What is the basis or reason for ordination?
Ordination, as a practice, is clearly set forth in the Bible. In the Old Testament, Aaron and his sons were chosen by God to serve as priests (Exodus 28:1), and they were specifically ordained for this responsibility:
“Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood which was on the altar, and sprinkled it on Aaron, on his garments, on his sons, and on the garments of his sons with him; and he consecrated Aaron, his garments, his sons, and the garments of his sons with him” (Leviticus 8:30).
Quoting from the NASB:
“‘The holy garments of Aaron shall be for his sons after him, that in them they may be anointed and ordained’” (Exodus 29:29).
The priestly responsibility was to serve as God’s representative to the Israelites. Note Malachi 2, verse 7:
“‘For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.’”
The Book of Hebrews speaks of the duties of the High Priest and shows that God commissions this office:
“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ As He also says in another place: ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 5:1-6).
In another example, God told Moses to choose Joshua to lead Israel in his place:
“So Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. And he laid his hands on him and inaugurated him (better: commissioned him, so NIV and RSV), just as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses” (Numbers 27:22-23).
In the New Testament, we note that Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Church of God (Ephesians 1:22), has established ministerial positions:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).
Speaking of the Church, Paul writes:
“Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:27-28).
From the outset, the process of choosing ministers and deacons for particular service in the Church has been the result of careful consideration. Note what is said about how Jesus selected the original apostles:
“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).
Paul and Barnabas were prophets and teachers. They were subsequently ordained to the rank and function of apostles (Acts 14:14) for the particular job they would then fulfill in the Church:
“Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:1-3).
Paul specifically acknowledges this ordination for the proclaiming of the gospel, saying, “to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Timothy 1:11; compare, also, Romans 11:13).
While the Church of God began in Judea on the Day of Pentecost, the message of the gospel was to be proclaimed to all nations (compare Matthew 24:14; Acts 1:8; 10:44-48; 11:18). Paul addressed the unique responsibilities given in preaching the gospel:
“But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (Galatians 2:7-9).
However, neither Peter nor Paul were able to do all of the work their commissions required. They ordained others to help in administering the Church of God. For example, following the establishment of the Church on the Day of Pentecost, it became apparent that more help was needed, as noted in Acts 6, verses 1-7. Likewise, Paul instructed Titus to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5).
However, this was not done in a random fashion, as Paul continues to explain in his letter to Titus, charging him to appoint or ordain elders:
“…if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:6-9; compare, also, 1 Timothy 3:1-13).
Throughout the Church of that day, there was a need for ordained servants, and this is why Jesus Christ gave structured leadership to the Church:
“[F]or the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:12-16).
Jesus spoke of the Work which lay before His servants:
“Then He said to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Luke 10:2).
Finally, consider that God emphatically promises to help those who are ordained in His service, as Jeremiah was told:
“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’ Then said I: ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.’ But the LORD said to me: ‘Do not say, “I am a youth,” For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 1:4-8).
Therefore, in like manner, the Church of the Eternal God in the USA and its international affiliates, both have and will ordain people as the need is made apparent to further the Work of God given to His Church.
Lead Writer: Dave Harris