Purpose and Value of Ordination

Purpose and Value of Ordination

There are multiple, important purposes for the ordination of ministers in the Church of God which should be valued accordingly and never undermined because of personal agendas, philosophies, or prejudices.
Confirmation of Something Spiritual

According to scriptural teaching, there is something spiritual conveyed in the act of ministerial ordination. Paul referred to ordination when he instructed Timothy: “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery” (1 Timothy 4:14). The study of this verse conveys much truth about the practice of ordination.

Neglect not the gift that is in thee. “Gift” here is translated from the Greek word, char’-is-mah—divine gratuity, spiritual endowment, religious qualification, favor. The totality of Timothy’s ministry—the call, the qualifications, the office that he was to fill, the gift of God, and the ordination itself were all part of the favor of God Timothy was not to neglect. Paul spoke of this gift again in 2 Timothy 1:6. “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” Paul was speaking personally as a father to his son. “Be faithful to the gift and to the charge that has been committed to your trust.” Timothy’s ministry, call, and qualifications in their entirety were the gift from God. The brethren who recognized his call and qualifications sanctioned that gift and acknowledged it by the laying on of hands in ordination. Hence, the ordination was a ‘part’ of the gift or benefit that had been given to Timothy.

Laying on of hands. The bestowed gift of ministry was in part given by the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands as demonstrated by Paul and other church elders. There is a rich, scriptural heritage of the imposition of hands. In Genesis 48:14 Israel put his hand on Ephraim and Manasseh’s heads and blessed them. In Numbers 27:18-20 the Lord instructed Moses to lay his hand upon Joshua in the sight of the priest and all the congregation. Moses was to give Joshua a charge and put his honor upon Joshua that the children of Israel would be obedient. Deuteronomy 34:9 confirms the value: “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses.” It is noteworthy that on most occasions, the Holy Spirit was given in the early morning church when hands were laid on the believers and they prayed. The Holy Spirit was given by God, but there was a special blessing and power imparted through unified prayer to the gift giver. There is power in the agreement of prayer and a favor of God which is in part instigated by the laying on of hands. This then would run parallel with the “laying on of hands” to ordain someone in the ministry.

Of the presbytery. The word presbytery is translated elders in Luke 22:66 and in Acts 22:5. Ordination was not by just one minister but by a body or group of elders.

Public Recognition of a Spiritual Call

Ordination is one way among others of validating someone’s ministry with the people to whom he ministers. It is a commendation of what God is doing in someone’s life and it is one means of helping establish credibility to the people by the ministry as a body. An ordained minister dealing with people and problems should have the backing and support of the ministry. It is important for the people to know and understand that an ordained individual is representing something bigger than himself—the body of Christ. This is one reason ordination should be approached with much carefulness.

Bro. Ostis Wilson wrote the following concerning this subject: “I am sure that a token of recognition is a big support from the ministers with whom and among whom he is going to be working, but I feel the ordination service goes deeper than that and the laying on of hands by Holy Spirit filled men actually imparts something to the one on whom their hands are laid….Paul confirms…that there was actually something imparted to them by the laying on of hands by Holy Spirit filled men. I feel we should teach this to our people and especially to the candidates for ordination and prepare them to expect to receive something special [blessing/favor/sealing—editor] from God when the hands of Holy Ghost filled ministers are laid on them.”

Church Government

The previously quoted scripture in Titus 1:5 reads: “thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city.” The following verses in Titus then give the necessary qualifications for the elders who were to be ordained. In this passage, ordination takes on a higher degree of signification. One of the reasons for ordination was to establish recognized leadership and spiritual authority in the congregation. There have been and always will be contrary spirits at work, and recognized, Holy Ghost filled ministers can help bring clarity and leadership in troubled times. Ordaining elders was part of the church government that the Holy Spirit put in place. Where there are different voices, it is helpful for people to know there is a spiritually recognized leader that can be trusted to instruct them in the ways of righteousness. Consider the writings of some Church of God ministers from the past:

“The first churches were certainly ‘ruled’ by the apostles in the early days, but this ‘ruling’ had nothing official about it. It simply consisted in the exercise of the godly, moral influence of revered and deeply trusted leaders, exactly the same in kind, if not in degree as that exercised by spiritual men in all ages of the church” (The Apostolic Church, Charles E. Brown, 1947, p123).

“Truly there is government in the Church of God, and it is exercised by men—God-gifted men working together with other God-gifted men under Holy Spirit leadership” (Church of God Doctrines, Cecil Carver, 1979, p95).

“It is certain that any minister can feel freer in the exercise of his ministry and work more effectually when he knows that he has the recognition, support, backing and approval of the other ministers among whom he works and of the saints. For one to successfully fulfill the office of an ‘Elder’ or ‘Overseer’ in a congregation in all its aspects, he should be ordained by the laying on of hands of other ordained ministers. He may preach just as well and feed the flock just as well without it, but when it comes to exercising authority and dealing with problems which may arise in the congregation, he will be much more effective and respected in his judgment if he has the recognition and backing of the ministry and the people he is dealing with know it” (Faith and Victory, Ostis Wilson, December 1979).

Legal Aspects

The official, legal designation of ordination acknowledges that someone is a qualified, accepted minister of a church fellowship. This is required by some governments and organizations for ministers to carry out certain ministerial duties (i.e. perform marriages, prison ministry, hospice, etc.).

Personal Acceptance

Ministry is a lonely place, ordained or not. However, there is a strength and comfort that can come from knowing your fellow ministers are behind you and acknowledge the leadings and anointing of God in your life. This is not a reason to ordain, but there is value here as it can help mitigate questions, internal and external, if all else is in order in the life and ministry.