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Sermons & Study Guides

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government Pt. 16 - Of Ordination Of Ministers.

James Dodson

Form Of Presbyterial Church-Government

Of Ordination of Ministers.


Under the head of Ordination of Ministers is to be considered, either the doctrine of ordination, or the power of it. 

Question 1.—Does the Scripture hold out ordination of ministers to be an ordinance of Christ?

Answer.—Yes. Rom. 10:15; Heb. 5:4.  Thus do they err who hold a universal allowance to preach apart from Christ’s ordinance.  They are confuted for the following reasons: 1.) In the Old Testament, not only the high priest, but all other priests and Levites were by divine appointment inaugurated to their ministerial offices, Lev. 8:2-13; Num. 8:9-14.  When any unconsecrated men intruded themselves into the priestly or Levitical office they were remarkably punished by God himself, Num. 16:1-3, 25-33.  Now, these things were written for our instruction, Rom. 15:4.  The prophet Isaiah confirms the application when he says God will take from among Christians some to be priests, and some to be Levites, Isa. 66:21; using Old Testament titles for New Testament ministers.  Paul himself confirms this understanding, Rom. 15:16.  2.) In the very choice of deacons, which was an inferior office and serving only for the distribution of the temporal estates of people, the apostles required they be ordained to office, Acts 6:6.  3.) That even the apostle Paul, though chosen immediately by Christ unto the great office of preaching unto the Gentiles, and that in a miraculous way, yet notwithstanding it was the pleasure of the Holy Ghost that he must be separated and set apart by men for this great work, Acts 13:1-4.  4.) That Paul and Barnabas who were themselves separated to the work of the ministry, Acts 13:1, went about ordaining elders in every church, Acts 14:23.  5.) Titus was left at Crete to ordain elders in every church, which surely had been vain and superfluous, if ordination is not an institution of Christ and necessary in his Church, Tit. 1:5.  6.) Timothy was ordained not only by the laying on of Paul’s hands, 2 Tim. 1:6; but also the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, 1 Tim. 4:14.  Now, by laying on of hands is meant the whole work of ordination, and hence we see the will of the Holy Ghost that not only Paul an apostle, but Timothy an evangelist must be set apart unto his office by ordination.  7.) That Timothy is commanded to lay hands on no man suddenly, 1 Tim. 5:22; this negative implies an affirmative, that it was his office to lay on hands, to ordain elders, but his care must be not to do it rashly and unadvisedly upon men insufficient, lest he should be made partakers of other men’s sins.  8.) Timothy is commanded to commit the things which he had heard from Paul to faithful men who be able to teach others, 2 Tim. 2:2.  Here we have—first, a separation of some men to be teachers in Christ’s Church; second, the qualifications of these teachers—faithful men, able to teach others; third, we have an injunction laid upon Timothy that he should commit what he had heard of Paul unto these faithful men.  Now, this committing was not by way of instructing only, but by way of ordination.  Paul charges Timothy not so much to make others fit to teach others, as to set apart men for the teaching of others, that there might be a perpetual succession.  9.) They are called ministers and ambassadors of Christ and the New Testament, 1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 3:6; 2 Cor. 5:20. 

Question 2.—Is there a doctrine of ordination?

Answer.—Yes. Heb. 6:1, 2.  Laying on of hands, or ordination, is not only reckoned an institution of Christ, but it is one of the principles of the doctrine of Christ.  Imposition of hands was used in the ordination of office bearers in the church, both extraordinary and ordinary, 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; Acts 6:6.  In the apostle’s estimation, the doctrine of ordination is necessary for the grounding of people in religion.  God’s people need to know what offices and office bearers he has ordained for ordinary edification and ruling and maintaining of his church unto the end of the world, that they may acknowledge such as are sent of God, and submit themselves unto them, Heb. 13:17.

Question 3.—Is there a power of ordination?

Answer.—Yes. 1 Tim. 5:22.  The inherent power of ordination resides in the presbytery.  The words of the apostle are decisive as to the parties with whom the power of ordination is lodged, 1 Tim. 4:14.

Question 4.—What is ordination?

Answer.—We must distinguish between the power of order and the power of jurisdiction; by virtue of the former, men may act as ministers: 1.) To preach the word of God, 2 Tim. 4:2.  2.) To administer the sacraments, 1 Cor. 11:23.  3.) To visit the sick, Ezek. 34:4.  4.) To catechize the young or ignorant, Gal. 6:6.  5.) To admonish those under him, 1 Thess. 5:12.  Ordination is the commissioning, by the presbytery or assembly of the church, to act in this way on behalf of the church, Acts 14:23.

The power of jurisdiction comprehends those things which a minister cannot do himself, nor by virtue of his ordination; instead, they must be done by a session, presbytery or synod, Acts 6:6; 13:3; or sometimes by a minister or ministers, having commission and authority from the same, Acts 15:22, 25.  By power of jurisdiction, the following exist in the church: 1.) Ordination and admission, 1 Tim. 5:22; Rom. 14:1.  2.) Suspension, deprivation and excommunication, 1 Cor. 5:13.  3.) Receiving again into the church, 2 Cor. 2:6, 7.  4.) Making of laws and constitutions ecclesiastical, Acts 15:28, 30, 31; 16:4, 5.  Thus, there is no ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the hands of one man, 1 Tim. 4:14.

The power of order is the radical and fundamental power, 1 John 1:3; it is by this that a minister is susceptible and capable of the power of jurisdiction, 2 Cor. 8:4.  The power of order goes no further than the conscience, Acts 17:11; the power of jurisdiction is exercised in external and ecclesiastical courts, 2 Tim. 2:2; John 9:22.  The power of order is sometimes unlawful in the use, yet it is not void in itself, Mark 9:38-40; the power of jurisdiction, when it is used unlawfully is also void in itself, John 16:2.  Discerning the power of order in a person is the lawful vocation of all believers, John 10:4, 5; Acts 6:3; yet, no believers, apart from acting in their representative capacity, can invest any individual with a power of jurisdiction over any but themselves, Acts 13:3, 4.  Thus, the consent of the people to make someone their teacher or pastor (i.e., to discern and establish the power of order), when lawful ordination cannot be had (i.e., when there is no extended lawful jurisdiction—no power of jurisdiction), the necessity of order, 1 Cor. 14:40; makes their choice, or acquiescence, a valid discernment of that power of order, 1 Pet. 4:10, 11.  Although necessity cannot create a power of jurisdiction, whereby it could declare something valid by asserting it to be lawful, 2 Chron. 11:15; it does create a power of order whereby that which might otherwise be unlawful is made valid and, through its validity, lawful, Matt. 12:2-8.