The Old Testament. The basic meaning of "appoint" is either "visit" or "establish or set in authority." The extension of visit carries the idea of appointment, meaning to set in place (as a time, place, or event). The theological importance focuses on the appointing, consecrating, or commissioning of persons for special service to the Lord and his people. It can also carry implications for God's providence or the establishment of laws or principles.

Consecration for Service Consecration is a special type of appointment. Four examples can be noted: (1) the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Exod. 28-29); (2) the appointment of Levites as servants of God (Num. 3-8); (3) the naming of seventy elders to assist Moses (Num. 11, 24-25); and (4) the commissioning of Moses' successor (Num. 27).

The appointment of the seventy to assist Moses was at God's initiative. Their ordination involved standing with Moses to receive the Spirit that rested upon Moses ( Nu 11:17-25 ). Joshua's ordination consisted of receiving commissioning while standing before the priest and the congregation ( Nu 27:18-23 ). Moses laid his hand on Joshua as a symbol of the transference of authority.

Of primary significance is the ordination of Aaron and the Levites. Aaron and his sons alone were to serve as priests ( Exod 28:1 ), to offer sacrifices ( Nu 8:1-7 ), and to bless the people ( Nu 6:22-27 ). Aaron was anointed ( Le 8:12 ) and the special vestments previewed those worn by preexilic monarchs (see Exod 28 ). Because it marked the beginning of the priesthood in Israel, the consecration of Aaron to this office was of special significance. The entire event and its accompanying instructions were completely detailed.

As an extension of the appointment of Aaron and his sons, they were to bless the people ( Nu 6:22-27 ). In reality, it is God's own blessing of his people. God himself commanded Aaron and his sons to place the Lord's name on the Israelites ( 6:27 ).

The Synoptic Gospels Foundational to the understanding of "appoint" in the New Testament is Jesus' statement about the kingdom that he has appointed to his followers (Luke 9-10). The New Testament practice is often associated with the laying on of hands.

Jesus appointed twelve disciples to be with him and that he could send out to preach ( Mark 3:14 ). The Great Commission was given on the basis of Jesus' authority ( Matt 28:18-20 ). The One who appointed the kingdom to Jesus, who granted him authority, was God the Father Almighty.

Acts Matthias was appointed by the casting of lots to replace Judas among the Twelve ( 1:12-26 ). Most significant is the reference to Barnabas and Paul and their appointment of elders in every church after prayer and fasting ( 14:23 ).

At the conclusion of the first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas established leadership in the new congregations. There remains a question in ac 14:23 regarding who appointed the elders — the apostles or the congregation. The most natural reading of the passage suggests that Paul and Barnabas did. Perhaps in these settings the apostles' wisdom was necessary to establish leadership, though the apostles' selection may have been confirmed by vote of the congregations (see also Titus 1:5 ).

In Acts 26:16 Paul recounts his experience with the risen Christ. God appointed or placed Paul into service. The statement is extremely forceful, offering the mental picture of God picking up Paul and pointing him in the divinely intended direction.

David S. Dockery

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Appoint'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.