The Ordination of Men to the Ministry

Reprinted with permission from Faith Pulpit (Jan-Mar, 2011). Photo: Baptist Bulletin.

Ordination to the gospel ministry is a significant and solemn event in a man’s life.1 Churches should understand the Biblical teaching about ordination so they can conduct the procedure in a proper manner.

The General Pattern

Ordinations today generally follow the same pattern. The church, after observing its pastor or assistant pastor for a period of time, decides to call a council to consider the advisability of ordaining him. In addition to some of its own members,2 the church usually seeks the input of men from area churches.3 On the designated day the church and the council members convene to hear the candidate give his salvation testimony, state his call to the ministry, and express his doctrinal positions. In most cases, the individual prepares a written statement of each doctrine. During the session the candidate summarizes his views on each doctrine, followed by questions from the council members.

After the examination, the candidate is dismissed and the council members share their thoughts on the man. If the council is satisfied that he evidences a call to the ministry and is orthodox in his theology, it recommends to the church that it proceed with the ordination. The church then votes to ordain their pastor or assistant pastor at an upcoming service.

At the end of the ordination service, the deacons and ordained men in the congregation lay their hands on the man, formally setting him aside for the ministry.

What Does the New Testament Say?

How does this general pattern fit with what the New Testament says about ordination? Let’s look first at the Scripture passages where the English word “ordained” is used.

The King James Version uses the word “ordained” 20 times.4 However, only two of the occurrences refer to pastors—Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5. The other major translations use the word “ordained” sparingly5 and do not use it in Acts 14:23 or Titus 1:5. In those passages they uniformly use the word “appointed.” So apparently these two Scriptures are not referring to a pastor’s ordination but rather to the beginning of his service at a church, what we commonly call his installation.

Appointing Pastors?

As a side note, how do we understand the concept that the apostles “appointed” pastors in churches as we read in Acts 14:23? Did the apostles simply use their apostolic authority and appoint pastors? Or did Paul lead the churches in a congregational election of their pastors? Homer Kent comments that

although there is no question but that the term is capable of either meaning, the following factors favor the interpretation of an election: (1) The choice of the verb cheirontoneō rather than one of the many general words for “appoint” suggests that the special characteristics of this word [i.e., to elect by a vote of raised hands] should be understood. (2) The only other NT use of this exact verb is clearly with the sense of a congregational election (2 Cor. 8:19). (3) Congregational selection was the apostolic practice in the choice of the Seven (Acts 6:3).6

In view of the meaning of Acts 14:23, Paul’s command to Titus in Titus 1:5 was to lead the churches on the island of Crete in congregational votes to select their pastors.

But What about Ordination?

An examination of the word “ordained” does not give us any clear Biblical direction for the practice of ordination. However, we do find help in three passages that refer to laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; Acts 13:1–3), a common practice at ordinations.

I Timothy 4:14

Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.

This verse refers to a time in Timothy’s life that comes the closest to what we call an ordination service today. Consider three questions from this text.

Who ordained? A body of elders ordained Timothy.7 These men may have been from the church at Ephesus where Timothy pastored, but the text is not clear.8 At least they were a Biblically recognized group of church leaders who had the authority to ordain men.

What did they do? The elders laid their hands on Timothy at that special service. Laying on of hands was associated with the bestowal of blessing (Gen. 48:14, 20) and a continuity of leadership (Num. 27:18–23; Deut. 34:9; Acts 6:6; 13:3). So by their laying on of hands, the elders, who were already in church leadership, showed they recognized that Timothy was also qualified and equipped for ministry, and they bestowed their blessing on him. They were symbolizing the continuity of leadership to him.

What was the purpose? This text seems to indicate three purposes for ordaining Timothy.

  1. To recognize and set apart Timothy as one who was called of God and qualified for ministry. The event of ordination marked a point of officially recognizing the work of God in his life.
  2. To safeguard the ministry. The practice of laying on of hands was a way for the men who had already been approved for leadership to safeguard the ministry by allowing only called and qualified men to enter it. Richard Mayhue comments that “ordination is to church leadership what the bar exam is to the legal profession, the C.P.A. exam to accounting, or state board examinations to medical practice. All these examinations serve to verify genuine qualifications for service in the respective fields.”9
  3. To encourage Timothy. Paul urged Timothy to remember his ordination and the gift that had come at that time as a means of encouraging him when he became discouraged.10

I Timothy 5:22

Do not lay hands on anyone hastily.

The context involves pastors—how to compensate them (vv. 17, 18) and how to handle a sinning pastor (vv. 19–21). The injunction is to be careful when selecting pastors. Consider the same three questions.

Who ordained? Evidently Paul thought the church in Ephesus might ordain some of the men of the congregation for ministry. Otherwise he would not have urged Timothy to be careful in doing so. Clearly the local church did the ordaining.

What did they do? As in 1 Timothy 4:14, the people in the church either had or were contemplating laying their hands on some men to set them apart for ministry.

