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"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" - 1 Peter 3:15

Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses Organizational Structure like the Early Church?

raised-handsActually, there is no denominational church today that is structured like the Early Church.  The Early Watchtower actually was structured like the Early Church, but Rutherford changed that after Russell’s death.  Bible Students today still structure their congregations in this Biblical manner.

According to the Bible, the election of elders by Holy Spirit anointed congregational members was practiced in the Early Church.  The eventual elimination of this practice gradually led to Elders becoming the Lord’s of the Church, rather than its servants and it opened the way for the development of the Papal system which suppressed Christian liberty.

Paul and Barnabas went around to all the churches and conducted the election of Elders.  Acts 14: 23 (Weymouth) says, ”And in every Church, after prayer and fasting, they selected Elders by show of hands, and commended them to the Lord on whom their faith rested.  Other translations, like Rotherham and Young’s Literal translation say, “appointed to them by vote elders in every assembly.”    RVIC Revised Version Improved and Corrected says, “elected elders.”

Most translators confuse the reader by mis-translating the Greek word (Strong’s 5500) as”ordain.”  Yet the real meaning of the word cannot be hidden in 2 Corinthians  where Paul speaks of a brother who was elected by the churches to travel with him:  2 Cor 8:19 (Weymouth ) “… he is the one who was chosen by the vote of the Churches to travel with us…

In another example, we recall that the Apostles asked the Jerusalem Church to select seven deacons.  Acts 6:3 Weymouth says, “Therefore, brethren, pick out from among yourselves seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, and we will appoint them to undertake this duty.”  Certainly, no one would have challenged the Apostles had they exerted their influence to appoint deacons themselves.  Yet instead they humbly asked the Congregation to make this selection.

The Apostles never attempted to assert authoritative rule over the Congregations, even though Freedom and Christian Liberty in the Churches was so strong that it created great problems for the Apostles.

In 3 John 1 (Phillips), the Apostle John said, “9 I did write a letter to the church, but Diotrephes, who wants to be head of everything, does not recognise us!  10  If I do come to you, I shall not forget his actions nor the slanderous things he has said in spite against us. And it doesn’t stop there, for he refuses to welcome the brothers himself, and stops those who would like to do so—he even excommunicates them!

Is the JW Governing Body more like the Apostle John or Diotrephes?

Paul’s humility is very evident in his plea to the Corinthian brethren in 2 Cor10:1 (NKJV) where he says, ”Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — who in presence am lowly among you…“

Paul did not try to force his will upon the Church.  He did not lord it over the Church, but in their presence was humble and lowly.

In 1 Thess 2 (NASV), Paul says, ”6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. 7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.

Speaking of himself and the other Apostles, Paul says in 1 Cor 4 (NKJV) ”11 To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world….”  Does the JW Governing Body live like Kings or like the Apostles?

Considering the humble condition and circumstance faced daily by the Apostles, we should feel privileged with even the lowliest of services for the Lord, the Truth and the brethren.

Paul lamented, 2 Tim 1:15 (NIV), ”You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes…”

2 Tim 4:16 (NAS), ”At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me...”

The Apostles suffered much in order to lead the Early Church by example, gentleness and love, even though they could have made things easy for themselves by implementing an iron rule.

The early church was able to resist the encroachments of power hungry leaders.  Rev 2:6 says of the first (Early) Church, “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”    The word Nicolans means “A conqueror or lord of the people.”  These are those who lord it over the Lord’s heritage. (1 Pet. 5:3)

Yet by the third Church period (Approx 311 to 700 AD), this oppressive influence began to take over the Church.  Rev 2:14, 15 (NKJV) “ But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam…  you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”  Yes, “while men [the apostles] slept [in death], the enemy [Satan] sowed tares [imitation Christians] amount the wheat [true Christians].” (Matt 13:25)

You can read more about how the Early Watchtower was structured like the early church from C.T. Russell’s own words here: 

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WHAT DO COMMENTARIES SAY?

Since Ordaining ministers is common practice in denominational churches, it would be amazing to find any of their authorities conceding that Strongs 5500 can be translated to “vote” or ”elect,” yet the historical definition of the word in early literature is so clear that it cannot be ignored.  The following commentators concede the meaning, yet some try to maneuver out of the concession by rationalizing that the meaning of the word was changed by the apostles.

