Acts 14:23
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) And when they had ordained them elders.—The word for “ordained” occurs in the New Testament here and in 2Corinthians 8:19, where it is translated “chosen,” and certainly seems to imply popular election (election by show of hands), which is, indeed, the natural meaning of the word. In Acts 10:41 a compound form of the verb is translated “chosen of God,” and clearly excludes any action but that of the divine will. Used, as it is here, of the act of the two Apostles, not of the Church, the latter meaning seems most in harmony with the context. There may have been, as in Acts 6:3, a previous election; or the names of those who were to be appointed may have been submitted to the approval of the Church; but the word cannot in itself be held to imply either. On the institution of elders, see Note on Acts 11:30. It is interesting here to note (1) that Paul and Barnabas, by virtue of the authority which as Apostles they had received, primarily from Christ (Galatians 1:1) and mediately from the Church of Antioch (Acts 13:3), exercised the right of appointing, or, in later phrase, ordaining elders. (2) They plant among the Churches of the Gentiles the organisation which we have found in that of Jerusalem, and which was itself based on that of the Synagogue, not on that of the Temple. (3) As this appears as the first appointment, it would seem to follow that the disciples had in the meantime met, and taught, and baptised, and broken bread without them. Organisation of this kind was, i.e., important for the permanence of the life of the Church as such, but not essential to its being, or to the spiritual growth of individual members. (4) It will be remembered that the “elders” so appointed were the same as those who, in the Apostolic Church, were known as “bishops” or “overseers (episcopi), what we call distinctive episcopal functions being reserved for the Apostles, or for their personal representatives (1Timothy 4:16; Titus 1:5; see Note on Acts 20:28).

Had prayed with fasting.—See Notes on Acts 13:2-3. It is a legitimate inference, from this recurrence of the act, that Paul and Barnabas recognized it as an established rule or canon of the Church that these two acts should jointly serve as a preparation for the solemn work of appointing men to spiritual functions. Without prayer such an appointment was a mockery, and fasting served to intensify prayer.

They commended them.—The word is the same as in Acts 20:32; Luke 23:46. It implies the confiding trust of one who commits what is very precious to him to the keeping of another. So in 2Timothy 2:2 it is used of the depositum fidei, the treasure of truth which Timothy was to commit to faithful men. Here it implies an absolute trust in God as ordering all things for His Church and those who love Him.

Acts 14:23. And when they had ordained elders — Or, presbyters, termed επισκοπους, bishops, or overseers, Acts 20:28; in every church — Out of those who were themselves but lately converted. So soon can God enable even a babe in Christ to build up others in the common faith; and prayed with fasting — That a blessing might attend their inspection and labours; they commended them to the Lord — To the direction, guardianship, and care of the Lord Jesus; on whom they believed — As able to guide and assist them in, and bless their endeavours for, the edification of his people. This custom of ordaining elders in the churches which he planted, Paul invariably observed, in order that the brethren, being united together, under the direction of stated teachers and leaders, might increase the more in grace, especially in mutual love, and be the better enabled to sustain persecution for the gospel.

