Ordaining elders and pastors by laying on of hands

Illegitimate & Legitimate Ministries

1 Timothy 5:22 Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.

1 Timothy 4:14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

2 Timothy 1:6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

The Laying On of Hands

All of the references in first and second Timothy that I have listed above have to do with ordaining someone to the ministry.  In two of the cases the references have to do with Timothy’s calling in particular while in 1 Timothy 5:22 with those that Timothy would one day ordain.

The laying on of hands was the process used to publicly ordain an individual into a legitimate ministry.  In each of these scriptures the Apostle Paul mentions this process.  Laying on of hands was a visible sign to the Church that someone had the approval of the elders in the Church and that this person should be afforded the same respect that the elders had been given.   We would do well to follow the New Testament pattern as set forth by the Holy Ghost.

No one can have a legitimate ministry in the Church without having been ordained by a legitimate ministry.  It is chain passed all the way down from Christ to this present day. Anyone that launches a ministry and bypasses this process will have an illegitimate ministry.  An illegitimate ministry may look successful to the world around but such a ministry will never be anointed by the Holy Ghost.  It is absolutely essential that each ministry be legitimized by a legitimate ministry.

Today the world is full of illegitimate ministries.  Some one wakes up one morning and decides, “I think I will be a preacher” or “I think I will start a Church.”  Folks, it just does not work this way!  God must do the calling!  And whoever is called of God is not going to mind submitting under those that are called by God until they are mature enough to launch out on their own.  Anyone that is so arrogant that they feel this is not needed is going to be illegitimate.  Even Jesus recognized this process.  Really, no many could ever legitimize His ministry but John the Baptist, representing the Old Covenant, did baptize Jesus in the Jordan River.  What legitimized Jesus ministry was the landing of the Holy Ghost and the voice of His Father from Heaven.  Here is another verse that says much about our standing before God and man:

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. 

Paul reminded Timothy that his ministry was legitimized by the laying on of hands of the Presbytery.  The word, “Presbytery” means “order of elders” and “seasoned elders”.  These leaders had the wisdom to recognize the calling, and to ordain those that were qualified to a legitimate ministry. Without the ordination of the Presbytery these new ministries would not be legitimate.

Paul cautioned Timothy, now a Pastor, to lay hands on no man suddenly.  This is not an admonition, as so many wrongly think, to refrain from striking a person but rather an admonition to not ordain a person too quickly.  The Elders should be cautious about who they recognize as having a legitimate ministry.  These new candidates for the ministry must first prove themselves faithful and must grow up under the watchful eye of an elder minister.  The word elder does imply age but we know that age alone cannot be the criteria, for there are those that are late coming to the faith, while at the same time there are those that have grown up from birth in the Church.

To ordain someone for the ministry is so serious that it requires years of observation, training, and much prayer and fasting, hence Paul’s words, “Lay hands suddenly on no man”.  To do any less is to court certain disaster.

Paul later told Timothy in more detail not to ordain anyone that was too young and inexperienced into the office of a Pastor. The term novice does not necessarily refer to chronology but definitely refers to spirituality.  Look at these words:

1 Timothy 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

The Precedent of the Old Testament

We find this precedent in the Old Testament: in order for a new ministry to be legitimate it had to be acknowledged by a seasoned ministry.  This precedent is observed in many different passages.  We will look at the two of the more prominent relationships in scripture:

1.  Moses and Joshua- The great leader Moses had a young man that followed him for many years.  When Moses was 120 years old, and Joshua was 80 years old, Moses legitimized Joshua’s ministry.  This was done publicly at the Tabernacle.  It was this process that alerted the people to the fact that Joshua was now someone that would hold a spiritual office.

Deuteronomy 31:14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.

2.  Elijah and Elisha- Who has not heard of the exploits of these two famous prophets?  Elijah chose Elisha years before and trained him, and upon his death, he passed the mantle on to Elisha.

2 Kings 2:9-10 9 And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. 10 And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.

When Elisha returned to the followers of Elijah bearing his master’s mantle this is what happened:

2 Kings 2:15 And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.

The Precedent of the New Testament

What is true in the Old Testament is also true in the New.  The same precedent is followed, though with emphasis on the “laying on of hands”.  Those wishing to embark on a ministry had to be ordained by the Elders or their ministry would not have been legitimate.

1.   Jesus and his Apostles- These Apostles were chosen and ordained by Christ to continue His ministry.  Jesus chose each one carefully and placed his blessing upon them.  They would be the ones after Jesus’ ascension to continue this apostolic succession (and no that is not a reference to the Pope).

John 20:21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

2.  Choosing the Deacons- In the book of Acts seven Deacons were selected and ordained in the early church.  Notice that the Apostles “Laid hands on them” to legitimize their office and ministry.

Acts 6:5-6 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

3.  Paul and Barnabas chosen- Even Paul had to be ordained to a ministry that would spread the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Acts 9:27-30 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. 30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

4.  Paul and Timothy- At the beginning of this article we read the Apostle’s words to Timothy, who Paul often referred to as his “son in the faith”.  Paul reminded Timothy of his ordination and “the laying on of hands”.  The legitimate ministry of the Apostle Paul passed on a legitimate ministry to Timothy.

2 Timothy 1:6 Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

5.  Paul and Titus- Titus was another young man that came up under the tutelage of the Apostle Paul.  A specific reference to Titus’ calling is not recorded but there is very little doubt that Paul followed the same pattern set forth in the New Testament.  Paul, through his legitimate standing with God, had the authority to place Titus as the Pastor of the Church at Crete.

Titus 1:4-5 4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour. 5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: 

Final Words

It is so important that we take note that God calls who He chooses.  Sometimes the choice of God may not be that choice we would have made.  Any person that has the call of God on their life should submit to a legitimate ministry for tutelage and growth.  If someone refuses to then they will become puffed up, arrogant, and could even backslide.  At the very worse they will continue in some capacity of ministry and most likely do damage to many.

As a Pastor for the last twenty-four years I have seen many a “hot-shot” pass through ready to set the world ablaze.  They had the fire but they really had no discipline.  Some planted their feet and grew and today they have a fruitful ministry (to date we have young ministers that grew up in our Church working in the ministry in four different states), while others were impatient and thought they knew more than everyone else.  Most of those today have not only fallen from the ministry but have also fallen from the faith with their lives completely in shambles.

No matter how much fire you feel burning on the inside, there is never any harm in learning how to keep the fire burning.  If you want a legitimate ministry then you need to seek out a Moses or a Paul.  Only a legitimate ministry can ordain you into a legitimate ministry.  There are no exceptions.

The original article by my friend Mark. Herridge Sr. can be found here

2 thoughts on “Ordaining elders and pastors by laying on of hands

  1. I think that you need to make a more clear distinction between the ministry and the calling. The ordaining has to do with a ministry in a church, the calling is a totally different subject. You can preach the gospel without any ordination whatsoever, but you cannot function as a pastor in a church without beind ordained.

    Gilla

    • Hey there
      You’re right that the ”ordaining” spoken about here concerns the position in a church. We’re all called to go out in all the world and make disciples. Amen

      Gilla

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