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We are mobilizing thousands of leaders to create ‘come as you are’ churches with a menu of proven and powerful tools to assess, develop and support church planting. To date we have assessed well over 20,000 potential church planters.
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Gateway Leadership Initiative
Ordination of Pastor Francis Christian Anoquampong
Date: 2nd December 2018
The Ordination of Rev Francis Christian Anoquampong, a student and Graduate of Christian Leaders Institute (CLI) Michigan, USA. He was ordained as a Commission Minister of the Word. This was officiated by Rev Ed Arcton from Ghana on the 2nd December 2018 at Christ Victory Evangelical Church, Takoradi – Ghana. There were other Ministers of the Gospel that witness and grace the occasion with their presence and gifts. Family members, friends of the newly Ordained Minister and the whole Church were in attendance. The Holy Spirit presence was greatly felt and the joy of the Lord fills the hearts and life of everyone presence.
The testimony about the Newly Ordained (Rev Christian Anoquampong) by Rev Hagan, Pastor of House of Kings OMI is here. Rev Forson testimony is also here
In a sermon delivered by Rev Ed Arcton, the Officiating Minister, stresses the need for the newly Ordain Pastor to learn and practice the habit of total dependence on the Holy Spirit in every area of his life, calling and Ministry. He said the Lord Jesus Christ himself during his life on earth saw the need of his fully dependency, empowerment and obedience of the Spirit of God from the beginning to the end of his ministry on earth.
In the Book of Luke Gospel 3: 21-22; scripture says; 21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
22 And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
Likewise in Chapter 4: 1-2. He was led by the Spirit of God to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. In verse 14 same chapter after the temptation he was full of the Holy Ghost, there he begin to preach and teach. Rev Arcton emphasis the continues infilling of the Holy Spirit if we are to make any impart that affect the life of people that hear us when we preach and teach the Word of God everywhere and anytime. The Scripture declares that from there the Lord Jesus enters into the synagogues and it was delivered unto him the Book of Isaiah, the (Holy Scriptures) where it was written about him, the purpose of his life and mission on earth. Rev Arcton said that the Holy Scriptures, is the Word of God, everything we need to start and finish our God given assignment here on earth in the Bible. This Bible must be sufficient and enough for us as Ministers of the Gospel. We should not look for anything outside the Word of God, the Bible. Worldly attractions will certainly rise its head at all course, Satan will attack us from different direction but cannot overcome us when we are fully situated in Word of God and filled with the Spirit of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ declares in Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Rev Arcton said we need more of the Holy Ghost in our daily living to fully obey God, we need always to abide under the anointing of the Holy Spirit if we are to carry out God given mandate and faithfully discharge our God’s given assignment to the end. Without the Holy Spirit in our life and ministry all that we do will be in vain at the end of our journey on earth.
It is the Holy Scriptures delivered to the Lord Jesus, where he find the road map of divine assignment. He open the scriptures and it is there in the scripture he discovered His Mission here on earth.
As newly ordained minister of the Gospel, you must devote your totally life fully in studying the whole Bible not some part but all. The Bible have all that we will need to do God’s will from beginning to the end. God’s Word gives us wisdom, knowledge and power to accomplish the impossible for Christ Jesus and advance the kingdom of God wherever we are.
The Apostle Paul charged Timothy and said 1 Timothy 4:10-14 – ” 10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. 11 These things command and teach. 12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15 Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
The Newly Ordained, Christian F. Anoquampong response after his Ordination is here
In conclusion Rev Arcton charge the newly Ordained Minister to hold in high honor the Holy Bible. He said …
“You must open the Bible, read it and eat them everyday as your daily meal. Live the Bible and let your daily lifestyle be a written Scriptures to all who observes you. In the same way it is your responsibility to preach and teach others the same Word of God and let them do just as you have done”.
God Bless you all. Amen.
30th November 2018
Rev Arcton arrives at Takoradi City, by noon time Friday. An hour later himself, Rev Forson and Rev Chris. Anoquampong (Our host) were on Air to talk about Ordination at Aseda 105 FM Radio Station, Takoradi/Sekendi City. We have a fruitful discussion on the Topic. The responses and feedback were very encouraging.
Some of the questions many want to know are;
- What is Ordination?
- Who is to be Ordain?
- It is Necessary to be Ordain?
- What is the procedure for Ordination?
- Can anything hinder one from being Ordain?
- Who ordains the candidate?
- What is the role of the local Church?
These and many other questions were discussed thoroughly. Rev Arcton and Rev Forson provide adequate answers to the above questions to our listens.
The Highlight of our Talk on Radio FM Station is as fellows
Ordination as Recognition of Spiritual Leadership
A strong biblical doctrine of the ministry of the laity may at first appear to diminish the necessity and importance of an ordained clergy, those who are specially set apart for the leadership of the church. To the contrary, it actually heightens the need, for the laity must be spiritually formed, trained, and led on a massive scale if the mission of the church is to be accomplished. Scripture emphasizes that ministry leaders are Christ’s gifts (doma) for the explicit purpose of preparing the people of God for their ministries of building up the church (Ephesians 4:7-12).
