“Appoint Elders in Every Church”


By Wayne S. Walker

     In Titus 1:1-5, where “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ” wrote “To Titus, my true son in our common faith,” and told him, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you.”  Since other passages teach that God wants elders in every church, this necessarily implies that Titus was to appoint elders in every city where there was a church, or in every church in every city.  This practice has been followed for many years in faithful churches of Christ where qualified men were to be found.

However, in contrast to this simple teaching of the New Testament, a man named Charles Holt (formerly a gospel preacher, now deceased) and those who follow after him have ridiculed the idea of appointing elders.  In Sentinel of Truth (Vol. 3, No. 4), Holt wrote, “There is no ordaining or appointing of men (or women) TO BE—thus to become—‘elders’ and there is no ‘position’ called for by this term to which one can be elevated” (p. 1; emphasis mine, WSW).  This was written many years ago, in the mid to late 1960s.  Did Holt ever change his mind?  Much later, in The Examiner (Vol. 1, No. 2; Mar., 1986), he wrote, “You do not, can not, make someone an ‘elder’ by ordaination [sic] or appointment….Nor can we appoint or ordain a man to be an elder” (p.  11).  Let us now “examine” what the New Testament has to say about the appointment of elders.

  1. It should seem to be obvious enough that one should not need to say so, but the use of the word “appoint” itself indicates that elders were appointed, i.e., men were appointed as elders. The word in Titus 1:5, katasteses, from kathistemi, is defined in Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament to mean, “to set, place, put…to appoint one to administer an office.”  A similar word, cheirotonesantes from cheirotoneo, is found in Acts 14:23.   “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”  This term is defined in Thayer’s as “to elect, appoint, create.”  Thus, both passages teach that men were appointed as elders.  For Holt’s assertions to be proven true, he would have to find a passage which reads that men who were already elders (older men) were appointed to do some other specific thing.  The Bible just does not say this.  We must necessarily infer, then, that being an elder is something to which one is appointed, not merely something that just happens or that one simply assumes.
  2. The use of the word “elder” in the New Testament shows that they were to be appointed. It is true that sometimes the term is used in a generic sense of an older man.  But it can also be used in a context where it has an additional meaning.  Again, we turn to Thayer’s which defines the word, “a term of rank or office; as such borne by…among Christians, those who presided over the assemblies (or churches): Acts ix.30.”  This specific concept comes from the Jews and dates back to the seventy elders of Numbers 11:25.  These were not just any and all older men among the Israelites, but a specific group of men who had particular qualifications and were thus chosen as leaders among the tribes to do a certain work.  Similarly in James 5:14 we have “the elders of the church,” that is a specific group of men who could be identified separately from others and who held a special relationship to the congregation.

3. The work that is given to the elders in the Scriptures demonstrates that they must be appointed.  In Acts 20:17-28 we read that Paul “sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.  He told them, “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.”  The word translated “overseers” or “bishops” means, according to Thayer’s, “a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent…the superintendent, head, or overseer of any Christian church.  Those appointed as elders were to do the work of overseeing.  This kind of work involves some degree of authority.  Christ has all authority (Matthew 28:18).  Thus, no one can take such a work upon himself—he must be appointed to it.  Elders do not just assume or automatically grow into the work of being an overseer but are made overseers by the Holy Spirit through the process of their meeting the qualifications given by the Spirit (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9) and then being chosen and appointed by the congregation.

In conclusion, the New Testament speaks of “appointing elders.”  That should be sufficient for those who wish to speak where the Bible speaks.  However, no method of accomplishing this is specified.  The passages studied in this article, along with Acts 6:1-6 as an example of a congregation choosing and appointing those to serve among them, suggest four basic steps.  The first is finding men who meet the qualifications.  The second is preparing the congregation by scriptural instruction on the subject to determine if there are any men who meet the qualifications.  The third is selecting those men who are qualified from among the number, done by the entire membership.  And the fourth is appointing or ordaining such men to the office by someone selected for this purpose, perhaps a gospel preacher.  Please notice that the preacher himself does not do the selecting.  That is done by the congregation.   The preacher would merely appoint or ordain them, that is, set apart the men chosen by the multitude in some public way to be recognized for their work.