14:19-28 See how restless the rage of the Jews was against the gospel of Christ. The people stoned Paul, in a popular tumult. So strong is the bent of the corrupt and carnal heart, that as it is with great difficulty that men are kept back from evil on one side, so it is with great ease they are persuaded to evil on the other side. If Paul would have been Mercury, he might have been worshipped; but if he will be a faithful minister of Christ, he shall be stoned, and thrown out of the city. Thus men who easily submit to strong delusions, hate to receive the truth in the love of it. All who are converted need to be confirmed in the faith; all who are planted need to be rooted. Ministers' work is to establish saints as well as to awaken sinners. The grace of God, and nothing less, effectually establishes the souls of the disciples. It is true, we must count upon much tribulation, but it is encouragement that we shall not be lost and perish in it. The Person to whose power and grace the converts and the newly-established churches are commended, clearly was the Lord Jesus, on whom they had believed. It was an act of worship. The praise of all the little good we do at any time, must be ascribed to God; for it is He who not only worketh in us both to will and to do, but also worketh with us to make what we do successful. All who love the Lord Jesus, will rejoice to hear that he has opened the door of faith wide, to those who were strangers to him and to his salvation. And let us, like the apostles, abide with those who know and love the Lord.And widen they had ordained - χειροτονήσαντες cheirotonēsantes. The word "ordain" we now use in an ecclesiastical sense, to denote "a setting apart to an office by the imposition of hands." But it is evident that the word here is not employed in that sense. That imposition of hands might have occurred in setting apart afterward to this office is certainly possible, but it is not implied in the word employed here, and did not take place in the transaction to which this word refers. The word occurs in only one other place in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 8:19, where it is applied to Luke, and translated, "who was also chosen of the church (that is, appointed or elected by suffrage by the churches) to travel with us, etc." The verb properly denotes "to stretch out the hand"; and as it was customary to elect to office, or to vote, by stretching out or elevating the hand, so the word simply means "to elect, appoint, or designate to any office." The word here refers simply to an "election" or "appointment" of the elders. It is said, indeed, that Paul and Barnabas did this. But probably all that is meant by it is that they presided in the assembly when the choice was made. It does not mean that they appointed them without consulting the church; but it evidently means that they appointed them in the usual way of appointing officers, by the suffrages of the people. See Schleusner, and the notes of Doddridge and Calvin.

Ordained them - Appointed for the disciples, or for the church. It is not meant that the elders were ordained for the apostles.

Elders - Greek: presbyters. Literally, this word refers to the aged. See the notes on Acts 11:30. But it may also be a word relating to office, denoting those who were more experienced than others, and who were chosen to preside over and to instruct the rest. What was the nature of this office, and what was the design of the appointment, is not intimated in this word. All that seems to be implied is, that they were to take the charge of the churches during the absence of the apostles. The apostles were about to leave them. They were just organized into churches: they were inexperienced; they needed counsel and direction; they were exposed to dangers; and it was necessary, therefore, that persons should be designated to watch over the spiritual interests of the brethren. The probability is, that they performed all the functions that were required in the infant and feeble churches; in exhorting, instructing; governing, etc. The more experienced and able would be most likely to be active in exhorting and instructing the brethren; and all would be useful in counseling and guiding the flock. The same thing occurred in the church at Ephesus. See the notes on Acts 20:17-28. It is not improbable that the business of instructing, or teaching, would be gradually confined to the more talented and able of the elders, and that the others would be concerned mainly in governing and directing the general affairs of the church.

In every church - It is implied here that there were elders in each church; that is, that in each church there was more than one. See Acts 15:21, where a similar phraseology occurs, and where it is evident that there was more than one reader of the Law of Moses in each city. Compare Titus 1:5, "I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst ...ordain elders in every city"; Acts 20:17, "And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church." It could not mean, therefore, that they appointed a single minister or pastor to each church, but they committed the whole affairs of the church to a bench of elders.

And had prayed with fasting - With the church. They were about to leave them. They had entrusted the interests of the church to a body of men chosen for this purpose; and they now commended the church and its elders together to God. Probably they had no prospect of seeing them again, and they parted as ministers and people should part, and as Christian friends should part, with humble prayer, commending themselves to the protecting care of God.

They commended them ... - They committed the infant church to the guardianship of the Lord. They were feeble, inexperienced, and exposed to dangers; but in his hands they were safe.

To the Lord ... - The Lord Jesus. The connection shows that he is particularly referred to. In his hands the redeemed are secure. When we part with Christian friends, we may, with confidence, leave them in his holy care and keeping.

