Should we vote for deacons or elders?

Is it scriptural to appoint Elders and Deacons in our assemblies by a system of voting amongst the brethren and sisters, the number of votes being counted up and determining the result?

Surely such a question only needs to be asked, to be answered in the negative, for what possible basis could be found for such proceedings in the Scriptures? If there be an instance or direction for such a thing in the New Testament, we do not know it, and should value the citation of chapter and verse.

The nearest approach to such a thing that could possibly be alleged would be the words of the apostles to the multitude of the disciples in Acts 6:3, and yet even here, there is not a word about voting by the saints or even appointment by them—the word of the apostles was to the brethren: “Look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”

It is to be noted that it was a question here of the appointment only of a certain kind of ministers, namely, managers of the daily distribution of monetary help to the widows in the assembly. They are usually called “deacons,” though the word is not actually used except in the substantival form, “diakonia,” in verses 1 and 4 (“ministration,” “ministry of the Word”). In verse 2 we have the verbal form, “diakonein”—to serve—(from a verb “diökein,” to pursue a course).

These seven were chosen to distribute the gifts of the saints to the needy widows, as the givers of the gifts had a right to a little part at least in looking out suitable men, to act as their almoners. But when it is a question of spiritual “deacons” (v. 4, “ministers of the Word”), such as evangelists, pastors and teachers, who are the gifts of the Risen Christ, only He, the Giver can “look out” and “appoint” such men.

As for elders, they come under a different category. They are quite distinct from deacons, it not being a question of exercising gift, in the technical sense, but of godly care, oversight, feeding and guiding the flock. In Acts 20: Paul exhorts the elders, “Feed the flock of God, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.”

We never read of a church appointing its elders, any more than of a flock appointing its shepherds. But we do read in Acts 14:20-23, that when the Apostles Paul and Barnabas returned on their second visit to Lystra, Derbe, Iconium and Antioch, then and only then, “they ordained (or pointed out) elders in every church.” Why was this only on the second visit? were they not needed on the first? Surely, but it naturally took a little time for these men to come to the front, whom the Holy Ghost was fitting and calling to the work. The apostles, I take it, only recognised His work and endorsed it. In writing later to Timothy and Titus, the apostle gives the description of men called to the work of oversight or eldership. These chapters (x Tim. 3, and Titus i) form part of the sacred canon, and are to-day for the guidance of men, themselves leaders, who are to be on the look out for younger men, who are aspirants to eldership work, and encourage those who manifest the divine calling and qualification.

It seems clear, however, in all this that there is not the smallest precedent or direction for canvassing a church and registering the votes of the saints for certain men who are to take the place of “elders” and “deacons” of the church. Such a church will never fall “from its excellency,” it has already fallen. It has exchanged dependence on the Lord to give the needed gifts to His Church, for the carnal methods of a degenerate Christendom. May the Lord so encourage us all in the path of faith as that such devices of the flesh should not be so much as once named among us, as becometh saints!

W.H.