If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, … must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
As Israel was organizing itself as an independent nation, it developed the need for a legislative body. It started with Jethro who first advised Moses to appoint seventy elders from among the people. Later, as the second generation prepared to enter the Land, Moses continues the practice and tells the congregation that they should appoint judges over the people to rule over them. This became a commandment. Moses instructs the people that these leaders were to judge using righteous judgment, not pervert justice nor show partiality, and that they were to certainly not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous, the Text tells us. They were to follow justice and only justice, that they may live and inherit the land that the LORD their God is giving them (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). Of course, righteous judgments and justice were to be defined by the principles and morals established in the Torah Itself, so by inference, these people were to also be experts in the knowledge, handling and application of the Torah Texts.
After Yeshua’s departure to His and our Father, the Jerusalem congregation finds itself flooded with Pentecost pilgrims (Acts 2), Diaspora Jews and God-fearing Gentiles who after the particular Pentecost events of that year decided to stick around Jerusalem to learn more from the disciples. In order to support these people, the Jerusalem believers established a kibbutz-like system of communal wealth (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32). As the disciples found themselves in the same predicament as Moses by Mt Sinai, they decide that a body of elders should be elected to care for the logistical affairs of the new fledgling congregation (Acts 6). As he went and started congregations in other areas of Asia, Paul also continued the practice. We can read in the apostolic Scriptures some of the advice he gave about the appointment of elders (1 Timothy 3:1-9; Titus 1:5-9).
Problems in a congregation seem to stem from mainly two things,: a lack of decisive and wise team-working leadership, or if there is one, the people don’t like it so they don’t respect its advice. The latter can stem for another two reasons: the people are rebellious, or the Spirit of Hashem did not confirm the leadership team in their heart. Corinth is a good show-case of a congregation running amok, where everybody interpreted the Word according to his own mind, and as a result promoted heresies that are still present in today’s believers. They could not even produce a good leader among themselves (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).
Today, as many feel disenchanted with corporate congregations, they start forming home-groups. Many of us in the Western world are plagued with an inordinate sense of independence. The problem is that Torah can only be properly practiced in community, not in individuality. As these home-groups grow, Corinth stands a good example of what happens unless Moses’ and the disciples’ advice are followed (Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Acts 6:1-3).
Soon, Yeshua will return and Himself rule over His people with a legislative body from among the congregations (Matthew 19:28;Revelation 12:6). May it be soon, Abba, even in our days!