Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ordination - Analysis - A Clear Pattern of Commissioning - Part 2 of 3

The next two patterns that could transpire from the Biblical data are: (1) the concept of creating representatives and (2) the lack of imparting authority. (1) The implications in 1 Timothy 5:22 discussed above seem to allow for such an interpretation. It could also be argued that this is what the apostles did when they appointed the seven in Acts 6, what the church of Antioch did in Acts 13, and what the churches did when they sent traveling companions in 2 Corinthians 8:19 and Acts 15:25-27. In addition, this seems to be the pattern in Numbers 8:10. A similar argument could be made about the appointing of leaders in general (Heb 13:7) and elders in particular (1 Pet 5:3) due to their nature as examples to the body and to the community. Yet, this pattern should be adopted with caution, lest we commit the same mistake the Israelites did when they sent Moses up the mountain by himself as their representative or lest we perpetuate the clergy/laity division (as seen in the previous excursus post) and assume that those who have been commissioned are to minister in our stead. Very a propos is the warning of Thomas White, who reminds us that “it is important to note that ordination does not create a separate class of Christians or a separate class of clergy who must intercede for believers.”[1] We have only one high priest (Heb 3:1) and mediator (1 Tim 2:5) and his name is Jesus Christ. So, if we are to accept the pattern of creating a representative, we need to understand that these representatives are for men, either as examples or as messengers on our behalf; but they do not fulfill our duties as believers. Interestingly enough, the passages relating to the installation of Joshua (Num 27:18, 23; Deut 34:9) do not seem to fit this pattern. They are also the only passages which indicate a transfer of authority during the laying on of hands. Since these are Old Testament passages that occurred during a time when not all were indwelled by the Spirit, and since their pattern does not seem to be repeated in the New Testament, the simple solution is to disregard them, as they are not applicable to the task at hand. (2) Ultimately, there seems to be little to no evidence in the passages presented above, that commissioning imparts authority. While some of Daube’s insights are beneficial, his understanding of samakh should not be forced onto the New Testament text.

While commissioning does affirm giftedness, for there is a link in the commissioning passages between the presence of gifting and the ministry for which people were commissioned,[2] the pattern seems to indicate that people were commissioned from within the body for a specific task and not just a simple recognition of gifting.[3] The pattern of commissioning individuals from within the body makes common sense, if the people commissioned are to represent the ones commissioning them and if the people doing the commissioning are to be able to ascertain that the people whom they are commissioning possess the gifts necessary to perform the task at hand. Gill, who combines call and ordination,[4] was a big proponent of this stance, for he stated that “he must be a member of a church, to whom he is to be ordained as a pastor. . . . one that is not a member of the church, cannot be a pastor of it.”[5]

[1] Thomas White, “So You Have Been Called to the Ministry,” Calling Out the Called (Fort Worth: Seminary Hill Press), 8.

[2] The seven were to be “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3); Paul and Barnabas were listed in the list of prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1); 1 Tim 4:14 and 2 Tim 1:6 directly refer to the charisma of Timothy as an encouragement to keep on doing what he needed to do in Ephesus; 1 Tim 5:22, since it refers to elders, it is referring to people who have been gifted to perform said role in the local church.

[3] This pattern is evidenced in the historical practice of not ordaining an individual until he was called by a church to an official ministry position.

[4] For he states that “the election and call of them, with their acceptance, is ordination. The essence of ordination lies in the voluntary choice and call of the people, and in the voluntary acceptance of that call by the person chosen and called; for this affair must be by mutual consent and agreement, which joins them together as pastor and people. And this is done among themselves; and public ordination, so called, is no other than a declaration of that. Election and ordination are spoken of as the same; the latter is expressed and explained by the former.” Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, 580.

[5] Ibid., 597.


John S Wilson III said...

While I think the first part is generally well done the ending related to commissioning of a pastor of a church seems to be an add on. The use of the term "pastor" is only referenced in Ephesians. Given the organic context of every local church these more mature believers, who have lived by Jesus' indwelling life in the body of Christ, have been functioning in a caring role for their church, and have as a focus helping to keep the body focused on Jesus being head of the body, the Chief Shepherd. It is generally accepted that there were more than one pastor in each church if we understand the use being the same as that of elder and overseer all representative of function not office. The use of the word commissioning is one of professionalism and therefore, whether we like it or not, gives the division of clergy/laity in the church.

Alan Knox said...


I'm glad that you're still posting your paper. Let me ask you a question, to make sure that I understand what you're saying. If someone desire to serve God and other people by collecting food and distributing to those in need, then do you see it within the pattern of Scriptures for the church to "commission" that person, whether that person is a pastor, elder, or whatever?


Maël said...


in short yes. I do not see commissioning as necessary, viz. people do not need to be commissioned to minister. But, I do see a pattern of commissioning as summarized in part 3 of A Clear Pattern of Commissioning.

Join my blog network
on Facebook