Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Acts 6:1-7 - The Affirmation of Ordination

My dad being ordained as a deacon
at Beaverdam Baptist Church in Mountville, SC
What guidance does the Bible offer in the important matter of setting men apart for Christian ministry, and in our case today, of deacons?
Some Baptists have totally rejected ordination because they do not think it squares with our church polity. Dwight L. Moody refused ordination. Hopefully ordination is not what C.H. Spurgeon called it: the “placing of idle hands on empty heads.” Most Baptists, however, have practiced ordination, seeing several positives.
1.   Protecting the church from
heretical, unprepared leadership. If ordination councils take their jobs seriously, they can protect churches from false teaching, unhealthy situations, or unprepared leadership. Unfortunately most ordination councils, both in the association and the local church, serve only as rubber stamps.
2.   Affirming and confirming of one’s calling. Ordination can affirm and confirm the leading of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. His belief that he has been called to ministry is verified by this brothers and sisters in Christ. While God’s call to the individual is inward and secret, ordination is a healthy public confirmation provided by the church.
3.   Ratifying the congregation’s approval of leaders. Ordination allows the church to set apart (Acts 13:3; Numbers 8:10) those called to leadership in the local church. It is the congregation that sets apart, not the leadership or ordination council. It is the job of the ordination council to make a recommendation on the fitness of a person for ministry. It is the church who sets apart. Then the leadership appoints. This arrangement affirms congregational government, and it commits the leader to his ministry, with the prayers and support of the people behind him.
While the NT does not teach ordination as a sacrament of the church, it is important in setting apart leadership for her. There is no description of an ordination service in the NT, but there is ample warrant for a simple ceremony of setting apart those who have proved themselves called of God to ministry.
Jacob Edmisten's ordination to ministry
at First Baptist Church, Clinton, SC.
Rev. Shannon Long lays hands and prays.
Sermon Notes:
1.   Chosen by the church (Acts 6:1-3)
2.   Called and equipped by God (Acts 6:3-6)
3.   Appointed by leadership (Acts 6:3)
4.   By the imposition of hands and prayer (Acts 6:6)
5.   To be a blessing to the church and its elder/pastors (Acts 6:7)

a.   “Brothers, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation”
b.   The word deacon is a transliteration of the Greek word diakonos which means “servant, humble, even menial service.” There is no Jewish counterpart to deacons. Deacons find their origin in the early church in Acts 6:1-6 as individuals caring for the material needs and generally serving. In the environment of the first major church disagreement which broke along ethnic lines, the apostles selected servants who would take care of the daily distribution of food among widows. These Hellenistic Jews stepped in and brought peace and order out of a situation of dissension, hurt feelings, and frayed nerves in the early church. They were to assist those responsible for leadership and the ministry of the Word. At that time they were the apostles. Today those who lead and preach are called pastors or elders.
c.   The church organizes around agreement in major doctrine, policy, and practice (Acts 2:46; Eph. 4:1-6) and is organized with NT church officers – pastor(s) and deacons (Phil. 1:1). We are not free to organize as we want. God has set his order in his Word. Also, it is not a matter for one (a bishop) or a few individuals (ruling elders) to decide, but it is a corporate commitment to organize and follow Christ’s purposes. Messier? Yes. Slower? Yes. But it is attentive to the priesthood of the believer and principles of congregational government.
d.   ILLUSTRATION: The church at Antioch did set apart Saul & Barnabas (Acts 13:2-4) and commissioned them, sending them out as missionaries. Acts 13:2-4: 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
e.   APPLICATION: Baptists believe in a personal, divine call to Christian ministry, and they have historically insisted on a procedure of ordination of those who have felt called and at the same time that indicates a confirmation of that call on the part of the congregation.
f.    APPLICATION: It is the congregation that sets apart, not the leadership or ordination council. It is the job of the ordination council to make a recommendation on the fitness of a person for ministry. It is the church which sets apart. It is the leadership which then appoints.

a.   “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom”
b.   ILLUSTRATION: Jesus called his disciples (Mark 3:14; John 15:16; John 20:21-23) Mark 3:14: 14Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, ; John 15:16: 16You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.; John 20:21-23: 21So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
c.   APPLICATION: It seems that deacons are called to give leadership to the church in a different way from pastor/elders. In the absence of any clearer indication in Scripture, the example of the first seven deacons and the fact that their name means servant point us to the idea that deacons serve the congregation by serving the pastors/elders, taking on responsibilities which otherwise would consume their time. While pastor/elders provide spiritual oversight to the congregation, deacons are flexible to do whatever pastors need to help the pastor perform his duties. Scripture seems to leave it flexible, to meet the needs of each church and its pastor. One of those duties in Acts 6 was to do whatever was to serve in the more equitable distribution of food so that the threat of dividing the church would be overcome. So deacons have a role in keeping unity in the body and keeping the church from division. This would involve both serving in any way to keep this from happening through handling murmuring and complaining but also to keep from promoting divisiveness themselves through their own actions and manner of speaking. While the elders handle the ministry of the word and overall leadership of the church, the deacons are called upon to deal with the material needs of the people, the care of the sick and poor, and the temporal affairs of the church.
a.   whom we may appoint over this business”
b.   Saul & Barnabas ordained elders from among the new churches (Acts 14:23) and told Titus to do the same (Titus 1:5). Acts 14:23: 23So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.; Titus 1:5: 5For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you—
c.   ILLUSTRATION: James Madison Pendleton, the nineteenth century Kentucky pastor and Union University president, wrote the Baptist Church Manual which trained churches to operate on the model of the corporation. Deacons should function as a corporate board of directors, advocated Pendleton, with pastors the CEOs who work at the pleasure of the board, and the congregation functioning as the corporate shareholders who have ultimate authority. With that book, Pendleton turned many Baptist churches for over a century away from the biblical servant role of deacons. The Manual elevated deacons' roles unScripturally to a ruling status and created an adversarial role between pastor/elder and deacons. Those who were called to serve the ministry (Acts 6) became the ultimate power in the church. Many a little Napoleon has since lorded over local churches and made life difficult for many a congregation and their pastor in some rural communities even up to today. As a result of this upside-down structure, many of these churches suffer from serial pastors, and the average length of a pastorate today is 20 months.
a.   and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.”
b.   No distinctions gained. What cannot be found Scripture is any basis for a distinction in the membership of the church between laity and clergy in anything more than a functional sense. Ordination does not confer any special powers that other members of the congregation do not have, nor is ordination required to be a church leader. Ordination does not make a person more holy or qualify him to baptize or administer the Lord’s Supper. These are Catholic ideas.
c.    Timothy was ordained by the church and Paul in this manner (1 Tim. 4:14 14Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.; 2 Tim. 1:6 6Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.) We are admonished not to be too hasty in laying on hands (1 Tim. 5:22 22Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure.
d.   ILLUSTRATION: The OT precedent comes from the setting apart of Aaron and his sons as priests in Leviticus 8 when Moses sprinkled them with the blood from the sacrifice and anointing oil, signifying the cleansing of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, and then laid hands on them to set them apart for ministry.
e.   The imposition of hands in the OT represents God’s commission, blessing, and equipping for service (Levitical priests - Numbers 8:10 10So you shall bring the Levites before the LORD, and the children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites;; Joshua – Numbers 27:18-23 18And the LORD said to Moses: “Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; 19set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and inaugurate him in their sight. Deut. 34:9; 9Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses. Jacob - Genesis 48:1-20)
a.   APPLICATION: When leaders are called, chosen, and appointed in a Biblical manner, the church will be blessed and grow (Acts 6:7: Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.)