• Josh Gurango

What is ordination?

"And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed." (Acts 14:23)
"And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will." (2 Corinthians 8:19)
"This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you" (Titus 1:5)

Ministerial ordination is the church's affirmation of a man's gifting and calling to the pastorate. In ordination, a man is set apart and commissioned to shepherd the flock through the ministry of the Word and the administration of the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord's Supper). The church does not confer the office to a man, nor does the church ultimately decide who becomes a pastor. The church's role is one of affirmation.  "God, who drafts men and fits them for ministry, intends that His work in them be on display so brightly that the church is able to see it, and then able to confirm His call through their appointment to public ministry."1  This is not to say, though, that the church's role is unimportant. For it is the church alone that has been given this role. No other institution or organisation is bestowed with it. The church is able to ordain men because she has the Spirit and the Word through which she is able to discern who has been rightly gifted and called according to biblical qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9).


Among Reformed Baptist churches, ordination is performed by local churches, not a denomination or group of churches. Other churches can help assess, train, and affirm men. Elders from neighbouring churches are even encouraged to take part in ordination and lay hands on the new pastor. But in the strict sense, it is the local church that ordains her own ministers. For those of us who believe in the importance of Confessional standards and being in formal association with like-minded churches, the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America provides us with helpful insight on this issue:


ARBCA is an association of churches and not a denomination. ARBCA does not provide a mechanism for the ordination of ministers. We believe it is the responsibility of each local church to recognize and install her individual elders. However, there is an aspect regarding the ordination of ministers that does concern each and every ARBCA church. The ARBCA churches need to realize that it is their responsibility to take the Confession seriously and only ordain those men who meet the standards of “Full Subscription” to the 1689 London Baptist Confession. Each year, the ARBCA Churches pledge to one another their heart-felt belief in a Full Subscription position regarding the 1689 Confession.2


I believe that taking our church's Confessional standards seriously (assuming we believe that the doctrines set forth are indeed biblical) can greatly help the church in her role of affirming men who are qualified both in doctrine and practice.


"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." (1 Peter 5:1-5)


1 Hegg, Appointed to Preach, 35.

2 ARBCA, Ministerial Ordination: It's Legitimacy and Limitations. https://www.arbca.com/2008-ministerial-ordination

 

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