We have been reading in Leviticus about the laws and offerings that were to come into operation now that the Tabernacle was completed, along with its Holy Place, altars and furnishings. The clothing and rituals for the priests are detailed and elaborate. In Leviticus 8 the LORD tells Moses to bring Aaron and his sons and assemble all the congregation to the Tabernacle. They are to hold what might be called an ordination ceremony. There are various ordination offerings (verses 22,28,29,31). Aaron and his sons are to stay within “the tent of meeting … until the days of your ordination (the KJV says ‘consecration’) are complete, for it will take seven days to ordain you” (verse 33).
All this is in contrast to the way the church operated in the First Century. The New Testament has no mention of ordination ceremonies, nor is there any mention of them building places of worship – they appeared to meet in homes (Acts 2:46 and 1 Corinthians 16:19 – to “the church in their house”). The word ‘church’ does not mean a building but assembly or congregation (see Acts 19:32,39).
The church had elders and Peter describes himself as “a fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1) and writes that elders should “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering … but being examples to the flock” (verses 2,3). Jesus bluntly said, “call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9).
It was not until the Church was officially recognised by the Roman Empire in the 4th Century that an elaborate ritual of ordination and costuming was developed, and this still happens today. The First Century believers saw Jesus Christ as their only Priest (see Hebrews 4:14-5:10). Even the Jews abandoned their Priesthood system after their Temple was destroyed.
Is there not a sense in which baptism is an ordination? When each individual decides to be baptised they are aware of the commitment they are making to Christ and to God. How meaningful then are those “the days of ordination” – what searchings of the heart! Life today presents many challenges and the regular feeding of our minds on God’s word is an essential source of strength to “endure unto the end”.