CHAPTER 8 - GOVERNMENT IN THE CHURCH OF GOD
Following the death of Herbert W. Armstrong, Worldwide Church of God made massive changes in doctrine that scattered the ministry and members of the Church. The Church of God remains scattered and divided as I write this today (2011).
God allowed this to happen, probably to test the ministers and members, among other reasons. I believe Christ led Mr. Armstrong to appoint his successor to accomplish God's purpose to test the Church ministry and members and to teach us lessons. And we have been tested and continue to be tested. We had become Laodicean, probably while Mr. Armstrong was still alive, and God allowed the Church to be scattered and our power to preach the gospel weakened (Revelation 3:16, 19).
The scattering into many fellowships has allowed brethren to choose among many options in doctrine and policy. This has allowed God to test us to see where we stand on many issues. Different groups, while sharing a certain doctrinal base (the Sabbath, the holy days, the nature of God and His plan and purpose, etc.), differ in a number of doctrines and policies. Those differences often divide the Church and motivate some groups to compete with each other instead of cooperate. Examples of questions in doctrine and policy that divide include: can Mr. Armstrong's doctrines be changed? What priority should be assigned to preaching the gospel to the public? I have covered those subjects earlier in this book.
Another issue that divides the Churches of God is the form or structure of Church governance.
This chapter explains the subject of Church of God governance. Specifically, I will explore what the Bible teaches about the structure of governance in the Church of God, what some might call the form of governance. The structure has to do with how leaders of the Church are chosen.
There are two basic forms, though there are varieties within each form. One is top-down governance, what some might call one-man rule. In this form, there is one man who is the leader of a Church of God organization, and he has total authority, subject only to Christ, over decisions made involving the work of that organization. The only exception is that he does not have the authority to tell someone to sin - in such a case, a member must obey God rather than man. That one leader is accountable only to Christ. You can have one or more organizations with this form, and if there is more than one, the leader of each organization only has authority over the work of that particular organization, not the whole Church of God. All such leaders report to Christ like department heads reporting to the president of a company, and they should cooperate with each other for the common good of God's work.
This is the form of governance that existed in Worldwide Church of God when Mr. Armstrong was alive, and this is the form practiced by Living Church of God (Roderick Meredith) and Church of God an International Community (David Hulme), just to mention a few examples.
The other form is governance by voting, what I call ballot-box governance. In this form, the leaders are chosen by ballot of those under the authority of the leaders, and the leaders are accountable to those who vote. They are also accountable to Christ, as we all are whether we are part of the governance structure of an organization or not, but leaders elected tend to feel accountable to those who voted for them and to those whose future votes they need to remain in office. United Church of God is an example of this type of governance. Periodically, the entire ministry is able to vote to elect members of a ruling council, and that council governs the organization. Council members must be reelected when their terms expire or they will be replaced.
There are those in both systems that strongly feel that their way is best, and this difference of opinion has been an issue that has divided the Church of God.This chapter will explore what the Bible teaches about government in the Church with a focus on the controversy between the two forms of governance I have described.
The Heart of the Issue
What is the real crux of the governance issue? That is what I have been asking myself as I have debated this issue with Church of God members in the Preaching the Gospel blog (see link at top of ptgbook.org website or go to http://ptgbook.blogspot.com). What is the heart and core of the reason why governing by balloting in the Church is wrong?
One aspect I have been maintaining is that we are to do more than just what God commands. We are also to do what God wills. That is part of loving Him with all our being. And we learn what God's will is by the examples in the Bible, not just His commandments. And the examples universally show that in God's way authority always flows from the top down, never from the bottom up. God shows us many examples of his leaders chosen by appointment from above but never election from the bottom up in the Bible. By this we can know God's will.
But there is more to it.
Here is what I see as the heart of the issue.
It is clear in the Bible, and people on both sides of the voting issue will agree, that there are positions of authority in the Church. There are apostles, evangelists, pastors, local elders, deacons, etc. (1 Corinthians 12:28). Every office has its authority, some with greater authority and some with lesser authority, and there is organization. Even in Churches of God that use balloting in their governance, such as United Church of God and Church of God, a Worldwide Association, there are offices and positions such as president, board members, council members, operation managers, pastors, etc. Each of these offices represents a position of authority, and each position of authority has its scope and limitation. Operation managers are expected to follow the direction of the president for example. And in all these things, everyone must obey God before man, so for example a command to tell a lie should not be obeyed, nor should any command or instruction to break God's commandments. Everyone agrees with these things, at least outwardly even though not every person lives up to that standard in actual practice, and God is the judge.
The issue of controversy is, who decides who will hold these positions of authority and how is it decided?
To me, the heart of the issue is this. If authority is from the top down, no voting, then Christ appoints those in the highest offices. If authority is from the bottom up, that is, leaders are elected by the voting of men under the leaders, then men make the decision on who the leaders will be. So do we want God to choose our leaders, or do we want men to choose our leaders?
Should a leader be chosen by those who will be under the leader and will have to obey that leader, or should a leader be chosen by someone who will have authority over that leader?
Why should we prefer to choose our leaders rather than have God choose our leaders? Do we trust ourselves more than we trust God? Who is better qualified to make the decisions, God or us? If we trust God, we must acknowledge that He knows best and is best qualified to make the decisions, not ourselves and not the ministry.
In any authority structure, those who are the most competent should hold the highest positions. It does not make sense for those less qualified to rule over those more qualified. Thus, God the Father, who is greater than Jesus Christ (John 14:28), rules over Jesus Christ, not the other way around. Christ who is greater in wisdom and righteousness than any man rules over His apostles, not the other way around. In the parable of the talents, those who had greater ability were given more authority to start (Matthew 25:14-15), and in the parable of the pounds or minas those who demonstrated more ability and effort were given more in the end (Luke 19:15-19). It is this way in any organization. Corporations try to promote those who are the most competent to the highest positions. Those who have greater wisdom, faithfulness, and ability in making decisions are given greater authority, those who have less are given smaller authority.
Why should those who are less competent make decisions rather than those who are most competent? Shouldn't the wisest and most competent decision makers choose leaders? When you have balloting, it is those who are the least competent who try to choose someone more competent than they are to govern them. But they lack the wisdom to know who is best. It doesn't work. When you have top down government, those at the top are the most competent and are qualified to choose their immediate subordinates. In the Church, the highest authority is God the Father. He has already chosen Christ as head of the Church. Christ chooses those who will be in positions under him. Not the pastors and ministers by voting. The ministers may vote who they want, but they cannot read the minds and hearts of the people they vote for or against, nor do they necessarily have the wisdom to choose even if they could read minds. The fact that in so many cases there is great division in voting results proves this point. But Christ has all wisdom and righteousness to choose the best person to hold office to accomplish his purpose in the Church of God. Not the majority of the ministers. The majority can be wrong (Matthew 7:13-14).
Some may say that Christ guides the voting. But on what basis can anyone make that claim? Is there any precedence for that in the Bible? Is there any account that shows God or Christ guiding the voting of men to elect the best people in an institution governed by voting, either in Israel or the Church? Is there any promise from God to support and guide institutionalized voting in a Church of God fellowship? And if not, then how can anyone be sure Christ guides the voting in UCG, or COGWA, or any other Church of God organization?
What does the Bible teach about using the voting of men to choose leaders in the Church of God? Is it God's will that organizations be set up that determine who the top leaders will be by the choice of the majority of those who will be under the authority of those leaders? Does Christ promise to guide the voting to put HIS choice for leader into office? And if we are to look to Christ to know whom HE has chosen, how can we know? By the voting of men?Let's look at the Bible teaching on this issue. And a primary question must be, is there any indication by statement or by example that Christ will guide the voting of men to indicate HIS CHOICE, not man's, in a Church of God fellowship governed by a system of institutionalized voting to choose the top leaders in that fellowship.
Two Principles of Bible Study
A principle of Bible study that is particularly important with this issue is the principle that we learn from the examples in the Bible, not just explicit commands and instructions. Another important principle is that we must seek to know and do God's WILL, not just what He commands.
Christ is our example. He did what His Father commanded Him (John 15:10). But He did more. He did God's WILL (John 4:34, Luke 22:42) and taught his disciples to do likewise (Matthew 6:10, 7:21). Doing God's will is part of obeying the first and greatest commandment, to love God with all our being, because we express that love by doing those things which please Him. Doing God's will is also a prerequisite for receiving answers to our prayers. Notice in 1 John 3:22 that we receive what we ask because we keep God's commandments AND because we do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Before we can do God's will we must learn what that will is, and we do that not only by studying God's direct commandments and instructions in the Bible but also by learning from the examples God has given us (John 13:15, 1 Corinthians 10:6). We are to live by EVERY word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4), and that includes the examples of how God has made His choices for leaders known. ALL scripture is profitable for correction and instruction in doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and much of scripture is history full of examples God wants us to learn from.
If we want our own will more than God's, we will selfishly try to do the minimum we must do in order to obtain eternal life. We will do only what God explicitly commands us to do, no more. We will not seek to understand and do His pleasure beyond the letter of the law. But that was not the way Jesus Christ, our example, lived. He LOVED the Father. He wanted to please God in everything. So He sought to know God's will and to do it.
We are instructed to live by EVERY word of God. This certainly includes all the history in the Bible that shows how God has acted and how God thinks. From this, with honest study combined with a fervent desire to learn how God thinks, to learn what pleases Him, to learn His will in other words, and to do it, we can understand the principles of government God wants us to follow in the Church of God. We can learn God's will regarding the structure of governance. We can learn it from the examples of the governance God has set up in the Bible both for Israel and for the Church of God.Do the examples in the Bible show that it is God's will and God's way that leaders be chosen by appointment from above or by election from below? Is a leader to be chosen by the one over the leader in authority or by those under the leader's authority? Or, does God show by instruction or example that He will make his choice known through the voting of men? Those are very basic and very important questions to answer if we are to understand God's will concerning the process for selecting leaders.
Before Moses, God primarily dealt with His servants as individuals, not leaders of groups, except that these men, like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, led their own families. But starting with Moses and Israel in the wilderness, we can see some examples of how leaders over Israel were chosen.
You can read the account of the appointment of Moses in Exodus chapters 3 and 4.
Israel grew into a multitude in Egypt, but they were slaves oppressed by the Egyptians. They cried out to God for deliverance, and God heard their prayers and moved to save them from their slavery (Exodus 2:23-25). God appointed Moses as a leader over Israel. Moses was never elected by the Israelites, nor did God inspire the Israelites to vote for Moses. This is obvious, but it needs to be mentioned.
God chose Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. But for Moses to be able to do this job, it was necessary for God to make known both to Moses and to Israel that Moses was God's chosen leader. God did this first by speaking to Moses directly from the burning bush. God TOLD Moses he was to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:4-10). God also appointed Aaron to help Moses as a spokesman (Exodus 4:10-16). Then Moses and Aaron gathered Israel and told them, in effect, that God had appointed Moses as leader to lead the people out of Egypt (Exodus 4:29-31).
God also backed up Moses and Aaron and gave them credibility with the people by several miraculous signs to prove that God had indeed appointed Moses and Aaron, and that this was not something Moses was making up (Exodus 4:1-9, 30-31).
In this account, we see the first example of what will be a reoccurring pattern in the Bible. God appoints the leaders, and God makes known his appointments by one or a combination of two methods: announcement from a higher authority, and tangible fruits of some kind, in this case miraculous signs. In the appointment of Moses, God was the higher authority that announced to Moses that he would be leader. God also showed Moses miraculous signs that it was really God speaking to Him: the burning bush, the rod that became a serpent, and his hand becoming leprous when he put it in his bosom. The appointment of Aaron was made known to Moses directly by announcement from God. But God did not speak to Aaron directly about his job, rather God spoke to Aaron and told him to meet Moses and it was Moses, a higher authority over Aaron, who announced to Aaron what Aaron's job would be. Moses also did the signs in front of Aaron to confirm the announcement (Exodus 4:27-28).
Then Moses and Aaron made the announcement to the people. God did not speak to the people directly about the positions Moses and Aaron were appointed to. But the announcement to the people came from higher authority, in this case the authority of Moses and Aaron which God had given them. It was also shown by the fruits of miraculous signs with which God backed up Moses and Aaron so the people could know this was really from God (Exodus 4:30-31).
We will see this pattern often in the Bible. God makes known his choices either by announcement from one already in authority, or by fruits or miracles of some kind, or both. With Moses it was both.Later in the wilderness, Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and 250 leaders in Israel challenged Moses' authority. So God killed them (Numbers 16:1-35). After that, the people still complained against Moses and Aaron, so God did a miraculous sign. The leader of each tribe was to write his name on a rod, and Aaron's name was on the rod representing the tribe of Levi. God caused Aaron's rod to grow flowers and almonds, but not the rods of the other leaders. God showed again whom He had appointed by backing them up with miraculous power and signs, a kind of fruit (Numbers 17:1-11). In fact, in this case, the "fruit" was literal! Aaron's rod produced almonds! Perhaps Christ had this example in mind when He said, "by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20, KJV).
Exodus 18 - Leaders in Israel under Moses
Exodus chapter 18 describes how a large hierarchical organization was set up in Israel and how the leadership authority God gave to Moses branched out to other leaders under Moses.
Moses was judging and ruling Israel according to God's laws, but he was facing the workload alone with no one to help him (Exodus 18:13-18). Jethro suggested to Moses that he appoint leaders in Israel to help judge the people. There would be rulers of groups of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. They would handle the easy cases but the hard cases they would bring to Moses. Moses would handle the big decisions, but the smaller decisions would be delegated, in other words. And Moses would be the one to SELECT the leaders according to their qualifications, men who were capable, God fearing, and honest (Exodus 18:19-23).
Did God approve this plan? Yes. Notice verse 23: "If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace". Jethro qualified his advice, if "God so commands you". Verse 24 says that Moses heeded Jethro's advice in all that he said, and that would include the qualification that God would approve it. Apparently, after hearing Jethro's advice, Moses went to God and asked, do You want me to do this, and God said yes. Then notice especially in Exodus 18:25 that it was Moses who CHOSE the leaders and that it was Moses who MADE them rulers over the people. The decision as to who was selected was Moses' decision and the authority came from Moses. Ultimately the authority came from God, but it flowed through Moses, from the top down.Now, did Moses know all these people personally? The fact that the smallest division was rulers of tens indicates that there were many thousands of men who were made rulers. Moses was away from Israel and Egypt for 40 years before God called him from the burning bush (Exodus 2:11-15, Acts 7:23-30, Exodus 7:7). He could not possibly have known the qualifications of these men. But Aaron must have known some of the men, and Moses and Aaron worked with some of the top leaders during the events that had just transpired, and these men know other men, and so on. Moses probably consulted with Aaron and chose those of the top men who would report directly to him, and those leaders who also knew men in their tribes and families would recommend the men who directly reported to them, and so on down the line. These men could make their recommendations to Moses who had the authority to approve or overrule those recommendations. There is not a hint of voting or balloting. But if there was any voting or balloting, it would really be a form of "polling", not the kind of voting that exists in government today.