What was the purpose? The statement, “do not lay hands on anyone hastily” seems to indicate a concern for safeguarding the ministry. Paul told Timothy not to rush to ordain men until the church had fully examined them to determine their fitness for ministry.11

Acts 13:1-3

Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

This text does not describe an ordination but rather what we call today a commissioning service for missionaries since the church sent out Paul and Barnabas to missionary endeavor. However, we see some similarities to the ordination process and we can at least find some principles here that apply to ordination.

Who did the work? The Holy Spirit identified Paul and Barnabas for missionary service. However, clearly the church at Antioch did the work of sending out the two men, which is the Biblical pattern for missionary service and ordination.

What did they do? The prophets and teachers observed Paul and Barnabas since they had been serving there for some time. The church no doubt observed their character, evaluated their ministry, and checked their orthodoxy. When the church was satisfied that the men were called of God, they laid their hands on them to show their blessing and their authorization.

What was the purpose? The purpose of the church’s examination and setting apart was to send Paul and Barnabas into ministry. While the ordaining church does not usually send away its pastor, the ordination ceremony is one way of setting apart their pastor for ministry at the church.

Biblical Principles

From this examination of the Scripture, we see these principles and guidelines for ordinations.

  1. The local church ordains men. The Scripture gives no precedent for any group outside the local church ordaining men. The ordination council can make a recommendation, but the local church ordains.
  2. Ordination involves a process of evaluating a man, which starts before the church ever calls an ordination council.
  3. After evaluating a man, the church leaders lay hands on him to show a bestowal of blessing and continuity of leadership.
  4. The purpose of ordination is to recognize men whom God has called, to set them apart for ministry, to safeguard the ministry, and to provide an occasion that will encourage them in years to come.

An Important Event

Ordination is an important event in a man’s life. If God has called you to ministry, aspire to ordination. You do not usually ask for it yourself; your church should do so. Still you can aspire to it, desire it, and move toward it in your life. Don’t fear ordination. The process is difficult and challenging, but it can be a real blessing as you study the Scriptures and express Biblical truths. Your ordination will be an event you can lean on later as a confirmation of God’s call to the ministry.

Notes

1 FBTS maintains the position that only men should hold the office of pastor (1 Tim. 3:1—“if a man desires the position of bishop” and Titus 1:6—“if a man is blameless”). Therefore we hold that only men should be ordained.

2 Usually all members of the man’s church are welcome to observe the council, but generally only some of the men are chosen to sit on the council.

3 A church invites other men to join in evaluating a candidate so there is wider approval of the man.

4 Mark 3:14; John 15:16; Acts 1:22; 10:42; 13:48; 14:23; 16:4; 17:31; Romans 13:1; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 7:17; 9:14; Galatians 3:19; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Timothy 2:7; Titus 1:5; Hebrews 5:1; 8:3; 9:6; Jude 4.

5 NKJV—Acts 10:42; 17:31; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 7:17; ESV—a variant translation of 1 Peter 2:13; NASB—Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; NIV—Matthew 21:16

6 Homer A. Kent Jr., Jerusalem to Rome (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972), 118, 119.

7 Quite literally these men were the “presbytery.” The group probably included Paul based on his comment in 2 Timothy 1:6.

8 Some people think the events of 1 Timothy 4:14 may have taken place when Timothy joined Paul as an assistant (Acts 16:1–3). If this were the case, the words, “he was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium” in verse 2 may refer to his ordination.

9 Richard L. Mayhue, “Ordination to Pastoral Ministry” in Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, ed. John MacArthur, Jr. (Nashville: W Publication Group, a Division of Thomas Nelson Inc., 1995), 138. Appendix 3 in this book gives an extensive list of subjects that could be asked at an ordination council. This section would be an excellent source for a man to work through as he anticipates ordination.

10 Timothy may have needed encouragement at that time in view of Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 4:12 (“let no one despise your youth”) and 2 Timothy 1:7 (“for God has not given us a spirit of fear”).

11 That kind of examination would reduce the possibility of disciplining pastors in the future (vv. 19-21).


Rev. Don Anderson taught at Faith Baptist Bible College from 1978 to 1984 and returned in 2008. He teaches Christian Education subjects, chairs the Local Church Ministries Department, and serves as the director of communications for Faith. He earned BA and ThB degrees from Faith Baptist Bible College and MDiv and ThM degrees from Grace Theological Seminary. Prior to returning to Faith, he served at Regular Baptist Press and the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. He was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1984 by North Court Baptist Church in Ottumwa, Iowa.

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Ted Bigelow's picture

Quote:

… apparently these two Scriptures [i.e., Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5 ] are not referring to a pastor’s ordination but rather to the beginning of his service at a church, what we commonly call his installation.

While the author is correct to mention these two verses as referring to the implementation of leadership in the New Testament church I think he might wish to revisit his conclusions by considering some further details in those texts.

First, both Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5 do in fact refer to a process of men being placed into leadership who were not in leadership prior – i.e., ordination, or installation. This is seen in the conditional phrase connecting Titus 1:5 and Titus 1:6, “If any…” In other words, only men who might meet the requirements of Titus 1:6ff can be installed into office of leadership. That conditional phrase can only be explained if Titus 1:5 is referring to a process, not an event since determining who does and who does not meet those requirements requires a process (whether it is called ordination or appointment).

