Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Calling, Authorization, and Ordination of Ministers

We are instructed by Paul, "Let all things be done decently and in order," (1 Corinthians 14:40, New King James Version). Calvin says that "there is nothing in which order should be more diligently observed than in establishing (church) government." In order to keep things "decently and in order", people who are to become ministers should be called by God. "And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was," (Hebrews 5:4, New King James Version). After they are called, they must respond to this calling.

Calvin makes four points about this calling which he uses the rest of the chapter to explain. They are "(1) what sort of ministers they should be, (2) how, and (3) by whom they should be appointed, and (4) by what rite or ceremony they should be installed." He writes about the inner and outer call of a minister, the inner being by God and the outer by the church. He does not detail the inner call because it is a secret call known only to each minister and not witnessed by the church. Calvin writes something very interesting to which several denominations should pay special attention here in the early 21st century. He writes, "Yet, though one comes to it with an evil conscience, he is nonetheless duly called in the presence of the church, provided his wickedness is not open." As a leader of the church, no matter what your sin is, you should not deny that it is a sin nor should you be unrepentant of your sin. Ministers should be competent before being ordained into the position through preparation and being equipped by God.

He paraphrases Titus 1:7-8 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 by writing, "only those are to be chosen who are of sound doctrine and of holy life, not notorious in any fault which might both deprive them of authority and disgrace the ministry." Ministers must also be "instructed in those skills necessary for the discharge of their office." Calvin touches here on the "how" of this call. He states that the "how" refers to the religious awe that should be observed when choosing, the fasting and prayers involved, and the seeking of the counsel and discretion of the Spirit.

In determining who should be the one to choose ministers, the election of the apostles provides little help. This is because the apostleship was an extraordinary ministry and the apostles were called by Christ himself. Paul wrote about himself, "Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)," (Galatians 1:1, New King James Version). He had his secret call in common with all godly ministers, but since he was so uniquely appointed by God, he still has a "badge of apostleship." Men do appoint bishops, which is a lawful thing to do according to Scripture. Acts 13:1-3 testifies to the fact that the church, led by the Holy Spirit, calls people to become ministers.

Calvin writes, "Someone now asks whether the minister ought to be chosen by the whole church, or only by his colleagues and the elders charges with the censure of morals, or whether he ought to be appointed by the authority of a single person." Those who argue for a single person refer to Paul's instructions to Titus and Timothy to appoint presbyters. Calvin states that they were not given the power to rule by their own decisions. They were to seek the advice of others within those churches to determine who best would serve as the leaders. Paul (who gave those instructions to Titus and Timothy) and Barnabus relied on a vote of the people by show of hands, which was a Greek practice, in every church. Paul would not have given more authority to Titus and Timothy than he claimed for himself. Cyprian also thinks that the church should appoint its leaders as well, using the examples of the Levitical priests, the election of Matthias, and the choosing of the deacons. Cyprian writes, "These examples show that the ordination of a priest must take place only in the presence and with the knowledge of the people, in order that the ordination, which has been examined by the witness of all, may be just and lawful."

When the apostles ordained any man into the ministry, they used the Hebrew custom of the laying on of hands. This tradition showed that these people were being presented to God and they wished them to be blessed and consecrated. "The apostles, accordingly, signified by the laying on of hands that they were offering to God him whom they were receiving into the ministry." They did this with all pastors, teachers, and deacons. Since there is no law in place by Christ to follow, we should observe this same practice of the apostles. He makes a note that only the pastors did the laying on of hands, not the whole multitude. In the Presbyterian church, we have all ordained elders and pastors lay hands on those being ordained into service. This follows this same custom that is outlined by the practice of the apostles and defined by Calvin.

Tomorrow's reading: 4.4.1-4.8

1 comment:

  1. Hope you’ll take some time, please, George, to visit our Calvin-admiring site, read some articles, listen to some radio shows, give me some feedback. We are Christians FIRST and not Republican Party cheerleaders. God bless you, your family, your work.

    John Lofton, Editor,
    Communications Director, Institute On The Constitution
    Recovering Republican

    PS -- And do tell me, please, your specific areas of interest so I might direct you to some helpful information. My desire is to equip saints to be effective in the spiritual war we are in, the war against the Christ, which, alas, in America, especially in the church, has never been more intense.

    Sample radio show: My interview with Ken Ham of "Answers In Genesis." Comments welcome:


    For more than 40 years John Lofton has covered national politics and cultural/religious issues as a journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist, TV-radio commentator/analyst and political advisor.
    ----Editor, "Monday," the weekly, national publication of the Republican National Committee, 1970-73.
    --- Nationally-syndicated columnist for "United Features" Syndicate in more than 100 papers nationwide, 1973-80.
    --- Editor, "Battleline," monthly newsletter of The American Conservative Union, 1977-80.
    --- Editor, "Conservative Digest" magazine, 1980-82.
    --- Columnist, "The Washington Times" newspaper, 1982-89.
    --- Program-host/commentator, "America's Voice," a national cable TV network in all 50 states, 1998-99.
    --- A commentator on the "Mutual Radio Network;"
    --- An advisor to the Presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan;
    --- Author of a monthly column on the Federal bureaucracy for Howard Phillips' "Conservative Caucus."
    --- Has written articles for the NRA magazine “America’s First Freedom”; Gun Owners Of America.
    --- Communications Director for Constitution Party Presidential candidate Michael Anthony Peroutka in 2004.
    --- Editor, web site.
    --- Co–host with Michael Peroutka of “The American View” radio program.
    John Lofton has given numerous speeches before various groups, Liberal and Conservative, including Liberty University/Bob Jones University. He has appeared on every major TV/radio talk show (including the Comedy Channel’s “Daily Show”/“Politically Incorrect”) to debate every imaginable kind of anti-Christian goofball --- and some who are unimaginable but who do, alas, exist. And he never went to college which is why he is so smart. He can be reached at: Email:

    * Note, lest I be misunderstood: Being a Republican is not a disease; it is a choice – a very bad choice, but a choice nonetheless.


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