The Difference Between Voting and Polling
What is the difference between "polling" and "voting"? Voting carries authority. Polling does not. A poll can give a leader information about how other people see an issue before he makes a decision. Voting on the other hand IS the decision. It is binding, while polling is not. "Balloting" is just another word for voting. Those in favor of ballot-box governance in the Church of God often try to justify it by saying they are following the principle of getting advice and counsel (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). No, they are not. Voting is not counsel.
There are two differences between voting to make a binding decision and getting advice or counsel. One, getting advice does not carry authority. The decision maker can ignore the advice if he knows it is wrong, and sometimes that is what a wise leader must do, as David did when some of his men gave him bad advice (1 Samuel 23:1-6, 24:1-7, 26:7-11).
The other difference is that counsel usually is not just a recommendation for a particular decision, but can include the reasons for the recommendation. There is give-and-take discussion involved. That does not exist in voting, though it may or may not precede the voting. The actual vote cast does not include the reasons for it so there is no opportunity to examine the reasons to see if they are sound.For a leader in the Church of God to measure the collective opinion of those under his authority by taking a poll is not wrong, but neither does it carry authority. Polling is not necessarily the best way to get counsel, but it can be quick and convenient for making minor decisions. A pastor might ask for a show of hands in his congregation to see if the members prefer morning or afternoon Sabbath services. But the decision is his.
Let's continue with the example of Joshua. Remember, we are applying the principle of learning from every word of God, including from the examples God has given us in the Bible, whether it is God's will that the Church of God choose their own leaders by voting or submit to top-down government with God choosing the leader, and if God is to choose the leader, how does God make His choice known.
When the time came near for Moses to die, it became necessary for a new leader to lead Israel into the promised land. Who chose the leader and how was the choice made known?
After God told Moses to go up Mount Abarim to see the land God promised Israel and then die, Moses asked God to appoint a new leader over the people (Numbers 27:12-17). God then announced to Moses that Joshua was His choice and commanded Moses to inaugurate him in front of the people, and he did so (Numbers 27:18-23). See also Deuteronomy 1:37-38, 3:26-28, 31:1-3, 14-15, 34:9, Joshua 1:1-2.
But that was not all.
God did not just leave it to the announcement from Moses to show the people that Joshua was God's choice for leader. God began to back Joshua up with power (Joshua 1:5). God performed a miraculous sign by parting the waters of the Jordan river for Joshua as He had parted the waters of the Red Sea for Moses. God did this so that the people would know that as God was with Moses, so He was also with Joshua.
The pattern is the same with Joshua as with Moses. Appointment is from above. God chooses who will report directly to Him in the organization. God then makes the decision known by announcement, by fruits, or by both. God chose Joshua, not man. God had Moses make the announcement. Then God showed by the fruits that He was backing up Joshua with power to do the job He had given him.
Joshua was not elected by the people.
But he could have been. God could have had Joshua elected by the people, if He wanted to, but He didn't. God inspired these examples to be written for our learning (1 Corinthians 10:6). Some of these events may have occurred as they did so that they would be recorded for our learning. God, who knows the end from the beginning, must have known that Church governance would be a controversy in our day. If God wanted to show His approval of voting as a structure of governance in the Church, he could have instructed Moses to hold an election. That would be a perfect way to show us that voting has His approval. Not only that, but God could have used the opportunity to give many instructions about voting so that we would know how to set up such a system properly in the Church of God. And if God was determined to appoint Joshua but wanted to use voting to make His will known, God could have inspired and moved all the people to elect Joshua in the balloting. That would have been easy because Joshua was well-known as Moses assistant and it was known that he was faithful to God in the matter of the spies sent into the land of Canaan (Numbers 14:6-9). At the time, the people wanted to stone Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 14:10), but that generation had died out, and the people alive at the time Moses died only knew Joshua as a faithful leader.
But it was not God's objective to teach His people a system of voting.God's objective is to teach us at every opportunity the way of life we will practice in the Kingdom of God, and God is teaching us to submit to authority from above, not to seek our own will by selecting our own leaders. It is Satan who believes in government from the bottom up because he does not want to submit to God's authority from the top down.
In the selection of Samuel as prophet and judge, we see an example of God showing His choice by the fruits but not by an announcement by a higher authority.
Samuel was not of the descendents of Aaron, nor even of the tribe of Levi. He was of the tribe of Ephraim (1 Samuel 1:1-2, 20). But it was God's intent to make him a prophet and judge in Israel.
His mother Hannah was barren, but she prayed for a son and vowed that she would give him to God (1 Samuel 1:9-11, 2:11). God answered her prayer and she kept her vow, giving him to the high priest Eli who then raised him (1 Samuel 1:19-28).
Samuel was to be God's prophet. But how did God make known His choice? These are the examples we are looking for to determine if it is God's way to make His choices known through the voting of men.
In the cases of Aaron and Joshua, the announcement was made to the people by a higher authority, Moses, then backed up with the fruit of power and signs. But in the case of Samuel, there was no announcement. The highest authority in Israel at that time was Eli the high priest, but there is no record that God spoke to Eli directly announcing that Samuel was to be prophet so that Eli could in turn announce God's choice to the people. Instead, God showed by the fruits that Samuel was prophet. God began to give Samuel prophetic messages to give to Israel and backed up those messages until all Israel know that Samuel was God's prophet (1 Samuel 3:1-21).So the pattern remained the same. God chose the leader, not the people through balloting. And God made His choice known through announcement, or fruits, or both, but not by the voting of men.
Israel Asks for a King
The next important event was the establishment of a monarchy in Israel.
Samuel judged Israel and appointed his sons as judges in Israel, but they, like Eli's sons, were not faithful to God and his ways. They were dishonest, accepted bribes, and perverted justice. Here is a case where appointments to leadership positions were made by Samuel, but the men holding those positions were unfaithful to their responsibilities (1 Samuel 8:1-3). There is a lesson here, which I will come to in a moment.
The people knew that Samuel's sons were dishonest, and they asked Samuel to make a king for them so they could be like other nations and their king could lead them in battle (1 Samuel 8:4).
Samuel didn't like their idea, but God told him that the people were not rejecting Samuel by making their request, they were rejecting God as their king, and God told Samuel to make a king for them but to warn them about the negative consequences of having a human king instead of having God as their direct king (1 Samuel 8:6-9).
Now here is the lesson I mentioned.
One could look at Samuel's appointment of his sons as a mistake because they were bad judges, and all the people knew that they were bad judges. They did not want that to continue and they did not want one of them to become judge of the nation after Samuel died. So they wanted a king. God certainly knew that Samuel's sons were bad judges, but from God's point of view, that did not justify Israel asking for a king. The way God looked at it, the people were rejecting Him. They knew Samuel was God's prophet and that God put Samuel in his position of authority. The fruits of Samuel's life and work as a prophet proved that. But they saw that things were not going well with the top-down appointments Samuel had made, so they wanted a change in the system.
Does any of this sound familiar when you think about the history of God's Church in modern times?
God showed by the fruits that Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was His servant. God backed up Mr. Armstrong with power and effectiveness in doing God's work of restoring lost doctrines, preaching the gospel to the world, and building the Church. Mr. Armstrong before he died named Joseph Tkach as his successor as pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God. But Mr. Tkach did not continue the work that Mr. Armstrong had done. He turned away from the doctrines that the Church of God believed from the Bible. The ministers who remained faithful to those doctrines did not like that. They rejected the doctrinal errors Mr. Tkach made, and they had to leave Worldwide and organize over again.
Then, many of them rejected not only the wrong doctrines but the whole system and form of governance that had put Mr. Tkach into power in the first place. Just as Israel did not agree with Samuel's appointments of his sons as judges, many ministers did not agree with Mr. Armstrong's appointment of Mr. Tkach as pastor general of Worldwide. They could not see that God had a purpose in it. So when they reorganized, they changed the whole system. They rejected the pattern of top-down governance taught in the whole Bible and replaced it with ballot-box governance.
There are many parallels between the two events. Like Samuel, Mr. Armstrong was known in the Church to be God's servant by his fruits. Like Samuel, he had authority from God to make appointments. Like Samuel, he appointed someone who did not do a good job, and God's people knew it. Like the people in Samuel's day, some of them wanted a new system to be like the world. They wanted a system of "checks and balances" as exists in many democracies of this world, so they set up a system of balloting to govern the Church. And like the people in Samuel's day, they were not rejecting the one who made the appointment (Mr. Armstrong) - they were rejecting God as their ruler. "... they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them" (1 Samuel 8:7).
But even though it was wrong for Israel to ask for a king, God gave them their request. God is teaching the human race lessons, and sometimes if we want wrong things God gives us what we want to teach us by hard experience that they are wrong. God had anticipated that Israel would want a king and made provision even in the days of Moses by giving instructions for the behavior of a king. Notice that God told Israel that if they make a king they are to make the one God chooses king over them (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). It was not to be Israel's choice! The choice was God's. It was only a matter of knowing God's will to discern that choice. Also, you will not find a list of qualifications in God's instructions, except that he is not to be a foreigner. That is because it was supposed to be God's choice, not the people's choice. It was not up to the people to judge who was qualified and who was not. That is the exact opposite of a system of voting where the people must try to figure out who is the most qualified candidate so they can vote for him.
Notice how Samuel followed God's instructions regarding the making of a king.
First he warned Israel, but Israel still wanted a king (1 Samuel 8:10-22). God chose Saul to be king and arranged events and circumstances so that Saul would come to Samuel, then He told Samuel that Saul was the one (1 Samuel 9:1-17). Later Samuel told Saul he was to be king and he anointed him with oil, but he did this in private, not in front of Israel. Samuel predicted several signs to show Saul that God had chosen him to be king, and those signs came to pass. So Samuel and Saul knew Saul would be king, but Israel did not yet know (1 Samuel 9:25-27, 1 Samuel 10:1-13).
Then Samuel gathered the people, and after reminding them that they were rejecting God by choosing to have a king, he apparently used the casting of lots to show the people whom God had chosen (1 Samuel 10:17-24). Later, Samuel again reminded Israel that they had sinned against God by asking for a king, and God gave Samuel a sign in front the people to back his words up (1 Samuel 12:16-18).
Notice that even though Israel rejected God in asking for a king, God still did not leave the choice of king up to them. He could have done so. He could have instructed Samuel to have the people vote to elect their king. But God is not in the business of teaching his people Satan's way of government from the bottom up. God made the choice for them.
There is a right and a wrong way to do things. God did not abandon Israel because they asked for a king. He gave them what they wanted. But it was still wrong for them to choose to have a king instead of letting God be their only king. God let them make that choice and through Samuel promised to continue to bless Israel if they and their king obeyed His commandments (1 Samuel 12:13-15).
Likewise, I do not say that God has abandoned any Church of God fellowship that chooses to reject God's top-down leadership of the Church in favor of choosing their own leaders through balloting. But it is still a wrong form of governance according to the examples and principles taught in the Bible.
Notice again that God did not have Saul elected into office by the people, though God certainly could have done that. He did not allow the people to choose their own king, nor did God make His choice known by the voting of the people. Instead, God decided who the king would be and told Samuel and Samuel told Saul. Then Samuel cast lots apparently to show the people the choice was from God.This is an important principle for God's Church today. We are to submit to leaders whom GOD chooses. WE ARE NOT TO CHOOSE OUR OWN LEADERS (Deuteronomy 17:14-15). The Bible gives us a clear pattern for knowing whom God has chosen. That pattern is announcement from one having the authority to make the announcement, by fruits, or by both announcement and fruits.
In a short time Saul proved unfaithful to God in two ways: he offered a sacrifice which was only lawful for the priest to do (1 Samuel 13:5-14), and he failed to fully obey God's command to totally destroy Amalek (1 Samuel 15:1-3, 7-31). He thought he was obedient because he did attack Amalek, but he spared the livestock and the king of Amalek, contrary to God's command. Notice this is another case where the person God had chosen went wrong. God does not always choose faithful men to hold positions, but God always chooses the men who will best work out His will to do His work and teach us the lessons we need to learn in the long run. Why did God choose Saul? If you look at the events that followed, it seems apparent that many valuable lessons were written for our learning from the events in David's life when he was fleeing from Saul, lessons that required that the first king be unfaithful to God.
Likewise, I believe that the appointment of Mr. Tkach to be pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God was NOT a mistake on God's part. Mr. Tkach was God's choice, and God inspired Mr. Armstrong to announce that choice, but God had a good reason for putting into office a man who would make doctrinal errors and reverse all the important doctrines Mr. Armstrong had taught. It was time for God to scatter Church of God to test us and to chastise us for being lukewarm as He said He would do in Revelation 3:15-19.
God determined to replace Saul as king with David, a man after God's heart (1 Samuel 13:13-14).
It was God who chose David to be king after Saul, not the people. David was not elected to office through the ballot-box. Nor did God use the voting of the people to make His choice known to Samuel and to the nation.
Instead, God sent Samuel on a secret mission to Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-3). God had told Samuel that He would tell Samuel which of Jesse's sons God had chosen to be king. Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel was sure that Eliab was the one (1 Samuel 16:4-6). But there is a lesson here. Only God can look on the heart and know who was qualified. Samuel could not (1 Samuel 16:7).
Samuel was a righteous man. He was God's prophet. He must have had God's Spirit because he is listed among the faithful in Hebrews along with Abraham, Moses, and David (Hebrews 11:32-40). Yet he could not discern who was the one who was a man after God's own heart. Why? Because though Samuel was a righteous man (Jeremiah 15:1), he could neither read minds nor did he have God's wisdom. God gives a principle in the second half of 1 Samuel 16:7: "For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart". As Mr. Armstrong pointed out, man receives information through the five senses. We can only perceive outward appearance. We can hear what a man says and see what He does. Over time we can perceive the fruits, but we cannot immediately read minds as God can. Many support ballot-box governance because they think that the ministers, having God's Spirit, will have the wisdom to know which man can work out God's purpose for the Church best if made leader. But Samuel had God's Spirit, and he would have voted for Eliab!
I mentioned Mr. Armstrong's naming of Mr. Tkach as his successor. He made the correct choice, because it was God's will to scatter the Church, but Mr. Armstrong didn't know that. He made the right decision but for the wrong reason. He thought Mr. Tkach would be faithful to teach the same doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught. He was wrong. With all the wisdom and power he had been given by God to do the work of restoring doctrine, preaching the gospel to the world, and building the Church of God, he could not discern Mr. Tkach's mind and heart to know that Mr. Tkach was NOT well grounded in the doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught.
