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The Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy, and the Church

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    Choice of Leaders

    God’s plan through the centuries is that both leaders and people join in the choosing of those who are to bear responsibilities in His cause. This was so in the days of Israel. It is true that Moses was called directly by Jehovah, but when the time came for others to share the responsibilities of leadership, God instructed Moses as to the course to be followed. Jethro, recognizing the heavy burdens Moses was carrying, counseled him to appoint men to join with him in the work of directing the various activities of Israel. Moses evidently took this counsel to the Lord, and it is certain that the Lord approved of Jethro’s suggestion. Growing out of this, Moses went forward with the work and selected men for various positions of trust.BSPC 163.2

    In the record of Exodus 18:19-25 one would gather that Moses himself did the choosing and also the appointing of these men. The text reads, “And Moses chose able men out of all Israel.” Verse 25. The record in Deuteronomy adds something that is not indicated in Exodus. The story in Deuteronomy reads:BSPC 163.3

    “And I spoke unto you at that time, saying, I am not able to bear you myself alone: the Lord your God bath multiplied you, and, behold, you are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude. (The Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times so many more as you are, and bless you, as he bath promised you!) How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife? Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. And you answered me, and said, The thing which thou has spoken is good for us to do.” Deuteronomy 1:9-14.BSPC 163.4

    Here is the divine principle at work. Moses told the people, “Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.” Some of the English translations give the wording thus:BSPC 163.5

    “Choose capable men, intelligent and experienced, from each of your clans, and let me put them in charge of you.” Moffatt.BSPC 164.1

    “Choose for yourselves skilful, clearheaded, and educated men to control you, and I will appoint them your chiefs.” Fenton.BSPC 164.2

    It is evident from this that the people did the choosing and Moses did the appointing.BSPC 164.3

    The same thing obtained in the days of the early church. When seven men were to be chosen to share in the responsibilities with the apostles at the time economic difficulties arose, placing the Grecian widows in a situation of real need, the apostles followed the same procedure. They said to the members of the church, “Look you out among you” (Acts 6:3); then we read, “And they [the people] chose” (verse 5). The men who were the choice of the church were then set before the apostles; they were ordained (verse 6) and were then appointed by the apostles for their specific task (verse 3).BSPC 164.4

    The Syriac translation is interesting in this connection, for it reads, “Search out, and elect from among you, seven men.. that we may place them over this business.”BSPC 164.5

    One might go still further, and see the principle in operation in other experiences in the apostolic church. Take for instance the choosing and ordaining of elders in the local churches. We read in several places that the apostles engaged in this necessary service. (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5.) But how was this done? Who made the choice? Did the apostles do this without counsel with the local churches? The record in Acts 14:23 indicates they took such counsel. The text reads:BSPC 164.6

    “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”BSPC 164.7

    The actual wording in this text mentions that the apostles ordained the elders but does not indicate how they were chosen. There is one word in this text, however, that is full of meaning in this respect; that is the word “ordained.” This is not the usual Greek word used for the act of ordaining. This word means not so much the actual service of ordination as the manner in which individuals were chosen for ordination. The Greek word here is cheirotoneo. It is really a combination of two words, cheir, meaning “hand,” and the verb teino, meaning “to stretch.” The word cheir enters into our word chiropody. Here the use of cheir as meaning “hand” will readily be recognized, for a chiropodist is one who manipulates the hands and the feet. Hence this Greek word cheirotoneo means “to stretch forth the hand.” This is so rendered in some of the English translations, as for instance:BSPC 164.8

    “Moreover appointing unto them by vote in each assembly [elders].” Rotherham.BSPC 165.1

    “They also chose elders for them in each church, with the lifting of the hands.” Verkuyl.BSPC 165.2

    “And in every Church, after prayer and fasting, they selected Elders by show of hands.” Weymouth.BSPC 165.3

    In a footnote Weymouth gives the following: “The verb itself (lit. ‘hand-stretched’) implies this.... And so in the Teaching of the Apostles, ch. 15, ‘elect therefore by show of hands bishops and deacons for yourselves, men worthy of the Lord.’”BSPC 165.4

    The same word is used in one other place in the New Testament and that is in 2 Corinthians 8:19, where we read, “Who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us.”BSPC 165.5

    The expression “chosen” of the churches is the same word cheirotoneo. Here we have a fuller meaning of the word given in this text. The Cambridge Bible has a good note on this verse:BSPC 165.6

    “The word here used signifies chosen by show of hands. So also in Acts 14:23. Voting by show of hands was the custom among the Greeks as among ourselves.”BSPC 165.7

    Hence one is able to gather what the apostles did when they went to the churches to see that adequate leadership was provided for the various groups of believers. They would counsel with them, and the church members would indicate their desires. When the decision was made they voted by the uplifted hand. These men selected by the church were then brought to the apostles, who in turn ordained them. In this way they were appointed for the important work of leadership in the church of Christ.BSPC 165.8

    The writings of the Spirit of prophecy are clear in their counsel on this matter, as will be seen in the following excerpts:BSPC 165.9

    “Someone should be selected by the voice of the church to be the acknowledged leader.”Testimonies for the Church 5:619.BSPC 165.10

    “Tell it to the church, and let action be taken in the case according to the Scriptures!”—Testimonies for the Church 5:617.BSPC 165.11

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