The Apostle Paul’s Call to Preach the Gospel (Acts 9) and Martin Luther’s View of Ordination – John Boruff

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.                                                     –Acts 9:19-20

Take a look at Acts 9: its here that Saul (or Paul) gets converted to Christianity by an open vision of Jesus (v. 3). After that a disciple named Ananias (v. 10) gets a divine dream to find Paul and lay his hands on him; and commission him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. While he could have been pastor of the house church in Antioch, Adam Clarke says church tradition is he was one of the seventy-two disciples commissioned by Christ in Luke 10:1-23. After this, Paul “at once” (not after being a “faithful church member” for 10 years) begins to preach in all the synagogues, arousing the Jews against him (Acts 9:19-20, 22-23). By the time you get to Acts 9:25, Paul has a following. He leaves Damascus after a week and then travels to Jerusalem (v. 26).

Barnabas noticed that the disciples in the church at Jerusalem doubted Paul was a real Christian (vv. 26-27), so he told the apostles about Paul’s testimony, about how he went around preaching fearlessly for Jesus. The apostles accepted his testimony. That is, they did not rebuke him for preaching without their ordination. Paul did street preaching in Jerusalem but the Jews tried to kill him, so the apostles sent Paul to Tarsus, his hometown (vv. 28-30).

Acts 10 shows us that Peter, who later wavered regarding the ceremonial law and was subsequently rebuked by Paul (Gal. 2), was shown a vision and manifestations of the Spirit that the ceremonial laws of Judaism are done away in the Gospel for the sake of reaching the Gentiles. This would be Holy Spirit confirmation of what Paul would receive by revelation in Galatians 1 and Romans 3-14.

Acts 11 shows that Barnabas was sent by the apostles to Antioch to preach the abolition of the ceremonial law, the introduction of the Gospel, and Spirit-baptism poured out on the Gentiles (vv. 22-24). While he was there; he traveled to Tarsus to find Paul (v. 25); and he brought him back to Antioch and they preached to the house church there, the one in which Ananias apparently lived, for a whole year; and it was here that followers of Christ were first called “Christians” (v. 26).

Acts 13:1-3: “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with 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.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:2-3 is usually seen as the “ordination” proof text. But all it means is that while these two preachers Barnabas and Paul were in the house church in Antioch, that three prophets: Niger, Lucius, and Manaen (the first two were probably Africans)–got a word from the Holy Spirit that Paul and Barnabas should travel around preaching. So off they went, sent off by the prophets as missionary evangelists.

I would submit to you that the 10-years-faithful-church-member teaching is not Biblical; this is the idea that Christians shouldn’t preach unless they have gone to a church, participated in all of the un-Biblical church events, shared some of the pastor’s burnout, faithfully tithed and offered, that maybe the pastor would allow you to preach and teach the Bible and the Gospel. But if we examine how God called Paul, especially in Acts 9 and 13, we should conclude that the 10-years-probation concept is not God’s way of calling preachers. God Himself directly calls men to preach by dreams, visions, and the Holy Spirit. He will send prophets and other Spirit-led Christians to confirm this from time to time; but there is no top-down hierarchy in ordaining Paul to preach, or get a preacher’s license, unless you want to say Ananias’ laying on of hands was Paul’s ordination to the Gospel-ministry (Acts 9:17). Perhaps, but he wasn’t one of the twelve apostles; in my book, Ananias was just a local Christian leader led by a dream from God; he prayed for Paul’s conversion; and shared with him a revelation of his call to preach:–and in a matter of days–not years–Paul is allowed to preach for Jesus (Acts 9:19-20). His preaching was totally Spirit-led; and even the apostles in Jerusalem accepted the testimony about Paul’s independent preachings in Acts 9 before they even met him personally. Why? Because Barnabas, whom they happened to know, said he heard Paul preach. That’s not ordination from the apostles; that’s an endorsement from the apostles, and after the fact that Paul took it upon himself to preach for Jesus. An important keynote in how the Holy Spirit calls men to preach; and definitely in contrast to the way evangelical church leaders think preachers need to be commissioned…by waiting for decades and being evaluated by non-Biblical church event and administrative ideas, like picking up trash, being an usher, etc., etc., etc.

