Thursday, September 19, 2013

Examining Ordination

What is ordination? What does it mean for someone to be ordained? What does the Bible require for it to be legitimate? Now this is important because the ceremony of ordination came to be a basis for legitimizing the authority of leadership in the church. It also became the basis for dividing the church into two classes: clergy and laity. It has even been seen as vesting a person with a permanent character that cannot be taken away. What truth is there to this?

 Now the first problem we face is that the words in the New Testament commonly translated "ordination" do not mean it. They simply mean to place in office (1 Timothy 2:7; Titus 1:5; Acts 1:22). Now there is a question whether one of the terms involved means to elect by vote (Acts 14:23; 2 Corinthians 8:19). But this is dubious, as the meaning of the word is ambiguous. However, nothing else is said about the process of inducting leaders. Now in the Old Testament there is a ceremony for inducting Aaronic priests into their position (Leviticus 8,9). But this seems entirely connected with that particular office.

Now there is the act of laying on hands. This is used for many different purposes in Scripture (Leviticus 16:21: Mark 6:5; Acts 19:6). It has the basic idea of identification, but it is frequently associated with prayer (Acts 8:15-17; 28:8; Genesis 48:14-16). It is also associated with inducting people into leadership positions (Acts 6:6; 13:3; Numbers 27:18,19), prayer being appropriate at such a time. This seems to be used for various different offices, and it is interesting that the only places that seem to refer specifically to the pastoral office are arguable in their meaning (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). Now I have no problem with laying hands on someone when inducting them into the pastorate. I also have no problem with laying hands on Sunday School teachers and nursery workers when placing them into their positions.

Now I have no problem with having some sort of ceremony (laying on of hands seems appropriate) for confirming pastors in their position. Nor do I have problems with examining them beforehand to see if they qualify for the office. But not only does it not bestow on them any special authority or status, it is not even required by Scripture. The genuine authority in the church comes from the agreeing together of the true disciples of Christ, those who have faith in Him (Matthew 18:18-20; 16:13-19; 28:16-20). There is not, and has never been, any authority in the church passed down by purely mechanical means. Nor are there two separate levels of believers, as all are priests before God (Revelation 1:5,6; 5:9,10; 1 Peter 2:9,10). Certainly there should be leadership (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13; Hebrews 13:17). But they should not be seen as totally separate from the people they serve. 


  1. Church leaders should not be seen differently than anyone else. We are all even though we are not all called church leadership.

    Signed, Bob
    Ordained Pastor

  2. PS: The real impact of my ordination was the tax advantages that it once afforded me. ツ