When is it CHURCH?
Acts 14:23 says: “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” (NASB)
Paul appoints elders in the churches that he had started earlier (Acts 13:1-14:22). Can a church be a church before elders are present?
The churches Paul started in Acts 13:1 were truly churches before elders were appointed.
Luke uses the word church (ecclesia) 23 times in Acts. Twelve times he does so in a prepositional phrase. That Luke uses a prepositional phrase in Acts 14:23 is critical. Prepositions are used most often to state something in existence.
Acts 13:1 illustrates well: “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (NASB – emphasis added).
Acts 13:1 is clearly stative, Luke tells us the church in Antioch was in existence. If what I am saying is true, this applies to Acts 14:23 this way:
“When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” (NASB – emphasis added)
I would expand this to say, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church that was in existence from the beginning of Paul’s mission movement that began in Acts 13:1, . . .”
Eldership is key to local church development, establishment and growth. In our GSE process the E stands for Elders. If my exegesis is correct, we can have churches before elders are a regular part of the church.