This is a manuscript, and not a transcript of this message. The actual presentation of the message differed from the manuscript through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is possible, and even likely, that there is material in this manuscript that was not included in the live presentation and that there was additional material in the live presentation that is not included in this manuscript.
This morning we have the great privilege of ordaining Ryan Fregoso to vocational ministry. As most of you know, beginning January 1 Ryan will officially begin his role as Associate Pastor here at Thornydale Family Church. And under the leadership transition plan adopted at our Annual Meeting in October, the plan is that he will eventually become the Lead Pastor here.
Under our Constitution and Bylaws the Elders have the authority to ordain men to ministry in our church, but since this is such an important aspect of our life together as church family, I wanted to take a few minutes to explain the importance and the Biblical roots of ordination and also give all of you a chance to participate in the process.
The word “ordain” does not appear in the ESV translation of the New Testament, but we certainly see the practice there. Various forms of the word “ordain” do appear 23 times in the New Testament in the KJV, but that is a bit deceptive, as that one English word is used in place of 14 different Greek words, which have a wide range of meanings. And in almost verse where the word “ordain” is used, it has nothing to do with choosing or commissioning church leaders.
But the principle of ordaining church leaders is present in both the Old and New Testaments.
In the Old Testament we see the roots of ordination in the practice of laying hands on a particular person:
When the Levites were set apart by God to minister in the tabernacle, the people laid hands on them:
When you bring the Levites before the Lord, the people of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites, and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that they may do the service of the Lord.
Moses “ordained” Joshua as his successor by laying hands on him:
So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey.
Jacob laid hands on his sons for the purpose of pronouncing a blessing:
And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn).
So in the Old Testament the act of laying hands on a person was for the purpose of identifying or commissioning a community or spiritual leader and/or for the purpose of pronouncing a blessing on that person.
With that in mind, let’s see how the New Testament church incorporated those ideas when it came to commissioning leaders within the church. There actually aren’t a lot of passages that address how to do that, but the few we have are instructional.
The first example of the church appointing leaders is found in Acts 6, where the apostles appointed the first deacons in the church:
Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
We go next to Acts 14, where we read that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in the churches in Galatia:
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Finally, we go to Paul’s letter to Titus, where Paul instructs him to appoint elders in each of the churches in Crete:
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—
That is all we have regarding the practices of how the local churches selected elders and other church leaders. But we can get some further insight into the practice of selecting and ordaining leaders if we look at several passages that address the practice of laying hands on church leaders.
First, we’ll look at the account of Barnabas and Saul being set apart for ministry in Acts 13:
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
While the leaders in the church in Antioch were worshiping, the Holy spirit directed them to set apart Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries who would take the gospel to other parts of the world. And those same church leaders prayed over the two men and laid hands on them.
The two other examples of laying hands on a church leader both involve Timothy. First we see that the council of Elders had laid hands on Timothy:
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
In Acts 16, we read the account of Paul meeting Timothy in Lystra and it is likely that it was the elders in the church there that laid hands on Timothy. It’s a little hard to see in our English translations, but the underlying Greek is clear that Timothy did not receive his spiritual gift as a result of the elders laying hands on him, but rather that was their confirmation of the gift he already had been given by God.
Finally, later in that same letter, Paul wrote to Timothy about the practice of laying hands on future church leaders:
Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
Paul was warning Timothy not to be too hasty in selecting and appointing church leaders. He is clearly implying here that Timothy was to take his time and observe the lives of these potential church leaders for a period of time before appointing them to be leaders.
From these passages, we can develop the following...
BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES REGARDING ORDINATION
BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES REGARDING ORDINATION
The local church ordains. In every instance we looked at this morning, it was the local church and not some denominational body or other authoritative leader who selected and commissioned leaders in the local church.
The purpose of ordination is to recognize men whom God has called and set them apart for ministry. Therefore, it is appropriate that those who are already in church leadership be the ones to identify and ordain those leaders on behalf of the congregation.
Ordination is only to be done after lengthy observation and evaluation. The person being ordained needs to have consistently demonstrated godly character and a call to leadership for a prolonged period of time.
The laying on of hands is a symbolic gesture that:
Publicly recognizes someone as a church leader
Sets apart a person for a specific ministry
Bestows a blessing
It is the opinion of the Elders here at Thornydale Family Church that Ryan Fregoso has consistently demonstrated the godly character required of a church leader and his call to vocational church ministry. And that decision has been affirmed by our entire congregation when you voted to approve the pastoral leadership transition plan at the Annual Meeting in October. So today our Elders will be laying hands on Ryan, albeit due to the COVID virus, we will be doing that without physically laying hands on him. Before we do that I want to invite Ryan to share a word of testimony with us concerning his faith in Jesus and his call to ministry.