Thursday, June 10, 2010
ON BEING ORDAINED
I believe it is pretty clear that there is no method or form offered in the New Testament for what we call 'ordination.' In fact, I think it is clear that the biblical materials do not view ordination the way it is presently viewed in modern times at all. No instructions were given for who, how, or why anyone was to be ordained. The best we can do is derive from the meaning of the Greek word, cheirotonein, that people were to be "appointed" [The meaning of the word] for certain ministries [such as elders in Acts 14:23] and then we can find a few occasions in the text where that was done, thus, giving us an example. It could very well be that the idea of being ordained to the "gospel ministry" is an invention of human culture beginning long after biblical times. The writers of the New Testament surely were silent on that.
They did however, seem to view the "laying on of hands" as a method of recognition.
The Greek phrase "Epititheio tas cheiras" [to lay hands on] occurs five times in Acts in ways that might be indicating a setting apart or appointment to a particular ministry. As an example I'll mention three of them. In Acts 6:1-6 the seven servants were set aside for practical ministry. Acts 9:17 shows Paul was set apart for his work of preaching that began in verse 20. Who doesn't know of the incident in Acts 13:1-3 where Paul and Barnabas were set aside for their missionary work.
Basically what we see in the biblical materials is the recognition that a person possessed certain spiritual gifts and character that were necessary to do a specific needed ministry. The church then commissioned that person by the laying on of hands for that specific task. The appointment could be to preaching to serving as an elder to going on a missionary journey to feeding widows who were being neglected. In its simplest form, ordination could be defined as the church’s symbolic recognition of what the Holy Spirit was doing or wants done in the life of the church using people to do it for the benefit of the others.
One final thought. It should be noted that the Bible gives no specific instructions as to whether women should or should not be ordained. The refusal to "set aside by laying on of hands for a specific ministry" [The biblical meaning of ordination] of women would have to be based on an interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 that I believe is generally totally misunderstood. AND one would have to hold to the "office" concept of Pastor or Deacon with their understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12 to refuse women ordination to those "offices."
The truth of the matter is, using the biblical definition, there is no clear command OR condemnation in the New Testament for the ordination of ANYONE and the word "OFFICE" isn't used at all. [Except in the KJV where it is a mistranslation of the words] The scriptures simply indicate we are to recognize need and the people in the body who are gifted and anointed to meet that need and set them apart perhaps by the laying on of hands, so they can minister to that need...regardless of gender.
I do realize this may be much like the modern understanding of how to do church [Body-life] that we hold to that is so foreign to the biblical text and yet would need a miracle or major catastrophe to change. Ordination as we know it would take another miracle to be changed back into the biblical model. Until then I guess we'll all do the best we can with what we've got...awaiting that miracle or catastrophe. Frankly, I think either one would be for our good and His Glory.