23, 24. when they had ordained them elders—literally, "chosen by show of 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.

and had prayed with fasting—literally, "fastings," thus setting them solemnly apart. This last clause confirms our interpretation of the former. For if "ordination" was by prayer and fasting (see Ac 13:3), why should it be said they first "ordained elders," and after that "prayed with fasting?" Whereas if the first clause refer to the choice and the second to the ordination, all is natural.

they commended—"committed"

them—that is, all these churches.

to the Lord—Jesus.

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, Acts 8:17,18, which in those times was necessary to authorize their doctrine to the infidel world.

Elders; such as might instruct and govern the church.

They commended them; they commended the disciples as their jewels and chiefest treasure; as all sufferers are to commit their very souls to God, 1 Peter 4:19.

To the Lord; to Christ, the best and faithful Keeper, that he should keep and further them in grace and goodness; to whose providence they wholly had committed themselves.

And when they had ordained them elders in every church,.... 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.

And had prayed with fasting; for the elders ordained, that they might have a larger measure of gifts, and might be kept faithful to the trust committed to them, and be succeeded in their ministry; and for the members of the church, that they might abide by the truths of the Gospel, and the ordinances of it, and walk worthy of it in their conversations, and behave aright in their church state, both to their elders, and to one another, and that they might persevere to the end:

they commended them to the Lord; both the elders and the churches, to be blessed by him with fresh supplies of grace, to be kept by his power, and to be preserved by him safe to his kingdom and glory. The Lord Jesus Christ seems to be intended by "the Lord", to whom the apostles commended them; and who is every way qualified, and fully able to answer such a commendation; see Acts 20:32 on whom they believed; meaning Christ, whom they received by faith, in whom they trusted, and on whom they believed with the heart for righteousness, life, and salvation: this was true, both of the apostles, who commended the elders and churches to the Lord, and was the reason why they commended them to him, because they believed on him themselves; and of the churches and elders commended, who could be commended to none better than to him, on whom they had believed.

{9} 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.

(9) The apostles committed the churches which they had planted to proper and special pastors, who they appointed not rashly, but with prayers and fastings preceding their choice: neither did they thrust them upon churches through bribery, or lordly superiority, but chose and placed them by the voice of the congregation.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Acts 14:23. Χειροτονήσαντες] Erasmus, correctly: suffragiis delectos. The ecclesiastical offices were ἀρχαὶ χειροτονηταί or αἱρεταί (Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 148. 1). The analogy of Acts 6:2-6 requires this strict regard to the purposely chosen word, which, resting on the old method of choice by lifting up the hands, occurs in the N.T. only here and in 2 Corinthians 8:19 (see on that passage), and forbids the general rendering constituebant (Vulgate, Hammond, Kuinoel, and many), or eligebant (de Wette), so that the appointment would have taken place simply by apostolic plenary power (Löhe), although the word in itself (comp. Acts 10:41, Lucian. Philops. 12, al.) might denote eligere generally without that special mode. Paul and Barnabas chose by vote presbyters for them, i.e. they conducted their selection by vote in the churches.[21] Entirely arbitrary and erroneous is the Catholic interpretation (see Cornelius a Lapide, and Beelen still, not Sepp), that it refers to the χειροθεσία at the ordination of presbyters.

κατʼ ἐκκλησίαν] distributively, see Bernhardy, p. 240. Each church obtained several presbyters, Acts 20:17; Php 1:1. See Rothe, p. 181 ff.

προσευξ. μετὰνηστ.] belongs to παρέθεντο, not, as Kuinoel supposes, to χειροτ. See on Acts 13:9. The committing (comp. Acts 20:32) of the Christians of those places to the Lord (commending them to His protection and guidance; see on παρατιθέναι, Kypke, II. p. 70), which took place at the farewell (comp. Acts 20:32), was done by means of an act of prayer combined with fasting. The Κύριος is Christ, as the specific object of faith (εἰς ὃν πεπιστ), not God (de Wette).

