Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 26, 1959
NUMBER 46, PAGE 1,12-13b

"Man-Made And God-Made Elders"

Lloyd Moyer, El Cerrito, California

An article appeared in the December 1958 issue of the American Christian Review by the above title which demonstrates that more study is needed concerning the subject. This article, though a short one, is about as full of error as any, I think, I have ever read. When the foliage of verbosity is all cleared away and we get a good look at the contention of the article, it can be summed-up about like this: A man comes into the congregation of the Lord's people and does the work of an elder, becomes an elder, in fact, whether or not he is selected and ordained or appointed to that work. He being (in his own estimation) a "God-made" elder must be recognized by the congregation. If this is NOT done, he will brand the elders who are recognized by the congregation as "man-made" elders and contend that the congregation has "two sets of elders". Actually, the article teaches the idea of self-appointed elders and that the congregation should ordain and recognize that self-appointment. Here is a part of the article.

"A church cannot meet as Christians without doing all work for one another and the community that God requires. They cannot do this without doing work the Elders and Deacons did in the Apostolic church. We cannot live as Christians in a community without looking after the spiritual interest of the church and the public, without helping the poor and the needy, without teaching the ignorant and reproving wrong-doers. When this is done the work done by Elders in the Apostolic church is done. Anyone who does this work of an elder is, in fact an Elder, whether or not he is appointed to it and given the title for it. Appointment and recognition by the church gives him confidence and assurance in the work and makes him feel it specially his duty to do the work.

"Sometimes men are selected as Elders for the church who have no fitness for it but are not selected by the church to serve as such. A church in this condition has two sets of Elders: — A man-made set and a God-made set. The manmade ones are often a curse and a hindrance to the church. It would be better not to have Elders if we will not select God-made ones. These will do the work of Elders without appointment, selection, and recognition; and when the work is done the office is filled, with or without title attached.

"Elders and Deacons are necessary workers in the church; not officers in any sense, but as workers. Then why not give them the scriptural title that goes with the work?

"Men do not add members to the organism, the church, when they do work God required of the organization of the church in the New Testament times. Men do not add Christians to the church; God does that. Men do not add elders, deacons, preachers, ministers, evangelists or teachers to the church; God does that when the work is done.

"Can any organism function without its equipment? There is God-given function in every church for elders, deacons, evangelists, preachers, ministers and teachers. When we have members to fulfill this function we have the equipment. When these functions are performed by members within the organism, the church, then we have a model of the pattern of the New Testament church exercising its autonomy."

The First error is that a church cannot "meet as Christians without doing work the Elders and Deacons did in the Apostolic church." Also, "when the work is done the office is filled." "Anyone who does this work of an elder is, in fact, an elder." This means that a church could not meet and serve the Lord without elders. It could not meet without doing the work. But when one does the work he becomes an elder. Hence, no elders; no church meeting. But the scriptures reveal that a number of churches did exist for some years before elders were ordained or appointed. Churches at Antioch of Pisidia, Lystra, Derbe and regions round about. Acts 14:23.) The church at Crete met for some time without elders. The author of the article under review would have these churches NOT doing that which God required of them. And if they did do that which God required, then they already had elders before Paul and Titus appointed elders. Instead of giving Timothy and Titus the qualifications of elders Paul should have just told them to ordain the elders they already had. They would make the blunder of ordaining "man-made" elders if they refused to ordain the existing ones. All this would be true if we accept the theory of the article under review. Churches have and do meet without elders.

The Second Error — "Anyone who does this work of an elder is, in fact an Elder, whether or not he is appointed to it . . ." I suppose that if there were a place where only women were members and they met for worship and one or more of these women should instruct, reprove, correct, guide the assembly (all these are works of an elder) they would be "in fact an elder". If not, then the contention that "anyone who does the work of an elder is, in fact an elder" is as false as it can be. Many congregations where no one is qualified to be an elder have members who do the same work that is done in other congregations by men who are elders. But this does not make them elders. The contention of the article is that the church should appoint and recognize them as elders. Not so, unless they are qualified. To do so would be making "manmade" elders. It will not do to say that these men are already elders and that the appointment or ordination is simply the congregation recognizing them as elders. To appoint or ordain means to "elect, appoint, create, Acts 14:23." Thayer page 668.)

Concerning Titus 1:5 Thayer has this to say, "to set, place or put. (a.) to set one over a thing (in charge of it), Acts 6:3. (b.) to appoint one to administer an office, Titus 1:5, (to make so and so). (Thayer, page 314.) From this we learn that one is "created" or made an elder when he is appointed. In Acts 6:3 the apostles appointed certain men over a certain work. In Titus 1:5 an evangelist was told to ordain or appoint men elders. In neither case did the men have charge of the work until the appointment. Surely the author of the article under review will not set himself up as a greater Greek scholar than Mr. Thayer.