Second, the author pre-reads a "single church – single pastor" mindset into two texts where it doesn't belong. Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5 use the plural word “elders” not “elder,” as is required by the author’s claim. Both texts clearly evidence that each local church under apostolic formation was led by plural leadership over each single church (c.f. James 5:14, 1 Peter 5:1-2).

There are other details in other texts he claims teach that churches should elect their leaders that he might revisit. Such as:

Quote:
how do we understand the concept that the apostles “appointed” pastors in churches as we read in Acts 14:23? Did the apostles simply use their apostolic authority and appoint pastors? Or did Paul lead the churches in a congregational election of their pastors?

The answer is simple... it’s A: “the apostles simply used their apostolic authority and appointed elders.” Acts 14:23 says, “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church” (NIV). It doesn't say the church appointed elders by election. This can be checked by any 1st year Greek student. The word “appoint” in Acts 14:23 is a masculine plural participle that can only have “Barnabas and Saul” as its subject. To claim it teaches that the church does the appointing violates fundamental rules of Greek grammar.

What about Homer Kent's quote?

Homer Kent wrote:

although there is no question but that the term [cheirontoneō ] is capable of either meaning, the following factors favor the interpretation of an election: (1) The choice of the verb cheirontoneō rather than one of the many general words for “appoint” suggests that the special characteristics of this word [i.e., to elect by a vote of raised hands ] should be understood. (2) The only other NT use of this exact verb is clearly with the sense of a congregational election (2 Cor. 8:19). (3) Congregational selection was the apostolic practice in the choice of the Seven (Acts 6:3).

The word cheirontoneō is not used in Acts 6:3, and so that reference cannot help us understand the meaning of cheirontoneō in other verses. Instead we only have it in Acts 14:23 and 2 Cor. 8:19, neither of which fit the case for an election.

As we just saw, Acts 14:23 only refers to 2 men, Paul and Barnabas. It is simply silly to think those two men cast votes between the two of them.

In 2 Cor. 8:19 the opportunity is given to Corinth to affirm a man from outside their church, and perhaps one from in their church, to travel with Paul and deliver a monetary gift to Jerusalem. A church vote on the man from outside the Corinthian church would have been meaningless – he was going to Jerusalem whether the Corinthian church liked it or not. There was nothing to decide and so a vote would have been fruitless.

As for voting on one of their own, an election would have been likewise meaningless since it would have conferred no authority on the one supposedly elected. He was merely being offered the chance to go to Jerusalem with Paul and the others. He would have no authority and no power. He would simply represent that the church of Corinth was in solidarity with Paul’s mission to the poor in Jerusalem. A church vote of 75 to 25 would hardly have recommended any genuine solidarity, but rather a division on Paul’s mission.

The verb cheirotoneo was limited to expressing agreement, or affirmation (TDNT, 9:437).

Then there are other claims that simply don't match the text.

Quote:
I Timothy 5:22…”Do not lay hands on anyone hastily…”
Who ordained?… Clearly the local church did the ordaining.

Paul’s words disagree. The verb “lay hands on” in 1 Timothy 5:22 is 2nd person singular and can refer only to Timothy, not the church.

Quote:

Acts 13:1-3 ….clearly the church at Antioch did the work of sending out the two men, which is the Biblical pattern for missionary service and ordination.

Luke’s words do not allow for that. The verbs in Acts 13:3, “fasting… praying… placing hands on” are all masculine plural and can only refer to the men mentioned in 13:1. The verb “sent” is likewise plural and must refer to the men since the word “church” in 13:1 is singular.

T Howard's picture

Thanks Ted, for your comments. As I read Anderson's article I also wondered about the issue of lay elders? Do you "ordain" lay elders or just full-time elders? Scripturally, aren't both considered pastors? Why would you not ordain a man if he is already serving as an elder/pastor? If he's not "ordainable," should he be serving as an elder/pastor?

Ted Bigelow's picture

T Howard wrote:
Thanks Ted, for your comments. As I read Anderson's article I also wondered about the issue of lay elders? Do you "ordain" lay elders or just full-time elders? Scripturally, aren't both considered pastors? Why would you not ordain a man if he is already serving as an elder/pastor? If he's not "ordainable," should he be serving as an elder/pastor?

You are quite right. All who meet God's qualifications for local church leadership (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9) are equally invested with the same level of authority in the local church, and none are given a higher appointment than any other (notice that in Titus 1:5 all the elders are considered equal). Therefore, any style or practice of ordination that seeks to place a man in authority over other biblically qualified leaders is dangerous and unbiblical.

At the same time, there are men who should be recognized for A) not only meeting the qualifications of eldership, but Cool as those who who will invest themselves fully with the teaching and preaching of the Word (Acts 6:2-4). While the ordination does not invest such a man with extra authority (as is often the case in congregational polity churches), it does recognize that he is one who is equipped by both character and skill to stand before the church and declare in public the counsel of God with accuracy and authority (1 Tim. 4:13-14).

