Ordaining ministers was a practice of the early morning church and it is scriptural and right to follow the example and precepts set down in the New Testament. Ordination throughout history has been political at times—misused and abused; however, this does not mean the church should forgo the true doctrine and practice of ordination.
What is Ordination?
Ministers, workers of the Lord, must be chosen by the Lord and anointed with divine power and authority. Ordination is the biblical, doctrinal act of publicly recognizing, by the laying on of hands of other ordained ministers, what the Holy Spirit has already chosen and qualified. According to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, to ordain is “to set, place; to set one over a thing, to appoint one to administer an office, to set down as, constitute, to declare.”
In the ecclesiastical sense, to ordain signifies or declares the appointment and call of a person to the ministry in the church by the imposition or laying on of the hands of other ordained church leaders. It is an official, scripturally sanctioned recognition of a minister’s call and qualifications.
Paul wrote to Titus, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5). Titus stayed in Crete to follow up on Paul’s work and to finish those things which were “left undone.” The ordaining of elders was not a novel concept for the Jews, for elders in the Jewish synagogues were ordained.
Paul told Timothy to “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6). There are other scriptural examples that demonstrate ordination as the divine appointment of ministers being acknowledged by the church in separating or consecrating ministers to their call by the Holy Spirit.
While not necessarily a formal ordination, consider Acts 13:2-4: “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost…” It is the Holy Spirit that gifts, calls, qualifies, and sends ministers, but there is clearly an act of consecration and sealing that is an aspect of ordination.
Ordination is more than a piece of paper given by church leadership. There is significance to ordination, just as baptism is more meaningful than a one-time event of being plunged into the water.