When Paul met with the elders of the Ephesian congregation at the coastal town of Miletus, he gave them these instructions about their position in the church:
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28, NKJ – emphasis mine, DR).
Paul’s words make it very plain that God – acting through His Holy Spirit – is involved in making men elders in His church! We might naturally wonder just “how” the Holy Spirit does this, given that many in the denominations of “Christendom” claim He speaks directly to instruct and guide them, apart from the bible. If we allow the Lord to answer through His word, however, the explanation is very simple: The Holy Spirit makes men “pastors/ bishops/overseers” when He gives the qualifications necessary for men to serve in this capacity (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9). When Christians seek and find among themselves such men, and acknowledge them as meeting God’s standard, they are then made elders by the Holy Spirit. This means a man who is not qualified is not acknowledged by the Holy Ghost, even if he wears the title of “elder” over the Lord’s people.
Paul’s retelling of his conversion to Christ (Acts 22:1-16) highlights the fact that he was not saved while on the road to Damascus (v. 10), and it also provides the most concise summary of the action of baptism in all the new testament. In response to Saul’s question – “What shall I do, Lord?” – Jesus did not say “you’re saved now.” In the very same verse, He told this penitent sinner that there were still things he needed to be told. Three days later, Ananias told him to “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (verse 16). This instruction is important because it explicitly links baptism with cleansing from sin – without this “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), there is no contact with the blood of Christ and thus no cleansing of our sins (Ephesians 5:26-27, cf. Hebrews 10:22). When we consider the implications found in this verse, claiming to be saved before being baptized – a common doctrine in most protestant denominations – would have to mean that a person could be saved without being cleansed of sins.
In the interview between Paul and Felix (the Roman governor at Caesarea Philippi, Acts 24), we see the folly of procrastination and delay. Felix clearly knew what he needed to do to be saved, but he allowed the opportunity to submit and obey to pass him by instead of seizing it! The words of 2 Corinthians 6:2 are particularly appropriate here, with respect to all matters of salvation and spiritual growth: Once a person knows and understands what God requires, that person has no excuse to continue disobeying Him. Historically, by putting off obeying, Felix lost the opportunity for salvation (he was eventually removed by the Emperor, and died in exile).
One last point we should draw out of Acts 26:19 concerns Paul’s description, to king Agrippa, of his own conversion: He says clearly that he was “…not disobedient to the heavenly vision” he had encountered on the road to Damascus. The noteworthy aspect of Paul’s words is the fact that he could have disobeyed, as so many others do. Thanks be to our Father that this great man of God chose to walk in His wisdom and guidance instead of his own!