Such public recognition isn't A) for the man to find encouragement in times of discouragement, or Cool for the man to have more authority over others. Instead, it is an event to mark out his sober calling so he will make the necessary sacrifices in order to carry out a ministry that ensures salvation (1 Tim. 4:15-16), a ministry that finds acceptance before the Christ who will judge him more strictly than others.

Dan Miller's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
In 2 Cor. 8:19 the opportunity is given to Corinth to affirm a man from outside their church, and perhaps one from in their church, to travel with Paul and deliver a monetary gift to Jerusalem. A church vote on the man from outside the Corinthian church would have been meaningless – he was going to Jerusalem whether the Corinthian church liked it or not. There was nothing to decide and so a vote would have been fruitless.
Yeah, I think that asserting that 2 Cor 8:19 was a vote is over-reaching. Certainly, these were chosen by the church. So congregational, but not necessarily vote.
Ted Bigelow wrote:
The answer is simple... it’s A: “the apostles simply used their apostolic authority and appointed elders.” Acts 14:23 says, “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church” (NIV). It doesn't say the church appointed elders by election. This can be checked by any 1st year Greek student. The word “appoint” in Acts 14:23 is a masculine plural participle that can only have “Barnabas and Saul” as its subject. To claim it teaches that the church does the appointing violates fundamental rules of Greek grammar.
I think you're wrong here, Ted. I've posted this elsewhere, but here again is Jean Calvin on this Acts 14:23. He was much more than a 1st year Greek student.
Had ordained by election. The Greek word χειροτονειν doth signify to decree, or ordain a thing, by lifting up the hands, as they used to do in the assemblies of the people. Notwithstanding, the ecclesiastical writers do often use the word χειροτονεια, in another sense; to wit, for their [the ] solemn rite of ordaining, which is called in Scripture laying on of hands. Furthermore, by this manner of speech is very excellently expressed the right way to ordain pastors. Paul and Barnabas are said to choose elders. Do they this alone by their private office? Nay, rather they suffer the matter to be decided by the consent of them all. Therefore, in ordaining pastors the people had their free election, but lest there should any tumult arise, Paul and Barnabas sit as chief moderators.”

- Calvin, Jean, Commentary on Acts, 14:23.

...the whole body as was the custom of the Greeks in elections, declared by a show of hands which of the two they wished to have. Thus it is not uncommon for Roman historians to say, that the consul who held the comitia elected the new magistrates for no other reason but because he received the suffrages, and presided over the people at the election. Certainly it is not credible that Paul conceded more to Timothy and Titus than he assumed to himself. Now we see that his custom was to appoint bishops by the suffrages of the people. We must therefore interpret the above passages, so as not to infringe on the common right and liberty of the Church.

- Calvin, Jean, Institutes of Christian Religion, Vol. II, http://www.vor.org/rbdisk/html/institutes/4_03.htm#4.3.7

He deals with the matter of Paul and Barnabus being the subject of χειροτονεια in the part I underlined.
Besides this, there is ample historical evidence for congregationalism.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Dan, thanks for your agreement on 2 Cor. 8:19.

Quote:
I think you're wrong here, Ted. I've posted this elsewhere, but here again is Jean Calvin on this Acts 14:23. He was much more than a 1st year Greek student.

I am not worthy to untie the man's shoes. I love John Calvin, I freely admit. But there are areas in which I hope it is alright to disagree with him. Most folks do, even among the very devoted covenantalists.

So if I may be permitted (permitted as in the sense of being permitted to be a fool?), I'd like to disagree with him on Acts 14:23.

From the link you provided, John Calvin writes:

"Hence the fastings and prayers which Luke narrates that the faithful employed when they elected presbyters, (Acts 14: 23)"

Calvin claims it was the "faithful" who fasted and prayed and elected. Yet Luke's Greek is extremely clear it was not the faithful who fasted and prayed, but Paul and Barnabas.

Beginning in Acts 14:21 to Acts 14:25, Luke uses a series of participles that describe activities that can only be ascribed to Paul and Barnabas, and not to anyone else:

Paul and Barnabas are "preaching” and “making disciples” in Acts 14:21

“strengthening” and “encouraging” the “souls of the disciples” in Acts 14:22

“appointing,” elders with “praying,” and “fasting” in Acts 14:23

“passing through” to Pisidia and Pamphylia in Acts 14:24

“speaking” the word in Perga in Acts 14:25

In this string of verses that follows an easiliy detected style of Greek that is intended to describe the circumstances of Paul and Barnabas’ travels and activities, only Paul and Barnabas are the subjects of the participles. In verses 21 to 23 other people are the objects of all the verbs, participial or not. But not once in all these verse is anyone other than these 2 men the subject of a single verb. Calvin’s assertion that this is not the case in Acts 14:23 is simply unsustainable.

He was wrong.

So you need to choose. NT Greek, or Calvin?

Dan Miller's picture

Calvin is not against the Greek. He is saying that the word means (was used) for the act carrying out an election with the subject as the one who oversaw the election and counted hands or ballots. So the subject of this verb was often not the one's who voted.