The selection and preparation of spiritual leaders is a crucial matter throughout the New Testament. Jesus’ appointment and nurture of the first apostles provided servant leaders who exercised a vital leadership role in the Early Church. The Twelve were also aided by men like Stephen (Acts 6), Philip (Acts 8), and Barnabas (Acts 13), whom the Spirit singularly marked out for leadership in advancing the mission of the church. These and others are to be found among an expanding leadership group in the New Testament.
Paul and Barnabas were careful to appoint elders for leadership in each new church (Acts 14:23). For that appointment, Luke used a verb (cheirotoneō) which means “to choose, to appoint or elect by raising hands.” Thus the congregations may well have had a part in the selection, as in the choice of the “seven” in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:1-6). These appointments were made in a context of prayer, fasting, and apparently with some kind of public “ordination” service.
Divine initiative in the appointment of spiritual leaders is basic to New Testament theology. Instructing his churches, Paul wrote, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:28, NASB).
First, note that these “offices” (or “ministries”) are of divine origin. Second, they are arranged in specific order—first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then Spirit gifted individuals with a wide array of spiritual gifts, both miraculous (e.g., “healing” and “tongues”) and functional (e.g., “administration”) Third, all these ministries are charismatic in nature, in that they are granted and energized as specific gifts of God by His Spirit. Fourth, the ministries of both the “leaders” and the “led,” the “pastors” and the “parishioners,” flow from the charismata, the spiritual gifts.
Paul wrote in much the same way in his letter to Ephesus. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). These ministries are not provided by human initiative but by the grace (charis [4:7]) of the risen Lord Jesus Christ who “gave gifts (doma) to men” (4:8). Moreover, Christ’s gifts of ministry leaders are granted “to prepare God’s people for works of service (diakonia), so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12,13).
Ordination of Ministry Leaders
The selection of spiritual leaders throughout Scripture is normally recognized in a public way that signifies the spiritual origins of the call. In the Old Testament, a formal anointing with oil, bringing with it the power of the Spirit, accompanied God’s selection. Jesus purposefully drew the 12 disciples aside and appointed them to be apostles (Mark 3:13-19). Judas’ successor was prayerfully and publicly chosen (Acts 1:15-22). When the seven deacons were chosen, the apostles prayed and “laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:6). Similarly, the Spirit announced his choice of Paul and Barnabas for missionary service, a choice followed by fasting, prayer, and the laying on of hands (Acts 13:2,3). Paul’s letters to Timothy, who represents a younger generation of ministers, imply a kind of formal ordination. At some unidentified point, Paul and a body of elders laid hands on Timothy to set him apart for the ministry. The work of the Spirit in Timothy’s ordination is also noteworthy, “Do not neglect your gift (charisma), which was given you through a prophetic message (prophēteia) when the body of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14). Moreover, Paul continued to mentor his young colleague, “fan into flame the gift (charisma) of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). The practice of selecting and “ordaining” qualified elders, crucial to the success of the missionary churches, became a strategic step for Paul’s ministry team. Following the pattern of his first missionary journey (Acts 14:23), Paul commanded Titus, charged with setting the churches of Crete in order, “appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5). Timothy, likewise, had as a part of his ministry similar tasks in the appointment and supervision of elders (1 Timothy 5:17-22)
Biblical Qualifications of Pastor
The Bible specifically speaks about the qualifications for those who will lead a congregation of people. These qualifications have been the same for almost 2,000 years. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of these qualifications as the “senior pastor” of the Church.
This is the overarching, summarizing characteristic. You will find similar (but not identical) lists in First Timothy and Titus. Living a life above reproach is the first requirement in both lists and Titus repeats it. The other items on the list explain what “above reproach” means. If we peruse the two lists, as well as First Peter, we find 17 qualifications of an elder who is above reproach.
- A pastor must be devoted to his wife; one-woman man (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:2). The pastor’s marriage illustrates Christ’s love for His church—His bride ( 5:22ff.). A Pastor must love his wife exclusively with his mind, will and emotions and not just his body.
- A pastor’s children must be in submission, though not perfect (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:4-5). If a man does not know how to manage his own family, he will not know how to take care of God’s church. The first flock for a pastor is his own family as Pastor Dad. A Pastor’s qualification for the church starts in his home management as he leads them up in the discipline and admonition of the Lord ( 6:4).
- A pastor is a faithful steward (Titus 1:7). Here the term used is overseer (Greek episkopos). It is not another office, but a functional title of the elder. It is what he does. He is a steward, a manager of God’s resources and Jesus’ flock. He takes responsibility, but not ownership.
- A pastor must be humble — not arrogant (Titus 1:7). A pastor must constantly demonstrate the gospel by admitting when he is wrong and assuming responsibility and restoring relationships.
