A Biblical Examination of Baptism
Who is to Administer the Ordinances?

Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

  1. Who is to Administer the Ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper?

    This may come as quite a surprise accompanied with some controversy; but, I know of no requirement in Scripture for human ordination by a board of preachers to authorize a man to preach or to fill the position of pastor.  That calling is of the Lord, not man; and with the calling, the Holy Spirit will supply the gifts necessary to fulfill that ministry (1st Corinthians 12:4-11).  I know preachers who have had little or nor formal Bible College training, yet have and are now doing a great job for the Lord, just as well as those with formal training.

    Philip did not pass in review of an ordination board to receive credentials to preach, yet he baptized many of the Samaritans, men and women (Acts 8:12).  He also baptized the Ethiopian (Acts 8:38).  I am aware of those who were "ordained" (Gr. KATHISTEMI, "appointed") to serve tables by the laying on of hands, one of which was Philip (Acts 6:1-6).  This was not to sanction him as a public minister, but to appoint him for the specific responsibility of serving tables.  This appointment was made distinct from the ministry of "preaching the word" as recorded in Acts 6:4...

    "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

    I am sure you recall the baptism of Paul by Ananias in Acts 9:17,18; yet, we do not have recorded anything about Ananias being ordained or being a preacher.  A statement by the late Dr. Harry Ironsides in his booklet on baptism is enlightening.  "Also ordination of Elders to act as overseers (bishops) where it was a question of local rule simply and not necessarily of public ministry (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-10; 1st Timothy 3:2-7).

    The laying on of hands to Barnabas and Saul in Acts 13 was done as a custom, showing as a sign their approval and support for the ministry they were called to.  This was the beginning of Paul's first missionary journey. They were called by the Holy Spirit and sent by the Holy Spirit, not man!  Notice Acts 13:2,4...

    "...The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them ... So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost..."

    It must be remembered that they had been recognized as teachers and preachers for quite some time prior to this.  Barnabas had located Paul in Tarsus and both went to Antioch.  Here they stayed a year preaching and teaching in the church (Acts 11:25, 26).

    To some, the word "ordained," so translated in the King James, has been taken to mean the function of a formal ordination board.  This is not the intention of the Greek.  For example, in Acts 14:23, the word "ordained" is properly translated in the RSV as "appointed." As previously mentioned, this was an appointment of elders (overseers) in each church.  This was for local rule, not necessarily for public ministry.

    "And when they had ordained (Gr. KATHISTEMI, appointed) them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." (Acts 14:23)

    This same Greek word is translated "appoint" in reference to the seven chosen to serve tables in Acts 6:3.  Also, the same Greek word is found in Titus 1:5...

    "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."

    Here is the explanation given by W. E. Vine in The Greek Dictionary of New Testament Words.  "The RSV translates it by 'appoint' in Titus 1:5, instead of 'ordain,' of the elders of whom Titus was to appoint in every city in Crete.  Not a formal ecclesiastical  ordination is in view, but the appointment, for the recognition of the churches, of those who had already been raised up and qualified by the Holy Spirit, and had given evidence of this in their life and service."

    In America we have churches with pastors almost everywhere.  But should one lead someone to Christ in a foreign country, where a pastor or church was unavailable, I see no reason why that person could not, or should not, baptize the new convert.  When available, the pastor who is the overseer of the church should bear the responsibility of administering the baptisms and the Lord's Supper.  There are many and various circumstances, especially in the remote areas of this world, where baptisms have been administered and the Lord's Supper served by one who is not an ordained minister.  Yet, the blessings received are as full and satisfying  as those in America performed by those who are ordained.  These situations are, of course, the exceptions and not the standard rule. I believe it would be completely out of order for a Christian who has led someone to Christ to insist upon baptizing them himself, WHEN his pastor is available to do so.  This would show nothing less than total disrespect for God's appointed servant.  The pastor is entitled to and should bear the responsibility for administering the Ordinance of Baptism and the Lord's Supper when it is possible to do so.

    "Let all things be done decently and in order." (1st Corinthians 14:40)

    One must remember that customs, manners, and society were vastly different, during Bible times, from what they are today. The custom of laying on of hands as approval and support of God's calling has been formalized into the Ordination Service today.  With the many false teachers, today, this is a valued service as it verifies the authenticity of God's man to a church seeking such a pastor.  Most churches today will not accept a pastor who has not been ordained by a church or another pastor.  Therefore, the liberty of exercising such a practice sends forth much more value then anything that could be said to the contrary.

    May we also note that many states require the licensing of a pastor before they are eligible to perform marriages, and may not issue such license unless the individual is ordained.  Such was not the case in Biblical times.  Not every situation is the same and each should be dealt with on its own merits, and not be a policy that leaves no room for the exception.  James 1:5 can surely be our guild...

    "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."


Dr. Max D. Younce, Pastor

P.O. Box 573
Walnut Grove, MN 56180
Telephone (507) 859-2519

Web: www.heritagebbc.com

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