The question is, do you think your understanding of Greek is better or Calvin's? Calvin was trained first as a lawyer in a school that emphasized classics. I think his Greek is better, especially concerning his understanding of Greek legal matters.

Or just investigate the Greek in ancient use. Here's in the Didache:

“You must, then, elect (Χειροτονήσατε) for yourselves bishops and deacons who are a credit to the Lord, men who are gentle, generous, faithful, and well tried. For their ministry to you is identical with that of the prophets and teachers. You must not, therefore, despise them, for along with the prophets and teachers they enjoy a place of honor among you.”

Note that the writer uses the term for the act that "you must do... for yourselves." Clearly "you" is the church members. "You must despise them" - "with the prophets and teachers they enjoy a place of honor among you."

According to the Didache, The early church brought this term with them to describe the congregational selection of elders.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Thanks for the reference to the Didache. It's 15:1, no?

But I'm going to have to disagree with you that cheirotoneo means to preside over a vote. It doesn't make sense in the Greek of Acts 14:23, where "autois" is a dative of advantage - "they appointed for them in every church elders" - not, "they counted their votes" - which is genitival. I've studied the verb in scholarly works and have yet to see anyone agree with Calvin's point. As far as I’ve seen, he is alone on this one.

Etymylogically the verb means "to stretch the hand," hence the idea of voting in many secular uses of the word. But Calvin would have it mean "counting stretched hands" in which case, listen, it was the people who did the real appointing by their vote. Paul and Barnabas “appointing” was merely perfunctory – merely recognizing those actually appointed by the votes of others.

To me, that stretches a word on stretching too far. However, you are welcome to your opinion. All I have asked from the beginning is that you argue from Scripture. I don’t think I’ve seen this, but I could be wrong.

I would also ask that you not assume I am saying that the congregation has no input on the choice of elders. I actually teach in my book that a vote gives God’s people way too little say and involvement in the matter of elder appointment, and that Scripture teaches a much better way – a much stronger way - a way that uses Scripture in their intended involvement.

When it comes to understanding the NT text, it isn't a matter of who has the bigger Greek muscles and pedigree. Yes, in some places, the Greek is exceeding difficult, but Acts 14:23 is not one of them.

Perhaps you will read some heavyweights of the past and present, all of whom were deeply familiar with Calvin.

“These appointments were made by Paul and Barnabas for the churches” Barrett, Acts, 687-688.

“the text clearly says that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for their churches” Kistemaker, Acts, 525.

Kistemaker also cites Harrison: “While it is true that the word could indicate congregational choice, such is not the case in this context.” Interpreting Acts, 237.

“cheirotoneo here means installation (not election by a congregational laying on of hands)” Acts, Conzelman, 112.

“on the other hand, the presbyters in Lycaonia and Pisidia were not chosen by the congregations, but it is said of Paul and Barnabas” (BAGD, 881)

“there is some question in this particular instance about who appointed the elders-the apostles or the congregation. The NIV text follows the most natural rendering of the Greek construction: Paul and Barnabas appointed the elders” (Polhill, Acts, 319).

“In Acts 14:23 the reference is not to election by the congregation.” (Lohse, TDNT, 9:437).

“In Acts 14:23 it refers to appointment by Barnabas and Paul of elders in the Galatian churches” (J.I. Packer, NIDNTT, 1:478).

Bob T.'s picture

The Elders are plural to what?

Answer: Cities or area. The assemblies in an area were all in unity and their elders made up the plural elders. Did the assemblies each have but one elder? Probably so. Could one or two of the assemblies have more than one elder? Possibly, if they had such qualified men.

Most churches today that have plural Elders have one fully qualified man they often call "Pastor" and others of various degrees of maturity and knowledge but most not really qualified by the Biblical measure. An Elder must be able to teach and refute those who teach or hold to bad doctrine. They were so qualified that they sat with the Apostles in deciding a monumental issue that would effect all the churches (Acts 15).

In the name of plural Eldership many assemblies have had their authority seized and their organization made into imperialistic institutions with self perpetuating elders. Often these Elders end up as those who are the lackeys of the Clergy pastor who in due time influences only those who agree with him and support him to be appointed. The end result is then called scriptural unity. Those who disagree on anything are then considered trouble makers and lacking the maturity and love that is needed for unity. The end result is not really spiritual unity but human dictatorship.

The process we call ordination is a process that any who aspire to eldership should be put through.

Bob T.'s picture

As far as Acts 14:23 goes there appears to be ample evidence from good sources that the word "they appointed" is translated from a word that may indicate a nomination rather than the final selection.