Now, if Mr. Armstrong could be wrong about that, what chance is there that the majority of a hundred voting ministers, or five hundred, many of whom may be unconverted tares, would know better than God who would be the best leader?
When David the youngest of Jesse's sons passed before Samuel, God told Samuel that David was the one to be king and Samuel anointed him (1 Samuel 16:11-13). But though David was anointed as king, he had yet to take that office. Saul was still king. So now David had the rank of king in God's eyes and Samuel's eyes, but he did not yet have the office.
God had told Samuel David was to be king, and Samuel anointed David in the presence of his family. But now God was to show the nation by the fruits that David was to be king. God did this through a remarkable series of events and circumstances that not only showed by fruits that God had chosen David but also put David through a series of experiences that both tested him and prepared him for being king.
First, God arranged for Saul to send for David to play music to help lift Saul out of his bouts of depression brought on by a distressing spirit (1 Samuel 16:14-23). This brought David into contact with Saul and the headquarters of the kingdom. Then God gave David victory over Goliath in battle. This brought him to the attention of Saul and the nation as a mighty warrior (1 Samuel 17:1-57). Saul made him an officer in the army, and God gave David wisdom in all his dealings, and people began to notice David's successes and wisdom (1 Samuel 18:5-7, 13-16, 30). But this only made Saul jealous and eventually he sought to kill David because he feared him, and David had to flee from Saul. David became a leader of a small band of men, about 400 at first, but it grew to 600 later (1 Samuel 18:8, 12, 28-29, 19:1, 11-18, 20:30-33, 22:1-2, 23:13).
During this time David had at least two opportunities to kill Saul, but he showed respect towards God's government by refusing to strike God's anointed king. He determined that he would wait for God to deal with Saul but he would not take the matter in his own hands (1 Samuel 24:1-22, 26:1-25). David's actions were recorded in the Bible as a lesson for us today and an example for us to follow. Though Saul was an unrighteous king, David respected the office and waited for God to act.
Eventually Saul died in battle and the house of Judah made David king, and later the whole house of Israel recognized David as King (2 Samuel 2:1-7, 11, 3:1-2, 2 Samuel 5:1-5). Part of the reason Israel accepted David as king after Saul was that it was David who led them in battle, and they could see from the fruits that he was successful, but also it was known to the people of Israel that God had said that David would be king (2 Samuel 5:2, 2 Samuel 3:17-18, 1 Samuel 25:30-31).
Who chose David to be king over Israel, and how was he chosen? God chose him and appointed him to be king. How did the people of Israel know that God had appointed him to be king? They knew two ways. They knew that God had said that David would be king. Between the time that Samuel anointed David in front of his family and the time of Saul's death, and later when David was to become king of all Israel, it had become common knowledge as the statements by Abigail and Abner indicate. They also knew by the fruits that God was with David and had blessed him with wisdom and success in his endeavors from the time David killed Goliath through all of David's battles with the Philistines.So the pattern is the same. God appointed the leader and made His choice known by announcement (from Samuel when Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers) and/or by fruits (David's wisdom and success in all his efforts).
God told David through the prophet Nathan that God would set up one of David's sons to be king after him. We see here the beginning of a succession of a line of kings, the house of David. David had many sons including his firstborn son Amnon (2 Samuel 3:2-5, 1 Chronicles 3:1-9). It is apparent from this list and from the sequence of events that there were several sons who were older than Solomon and had "seniority" you could say. There were at least six born in Hebron older than Solomon including Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah, and there were probably at least three more born in Jerusalem older than Solomon if they are listed in order of birth.
So which of David's sons was to be king, and who decided? Who made that judgment?
There was no election. The decision would not be based on who was most popular with the people.
In time, Absalom killed David's firstborn son Amnon because of a grudge he had against him (2 Samuel 13:23). Absalom fled into exile, but later was reconciled to his father David and the nation (2 Samuel 13:34-39, 2 Samuel 14:21-33). Then Absalom plotted a revolution to seize the throne for himself by force. He knew one of David's sons would be king after him, and he wanted to be the one. He started first with a public relations campaign to get most of the nation on his side (2 Samuel 15:1-6). According to God's word, he succeeded. Verse 6 says that he, "stole the hearts of the men of Israel".
If there were national elections to choose one of David's sons to be king, Absalom would have won. He was the most popular of David's sons.
Absalom engineered a conspiracy to make himself king (2 Samuel 15:10-12). David and his loyal supporters had to flee Jerusalem to save their lives (2 Samuel 15:13-14). There ensued a civil war, and Absalom led his army to attack David and his forces. But Absalom lost that war and was killed (2 Samuel 18:6-15). It was God's will that Absalom be defeated (2 Samuel 17:14).
After this, Adonijah decided to be king. He exalted himself and received help from some of the top office holders in the nation. You could say he "campaigned" to be king (1 Kings 1:5-10). But before he could make himself king, David became aware of it, and David announced that Solomon would be king. He not only announced it, he made him king right then (1 Kings 1:11-35). That settled the matter.
How was Solomon chosen and how was the choice made known? David APPOINTED him. The last part of 1 Kings 1:35 quotes David speaking of Solomon saying, "For I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and Judah". Was this David's own judgment? God had told David that the name of his son who would be king after him would be "Solomon", and God named him before he was even born (1 Chronicles 22:6-10). This was God's call, but David announced the appointment.
Here is a case where God made the choice, but made it known not by fruits but by announcement from one who had the authority to make the appointment: David.The pattern remains the same. God makes the choice and makes it known by fruits only (as with Samuel), by appointment or announcement by one in authority only (as with Solomon), or by both (as with Aaron, who was announced to be God's priest by Moses and was backed up with signs and wonders including the budding of his rod, and as with Joshua who was announced by Moses to be leader and God also backed him up with miracles such as the parting of the Jordan river).
Rehoboam, Jeroboam, and Jehu
Though Solomon was wise, he did not remain faithful to God, and God decided to take ten tribes from the house of David and give them to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:1-13, 1 Kings 11:26-40). Who made the choice of Jeroboam to be king over Israel? It was clearly God who made that decision. How did God communicate that decision? Was it through an election with the voting of the people? No, Solomon would never have permitted such an election. Neither would Solomon's son Rehoboam. Any effort to hold an election to see if ten tribes should reject the house of David and select their own leader by balloting would have been crushed by the king. God communicated that decision to Jeroboam through a message from God's prophet, the prophet Ahijah, who met Jeroboam on the road. Until then, Jeroboam was a faithful and loyal servant of king Solomon.
Now, did others know? They must have, because after the meeting between Jeroboam and the prophet on the road, the Bible says "Solomon therefore sought to kill Jeroboam" (1 Kings 11:40). The prophet knew God's pronouncement, Jeroboam knew, and Solomon knew, and it is likely others knew also. Jeroboam fled to Egypt to save his life.
Then when Solomon died and the time came to make Solomon's son Rehoboam king of Israel, Jeroboam returned. They all assembled at Shechem. At that time, Jeroboam had become de facto spokesman for the congregation of Israel in asking Rehoboam to reduce their burdens (1 Kings 12:1). He had become a kind of unofficial leader or spokesman for much of Israel. How did this happen? The Bible doesn't say
But there is certainly no reason to assume it was by election with binding decisions made by casting ballots. Such a system simply did not exist in Israel and no king would have permitted it. If Solomon knew what the prophet said to Jeroboam on the road, word must have spread. The prophet must have told others, or Jeroboam told others, or there were others with Jeroboam and Ahijah who witnessed what the prophet said and spread the word. Solomon knew because he tried to kill Jeroboam and Jeroboam had to flee. By the time Solomon had died, knowledge of this thing probably was widespread. Jeroboam himself may have taken certain actions in rebellion against the king (1 Kings 11:26-27). So it would be natural for the people to look to Jeroboam for leadership, particularly since he was known to be a capable man (1 Kings 11:28).
The ten tribes of Israel rejected Rehoboam as king (1 Kings 12:12-19). Then the ten tribes of Israel made Jeroboam king over them (1 Kings 12:20). This whole series of events was arranged and orchestrated by God to fulfill the prophecy he gave through the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 12:15).
How did Israel make Jeroboam king? Was it by voting? There is no record of that. In any case, God has not shown us accounts of voting in the Bible as examples for us to follow, and He doesn't give us an example of voting here. Jeroboam was chosen by God to be king over the ten tribes of Israel as a judgment against the house of David for Solomon's sin. God announced through his prophet His decision and He arranged events to bring it to pass.
After this, Rehoboam prepared to go to war to reestablish the authority of the house of David over all Israel, but God through the prophet Shemaiah told Rehoboam and house of Judah that this matter was God's doing and they should not go to war, and they obeyed (1 Kings 12:21-24).
How was Rehoboam selected to be king? The Bible doesn't say, but it is likely that Solomon made the decision and the announcement just as Solomon became king because David made the announcement.
There follows in Israel and Judah a succession of kings, which you can read about in 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles. In Judah, the kings were all from the line of David, and some were righteous and some were not. In Israel, there was a succession of dynasties, but none was righteous.In at least one case, God used a prophet to name a king in Israel. God sent a message to Jehu telling him he would be king. The message was sent from Elisha the prophet through a young man he sent to deliver the message. But the message may have come from Elijah originally and Elijah delegated it to Elisha (1 Kings 19:15-16). I will cover more about Elijah and Elisha in the next section. It is interesting how Jehu became king. The young man (who is unnamed in the account) delivered the message to Jehu that he would be king and anointed Jehu with oil in the name of the Lord, then ran out of the house. When Jehu came out of the house, his officers wanted to know what it was about. Jehu may have thought his men set it up as a practical joke, but they denied it, so he told them what the messenger said. Then his men blew the trumpet to announce that Jehu is king (2 Kings 9:1-13). How's that for a consensus! But there was no balloting. No constitution, no bylaws, no procedures for counting votes, and no commitment to follow the will of the majority. God made the announcement through a prophet then worked events to bring it about.
Elijah and Elisha
The story of how Elisha succeeded Elijah as prophet is very instructive for the Church today. Unlike with most prophets, the Bible gives indications that Elijah and Elisha supervised a group called the "sons of the prophets" (1 Kings 18:7-13, 2 Kings 2:5, 7, 15-18, 4:38-41, 6:1-7, 9:1). With most prophets in the Bible, they either did their jobs alone or God does not give us information about how they interacted with a group they supervised. In this, Elijah and Elisha could be compared with leaders in the Church of God in modern times such as Mr. Armstrong who supervised a staff and a Church which supported him and supported the work God did through him and recognized him as leader. The "sons of the prophets" could be likened to the Church of God and the field ministry.
God told Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet to replace him (1 Kings 19:16-17). Elijah threw his mantle over Elisha and Elisha followed him and became his servant (1 Kings 19:19-21). Then later, Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into the atmosphere in the presence of Elisha, and God was with Elisha to give him power, and he struck the Jordan with the mantle of Elijah and the waters parted (2 Kings 2:1-14). The sons of the prophets saw this and said, "The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha", and they bowed down before him (2 Kings 2:15). They understood by the miracles Elisha did that he was the successor to Elijah and they respected his authority.
Who chose Elisha to replace Elijah? God did.How did God make his choice known? He announced it to Elijah who in turn informed Elisha and probably told the sons of the prophets also. Then God demonstrated with the fruits that He was backing up Elisha just as he did with Elijah, with power to perform miracles. He backed up Elisha's words, just as He backed up Samuel's words till it was known in Israel that Samuel was God's prophet. God showed by announcement and fruits that Elisha was His prophet to replace Elijah. The sons of the prophets did not hold an election and cast ballots to choose Elisha and God did not show His choice by inspiring the sons of the prophets to vote for Elisha.
John the Baptist
John the Baptist's role and office was announced by God through an angel to his father Zacharias before John was born (Luke 1:11-17). The pattern continues. God, not man, chose John to be a prophet and announced it by an angel. John was not elected by the people or the priests by the casting of votes. John was in the wilderness preaching a message of repentance and baptizing in the Jordan river (Matthew 3:1-12, Luke 3:1-20). It was commonly known that John was a prophet, though there is no record that John performed any miracle (Matthew 21:26, John 10:41).
How did the people know he was a prophet if John did not perform miracles? Part of it might have been that the information given to Zacharias by the angel had spread, probably by Zacharias talking to people. But no doubt the people recognized the positive fruit of John's message. They knew from the fruits of his preaching that he was a prophet of God though he did no miracles.John was appointed from above, not elected to office. God announced through an angel the appointment of John as a prophet, then God confirmed this and showed by the fruits that John was a prophet. No balloting was involved either to choose John or to make known God's choice.
There is a multitude of prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus Christ that show His authority, the nature of His work, His sacrifice, and the time of His appearing. I will reference only a few of them here.
That a Messiah was to come was made clear. It was also clear that His appointment was from God (Psalm 2:1-12, Psalm 110:1-2, Mark 12:35-37, Luke 20:41-44, Acts 2:34-36). A prophecy in Daniel showed when the Messiah would come, so Israel knew the general time of His coming and expected Him and was looking for Him (Daniel 9:24-27, John 4:25, Luke 3:15, John 1:19-20).
There were announcements made around the time of the birth of Jesus indicating that He was the promised Messiah. The angel Gabriel spoke to Mary and told her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, though the term "Messiah" was not specifically used in this passage (Luke 1:26-38). Mary was told that her son would be conceived miraculously and that He would be the Son of God and that He would reign over Israel forever. The description can only fit the Messiah. Elizabeth under inspiration of the Holy Spirit also spoke to Mary about her Son (Luke 1:39-56). Joseph was told in a dream that Mary's child was conceived miraculously from God and that He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:18-25). The wise men also knew the general time and place of the birth of Christ, and it was divinely revealed to them where He was and they saw Him shortly after He was born (Matthew 2:1-12).
Shortly before Jesus began His public ministry, He came to John to be baptized. To John it was revealed that the one upon whom he saw the Holy Spirit descending was the Christ, and he testified that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:29-37).
During His ministry, Jesus performed a multitude of miracles. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons. He miraculously fed the multitudes. And He preached the gospel to the people and taught His disciples. He pointed out that the works He did testified that His ministry was from God (Matthew 4:23-25, Mark 1:32-34, Luke 4:40-41, Luke 7:20-23, Matthew 11:2-6, John 3:1-2, John 10:37-38, Mark 6:35-44, Matthew 14:15-21, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:5-14). Finally, He fulfilled the sign of Jonah and was resurrected after three days (Matthew 12:38-40, Matthew 28:1-7, Luke 24:33-42, Acts 1:1-3). God also revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 16:15-17).
The pattern is the same. God appointed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Christ. God revealed this by announcements from angels and prophets and by the fruits of the works that Jesus did, the miracles, the preaching of the gospel, and the resurrection from the dead. God did not reveal this by inspiring His disciples to elect Him into office by balloting.Announcement by one in authority, by fruits, or by both - that is the pattern of how God reveals whom He has chosen to hold office.