[21] Comp. Calvin in loc.; Rothe, Anf. d. Christl. Kirche, p. 150; Neander, I. p. 203. Against Schrader, V. p. 543, who finds in the appointment of presbyters a ὓστερον πρότερον; see Lechler, apost. u. nachapost. Zeitalt. 358 f. On the essence of the matter, Ritschl, altkath. K. p. 363, correctly remarks that the choice was only the form of the recognition of the charisma and of subjection to it; not the basis of the office, but only the medium, through which the divine gift becomes the ecclesiastical office. Comp. on Ephesians 4:11.

Acts 14:23. χειροτονήσαντες δὲ αὐτοῖς πρεσβ., see above, Acts 10:41, where the compound verb is used, “chosen of God,” ὑπὸ Θ. The simple verb is only used here and in 2 Corinthians 8:19 : lit[273], to elect by popular vote, by show of hands, but it is by no means a word of certain meaning, and came to be used, as Ramsay admits, in the sense of appointing or designating. Here evidently the word is not used in the literal sense given above, as Paul and Barnabas appoint, and that the idea of popular election did not necessarily belong to the word, at least in later Greek, is evident from Josephus, Ant., vi., 13, 9, τὸν ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ κεχειροτονημένον βασιλέα: cf. Acts 13:2; Acts 13:2, of the appointment of Jonathan as high priest by Alexander. On the later use of the word, of which there is no early trace, as referring to the stretching out of the bishop’s hands in the laying on of hands, cf. “Ordination” (Hatch, Dict. of Chr. Ant., ii., p. 1501 ff.). Blass takes the word here as = καθιστάναι, and compares Titus 1:5, although he thinks that nothing is said here about the mode of election, and that the Church may have had some share in it. So too Ramsay compares the same passage, Titus 1:5, and concludes that St. Paul doubtless followed there the same method which he followed here, a method in which the votes and voices of each congregation were considered, cf. 2 Corinthians 8:19. But the office to which Luke was appointed in 2 Cor., l. c., was not an office which involved ordination, and we could not argue from it alone to the method of the appointment of elders in the passage before us. At the same time it may be fully admitted that the Church was not without some share in the election of the elders, and it must not be forgotten that, in the case of the Seven, the Church had elected, and the Apostles had ordained, Acts 6:3. In Clem. Rom., Cor[274], xliv, whilst the Apostles took care to secure that after their death distinguished men should appoint presbyters and deacons, yet the latter were elected with the consent of the whole Church, and they were exposed, as it were, to the judgment of the Church (see on this voice of the Church, Moberly, Ministerial Priesthood, p. 89, and Gore, Church and the Ministry, p. 100 ff.). If we compare the language of Acts 6:3, Titus 1:5, Clem. Rom., Cor[275], xlii. 4, xliv. 2, 3, and the use of the verb καθίστημι in each, it would seem that the κατάστασις was throughout reserved to the Apostles or their representatives, whilst the Church, if not always selecting, may at least be regarded as consenting, συνευδοκησάσης τῆς ἐκκλησίας πάσης, Clem. Rom., u. s., xliv. 3; see “Bishop” (Haddan), Dict. of Chr. Ant., i., p. 213. But, further, in the passage before us it is not impossible that the choice as well as the ordination of the presbyters may be referred to Paul and Barnabas, cf. the pronoun αὐτοῖς: “having appointed for them,” and in newly founded communities it was not unnatural that the Apostles should exercise such choice and authority. On the use of the verb in the Didaché, xv., 1, and its compatibility with ordination in accordance with Apostolic practice and injunction, see Gore, Church and the Ministry, p. 281; and further. Church Quarterly Review, 42, p. 265 ff., on the strictures passed by Loening, Die Gemeindeverfassung, 61, 62.—κατʼ ἐκκλησίαν, “in every Church,” distributive, Acts 2:46, Acts 5:42, cf. Titus 1:5, Clem. Rom., Cor[276], lxii., 4. On the spread of Christianity in Asia Minor see additional note at end of chapter.—προσευξ. μετὰ νησ.: Ramsay, St. Paul, p. 122, speaks of the solemn prayer and fasting which accompanied the appointment of the elders, and of this meeting and rite of fasting, as the form permanently observed, cf. Acts 13:1-3. The two participles χειροτ. and προσευξ. evidently refer to the appointment, and not to the subsequent commendation. See also Harnack, Proleg. to Didaché, p. 148; and on the other hand, Overbeck, Wendt, Weiss, Zöckler.—παρέθεντο, Acts 20:32, cf. Luke 12:48; Luke 23:46, 1 Peter 4:19, cf. 1 Timothy 1:18, 2 Timothy 2:2 (in no parallel sense in the other Evangelists). In the first three passages above used as here of solemn committal to God; also of giving into another’s charge or keeping, cf. παραθήκη, 1 Timothy 6:20, 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:14. In classical Greek of money or property entrusted to one’s care. In Tob 10:12 (cf. Acts 1:14, Acts 4:1; Acts 4:20) both verb and noun are found together, παρατίθεμαί σοι τὴν θυγατέρα μον ἐν παραθήκῃ (see Hatch and Redpath).—αὐτοὺς may refer to the believers in general, cf. Hort, Ecclesia, p. 66.—τῷ Κ., i.e., Christ, as the πιστεύω indicates: the phrase πιστ. εἰς, or ἐπί τινα, is peculiarly Christian, cf. Lightfoot on Galatians 2:16.