Grammatical Forms:
1. χειροτονήσαντες cheirotonēsantes nom pl masc part aor act
2. χειροτονηθείς cheirotonētheis nom sing masc part aor pass
3. χειροτονηθέντα cheirotonēthenta acc sing masc part aor pass
Concordance:
1. they had ordained them elders in every church,Acts 14:23
2. but who was also chosen of the churches to travel2 Co 8:19

Word Studies:

Classical Greek
In classical Greek writings cheirotoneō is used to describe how votes were cast in an assembly, i.e., by the raising of a hand or by a show of hands (Liddell-Scott). As early as the Fifth Century B.C. the term meant to “select” or “nominate” (Lohse, “cheirotoneō,” Kittel, 9:437). Later, additional meanings were also implied, such as “electing” or “appointing.” The verb does not appear in the Septuagint. It was used, however, in the writings of later church fathers and described the ordination process of bishops and deacons (cf. Moulton-Milligan).
New Testament Usage
Cheirotoneō occurs twice in the New Testament: at Acts 14:23 and 2 Corinthians 8:19. The first passage describes how Paul and Barnabas “appointed, chose,” or perhaps “nominated” elders to serve in the Galatian churches of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. After they had prayed and fasted, the “electees” were committed to the Lord (see paratithēmi [3769 ], “entrusted into the care or protection” of God [cf. Bauer ]).
In 2 Corinthians 8:19 cheirotoneō shows that the churches selected one trustworthy individual to accompany Paul back to Jerusalem in order to deliver monies collected for the poor saints there. Later writings of the Church also reveal that individuals were selected for specific tasks by the community of believers (Lohse, “cheirotoneō,” Kittel, 9:437).
Resource Tools:
Strong
Bauer 881
Moulton-Milligan 687
Kittel 9:437
Liddell-Scott 1986
Colin Brown 1:478

Ted Bigelow's picture

Bob T. wrote:
As far as Acts 14:23 goes there appears to be ample evidence from good sources that the word "they appointed" is translated from a word that may indicate a nomination rather than the final selection.

Hi Bob, I hope you are well and rejoicing in your glorious Lord Jesus Christ! I also hope your son, the missionary, is rejoicing and seeing great fruit in his ministry.

I can’t help but wonder if you are just struggling with this verse and looking for a way to get it to say something that suits a predisposition that fits how you like church decision making to function? On one level that’s understandable – I’m that way – often very guilty. I sometimes need to be dragged back to a text to get my thinking submitted underneath it.

Your hypothesis that cheirotoneo in Acts 14:23 might mean that Paul and Barnabas nominated potential elders for the churches to vote on is unlikely for the following two reasons:

1) All your lexical support comes from outside the Scripture. That means we have to take the world's method and meaning and inject it wholesale into the NT. Not only that, the idea of the word cheirotoneo is a secondary meaning cited mostly from Josephus. You found this secondary meaning from Lohse's entry in TDNT, 9:437. But you neglected to include that Lohse himself rejects it. He writes: “In Acts 14:23 the reference is not to election by the congregation.” In other words your own source for your lexical research disagrees with you and yet he is the one you are relying on for support that cheirotoneo in Acts 14:23 means nominate. Brother, let's just wrestle with Acts 14:23 as it stands written.

2) Let’s assume for the moment that the word cheirotoneo means what you want it to mean: “nominate.” If that’s all that Paul and Barnabas did we may be assured that they only nominated men who were Scripturally qualified to be elders. They wouldn’t have knowingly put unqualified men up for election, right? That would violate Christ’s standards.

Now after being nominated by Paul and Barnabas these qualified men would have been voted on, and those receiving enough votes would have been installed in the office of eldership. Those who did not receive enough votes would not have been installed in office.

And that would have been sin. Christ requires that all qualified men serve in office after testing (1 Tim. 3:10). Nomination injects a human approval above and beyond God’s own in Scripture. Nomination and election is an inversion process never witnessed in Scripture that leaves us in charge of picking our own leaders. How very Adamic. How very self-protective.

The text is really, really simple. “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). I recommend you purchase my book, The Titus Mandate, for a discussion on these important matters. We just released The Titus Mandate Study Guide on Amazon as well. This booklet will help you ask a lot of questions of many texts.

Fond blessings.

Bob T.'s picture

The lexical support comes from outside the scripture because the Greek language comes from outside the scripture. What the language means is not an invention from the scripture. Also the only other scriptural usage of this word is regarding being elected by the churches. The word there is best translated as "being elected by the assemblies" (2Cor. 8:19).

The hypothetical scenario of the assemblies choosing contrary to the Apostles being sin assumes the Apostles claimed infallibility in this matter. The scriptures are infallible as the writers were inspired at the time of writing. The Apostles do not claim inspiration in all that they did. They had disputes and disagreements. Also, perhaps the Apostles gave the assemblies five names each and said choose two of the five. We do not know.

In a prior thread you attempted to refer to the Greek and were way off base. You confused verbs as being participles and needing to be in agreement with the gender of the subject. That was with regard to the assemblies sending out missionaries. Your referral to sources here is attempting to say that we must learn Greek word meanings from scripture to be of value. However, all meaning begins with the language in general and then scripture usage can in some cases give more specification. This word is used but twice in the NT. Scholars are now giving more weight to LXX usage of words than in the past. In this case my "multiple" sources speak for themselves. Also, there are several commentators that indicate this as possibly involving an assembly vote as at Acts 7.

Thank you for your invitation to buy your book. I do not think I will purchase your book at this time. I have about 15 books on the church on my shelf. IMO all you are really doing is setting forth the Eldership arguments of John MacArthur which I heard him make about 25 years ago and not defend very well to some other Pastors.

