The Evangelist: Part Three
PART THREE: AN EVEN CLOSER LOOK
1) What “gift” was given to Titus and Timothy by the “laying on of the apostles hands?”
“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery” (1 Tim 4:14, NAS).
“And for this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim 1:6, NAS).
I will have to admit that when I first read these verse, along with Titus 1:5, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (NAS), I thought about spiritual gifts such as prophecy, healing, etc. But after more careful study, I have drawn an altogether different conclusion. There is no evidence that either Timothy or Titus were given any miraculous gifts to `aid' them with their work.
Even the very nature of miraculous gifts in the early church would deny the need for either Timothy or Titus to possess these gifts. The church knew Timothy and Titus as men of God. The congregations in which they served knew them and their credentials. There was no need for any signs as were necessary before the churches had been planted.
I had wrestled with the passage in Titus 1:5, and had asked myself, “How would Titus know who to appoint as elders if he did not possess supernatural knowledge? But having realized the nature of miraculous gifts, AND having understood more clearly the manner in which Paul and his companions had set up churches in these cities, I can see how Titus would likely “appoint elders” in “every city.” After all, Titus had apparently traveled and ministered with Paul in some capacity as they went throughout the land, establishing congregations (2 Cor. 2:13; 7:13-16; 8:16-24).
C. Michael Moss writes, “After Titus and Paul had evangelized the island of Crete, Titus had been left to set things in order in the churches.” (The College Press NIV Commentary, 1, 2 Timothy & Titus, by C. Michael Moss, Published by The College Press Publishing Company. Joplin MO). This would include “appointing elders.”
Titus, having helped establish these congregations, would be aware of the spiritual men within these congregations. He would also, if he worked in the same manner as Paul, spend a reasonable amount of time in each city in doing so. This would take no “miraculous gift,” but rather the gifts of knowledge and wisdom.
A lady in Sunday School asked (not necessarily in these words), “Since these were fairly new congregations, were there men in each of these cities who would be spiritually mature enough to meet these qualifications that had been given to Timothy and Titus? A very good question.
The book of Timothy is believed to have been written around 63-66 AD, as is Titus. 2 Timothy is believed to have been written around 66-67 AD. And although The Book of Acts was written around 62 AD, Paul's first missionary journey took place around 44-48 AD, his second, 51-54 AD (Paul spent 2-3 years in Ephesus, Acts 19:8-10; 20: 31), and his third, 54-58 AD. This would allow more than sufficient time for men to have prepared themselves for leadership roles in the Ephesian church.
Paul is believed to have visited Crete sometime between his two Roman imprisonments, which would be around 62-63 AD (Perhaps this is the reason that the churches still needed to be “set in order” and “elders” were to be “appointed).” However, tradition says (and it is tradition) that Titus preached in Crete until he was 94 years old. If this is true, there being no “time table” given as to the appointing of elders, Titus would have had more than enough time to “appoint” qualified men to the eldership.
Now back to the original question, “What gift was bestowed by the `laying on of hands'?” Well, we know that the “laying on of hands” by the elders was not for the purpose of imparting miraculous gifts (as only the apostles had this ability). Therefore, the elders “set apart” Timothy for his work (evangelist) by the “laying on of hands (1 Tim 4:14, Compare with Acts 13).” The gift that the elders imparted was the gift of Timothy's ministry as an evangelist. Few argue with this conclusion.
Why should we consider we assume that Paul's “laying on of hands” was any different (2 Tim 1:6)? Could it not be possible that indeed Paul was present when Timothy was “set apart” and participated in his `commission'? In the context of our earlier discussion on the nature and purpose of miraculous gifts, I prefer the latter conclusion. But please know that I am trying to understand what the Spirit is saying about these passages!
2) What miraculous powers were necessary for Timothy and Titus to do “the work of evangelists?”
There is no (as we have discussed in the previous question) duty given by command or example to the evangelist that could not be carried out without any “special gifts or powers” except for the “special gift” of grace and the Spirit from God.
The tasks (duties) given to the evangelist include teaching, rebuking and correcting, giving warnings, instructing women and men, training . . . . . There is not one task that cannot be performed by the evangelist today. There are some who say that he is not `qualified' or `commissioned' to “set the church in order” as Titus was. This is certainly true. He cannot “”set the church in order” as Titus did, as there are evangelists “in every city” to do that work. However, he can and must “set the church in order” in the manner which has been given by Paul. That includes correcting false doctrine, rebuking `erring' elders, teaching and training men, etc. When Titus was told to “set the church in order,” there was no miraculous work that needed to be carried out in doing so. Neither is there today.
CONCLUSION: No miraculous gifts have ever been needed to perform the duties of an evangelist, nor are they needed today!
3) Was it by miraculous power that Titus was to “appoint elders in every city?”
