Sunday, November 7, 2010

Is Balloting "God's Way"?

UCG's doctrinal paper on Godly Governance says that man's troubles can be traced to our rejection of God's government and His way over our lives.

What is "God's way"?

In talking about the truth of God, we often refer to it as "the way" or as a "way of life", as the Bible also refers to it (Matthew 22:16, John 14:4-6, Acts 9:1-2, 18:25-26, 19:9, 23, 24:14, 2 Peter 2:21).

What is God's "way" concerning government?

How do you know someone's "way"?

You know someone's "way" by his habits, his actions. You can see what someone's way is by watching what he does. What was Jesus Christ's "way" regarding the Sabbath? His way was to keep the Sabbath. How do we know? We know by His example, by the accounts in the Bible that indicate He observed the Sabbath. "And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read" (Luke 4:16). Jesus's CUSTOM showed us that it was His WAY to keep the Sabbath.

You know someone's way of life by seeing his example. You watch his behavior. You watch how he lives. The way he lives is his way of life. You can see it.

That is why our example is important. We are admonished to live God's way of life so others can see it. Ancient Israel was to be an example to other nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). They will be that example in the millennium (Isaiah 2:3, Zechariah 8:23). We in the Church of God are to be examples for the world to see today (Matthew 5:14-16, John 13:35).

Likewise, just as the world can learn of God's way of life by observing our right example, so we can learn God's way of life more perfectly by looking at God's example. God teaches us by His example as well as by His commands, just as Christ taught by example (John 13:12-17, 1 Peter 2:21). Even Jesus learned from the example of His Father (John 5:19).

We can see if setting up a system of balloting is God's way by looking to the Bible to see what God has done. We can see God's custom regarding governance just as we can see Christ's custom regarding the Sabbath. It is a way of life.

Is it God's way in the Bible to use the balloting of men to choose leaders? If you ask, "what is God's way for choosing leaders and making His choice known?", what do you find in the Bible?

Has God ever used the voting of men to choose a leader? Has He ever given us even one example of that to follow in the Bible? No, not once. Never.

Voting or "balloting" is simply not God's way. You can't find any example of it in the Bible.

Never do you find an account, "...and God said, 'once a year you shall take a vote of the elders among you to elect an elder to govern you, and the man who receives the most votes shall be leader over you, and you shall obey him...' " or anything like that. There is no historical account saying something like, "...and they cast ballots, and so-and-so received 430 votes, and so-and-so received 225 votes, so so-and-so became the leader."

If God wanted us to vote to elect Church leaders, He would have given us instructions, or examples, or both. He never did.

But you fill find plenty of examples of God appointing leaders from the top down and you will find plenty of examples of leaders God appointed also appointing men to offices under them, from the top down.

God appointed Moses (Exodus 3:10-12). Moses in turn appointed leaders under him to help judge the people (Exodus 18:25-26).

God appointed Joshua to be leader after Moses, and God communicated that appointment to Moses who told it to the people (Numbers 27:15-23, Deuteronomy 1:37-38, 3:26-28, 31:1-4, 14-15, 34:9). God did not take a vote of the people to determine the leader.

God appointed Samuel to be a prophet (1 Samuel 3:1-21). Samuel was not elected by a vote of the people, nor was he elected by a vote of a council or board of 12 men who themselves were elected by the people or by the judges or elders. He was appointed by God.

God first appointed Saul to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 9:15-17, 10:11, 24). Later, Saul proved himself to be unfaithful (1 Samuel 13:8-14, 15:1-11), and God rejected him and chose David, whom God appointed to replace Saul as king (1 Samuel 15:26-29, 16:1, 6-13). Saul did not lose his office because he lost a national election to king David.

Appointment from above is GOD'S WAY. It is the WAY He does things. It is the WAY He shows us through countless examples in the Bible.

It was God who appointed Jeremiah as a prophet. "Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations' " (Jeremiah 1:4-5). Jeremiah was not voted into office by the priests, the elders, the judges, or the people of Israel. It was not government from the bottom up, ballot box governance as United Church of God practices. It was government by appointment from above, government from the top down.

Likewise God appointed Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:1-5) and the other prophets. None were elected by the voting of the people.

God appointed the twelve apostles through Jesus Christ. "And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, 'Sons of Thunder'; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him" (Mark 3:13-19). Jesus himself was appointed by God, not elected by the apostles, and Jesus in turn appointed the apostles (John 15:16).

Christ likewise appointed Saul to be an apostle and changed his name to Paul (Acts 9:10-16). Saul did not run for election. He was not voted into office by the Church. He would have been the last choice of the Church because he persecuted the Church. Paul in turn had evangelists under him and commanded them to APPOINT elders and gave them the authority to choose men and gave them the criteria by which they should choose them (Titus 1:1-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7).

It is God who places Church members into offices in the Church by APPOINTMENT, not elections. It is God who does the appointing (1 Corinthians 12:28).

There is not a single example of God putting men into office by the casting of ballots, nor is there any example of God giving instructions in how to set up a system of balloting to choose leaders in the entire Bible. But there are many examples of God ruling through appointment of leaders from the top down.

