Ordained Ministers of God
“We also thank God incessantly, because when you received God’s word which you heard from us you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God, which is also at work in you believers.”—1 Thess. 2:13.
1. What contrast is there between ordination ceremonies of Christendom’s clergy and Jesus’ ordination?
RELIGIOUS organizations, such as the Protestant and the Catholic, make much ado about ordaining their clergy. A pastor of a congregation must have first studied in a theological seminary for a number of years, and after he graduates then he is presumed ready to enter the clergy class. Now comes an elaborate ceremony with much pomp and pageantry. Many dignitaries are on hand to officiate and watch the ceremony. The individual is consecrated or set apart to the service and worship of his God. As the clergyman advances in his religious rank from priest to bishop or archbishop, it is necessary for him to go through more ceremonies with even greater splendor and display on the part of the ecclesiastical body. Many of the clergy of Christendom are ordained or invested with sacerdotal functions, in great costly cathedrals with lavish display so as to be an elaborate public spectacle. But the founder of true Christianity was ordained with holy spirit from heaven after his being dipped under the waters of the Jordan River by a man with “clothing of camel’s hair and a leather girdle around his loins” and whose “food . . . was insect locusts and wild honey.”—Matt. 3:4.
2, 3. Though he had no theological schooling, what shows Jesus was well qualified to take up the ministry?
2 What a difference in ordination! Jesus went through such a simple procedure to become Jehovah’s ordained minister. Furthermore, there is no record in the Scriptures that Jesus went to any particular school to be trained for the ministry, though certainly as a young man he studied the Word of God, the Hebrew Scriptures. It is quite evident that he was not taught at a special school by the scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day. We do read, though, that at twelve years of age Jesus was about his Father’s business questioning such men, that is, the scribes and Pharisees. Luke, the historian, said that his parents were looking for him after the Passover while on their way home from Jerusalem and “began to hunt him up among the relatives and acquaintances. But, not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem, making a diligent search for him. Well, after three days they found him in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and questioning them. But all those listening to him were in constant amazement at his understanding and his answers.”—Luke 2:44-47.
3 This young lad, only twelve years old, said to his parents: “Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father?” However, Jesus traveled home with his parents, and the account reads: “Jesus went on progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.”—Luke 2:49, 52.
4, 5. (a) What time of decision came for Jesus, and how did his Father show his approval of his choice of work? (b) Was his ordination a lavish display of ceremony?
4 The time came, however, for Jesus to be at his Father’s business all the time, and when he reached the age of thirty he went to John the Baptist, a prophet of Jehovah who was baptizing in the river Jordan. In this out-of-the-way place there was “a voice of a man crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of Jehovah, make his roads straight.’” He was John the Baptist, and he put Jesus completely under the water and raised him up out of it. In this way Jesus symbolized his dedication to the doing of his Father’s will, and Jehovah acknowledged him as his beloved Son in whom he was well pleased. “After being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water; and, look! the heavens were opened up, and he saw descending like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him. Look! also, there was a voice from the heavens that said: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.’” (Matt. 3:3, 16, 17) Jesus was now the Christ, the anointed one. He was ordained of God and must begin his great preaching work as an ordained minister. “Furthermore, Jesus himself, when he commenced his work, was about thirty years old.”—Luke 3:23.
5 No one can say that the ordination of Jesus was one of show, done with many priests or clergymen around. There was no procession. Neither was he a graduate of any prominent theological school. He was a carpenter’s son, a carpenter himself, who had now stepped forward to take up the vocation of the ministry.
6. How did Jesus’ disciples become ordained ministers, and how many in those days who became Christians were ordained for the ministry?
6 All of Jesus’ disciples were similarly baptized, fully immersed in water, and, after instructing them concerning God’s kingdom as being at hand, Jesus sent them out to preach the Kingdom message just as he was doing. They were well trained. They knew the word and will of God and lived as Jesus told them to live. No theological seminary for them, but still they were ordained ministers of God. Jehovah later used them to organize the early Christians into congregations and they appointed overseers to shepherd the flock of God, not to lord it over them. In those days every person who became a Christian became an ordained minister, because Jehovah made them “ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through [them].”—2 Cor. 5:20.