The self perpetuating Elder doctrines were rejuvenated and again popularized among Evangelicals by Gene Getz in the early seventies. His book "Sharpening the Focus of the Church" attracted a lot of readers. When I was able to talk to him at about 1980 he indicated that he had created an some problems. The Elders asked him to leave the church he had started in Dallas. He did eventually leave and start another church in a Dallas suburb. MacArthur's Shepherds conferences pushed the plural Elders and no congregational vote concepts in the 1980s and 1990s. The results have not all been that unifying in the assemblies. At Grace Community Church, the entire staff had handed in their resignations at MacArthur's seven year mark at the church. There was tension among the staff and Elders also.

What you have written appears to be a rehash of old doctrinal assertions written about by several.

The doctrines and practices of church government that you advocate do not have a very good history of producing unity. The dissenters simply vote with their feet instead of their hands. The Elders usually just consider them unspiritual and move on. After all, no spiritual person would disagree and destroy unity would they? Or could it be that some in the assembly are the ones in God's will and the right and the Elders have become entrenched in their pooled arrogance and are out of God's will?

As for your continued assertions that nomination and election is never seen in scripture. That was completely dismantled by several posters on your first thread on the matter here on SI.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hi Bob,

When my kids were little we used to play peek-a-boo. It was an endearing game in which I would cover my cheeks and eyes with my hands and say, “peek-a-boo, where are you?!” Then they would repeat what I had just done, only when they covered their face they actually imagined I had gone away – so they had to quickly pull their hands away to be assured I was still with them.

Brother, you’re playing peek-a-boo. You just don’t like what God says. You’ll claim some very arbitrary lexical support for Acts 14:23 teaching nominations, and when the scholar who you rely on for the support comes right out in the same article and directly contradicts what you claim, you say “peek-a-boo” and place your hands back on your checks and eyes. You didn’t see that, right? So it must not be there!

You need to read the text of God. Right now just don’t like Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5, or 2 Cor. 8:19 as they stand written. You make them mean what you want them to mean and give them new and novel interpretations. When someone comes along and starts to pull your hands from your eyes, you express past hurts you have felt and experienced, while assuming all kinds of things. In the end, your hands are firmly planted back where they began, covering cheeks and eyes.

JG's picture

Ted, in one of your earlier threads I told you that I had much agreement with you, in that our church never votes.

I have no agreement with your style of posting, however. Comments like the one I have quoted in my subject line have no place in these discussions. I sometimes disagree with Brother Topartzer, and have occasionally "crossed swords" with him on this forum. I'm not sure he always "likes" me :). But I think I know him well enough to say that your statement is just false.

You make many such statements, in my opinion. If someone disagrees with your interpretation, then they don't like what God says, they can't handle first year Greek, etc, etc.

Job once said, "No doubt ye are the people, and wisdom will die with you." You give the impression, whether you mean to or not, that you are the one who has all the answers, and if people don't agree with you, they don't have wisdom.

You had better come to terms with the fact that many people who love the Lord and are sincerely seeking to know and understand His Word are going to disagree with you sometimes. And sometimes, shockingly enough, they might even be right.

The question is not about "liking" what God says, but about determing what God has really said. That isn't always quite as straightforward a question as you make it out to be. Even a life-long Greek speaker (Peter) found some of Paul's writings hard to understand. A little less pride of knowledge might go a long way. Even the smartest of us don't know anything the way we ought to. "And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know."

Perhaps what I've described here isn't what is in your heart. But I hope you will consider that this is what your communication has conveyed to someone who doesn't know you. If that isn't what you mean to convey, perhaps you might consider how you might communicate differently.

While your comments to Bob Topartzer triggered this post, it is a pattern that I've observed with others as well.

T Howard's picture

JG wrote:
The question is not about "liking" what God says, but about determing what God has really said. That isn't always quite as straightforward a question as you make it out to be. Even a life-long Greek speaker (Peter) found some of Paul's writings hard to understand.

JG, so how should one determine what God has really said? Should they rely on pragmatism and 30-year-old anecdotes? "This form of church gov't didn't work for Pastor X or for Pastor Y 30 years ago, so it can't be right." It is not prideful to reject arguments like these when trying to determine what God has really said, is it?

Whatever you think Ted's faults are, at least he grounds his position on Scripture and the original languages. I respect that. If someone disagrees with Ted's position, let him prove it from Scripture. Show where Ted's exegesis is wrong.

T Howard

JG's picture

T Howard wrote:
JG, so how should one determine what God has really said? Should they rely on pragmatism and 30-year-old anecdotes?

My friend, if you look at Bob Topartzer's last two posts, he did indeed discuss 30 year old anecdotes, but he started with discussing Greek exegesis. One might not agree with his conclusions, but there was no need for personal attacks.

T Howard's picture

JG wrote:
My friend, if you look at Bob Topartzer's last two posts, he did indeed discuss 30 year old anecdotes, but he started with discussing Greek exegesis. One might not agree with his conclusions, but there was no need for personal attacks.