The Twelve Apostles
Jesus Christ chose and called His twelve apostles (Matthew 4:18-22, 10:1-4, Mark 1:16-20, Mark 3:13-19). Before choosing them, He spent all night in prayer to the Father, apparently to know the Father's will (Luke 6:12-16). The apostles did not choose Christ but Christ chose the apostles (John 15:16). This is obvious, but needs to be repeated - the apostles did not come into office through any popular vote of men.
With the apostles we have an example of the kind of hierarchical organizational structure that will exist in God's Kingdom in the millennium. God does not give us much information about who will hold what positions. But the Bible does say that David will be king over Israel (Jeremiah 30:7-9). And Christ told his twelve apostles that each of them would be a leader of a tribe of Israel (Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:29-30). This is a concrete example of the principle taught in parables of the pounds (or minas) (Luke 19:11-26).
Since David will be ruler over all Israel, all twelve tribes, and since the apostles will be rulers over the individual tribes, then David will have authority over the twelve apostles in the Kingdom of God. God gives us this one example in the Bible to show that the pyramid structure that is described by Jethro in Exodus 18 will be the same kind of structure in God's Kingdom, not necessarily exactly the same structure, but similar. It will be top-down government.
It is also a reminder that, just as God chose the apostles to hold the offices they had on earth, so God will choose who the leaders will be in the Kingdom of God and exactly what offices they will hold in that kingdom. No one will be elected by popular vote, but God in His perfect wisdom, love, and justice will make perfect decisions to put everyone where they best fit for the good of His family forever.
Since we are being prepared for that kingdom, we should be practicing the way of life of that kingdom at every opportunity, and that includes following that way of life in the selection of leaders in the Church of God. Leaders should always be chosen by those best qualified to make the choice, which are those higher in authority than the office being filled, not by those who will be under that authority and who are the LEAST qualified to make those decisions.
Christ's appointment of His apostles was also demonstrated by fruits. He gave them power to heal the sick, cast out demons, and preach the gospel (Matthew 10:1, Mark 6:7, 12, Luke 9:1-3, 6). Later, Jesus also appointed seventy to do likewise (Luke 10:1, 9, 17). In effect, the fruits that showed that they were appointed by Christ was the power to do God's work.We see here the same pattern as we have seen in the whole Bible so far - appointment from above indicated by announcement by one in authority or fruits or both.
Usefulness of the King James Version
Before going on, I want to point out something useful about the King James Version that some might not know about, because it will be needed for the section that follows.
Generally, many people prefer the New King James Version or some other modern translation over the King James Version because the language of the King James Version with its "thee's" and "thou's" sounds archaic. I myself primarily use the New King James Version in my personal study and reading most of the time. But sometimes the King James Version's archaic language actually gives more information, information that is lost in our modern translations unless you access the original Hebrew and Greek texts and understand those languages.
In modern English, the plural and singular forms of "you" are the same. If I say, "you look nice today", I could be talking to one person or to a crowd of people - the word "you" is the same. It is both singular and plural and you can only tell which it is by the context. But sometimes in the Bible the context doesn't clearly show the speaker's intent. You cannot always tell if "you" is one person or more than one. But in the King James version, you can sometimes tell, even in cases where it is not clear just from the context. "Thou" is the singular form of "you". "You" is the plural form.
One exception: In King James English, "you" might sometimes singular if it is used as an expression of formality rather than in a familiar way. So while "you" and "ye" are usually plural, "thou" and "thee" are always singular.
So in the King James Version, when you see "thou" or "thee", it refers to one person, singular, but when you see "you" it is usually referring to two or more people, a group. In the case of "you" in the New Testament, if you need confirmation, you can check in the original Greek.This is important when we study the role of Peter.
Peter was a leader over the other eleven apostles. He was not the "chief apostle". The chief apostle is Christ (Hebrews 3:1). His authority comes first. But Peter did have a position of authority that the other apostles did not have. He was the human leader of that group of twelve. Like all human authority, it was limited. He did not have the authority to order someone to sin. But he had the authority to take the lead and to make administrative decisions, but in consultation with the other apostles, which I will explain in a section farther on.
Who appointed Peter to this leadership position? It was God the Father who made that choice, though it was Jesus Christ who announced it to Peter and the other apostles.
Jesus asked his apostles who they said He (Jesus) was. He asked this of ALL the apostles. In the King James Version, the word "ye" is used, which is a form of "you", which in King James English is plural. Matthew 16:15 (KJV) says, "He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?". Notice He was speaking to "them", not just to one of them. The account continues, "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:16-19, KJV). We know that the "rock" upon which the Church of God is built is Christ, not Peter (1 Corinthians 10:4). But notice that from the point at which Peter said that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is talking directly to Peter, not to the twelve disciples. The words "thee" and "thou" are singular, not plural. Who was given authority to bind and loose? "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" (verse 19, emphasis mine). It was Peter who was given authority in this passage to bind and loose, not the twelve apostles collectively. Jesus was speaking to Peter alone when He said this, as translated into the English, because He used the singular form of you - "thou" is always singular. If Jesus was speaking to all the apostles, the original Greek text inspired by the Holy Spirit would have used the plural form of the Greek word for you and the King James translators would have used the plural form "you".
But this account suggests that even Jesus did not know who would be leader until Peter showed that God the Father revealed to him that Jesus was the Christ! That was how Jesus knew! Jesus knew that one had to be leader so there was no confusion in the Church after Jesus ascended into heaven and was no longer with the disciples in person to supervise them. But He did not know which one His Father had chosen. How did He find out? BY THE FRUITS! Peter's answer showed that God the Father revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, and this was the fruit Jesus needed to see to know that Peter was the Father's choice. "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (verse 17).
So here, even Jesus Christ sets an example for us to show us how to know who the leaders in the Church are. We know by fruits, not ballots. Jesus did not call for an election with ballots cast by the 12 apostles to vote one of themselves into office. Jesus did not say, "My Father will inspire the balloting and that is how I will know."
Jesus Christ did not give binding authority to the twelve apostles collectively with them acting as a ruling board or council to vote among themselves to make decisions. Nor did He have the twelve vote to see whom they would elect by popular vote. Instead He looked at the fruits to see whom the Father had chosen. Asking the disciples who they thought He was was a test question.
Peter might not even have been Jesus' first choice. John was the apostle who was especially close to Jesus, the apostle that Jesus loved. See John 13:23-24, 20:2, 21:7, 20-24. All four of these passages mention a disciple "whom Jesus loved" and verse 24 of John chapter 21 shows that this disciple was the author of the book, John. But interestingly, even if we didn't know who he was from verse 24, we would know he was not Peter because, in every place the disciple whom Jesus loved is mentioned, Peter is also mentioned as a different person. John was the disciple Jesus loved, but Jesus did not name as leader His personal favorite. He submitted to the Father's will and let the fruits show whom the Father had chosen.
After Jesus named Peter as a leader of the apostles, He sometimes spoke to all the apostles but addressing His remarks to Peter, showing that Peter was a leader of the other apostles. Christ spoke to Peter but intending what He said to apply to the other apostles.
Here is an example of what I mean.
We remember the passage in which Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted to "sift you as wheat". But whom did Satan want to sift? It was not just Peter.
Here is the passage in the King James Version: "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:31-32). Notice, the plural "you" in "Satan has desired to have you". It was not just Peter that Satan desired to have and to sift like wheat. It was all the disciples, the group. But notice that Jesus was speaking to Peter as if Peter was the leader and represented the whole group when He used the singular form of you, "thee", in "I have prayed for thee". In modern English, it is as if Jesus said, "Peter, Satan has desired to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you in particular Peter that your faith doesn't fail, and when you Peter are converted, strengthen the other apostles."
Also, notice that when Christ gave instructions to "feed My sheep", the instructions apply to the whole ministry and all the apostles, but He gave the instructions personally to Peter, because as leader Peter was to pass on those instructions to the rest of the apostles (John 21:15-17). It isn't only Peter alone who was to feed the flock - if that was the case, the ministry in the Church of God today would have no obligation to feed the flock and there would be no reason for God to record this passage in the Bible. But Peter was leader so Christ gave the command to him to give to the rest of the apostles and the Church as a whole.
As you read the history of the Church in the New Testament, you will find that Peter was leader in many events. It was Peter who stood up to speak to all the disciples to take the lead in finding a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-26). It was Peter who took the lead in speaking to the crowd on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41). It was Peter who healed the lame man at the gate of the temple (Acts 3:4-8), and it was Peter who took that occasion to speak to the people (Acts 3:11-26). It was Peter who spoke to the rulers and authorities (Acts 4:8-12). It was Peter who rebuked Ananias for lying, and it was Peter who pronounced a death sentence on the wife of Ananias for also lying (Acts 5:1-11). And it was to Peter, not to Paul the apostle to the gentiles, that God revealed that salvation was opened at that time to the gentiles (Acts 10:1-18).
How was Peter appointed leader? He was chosen by God the Father, not by the voting of men. God revealed it to Jesus Christ by the fruits: Peter was the one to whom the Father revealed that Jesus was the Christ. When Jesus understood that, He announced it to the other apostles and to Peter. Then God continued to back up Peter with the fruits of power to do God's work even after Christ ascended to heaven.The pattern: God appoints the leader. God shows who the leader is by announcement by one having the authority to name the leader, or by the fruits, or by both announcement and fruits. Never by voting or "balloting" to see who is the most popular in the eyes of those who will be under the leader.
The Replacement of Judas
In Acts 1 is an account of the selection of Matthias as apostle to replace Judas. How was Matthias chosen? Who chose him and how was the choice made known?
Peter spoke to the disciples and explained that someone who was among the disciples from the time Jesus was baptized by John right up to the time when Christ ascended into heaven must become a replacement for Judas and a witness to the resurrection (Acts 1:15-22). The Bible says they proposed two: Joseph also called Barsabas and Matthias (Acts 1:23).
Who did the "proposing" and how was it done? The Bible does not say.
Those who believe in ballot-box governance for the Church of God sometimes suggest that they must have voted to elect two. That is total nonsense. There is no indication of any balloting. For them to hold an election would be contrary to every example in the rest of the Bible. But those who believe in balloting would like you to believe that they MUST have voted because there is no other way they could have "proposed" the two. But that is wrong. There is more than one way this could have been accomplished without balloting.
First of all, the qualifications Peter required narrowed the field enormously. The person would have to have been with Jesus and the disciples continuously throughout Jesus' entire ministry. Most of the disciples would not fit into that category. Jesus' ministry lasted three and a half years. He would have been making disciples continuously as He traveled throughout the region. Some would have been with Christ for three years, some two and a half years, some two years, some six months, etc. It is likely that very few of the 120 besides the eleven apostles would have been with Him from the beginning. There was also a point part way through Christ's ministry when many disciples He had made left Him over His statement that unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you (John 6:35-66). That account says that MANY of His disciples left him (verse 66). Notice that in the very next verse, Jesus asked the TWELVE if they also wanted to leave Him (John 6:67). The implication is that MOST of his disciples, other than the twelve, left Him at that time. Verse 67 does not say that Jesus spoke to a hundred, or fifty, or "those who did not leave him". He spoke to the twelve. There were probably very few others besides the twelve. At one point, even John the Baptist wasn't sure if Jesus was the Christ, even after seeing the Holy Spirit come upon him (John 1:29-34, Matthew 11:2-6, Luke 7:19-23), so it is not surprising if most of the disciples were offended at Jesus' words and left Him.
By the way, this is a little bit off the subject of this section, but while we are in John chapter 6, take a look at verses 70-71 where Jesus said that He chose the twelve, yet one of them (Judas) was a "devil". Besides reaffirming that Jesus chose the twelve, it brings out an important point. The leader or leaders that God selects to lead His people are always the best choices to work out God's plan and purpose, but they are not always the most competent or righteous choices. Sometimes God appoints a leader with serious shortcomings, NOT the most qualified man, because it works out God's purpose to have such a man. If you are looking for a righteous, competent man to serve as apostle, Judas is not the right choice. Yet Christ chose him. Why? Because it worked out God's purpose. It was God's purpose that Jesus be betrayed by one of His apostles. Likewise, God chose Saul as king of Israel before David. Did God not know Saul's heart? Of course He did. But he chose Saul anyway because it worked out His purpose. Many valuable lessons were written in the Bible about respect for the authority of God's anointed because David had to flee from Saul, and the experiences David went through were important tests for David, and many of the Psalms David wrote came out of those experiences.
I bring this up because some in the Church of God may think that the appointment of Mr. Tkach to replace Mr. Armstrong was Mr. Armstrong's mistake and not God's will at all because Mr. Tkach made doctrinal errors, but I disagree. God wanted Mr. Tkach to be pastor general after Mr. Armstrong died because it worked out God's purpose for the Church.
Getting back to the proposing of two to replace Judas, there was probably an open discussion and inquiry about who were with the disciples from the beginning and continuously to that time. Eliminate those who were not there from the beginning, eliminate the women, eliminate the elderly and those who removed themselves from consideration for one reason or another, and there were probably only two. Or, it could be that only two were suggested, and no others were even mentioned. There is no record of voting at all.
Then they cast lots for God to show whom HE had chosen (Acts 1:24-26). This was an acceptable practice at the time, for lots were cast as a way of inquiring of God in Israel from the time of Moses (Numbers 27:21).
It doesn't make sense that they would submit ballots and only cast lots for two who received the most votes, as if God's role was that of tie-breaker. If there were three candidates, or four, or ten, why wouldn't they cast lots for all of them in order to know God's will? Remember the selection of Saul as king of Israel? After Samuel already knew that Saul was God's choice, he used the casting of lots to show the nation that Saul was God's choice. By lot the field was narrowed first by tribe, then by family, and finally to Saul himself (1 Samuel 10:19-22). God had no problem making His will known by lot to narrow down a large field to a single individual. Likewise, it was the same in the discovery of the man who sinned against God by taking the accursed thing in the book of Joshua (Joshua 7:10-22).Look at what the disciples said when they prayed before they cast lots for Judas' replacement: "You, O Lord who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen" (Acts 1:24). Do you really think they could pray like that and yet rely on their own balloting to narrow the field to two? In this prayer is the recognition that only God knows the hearts of men, and there is also the recognition that it is God who chooses, not man. How could they acknowledge those two things and yet rely on their own voting before casting lots? If they knew that only God, not they, knew the hearts of men, there could be no balloting. For to ballot is to claim that you can know someone's heart. How else would you know whom to vote for?