7. What command of Jesus shows his disciples were ordained for the ministry?
7 It was after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead that he spoke to his assembled disciples and said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) The apostles were not told to do anything different in the way of baptizing true followers of Christ Jesus from what had been done in their own case, or from the example that Christ Jesus set. So, then, there is no formalistic religious ritual that one must go through in order to become one of God’s ordained ministers. Christ Jesus set the simple pattern.
8. In truth and fact who does the ordaining of God’s ministers, and what connection does baptism have with the matter?
8 of course, being baptized in water does not make one an ordained minister. God does the ordaining of the one being baptized, who has already recognized Jehovah God as the sovereign Ruler and Christ Jesus as his Savior, recognizing also that he himself is a sinner and that he needs the merit of Christ’s sacrifice in order to have a proper standing before God. When one is baptized in water it has great meaning, for here the baptized one is declaring publicly that he is dedicated or set aside for Jehovah’s service and worship. Of course, he must know what he is doing and must continue to prove himself worthy of this very high purpose. God accepting the baptized one, he ordains him to the divine ministry.
9, 10. (a) What does it mean to be ordained? (b) How did Jesus show what that authority meant for him to do?
9 To be ordained means to be invested with ministerial functions, or to be appointed authoritatively. Jesus was appointed authoritatively by God to do specific service, which was God’s will for him. Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth read his ministerial functions from the scroll of Isaiah: “‘Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.’ With that he rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were intently fixed upon him. Then he started to say to them: ‘Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.’”—Luke 4:18-21.
10 It was prophesied at Isaiah 61:1, 2, that Christ would do this work, and that is why Jesus could quote this scripture and say that he was fulfilling it. Jesus was ordained, appointed to this service, at the Jordan River at the time of his baptism. There Jehovah’s spirit came upon him and now he was authorized to do God’s work. It was now time for him to speak and to make a public declaration. Jesus certainly did that!
11. Our reading of the Christian Greek Scriptures tells us what about Jesus’ work, and was his commission to do that work passed on to others? To whom?
11 All persons who have read the Greek Scriptures know of the tremendous preaching and teaching program Jesus carried out during his three and a half years of ministry. They also know of the work the apostles did, work of which the apostle Paul spoke when he said: “For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Rom. 10:10) Christians today can do no different. The same commission that fell upon Jesus to declare good news, to preach a release to captives, to bring sight to the blind, and to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year, was passed on to his faithful Christian followers. A similar and very positive expression of this matter was made for our day by Jesus himself when on the Mount of Olives. He said: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) But the apostles and all of Jesus’ followers were to make the preaching of good news their commission in life.
SCOPE OF THE MINISTRY
12. How important is the work of the ministry, and what timely questions are propounded?
12 This matter of one’s being an ordained minister before God or before worldly governments is not a light matter. It involves one’s every word, thought and action, a real following of the principles as set down by Christ Jesus, yes, walking in his footsteps. Just how far-reaching is this ordination of a Christian before God? Is a minister one ordained just during the time he is preaching this good news to someone? Or is this ordination, because he is dedicated to Jehovah God, a twenty-four-hour-a-day ordination? Can an individual step out of his professed vocation for a short period of time and act differently, or is he obligated to keep his ministerial garments on constantly? The Scriptures show that Jesus as a young man was a carpenter, but he changed his vocation. He would have liked to change his vocation earlier in life, but it was not God’s will. He had to reach thirty years of age first, the age for a Levite to become a full-fledged priest under Jewish Law. Then when he was ordained by God he put foremost in his mind the doing of his Father’s will, which was the preaching of the kingdom of the heavens as being at hand. His disciples he trained to do the same kind of work, or follow the same vocation.
13. What is the theological meaning of the word vocation? Who must follow such a course?
13 The theological meaning of the word vocation is: “A calling to the service of God in a particular station or state of life, esp. in the priesthood or religious life, as shown by one’s fitness, natural inclinations, and, often, by conviction of a Divine invitation. The station or state of life to which one receives such a calling. An official invitation to a particular ecclesiastical office, as a pastorate.” Jesus indeed had “a calling to the service of God.” He had a summons to a particular activity or career. His vocation was now “seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) So, too, any individual becoming an ordained follower of Christ Jesus must henceforth live a Christian life in that way. Jesus’ apostles had to do this in order to prove that their vocation was that of an ordained minister before God, even though before worldly governments men looked upon them as fishermen, tax collectors or tentmakers.