Thus it is clear from the Scriptures that not only are elders made so by God based on their age, knowledge, and experience by meeting the qualifications revealed by the Spirit, but also they are selected and appointed in the congregation by the action of men based upon those qualifications found in God’s word.  Therefore, we conclude that this appointing involves decisions made by the local church.  The fact that churches of Christ have appointed me as elders for years does not necessarily make the practice scriptural.  But it is fair to say that faithful congregations of God’s people have followed the instruction to “appoint elders” because it is taught in the Scriptures.  We should not abandon a scriptural concept just because Holt and his Examiner bunch question it.  “That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:15)

—taken from With All Boldness; July, 1991; Vol. 2, No. 2; pp. 19-20


Law and Grace


By Wayne S. Walker

     There has been quite a bit of loose talk, both in days gone by and in more recent years, concerning law and grace.  Some confidently affirm that keeping God’s law has absolutely nothing whatever to do with being saved—we are under grace, not law, they say—and then turn too passages like John 1:17 to substantiate their claim.  Others, in reaction to this, may leave the impression that men are saved only through law-keeping, thus adding more fuel to the fire.  This would occur, no doubt, unintentionally.  But if such be true, then we may need to be more careful about what we emphasize in our preaching.  That the Christian is under law, at least in some sense of the word, should be incontrovertible.  Such passages as 1 Corinthians 9:21, Galatians 6:1, and James 1:25, etc., plainly demonstrate this fact.  The question is, to what extent does keeping Christ’s law play a part in our salvation?

First, we need to understand the nature and purpose of law in general.  Law is somewhat like a boundary, out of which those bound by the law must not go.  We all understand this in relation to civil law (Romans 13:1-7).  The most obvious aspect of law is the punishment of those who decide to break it rather than keep it (1 Timothy 1:8-10).  But this aspect is really based upon a more fundamental fact, which is that law is a communication from a person or persons in authority to those in subjection concerning what the latter must do to be acceptable.  This is the positive side of law; it provides guidelines so that those who want to do well may know how to live properly.  God’s law is no different.

So, are we saved merely by law-keeping?  I know of no gospel preacher or any other faithful Christian who does now believe, or has ever believed, or hopefully ever will believe, that salvation comes solely by observing rules and regulations.  That is why the Old Testament law was repealed.  Of course, that is how God designed it to be in the first place—to show men that they cannot be justified simply by law.  If such were true, there would have been no need for Jesus’s sacrifice.  Those who are unlearned and too lazy to study God’s word for themselves may have misunderstood what others have said concerning this matter and reached a wrong conclusion about what we teach.  But this is not the real issue.  Everyone agrees that we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Yet, we are saved by grace through faith; and faith, to be of a saving nature, must include complete and trusting obedience to God’s law (James 2:14).  In fact, it is by submitting to God’s law that men enter into and remain within the sphere of His grace.

No one keeps the whole law perfectly.  Again, if we did, Christ need not have died.  All have sinned (Romans 3:23), and sin is a transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).  Remember, if there were no law, there could be no transgression, and, hence, no sin (Romans 4:15).  This is where grace comes in.  God has devised, in His grace, a plan to make up for our imperfections by forgiving them (Ephesians 1:7, Hebrews 8:12).  But receiving that grace and forgiveness is conditioned upon keeping certain laws ordained by God—i.e., obedience to His will regarding the gospel terms of pardon (Hebrews 5:8-9, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 2:3).  Therefore, we may say that we are saved by grace, understanding that we depend solely upon God’s grace for a plan of redemption, and not our own human good works; and that we are saved by faith, in that salvation is based not on a system of perfect rule-keeping, but on a trusting, obedient faith.  Likewise, in a very limited sense, we are saved by keeping God’s law, meaning by meeting the conditions of faith set forth in His law.  But none of these things saves exclusive of the others.