- A pastor must be gentle — not quick-tempered (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3). No man will be of any use in the kingdom that is quick-tempered. The difference between how Jesus demonstrated anger is that He was angry at the abuse of others in the name of religion and the dishonoring of God. We get angry at how it affects us.
- A pastor must be sober — not a drunkard (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3). This is not just overindulgence in alcohol but is idiomatic for any behavior that fuels addictive responses.
- A pastor must be peaceful — not violent (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3). A pastor is prone to inflict violence through his words. He is to be a peacemaker.
- A pastor must have financial integrity — not greedy for gain (Titus 1:7; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Peter 5:3). A pastor is to be upright in his financial dealings and not accused of pursuing money over the kingdom of God.
- A pastor must be hospitable (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2). A pastor’s home is to be open for others to enjoy. A pastor’s home is not a heaven on earth, but rather a place of ministry.
- A pastor must be a lover of good (Titus 1:8). A pastor genuinely loves what is good. He does not just think he should love it.
- A pastor must be self-controlled (Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2). Self-control is a characterization of every area of a pastor’s life: diet, time, mouth, exercise, relationships, sex, and money.
- A pastor must be upright (Titus 1:8). He has integrity in his relationships and in how he treats others.
- A pastor must be holy (Titus 1:8). His life is devoted wholeheartedly to Jesus externally and internally.
- A pastor must be able to teach (Titus 1:9; 1 Tim 3:2). All of the other qualifications are character qualities. This is the only ability-based requirement. He is to be able to teach sound doctrine, not just be able to communicate in an excellent manner. His teaching can be to one or two, to twenty, to a hundred or to a thousand. Most of the churches in Crete were house churches. The elders were to defend the faith once delivered to the saints against the numerous false teachers that arose.
- A pastor must be spiritually mature (1 Tim 3:6). Positions of authority without spiritual maturity lead to the trap of pride. When pride grows in a man, sin abounds.
- A pastor must be respectable (1 Tim 3:7). That does not mean that everyone must like him or even appreciate him. It means that there is no credible witness to an ongoing sinful behavior.
- A pastor must be an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:3). Elders are examples of biblical expressions sexually, time management, marriage, parenting, worship, relationships and any other way. A pastor should be someone your sons could pattern their life after and the kind of man your daughter should marry.
What would you do if an elder violates one of these requirements? 1 Timothy 5:19-20 warns us not to accuse an elder flippantly. Matthew 18:15-18 gives us the steps: 1) Go to the elder alone, 2) If still unsatisfied, go with another person, 3) If still unsatisfied, let the greater eldership know. If accusations are verified and the elder remains unrepentant, rebuking that elder before all is the next biblical step.
In the following article, we present Fuller Seminary’s position on women in ministry, as described and biblically supported by the late Professor of New Testament David M. Scholer.
This “Women in Ministry” article was adapted, with permission, from those authored by David M. Scholer for The Covenant Companion: December 1, 1983; December 15, 1983; January 1984; and February 1984 issues.
Women have contributed much to the ministry of the Church throughout its history. However, their role in this area has never been free from controversy. Today, most church bodies are discussing the place of women in their ministries. Crucial to these discussions for many of us are the matters of faithful biblical interpretation.
Perhaps a few words should be said about the concept of ministry itself on the basis of the New Testament. Today, we tend to confuse our specific church traditions about ordination with the biblical concept of ministry. The New Testament says relatively little about ordination. It clearly portrays, however, the fact that the early church had a varied and faithful ministry arising from the fact that all of God’s people were “gifted” by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up one another (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 12:4–31; 14:1–19; Romans 12:3–8; Ephesians 4:7–16; 1 Peter 4:8–11). Any person could exercise ministry (which means, remember, service) who was called and gifted by God and affirmed by the body of Christ, the Church. Some were set apart in leadership positions and some were assigned specific tasks to accomplish, but the differences among ministries were not distinctions of kind. Eventually, certain types of affirmation were combined with certain functions of ministry to produce our current understanding of ordination.
Modern debates over the ordination of women often miss the crucial and basic issues of the holistic concept of the ministry of the Church reflected in the New Testament. Of course, no person should be ordained or given any responsibilities of ministry within the Church because of gender or for the sake of a “point.” On the other hand, we have affirmed in the Church that no person, called and gifted by God, should be denied any role of ministry or leadership in the Church because of one’s gender.
The Basis in Creation
First, man (‘adam), a generic term meaning the “human person,” is created in God’s very own image (Genesis 1:26–27; 5:1–2). This creation in God’s image includes the identification of persons as male and female. This mutuality of women and men carries no suggestion of male headship or female submission.