14. (a) When do vocations like those of a carpenter, a mason, an engineer or a doctor take second place? (b) Why may one never quit once he is ordained?
14 Being a dedicated Christian today is not a part-time occupation any more than it was then. It is a full-time vocation. A true Christian is not just a Christian on Sunday for a few hours while he is in his church or at a prayer meeting. A truly dedicated person, an ordained minister before God, must be a Christian his whole life from the time he takes up following Christ Jesus and walking in his footsteps. In the world an individual may say that his vocation is that of a carpenter, a mason, an engineer, a doctor, and that he makes his living by such occupation. But if that particular individual dedicates his life to Jehovah God and is baptized in water, then that secular occupation he pursues becomes secondary and his Christian ministry must become the thing of first importance, really now his vocation, because he was called to God’s service. Jesus said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” A Christian’s first job, his principal interest, then, is his call to a Christian life. It must be that. His vocation must be that of an ordained minister before Jehovah God. He may quit his secular work, but he may never quit his divine call to God’s service. If a Christian quits the ministry he loses his eternal life. Which is more important, then?
15. One making a dedication declares what, and how does he view God’s Word?
15 Dedication to Jehovah’s service and symbolizing that dedication by water baptism is not a joining of some earthly religious organization. It is not such a minor step as that. It is the biggest thing that one has ever done in his life. His being immersed in water is a declaration to all fellow Christians and peoples of the world that henceforth he is dedicated to God, to serve as his minister. This is his vocation, and from then on the whole word of God as it is set forth in the Bible must be his guide. He as a true Christian has acted as Paul said: “When you received God’s word which you heard from us you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God, which is also at work in you believers.”—1 Thess. 2:13.
16, 17. (a) When one has accepted God’s Word, what is involved? (b) How did Paul show this?
16 ‘You have received God’s word and accepted it,’ have you? What, now, is involved? The apostle Paul said it involved even one’s eating and drinking. That may sound absurd, but let us read what he wrote to the Corinthians: “Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God, even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.” (1 Cor. 10:31-33) Paul was interested in saving lives through his “eating or drinking or doing anything else.” But how does one’s eating and drinking tend to save lives? Paul explains it in the eighth and tenth chapters of First Corinthians 8, 10.
17 Paul knew that Christians were ‘to keep themselves from things sacrificed to idols’ (Acts 15:29); but he explained to the Corinthians: “Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of your conscience, for ‘the earth belongs to Jehovah, and so does its fullness.’ If anyone of the unbelievers invites you and you wish to go, proceed to eat everything that is set before you, making no inquiry on account of your conscience. But if anyone should say to you: ‘This is something offered to a god,’ do not eat on account of the one that disclosed it and on account of conscience. ‘Conscience,’ I say, not yours, but that of the other person. For why should it be that my freedom is judged by another person’s conscience? If I am partaking with thanks, why am I to be spoken of abusively over that for which I give thanks?” (1 Cor. 10:25-30) It may have been that the meat sold in the meat markets had been offered to idols, but how would a person know? He might not have inquired whether the animal, or even the part of it that he bought, was offered to an idol. So, Paul says, if a person invites you to dinner, eat what he has. Paul knew “that an idol is nothing in the world and that there is no God but one.” (1 Cor. 8:4) But, if someone eating with you says, “This is something offered to a god,” then because of that man’s conscience do not eat any of it. Because of your own conscience? No, but because of the conscience of the other person. You may stumble that one by your eating.
18, 19. (a) Why was Paul concerned so much about his brothers’ conscience? (b) Should Christ’s followers today be likewise concerned? Why?
18 Paul argued that a Christian’s freedom or knowledge should “not somehow become a stumblingblock to those who are weak.” If you should eat the food offered to idols after thanking God for it you might still ruin a man. “But when you people thus sin against your brothers and wound their conscience that is weak, you are sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat flesh at all, that I may not make my brother stumble.” (1 Cor. 8:9, 12, 13) Paul’s ordination, his being set apart for God’s service, included how he ate and drank. It involved his every action in everyday things. Paul was interested in saving lives. So he said: “Do not by your food ruin that one for whom Christ died. . . . For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.” “All things are lawful; but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful; but not all things build up. Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—Rom. 14:15, 17; 1 Cor. 10:23, 24.