[273] literal, literally.

[274] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[275] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[276] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

23. elders in every church] i.e. men who should have the oversight, and care for the growth, of these infant Churches.

and had prayed with fasting] using the same solemn service at the dedication of these men to their duties which had been used when they were themselves sent forth from Antioch for their present labour (Acts 13:3).

they commended them to the Lord] Cp. St Paul’s parting commendation of the elders of Ephesus who had come to meet him at Miletus (Acts 20:32). The Lord was able here also to build these men up, and to give them an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

Acts 14:23. Χειροτονήσαντες when they had appointed) A great increase: a new precedent (example) of ministers taken from among the very persons who have been recently converted.—παρέθεντο, they commended them) By this verb is indicated faith towards Christ, and love towards the saints. It is appropriately used by persons bidding farewell: ch. Acts 20:32.

Verse 23. - Appointed for them for ordained them, A.V. (χειροτονήσαντες) ; had believed for believed, A.V. The original meaning of χειροτονέω is "to stretch out the hand," and the substantive χειροτονία is used in the LXX. of Isaiah 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 (2 Corinthians 8:19), or simply "to appoint," without any reference to voting. In the choice of an apostle the election was by lot (Acts 1:26), in the appointment of deacons the choice was by the people, how indicated we are not told (Acts 6:5); the question here, on which commentators disagree, is whether the use of the word χειροτονέω indicates voting by the people, selection by the apostles, or simple creation or appointment. As χειροτονήσαντες 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 χειροτονία was made. It seems simplest and most in accordance with the classical use of the word and its use in Acts 10:41 (προκεχειροτονημένοις), 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 Acts 11:30, note; Acts 20:17; and especially Titus 1:5, 7, where we see that πρεσβύτερος was synony- mous with ἐπίσκοπος). From πρεσβύτερος is formed prestos, priest, in French prestre, pretre. Comp. Acts 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. Acts 20:32). In ver. 26 the word used is παραδεδομένοι. Acts 14:23Ordained (χειροτονήσαντες)

Only here and 2 Corinthians 8:19. Rev., more correctly, appointed. The meaning ordain is later. See on Acts 10:41.

Elders (πρεσβυτέρους)

For the general superintendence of the church. The word is synonymous with ἐπίσκοποι, overseers or bishops (see on visitation, 1 Peter 2:12). Those who are called elders, in speaking of Jewish communities, are called bishops, in speaking of Gentile communities. Hence the latter term prevails in Paul's epistles.

Commended (παρέθεντο)

See on set before, Luke 9:16; and commit, 1 Peter 4:19.

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