Second, this mutuality is confirmed by the fact that both the man and the woman together, without distinction, are charged with responsibility for all of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26, 28). This equal partnership between man and woman is also present in the retelling of the creation story in Genesis 2. Here the man is found in need of a companion, but none of the creatures God has created qualify (Genesis 2:18–20). Thus, God differentiates man (‘adam) into man (‘ish) and woman (‘ishshah), persons of separate male and female gender identity. The point of such a provision of companionship is to relate the male and female persons as equals, indicated by the common designations (‘ish/’ishshah; the same word root) and the common identity of bone and flesh (Genesis 2:23). This is climaxed with the concept of mutuality expressed in the “one flesh” language (Genesis 2:24).
Some have interpreted Genesis 2:23, in which the man (‘ish) calls the “bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh” woman (‘ishshah), as an act of naming that demonstrates the headship or authority of man over woman. However, that type of naming does not occur until after the Fall when “Adam named his wife Eve”(Genesis 3:20).
Genesis 2 also indicates that the woman partner with the man will be an appropriate “helper” (Genesis 2:18). The word “helper” (‘ezer), when used of a person in the Old Testament, always refers to God (in 29 places) apart from one reference to David. The word “helper,” then, is not to be understood as an expression of submission and service to man; rather, the woman as helper serves God with man.
The woman and man sin together (Genesis 3:1–7). Although it does not show in English translations, the serpent addresses the woman with the plural “you.” Genesis 3:6 states that the woman “gave some [of the fruit] to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” The fact that the man was with her (a phrase sometimes omitted from English translations!) indicates that both partners are together involved in disobedience to God. This is also seen by the fact that it is after both ate that it is said: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened” (Genesis 3:7).
The statements of judgment for disobedience (Genesis 3:14–19) are descriptive ones of future realities, which involved a supremacy/subjection relationship between man and woman. These statements are not creation mandates; rather, the relationship of mutuality, partnership, and equality portrayed in Genesis 1:1–3:7 is now sadly marred by sin.
The Basis in Jesus’ Ministry
In the time of Jesus’s ministry, women were usually regarded as subordinate and inferior in virtually every area of life. They were to remain at home, to be good wives and mothers, and to take no part in public discourse or education. Josephus, a Jewish historian, said: “The woman, says the Law, is in all things inferior to the man. Let her accordingly be submissive.” It was also said: “Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good” (Sirach).
Jesus, however, by his teaching and actions, affirmed the worth and value of women as persons to be included along with men within God’s love and service. Jesus challenged “sexual put-downs” of women. In Jesus’s setting, the prerogative of divorce belonged almost exclusively with men, and virtually any reason could be used to justify divorce. Jesus tolerated no such “male chauvinism.” He recalled the “one flesh” concept (Genesis 2:24) of mutual partnership and God’s intention for marriage (Matthew 19:3–9). Although women were held responsible, in Jesus’s time, for all sexual sin, Jesus rejected this “sexism” with his dramatic indictment of men: “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
Jesus reached out to women who were rejected. In spite of the laws regarding uncleanness, Jesus allowed a woman with a twelve-year menstrual problem to touch him, and he commended her faith (Mark 5:25–34). Jesus permitted a sinful woman to anoint and kiss his feet (Luke 7:36–50). Jesus challenged religious leaders by saying: “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31). He also offered salvation directly to women who were known as adulteresses (John 4:4–42 and John 8:1–11).
In Jesus’s day responsible teachers were not to teach women. Nevertheless, Jesus taught women and included them in his group of committed disciples. He taught Mary of Bethany and commended her learning to her sister who was carrying out the traditional tasks (Luke 10:38–42). It was to the Samaritan woman that Jesus made his most explicit affirmation that he was the Messiah, and he shared with her his basic mission (John 4:4–42). According to Luke 8:1–3, many women were in Jesus’s band of traveling disciples. These same women were present at the crucifixion and burial and on resurrection morning (Luke 23:49, 55–56; 24:1).
Jesus affirmed the value of committed discipleship and obedience to God, even over the natural and valued role of mother: “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:21), and “Blessed [rather than his own mother] are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).
The women Jesus included became the proclaimers of Jesus as Savior and risen Lord. The Samaritan woman was responsible for evangelizing her town (John 4:39–42). All of the Gospels show that it was Jesus’s women disciples who were the first persons to declare the message of Jesus’s resurrection, central to the gospel in the early church.
Among Jesus’s disciples we know of seventeen men by name: the Twelve, Joseph Justus, and Matthias (Acts 1:23), Lazarus, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea. What is not so often noted is that we also know women by name from among his circle of devoted disciples: Mary the mother, Mary Magdalene, the “other” Mary, Mary of Bethany, Joanna, Susanna, and Salome.
Jesus’s inclusion of and ministry to and through women within his own life and teaching were a powerful witness to the early church of the partnership of women and men within its membership and ministry.