19 May Christians today look at things differently and allow their eating or drinking to stumble a Jew or a Greek or a brother in the congregation? No! We are in the same position as was Paul. He would rather be “pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.” (1 Cor. 10:33) Would you do the same? If you are an ordained minister like Paul you would.
EATING, DRINKING, SPEECH AND WORK
20. (a) While eating of foods may not be an issue to Christians now, what is, and what arguments are advanced for its use? (b) Yet what must be considered in our drinking habits?
20 But, someone says, things like that do not happen today. People do not offer food to idols. Well, then, how about your drinking habits? There is plenty of drinking done today, and Paul mentions drinking as something to watch. People drink all kinds of beverages, but the drinking causing the most disturbance in the minds of some people is the drinking of alcoholic beverages. Maybe a person who wants to drink wine will argue that Paul admonished Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake. Another may say that Jesus’ first miracle was the making of wine. Still another will say that wine makes glad the heart. What is said is true, and in most countries and states it is lawful to have and use alcoholic beverages, but is it to the advantage of another brother? Will your drinking such a beverage serve to “build up”? Let us think not of our own advantage, but of that of the other person.
21, 22. (a) What bad example could be set before brothers by a thoughtless overseer? (b) Who else besides brothers could be stumbled?
21 Suppose there is an overseer in a congregation of God’s people, a man of influence, one looked up to, who goes out some evening with friends but he does not control his drinking of intoxicating liquor and he becomes drunk. The Bible states very definitely that drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom. “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, . . . nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Even though some of you were like this before coming into the truth, Paul says, you were washed clean. So why go back to this sort of practice again and stumble your brother? Now a brother may see this intoxicated overseer walking down the street in a zigzag fashion. This observer is shocked, disturbed and offended that an ordained minister of his congregation should think so little of his ordination before God that he should become a drunkard. This carelessness in drinking has become a cause for stumbling a brother in the congregation of God.
22 Let us follow this drunken man a little farther. As he nears his home his neighbor with whom he studies the Bible observes his drunkenness, and he, too, is stumbled, because he thought that this ordained minister was living a Christian life. Well, the neighbor decides he will no longer study the Bible with this individual, and says to his wife: “If that is what the Bible did for him, there are better men than that to associate with who do not even have faith in God. Why should I change my way of life and take up something new when here one of the prominent ones in the congregation, who claims to be an ordained minister, is drunk?”
23. In what way are the words of Paul in letters to the Corinthians and Romans very timely?
23 How very right Paul was when he said: “Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Cor. 10:31) Was this to God’s glory? Certainly a Christian does not want to stumble a Jew, a Greek, a neighbor, a friend, or one of his brothers in the congregation of God. What every ordained minister must be interested in is saving the lives of all people for God’s new world. “So, then, let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another. Stop tearing down the work of God just for the sake of food. True, all things are clean, but it is injurious to the man who with an occasion for stumbling eats. It is well not to eat flesh or to drink wine or do anything over which your brother stumbles.”—Rom. 14:19-21.
24, 25. In what other ways must a Christian watch his step?
24 A Christian must watch his step in other things too. Paul presents this truth when writing to the Colossians: “Let the word of the Christ reside in you richly in all wisdom. Keep on teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs with graciousness, singing in your hearts to Jehovah. And whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.”—Col. 3:16, 17.
25 Paul says to watch your words and work, which take up a good part of our time every day. Just how do we speak to people and how do we work for our employer? One’s Christian training certainly expresses itself in these two things.