The Appointment of Deacons
After the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost the Church grew very rapidly. That very day, about 3,000 people were added to the 120 disciples (Acts 2:41). That is an increase of about 2,400 percent in one day! Growth continued on a daily basis (Acts 2:47). There were organizational problems in handling the distribution of food and whatever else the widows needed. So the apostles appointed deacons to handle these physical matters. They could not know everyone personally, so they delegated the selection of these men to the congregation (Acts 6:1-6). This does not mean that Peter and the other apostles had nothing to do with organizing and managing the selection, but most of the judgment in selecting of these deacons was done by the membership. Could there have been balloting to select the deacons? There could have been. The Bible does not say. It could be that there were leaders already in place in a structure similar to that recommended by Jethro in Exodus chapter 18 and that those leaders asked those they supervised for a discussion of who to recommend, then passed those recommendations up. But there could have been balloting.
But there was no balloting of the kind that exists in Churches of God today that govern by balloting. There were several differences.
First of all, the balloting itself carried no authority. In this sense, it would have been actually a form of polling, of seeking recommendations. See section "The Difference Between Voting and Polling" earlier in this chapter. Notice Acts 6:3: "Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business". The apostles were to APPOINT these men as deacons after the congregation recommended them. The authority still flowed from the top down. After the people chose seven, the apostles appointed them and prayed and laid hands on them. Then they were deacons. The apostles did not have to ask the members to do the selecting, but it was a good idea because the Church had grown so fast that the apostles could not have known these people well enough to know who was qualified.
But there is no record of setting up an organization based on balloting for its authority. The authority came from Christ through the apostles. There were no yearly or bi-yearly elections to vote into office new deacons or to remove from office those deacons already appointed by the apostles. The authority flowed from the top down as in every other example in the Bible. The deacons were responsible only to the apostles, who had the authority to remove them. There is no indication they had to stand for re-election every two years. The apostles delegated the selection of deacons to the people as a one-time solution to a special situation arising from the explosively rapid growth of the Church in a very short span of time.
And there is no assurance that balloting was used at all. There could have simply been open discussion among those in several ethnic and language groups with the men who were the natural leaders speaking up and leading the discussion till there was general agreement. When a deacon was proposed for an ethnic group and dissenting voices ceased, that was their choice.
Have you every worked in an office where a group of five or six friends go to lunch together every day but go to a different restaurant each day? Have you observed how they decide where to go? Do they set up an election process and cast votes? Well sometimes they may vote with a show of hands. But more likely than not, then just talk about it till they agree. And it doesn't usually take very long.
"Where are we going today?", someone asks. "Let's go to Sammy's Place", someone will say. "I can't afford that today", someone else will answer. "I have a taste for Mexican food." "I can't eat Mexican food", replies another.
So they talk till they come to an agreement and find a answer that is acceptable to everyone. They keep making suggestions till they find a place no one objects to, or until someone compromises and drops their original objections. When dissent stops, the choice is made.
You don't have to cast votes to make a group decision.Church leaders do not have to set up a constitution, bylaws, yearly elections, and vote counting to get input, advice, and counsel from the ministry and members.
Peter was leader of the twelve apostles. He was the human leader, under Christ, of the Church of God when it was entirely made up of Jewish converts. He was the one to whom Christ revealed that conversion was being opened up to gentiles, and he passed on that decision to the rest of the Church (Acts chapter 10).
But God appointed Paul, formerly named Saul, to be apostle to the gentiles. At some point, there was a division of labor between Peter and Paul. Peter supervised the preaching of the gospel in those areas and to those congregations that were mostly Israelite and Paul supervised the preaching of the gospel in areas that were mostly gentile (Galatians 2:7-10).
How did Paul receive his commission?
He was not elected by the voting of the people. In fact, his case is a perfect example of WHY God does not use the voting of men, even men in the Church of God, to select leaders. Paul, who was Saul who persecuted the Church, would not have won any popularity contests in the Church of God. He could not have won any elections. See Acts 7:57-59, 8:1-3, 9:1-2, 22:4-5, 26:9-11, 1 Corinthians 15:9, and Galatians 1:13. When God gave Ananias a vision to heal Saul of his blindness, Ananias was at first afraid and reluctant even to go to Saul until God reassured him (Acts 9:10-16). See also Acts 9:21, 26.
Who chose Saul who became Paul? God chose Him (Acts 9:15, Galatians 1:11, 15-24).
How did God make His choice known? First, Christ miraculously spoke to Saul on the road and struck him with blindness (Acts 9:1-9). That got his attention. Then God announced to Ananias in a vision that Saul was to be a chosen vessel to bear Christ's name before gentiles, kings, and Israelites (Acts 9:10-16). But even after Paul was accepted into the Church and had begun to preach the gospel and do God's work, he was not immediately recognized as an apostle. That came later. How was it known? God showed it by the fruits.
God through the Holy Spirit inspired the Church of God at Antioch to separate Barnabas and Saul for the work (Acts 13:1-2). There were prophets in the Church at Antioch, so it is likely that God through the Holy Spirit gave this communication to one or more prophets who in turn gave it to the whole congregation. Notice that Barnabas is listed first before Saul. Acts 13:3 says that the congregation sent them away. Some have said that this indicates that the congregation had authority over Barnabas and Paul because they sent them, but this is not how that word is used. The statement that someone sends someone on their way does not imply authority of the sender over the one sent, as this language is used in the Bible. Look at Genesis 18:16 where it says that Abraham sent "them" on their way towards Sodom, them being the Lord and the two angels. Obviously this does not mean that Abraham had authority over them. In the case of the Church at Antioch, the brethren probably sent Barnabas and Saul on their way by provisioning them with supplies, giving them emotional support and encouragement, praying for their safety, and perhaps by some of them accompanying them out of the city and part way on their journey. They did not have authority over them. They certainly did not cast votes about whether they should go or not.
Read Acts 13:6-13. This is where God began to show by the fruits that Paul was the leading apostle to the gentiles. When this account starts, Barnabas is listed first (verse 7). But then something happened. In a confrontation between Barnabas and Paul and a sorcerer named Elymas, God inspired Paul to take the lead and backed him up with a miracle. Paul rebuked Elymas and pronounced blindness upon him, whereupon God struck him with blindness (Acts 13:8-12). From that point on, Paul is often mentioned first before Barnabas, and they are called "Paul and his party" - see Acts 13:13, 43.
When Paul met with the other apostles as recounted in Acts 15, Barnabas and Paul (here, Barnabas is mentioned first) recounted the miracles God had worked through them (Acts 15:12). They told the apostles this because the apostles were to judge by the fruits, and the miracles were fruits that showed that God was working through Paul and Barnabas.
While Barnabas is mentioned first in Acts 15:12, perhaps indicating that those present had more regard for Barnabas's authority at the beginning, later Paul is mentioned first after they recounted the miraculous works God had done through them (Acts 15:22).
At some point, it became commonly recognized that Paul had become God's leading apostle to the gentiles as Peter was to Israelites (Galatians 2:7-9).
Who chose Paul as apostle to the gentiles? Was he appointed from above or elected into office by the balloting of the ministry? He was appointed from above, by God through Jesus Christ. How did God make this known? By announcement in a vision to Ananias, by inspiring the prophets at Antioch to separate Paul and Barnabas for the work, and by showing by the fruits of miracles and effectiveness in speaking that God had empowered Paul to do that work (Acts 9:22). You can read the book of Acts from chapter 9 to the end of the book to see how many miracles accompanied the work that Paul was doing.So the pattern continues. God appoints the top leaders in the Church. He makes His choices known by announcement from one in authority, in this case by Christ through visions to Saul and Ananias and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the Church at Antioch probably through the prophets that were there. And He also makes known His choice through fruits, in Paul's case through miracles, effective speaking, and general effectiveness in preaching the gospel and raising up Churches of God.
Resolving a Controversy - Acts 15
Acts chapter 15 describes a meeting of the apostles to resolve a disagreement about the law and about Church policy concerning teaching the law to gentile members. Unlike most of the events I have reviewed, this had nothing to do with selecting a leader. It had to do with the making of a decision regarding policy. The policy was about what to teach gentile Christians about circumcision and various matters in the law of Moses.
Though this is not about selecting leaders, I bring this up because some who advocate ballot box governance seem to think there was some kind of vote taken and the decision was made by counting ballots. There is no indication of that at all.
The controversy started when some men from Judea taught gentile Christians in areas that Paul supervised that they had to be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas did not agree and went to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and ministry about this. In the meeting there was "much dispute" over this (Acts 15:1-7). I take it that means there was heated discussion with views strongly expressed on both sides. Then Peter, who was leader of the work the Church did towards Israelites, and may have been leader over the Church overall in matters where his work and Paul's work overlapped, stood up to speak. He basically said, no, gentile members of the Church do not have to be circumcised. That silenced the disputing, and everyone listened to Paul and Barnabas speak about how God backed up their work towards the gentiles with power and with miracles. That seems to have silenced their critics even more (Acts 15:7-13).
Then James spoke. Now if Peter was the leader of the Church in areas that were predominantly Israelite, and Paul was the leader of the Church in areas that were predominantly gentile, what was James' office? He was an apostle, that much is clear (Galatians 1:18-20). He was not James the brother of John, one of the original twelve apostles. That James was killed early in New Testament history (Acts 12:1-2). This James was the brother of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:18). Since he was in Jerusalem and that was an area that Peter supervised, he was probably under Peter's supervision. He may have been the pastor of the Church of God at Jerusalem. I believe I remember that Mr. Armstrong said that James was pastor (and an apostle) of the headquarters congregation at Jerusalem and was therefore chairman of the meeting, though Peter had greater authority. I tend to agree with Mr. Armstrong, though I have not found definite proof. If that is the case, then James as chairman of the meeting basically summed up the decision Peter had made and pronounced it his judgment, or in other words, made it official. He backed up Peter, and that was the end of the decision making process.
But by that time, everyone was in agreement. Why? How do we know? Because by the time James summed up the decision and closed the discussion, everyone who had previously disagreed with Paul and Barnabas had shut up. They were silent. They did not continue to argue. Either they had been persuaded by the evidence that Paul was right and they were wrong, or they simply submitted to Peter's decision (Acts 15:13-21).
After Paul and Barnabas finished speaking, no one spoke up to disagree with them anymore. The disputing had ended. So James summed it up and made it official. That is how they reached a decision. Not by voting, casting of ballots, counting the ballots, and having a nationally recognized accounting firm audit and certify the results of the voting, all under the watchful eye of and in consultation with church attorneys who made sure they were following the constitution and bylaws of the Church. And in the discussion and in the decision that occurred, I have no doubt that Christ through the Holy Spirit inspired them and helped them reach the right decision.
This meeting is an example of how decisions can be made and agreement reached without balloting. Because in the final analysis, balloting does NOT produce "agreement". Balloting is agreement to disagree. It is the majority forcing its will on those who do not agree with the majority. That is not God's way. The process that the disciples followed was to talk things out as much as possible till one side or the other was persuaded or until the ones having the authority to decide made the decision.It appears that Peter was the decision maker, but he did not just dictate a decision. He let everyone have their say. He listened to all sides. He probably tried to have an open mind. But then he spoke, and after he did, those who disagreed became silent. He used persuasion as much as possible, helping everyone understand the REASONS for the decision.
"If Two of You Agree..."
Jesus Christ gave some useful principles to follow concerning how leaders should lead in the Church of God. This does not have to do with the selection of leaders but has to do with how leaders should lead. And there may also be some application to the governance issue as far as understanding what "agreement" is. These principles can also explain why we do not see Peter giving a lot of orders without discussion, but rather Peter was more mild-mannered in his exercise of authority than some others might be. It was not because he did not have authority. It was because he was using that authority in a gentle way as Christ instructed.
"But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many' " (Matthew 20:25-28).
Leaders and ministers in the Church of God should exercise their authority with love, humility, and restraint. They should govern first of all according to God's instructions and their first loyalty must be to God. But secondarily, they should govern in a spirit of loving concern for the good of those they lead, even to the point of being servants of those they lead, not servants in the sense of lacking needed authority for edification (2 Corinthians 13:10), but servants as Christ was a servant, sacrificing themselves for the good of those they serve. Parents understand this when they sacrifice for the good of their children.
What does this mean in practice? It can include many things. It means that a godly leader will be a good listener. He will consider the views of those under his authority before making a binding decision. If he is humble, he will not assume that he has all wisdom and cannot learn something from those under his authority. He will be gentle and willing to yield, as the NKJV puts it, or easy to be "intreated" as the KJV puts it (James 3:17). In other words, he is open to being persuaded by those under him, without compromising of course with God's law. He will seek to lead when possible by teaching and persuading those under his authority, not just commanding them. In that way, he will try to obtain genuine agreement whenever possible.
In the world, leaders do not always explain their decisions. But in the Church of God, leaders and ministers should understand that all of us are being taught by God and prepared for God's kingdom, and a wise and loving leader will usually explain decisions, teaching the reasons for them (unless those reasons must be confidential), and persuading those under his authority, not just dictating. A wise and loving leader would rather win subordinates over to his point of view, persuading them of what is right, whenever that is possible, rather than just dictating and enforcing decisions. Sometimes that is not possible, but it should be the preference of godly leaders.
That is why Peter was more inclined to lead a discussion and try to have people talk out their differences of opinion until they came to agreement whenever possible, as he did in Acts 15, rather than just shut off discussion and immediately dictate a decision.
Christ wants leaders in the Church to seek agreement whenever possible. This is encouraged and reinforced by His statement to His disciples that if two of them gathered in His name agree on something, it will be done for them (Matthew 18:19-20).But let's not confuse agreement with disagreement. A vote of 60 to 40 is not agreement. Jesus did not say, "if two out of three of you agree, it will be done." He did not say, "if a majority of you agree as determined by a count of ballots cast according to the requirements of the constitution and bylaws of the corporation and certified by an independent accounting firm, it will be done".
Instruction Concerning Appointments in the New Testament
God has created a number of offices in the Church, such as that of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, each office having its own rank and authority (Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Corinthians 12:27-28).
There are instructions in the Bible regarding the qualifications in those who are appointed as leaders. Peter gave instructions to the people that the ones they should seek out among them to be deacons should be men of good reputation and full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:1-4). Paul told Timothy that those who are bishops (that is, overseers or rulers) should be blameless, temperate, sober-minded, hospitable, able to teach, gentle, not a novice, etc. and that deacons should be reverent, holding the faith with a clear conscience, but should be tested first (1 Timothy 3:1-12).
To Titus Paul wrote that he should appoint elders and bishops who are blameless, hospitable, lovers of what is good, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the truth as they have been taught, each a husband of one wife (not multiple wives), having faithful children in subjection (not insubordinate), etc. (Titus 1:5-9).
