Becoming an Ordained Minister—God’s Way!
A VISITOR would likely have been intrigued—perhaps even perplexed—by what he heard. The scene was a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. An address was being given to a group of people who were about to get baptized. Surprisingly, the speaker told these baptismal candidates: “Your presence in this group of baptismal candidates indicates your desire to be an ordained minister of the Kingdom.”
‘How can that be?’ a visitor might have asked. ‘Is not baptism for persons freshly exposed to Christianity—and for babes? Does it not take years of extensive training and education to become an ordained minister?’ Perhaps you would reason similarly. But what the Bible actually says about baptism and ordination may surprise you.
Before One Is Baptized
First of all, baptism is not for persons barely acquainted with the Christian message. The Bible, at Acts 8:12, shows that people in the first century were baptized after “they believed.” Matthew 28:19 also shows that a person must become a ‘disciple’ before baptism. And how does one become a ‘believer,’ or ‘disciple,’ (‘taught one’)? Through careful study of the Bible! In this way, a person gains an accurate knowledge of Jesus and Jehovah God. (John 17:3) Only after gaining this knowledge is a student in a position to consider getting baptized. In the first century, established Christians gave such instruction to new converts.—Acts 8:31, 35, 36.
In congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses today, arrangements are similarly made for interested individuals to enjoy a free home Bible study. A person with a responsive heart gradually comes to appreciate what he is learning. He is moved to share his newfound convictions with others. (Romans 10:8-10) He begins regularly attending Christian meetings, where he gains yet more Biblical instruction. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) And after weeks or months of this, the new believer develops a desire to follow the Bible’s counsel at Romans 12:1: “Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.”
Knowledge alone, however, does not qualify one to make this dedication. One must also repent and “turn around.” (Acts 3:19) Why is this? Frankly, some have had immoral life-styles prior to learning God’s standards. Others have been wrapped up in selfish pursuits. But to present themselves to God as “holy, acceptable,” they must show regret for such past actions. They must be remorseful for having used their life, vitality, and abilities in unscriptural pursuits. Such remorse must also be accompanied by appropriate action so as really to “turn around,” or change their life course.
To help the new believer further, Christian elders arrange to meet with him and spend time reviewing the basic teachings of the Bible. This, for one thing, assures the elders that the prospective Christian has acquired an accurate knowledge of God’s purposes. And, of course, the review proves most helpful to the student. As needed, certain matters that were not correctly understood are clarified.
Baptisms are generally held in connection with conventions or assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On such occasions, a pointed talk is given to the baptismal candidates. They are reminded that baptism is not a matter of joining a new religion. Jesus said: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.”—Matthew 16:24.
The candidates are further reminded of the deep significance of baptism. The text at 1 Peter 3:21 is often read: “That which corresponds to this is also now saving you, namely, baptism, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience,) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Here, Peter compares baptism to Noah’s experience of passing through the waters of the Flood. While those waters proved death-dealing to earth’s wicked populace, they proved life-saving to Noah as they safely carried him in the ark. Likewise, baptism ‘saves’ Christians from this wicked world. When someone, on the basis of his faith in the benefits of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, gets baptized, such a person is, in a sense, in a ‘saved’ condition before God. He is no longer considered a part of this wicked generation doomed to destruction.—See Acts 2:40.
Therefore, getting baptized is not a step that should be taken in the heat of emotion, as so often happens at religious revival meetings. Highlighting this is the fact that before new disciples are actually immersed, the minister presiding at the baptism asks them two penetrating questions. Their answers in the affirmative are a “public declaration” of their faith in the ransom and of the fact that they have unreservedly dedicated themselves to Jehovah. (Romans 10:9, 10) Now they are ready for water baptism.
Ordained as Ministers of the Kingdom
Complete immersion in water is a fitting symbol of their dedication to God. While under the water, it is as if they have died to their former course of life. On coming out of the water, it is as if they are now alive to a new course of self-sacrifice in service to God.—Compare Romans 6:2-4.
How, though, does ordination fit in with the action of baptism? Note what M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (1877), Volume VII, page 411, says: “Ordination signifies the appointment or designation of a person to a ministerial office, whether with or without attendant ceremonies.” (Italics ours.) This acknowledges that there is no need for an elaborate ceremony or a certificate of ordination to be a Christian minister.
But does the Bible teach this? Consider Jesus Christ. There is no question that he was the foremost minister of God. Nevertheless, did he have some elaborate ordination ceremony before commencing his preaching work? Did he have a certificate identifying him as a minister? Quite the contrary. It was after his simply getting baptized in water that God expressed his approval of Jesus as his Son and ordained him as His minister.—Mark 1:9-11; Luke 4:18-21.
What of first-century Christians? There is no report of any ostentatious ordination for these early Christian ministers. The record in Acts repeatedly tells of the performance of simple baptisms of believers. This was followed by their zealously sharing in the public ministry.—See Acts 2:41-47; 8:36-39; 22:14-16.
What evidence did such ministers have of their ordination? Paul says at 2 Corinthians 3:1-3: “Are we starting again to recommend ourselves? Or do we, perhaps, like some men, need letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, inscribed on our hearts and known and being read by all mankind. For you are shown to be a letter of Christ written by us as ministers, inscribed not with ink but with spirit of a living God, not on stone tablets, but on fleshly tablets, on hearts.” The effect of God’s spirit on these taught ones’ hearts produced a new Christian personality, which could be read by all observers. This was sufficient testimony that God had indeed ordained the ones sharing in teaching these new disciples.
Exerting Oneself in the Ministry
Likewise today, a minister is recognized by his works. He is earnest in ‘exerting himself vigorously’ in his ministry. (Luke 13:24) He views his ministry as a grand privilege from God. He does not take it for granted.—1 Timothy 1:12-16.
Kingdom preaching is the prime obligation of such ministers. All other pursuits must be limited so that they can ‘fully accomplish their ministry.’ (2 Timothy 4:2, 5) Of course, they must care for their own as well as their family’s physical needs. However, they are ‘content with sustenance and covering.’ They do not allow personal pursuits or personal desires to distract them from the ministry. (1 Timothy 5:8; 6:7, 8; Philippians 2:20-22) They make sure of the “more important things.” (Philippians 1:10) They strive to keep before themselves the fine example of Jesus Christ, whose life was centered around Kingdom preaching.—Luke 4:43; John 18:36, 37.
Nevertheless, when a person is baptized as an ordained minister, he is actually in the early stages of his service to God. True, he has gained knowledge of Christ Jesus and Jehovah God. He has also made many changes in his life so that his Christian ministry cannot be found fault with. (2 Corinthians 6:3) The newly baptized Christian still has much growing to do. His baptism, which signifies his ordination, is just one important milestone in his growth as a Christian. (Philippians 3:16) Therefore, each ordained minister must continue building up heart appreciation of spiritual things. He needs to schedule time for personal study. He should take advantage of all provisions for the congregation to meet together. He should work on improving the quality of his prayers, resulting in a closer personal relationship with God.—Luke 6:45; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Peter 4:7.
We hope these Scriptural thoughts have helped you to understand why a university degree is not a requirement for those who wish to serve as ministers of God. Over three million of Jehovah’s Witnesses are faithfully serving God as his ministers, proclaiming the truths outlined in his Word. Why not let one of them assist you in gaining knowledge of the Bible?
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According to the Bible, a Christian minister is ordained at baptism