Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-7
It is a good thing to desire to be an elder [1 Timothy 3:1] but who exactly appoints elders?
It is the Holy Spirit who appoints elders. Speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus Paul said, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” [Acts 20:28]. The Holy Spirit works through believers and although He appoints elders, He uses people to do so. The fact that God has given a list of qualifications for leadership [see 1 Timothy 3:1-7, 8-13 & Titus 1:6-9] is evidence of man’s part in considering a person’s suitability for eldership.
There are three references in the New Testament that point to the people who are responsible for the appointment of elders:
Firstly, apostles appointed elders. Paul and Barnabas [Acts 14:23].” The word appointed in this verse is the Greek word ‘chierotonei’ found only here and in 2 Corinthians 8:19. It can mean either “to choose” or “chosen.” Secondly, Paul delegated Titus to appoint elders in Crete [Titus 1:5]. Thirdly, although not technically an elder, Matthias [Acts 1:15-26], the replacement for Judas, was a leadership appointment of the highest order and therefore worthy of consideration. In the selection of Matthias Peter addressed the whole assembly, who proposed two names, and together they asked the Lord to confirm which was the right man.
To summarise, it is the Holy Spirit who appoints elders. This is done in the first place by the apostles and subsequently by the existing leaders in fellowship with the local body of believers. It must be pointed out that this is in no way either a form of democracy or an issue of voting.
Although Paul encourages Timothy to appoint elders in Ephesus he also advised Timothy not to lay hands on anyone hastily [1 Timothy 6:22a]. An elder was normally appointed by the laying on of hands and prayer. I suggest that Paul recognised that it was much easier to appoint someone than to ask them to step down. The situation in Ephesian church would need special care because it was probably the case that one or more elders in the church were among those teaching false doctrine. Tomorrow we will take a closer look at the character of a person who qualifies to be a church elder.
Why do you think it is important that an elder is not appointed democratically, but still in fellowship with the local body of believers?
Why did Paul tell Timothy “not to be in a hurry to appoint an elder” [1 Timothy 5:22 NLT]?
What are the qualities you would look for in a candidate for church eldership?