We have already discussed the “appointing of elders” and that there is no need for any miraculous powers in order to carry out this task (See the preceding question and “OFFICERS OF THE CHURCH: THE EVANGELIST (PART ONE)” Question 7B). Titus would have needed no miraculous powers to accomplish this task. As we have already said, the very purpose and nature of “supernatural gifts” show no need for their execution to Timothy or Titus at this time.
(I again stress that I am merely attempting to understand the scriptures. If God did impart miraculous gifts to these men, then I hope to one day, through study and prayer, understand that.)
4) We know that the evangelist today does not “appoint elders in every city” (i.e. every congregation), as there is an evangelist at work in every congregation. But is he to continue to “appoint elders” in the congregation within which he serves? Why or why not?
Absolutely! There has NEVER been a retraction given by the Lord concerning this directive as given to Titus (1:5). For some, assuming that this is no longer a duty of the evangelist is no problem. For this student of the word, it would come with extreme difficulty, as I prefer to never assume what the Lord has not revealed. In fact, I will hold to that which He has revealed until God instructs me differently, and in this matter, there has been no further instruction!
The evangelist is a `spiritual leader' in the church. As we have discussed (See “THE EVANGELIST PART TWO: A CLOSER LOOK,” questions 4A and 4C). He, in the execution of his work will be aware of whom the mature and able men of the congregation may be. He has even been given a `list' here in 1st Timothy and Titus as to what kind of characteristics these men should possess. Why do we want to deviate from God's plan when He has given no other?
5) If an evangelist claims that he cannot “appoint elders” (in his own congregation) because he holds no “gift” as (he may claim) Timothy and Titus received by the laying on of the apostles hands, then does he believe that the congregation must have that “gift” since they are supposedly qualified?
This, of course is a rhetorical question. But I ask the question that I may point out the unreasonable basis upon which those who support congregational voting place their rationale.
When we gather in almost any congregation to worship on a Sunday morning, we can look around us and see that we are surrounded by a variance of church members. There are some present whom we will never find missing from the attendance. Most often these people are what we call the backbone of the church, and they are more acquainted with scripture than anyone else present.
We also see those who are generally in attendance on Sunday mornings, but not at any other time. These members are usually not very involved in study or any spiritual activities of the church. They are not well acquainted with the word.
And we see some who are in attendance on what might be a `convenience' basis. They are there if they are not too tired or have nothing else to do. Obviously they are not either acquainted or devoted to the word.
Now, do we want this congregation to decide who will be the spiritual leaders of the flock? Likely (though not always) seventy-five percent of those present are neither knowledgeable nor committed to the word of God. Yet some claim that they are more qualified than the evangelist in undertaking this great responsibility! (I decline further comment in this area as the conclusion should be obvious to the open-minded.).
6) If an evangelist will not “appoint elders” for the reason given in the preceding question, can deacons claim the same today, as they are known to have received “spiritual gifts” by the “laying on of the apostles hands?” (See Acts 6:6, 8; 8:5, 13.)
We KNOW that these men in Acts 6 were given supernatural gifts by the apostles (Read the above passages of scriptures). Why? First we know that this was very early in the establishment of the church. As a matter of fact, the church had not even been scattered yet (See Acts 8). Therefore the purpose and nature of supernatural gifts show the use of these gifts in carrying out the work of the Lord. This is evident from what we read about concerning Stephen and Philip. But their service as deacons (if indeed they were deacons) did not demand these miraculous powers, but rather these `abilities' were given as a sign that they were of Christ! (To carry this out any further would demand a lesson on spiritual gifts.).
Certainly, if these men were deacons, the deacons of today could say, “Well they had miraculous gifts.” They were able to things that we cannot do today without these gifts!” Again, if deacons today (We will be having a lesson on this subject later) were instructed to carry out any miraculous deeds, then I would have to agree. However there again is no task or work (or special ability) given to the deacon either in New Testament times or in modern times. He is to be a servant in carrying out the work of the church.
Neither work can claim the necessity of miraculous gifts. However, the evangelist has even less standing for this claim than the deacon!
7) Consider our last questions. The evangelist is usually one of the most knowledgeable men in the congregation concerning the word of God. We have already discussed one objection to congregational voting in question #5. How an evangelist who supports congregational voting answer the objection concerning his duty as described in 1 Timothy 5:22?
1 Tim 5:22, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin” (NAS).
Here Timothy is instructed not to “set apart” anyone who may not be qualified or prepared for the ministry of elder. The “laying on of hands” refers to the “setting apart” of men for the work of overseer. We often refer to this as the “ordination” (same meaning, different word). We have the example of the “setting apart” of Saul and Barnabas for their first missionary journey in Acts 13:1f. We also are informed that Timothy was “set apart” by the “laying on of the elders hands (1 Tim. 4:14, See question #1 in this lesson).”