These qualifications are not generally a controversy. The controversy arises over who is to apply these qualifications to choose men for office. In other words, who evaluates which men are blameless, temperate, sober-minded, hospitable, able to teach, gentle, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, etc.? Is it those who will be under the authority of such men who should evaluate and judge who has these qualifications, or is it those higher in authority than the ones being evaluated who should decide? The multitude of examples in the Bible shows that it is those higher in authority, God himself or those in authority over the office being filled, who are best qualified to judge this matter. Only in the case of the selection of deacons did the apostles delegate the recommendation for men to fill these offices to the people, and that no doubt is because the Church had grown so fast that the apostles did not know all the people well enough to know their qualifications without the advice and counsel of the people. And even in this case, the authority came from the apostles, not the people.
Those who argue in favor of ballot-box governance sometimes like to ask the question, which is important, character of leaders or structure of governance. Or they might ask, which is more important, righteousness or the form of governance. The question itself is wrong because it is phrased to mislead. The question is designed to frame the issue as a choice between right character or a particular form of governance. But that is not the choice. Right character is mandatory, but so is the right form of governance. It is both, and in fact, the wrong form of governances suggests that those who choose that form of governance either fail to believe and submit to what God teaches in the Bible or they lack the knowledge and wisdom to understand what the Bible teaches about government.The issue is, I repeat, who is best qualified to evaluate candidates for office in the Church as to whether they have the qualifications for an office, those who will be under that office or those who will be over that office. I believe the Bible shows that it is those who will be over that office who are best qualified to make that judgment. In the case of the top leader of a Church of God fellowship, it is Christ who is best qualified to choose the leader, not the ministry.
Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry
The last section discussed the qualifications for appointment to office in the administrative structure of the Church, or in other words, the qualifications for the ministry. But there is more to organization in the Church of God than just the administrative structure of a Church of God organization or fellowship. And it is important to understand that in order to understand the limitations of the authority of the ministry.
The ministry has authority (Matthew 16:18-19, 18:15-18, Hebrews 13:7, 17, 2 Corinthians 13:10). But what are the limits of that authority?
Does the ministry have the authority to tell members what they can say concerning doctrine? Do they have the authority to tell members what they can read or not read? Do they have the authority to tell members what to believe and what to think?
To answer these questions we must understand how the Church of God is organized.
Jesus Christ is head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18). As head of the Church, Christ has all authority over everything we think, say, and do. But that authority does not all flow through the ministry.
If you look at certain vital scriptures, you will see that Christ's rulership over the Church flows through three different channels determined by three areas of a Christian's life. It is important to understand those three areas and the chain-of-command by which Christ leads the Church in those three areas. It all has to do with how the Church is organized.Notice the following scriptures:
If you try to draw an organization chart based on the above, you can't without a lot of overlapping dotted lines. But you can draw three organization charts:
Chart one: Combining 1 Corinthians 11:3, which says that the head of every man is Christ, with Galatians 3:28, which says there is neither male nor female, we see that there is a direct relationship between Christ and every Christian, and that God the Father is the head of Jesus Christ. So the organization is, God the Father is at the top of the hierarchy, Jesus Christ is under the Father's authority, and Christ directly supervises and leads every member of the Church as head of the Church.
Chart two: Using 1 Corinthians 11:3 alone, we would draw a chart showing God the Father at the top, Jesus Christ under the Father and over the man, and the man having authority over his wife.
Chart three: Using Ephesians 4:11-16, we could draw a chart with God the Father at the top, Jesus Christ under the Father, next apostles, then evangelists, then pastors, then the members under the authority of the pastors.
Which chart is correct? I think each chart accurately reflects the intent of the particular scriptures it is based on. Since God does not contradict Himself, these various levels of organization must complement each other, not contradict each other. Each applies under particular circumstances.
Can there be overlapping structures within one organization, that is, within the entire body of Christ? Yes there can. Can a person have more than one boss? Yes. Doesn't this lead to confusion? Wrongly applied, yes, but rightly applied and administrated, no.
I will illustrate the concept of overlapping structure with two examples, one from business and the other from the military.
In business, I might be a computer programmer that is part of a staff of about 10 programmers, all under the authority of a staff manager. The staff might be part of a larger programming department, and the staff manager is under the authority of the department head. The reporting relationships can go up to the very top of the organization. My primary boss is my staff manager. He hires me, gives me raises (or doesn't give them), gives me my annual performance appraisal, corrects me for bad performance, rewards me for good performance, and has the power to fire me if necessary. But in the course of my work, I may be assigned to a project team for six months that is made up of employees from many departments. Perhaps I have other projects to work on also, so my work for this team only involves part of my time. But to manage this project, a project leader is assigned. He has authority over me and over the other members of the project team in matters pertaining to the project. Because the project involves employees from many departments, the project leader's authority crosses department lines, but his authority is limited. He cannot fire me, demote me, or interfere with my other work. If I have questions concerning this project, I go to the project leader, but if anything major comes up (like getting days off for the Feast), I go to my staff manager, who is my "real" boss. And if there is any real conflict, the staff manager has greater authority over me personally, and he can resolve problems. This is an example of overlapping structures, and it is used in business all the time because it is often necessary and it works extremely well when rightly applied.
Here is an example from the military. During World War II when allied armies invaded France by landing on the Normandy beaches, the allied armies were made up of soldiers from many nations, with most belonging to the United States or Great Britain, who were bound together by an alliance. Each soldier's and officer's primary loyalty and obedience was to the government of his own country, but to create and maintain close coordination and mutual support among the forces of the various nations both in the preparation and execution of the operation, a joint commander was appointed with authority over everyone involved from all the nations. That commander was General Dwight Eisenhower, an American. Though he was an American, he had temporary authority over British officers and soldiers participating in the invasion. But it was temporary and limited authority granted by the British government. Had the alliance between the United States and Britain broken down at some point, the British forces would have obeyed their own government first. This is another example of overlapping structures. The loyalty each officer and soldier had to his own country and government was absolute. The obedience given to General Eisenhower was temporary and limited, but it served an important purpose. It enabled the operation to go forward with unity and effectiveness that would not otherwise have been possible.
In the matter of the Church, the primary organization structure is that every man and woman reports directly to Jesus Christ in matters of obedience to God's law, faith in God and His Word the Bible, and character development. Christ is in charge of the salvation of each one of us individually. Christ supervises each one of us directly, day-by-day, even minute-by-minute in everything we do, and we are always responsible to Him. That responsibility we have directly to Christ takes precedent over every other reporting relationship we have with other human beings. Jesus authorizes us to pray directly to the Father, and we speak to God in prayer, and Christ speaks to us through the Bible, and God uses the Holy Spirit to help us remember the verses we have read and to help us to understand how to apply the Bible to make the decisions we have to make. Christ is the head of the whole Church of God because He is the head of every man and woman who has the Spirit of God.
For those who are married, in the family relationship, God has placed the man in charge of the woman. A woman is to obey her husband in everything, but only when it is consistent with what God commands in the Bible. Her relationship with Christ comes first. This is shown by that fact that scriptures say she is to obey her husband "in the Lord" (see Colossians 3:18). If her husband tells her to break God's commandments, she should obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). So the first two charts overlap, but the first is the more important of the two.
In the third chart is shown the organizational structure for doing the work of the Church and covers the preaching of the gospel to the world and the feeding of the flock. If you study the instructions in the Bible given to the ministry, you will notice that their responsibility primarily focuses on teaching (feeding the flock and preaching the gospel to the world), resolving disputes between members, praying for God's work and the flock, anointing the sick, making sure that the needy in the Church are cared for, and setting a right example for the membership. You can do a study of the instructions given to the ministry by Christ in the gospel accounts and Paul's instructions in the epistles to Timothy and Titus. The ministry has authority over the members in matters pertaining to setting official doctrine that would be taught in the organization, resolving disputes between members in the Church, disfellowshipping or marking those who cause division or can harm the body by their sins they have not repented of, conducting services, preaching the gospel to the world, and similar matters. Notice the context of this organization in Ephesians 4:11-16: "for the work of ministry" and "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" and "according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." The context is the organized work of the Church such as the teaching of doctrine. But always the lay member reports to Christ first. If matters come up where the member is not sure if he should obey what the ministry instructs, he should go to God in prayer, asking for guidance to know God's will, then look to the Bible for God's answer. The authority of the ministry over the membership is real, but it is limited, while God's authority is unlimited. There may be biblical principles for example that would require a member to withdraw from fellowship with a Church organization, temporarily or permanently. A member may need to leave an organization for his own spiritual protection and to preserve his relationship with God. A member may have to stay home until God's will becomes clear or until circumstances change. In such cases, it is Christ who will judge the member, not the ministry, and Christ will judge the member based on what is written in the Bible, not according to what the ministry says.
In matters of doctrine, there are responsibilities on the part of members and ministers. Ministers should teach the members from the Bible and help members find the answers in the Bible, but they should direct the faith of the members towards God and the Bible, not towards themselves. At the same time, ministers must teach the members to be corrected by the Bible and should set the example for the members by being willing themselves to be corrected by the Bible. So if a member brings a doctrinal disagreement to the leadership and ministry, they should examine the issue in the Bible with an open mind and be willing to change doctrine if they are wrong. Members have the responsibility to study the Bible, to believe the Bible first, but at the same time to respect the ministry of the fellowship they attend. They should listen to the ministry with an open mind and respect the office of minister and the authority God gave to the ministry by not openly criticizing them and their teaching in front of other members in that fellowship.
When ministers teach, they should teach from the Bible so that members learn to put their faith in God and His word, not in the minister. They should use the scriptures honestly, getting God's intended meaning out of the scriptures, letting the Bible interpret itself, not twisting scriptures just to support their teaching.
Who places a member in a particular church organization? Does God place us where we are or do we place ourselves where we are? God indeed places members where he sees fit, as the Scripture says (1 Corinthians 12:18), but God can also move members around and re-assign them as He sees fit. Part of this process involves the decision making and the free moral agency of the member also, and we in the Church are being both tested and judged on the decisions we make. God sometimes places members where He wants them to be through circumstances, or through opening the understanding of the member to know where he should go, or both.
I mention this because too often I have heard people say "God placed me here", meaning they will not leave an organization regardless of other factors. Saying "God placed me here" does not mean that God wants me to "stay here". If I always stayed where I was, on the principle that I should never leave where I am at, I never would have left the Catholic Church, or I would not have left Worldwide, or I would not have left Church A or Church B afterwards. God is judging me and testing me on my ability and willingness to make godly decisions according to His Word, and He creates circumstances that force me to make choices. I better strive to make the right choices for the right reasons, even if those choices mean leaving an organization. I am being judged now. To pass the tests God gives me, I have to make the right decisions, even if it means leaving one organization to go to another.
Where and with whom I attend, where I should send my tithes, if and when I should stay home for a time, these are all decisions I must make according to many overlapping principles in the Bible, and those decisions are between me and God, not between me and the ministry. Ministers can sometimes help with advice and instruction, but the instruction and advice of all ministers is not always sound, and they cannot make the decisions for me. The Bible is the ultimate authority and I must look to it for answers, not primarily the ministry. I try to respect the office of the ministry and consider what they say with an open mind, checking the scriptures, but as I said before, the Bible must come first.
I have written elsewhere in this book on the importance of the principle that the ministry does not have dominion over a Christian's faith (2 Corinthians 1:24). That is, a member must believe what God says in the Bible more than what the ministry says. So in matters of what a Church of God member believes, in other words the area of faith, every member reports directly to Christ and to God, not to the Church or the ministry. But the ministry is over the organized work of the Church and that includes official teachings of the Church. God is not the author of confusion, and the Church should speak with one voice, all speaking the same thing consistently, without public disputing and contradiction (1 Corinthians 1:10-11). If a member is exercising faith to believe what he sees (or thinks he sees) in the Bible and that faith leads him to be in disagreement with the ministry, he must keep his disagreement with the ministry private, discussing it with the minister alone or discussing it with God in prayer until such time as the disagreement can be resolved. He should not contradict the ministry in conversation with other members in the organization he attends. This allows the member to obey Christ directly by believing the Bible, yet respect the authority of the ministry to carry out their role as teachers without contradiction.So Christ's authority as head of the Church flows through three channels. It flows directly to every member of the Church in matters of faith in what God says in the Bible and in obedience to God's law, and no human is an intermediary in that area. It flows through the husband to the wife and children in matters of family decisions. And it flows through the top leadership of any Church of God organization to the ministry and to the members in matters of the work of the Church including decisions regarding what doctrines the Church will officially teach with one voice. And if a minister or member cannot support a particular doctrine the leadership of the Church teaches (because of his obligation to obey Christ directly), let him respect the authority of the leadership by keeping silent on that particular doctrine. If a minister is questioned about a doctrine which he personally disagrees with, he can simply report, "the Church teaches that..." without endorsing or contradicting the doctrine.
Arguments and Answers
There are a number of arguments often made in favor of ballot-box governance. I will answer some of them here.
Argument: Balloting is based on the godly principle of seeking wisdom for making decisions from a multitude of counselors.
Answer: No, it isn't. Counsel is the giving and receiving of advice and information. There are two differences between counsel and the kind of balloting that occurs in Church of God organizations governed by balloting. First, counsel almost always includes the sharing of REASONS why a counselor is advising a certain decision. There is give and take discussion. In counsel, people talk over their reasons, and sometimes in this way they reach agreement, but if not, the decision maker can evaluate the reasons for various recommendations and base his decision on sound reasoning. A ballot is just a name, or a yes or no, without the complex thinking that may have gone into that recommendation. Second, counsel is advice a decision maker hears before making a decision. It is not binding. Counsel carries no authority. But in ballot-box governance the balloting carries authority. Everyone commits ahead of time to submit to the votes of the majority. It is mandatory. The balloting is not counsel about a decision to be made, balloting IS the decision.
If non-binding votes are cast, that is, the leader can follow the vote or not, that process is better termed "polling". In a poll a decision maker wants to know the preference of the majority, but is still not bound to follow it. It is a form of counsel, but without discussion, and is best used when the number of people is so great or the issue so small that it is not worthwhile to take the time for everyone to give reasons. As an example, a pastor may ask for a show of hands among three hundred people to see if they prefer morning or afternoon services. That is not ballot-box governance.
Argument: Since the death of Mr. Armstrong and the scattering of the Church, God has not made clear who the leader is, and until then we should cooperate with each other.
Answer: Certainly we should cooperate with each other, but placing ourselves under the authority of the majority is not the right way to cooperate. Governance by the ballot-box isn't necessary. There is a better way, a way that is consistent with principles taught in the Bible, even in cases where God has not yet made clear whom He has chosen as leader. And that way will most readily LEAD to knowing God's choice more quickly and more directly and more surely than voting.
When God chooses a leader, if He does not make His choice known by announcement from one higher in authority or by the leader's predecessor who had been appointed by God, then God will make known His choice by the fruits. That may take time. In that case, each pastor can function independently of other men, reporting directly to Christ, or he can report to another minister whom he knows is faithful and competent, until such time as Christ makes known by the fruits whom He as chosen. To properly recognize the fruits of such a man requires spiritual discernment, and that requires conversion and staying close to God. Those who do not seek God and the wisdom that comes from God may never recognize the one God has chosen, but that is God's way.