The Basis in the Early Church
Apart from documenting the widespread presence of women in the early church, the account in Acts presents us with three additional items of importance. First is the fact that when the Holy Spirit came in power and in fulfillment of God’s Word (Joel 2:28–32) both men and women were present (Acts 1–2). Peter interpreted the events of Pentecost to mean that the “last days” of God’s time had come and that God’s Spirit was poured out on both women and men enabling them to prophesy. This foundational role was significant in the early church (see Acts 21:8–9; 1 Corinthians 11:5). Throughout the history of the modern church, the events of Acts 2 have been one of the major arguments in favor of women in ministry.
Second, the involvement of women in the establishment of the Philippian church is noteworthy (Acts 16:11–40). Paul begins the church in Philippi, the leading city of its district, with a group of women gathered for prayer outside the city gate (Acts 16:13–15). The “place of prayer” here is probably to be understood as a synagogue. Clearly one of the leaders of this remarkable women’s synagogue was Lydia. She and her home became the center of the new Philippian church (Acts 16:14–15, 40). This data is very significant background for the two women of Philippi who worked with Paul in the gospel ministry (Philippians 4:2–3).
Third, Acts gives some indication of the importance of Priscilla (Acts 18:2,18, 26). She, along with her husband Aquila, instructed Apollos, who became a noted teacher in the church (Acts 18:26). There has always been debate over the significance of the fact that Priscilla taught Apollos at home rather than in the church, but it must be recognized that she did teach Apollos (see 1 Timothy 2:12).
The Basis in Paul
Galatians 3:28, like Acts 2, has been cited for hundreds of years as a basis for women in ministry. Detractors of women in ministry often argue that Galatians 3:28 refers only to the spiritual reality of equal access to God through faith in Christ Jesus. The text does refer to this, but it clearly encompasses other realities as well. There are three traditional pairings, and they reflect the three basic social divides of hostility within the first century AD in the Roman Empire. Paul’s declaration would have had no less actual social impact than an American preacher’s statement in the 1950s that “in Christ Jesus there is neither Black nor White” would have had.
Further, the conflict of Paul and Peter recorded in Galatians 2:11–14 demonstrated that the declaration of “neither Jew nor Greek” had social implications in the life of the church. Paul’s letter to Philemon has similar implications for “neither slave nor free” in asking Philemon to accept Onesimus as a dear brother in the Lord just like Paul (Philemon 15–17)! Paul’s declaration about male and female had implications, too, for the life of the church. The point is not the obliteration of God’s created differences between male and female, but that sexual differentiation does not determine the participation in Christ’s Church for persons created in the image of God.
Paul also notes the mutuality of men and women in Christ in two striking passages in 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 7:3–5 Paul makes it clear that sexual relations between a husband and wife are matters of mutuality and equality in respect and in rights. Such a position grew out of the love and inclusiveness of Christ and was directly counter to the prevailing Jewish and pagan opinion in the Roman Empire that the husband had all the sexual rights over his wife. In 1 Corinthians 11:11–12 Paul includes a strong and explicit assertion of the mutuality of men and women lest his discussion about head coverings be misunderstood as against women’s participation.
The discussion of head coverings for women in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 clearly implies and assumes that women, as well as men, engage in prayer and prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:5). The participation in prophecy is the “highest” gift in the Church because it is the means of edification, encourage-ment, and comfort in the Church (1 Corinthians 14:3). Such edification is the purpose of the Church’s life together and constitutes, under the Holy Spirit, the exercise of authority and teaching in the Church. Thus, Paul concludes the first part of his discussion on head coverings (1 Corinthians 11:2–10) by stating that women ought to have authority on their heads. First Corinthians 11:10 is rarely translated accurately in English (most often one finds “a sign of authority” or “veil”), but Paul asserts that women have authority, using his normal word, which always means the active exercise of authority (and never the passive reception of it).
Paul’s letters also mention twelve women by name who were coworkers with him in the gospel ministry. This is the most often neglected evidence from the New Testament relevant to the participation of women in ministry.
Three women are known as leaders of house churches (the only type of church there was in the first century!): Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11), Nympha (Colossians 4:15) and Apphia (Philemon 2). To this group we can add Lydia, a Pauline house church leader known from Acts 16.
Paul stated that four women—Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis (Romans 16:6, 12)—had worked very hard in the Lord. The Greek word translated “work very hard” was used very regularly by Paul to refer to the special work of the gospel ministry, including his own apostolic ministry (1 Corinthians 4:12; 15:10; Galatians 4:11; Philippians 2:16; Colossians 1:29; 1 Timothy 4:10; see also Acts 20:35) as well as the work of others in the ministry, leaders and persons of authority in each case (1 Corinthians 16:15–16; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17). Thus, for Paul, the term “work very hard” was not a casual term referring to menial tasks.
