Monday, July 10, 2017

May Women Vote In Church Decisions? V

In this posting we will continue to present scripture that shows that congregations vote on matters and that this voting includes the female members. We have already looked at three examples that demonstrate this fact.

Example #4 - Church Sent

"Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch." (Acts 11: 22 kjv)

Who sent Barnabas? Who is designated by the pronoun "they"? Is it the elders? Is it only the brothers, the male members? Is it not rather "the church"? And, is it not the whole church, and not merely a part of it? Are the sisters not part of "the church"?

Surely this sending forth of Barnabas was an act of a local congregation and evidences that congregational government was in existence and that all the members of that congregation, both men and women, had a voice or vote in what the congregation did. In the previous posting we already noticed Acts 15: 22 - "Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas." Here in Acts 11: 22, this same mother church, with the most godly of members, including Mary the mother of our Lord, and other godly women, acted in unison. There is no hint that the sisters were forbidden to vote or to participate in congregational acts and government.

Example #5 - Ordination Involves Congregational Voting

"And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." (Acts 14: 23 kjv)

How does this verse support congregational government and women voting in church business? It is supported in the fact of ordination, in the words "they had ordained them elders in every church." 

In demonstrating this, let me begin by citing the commentary of Dr. John Gill, from his Body of Practical Divinity, in the section dealing with church officers. He wrote (emphasis mine):

3b7. The election and call of them, with their acceptance, is ordination. The essence of ordination lies in the voluntary choice and call of the people, and in the voluntary acceptance of that call by the person chosen and called; for this affair must be by mutual consent and agreement, which joins them together as pastor and people." 

Notice that "the essence of ordination" necessarily involves "the voluntary choice and call of the people," or congregation. So, the essence of ordination is the vote of the congregation, the whole church, which must include every member, including the female members.

Dr. Gill continued:

"And this is done among themselves; and public ordination, so called, is no other than a declaration of that. Election and ordination are spoken of as the same; the latter is expressed and explained by the former. It is said of Christ, that he "ordained twelve", #Mr 3:14 that is, he chose them to the office of apostleship, as he himself explains it, #Joh 6:70 see #Ac 1:2. Paul and Barnabas are said to "ordain elders in every church", #Ac 14:23 or to choose them {3}; that is, they gave orders and directions to every church, as to the choice of elders over them...ordinary officers, as elders and pastors of churches, were chosen and ordained by the votes of the people, expressed by stretching out their hands; thus it is said of the apostles, #Ac 14:23 "When they had ordained them elders in every church", ceirotonhsantev, by taking the suffrages and votes of the members of the churches, shown by the stretching out of their hands, as the word signifies {5}; and which they directed them to, and upon it declared the elders duly elected and ordained."

Notice that "ordination" denotes being "chosen and ordained by the votes of the people" and "taking the suffrages and votes of the members of the churches." Surely this involves the voting of the female members.

Dr. Gill continued:

Though there was cheirotoneō, "a stretching out of the hands"; yet there was no ceiroyesia, "imposition of hands", used at the ordination; neither of extraordinary officers, as apostles; nor of ordinary pastors or elders of churches, in the times of Christ and his apostles...The apostles are said to "ordain elders in every church", not by laying their hands upon them, but by taking the votes of the people, on the stretching out of their hands; when they declared the elders duly elected and ordained, as before observed. The apostle Paul directed Titus, #Tit 1:5 to "ordain elders in every city"; that is, in such sort and manner as he and Barnabas had done in the above instance; but gave him no orders and instructions to lay hands upon them; which he would not have omitted, had it been material, and so essential to ordination as some make it to be: and if he was to ordain elders by the laying on of his hands, then not by the hands of a presbytery, since he was a single person; and if this was to be done by him as a bishop, which some say he was, though the subscription of the epistle to him not being genuine, which asserts it, is no proof of it, it would justify ordination by a diocesan bishop.

Though I would love to divert and discuss the errors that many Baptists, including the Hardshells, have accepted in regard to being "ordained," and about what is the use and purpose of a "presbytery," I will not do so now. Perhaps I can enlarge upon this in the future. But, Dr. Gill is "spot on" in these remarks about what it means to be "ordained" as a church office holder. It does not mean one has hands laid on him by a "presbytery," oftentimes with elders not a part of the church doing the ordaining, but rather means that a church has voted that person into the office. Further, ordination being the result of a congregational vote, it must be a vote of the whole congregation, which includes the sisters.