—taken from Vanguard; Mar. 23, 1978; Vol. 4, No. 6; p. 10

The Latest Arguments for Instrumental Worship in Light of the Scripture



By Wayne S. Walker

     Back in 1990, I had the opportunity to attend the first night of a debate on the subject of instrumental music in worship that was conducted at Georgetown, Ohio.  Dennis Lewis of the Georgetown Church of Christ, an independent Christian Church, affirmed that the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of God is scriptural.  Paul Vaughan, of the Brown County church of Christ, denied the proposition.  The purpose of this article is not to review the entire debate (I was not able to return to hear all the speeches).  However, I would like to review some of the newer arguments made during the debate in favor of instrumental music in worship.

After several years of separation between the independent Christian Churches and New Testament church of Christ, there has been a push in recent years, primarily from leaders in the Christian Church, to lump instrumental music in with other matters of personal opinion or individual conscience and thus establish some grounds for “unity” between the two groups.  Unfortunately, some of the more “liberal-thinking” lights among us have accepted these overtures and appear willing to compromise on the issue for the sake of peace.  In the debate which I attended and in the paper One Body, several arguments of recent vintage have been made to justify this compromise, and they need to be examined in light of the Scriptures.

We are now being told that the New Testament teaches that all things which are not explicitly forbidden by the doctrine of Christ may be done by men living today without their being guilt of sin in so doing.  This is just a reworking of the old “the Bible doesn’t say not to” argument and shows a lack of understanding about the nature of authority.  It is not necessary for God explicitly to forbid everything that He does not want.  Hebrews 7:11-14 shows that whatever God does not authorize, either generically or specifically, is sinful.  He reveals what He wants us to do, and we must simply leave it at that.  To do otherwise makes human wisdom rather than God’s word our authority.

It is also being affirmed that instrumental music is all right because of the nature of worship.  Some would say that there is no specific form nor content for worship commanded in the New Testament.  Then they redefine worship to include whatever comes from man’s sincere desire to serve God, so long as it is not explicitly forbidden.  Thus, if a person’s desire to serve God expresses itself by using instrumental music in worship, that is acceptable.  But this just is not true.  When men praise God with music, whatever the circumstances, God has specified the form—singing, and the content—psalms, hymns, and spiritual song (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16).  There is a vast difference between what God has authorized as worship and what fallible human beings may want to do in their misguided attempts to serve Him.

Another argument being used to justify instrumental music in worship is that we are now under a covenant of grace, not a covenant of law.  It almost sounds as if the argument is that we can do things not authorized by God’s law, and His grace will take care of it.  Of course, denominational folks have been making this same argument against the necessity of baptism for years.  But, again, it is not so.  Grace and law are not mutually exclusive.  Of course, we are justified by grace, not by law, but this has always been the case.  When we sin against God’s law, we can receive forgiveness through His grace as we repent.  Yet, He still expects us to keep His “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25) because that is the boundary within which His grace is found.  To go beyond it is to remove ourselves from the benefits of His grace.

Surely, no Christian should be a harping hobby-rider on any one subject—be it instrumental music, baptism, institutionalism, divorce, etc.—to the exclusion of other important topics.  We must preach the whole counsel of God.  But those who do not understand the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.  Through the years we have been faced with many arguments for instrumental music in worship—“psallo” includes the instrument, instruments are only aids to singing, the Old Testament authorizes instruments, there will be instruments in heaven, etc.  We need to be aware of these as well as the more recent arguments and how to answer them from the Scriptures so that we can teach our children, ground those who are babes in Christ, keep those who are weak from falling into this error, maintain the purity of New Testament worship, and generally meet Satan head on as he seeks to conquer us on this issue.

My own family background was in the Christian Church.  My grandparents and then my parents left the Christian Church many years ago, and they taught me well why.  Like Abraham’s attitude towards that country from which he had come out, I do not seek an opportunity to return to religious error, because I desire something better—the simple truth of God’s word.  It is my fervent hope and prayer that we all shall continue to search the Scriptures daily and stand for the truth.  “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.  He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son (2 John v. 9).

—taken from With All Boldness; July, 1990; Vol. 1, No. 2; p. 26