UPDATE: Read about and view some photos of the ordination service here.

Why ordination? This question might be on the minds of many evangelicals whenever they hear of someone (like myself) being ordained to be a minister or pastor of a church.

In this age of anti-intellectualism and anti-authority coupled with a low view of Scripture, creeds, church, and ministers, ordination is looked upon as unusual, unnecessary, and maybe even Roman Catholic. Unusual, because so many men (and women) are self-proclaimed pastors and “bishops.” Unnecessary, because of a deformed view of the “priesthood of all believers” and church offices. And Roman Catholic, because of unfamiliarity with the Protestant view of the calling of a minister.

Protestant “apostolic succession”
Christ is the King of the universe, and the only Founder and Head of the church, not the Pope. He exercises his authority by means of his Word, and before he ascended into heaven, he appointed representatives to exercise this authority and to proclaim his Word. He calls these representatives by his Spirit, first through an inner call (“desire” in 1 Tim 3:1), and then through the call of his people, the congregation (Acts 1:23-26; 6:1-6; Eph 4:11-12). Therefore, these men, variously called apostles, ministers, elders, overseers, or pastors, receive their commission from Christ himself.

The end of the apostolic age meant that the unique, foundational office of apostleship also ended (1 Cor 3:10-11; Eph 2:20), but the apostles’ teachings continue to be handed down and entrusted to Christ’s appointed ministers (2 Tim 4:1,2; Jude 3) until Christ returns to earth. Timothy and Titus were appointed to the ministry by the Apostle Paul, and in turn they and others were instructed to appoint elders in every city and church (Acts 14:23; Tit 1:5).

What is the difference between this Protestant view and the Roman church’s view of “apostolic succession”? The Roman church traces back an unbroken series of occupants of the seat of the Bishop of Rome, from St. Peter all the way to the present Pope, as the head of the church, so that the Pope is Christ’s only representative on earth today. The Roman apostolic succession rests only on the Bishop of Rome. Whereas the Roman church emphasizes the minister, namely the Pope, the Reformers emphasized the ministry.

Ordination
In the United Reformed Churches, as in many other Reformed and Presbyterian churches, a man goes through a thorough, exhaustive process before he is called by a congregation and ordained as Minister of the Word and Sacrament. Article 4 of our Church Order states that he has to be fully trained in a faithful seminary, and afterward sustain an oral examination in doctrine and personal piety by a regional assembly of pastors and elders (Classis).

As well, Article 6 of our Church Order says that the last step in the calling of a minister is

the public ordination before the congregation, which shall take place with appropriate instructions, admonitions, prayers and subscription to the Three Forms of Unity by signing the Form of Subscription, followed with the laying on of hands by the ministers who are present and by the elders of the congregation, with the use of the appropriate liturgical form.

This final step consists of two rites: ordination and “laying on of hands.” L. Berkhof’s brief summary of ordination is that it is “a public acknowledgment and confirmation of the candidate’s calling to this office.” (Systematic Theology, 588) Notice that in the ordination, the church does not “make” the ministerial candidate a minister, but rather the church, under its divine authority from Christ, merely recognizes and publicly confirms that Christ has already called and given gifts to the candidate.

These gifts given to the minister enable him in “continuing in prayer and in the ministry of the Word, administering the sacraments, catechizing the youth, and assisting the elders in the shepherding and discipline of the congregation” (Article 2 of the Church Order). The Reformed principle of the “priesthood of all believers” does not mean that lay people can perform these tasks, while the pastor attends to his administrative duties in the church much like the corporate CEO. In ordination, the minister is set apart from the congregation in a “special priesthood” to preach, teach, lead in worship, administer the sacraments of the Holy Communion and water baptism, and shepherd the flock. In the same way that a person does not let a plumber do his income tax returns, the church must not ask a person without training and authority to perform the tasks that a minister is specially trained and gifted to do.