Dr. Gill continued:

3b9c. No instance can be given of hands being laid on any ordinary minister, pastor or elder, at his ordination; nor, indeed, of hands being laid on any, upon whatsoever account, but by extraordinary persons; nor by them upon any ministers, but extraordinary ones; and even then not at and for the ordination of them. The instance in #Ac 13:1-3 is no proof of laying on of hands at the ordination of a pastor or elder of a church; Paul and Barnabas were extraordinary persons, apostolical men, and were never ordained pastors or elders to any particular church; nor is there the least hint given of any such ordination of them at that time; nor was this the first time of the separation of them to the sacred office of the ministry: they had been in it, and had exercised it long before, and in as public a manner as afterwards: and what they were now separated to was some peculiar and extraordinary work and service {14} the Holy Ghost had for them to do in foreign parts, whither they travelled; and the persons who were directed by him to separate them to it, were extraordinary ones also; and their, prayers for them, with the rite of imposition of hands, seem only to express their good wishes for a prosperous success in their work {15}: and it may be observed, that this rite was used, not "at", but "after" the separation of them to the work and service into which they were appointed, and after fasting and prayer for them: this was the last act done, just when upon their departure; for so it is said, "And when they had fasted and prayed", kai epiyentev tav ceirav autoiv, "then putting hands upon them, they sent them away", or dismissed them with this token, or sign of their good wishes for them. The apostle Paul, indeed, speaks of the hands of the presbytery being laid upon Timothy, #1Ti 4:14 but it should be observed, that Timothy was an extraordinary officer in the church, an evangelist, and was not chosen or ordained a pastor of any particular church; nor did he reside in anyone place for any length of time; the subscription of the "second" epistle to him being not to be depended upon as genuine, no more than of that to Titus {16}; and therefore he can be no instance of imposition of hands at the ordination of any ordinary, elder, or pastor of a church; and who the presbytery were who laid hands on him, be it upon what account it may, they must be extraordinary persons through whose hands an extraordinary gift was conveyed: we are sure the apostle Paul was one, since he expressly speaks of a gift which Timothy had "by the putting on of his hands"; and it can scarcely be thought that any other should join with herein but an apostolical man; very probably Silas; see #Ac 16:1,19. However, upon the whole, it appears to be an extraordinary affair transacted by extraordinary persons, on an extraordinary one, and by it an extraordinary gift was conveyed; which no man of modesty will assume to himself a power of conveying: And let it be observed, it was not an "office", but a "gift", which was conveyed this way; see #1Ti 4:14 2Ti 1:6.

The Greek word cheirotoneō, translated "ordained," according to Strong denotes:

to vote by stretching out the hand
to create or appoint by vote: one to have charge of some office or duty
to elect, create, appoint

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers makes these comments:

(23) And when they had ordained them elders.—The word for “ordained” occurs in the New Testament here and in 2 Corinthians 8:19, where it is translated “chosen,” and certainly seems to imply popular election (election by show of hands), which is, indeed, the natural meaning of the word.

Barnes' Notes on the Bible says:

And widen they had ordained - χειροτονήσαντες cheirotonēsantes. The word "ordain" we now use in an ecclesiastical sense, to denote "a setting apart to an office by the imposition of hands." But it is evident that the word here is not employed in that sense. That imposition of hands might have occurred in setting apart afterward to this office is certainly possible, but it is not implied in the word employed here, and did not take place in the transaction to which this word refers. The word occurs in only one other place in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 8:19, where it is applied to Luke, and translated, "who was also chosen of the church (that is, appointed or elected by suffrage by the churches) to travel with us, etc." The verb properly denotes "to stretch out the hand"; and as it was customary to elect to office, or to vote, by stretching out or elevating the hand, so the word simply means "to elect, appoint, or designate to any office." The word here refers simply to an "election" or "appointment" of the elders. It is said, indeed, that Paul and Barnabas did this. But probably all that is meant by it is that they presided in the assembly when the choice was made. It does not mean that they appointed them without consulting the church; but it evidently means that they appointed them in the usual way of appointing officers, by the suffrages of the people.

In the first article in this series I cited "Baptist Ecclesiology: A Faithful Application Of New Testament Principles" by Daryl C. Cornett, and now wish to cite from that same work seeing it pertains to what is meant by being "ordained" by a church. Keep in mind that Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest Particular Baptists who ever lived, was the successor of Dr. Gill, taking over the pastorship of the church Gill had previously pastored.

Wrote Cornett:

"Before 1820 it was not uncommon for some Baptist churches to utilize a plurality of eldership. These congregations viewed the elders as equal in their office but different in their duties. Some elders were charged with pastoral duties and some with administrative leadership of the church. However, even within congregations with lay elders, ultimate authority resided in the congregation corporately. Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle employed the use of elders when most Baptist churches did not. In Spurgeon’s congregation the elders were charged with the duties of examining candidates for church membership, inquiring into absentee members, looking into matters for church discipline, caring for the sick, conducting prayer meetings and catechesis classes, and overseeing evangelistic efforts. However, these elders performed their duties in the context of congregational polity and were not ordained. In fact, Spurgeon rejected the practice of ordination altogether. He believed that the manner in which ordination was commonly practiced, with the participation of a council of properly ordained pastors from various churches, detracted from congregational authority and implied a kind of apostolic succession in which authority was passed from one minister to another instead of through the congregation."

Today's Baptist churches need to get away from Presbyterianism on this issue.

In conclusion, we see further evidence how "let your women keep silence in the churches" does not intend that they have no vote in congregational voting.

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