|Subject: many are called but only few are chosen|
Bible Note: Hi, Beja...
The historic Baptists defined the church this way:
"In the execution of this power wherewith He is so intrusted, the Lord Jesus calleth out of the world unto himself, through the ministry of His word, by His Spirit, those that are given unto Him by His Father, that they may walk before Him in all the ways of obedience, which He prescribeth to them in His word. Those thus called, he commandeth to walk together in particular societies, or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of that public worship, which He requireth of them in the world. (John 10:16; John 12:32; Matthew 28:20; Matthew 18:15-20) The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing (in and by their profession and walking) their obedience unto that call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk together, according to the appointment of Christ; giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel. (Romans. 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Acts 2:41, 42; Acts 5:13, 14; 2 Corinthians 9:13)"
Furthermore, they affirmed that:
"A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which He intrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons. (Acts 20:17, 28; Philippians 1:1) "
Of the elders in particular they wrote:
"The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself; and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein; and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands. (Acts 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14; Acts 6:3, 5, 6) "
In other words, the normative practice of the church -- the local congregation -- is to discern a man's selection by God and calling by Christ. (The phrase "common sufferage" speaks to the church operating as a collective.) It isn't that the church has the power to ordain, so much as it is searching out what God has already done, and gets behind that. It also prevents the individual who is misled from operating autonomously, lest they find themselves working at cross purposes to our Lord.
Our Lord has graciously given us in the Scriptures the qualifications of ministers in the church. We further believe that He providentially prepares those ministers for service according to those qualifications. As Kay Arthur put it so aptly -- though in a different context -- "God's provision always precedes our need."
In Him, Doc
PS The above quotes are drawn from the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, chapter 26.