In Romans 16:3–4 Paul greeted Priscilla and Aquila. This husband and wife team is mentioned six times elsewhere in the New Testament. It is significant that Priscilla is usually mentioned first, since the cultural pattern would be to name the husband first. This may indicate that Priscilla was the more important or visible leader and may suggest that she had a higher social status and/or more wealth than Aquila. Paul indicated that he and all the Gentile churches were indebted to both of them. Paul designated Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, “fellow workers in Christ Jesus,” a term used regularly for other leaders in the gospel ministry: Urbanus (Romans 16:9), Timothy (Romans 16:21), Titus (2 Corinthians 8:23), Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25), Clement (Philippians 4:3), Philemon (Philemon 1), Demas and Luke (Philemon 24), Apollos and himself (1 Corinthians 3:9), and several others (Colossians 4:11).
In Philippians 4:2–3 Paul mentioned two women, Euodia and Syntyche, whom he also classed “along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers,” and noted that these two women fellow workers “contended at my side in the cause of the gospel,” an expression similar to the “worked very hard in the Lord” phrase applied to the four women noted in Romans 16. In view of Acts 16:11–40 it is not surprising that two such women leaders emerged in the Philippian church.
Phoebe, usually assumed to have been the one to deliver Paul’s letter to Rome, is warmly commended by Paul to the Roman church (Romans 16:1–2). Phoebe is designated as “a servant of the church in Cenchrea.” Although some have thought the word “servant” here means “deacon” (or “deaconess”), that is most unlikely since the other New Testament texts that refer to the office of deacon mention the office of bishop in immediate conjunction with it (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 12). Paul regularly used this term “servant” to refer to persons clearly understood to be ministers of the gospel: Christ (Romans 15:8), Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:5), Epaphras (Colossians 1:7), Timothy (1 Timothy 4:6), Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7), himself (1 Corinthians 3:5; Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23, 25), and generally (2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:15, 23). Thus, Phoebe should be understood as well as the minister (leader/preacher/teacher) of the church in Cenchrea.
Paul identified Andronicus and Junias as “outstanding among the apostles” (Romans 16:7), an expression that includes them within the apostolic circle. Junias is a male name in English translations, but there is no evidence that such a male name existed in the first century AD. Junia, a female name, was common, however. The Greek grammar of the sentence in Romans 16:7 means that the male and female forms of this name would be spelled identically. Thus, one has to decide—on the basis of other evidence—whether this person is a woman (Junia) or a man (Junias). Since Junia is the name attested in the first century and since the great church father and commentator on Paul in the fourth century, John Chrysostom (no friend of women in ministry), understood the reference to be a woman Junia, we ought to read it that way as well. In fact, it was not until the thirteenth century that she was changed to Junias!
These thirteen women surveyed here (Lydia, Chloe, Nympha, Apphia, Mary, Persis, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Priscilla, Euodia, Syntyche, Phoebe, and Junia) provide clear evidence from Paul that women did participate in the gospel ministry, as did men. Paul’s common terminology made no distinctions in roles or functions between men and women in ministry.
1 Corinthians 14:34–35
It should be recalled that Paul has already indicated in this letter—1 Corinthians—that women did participate in prayer and prophecy with the authority in the church (1 Corinthians 11:5, 10; 14:3–5). This fact alone shows that 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 cannot be a general, absolute, and timeless prohibition on women speaking in church.
It was common at one time to “dismiss” the evidence of 1 Corinthians 11:5, 10 (and a few would still argue this position). It was suggested that 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 did not refer to a meeting of the church but only to a private non-church gathering. The whole context of 1 Corinthians 11:2–14:40, the argument of 1 Corinthians 11:16, and the parallel between 1 Corinthians 11:2 and 11:17 make such an idea most untenable. Some have even suggested that 1 Corinthians 11:5 was only hypothetical, but such an approach is clearly an argument of desperation.
The silence enjoined in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 must be a specific, limited silence. Numerous suggestions have been offered, but only the major alternatives can be reviewed here (some scholars, with slight evidence, have also suggested either that 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 was not written by Paul but was inserted by a copyist or that it is a question from Paul’s opponents in Corinth which Paul denounces in 1 Corinthians 14:36). One view is that the speaking prohibited here is mere babbling. There is, however, nothing specific in the context to support this meaning of “speak,” and such nonsense would certainly have been prohibited to all persons in the worship Paul described. Another view suggests that the speaking prohibited is speaking in tongues (glossolalia) since that is frequently mentioned in the preceding context (1 Corinthians 14). However, glossolalia is always referred to as “tongues” or “speaking in tongues” and never simply as speaking.
Probably the most popular view today among those who oppose women speaking with authority in the church is to identify the speaking prohibited with the judgment of the prophets mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14:29. Thus, it is argued that women may prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:5) but may not judge or evaluate prophecy. The evaluation of prophecy is seen as the truly authoritative level of speech in the church from which women are to be excluded.
This view has two major difficulties. First, the word “speak” in 1 Corinthians 14:34 has no implication within the word itself or in its immediate context (14:34–35) to support identifying it with the concept of prophetic evaluation. Second, the idea of two levels of speech in the church—prophecy and the judgment of prophecy—with the understanding that one is higher than the other and is for men only has no clear or implied support elsewhere in Paul. In fact, Paul’s own definition and defense of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1–25) implies directly that prophecy itself is authoritative speech of the highest level in the church.