I agree, Bob started with Greek exegesis, but after Ted's rebuttal and his insight that one of Bob's sources actually contradicts Bob's conclusion, he quickly moved on to anecdotes and pragmatism. That being said, I agree with you that there was no need for the belittling (peek-a-boo) comments that followed.

T Howard

Dan Miller's picture

Ted, I agree with JG.

To judge someone's motives as being other than to hear and obey Scripture is not something you're able to do. And when you do it by means of a child's game of peek-a-boo, it is unnecessarily insulting. Bob was participating in a collegial discussion, and then suddenly, he's coving his eyes like a child to avoid the truth?

In every disagreement over the interpretation of Scripture, there comes a point where two people have to realize that they won't be able to make the other understand. It is tempting to attribute this to willful refusal to be open to the clear meaning of Scripture.

Frankly, in this several thread elder-selection discussion, that temptation to judge motives has probably existed on both sides.

-=-=-=-=-

With regard to my last, you cite several commentators who say that cheirotoneo with Paul as the subject must mean that Paul chose. But they just say it without any real discussion. For them, subject = active party. Calvin agrees that Paul is the grammatical subject. But he says that it was common use for this verb to have a grammatical subject that was not in reality the active party. Therefore, Calvin deals with the nature of the verb in a way that the others do not. In my view, that degrades their opinion to gainsaying without reason.

The grammatical subject does not always have to be the one who does the action. And commentators who claim it does without any discussion of this particular case need to be questioned.

We do the same today in English. With a quick search, I found http://knowobama.blogspot.com/2008/04/obama-on-death-penalty_23.html this website , which states, "[Obama ] passed a bill in Illinois that required videotaping of interrogations and confessions in capital cases." Does this writer mean to say that Obama was granted dictatorial rights to pass bills by himself in Illinois? No, it means that he participated in this passage. Often, this type of phrase is used of a house leader who oversaw the passage or of a bill sponsor.

Bob T.'s picture

Thank you JG for attempting to bring some clarity and for your reply. Yes, we did cross swords before. However I just wrote you off as another heretic :bigsmile: :bigsmile: Actually as I remember there were many subjects that you had contributed a great deal of good knowledge and wisdom to.

Now to the subject at hand. My post # 11 gave some evidence regarding the word xeirotoneoo as used at Acts 14:23. I gave 5 sources as to the word meaning. Ted challenged one of the 5 sources. Since I had given 4 other sources I did not bother to reply to the rebuttal of just one. Actually the Lexical evidence indicates that almost every lexicon states the primary meaning as "choose, elect by raising hands" (BAG). However, some then indicate it may have been used as appoint at Acts 14:23. They do then usually indicate that the only other use of the word in the NT at 2 Cor. 8:19 indicates a vote by the assemblies. At acts 14:23 the BAG indicates the word may mean "appoint or install." RCH Lenski, a great Greek scholar translates the verse as: "Moreover, after by vote appointing for them elders from church to church..." Lenski then indicates that he believes the congregation voted on the matter. One may disagree with Lenski and Calvin and many others on this word usage. Some good men do hold that Paul and Barnabas appointed. However, let it be known that one cannot be overly dogmatic and claim that if one agrees with Calvin and Lenski they are not listening to God. To do so is to claim Divine inspiration for themselves and that Calvin, Lenski, and many others were also dull of ears and did not listen to God. So many, all enjoying nothing but a good game of "Peek A Boo." Oh well, we do enjoy ourselves at such games!

I did attempt to call Ted Bigelow's attention to the fact that on his first thread he did not always have the best exegetical arguments. I pointed out an error he made confusing verbs with being participles regarding the assemblies being involved in sending forth missionaries. He did not respond but ignored the matter. That is all right. We can all be in error at times regarding our exegesis. What we should not do is equate our exegesis with the voice of God.

If I may throw in other personal observations. Since I was involved in the IFCA for 10 years and taught at Talbot of Biola University, and attended Biola, I have numerous acquaintances in the IFCA, and other Evangelical groups. Some conservative men were enthused when MacArthur broke away from Talbot and started Masters Seminary. However, some are now a little dismayed at problems in churches involving Master graduates. Behind some of the issues is what some characterize as an overly dogmatic stance on disputed issues. Some of the issues involve church polity, Calvinism (Reformed soteriology), and attitude in approach to differences. Are there very good masters graduates? I think there are. Has there been some inordinate definite problems also? Some think so. The word from God is inerrant. Our historiography of the manuscripts sufficiently captures the inerrant word so that we can say we have the very word of God. Most of that word is clear and those who do not accept it are in heresy or error. However, there are a great deal of differences concerning some less clear issues where being overly dogmatic can be problematic. Our dogmatism must be accompanied by humility. This is probably hard for all of us, including me.

The reason for citing antectdotes is that Ted Bigelow has claimed that any and all church votes produce disunity and that Elders appointing Elders and no church vote may produce unity in the church. To that claim I refer to history and present circumstances among many churches. I of course will not name names, but I have them. I also will not go into specific instances any further on this thread.

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