But as God hath distributed to every man,
as the Lord hath called every one,
so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
1 Corinthians 7:17
For this cause left I thee in Crete,
that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting,
and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
Voting is practiced in many churches that believe in church democracy. They believe that there must be a system of check and balances in order to be a Biblical and self-governing local church free from any and all external influences and interference. Such practice is usually derived from three passages in the New Testament in the book of Acts. We shall consider the passages that apparently support voting in churches.
Selection of disciple to replace Judas Iscariot
“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty,) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take. Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, show whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:15-26)
After the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Father, the disciples gathered to consider the issue of Judas Iscariot who committed suicide having betrayed the Lord. They invoked Psalm 109:8, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office” to replace the office of Judas whose office was then vacant.
Firstly, two disciples were initially selected but you would have to stretch the Scripture to claim that voting was involved in the process. Secondly, they prayed to the Lord to show them which of these two disciples was to replace Judas. Finally, this is where most Christians today dare not venture to consider a Biblical practice that was extended from the Old Testament concerning casting of lot. Instead of voting, they cast lot to choose between the two selected disciples trusting God in the process.
“The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty. The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” (Proverbs 18:18 & 16:33)
Perhaps, modern men have been so griped by greed in gambling so much so that when a matter is required to seek to the Lord’s will, casting lot is never considered because of a weak conscience. Eventually, Matthias was chosen to be numbered with the twelve apostles by casting of lot and not by majority votes.
Appointment of servants
“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:1-7)
This was an incident concerning ministering to widows where equitability of ministration was called into question. Many Christians would consider these men to be chosen as deacons of the church. The apostles suggested that the people chose seven good men for the task at hand so that the apostles themselves might concentrate on spiritual matters. The seven men were then chosen based on the criteria set forth by the apostles. Nowhere was it mentioned that the process was carried out in the form of a vote where majority votes won. Besides, it was the apostles who had the final say in appointing these men to oversee the business. What is the point of voting by the church when the apostles held the veto power?
The Jerusalem Council
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. Then pleased it 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 Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.” (Acts 15:1-29)
Over here, we have a matter concerning the doctrinal issue of salvation by grace through faith alone or salvation by faith and work. Since the matter was of utmost importance as implication of a believer’s life was laid in the balance, the Gentile believers sent Paul and Barnabas to the church at Jerusalem to iron out the dispute. So a council was convened when Paul and Barnabas arrived in Jerusalem.
During the dispute, Peter related to the church how the door for Gentile conversion took place via his work in Acts 10 where the Gentiles were saved without having to be converted to Judaism first. After Peter had testified, Barnabas and Paul gave their version on the conversion of the Gentiles during their missionary work. Finally, James summarized the matter based on God’s promises of the conversion of the Gentiles in the Old Testament. He then gave his sentence that the Gentile believers were not required to become Jewish proselytes in order to become a Christian. A letter was to be sent to the Gentile church to put the matter to rest which only requiring that the Gentile believers would do well if they abstain from food offered to idols, blood, meat from animals died of unnatural death and fornication. It was recorded that the apostles, elders and the whole church present were pleased with the resolution and they sent Paul, Barnabas and Silas to report the matter to the Gentile church.
Some Christians would argue that since the whole church mentioned were pleased with the outcome, some form of voting must have taken place. Nothing could be further from the truth unless you have a penchant in adding to God’s word.
Having considered the three passages, it is pass finding out indeed how voting in churches could be justified. The replacement of Judas Iscariot was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy where Matthias’ appointment was decided based on casting of lot. Choosing seven good men for a specific task in Acts 6 was mentioned to be chosen by the people where the apostles had the final say in confirming their appointment. The debate on the matter of salvation was one of utmost urgency requiring a forum to settle the dispute. No voting was evidenced in the final settlement.
It is amazing how many Christians would rather choose to hold on to their traditions rather than the Scriptures. Is it simply just a matter of defective reading of the Scriptures? You may be surprised that voting permeated so thoroughly in so many churches that every petty little matter from choosing a janitor to the replacement of a doormat require the church members to cast their votes. While churches in some countries are required by law to demonstrate how they should govern their own internal affairs, voting in churches can be carried away to the extreme. Does the passages discussed earlier really support voting in churches after all?