The Third Error is that "Elders and Deacons are necessary workers in the church: NOT OFFICERS IN ANY SENSE!" (emp. mine. L.M.) If elders are not "officers in any sense" then both inspiration and Thayer are wrong. Because both affirm that elders function as officers in the church. Note, "(b.) to appoint one to administer an office, Titus 1:5" (Thayer, page 314) This is what Thayer says Paul told Titus to do when he told him to "ordain elders". I do not see how one can administer an office and not be an officer. This sounds mighty like an official to me.

We read that elders have the "rule". (Heb. 13:7,17.) Thayer lists these passages, page 276, under (b.) "to be a leader, to rule, command; to have authority over." If this does not give one official capacity, I wonder what would.

The term for pastor or shepherd; (Poimen) "Sept, a herdsman, esp. a shepherd; a. prop: Matt. 9:36 . . . . in the parable, he to whose care and control others have committed themselves, and whose precepts they follow, In. 10:11-14. (b.) metaph. the presiding officer, manager, director, of any assembly: so of Christ the Head of the church. In. 10:16; I Peter 2:25; Heb. 13:20; of the overseers of the Christian assemblies A. V. pastors), Eph. 4:11." Thayer, page 527.)

Now let us look at the word 'Episkopos". Thayer (page 243) says, "an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent; . . . . spec. the superintendent, head or overseer of any Christian church; Vulg. episcopus: Acts 20:28; Phil. 1:1; I Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:7;".

While we are at it we may as well look at the word "Presbuteros". "Acts 1423; I Tim. 5:1; 17; Titus 1:5; I Peter 5:1. "1. of age; (a.) where two persons are spoken of, the elder. (b.) univ. advanced in life, an elder, a senior . . . . 2. a term of rank or office; b among Christians, those who presided over the assemblies or churches) I Tim. 5:17,19; Tit 1:5; I Peter 5:1,5." Thayer, pages 535-536.)

Let us sum-up what we have learned thus far: (1) — One is "created" or becomes an elder when appointed or ordained providing he possesses the qualifications. (2) — Elders are those "set over" or "in charge of it," appointed to administer an office, to rule, to oversee, to have authority over, to command, to preside, manage, direct; and whose duty it is to see that things done by others is done rightly. How anyone knowing all this can say that elders are "not officers in any sense" is beyond reason. And if one does not know these things, he has no business writing on the matter.

I could take our brother's own logic (?) and prove that an elder is an officer. He says, "When one does the work of an elder he is, in fact an elder". All right, then "when an elder does the work of an officer he is, in fact an officer". If the author denies my proposition he will disprove his own contention.

The Fourth Error is a failure to distinguish between men doing that which God demands and their striving to accomplish something entirely on their own. "Men do not add members to the organism, the church" and "Men do not add elders." We all realize that men cannot add members to the church. Yet man certainly plays a part in members being added to the church. Neither can men make an elder but men certainly play a part in men becoming elders. When a person learns the truth and is willing to conform his life unto it, God has commanded his servants to baptize that person. To do this, man does not add members to the church. He simply obeys God. So it is with the person who by reason of faithfulness, purity of life, knowledge of the scriptures, age and experience, has reached the point where the congregation will follow their council and submit to their authority. God commands men to ordain or appoint them elders. (Titus 1:5.) I might suggest that Titus and Timothy had to study just like we do today; they were not inspired men. Paul told Timothy to commit to other faithful men the things that he had learned from Paul. (2 Tim. 2:2.) Timothy learned from Paul that God wanted him to ordain or appoint certain men as elders. This has been committed to other men and they have continued to practice it. Men no more add elders when they, in obedience to God command, ordain or appoint men than do men add members to the church when they, in obedience to God's command, baptize believers. God carries out his plan through human instrumentality. (2 Cor. 4-7, Titus 1:5.) God and the Holy Spirit make Christians and Elders, but in both cases God uses human instruments. Deny it, who will!

Conclusion — There may be exceptions to this but my experience with those who hold the theory advanced in the article under review has been that they despise authority. So long as the elders do things the way they think it should be done, all is well. But let the elders do something contrary to the way they think it should be done and immediately there is trouble or they find it convenient to go to another congregation. Usually the accusation is made that the elders are "man-made" and not "God-made". And if the congregation does something contrary to their opinion, they will brand it as "sectarian" and engaging in modern innovations.

God-made elders are those godly men in a congregation who have proved themselves to be qualified and because of their godly lives the congregation accepts them as overseers of the congregation; they are appointed (set apart to the work) as elders, bishops, or pastors. They are then officially elders and not before. They watch for the souls, guide, lead, train, teach, exhort, reprove rebuke, correct, set examples, rule, oversee, love and care for those in their charge. Anyone who assumes the office of a bishop, the work of an elder, without being accepted (appointed) according to God's order is a usurper of authority. He is self-appointed. He is self-willed and that disqualifies him as an elder. May God help us all to be humble enough to accept and submit to God's plan.