Should believers vote – about things within their fellowships, or in political elections in the society around them?
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The Bible and voting is an interesting subject of study. It may not be easy to find anything connected to voting in the Bible, but a closer study of the New Testament reveals certain things in regard to what the saints did and practised within their fellowships. Also: The Scriptures contain, at least by extension, even some clues and indications in regard to whether or not believers should take part in worldly politics and elections.
Acts 6 records an event when the saints in Jerusalem (all of them together, possibly excluding the apostles) selected seven men to take care of the aid distribution tables.
Acts 6:1 Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2 And the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 3 “But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. (NASB77, highlighting added)
In that passage, some things are clear, while some are only indicated. What is clear is that those seven men were selected (elected) by all the saints together. Simon Peter and the other apostles did not really have the time for taking care of the aid distribution tables. And so, Peter said to the saints in Jerusalem, “but select from among you, brothers, seven men”. Those words indicate that the apostles did not take part in the selection process but left that matter to the others to take care of.
Now, how did those people then select (or elect) those seven men? The Bible does not tell us this – but, how are such things normally done? First people propose candidates, and then all together decide which of them are the most fitting ones. Normally, such election is done through a discussion followed by a show of hands. That is called voting. Below, it will be shown that the Greek text of the New Testament indicates that at least on certain other occasions of a similar kind, the saints did vote, through a show of hands.
The Greek text of Acts 14:23 indicates that the election of elders was done through a show of hands. Here is an English translation of that verse:
Acts 14:23 and having appointed to them by vote [Greek cheirotoneô] elders in every assembly, having prayed with fastings, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (YLT, comment added)
The Greek text shows that the apostle Paul used the verb cheirotoneô which referred to voting, through a show of hands. Cheir meant “a hand”; the noun tonos and the related verb teinô had to do with “stretching”. Here is the entry on the word cheirotoneô in ‘Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon’ by Liddell and Scott (Clarendon Press, 1889):
I. to stretch out the hand, for the purpose of voting, Plut., Luc.
II. c. acc. pers. to vote for, elect, properly by show of hands, Ar., Dem.:—Pass. to be elected, Ar., etc.; χειροτονηθῆναι, election, was opp. to λαχεῖν, appointment by lot, Plat., etc.
2. c. acc. rei, to vote for a thing, Dem.; so c. inf. to vote that…, Aeschin.:— Pass., κεχειροτόνηται ὕβρις εἶναι it is voted, ruled to be violence, Dem.
Acts 14:23 was quoted above in an English translation. The Greek text indicates that the saints in each local fellowship elected fitting men as elders, through the process of cheirotonia, a show of hands. That is normally called voting. (Paul had given instructions as to what kind of men could be proposed for election as elders. The candidates had to have certain moral qualifications, and also, they were to be mature local men, and they were not to be new believers. The article nea021.htm has more on this.)
The verb cheirotoneô occurs even in the Greek text of 2 Corinthians 8:19 which refers to Titus, in a connection where Paul mentions a collection of relief aid to poor believers in Jerusalem.
2 Corinthians 8:19 and not only so, but who was also appointed by vote [cheirotoneô] by the assemblies, our fellow-traveller […] (YLT, comment added)
Above, it was noted that the Greek text of the New Testament indicates that the saints did vote, regarding certain things in their fellowships. But, some writers have claimed that those fellowships had a “hierarchical” structure and that things were decided and people appointed by some authoritarian figure.
Let us consider what Jesus taught his disciples, in that regard. – He told them that they were all brothers. That is, equal. We read:
Matthew 23:8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 “And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 “And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (NASB77)
The apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 3:11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (NASB77)
2 Corinthians 1:24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith you stand. (AKJV)
2 Corinthians 4:5 For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus. (HCSB)
A note: It is easy to miss things, in translations. It appears that this is what Paul was actually saying:
2 Corinthians 4:5 For we do not proclaim ourselves [as lords] but Jesus the Messiah as the Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.
The apostle Peter wrote to certain elders:
1 Peter 5:3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (AKJV)
(Ensamples = examples. That is what even the apostle Paul said, but many bible-translators have put into certain passages wordings which make it seem that Paul told people to view him as their “leader”. The article nma031.htm sorts out that matter.)
It is true that Paul and Peter wrote those letters to people of their own day, in the first century. But certainly, there are things to be learned in them, even for people of our day.
Now, it is clear that it would not be correct to vote in order to decide what “truth” is. Applying that to our day: It would not be right to vote about what the Bible really teaches, or about things of that nature. No “truth” can be produced by voting. The “true teachings” have already been formed, by God the Father and his son Jesus. The Bible records some of those things.
(Here, one must keep in mind that bible-translations are made by men and contain many errors and other faults. And then, there is much more to bible-study, such as finding out what things apply to our day and age. The article nga020.htm has some notes on this.)
Should believers vote in political elections, or take part in politics in general?
The Bible does not say anything at all, in regard to that subject. That is also what one would expect, because in biblical times, there were no political elections of the kind that we are used to. Even in the ancient “democratic” Greece, only a small minority had a right to vote, and even in that case, a small clique could control things.
But still, should believers take part in the politics of this world, including elections?
Here, it is important to understand that the governments and politics of this world are not of God. This should be clear to all and everyone – just look around and see what is happening in this world.
It is true that in some countries, religion is often used as a part of the election game. But, that has nothing to do with the true God who is in Heaven. Religion is merely one of the tools that politicians use for gaining votes.
Did the saints take part in political elections? Obviously not. For the first, they lived under Roman rule, and most of them were not Roman citizens and had thus no right to vote. Only a few rich Romans could vote. Also: Would the saints have voted for Roman rulers who persecuted and even killed them? Obviously not.
Even though the Bible does not exactly spell out these things, a number of New Testament passages show that the saints were in several ways told to keep for themselves.
The article nwa021.htm has some notes on the rulers and governments of this world and shows that they are not of the true God who is in Heaven, and that they are not “appointed by God” or “in his service” even though certain New Testament passages contain wordings that might cause casual bible-readers to think so.
A note: In some countries, it may be compulsory to vote. That makes the situation a bit different, of course, depending on what penalty or other consequences there are for the act of not voting. (Sometimes, it may be possible to give a “blank” vote.)
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa091.htm
What does the Bible say about elders? What was their role in the saints’ fellowships? → nea011.htm
On the example the apostle Paul set, for others to imitate. → nma031.htm
Easy keys to deeper understanding of the Scriptures. → nga020.htm
Are the rulers and governments of this world appointed by God? The so-called “divine right of kings” – is there such a thing? → nwa021.htm
What does the Bible say about ordaining or ordination? How did the saints choose their elders? Were those elders “ordained”, and did they function as “priests” of some kind? → nea021.htm
What does the Bible say about authority? Who has biblical, spiritual or religious authority? Who can speak for God? → nsa060.htm
Did elders in the saints’ fellowships act as “rulers”? On the translation and meaning of Hebrews 13:7, 17 and 24 and certain other passages. → nea040.htm
On the King James translation. The story behind king James’ bible, including the men who were involved in producing it. → nsa031.htm
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