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UPDATE – 8/12/15

Spirit-led ordination with prophecy, laying on of hands (impartation), and a group of elders all seem to be involved in Paul’s life and ministry and Timothy’s (Acts 9:10-20; 13:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:12-14).

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Originally from here.

Question: “What does the Bible say about ordination?”

Answer: The modern definition of ordination is “the investiture of clergy” or “the act of granting pastoral authority or sacerdotal power.” Usually, we think of an ordination service as a ceremony in which someone is commissioned or appointed to a position within the church. Often, the ceremony involves the laying on of hands.

However, the biblical definition is a little different. The word ordain in the Bible refers to a setting in place or designation; for example, Joseph was “ordained” as a ruler in Egypt (Acts 7:10); the steward in Jesus’ parable was “ordained” to oversee a household (Matthew 24:45); deacons were “ordained” to serve the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:1-6); and pastors were “ordained” in each city in Crete (Titus 1:5). In none of these cases is the mode of ordination specified, nor is any ceremony detailed; the “ordinations” are simply appointments. The word can even be used negatively, as an appointment to punishment (Luke 12:46).

Acts 13 includes a good example of a ministerial appointment: “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.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia” (vv. 2-4). In this passage, we note some key facts: 1) It is God Himself who calls the men to the ministry and qualifies them with gifts (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11). 2) The members of the church recognize God’s clear leading and embrace it. 3) With prayer and fasting, the church lays hands on Paul and Barnabas to demonstrate their commissioning (cf. Acts 6:6; 1 Timothy 5:22). 4) God works through the church, as both the church and the Spirit are said to “send” the missionaries.

Paul regularly ordained pastors for the churches he planted. He and Barnabas directed the appointment or ordination of elders “in each church” in Galatia (Acts 14:23). He instructed Titus to “appoint elders in every town” on Crete (Titus 1:5). Titus himself had been ordained earlier, when “he was chosen by the churches” (2 Corinthians 8:19). In the above passages, the ordination of elders involves the whole congregation, not just the apostles. The Greek word used in 2 Corinthians 8:19 for Titus’s appointment and in Acts 14:23 for the choosing of the Galatian elders literally means “to stretch forth the hands.” It was a word normally used for the act of voting in the Athenian legislature. Thus, the ordination of church leaders involved a general consensus in the church, if not an official vote. The apostles and the congregations knew whom the Spirit had chosen, and they responded by placing those men in leadership. [Note:–I would add that prophecy was involved, and so was Paul. So, I don’t believe these passages justify modern-day congregationalism, where divine revelation and prophets are removed from the equation; and simple voting according to the natural mind becomes the mode of operation. I still believe Spirit-led episcopal and apostolic succession is the most Biblical view.]

When God calls and qualifies a man for the ministry, it will be apparent both to that man and to the rest of the church. The would-be minister will meet the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-16 and Titus 1:5-9, and he will possess a consuming desire to preach (1 Corinthians 9:16). It is the duty of the church elders, together with the congregation, to recognize and accept the calling. After that, a formal commissioning ceremony—an ordination service—is appropriate, though by no means mandatory. The ordination ceremony itself does not confer any special power; it simply gives public recognition to God’s choice of leadership.

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UPDATE – 8/13/15

Ordination begs the question of continuationism and apostolic succession. I think that a Reformed cessationist mentality, like we often see in the Southern Baptist churches, never asks the question of whether the ordination being sought is coming from a holy prophet. In the Bible, there is no question: John the Baptist, Jesus, the 72 disciples, and the 12 apostles, Ananias, Paul, Timothy, and Titus were all holy prophets. This was ordination God’s way, in the Bible.