BARNES NOTES
er. 23. And when they had ordained. ceirotonhsantev. The word ordain we now use in an ecclesiastical sense, to denote a setting apart to an office by the imposition of hands.  But it is evident that the word here is not employed in that sense.  That imposition of hands might have occurred in setting apart afterwards to this office is certainly possible, but it is not implied in the word employed here, and did not take place in the transaction to which this word refers. The word occurs but in one other place in the New Testament, {#2Co 8:19} where it is applied to Luke, and translated, “who was also chosen of the church, (i.e. appointed or elected by suffrage by the churches,) to travel with us,” etc. The verb properly denotes to stretch out the hand; and as it was customary to elect to office, or to vote, by stretching out or elevating the hand, so the word simply means to elect, appoint, or designate to any office. The word here refers simply to an election or appointment of the elders.  It is said, indeed, that Paul and Barnabas did this. But probably all that is meant by it is, that they presided in the assembly when the choice was made.  It does not mean that they appointed them without consulting the church; but it evidently means that they appointed them in the usual way of appointing officers, by the suffrages of the people. See Schleusner, and the notes of Doddridge and Calvin.

JFP – JAMIESON, FAUSSET & BROWN
Acts 14:23, 24. when they had ordained them elders—literally, “chosen by showof hands.” But as that would imply that this was done by the apostles’ own hands, many render the word, as in our version, “ordained.” Still, as there is no evidence in the New Testament that the word had then lost its proper meaning, as this is beyond doubt its meaning in #2Co 8:19, and as there is indisputable evidence that the concurrence of the people was required in all elections to sacred office in the earliest ages of the Church, it is perhaps better to understand the words to mean, “when they had made a choice of elders,” that is, superintended such choice on the part of the disciples.

THE PULPIT COMMENTARY
Appointed for them for ordained them, A.V.
(ceirotonhsantev); had believed for believed, A.V. The original meaning of ceirotonew is “to stretch out the hand,” and the substantive ceirotonia is used in the LXX of #Isa 58:9 for “the putting forth of the finger” of the A.V.  But the common meaning of the verb is “to vote by stretching out the hand” and hence “to elect” by a show of hands, {#2Co 8:19} or simply “to appoint,” without any reference to voting.  In the choice of an apostle the election was by lot, {#Ac 1:26} in the appointment of deacons the choice was by the people, how indicated we are not told; {#Ac 6:5} the question here, on which commentators disagree, is whether the use of the word ceirotonew indicates voting by the people, selection by the apostles, or simple creation or appointment. As ceirotonhsantev is predicated of Paul and Barnabas, it cannot possibly refer to voting by the people, who are included in the able, as those on whose behalf the ceirotonia was made. It seems simplest and most in accordance with the classical use of the word and its use (innoiv), #Ac 10:41 (prokeceirotonhme) to take it in the sense of creation or appointment (see Steph., ‘Thesaur.’).  There is no reference to the laying on of hands.  Elders. see #Ac 11:30, note; #Ac 20:17; and especiallyterov #Tit 1:5,7, where we see that presbu was synonymous with ejpiskopov.  From presbuterov is formed prestos, priest, in French prestre, pretre. Comp. #Ac 13:3, for fasting and prayer as accompaniments of ordination.  Hence in the Church ordinations are preceded by the Ember days. They commended them to the Lord. {comp. #Ac 20:32}  In ver. 26 the word used is paradedomenoi.

CALVIN’S COMMENTARIES
Had ordained by election. The Greek word ceirotonein doth signify to decree, or ordain a thing, by lifting up the hands, as they used to do in the assemblies of the people. Notwithstanding, the ecclesiastical writers do often use the word ceirotoneia, in another sense; to wit, for their [the] solemn rite of ordaining, which is called in Scripture laying on of hands. Furthermore, by this manner of speech is very excellently expressed the right way to ordain pastors. Paul and Barnabas are said to choose {2} elders. Do they this alone by their private office? {3} Nay, rather they suffer the matter to be decided by the consent of them all. {4} Therefore, in ordaining pastors the people had their free election, but lest there should any tumult arise, Paul and Barnabas sit as chief moderators. Thus must the decree of the council of Laodicea be understood, which forbiddeth that the people have liberty granted them to elect. {5}

