Who appoints elders?


Who appoint elders?


The qualifications for the position of elder are found in lists recorded in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. That the eldership is a distinct duty is clearly seen in I Timothy 3:1, "It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do." It is a duty and a work that a man may aspire to hold. Interestingly, the Greek word translated as "aspires" means to stretch one's ability to obtain. Therefore, your average, run-of-the-mill Christian is unable to qualify for the position. It takes effort on the part of the man desiring the office to stretch himself to his full abilities to live Christ-like in this present age. Pauls instruction to Titus also shows this duty to be a distinct office when Titus was instructed, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you" (Titus 1:5). Men are placed in the position of an elder; they don't just happen to obtain the duty. Since elders are always mentioned existing in the plural in congregations, it is a strong conclusion that there must be two or more men qualified before elders can be appointed.

Paul had given Titus specific directions on whom to appoint which he repeats in his letter to Timothy. Both the list in Titus and the one in Timothy tell us that men considered for the office of overseer must have certain attributes. These are not suggestions. The characteristics must be present. Only men with these attributes will be able to fulfill the duties God has prescribed for them to accomplish. Hence, a preacher cannot appoint any man he wants as an elder. Only men who have demonstrated the qualifications listed may be appointed.

So, how are these men chosen? Obviously, preachers are involved since the list of qualifications were sent to two preachers (Timothy and Titus) and Titus was specifically commanded to appoint elders as part of his duties. In addition, we find two other preachers, Barnabas and Paul, appointing preachers in the areas where they worked. "So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed" (Acts 14:23).

We can also take a hint from the appointment of the first deacons, recorded in Acts 6. "Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them" (Acts 6:2-6). Even though the apostles were inspired men, they did not select the men to be appointed. Instead, the congregation was asked to select the men based on the qualifications given to them. Once the congregation selected the men, the apostles then appointed them to the position.

Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that a preacher suggests to a congregation that they ought to have elders and then teaches the congregation what makes a man qualified to be an elder. The congregation then selects men they find meeting those qualifications and recommend them to the preacher. The preacher then appoints them to their position.

Now, in this appointment, a preacher is not expected to blindly appoint anyone recommended to him. Timothy was warned, "Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people's sins; keep yourself pure" (I Timothy 5:22). In the days of the Bible, laying hands on a person was a way of indicating your approval of the person. Timothy was warned not to be in a rush to lay hands on people. He had the knowledge of the Scriptures and he was expected to use it. Hence, a preacher should take it upon himself to double check that men recommended for the eldership are truly qualified before appointing them. If a preacher appoints an unqualified man, he shares in the guilt of the sins that result.

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