The view that seems best to me is to understand the speaking prohibited here to women to refer only to disruptive questions that wives (usually uneducated in the culture of Paul’s time) were asking their husbands. This corresponds precisely with the resolution Paul offers (1 Corinthians 14:35): “if they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home. . . .” Such disruptive questioning was also considered a disgrace in Paul’s day in which it was widely believed that it was morally indiscreet for any wife to say anything on any subject in public. This view of disruptive questioning also fits well the specific context (1 Corinthians 14:26–40) in which Paul is concerned about appropriateness and order, which permit genuine edification (note that 1 Corinthians 14:26 expects everyone to participate). Thus, there are actually three injunctions to silence (1 Corinthians 14:28, 30, 34), although many Bible translations use “silent” only in 1 Corinthians 14:34.
1 Timothy 2:8–15
First Timothy 2:8–15 is the paragraph in the New Testament that provides the injunctions (2:11–12) most often cited as conclusive by those who oppose preaching, teaching, and leadership ministries for women in the church. It is inappropriate, however, to isolate verses 11–12 from the immediate context of 1 Timothy 2:8–15. If any of the paragraph is perceived as culturally bound (as 2:8–10 often is) or as especially difficult in terms of Pauline theology (as 2:15 often is), it must be realized that these same issues must be confronted in understanding 2:11–14.
It should also be observed that 1 Timothy 2:11–12 is a general prohibition on teaching and authority exercised by women. It is not directed to only a certain level of persons (such as “ordained” in distinction from “non-ordained” or “pastors” as distinct from “missionaries”). Further, it is not limited to only certain styles of teaching (“preaching” as distinct from “sharing,” seminary teaching, or writing theological books). In other words, if 1 Timothy 2:11–12 were a transcultural, absolute prohibition on women teaching and exercising authority in the church, then it prohibits all such activity.
The word in verses 11 and 12 often translated as “in quietness” (11) and “silent” (12) is identical in Greek. The same term is used by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:12, which the NIV translates as “settle down.” The point is that this term, which is often assumed to mean only “verbal silence,” is better understood as an indication of proper order or acceptance of normal practice. The term translated “to have authority” (authentein) occurs only here in the New Testament and was rarely used in the Greek language. It is not the usual word for positive, active authority. Rather, it is a negative term, which refers to the usurpation and abuse of authority. Thus, the prohibition (2:11–12) is against some abusive activity, but not against the appropriate exercise of teaching and authority in the church. The clue to the abuse implied is found within the heretical activity outlined in 1–2 Timothy. The heretics evidently had a deviant approach to sexuality (1 Timothy 4:3; 5:11–15) and a particular focus on deluding women, who were generally uneducated (2 Timothy 3:6–7).
The injunctions are supported with selective Genesis arguments (1 Timothy 2:13–14), using Genesis 2 rather than Genesis 1 (2:13) and the fact of Eve’s deception (2:14, see the use of this in 2 Corinthians 11:3 for male heretics). The function of the Genesis argument is parallel to its use in 1 Corinthians 11:7–9 where it is employed to argue that women must have their heads covered in prayer and prophecy. In both cases scriptural argument is employed to buttress a localized, limited instruction. The concluding word of hope for women (1 Timothy 2:15) is an affirmation of the role of bearing and nurturing children, a role considered as the only appropriate one by many in the culture who believed women incapable of other roles as well. This conclusion (2:15) is parallel in thrust to 1 Timothy 5:3–16 and Titus 2:3–5, both of which are concerned with specific cultural expectations.
Consistency and Balance
Two broad and basic issues of responsible biblical interpretation should concern us in this, indeed, in any issue—balance and consistency. In terms of balance, it is the total witness of Scripture that must inform our thought and action. In terms of consistency, it is crucial to approach our understanding of all biblical texts in the same way in order to offset as much as possible our blind spots and biases.
Opposition to women in ministry has often been mounted virtually on the basis of one Pauline text—1 Timothy 2:11–12. Whatever that difficult text and context means, it must be put in balance with all other biblical texts that bear on the same issue. This shows, in my judgment, that the 1 Timothy text does, in fact, speak to a limited situation.
Further, in regard to balance, one must struggle with starting points. For example, on the matter of “eternal security” of believers, does one read Hebrews 6:4–6 “through” Romans 8:28–39, or should the Romans text be read “through” the one from Hebrews? It has often been assumed without question that 1 Timothy 2:11–12 is the “control” (i.e., authoritative) text through which all other New Testament data on women in ministry must be challenged. It is more plausible, in my judgment, to approach 1 Timothy 2:8–15 through the accumulated witness of all the other Pauline passages on women in the church.