J. A. ALEXANDER COMMENTARY
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord on whom they believed.  Besides these exhortations of instructions, they gave their converts a distinct organization as societies or churches. The meaning of the word ordained has been the subject of protracted and vehement dispute between Presbyterian and Episcopal interpreters. The latter grant that the original etymological import of the Greek word is to vote by stretching out the hand, but they contend that usage had so modified its meaning as to generate the secondary sense of choosing or appointing, without any reference to votes or popular election; and this they insist upon as the unquestionable use of the word here, where the act is predicated, not of the people but of Paul and Barnabas, who cannot be supposed to have voted for these elders with the outstretched hand.  Some go further and adopt the patristical usage of the word to denote imposition of hands, as the ordaining act; but this is commonly agreed to be an ecclesiastical usage of the word long posterior in date to the times of the Apostles. The opposite extreme is that of making the word here denote, directly and exclusively, the act of suffrage or election by the people.  To meet the objection, which has been already stated, that the act described is not that of the people, but of Paul and Barnabas, some modify this explanation of the term, so as to make it mean that Paul and Barnabas appointed or ordained the elders chosen by the people. The philological objection to this modification, that the same verb cannot denote both these processes at once, can only be removed by taking one step further and thus reaching the true mean between the opposite extremes. This middle ground is, that the verb itself, expressing as it clearly does the act of Paul and Barnabas, can only mean that they appointed or ordained these elders, without determining the mode of election or the form of ordination; but that the use of this particular expression, which originally signified the vote of an assembly, does suffice to justify us in supposing that the method of selection was the same as that recorded (not in #Ac 1:26, where the election was by lot and by direct divine authority, but) in #Ac 6:5,6, where it is explicitly recorded that the people chose the seven and the twelve ordained them.

JOHN GILL’S EXPOSITOR
Ver. 23. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, &c.] As soon as ever any number of disciples were made, or souls were converted to Christ in any place, they were at once formed, by the apostles, into a church state; and as the gifts, as well as the grace of the Holy Ghost, attended the ministry of the word, so among those that were converted, there were some that were honoured with ministerial gifts, qualifying them to preach the Gospel, and take upon them the care of the churches: these the apostles directed the churches to look out from among themselves, as in the case of deacons, an inferior office, who by joint suffrages declared their choice of them by the stretching out, or lifting up of their hands, as the word here used signifies, and not the imposition of them; and the apostles presiding in this affair, they were installed into the office of bishops, elders, or pastors over them; which expresses the great regard the apostles had to the order, as well as to the doctrine of the Gospel, and the concern they had for the welfare of souls converted under their ministry, by making a provision for them when they were gone.

CLARK’S COMMENTARY
Anciently, the choice or suffrage was called cheirotonia; for, when it was lawful for the multitude in their cities to choose their priests or bishops, they met together, and some chose one man, some another; but, that it might appear whose suffrage won, they say the electors did use ekteinein tav ceirav, to stretch forth their hands, and by their hands so stretched forth, or up, they were numbered who chose the one, and who the other; and him who was elected by the most suffrages they placed in the high priesthood. And from hence was the name cheirotonia taken, which the fathers of the councils are found to have used, calling their suffrage cheirotonia.’ St. Paul, {#2Co 8:19}, intimates that St. Luke was thus appointed to travel with him ceirotonhyeiv upo twn ekklhsiwn, who was chosen of the Churches.  Ignatius, in his epistle to the Philadelphians, uses the same term, prepon estin umin, wv ekklhsia yeou, ceirotonhsai episkopon, ye ought, as a Church of God, to choose your bishop.” Much more on this subject may be seen in Sir Norton Knatchbull, who contends that cheirotonia implies simply appointment or election, but not what he calls ordination by the imposition of hands. I believe the simple truth to be this, that in ancient times the people chose by the cheirotonia (lifting up of hands) their spiritual pastor; and the rulers of the Church, whether apostles or others, appointed that person to his office by the cheirothesia, or imposition of hands; and perhaps each of these was thought to be equally necessary: the Church agreeing in the election of the person; and the rulers of the Church appointing, by imposition of hands, the person thus elected. See note on “Ac 6:6″.

MATHIEW POOLE’S COMMENTARY
Acts 14:23. Ordained;  the word properly signifies a stretching out of the hand, such as was used when they gave their suffrages in the election of their magistrates, whereby was showed for whom they gave their voice; and afterwards it was commonly used for to constitute or appoint, or, as here, to ordain to any office or place; which might the rather be done by stretching out or laying on of the hands of the apostles, because by that means the Holy Ghost (or a power of working miracles) was frequently bestowed, #Ac 8:17,18, which in those times was necessary to authorize their doctrine to the infidel world.

PNT PEOPLE NEW TESTAMENT NOTES
And when they had ordained them elders. Observe (1) that elders were not appointed as soon as the churches were planted; time must be taken so as to know what men were fitted for the office; (2) that elders were not appointed to preside over a district, but “in every church”; (3) that there was a plurality; (4) that they were set apart with fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands. It is not here stated who selected the men, but from #Ac 6:6 we would infer that they were chosen by the church under the advice of the apostles.

COFFMAN’S COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE
Appointed…
Arguments based on this word which would require elders to be voted upon are not valid. As MacGreggor noted: The word ‘appointed’ means literally ‘chose by show of hands’ and, strictly speaking, should imply some form of popular voting.  But it had come to be used of choice in general without reference to the means.

WEYMOUTH:   selected elders by show of hands

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