by Scripture, since that is what Scripture-sensitive elders measure other men by. They can relate to Paul's admonition not to lay hands on anyone hastily, and know how not to do that - thorough elder-testing.

I don't think that you really believe this, Ted. Or perhaps you do, and do not preach from 1 Tim 3 to your congregation. I am convinced of the exact opposite of what you write. I have practiced my belief, which is contrary to what you write. I found the congregations quite capable of discerning who is elder-qualified, and selecting them. The Holy Spirit lives in each of the believers in the congregation, as well as in me. God has given each believer the capacity to understand the Bible. It isn't just elders who are given the capacity to evaluate character. Their wives sometimes evlauate character better than they do. Some elders, in fact, are poor judges of character.

Jeff Brown

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff wrote:
congregations are capable of discerning....

I don't think that you really believe this, Ted. Or perhaps you do, and do not preach from 1 Tim 3 to your congregation. I am convinced of the exact opposite of what you write. I have practiced my belief, which is contrary to what you write. I found the congregations quite capable of discerning who is elder-qualified, and selecting them. The Holy Spirit lives in each of the believers in the congregation, as well as in me. God has given each believer the capacity to understand the Bible. It isn't just elders who are given the capacity to evaluate character. Their wives sometimes evlauate character better than they do. Some elders, in fact, are poor judges of character.

Sorry, bro. Congregations don't get a little extra Holy Spirit zap that covers their collective lack of maturity/discernment. Being greater in number doesn't make up for less discernment.

God has been generous to give all have the same source for discernment - Scripture - and in our church, we require all to use it to judge potential elders. As an eldership church we rely more on congregational involvement than your congregational polity church. I explain how that is so in chapter 4 of my book.

If a man's wife is more discerning than he on who should be in eldership - methinks the problem is not eldership but the elder.

You asked for texts on elders choosing elders. I complied (post 20).

I asked you for texts on congregations appointing elders. I got none.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:

The head of the church is Christ. He can speak through His church just as easily as He can through an elder.

I don't believe Christ speaks through the congregation. I don't believe Christ speaks through the elders. Too much competition. Too much confusion.

I believe He only speaks through the Scriptures. That's what makes Heb. 13:17 so ethically challenging to congregationalists.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:

Ted, I have ministered together with other elders. We all submitted our ministry to one-another. God worked marvelously through us, and sometimes in spite of us. What is so unusual about that? But I would never, like you emphasize, keep the rest of the congregation from having any say about what I am doing, or whether I should continue as an elder.

Thank the Lord for your happy experience. i would never want to see that argued away from you.

But bro, you can email folks in our church about me "keeping them from having any say about what I am doing." You have at least 3 people from my church you either know, or with whom you have interacted back and forth with. And if you ask them and they don't give you answers that exalt me as their ruling elder, let me know. They obviously need church discipline.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Ted asked earlier, where are we told that the will of the majority must be "measured" and how do I reconcile that with the call for unanimity.

1. You cannot know you what the will of the majority is unless you find out. This is what I mean by measured. You have to find out in some way. Do you say "everybody who is for this shout yes and everybody who is against yell no and we'll see which is loudest"? Even that would be voting. Do you say "speak now or forever hold your peace" then assume the silence is unanimity? Folly. I guarantee it is only superficial unity some of the time. But even that is measuring. In short, a mandate to act as a majority is a mandate to determine what the majority is. It's logical necessity.

2. How do I reconcile decision making by a congregational majority with the mandate for unanimity? The calls to unity are of two kinds. (a) Some are like the calls to holiness, calls to prayer, calls to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. They express the standard toward which we are growing, not the standard to which we are going to actually attain consistently any time soon. (b) They express a oneness of mind in reference to particular matters identified in the context. I.e., "Everybody accept together that what I'm telling you is the truth." This is certainly achievable among believers in matters where Scripture speaks clearly. It becomes less attainable (and less what the unity passages have in mind) as we differ over passages that are more difficult or passages we must apply to a variety of situations.

One thing is certain: genuine unanimity on matters of application does not exist over time even when the size of the group is very small (say, two in number!). The larger the group is and the more matters they face together, the more often unanimity will elude them. Finding ways to hear the differing views, weigh them, and then attempt to teach persuasively is a far wiser course than "We have decided. Now you are all going to pretend you agree."

As for the passages referring to elders having the "rule" over them, etc., these are open to more than one interpretation and history reveals that some of them have been debated for many centuries. My short answer is that there is plenty of room to rule and lead without making 100% of the decisions. Decision-making authority is not the only kind of authority, nor is decision-making leadership the only kind of leadership.

Jeff Brown's picture

Ted, your statement is sufficient. I am happy to hear that. I won't question it.

Jeff Brown

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