A reader recently commented on my April post on choosing elders. They said;
In Acts 6 the chosen men were not elder but deacons. Elders were chosen by the apostles like Paul Barnabas Timothy Titus
An initial first reading of Scripture may give this impression. However, is it truly what Scripture says. The Pastoral Epistles of Timothy and Titus are the ones which go into the greatest detail about church leadership.
Paul speaks to Timothy in some depth about the qualifications of deacons and elders, telling him to appoint them in every town. He doesn’t actually say how that ‘appointing’ process took place, only that it was to take place. The commenter rightly points out that the Apostles appointed deacons in Acts 6, and one may argue that they were not elders, and that the Apostles were the ones who appointed the elders.
But Scripture doesn’t actually say that. We do know from Acts 6 that the Apostles laid hands on the 7 the congregation choose and in this we see them appointing them to their position of leadership. From this we can deduce from the actions in the early church (Acts 6) that when Paul tells Timothy to appoint both Elders and Deacons, that there is an already established pattern in how to do so.
In the same way that the Apostles in Acts 6 gave instructions about the qualifications of the 7; Paul gives the qualifications for Elders / Deacons in Timothy / Titus. We know that the Apostles did appoint Deacons in Acts 6, through the advice of the congregations. While its true we are not shown the processes that Timothy had to undergo in his role of appointing Elders and deacons – there is no reason to suggest from Scripture that the later church practice deviated from that which was practiced initially in Acts 6.
The only foreseeable issue is that perhaps Timothy is a church planter, and is planting churches from town to town. He is told to appoint elders and deacons in every town he visits. However Paul does tell him not to allow any to intimidate him because of his age, which I think points to Timothy visiting the established church, with the orders to set up better leadership structures. If he is indeed a church planter, moving quickly from town to town, it makes some pragmatic sense for him to be the one who chooses the elders and deacons, and appoint them to their position. However, this is a big if, which once again, Scripture is silent on.