But now we’re in modern times; and I’m inclined to think that the same strict parameters, not only of 1 Timothy 3, but also of Spirit-filled and Spirit-led men of God would still be necessary in this matter of ordination. And herein is the difficulty. So, you feel called to preach? THEN PREACH! You feel called to the ministry? Then plant a church and be its pastor! But the formality of an ordination ceremony in an official church is spiritually dangerous, unreliable, and probably un-Biblical in most cases. More power to you, if you think you can have all the Biblically ideal requirements to have a Book of Acts ordination experience like Paul. But merely to imitate it in a human way, without the power of God involved, is just a ritual without divine intervention.

Martin LutherMartin Luther was asked the ordination question, as he broke with the Catholic Church; seen as the new pope of Protestantism, Luther was often challenged with “Who is your covering?” His response was to appeal to the priesthood of the believer (1 Peter 2:5). And that GODLY ORDINATION IS IDEAL, BUT NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE, ESPECIALLY IN TIMES OF APOSTASY, like Luther was in. In Concerning the Ministry, Luther said:

We are interested in the pure and true course, prescribed in holy Scripture, and are little concerned about usage or what the fathers have said or done in this matter. We have already sufficiently made clear that herein we neither ought, should, nor would be bound by human traditions, however sacred and highly regarded, but clearly exercise our reason and Christian liberty…the Roman bishops laid on you the hard and dire necessity of sending your clerics annually to Italy to purchase papal ordination. For your neighboring bishops would not at all condescend to ordain them, since they considered you obstinate heretics. And what inconvenience and danger this need has caused you!…so that not a single one of you can ever rejoice in good conscience that you have entered the sheep-fold by the door [John 10:1]…Surely if in this way two, three, or ten homes, or a whole city, or several cities agreed thus among themselves to live in faith and love by the use of the gospel in the home, and even if no ordained man, shorn or anointed, ever came to them or in any other way was placed over them as minister to administer the Eucharist and other sacraments, Christ without a doubt would be in their midst and would own them as his church…For if he lives in the Word and has the Word, he is able to forego all else in order to avoid the teachings and ministries of impious men…In this regard we follow the custom and law of the Jewish captives who were not able to be in Jerusalem or to make offering there. Upheld in their faith alone by the Word of God they passed their lives among enemies while yearning for Jerusalem…But now, thanks be to God, this condition is grievous and inevitable only in the ease of the weak and over-scrupulous. The others who have faith and know the truth, possess full freedom and means to drive away unworthy ministers and to call and appoint only such worthy and devout men as they choose.

This is only a sampling; read the rest and look at his powerful Scriptural reasonings. There are basically two conclusions to come to:

1. In times of reformation and revival, it is ideal to have a man of God commission and ordain ministers, with the laying on of hands, as we see in the Gospels and the Book of Acts. We see this in the case of John Wesley ordaining preachers during his revivals; and no doubt, with the non-conformist Puritans like Richard Baxter; many of the early Pentecostal missions probably operated in similar fashion. William J. Seymour himself was disowned by the Apostolic Faith Movement, as Charles Parham, who ordained him, tried to take over the mission and stop the Azusa Street Revival in November 1906 [see Cecil Robeck’s The Azusa Street Mission and Revival, p. 127].

2. In times of apostasy, it is only necessary to rely on faith alone in the Gospel, which automatically ordains you in the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5). In today’s times, with the Seeker-Sensitive Movement, I would conclude that apostasy is the norm; and revival is not normal in most ministries. Those who feel called to preach and called by God to the ministry, would do well to acknowledge that they are already ordained to the ministry and commissioned by Christ by their faith in Him. They have no need to compromise the gospel, nor defile their consciences, by seeking ordination from an ungodly minister or church.

This is the difference between having faith in a church organization versus having faith in God alone who calls men to do what He wants.

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About John Boruff

John Boruff is the founder of WesleyGospel.com, a husband, father, and sometimes an open air preacher. He graduated from UNC Pembroke in 2008 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion and views himself as a Wesleyan Pentecostal. As a Christian, he feels connected with all members of the body of Christ, but can identify the most with churches like the Assemblies of God and the Vineyard. In 2015, he released "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," which is meant to be a Bible study for open air preaching. For his other writings, search articles on this site or see the E-Books section.
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