The evangelist is instructed not to commit a man to this work “too hastily” lest he share in the responsibility (with the man chosen) of the result thereof. Paul then, is telling Timothy that this is a very important task and must be carried out responsibly. We have many unqualified men in the `position' of elder today because they received the `majority vote' of the congregation and were then “set apart” by the evangelist or elders as they saw themselves carrying out the will of the congregation.
However the evangelist is warned that he has responsibility in this area. Now can an evangelist claim that he has not been given the “special powers” necessary in order to “appoint elders” and yet submit to this instruction? No he cannot! Therefore he must use the same grounds as before to deny the binding of this passage of scripture upon himself today. But I am convinced that we have already shown that we have NO EVIDENCE that God has changed His mind!
8) Why were the qualifications for elders (and deacons) sent specifically to Timothy and Titus?
(Note our answer to question #2 in “THE EVANGELIST PART TWO: A CLOSER LOOK.”)
I am again convinced that this is yet further evidence that the evangelist is to “appoint elders.” These qualifications for a man seeking the work of elder were delivered directly to the evangelists (That doesn't nullify the fact that they were likely read to the congregation.). The evangelists were responsible for selecting and “appointing” only qualified men. The evangelist was responsible for the “rebuking” of elders who were caught in sin (1 Tim. 5:20).
Now why would Paul send a letter of instruction to an evangelist and continue to point out his responsibility concerning the eldership if he didn't mean it? Why didn't he send any of these instructions to the saints in his other epistles, if the saints (i.e. the congregations) were responsible for choosing these men?
It seems a reasonable conclusion that we have yet more evidence that the evangelist is to “appoint elders.” Note that this evidence is from scripture, not opinion.
9) What scriptural authority do we have for congregational voting on elders?
The only scriptural support that I have ever heard for congregational voting on the elders is from Acts 6 (See next question). Another reasons that have been given are, “It's just the way that we've always done it,” or “We don't know of any other way,” or “ God has never instructed us in this area, therefore we have chosen the best possible way.” Well, we won't even give heed to the latter two `reasons' but will deal with the first.
10) Some claim Acts 6 as a `model' for the selection of church officers. However this conclusion obviously comes without considering all of the facts involved. Consider the following.
A) If Acts 6 is considered to be a precedent for congregational voting, is the unanimous decision reached by this congregation also a precedent? And seeing that this was a unanimous decision, how can we conclude without again assuming, that there was a “congregational vote?
If these men were chosen by this congregation “unanimously,” then how can we assume that there was ever a vote? If the congregation was in favor of each of these men 100% (and they were), why would there have been any reason for a vote? If several of us gather together to decide whether it is okay for the church to purchase a new lawn mower, and we all agree that this is necessary, why would we need to vote upon the matter? Actually we probably wouldn't unless someone just thought it `proper' to do so. I am convinced that this is exactly what transpired in Acts 6. The congregation agreed without exception upon each of these men. Did someone interrupt and say, “Do you want to verify our decision with a vote? I seriously doubt it. Our concept of voting is something that has resulted from a democratic background. People in the church have not always (nor should they now) possessed this mind-set on matters of the faith.
B) Where are elders or the evangelist mentioned in this chapter? If those chosen were deacons or the equivalent, can we conclude (i.e. assume) that the elders and evangelist were chosen in the same manner? Are not these men to be the `spiritual leaders' of the church?
Neither the elders nor the evangelist are mentioned in Acts 6. To apply this passage to the `selection' of either work is a stretch to say the least. Furthermore, the work of a deacon is not shown to be a work of “spiritual leadership” as are the works of the elders and evangelist. To assume that the spiritual men, who are not even mentioned in this passage, are to be selected in the same manner as the “deacons,” is to assume far too much!
There is far more evidence given for the “appointing” of the elders by the evangelist than there is for congregational voting (if there be any evidence at all for the latter). Why wouldn't we want to follow the scriptures in this matter over and above opinion and tradition?
C) Again, if we conclude that Acts 6 set a precedent for the selection of elders, how can we reconcile this with Paul's supposed deviation from this plan in Titus 1:5? Why weren't the local congregations “voting” on elders?
It seems that we have for too long been following tradition in this matter. Paul's instruction to Titus was given some thirty years after the choosing of the men to wait tables in Acts 6. Now why would Paul deviate from the “plan for selecting officers” in Acts chapter 6, if indeed this was to be understood as the divine plan for this `”process?” Wouldn't that be just a little confusing for those who were present in his day?
I believe that the scriptures are clear in the revealing of the eldership; the qualifications, the duties, the appointing, and in all aspects of their ministry. Unfortunately, we all too often accept our traditional methods as scriptural, though we will find, if indeed we seek, that many times we practice these methods in error.
This is one of those traditions. Many will never change their view on this matter. And I don't want to be guilty of asking the reader to agree with the author. What I do ask is that the reader study these passages of scripture with an open mind, examine our practices in the church in light of scripture, and draw a fair and reasonable conclusion. If you do this, you will have done something that most will reject.
Randy J. McClure
May 19, 2003