COC #21: Argument #3: “Acts 6 Disproves Hierarchy”

#3: Representative of how the Protestant Church of Christ utilizes Scripture to argue for its positions, Wharton referred to a Bible passage to prove strict local church autonomy without supplying its actual corresponding text (more examples forthcoming). He wrote, “The local church selected her own ministers (Acts 6:1-6).” Wharton’s practice is common; Protestant Church of Christ ministers posit a preference/theory, allude to a passage from the Bible, and the act of referencing (not quoting) a passage somehow provides ample credibility for the preference; or the citation is intended to imply that the text reads as such, when really, it does not. If a writer summarizes her belief of what a Bible passage means, then the reference should include “cf.” (confer/compare); it is less than forthright to provide a citation to Scripture when it is not Scripture that is quoted. The passage at hand, which is a product of the hierarchy, of course, supports its creator, and not a model that in fact teaches, “The local church selected her own ministers.” The passage, not Protestant commentary, reads:

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Proch’orus, and Nica’nor, and Ti’mon, and Par’menas, and Nicola’us, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them. 

Wharton carefully crafted his sentence. The local churches did “select their own ministers” (Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men . . .), but not in any self-governing capacity his carefully crafted sentence suggests (The passage itself is quoting an extra-congregational authority.). The careful reader will notice the Catholicity of the passage, because the sentence the Protestant Church of Christ focuses on is couched between And the twelve summoned the body of disciples and said, and These they [the disciples] set before the apostles, and they [the Apostles] prayed and laid their hands upon them [the new ministers].

What the passage reveals is Catholic, not Protestant. The Apostles (who are also elders) commanded a local church to nominate godly men for Holy Orders. Once chosen, those men were ordained (they prayed and laid their hands upon them) not by the local church leaders, but by the Apostles (the hierarchy).

Does your congregation, or any Restoration sect similar to yours, choose its ministers under the direction of the hierarchy, and does the hierarchy ordain your men? Or, does your group choose its own ministers under its own direction, and then install them by the authority it has granted itself? The biblical pattern, again, emerges as a reflection of the Catholic Church of Christ:

Christ Jesus  >  Apostles, Bishops  >  Elders

There are other details within passages of Scripture that reflect the nascent Church’s behavior that your group rarely draws attention to, such as Titus 1:5: Appoint elders in every town as I [St. Paul] directed you . . . . Surely, the sixth verse is used to argue against the Catholic Church (bishops: . . . husband of one wife; which I will address later in this book), but your group divides the passage, blinds itself to the fifth verse, which reveals the rogue nature of the Protestant Church of Christ’s paradigm. When read in full, it is clear the hierarchy directed the installation of the elders; the local Church was not authorized to create (install/ordain) its own leadership.  

Acts 14:23, again, reflects how the nascent church selected its elders. St. Paul and St. Barnabas appointed elders for them (the churches of Derbe, Lystra, Ico’nium, and Antioch). This example does not include any congregational input; the elders were selected and ordained by extra-congregational elders, and therefore, does not rise to the rank of a Protestant Church of Christ proof-text.