26. What kinds of words should ordained ministers use and why is it difficult at times to control our speech?
26 Are the words that come out of our mouths decent, clean, helpful and respectable? Would we be pleased to have God listen to us in everything we say? James wrote about our words when he said: “A fountain does not cause the sweet and the bitter to bubble out of the same opening, does it? . . . Neither can salt water produce sweet water.” As for that little member in the body, he says: “The tongue is a fire. . . . Not one of mankind can get it tamed. An unruly injurious thing, it is full of death-dealing poison. With it we bless Jehovah, even the Father, and yet with it we curse men who have come into existence ‘in the likeness of God.’ Out of the same mouth come forth blessing and cursing. It is not proper, my brothers, for these things to go on occurring this way.” The mouth of an ordained minister should be teaching and admonishing others with graciousness. There should be no such thing as bragging and lying against the truth. The mouth should always praise Jehovah. “Moreover, the fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.”—Jas. 3:6-12, 18.
27. Can an ordained minister have two vocabularies? What do Paul and Peter say in this regard?
27 Ordained ministers of Jehovah cannot have dual personalities with two vocabularies, one clean and upright, the other filthy and wicked. A Christian can train himself and be able to use good words that express his thoughts clearly and forcefully. The Christian does not have one vocabulary he uses in the congregation of God’s people and then another set of cruel, harsh, dirty words to be used where he works. Remember what Paul says: “Whatever it is that you do in word. . . , do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.” Peter confirms this, too, using good expressive words: “For, ‘he that would love life and see good days, let him restrain his tongue from what is injurious and his lips from speaking deceitfully, but let him turn away from what is injurious and do what is good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For Jehovah’s eyes are upon the righteous and his ears are toward their supplication, but Jehovah’s face is against those doing injurious things.’”—1 Pet. 3:10-12.
28. (a) How should the ordained Christian minister view his secular occupation? (b) How else, besides by outright taking of others’ goods, can one be a stealer?
28 Then there is that other part of the Christian life—work. Considerable time is spent at some kind of labor, but how does one perform his work and earn his daily bread? All individuals in effect make a contract or an agreement with their employer. When an employer hires a man to do a certain work he agrees to pay the worker a certain wage. The employee should not shirk his work, do less than he agreed to do. He should be honest and give his employer full measure. If one is hired as a carpenter for so many hours a day and he receives so much pay for those hours, then certainly during that period of time he should be diligent in doing good carpenter work for all those hours. He is not paid to loaf. He is paid to work. If a Christian is working in a store owned by a rich man he has no right to steal from that rich man because he is wealthy, nor has he the right to steal from customers by charging them more than the goods are worth and keeping the difference. That is stealing. A man can steal, too, from his employer by loafing on the job. The man expects to be paid by his employer. Why cannot the employer expect the work to be done for the money he pays out? “Whatever it is that you do . . . in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Do you?
29. What attitude did the apostle Paul take toward the slave Onesimus, once he became a Christian?
29 Paul did not feel that Onesimus, a slave of Philemon, should be kept from his employer. When Onesimus became a Christian, Paul found out he was a slave and sent him back to his owner. The slave, now a Christian, still belonged to Philemon even though Philemon was a Christian too. Paul, writing about Onesimus, said: “I am exhorting you [Philemon] concerning my child, to whom I became a father while in my prison bonds, Onesimus, formerly useless to you but now useful to you and to me. This very one I am sending back to you, yes, him, that is, my own heart.” Even though Paul found Onesimus, who had run away from his owner, most helpful to himself, yet Paul wanted him to go back to his owner, because that was right, and there was where he belonged by law, and so that Philemon might “have him back forever, no longer as a slave but as more than a slave, as a brother beloved, especially so to me, yet how much more so to you both in fleshly relationship and in the Lord.” (Philem. 10-12, 15, 16) The Scriptures indicate that no matter what condition one finds himself in, as a slave or a free workman, a Christian should work as though he were doing it “in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.”
30. So, then, what must Christians be?
30 Christians must be honest. They must be truthful. They must prove they are ordained ministers, not only when they preach the good news, but in everything they do, so that all kinds of men might get saved. By this they prove that ‘the word of God is at work in believers.’ Are you a Christian doing good works in your eating, drinking, talking, working, preaching or doing anything else, doing all to God’s glory in order that someone might get saved? Are you ‘seeking peace and pursuing it’? A Christian knows “Jehovah’s eyes are upon the righteous,” his ordained ministers.—1 Pet. 3:11, 12.
“Become holy yourselves in all your conduct.”—1 Pet. 1:15.