Argument: There are many forms or structures of governance in the Bible and God does not give specific instructions for any one form or structure to follow.
Answer: There are only two forms or structures of governance, though there can be many varieties within those two forms. The statement that there are many forms seeks to confuse the issue. The two BASIC forms are top-down or bottom-up, and the Bible ALWAYS teaches top-down. Within each of those forms there can be a variety of implementations, and the details of each implementation can vary enormously, but every implementation is just a variety of one or the other of the two basic structures.
This may be obvious to most but it needs to be stated. In the Kingdom of God, of the two basic forms of governance, top-down or balloting, we will be governed by top-down government, and that will be the only form of government for all eternity. Neither Christ nor any of the saints will ever run for election to determine by the votes of the majority what office He will hold.
Argument: Character of leaders is more important than structure of governance. Righteousness is more important than form. If we have righteousness, any form of governance will work. If we do not have righteousness, no form of governance will work.
Answer: Try this. Righteousness is more important than which day we worship God. Love is more important than which day of the week we rest on. If we practice righteousness, any day of rest and worship will work whether it be the seventh day of the week, the first day of the week, or any other day of the week. Righteousness is more important than the Sabbath.
So what is wrong with that? If you see the error in the statement about the Sabbath, you will be able to see the error in the statement about governance. The main problem is the same.
Righteousness and godly character are not defined by us humans. They are defined by God. It is not up to us to decide what is right and wrong. Adam and Eve made that choice when they took to themselves the knowledge of good and evil. Mankind has been deciding for itself what is right and wrong ever since. But God has not given man that authority. It is God who decides what is righteousness and what is sin, not man. We can only decide whether to practice righteousness, not what righteousness is.
Righteousness is obedience to God's commandments (Psalm 119:172). That includes the commandment to love God with all your heart (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:36-38, Mark 12:28-31, Mark 12:28). That commandment, to love God, in turn requires that we live by every word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), including the scriptures written for our examples (1 Corinthians 10:11), and it requires that we seek not only God's commandments but His WILL (Matthew 6:10, 7:21, 26:39, 42, John 4:31-34) and those things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22). We can learn from the examples in the Bible that seeking to place ourselves under the authority of the majority of men as determined by ballot rather than Christ is NOT God's will, and therefore it is not "righteous".
The principle is the same as with the Sabbath, although with the Sabbath there is a specific command. But disobeying the Sabbath command is always an unrighteous choice. It is not loving God with all our hearts. So the argument that you can break the Sabbath and it is ok as long as you practice righteousness is a false argument because the fact that you break the Sabbath shows that you are not making righteous choices according to God's standard as shown in the Bible. Likewise, to say that as long as you practice righteousness you can use a form of governance that the Bible shows is not God's will is a false argument because going against God's will is never practicing righteousness, according to God's standard.
Moreover, the argument that righteousness is more important than structure throws a smokescreen over the important issue of how righteous leaders are chosen. Leaders should be righteous, agreed, but WHO DECIDES WHO THEY WILL BE? That is the whole issue here. Who can read men's hearts, God or man? Is righteousness important? If it is, then we better have righteous leaders, or we are in trouble. But who chooses those leaders? Can you read a man's mind to know if he is righteous or not? Can the majority of voters read the minds of the candidates? And even if the majority can read minds, does the majority have the wisdom to recognize what they see? God can read hearts and minds and He has the wisdom to recognize righteousness when He sees it - He is the one who puts it there. God must choose the top leaders, not man.
One can examine recent history in the Church of God and judge if ballot-box governance has put righteous leaders into office.
The most popular men are not necessarily the leaders God chooses (1 Samuel 16:7).To have good results you need BOTH the right structure and righteous leaders. It is not one or the other, but both. You need to follow God's pattern of selecting leaders from the top down and you need leaders who are filled with God's Holy Spirit and make decisions based on God's word, the Bible. The following chart illustrates this:
If you have top-down government but the leaders are not filled with God's Spirit and do not base their decisions on the Bible, results will be bad. Likewise if you have government by balloting and the leaders are not filled with God's Spirit and do not base their decisions on the Bible, results also will be bad. But if you have top-down government and the leaders are filled with God's Spirit and base their decisions on the Bible, you will have good results.
What about the fourth combination I left out of the diagram, ballot-box governance with leaders who are filled with God's Spirit and make decisions based on the Bible?
Does that combination exist? I ask the question. If the Bible teaches top-down government in the Church, can Spirit-filled leaders support a contrary system and still be basing their decisions on the Bible? And if they do not base their choice of the structure of governance on the Bible, will they base their other decisions on the Bible?
A tree is known by its fruits. You cannot separate the choices of the structure of governance, whether those choices be right or wrong, from the godliness and wisdom of the men who make those choices. Wise and godly leaders make wise and godly choices and will choose the right structure of governance, the structure the Bible teaches, if they are basing their decision about governance on the Bible.
For best results, the Church needs top leaders who are filled with the Holy Spirit and live by every word of God in the decisions they make. But how can men filled with God's Holy Spirit and deeply committed to living by every word of God, the Bible, choose a system of governance based on the principles of this world and not based on the pattern God gives us for governance in the Bible? And if such men do not follow the pattern of the Bible in the form of governance, what assurance is there that they will follow the pattern the Bible teaches in other matters of leadership?
Sometimes a person defending ballot-box governance will selectively quote the Bible where the Bible specifies character attributes, as if the Bible says nothing about structure. One passage that can be quoted is Matthew 20:20-28. In this passage, the mother of James and John asked Jesus to grant that one would sit on His right hand and the other on His left. Jesus then taught the lesson that whoever is to be great must be a servant (verses 25-28). But did Jesus say nothing about structure? Quite the opposite. Structure was the FIRST thing He talked about, even before character or righteousness. Before He talked about having the attitude of a servant, He said this: "...to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father" (second part of verse 23, KJV). Jesus did not have the authority to grant their request. It was the Father who would make that decision. No voting. The decision came from the top down. I suppose after this incident the ten other apostles would not have voted for James or John anyway.
Look at Paul's instructions to Titus in Titus 1:5-9. What does Paul talk about first, structure or character? STRUCTURE! Before Paul explains the character requirements for an elder, he says "appoint elders" (verse 5). Appoint means top-down structure. Titus was to appoint, not hold elections. It makes sense that God would inspire this to be written this way, because before the qualifications are discussed it is important to know who these instructions are addressed to and who is to examine candidates in light of the qualifications. These qualifications are not instructions to be used by ministers in deciding who to vote for. They are instructions for Titus so he would know who to appoint.
Argument: There is no commandment in the Bible against using balloting to select leaders in the Church of God.
Answer: It is true there is no direct commandment against balloting. Neither is there a direct commandment against celebrating birthdays, participating in this world's politics, or smoking. There are a number of doctrines of the Church of God taught by Mr. Armstrong and taught by many Churches of God today that are not based on direct commands. They are taught on the principle of knowing God's will from the Bible and doing it. They are based on the spirit of the law, not just the letter. And the spirit of the law shows that it is wrong for a Church of God organization to place itself under the authority of the majority of ministers by using balloting to select the top leaders.
Argument: "One man" governance will not solve all our problems.
Answer: Of course not. Having the right structure does not guarantee that men in that structure will make right decisions. Even when God appoints the leaders, He may give us the leaders we deserve if we have become lukewarm (Isaiah 3:1-5), and God sometimes gives us leaders with problems because He wants to test us, as He did in Worldwide after Mr. Armstrong died. And not every top-down leader of a Church of God claiming to be a faithful servant of God really is what he may claim. But that doesn't change the fact that top-down government is God's way of doing things. You need the right form (top-down) and you need personal righteousness and godly character in the leaders, BOTH, to have the best governance in the Church of God.
I could go back to the example of the Sabbath and say, "keeping the seven-day Sabbath will not solve all our problems". Of course not. But breaking the Sabbath will create all kinds of problems, and ballot-box governance will create all kinds of problems.
We need to follow all of God's ways, both with the structure of governance and in every other matter of thinking, speaking, and acting, if we want the best results. Keeping any one point of God's law will not solve all our problems if we break the other points of God's law. We have to obey everything.
Argument: Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and He therefore controls everything. Thus, if we have balloting to select our leaders, it is God's will that we use balloting, and if certain men are elected by ballot, it is God's will that those men receive the offices to which they are elected, because everything that happens is God's will.
Answer: Christ has the power to control everything if He wants to, but He does not use that power to take away our free moral agency. We can choose to do wrong, and if we do, our doing wrong is not God's will, though He may allow it. This is true in the Church as it is in the world. Christ lets us make mistakes, He lets us sin, He lets us make wrong choices, and then He sometimes brings the consequences of our wrong choices on our heads to teach us lessons (Galatians 6:7, Hebrews 12:7-11, 1 Peter 2:20, 4:15-16).
You cannot say that Christ controls everything and therefore everything that happens is His will, and then use that as an excuse to make wrong choices and say, "It is His will". Using the ballot-box to select as leaders those men who are the most popular with the majority of men is not God's way. But if you are so inclined to do so, Christ may let you have your way for the purpose of testing you and teaching you through bitter experience that your way is wrong. That is how God dealt with ancient Israel when they rejected God as their king and asked for a human king. God did not refuse them, but He warned them of the bad consequences, then He let them have their way (1 Samuel 8:1-22).
God gave us this physical life to test us and teach us lessons. Sometimes that means He lets us do stupid things and reap unpleasant consequences. It also means God tests us by forcing us to choose between right and wrong - then letting us do wrong if that is what we choose. That is how God knows if He can trust us for eternity.
Also, God is not only testing the ministry to see if they choose to be governed administratively by the ballot box rather than Christ. He is also testing the membership to see what fellowship they choose to support and whether they support ballot-box governance contrary to the Bible with their tithes and offerings. So for the purpose of testing the membership, Christ may allow Church of God organizations with ballot-box governance to exist. In that sense, it may be His will that this option exist as a possible choice that members can select. But that does not mean He is pleased when ministers and members choose to be ruled by the ballot box. Ballot-box governance is, in its essence, the majority forcing its will upon the minority. Those who choose to be ruled by the majority of men rather than by Christ are making a wrong choice.
Argument: Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and therefore is the head over a Church of God organization that uses balloting to select leaders and is the head of every congregation in it.
Answer: This argument is very similar to the previous one, but more directly speaks of Christ's authority over a Church of God organization that uses balloting to select leaders.
I have previously shown that Christ's authority over the Church of God flows three ways. See last section in this chapter titled "Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry".
If you have a Church of God fellowship that uses balloting to select leaders, is Jesus Christ the head of that organization? Is He the head over the administrative work that organization does in doing the organized work of the Church?
As I have explained in the previous section, "Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry", Christ is head over each Christian directly in matters of faith, the spiritual law of God, and our personal salvation. Christ's authority in this matter does not flow through the ministry but flows directly from Christ to every individual who has God's Spirit dwelling in him or her. Christ is also the head over every family unit through the husband in decisions regarding family matters. And finally, Christ is head over the administrative, organized work of the Church of God through the ministry.
So the question, "is Christ the head over a Church of God fellowship that practices ballot-box governance?", is not about Christ's authority over each of us individually as Christians, nor is it about Christ's authority through the husband over each family. Christ is ALWAYS the head over each one of us in the matter of our personal salvation and faith, and Christ is ALWAYS the head over each family in the Church through the husband. The question is only about Christ's authority over the administrative work of the Church through the ministry in matters such as preaching the gospel, feeding the flock, resolving disputes between brethren, distributing Church assistance to the poor, and similar matters.
So what is the answer?
If we mean, does Christ have authority over the organized work of a Church of God fellowship that practices ballot-box governance, the answer is yes. But if we mean, is such a fellowship OBEYING and SUBMITTING TO that authority, I think the answer may be no.
You could ask the same question regarding the family unit or an individual Christian. I said before that Christ is ALWAYS the head of each Christian and each family unit in the Church. But even that presupposes that each Christian is submitting to Christ as head and each husband is submitting to Christ as head in making family decisions. But if we are not obeying Christ, is Christ still our head? It can become a matter of semantics. The authority is there, but the obedience to the authority is missing. So if Christ has authority over someone, but that person is not obeying Christ, do you say that Christ is the head of that person because Christ has the authority, or do you say that Christ is not the head of that person because the person is refusing to submit to Christ?
Christ certainly has authority as head over every ordained minister and local pastor in the work that pastor does regarding his congregation. When the top leadership is chosen by God rather than the balloting of men, the authority of Christ flows from the top down through the top leadership down to the pastors. But even in a Church governed by balloting, Christ's authority flows from the top down through the pastors in the sense that every minister has been ordained by the laying on of hands of another ordained minister going back in a chain of authority to Mr. Armstrong and to Christ. Those pastors have authority over the members of their congregations in matters of church administration such as making binding decisions. That authority flows from the top down. The members of a congregation do not elect their pastors. They do not make someone an ordained minister by popular vote. In every case, a minister is ordained by the laying on of hands of another ordained minister, not by the counting of ballots.
That authority, the authority a pastor or minister has that comes directly from Christ through ordination, authority to feed the portion of Christ's flock he has charge of, the authority to resolve disputes between brethren, the authority to determine times of Sabbath services, sermonette speaking schedules, and similar matters, does not end because he chooses to submit to other men who are voted into office because they are popular with the majority. Each pastor is still responsible to Christ in how he takes care of the members in his flock, and the members still must respect the office their pastor holds and the authority of that office.
And in that sense, yes, Christ is the head of a Church of God fellowship and the congregations in it even if the pastors choose to govern themselves administratively by the ballot box.
But it is still wrong for those pastors to ignore the Bible teaching regarding the basic top-down structure of godly government and choose to submit themselves to rule by the majority rather than submitting to Christ's leadership from the top down. And Christ's authority over the pastors does not imply that Christ is pleased with their decision to set up ballot-box governance in the Church, or is pleased with the actual selection of leaders they make, or is pleased with the decisions those leaders make.
Christ gave binding and loosening authority to the leaders of the Church, especially in but not limited to the context of resolving disputes between members (Matthew 18:15-18). Does that binding and loosening authority exist in Church of God fellowships governed through balloting? Should members respect binding decisions given to them through their pastors? I think the answer is yes. Even though ministers err in setting up governance by balloting, there must be some kind of authority or the Church of God could not function. God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). God can rebuke and chasten us for our mistakes to teach us lessons and yet not totally reject us.
