It is written:

God has appointed in the Church firstly apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers (associated with pastors in Ephesians 4:11), then those who have the gift… of governing.” (1 Corinthians 12:28).

Christ “gave… others as pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of the Lord.” (Acts 20:28)

According to these verses, it is therefore God Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who chooses and establishes elders in their ministry. It is He who grants “gifts of service” and puts in the heart the eagerness and zeal to devote oneself to the service of Christians (2 Corinthians 8:16; 1 Corinthians 16:15-16). Anyone who feels this desire to serve and becomes aware of the gifts received will naturally seek to use these gifts in the service of others (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10).

This results in various “operations,” that is, actions (1 Corinthians 12:6) that cannot escape the notice of Christians. Thus, the Church will, in turn, become aware of the gifts given to it through these brothers, and it will entrust them with various tasks to “put them to the test.”

This testing is clearly required for deacons: “Let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless (or: if nothing is found against them)” (1 Timothy 3:10). The phrase’s form (kai outoi of: them too) indicates that bishops were also subjected to a probationary period. Different terms are used for choosing servants of God. The first time Christians were selected for a particular service, the apostle Peter said to “the multitude of disciples”: “Brothers, choose (episkeptomai) among you seven men… whom we will appoint (kathistêmi) to this task… They chose (eklegô) Stephen” (Acts 6:3-5).

The first term is related to ‘episkopos’ and means: looking around to make a choice (“God has looked upon the nations to choose from among them a people” Acts 15:14).

The second term is found in Titus 1:5 (“That you should appoint elders”). The third (eklegô) is common in profane Greek and in the New Testament from the time of Plato; it was used for the election of elders responsible for the administration of the city (Plato: Rep. 536c; Polybius 6.10.9), archons, and other magistrates. In the military, it was used when selecting men for particularly difficult or glorious tasks (Polybius 9.13.9). Luke also uses it for the choice of delegates tasked with delivering the letter containing the decisions of the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15:22,25).

Another term appears in Acts 14:23: “They appointed (cheirotoneô) elders in every church.” This word is found only in 2 Corinthians 8:19: “We are sending along with him (Tite) the brother whose praise… is in all the churches, and besides, he has been chosen by the churches to be our traveling companion.” Different concepts of ministry crystallize around this term. Literally, it means to raise or extend the hand. One can extend one’s hand by pointing at someone with a finger. In this case, it will be translated as “they designated elders in every city.” One can extend hands and place them on someone’s head. Then it will be translated as “they instituted elders.” But “cheirotoneô,” says E. Brunner, has absolutely nothing to do with the laying on of hands.

It is the technical term used for electing, designating to a function, and the basic idea is not that of imposing the hand but that of raising it, the usual way of casting a vote for a candidate.

The entire community had a significant role in the decision-making of the early Church. Thus, the brothers of the Church of Antioch “decided that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 15:2). There, it is said that it seemed good to the apostles, elders, and the whole church to “choose (eklegô) from among them and send to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, Jude called Barsabbas, and Silas…” (Acts 15:22).

Some Churches also appointed and sent brothers to collect offerings from the saints and bring them to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8:19,23). Epaphroditus, a fellow worker of Paul, was sent by the Philippians to Paul (Philippians 2:25).

The Churches were treated as mature persons, capable of discerning the directives of the Holy Spirit for the selection of their leaders. The normal chronological order seems to be:

  1. God grants gifts to a certain number of brothers.
  2. They become aware of these gifts during the service they provide to the Church.
  3. The assembly becomes aware of the gifts of these brothers.
  4. It expresses its opinion during a consultation.
  5. They are “put to the test” for a certain time.
  6. The chosen brothers are officially established in their office with the laying on of hands by the assembly of elders (Acts 6:6; Acts 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:22).

Note, however, that in the 1st century, the apostles or their delegates (Timothy, Titus) played a significant role in the appointment of elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). If the apostle Paul specified to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1-7) and Titus (Titus 1:6-9) the qualities an elder should exhibit, it was certainly because these “apostolic delegates” had to teach the Church about the conditions to be met by candidates and ensure that they were respected by those being instituted. Like many other apostolic functions, most evangelical churches have found no way to restore this important office.

The conditions required to be a Levite, a deacon, and a worker in the Church are rejected.

It is written in 1 Timothy 3:1-16:

“This saying is trustworthy: if anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. He must not be a drunkard or violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”

Also read: Exodus 18:21; Titus 1:5-11.

This text is an excerpt from the book “HOW TO CONSERICT A SERVANT OF GOD ” written by Apostle Beni Hugues Mvemba.

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