What about the laying on of hands – is there Scriptural warrant for this practice? In the Old Testament, laying on of hands has various meanings and purposes: (1) to make a sacrifice offering acceptable to God (Lev 8:18); (2) to transfer one’s sin to an animal sacrifice (Lev 16:20-22); (3) an act of blessing (Gen 48:13-14); and (4) to transfer authority to another (Num 27:18-23; Deut 34:9). The last one, where Moses commissioned Joshua and transferred some of his authority to him by the laying on of hands, has at least some connection to the idea of ordination to an office.

In the New Testament, laying on of hands is mentioned as (1) accompanying healing of the sick (Mark 5:23; 6:5; Luke 4:40; Acts 9:12-17; 28:8); (2) an act of blessing (Mark 10:16); (3) resulting in the receiving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-19; 19:6); and (4) an act of commissioning and sending (Acts 6:1-6; 13:3; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). Thus, even if Scriptural warrant is not ample, it is clear that there was laying on of hands by God’s authorized servants on those who were called and sent to proclaim God’s Word, and that there was spiritual gifting that accompanied this rite.

Ordination Service
Our Church Order also mentions “appropriate instructions, admonitions, prayers and subscription to the Three Forms of Unity… with the use of the appropriate liturgical form” as parts of the ordination service. Below is a good sample of an ordination service that has all of the above-mentioned elements:

Call to Worship Psalm 100:1-5
God’s Greeting Jude 1-2
Hymn of Praise I Love to Tell the Story
Ordination of a Minister of the Word Ordination Form
Ordination of a Foreign Missionary Ordination Form
Charge to the Minister (ministers and elders are invited to participate in the laying on of hands)
Charge to the Congregation
Prayer
Hymn of Response God of the Prophets
Song of Preparation Far and Near the Fields Are Teeming
Scripture Reading
Preaching of the Word
Prayer
Congregational Response We Have Heard the Joyful Sound
Benediction
Doxology

If you want to know what the “liturgical form” is, you can read it here.

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10 thoughts on “Why Ordain Ministers?”

  1. Interesting post!! I noticed that you quote scriptures from the bible? There’s lot’s of different translations though, which do you believe? 🙂

  2. Sonny asked me, “To those who were called and submit their life in serving our Lord is ordination very much important?”

    Hi Sonny, hope you’re doing well. I’m assuming that when you say “those who were called and submit their life in serving our Lord,” you’re referring to pastors (Reformed churches say “ministers of the Word”). I’ll give my answer in this context.

    The short answer to your question is a big “Yes!” Many evangelicals today think that ordination is not important; some even think it’s a Roman Catholic idea. What underlies this view is the teaching of “the priesthood of all believers.” They have been taught that because every believer is a “priest,” every member is a “minister.”

    What many Christians don’t know is that this idea of the “priesthood of all believers” came from the 16th century Reformers who argued against the sacerdotalism of Roman Catholicism which vested all authority on their priests by virtue of their ordination, and that Christians cannot come to God without priestly mediation.

    But the “priesthood of all believers” has also been abused by evangelicals. Because of lack of knowledge, they think that this means “every member [is] a minister” (e.g., Rick Warren in Purpose-Driven Church). So there are now all kinds of “ministries,” all geared towards evangelism: sports, cooking, singing, dancing, etc. To be sure, the Reformers taught not only a believer’s priesthood, but also his prophethood and kingship since we are imaging Christ’s prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices. Every Christian then is called to “confess His Name [prophet], present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him [priest], and fight with a free and good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter reign with Him eternally over all creatures [king]” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A32).

    But not every Christian is called to perform the duties of a “priest” (pastor or minister). This is a special office ordained by Christ (Eph 4:11-12). The minister is uniquely gifted, called and set apart for the duties of his office. Contrary to common practice in many groups today, particularly parachurches, not every Dick and Harry should be performing Holy Communion and baptisms. This duty was given only to those who have been commissioned by Christ (Matt 28:19-20).