Bible history shows that God often backs up authority even when that authority is not completely faithful or makes serious mistakes. Moses sinned when he disobeyed God by striking the rock instead of speaking to it as he was commanded, and his sin was so great God punished him severely. Yet God backed up Moses' authority by causing water to come out of the rock anyway (Numbers 20:7-12). Israel sinned by asking for a king because they were really rejecting God as their king, but God gave them Saul and backed up Saul's authority, for example by answering Saul's inquiry concerning the curse he placed on those who ate before sundown on a certain occasion (1 Samuel 8:4-22, 12:16-22, 14:24-45), and David also respected that authority by not killing Saul to defend himself on two occasions (1 Samuel 24:1-22, 26:1-25), even after Saul himself had proved himself unfaithful (1 Samuel 13:1-14, 15:1-31). God backed up Judas with power to heal and cast out demons along with the other eleven apostles, even though Judas was not a faithful man (Mark 3:13-19, 6:7-13). God even backs up civil authorities in this world, commanding us through scripture to obey them (Romans 13:1-7) even though Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11, Matthew 4:8-10, Luke 4:5-8).
But in emphasizing their authority that comes to them from Christ in Christ's role as head of the Church, ministers in Church of God organizations governed by balloting may imply that Christ endorses and approves of their structure of governance, and that is false reasoning. Ministers have authority, but ministers can also misuse that authority.
Argument: There are cases in Acts in which a church or a group is said to have "sent" apostles to this or that mission, indicating that the group collectively had authority over the apostles, not the other way around, because someone doing the "sending" has authority over the person being "sent" - See Acts 8:14-15, 11:22, and 13:1-4.Answer: "Sending" someone in the Bible does not necessarily imply authority as the English word would generally mean in our culture today. If you study the use of that term in the Bible, it can sometimes mean authority, but it can also mean support, encouragement, provisioning with supplies, or simply accompanying a person part way on his journey, not necessarily authority. Look at Genesis 18:16 where it says that Abraham "sent" the three men on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah. We understand that these "men" appeared as men but were Christ and two angels. It is obvious that Abraham did not have authority over them, yet he is said to have "sent" them on their way. So if you see an account in the Bible that says that someone sent someone else on their way, that does not necessarily indicate that the sender has authority over the one sent.
Other Problems with Using Balloting to Govern the Church of God
I will briefly mention a number of other problems with using balloting to govern the Church of God. I cover some of these in more detail in the Preaching the Gospel blog.
The name of this book is Preaching the Gospel, and the subject is what the true gospel is, why it needs to be preached to the world, and how to do it effectively. One of the points I make in chapter 6 is that to be successful, we have to practice what we preach. We preach a message of good news about the return of Christ to establish the Kingdom of God over all nations and to abolish all man-made governments in this world. But how can we say that it is "good news" that the various forms of man's government on the earth will be abolished, including the democracies of this world, if we hold to one of those forms of government in the Church? If we do that, we are not being consistent. If we think that it is good news that the rule of Christ will replace democracy, then we will not be practicing democracy in the Church of God. We will accept Christ's rule over us if we are sincere in believing that His rule is really good news.
Setting up governance by balloting creates an immediate conflict of interest in a Church of God and encourages politics and division. Consider: In the Church of God we are correctly taught to respect authority and not undermine leaders in the Church by openly criticizing them in front of others who are under the authority of those leaders (Numbers 12:1-15). Yet, we should also seek counsel before making decisions. Now, if those under the authority of a leader in the Church must make a decision on whether or not to vote him out of office, they have to be able to give and receive counsel among themselves about that decision, but that automatically opens the door for criticism that undermines the leader's authority and ability to govern. Moreover, democracy in a Church of God organization can encourage division because those in power can retain their power by forcing those who disagree with them out of the Church so they cannot vote against them in the next election.
You cannot mix the world's way and God's way and expect good results.
The very concept of an organization governed through balloting is a concept learned from the world. It is not in the Bible.
God is teaching us the way of life that we will be living for eternity in His kingdom. He is not teaching us how to make Satan's way in this world work more effectively.
Recent history in the Church of God seems to show that ballot-box governance produces bad fruit. We have an example of good fruit borne by top-down government, and that is the fruit borne by Mr. Armstrong, but I am aware of no example of a Church of God organization governed by balloting bearing good fruit in the long term. Rather, recent history demonstrates how ballot-box governance can encourage division.
God inspired Paul to write that we should keep the traditions Paul delivered to the first century congregations he supervised (1 Corinthians 11:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Thessalonians 3:6). Any objective study of the New Testament Church of God will show that selection of leaders in the Church by the balloting of the elders was NOT part of the tradition of the Church.
Setting up a Church of God fellowship governed by balloting creates division in the whole Church of God because that fellowship automatically becomes separated from brethren who cannot accept that type of system with a clear conscience because they know that it is contrary to the teaching of the Bible.
Democracy in a Church of God also tends to encourage or create a conflict of interest between a leader's obligation to obey Christ and his desire to retain the voting support of those who may vote for him in the next election.Ballot-box governance is taking to oneself the prerogative of joining with others to make a decision that will be binding on those who may disagree. In other words, it is the use of legal force by the majority of ministers to impose its will on the other ministers.
Clarify Your Thinking!
The whole issue of top-down vs. ballot-box governance in the Church of God boils down to only two questions.
Should God chose who the top leaders in His Church will be, or should the ministers choose the leaders?
Now if you say the ministers should choose the leaders, then we don't need to look at the second question.
But if you say God should choose who the top leaders should be, the next question is, does God make His choice known through the voting of the ministers?
If you say yes to that question, then I say that we must let God show us in the Bible how he makes His will known to us.
You can't just make up some criteria to know God's will and say, "If such-and-such happens, that means God wants me to do such-and-such". Or, "If I win a million dollars in this sweepstakes, then that means God wants me to attend this church, but if I don't win the million dollars, then that means God wants me to attend this other church." What if God doesn't want you to attend either of those two particular churches? What if He doesn't want to answer your inquiry? Or what if He wants you to attend the first church but doesn't want you to have the million dollars? What if he didn't want you to enter the sweepstakes in the first place because you have a bad attitude about it and are making an idol out of money? What if you are using a lack of money as an excuse for bad choices in your life?
How about, "If that traffic light up ahead stays red for 10 more seconds, that means God doesn't want me to go to Bible study tonight."
God doesn't have to answer you on your terms.
You say, "If all the ministers vote, whoever receives the most votes must be God's choice, and that is how we will know." Really? Did God agree to that? Did God tell you to vote to know His will? Did God say that whoever is most popular is His choice?
How do you know God will guide the vote? Does God even want you to vote? Where is the authorization in the Bible? Where does God say, "By this you will know My will, whoever receives the most votes is My choice"?
How do you know God will guide the balloting? Do you suppose that everything that happens, even the wrong choices we make, is God's will? Suppose that God wants to teach the Church the lesson that balloting to select leaders is not His way and that He wants to teach the Church to trust and rely on His word more to use the criteria He has given in the examples of the Bible to discern whom He has chosen. If that is the case, is it possible God will NOT guide the balloting but allow events to take their natural course and allow men to come into office who will divide the Church even further?
Jesus Christ did not say, "by the votes they receive you will know them" (Matthew 7:20, Luke 6:43-45). We are to judge by fruits, and one of the primary fruits is what a man teaches and says (verse 45). Not by popularity in the eyes of others. Not by counting how many men want him in office. But by what the man himself says, teaches, and does and by whether God blesses the man with power and effectiveness in doing good works and in doing God's work of preaching the gospel to the world and feeding the flock.
When the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus to ask if he was the Messiah, Jesus told them to tell John the fruits they had seen in Jesus: the sick were healed and the poor had the gospel preached to them (Matthew 11:2-6). Fruits, not votes. That is how John was to know. Not by how popular Jesus was.
Most people who believe in balloting in the Church do not make clear if they think God wants them to choose or if God chooses but makes His choice known by the votes cast. Which is it? If you believe in balloting, do you think the ministers, not Christ, should choose the leader? Or do you think that Christ chooses the leader and makes His choice known by inspiring the voting? At least be clear about WHY you believe in balloting.
If you are a minister, and you do not want to be independent of other ministers but want a man over you, if you see a fellow minister bearing good fruits, teaching right doctrines, and blessed by God with power and gifts for doing His work, you can join that man if you want and work for him and follow him as he follows Christ. But you don't have to look at the voting of other men to see if he is popular before you support him.
Because at the bottom line, ballot-box governance is really a popularity contest. Voting is not how God makes His choices known to his people for leaders in Israel or the Church of God, according to the pattern God shows us in the Bible.
Some may think that God puts men into office in the Church by arranging events and circumstances to put those men into office and to make His choice known by the circumstances of voting.
Have men in the Bible ever asked God to make His will known through circumstances, and has God ever answered their requests? Abraham's servant asked God to let him know whom God had chosen as a bride for Isaac based on what she said and did (Genesis 24:10-27). Jonathan based a decision to attack the Philistines on what they said as a sign from God (1 Samuel 14:6-14). Saul and David inquired of God through the priest, whom I understand cast lots (1 Samuel 14:24-30, 36-44, 1 Samuel 23:1-6, 9-13). The disciples cast lots to know whom God had chosen to replace Judas (Acts 1:15-17, 21-26).
In the matter of lots, this was an accepted practice in God's sight from earliest times in Israel (Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8, Deuteronomy 33:8, Ezra 2:63, Nehemiah 7:65). God even gave instructions concerning this - see Numbers 27:21. Although there is no record of this practice continuing in the Church of God after Pentecost, it was not wrong for the apostles to inquire of God this way at that time - there was plenty of biblical precedent.
What about Abraham's servant asking God to show him who was to be Isaac's bride based on the woman offering to draw water for him and his camels? What about Jonathan deciding that if the Philistines called out for them to "come to us" that meant God had delivered them into their hand and they should attack them?
I am sure many Church of God members from time to time have done similar things. Is this wrong?
In the case of Abraham's servant and Jonathan, it seems to have had a good result. God may from time to time let us know things through circumstances. But mostly God gave us this physical life so we can learn to make decisions using wisdom (James 1:5). And in any case, there is no promise from God that He will answer us according to the signs and indications we ask for. Even Abraham's servant, who must have learned about God from Abraham, wasn't sure God had answered him even after Rebekah spoke according to the sign He had prayed for (Genesis 24:21). God wants us to learn to make decisions using His word the Bible as a guide and using the wisdom God gives us through Bible study and the Holy Spirit.
And setting up permanent institutions governed by popularity voting, with ministers committing themselves in advance to support the preferences of the majority, is a long way from the examples of what Abraham's servant and Jonathan had done to know God's will. Moreover, it is unnecessary. God has given us a pattern to show us how to know whom He has chosen as leader, and it is not voting. It is fruits. In some cases God inspires a leader to name his successor. And in some cases it is both fruits and an announcement from one who has the authority to name someone. But not balloting. It is wrong to substitute our own made-made systems for the process God has already given us.
The very nature of the election process and structure set up in most of these man-made ballot-box governed organizations shows that they are not designed to show God's will. Men are not only elected by popular vote, they must be reelected every so many years or they lose their offices. They must not only be popular, they must remain popular. In most cases "safeguards" are put into place to prevent any one man from being very powerful, for example not allowing him to serve as president and also be on the ruling board or council. This is not about discerning God's will but ministers trying to control their own employer.
God is preparing us for His kingdom and we should be practicing the way of life we will be living in the Kingdom of God at every opportunity so we can learn that way of life. That is God's purpose for us and that should be our purpose too. We can choose our own leaders out of self-will and distrust of God's will or we can discern God's will according to the pattern He has shown us in the Bible for knowing His will. It does not prepare us for the Kingdom very well to blur the distinction between those two paths by setting up organizations that use majority opinion to make binding decisions about leaders.
I have more about the issue of Church of God governance in the Preaching the Gospel blog in posts starting with the post dated December 19, 2009 and later. The December 19 post is titled "Church of God Governance". See link at the top of this website ( http://www.ptgbook.org ) or go directly to http://ptgbook.blogspot.com
Go to the archives listed in the left column of the blog for all archived posts.
Also, see the following sections about governance in other chapters in this book:Chapter 7 - How Is the Church Organized?
Root of the Church's Problem - Lack of Faith
I am convinced and I believe the evidence is overwhelming that the doctrine of the eras of the Church of God is correct and that the whole Church of God is in the period of time and the condition known as the Laodicean era of the Church. The problem with governance in the Church is just one symptom of the spiritual state described in Revelation 3:14-22.
What is needed is Church-wide repentance.
It is not just those Church of God organizations that govern themselves through balloting that have problems. I think many of the major groups are in need of repentance. Most of those who are governed from the top-down according to the biblical pattern have other problems not relating to the structure of governance, but potentially just as serious.
We should all take seriously what Christ says to the Laodiceans. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Revelation 3:15-22, KJV). We need to be zealous and repent.
I think the need for repentance in the Church will become more obvious to the ministry and membership as we draw closer to the end of this age.
But it helps to know exactly what we are to repent of.
We are to repent of lukewarmness and complacency (Revelation 3:15-16). We are to repent of a sense of self-satisfaction, the sense that we are "ok" in God's sight (Revelation 3:17, 1 Corinthians 10:12, Matthew 5:48). Often times this sense of self-satisfaction comes from consciously or unconsciously falling into the habit of looking at the faults of others and comparing ourselves with our brethren and neighbors (Luke 18:9-14, 2 Corinthians 10:12). When we do that we give Satan an opening to use our human nature against us. Instead, we should compare ourselves with Christ and say, "No, I am NOT ok. I need to change, and I need to change NOW, or I am in big trouble." God wants a humble contrite attitude, not an attitude that dwells on the faults of others (Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 57:15, 66:2, Matthew 7:1-5, James 4:6-12). We ALL need that attitude, because that is an attitude Christ can work with. We each have a full time job working on our own faults not the faults we perceive in individuals we see around us.
The whole Church of God has serious spiritual problems, and we need to repent.
The longer I am in the Church of God the more I am convinced that the root of our spiritual problems is a lack of godly faith. We need to see and acknowledge to ourselves that we have that problem, that our trust and faith in God and in Christ and in God's word is weak and needs strengthening. Disbelief in God's word and distrust of God is a sin (1 John 3:4, Matthew 23:23) - it is a violation of the law. We need to confess that sin before God, to turn from it, and to claim God's promise to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). We turn from that sin by resolving to believe and trust God more deeply and more consistently in our lives. We must study God's word more diligently, put Satan and his influences out of our lives in whatever way we can (maybe by not spending a lot of time with TV for example), and act more diligently on God's word and rely on His promises. God is faithful and true. His promises are not in vain - He will keep them, every one of them. All of His word is true, and if we really believe that we will diligently look to His word for answers to all of our problems and we will live by His word because we know we can trust it. We will exercise courage to "stick our necks out" to obey Him, trusting God's word, that He will do what He says He will do.
If any of us does that, and the majority probably will not, whoever does this will make progress in becoming zealous and escaping the punishment coming upon the Laodiceans. "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:34-36, KJV).