The raising up of elders to act in an assembly for the spiritual care of the saints is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit. He it is who qualifies men to engage in this ministry, so that they give evidence of their fitness for it by their character and the testimony of their life. It is clear from the New Testament that as the apostles went about preaching and teaching, they appointed for the newly formed assemblies elders who had given evidence of what the Spirit of God had been doing in thus raising up men for this responsibility. This is the significance of the word “appointed” in Acts 14: 23 and “appoint” in Tit. 1: 5, R.V. It does not indicate an official ordination. The appointment was that of men who were already doing the work. The assemblies did not choose the men; they were not appointed by the churches. It was their part to “know” them which laboured among them and were over them – in the Lord, that is, to recognize them as such (1 Thess. 5: 12).
In the early life of assemblies, formed as the result of missionary activity, the appointment was thus made by apostles or by apostolic delegates, such as Timothy and Titus, who were, neither of them, permanently resident members themselves. Those who are existing elders or overseers should be on the lookout for others, raised up by the Spirit of God, and when they are satisfied as to the evidences, they should recommend such brethren to the gathered saints for their recognition.