    However, this is where the 16th century Reformers differ from their wayward children of the 20th-21st century. The Reformed principle of the “priesthood of all believers” does not mean that lay people can perform these tasks, while the pastor attends to his administrative duties in the church much like the corporate CEO. In ordination, the minister is set apart from the congregation in a “special priesthood” to preach, teach, lead in worship, administer the sacraments of the Holy Communion and water baptism, and shepherd the flock. In the same way that a person does not let a plumber do his income tax returns, or an auto mechanic prescribe medicine to his sick child, the church must not ask a person without training and authority to perform the tasks that a minister is specially trained and gifted to do.

    This is affirmed by the Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 158:

    Q. By whom is the Word of God to be preached?
    A. The Word of God is to be preached only by such as are sufficiently gifted, and also duly approved and called to that office.

    The WLC even goes farther than this; it is opposed to the “democracy” in many churches today where every Dick and Jane lead the worship service. This was not so until the 1950s, when most Sunday worship services were completely led by the minister. The WLC thus affirms in Q&A 156:

    Q. “Is the Word of God to be read by all?
    A. Although all are not to be permitted to read the word publicly to the congregation….”

    And this is where the importance of ordination comes. Is there Scriptural warrant for this practice? It was the practice in the Old Testament. And in the New Testament, laying on of hands, the rite of ordination, is mentioned in the act of commissioning and sending (Acts 6:1-6; 13:3; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). Thus, it is clear that God’s authorized servants, who were called and sent to proclaim God’s Word, were ordained, and that there was spiritual gifting that accompanied this rite.

    Sorry for the long answer. Hope this answers your question. These two papers would be more edifying:

    “What About Bob?” by Prof. Michael Horton

    “Rediscovering an Almost-Forgotten Reformation Treasure” by Prof. Dennis Johnson

  3. Pastor masasabi ninyo po ba na hindi mahalaga sa isang tinawag ang ordinasyon sa kadahilanan makapaglilingkod naman sa panginoon kahit walang ordinasyon.

    salamat po
    Rudy

  4. Michael,
    It’s true that many mainline Protestants, where ordination of ministers is a must, have a low view of Scripture. But what I say about evangelicals is also true: that is, many don’t see why a pastor has to be ordained to preach and to administer the sacraments because they have no idea what Scriptures say about this subject. And this is true for evangelicals on the whole subject of the doctrine of the church, e.g., preaching, sacraments, church discipline, etc.

  5. It’s a self-serving to state that Christians wary of ‘ordination’ have a ‘low view of Scripture.’ Usually it’s the opposite.

  6. Full subscription is required for pastors, elders and deacons. For members, I think it varies in different congregations. In one of the two forms for baptism of adults, one of the questions asked is:

    Do you agree with all the articles of the Christian faith as taught from God’s Word in this church and do you intend to continue steadfastly in this teaching? Do you also reject all heresies and errors conflicting with this doctrine? And do you promise to continue in the fellowship of this church both by listening to the preached Word and by celebrating the Lord’s Supper?

    “All the articles of the Christian faith as taught from God’s Word in this church” is a vague reference to the doctrines of the URCNA, namely, the Three Forms of Unity.

  7. Kuya Nollie,

    Are members (not only the leaders) of the URCNA required to fully subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity? I read elsewhere that this is not the case with Presbyterian groups like the PCA and the OPC. Thanks.

  8. Can’t wait to be there this Friday, gonna be awesome. Glad it’s finally happening.

  9. Chandra Dunn

    Recently I attended a church service where a public profession of faith was made and they had members of the congregation (family, mentors and close friends) come forward in closing prayer to lay hands upon the new professing member. This was something I had never seen in this occasion and I thought I’d share how awesome I thought that was especially to unify the commitment level of all parties involved with the action. Thank you for listening, writing and sharing.

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