But the United Church of God doctrinal paper on "Godly Governance" neglects to mention that. It does not point out that there is not a single example in the entire Bible of God using a system of voting to govern his people. Instead, it says that God uses a variety of governance structures. It fails to mention that this variety never includes balloting.

UCG's doctrinal paper on Godly Governance says that humanity's troubles can be traced back to its rejection of God's way. If ballot-box governance is not God's way in Bible, and if troubles result when we reject God's way and choose our own way rather than God's way, why has UCG chosen that which is not God's way? According to their own statement, they are asking for troubles for themselves, and indeed recent history shows that their ballot-box governance has become a source of trouble for them.

Balloting by those under authority to choose their leaders is not God's way. God's way is to appoint leaders and delegate to those leaders the authority to appoint others under them. That is the clear teaching of the Bible from beginning to end.

Democracy, voting, ballot-box governance, whatever you call it, is man's way, not God's.

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Government in the Church, Chapter 5

Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6

Church Government, Chapter 7

How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7


Norbert said...


I would like to ask you how you see this scripture within the context of course.

Acts 15:22 Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: said...

Part 1 of 2

Peter, as a wise leader, was a consensus builder. As much as he could, he tried to build agreement among the leaders and members of the Church. He also sought advice and council among the other leaders. That was why there was such a heated discussion before they reached an agreement. As they talked things over in Acts 15:6-21, the truth became evident when Paul and Barnabas related the miracles God had done among the Gentiles even though they were not circumcized. By the end of the meeting there was unity. There is no evidence that any vote was taken or that the majority ruled by balloting. No doubt after some discussion, men were chosen to accompany Paul and Barnabas who could be witnesses with Paul and Barnabas to the people in Antioch that there was indeed agreement among the Peter, the apostles, and the whole Church at Jerusalem, that Gentiles do not have to be circumcized. The letter they took was written from "The apostles, the elders, and the brethren" to show their unity, which was in fact the case.

Who decided which men would go and who authored the letter? It doesn't say, but it was probably a group effort with Peter as leader. Peter may have written the letter with help from Paul, for example. But there is no suggestion of voting. And Peter had the authority to make any decision in case agreement had not been reached.

It is like when a group of friends in an office get together to go to lunch at a restaurant. They have to decide which restaurant to go to. They have to decide how many cars to take, who rides with who, etc. One person suggests this, another person says so-and-so can ride with me, etc. Agreement is reached, but no one takes a vote.

But Peter did have authority, and he could use it whenever it was needed if an agreement was not reached. But the rest of the apostles, elders, and the Church backed up his decisions. said...

Part 2 of 2

Look in detail at the discussion in Acts 15:6 through the decision in Acts 15:21. First, you had disagreement and "much dispute" in the beginning of verse 7. Then Peter spoke up in verses 7 through 11. And guess what? "Then all the multitude kept silent..." (beginning of verse 12). No one wanted to argue against Peter. Then Paul and Barnabas talked about the miracles God had done among the Gentiles. This must have convinced the doubters, because if it was God showing by miracles that He accepted the Gentiles even while they were uncircumcized, how can you argue with God? Then James, as the leader of the local Church, perhaps acting as chairman of the meeting, summed it up and made it official, but notice how he used Peter's name in doing it: "Simon has declared..." (verse 14). Can you see how God was using Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and Jemes in this meeting to reach agreement, and how James backed up Peter? Not that James was being insincere - I am sure he agreed with Peter and Paul and Barnabas. But he backed up Peter's authority even as he summed up the consensus that had been reached.

Notice something else. The the whole account of the meeting is very detailed. This passage doesn't just say, "they met and decided that Gentiles did not have to be circumcized." It goes into some detail about who said what and the whole sequence of the discussion. Now, if it does into such detail as saying when there was dispute, when the multitude was silent, when Barnabas and Paul spoke and what they talked about, what Peter said, what James said, don't you think an account that detailed would have mentioned if there was a vote? Something like, "and they cast ballots and the vote was in favor of not requiring the Gentiles to be circumized..." But there is no hint of that.

There was no vote. Peter had the authority to make decisions, but he knew he first had to try to build a consensus if he was able. The effort to build a consensus was successful. By the end of the meeting there was agreement.

I do not say that Peter had authority over the work that Paul was doing, because there was a division of responsibility at some point in time with Peter going to the Israelites mostly and Paul mostly going to the Gentiles - see Galatians 2:6-9. I do not know if the account in Galatians 2:6-9 took place before or after, or at the same time, as Acts 15. But Peter certainly had some degree of authority over the apostles in Jerusalem, and he had the authority to draft the letter and decide which men would go with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch.

By the way, I do not think that to "send" someone in the language of the Bible just means or even primarily refers to authority. It can also refer, I think, to agreement and support, even material support. If the whole membership helped out those who were to go on the journey with expense money, food, provisions, as well as encouragement and prayer for their safety, helping and watching over the households of those being sent while they are away from home, etc., in that sense the whole congregation is "sending" them.

Norbert said...

Thankyou for the reply.