Should elders be ordained?

The answer depends on what’s meant by “ordain.”

  1. There are at least two uses of the word ordain that are not found in the New Testament. In these ways, the answer to the question is assuredly “no.” (a) In Roman Catholic and some Anglican circles, ordination is viewed as a sacrament that confers special grace to its recipient, setting them apart from others and endowing them with a special capacity for ministry. (b) In some Baptist and other evangelical circles, ordination is viewed as a special setting apart for ministry that confers the permanent status of “pastor” on someone regardless of their present relationship to any particular church.
  2. Rather, the New Testament presents congregations affirming certain individuals to a biblical office when they meet certain requirements (e.g. Acts 14:23, Tit. 1:5). In other words, the ability to hold the office seems to depend on (i) an individual’s meeting the biblical requirements and (ii) the congregation’s affirmation. When a man fails to meet the requirements, he should be removed from office. Similarly, should the man leave the church, the church can no longer give its affirmation and he no longer holds the office.
  3. A church may choose to call its affirmation an “ordination.” Or, in order to avoid wrong ideas associated with the term (see 1 above), it might use another term, like “installation.”

(Some of this material has been adapted from Benjamin Merkle, 40 Questions About Elders and
[Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2008], pp. 209-212)

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