What is ordination? What does the Bible say about ordination?
In today's churches, ordination generally involves leaders or an institution who grant authority to a church leader. This can include the ordination of a pastor, deacon, or other church leader who is given authority to lead others in various church duties. But what does the Bible say about ordination?
In the Old Testament, many leaders were ordained. Ordination had two main understandings. First, some were ordained in the sense of being set apart by God. We can see an example of this type of ordination in the life of Joseph. Acts 7:10 states Joseph was ordained or set apart as a ruler in Egypt.
The second way ordination was used in the Old Testament involved the appointment of leaders. God commanded Samuel to ordain Saul as the king of Israel, as well as later ordaining David as king.
In the New Testament, ordination began being used to appoint leaders in local churches or ministry. In Acts 13:1–5, Paul and Barnabas were set apart for special ministry. The term ordination was not used, but the same idea was involved.
In Acts 14:23, Paul and Barnabas appointed leaders who were set apart or ordained as elders of the churches. Titus was later also commanded to appoint elders in every town on the island of Crete (Titus 1:5). Titus himself was ordained as well (2 Corinthians 8:19).
First Timothy 5:22 notes that Timothy should "not be hasty in the laying on of hands." Ordaining a church leader was an important decision that was not to be made without careful consideration. Timothy's ordination was specifically mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:6 where Paul wrote, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands." Timothy was set apart as a church leader and was to continue living out his calling in the church at Ephesus.
Today, many churches ordain elders or deacons through a special service that includes prayer and leaders laying hands on the person to symbolize a transferal of trust or authorization of power. Though not required in Scripture, this tradition is certainly appropriate and publicly marks an important time in the life of a church and its leaders. Church leaders recognized by other church leaders then live with a deep sense of calling and responsibility to lovingly shepherd those in their church family with love and humility.
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