Ordination to the ministry by the laying on of hands and prayer is not a divine ordinance. However, while it is not commanded in Scripture, it is mentioned as having been practiced. 1 Timothy 4 speaks of the “laying on of hands of the presbytery” (An assembly of elders). Ordination does not confer any special character upon the individual. Ordination does not make the pastor. A candidate for the ministry is not the pastor of a congregation by the ordination, but by the call and its acceptance. Further, when he is no longer serving a congregation he is no longer a pastor in the real sense of the word. He who has no sheep to tend is no shepherd.
The Lord has given the Gospel and the administration (Ministry of the Keys) of it to the Church, not to a special class of people. In the exercise of the Keys the Christian congregation calls a man to serve as pastor of that flock. His is a divine call because it comes from Christians to whom the Lord has given the authority to call a shepherd to function in its behalf. It is a matter of divine will, and orderliness.
The ordination of a candidate into the ministry out of seminary is the public declaration of the church that he is prepared and fit to take on the responsibilities of a pastor in the congregation. The Church lays hands upon him and implores the Holy Spirit to bless him with wisdom and faithfulness for the task of shepherding the flock. The Smalcald Articles say, “Formerly the people elected pastors and bishops. Then came a bishop, either of that church or a neighboring one, who confirmed the one elected by the laying on of hands; and ordination was nothing else than such a ratification.” “Bishop,” by the way, means “overseer.” The office of bishop today has in many circles become some hierarchical office created by the church. Timothy and Titus speak of the qualifications of a “bishop.” The description clearly defines the activities of that one whom we call pastor. The Smalcald Articles say again, ” The true Church certainly has the right to elect and ordain ministers since it alone has the priesthood.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostle Peter told the believers that they are “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). That means that all Christians have the right to speak the Gospel, the essence of which is the pronouncement of forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ. While not any member of the “royal priesthood,” should serve as pastor (shepherd) or bishop (overseer) in the congregation and serve in the public ministry unless he is properly called, the fact is that the word of forgiveness is not more effective because it comes from the mouth of someone who is ordained. God’s Word is God’s Word and accomplishes what He pleases regardless from whose mouth the Word comes! The voice of authority in the Church is that of the Lord Jesus, and not of men. We bow before no man as though he is higher than another in the kingdom of God. We do respect those who bring us the Word of God faithfully for they lead us to bow before the Lord. We respect those who are elected as pastors by the congregation, not because they are more noble Christians or indelibly impressed, but because the Lord has instructed us to remember them who bring us the Word of God. Ordination and installation of the pastor into the public ministry does not create an “upper class Christian citizen” to which all unordained and uninstalled are second class by comparison! We ordain and install simply because it is good order in the church, and in order to seek divine blessing upon the pastor-elect as he takes on his responsibility which is to take heed to the flock, “Among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He has purchased with His own blood” (Act 20: 28)