Consistency in interpretation is notoriously difficult. Yet, to push it here may help considerably in the attempt “to hear” the Scriptures. Why is it that so many persons insist that 1 Timothy 2:11–12 is a transcultural, absolutely normative text, but at the same time do not approach other texts in 1 Timothy with the same passion? Pressed in the same way, 1 Timothy 3:2 would rule out all single men from ministry, and 1 Timothy 5:3–16 would require churches to establish “orders of widows” for those sixty and older and would require that all widows fifty-nine and under remarry for the reasons of their sensual desires and idleness.
Most of us do not literally exchange the kiss of peace or holy kiss even though the New Testament commands it five times (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14). Most of us do not consider foot washing a necessity even though Jesus explicitly commanded it (John 13:14–15). Obviously, our inherited tradition and/or our sense of the cultural contexts of certain texts strongly inform our interpretations.
Finally, consistency and balance mean that we cannot impose on texts understandings that are not there. We cannot devalue the authority Jesus gave to his followers or the authority of prophecy in the Corinthian church just because they do not have the same structural pattern as that of 1 Timothy. We cannot divide the injunction of 1 Timothy 2:11–12 into two levels of authority imposed from our context so that women can be included in some activities but excluded from the “highest” levels.
In conclusion, it is my deepest conviction that the full evidence of Scripture and an understanding of balance and consistency in interpretation mean that we must rethink some of our traditions and reaffirm with clarity and conviction the biblical basis for the full participation of women in the ministries of the church. The underlying biblical theology of a “new creation in Christ” in which there is “neither male and female” is a powerful affirmation of the commitment to equality in the gospel, the Church, and all of its ministries. Jesus’s inclusion of women among his disciples and witnesses, the coming of the Holy Spirit on both sons and daughters, and Paul’s inclusion of women in his circles of coworkers in the ministry all affirm the full and equal participation of both women and men in all the ministries of the gospel.
“Well shoot, this has been harder than I thought.” Some people call it Church Planting, but many pastors and leaders I have talked to that have gone through the process, would more affectionately dub it as the “whirlwind.” It’s the wild journey you go through on the way to fulfilling that beautiful dream that God has so wonderfully sowed deep inside your heart. It’s the building of a web site, opening bank accounts, buying equipment, constantly asking for money, dealing with school administrations, etc.… you know all the fun stuff. The truth is, it’s a lot to think about and at some point in the journey it is inevitable to feel tired, weary, and discouraged. The whirlwind of the ten thousand little things you need to think on and execute in planting can truly take your breath away. And it will continue to take your breath away until the moment you remember, “How did I get here and why did I do this?”
For many of us who have planted, we can think back on the days when we were at our previous job, in an office somewhere, day dreaming about the prospects of actually taking the plunge and starting this church. It was so beautiful in your head wasn’t it. We could see crowds coming every Sunday, our friends leading in new ways, people far from God meeting Jesus as we finally started the church “that we can invite our friends to.” I don’t know about you but I didn’t really dream about fundraising. I mean maybe it’s just me but I didn’t really dream about setting up and tearing down every Sunday, while figuring out where to store that 25 foot trailer every week (that I don’t even know how to pull myself). I didn’t long for the days to see my friends in ministry that I never thought would leave, leave. I didn’t think about the family members I knew would say yes to supporting us financially, say no. I never really considered that there would be members at our previous church that wouldn’t want to speak to us again because we left them. I mean I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t think I would have days where I would actually doubt what I was doing. What happened? The whirlwind happened.
At the end of Mark 4, Jesus has a great idea for the disciples, “Let’s get into the boat and cross over to the other side of the lake” (Mark 4:35). It seemed like they were about to embark on yet another exhilarating adventure with Jesus, except what was to come next was something they clearly weren’t ready for. The Bible says that as they set out on the lake, a fierce wind storm came and began to fill the boat with water. Oh and Jesus was asleep.“What’s happening?” The disciples must have thought. “I signed up to get to the other side of this lake to see Jesus perform more miracles, but I didn’t sign up for this! And Jesus is taking a nap! Does he care at all?” It must have been easy for the disciples to dream about what was to come on the other side of the lake with Jesus, but they were not ready for the whirlwind on the way.
It would be easy to think the devil threw the storm on the lake to stop Jesus and the disciples from getting to the other side. That’s probably true. But because Jesus is all-knowing, to think He did not know what He was leading his friends into would not be true. Jesus is using the storm to reveal something. You see what we discover in the story is that the whirlwind is necessary because it shows us, just like it did to the disciples, exactly where our faith is. It brings us to the end of ourselves and asks us, “Now what? Are you going to keep going or give up? Will you choose to let your doubt dominate your faith?” We need the whirlwind, because it is in the middle of it where we see, first hand, our faith crumble or solidify.
What’s interesting is what was awaiting the disciples on the other side of that lake. The well-known story of the “demoniac” is what Mark 5 brings us. It is the most detailed account of a demon-possessed man being set free in all of the Bible. But don’t you know what came before was also the most detailed story of both a wind storm and Jesus sleeping in all the Bible. What does that mean for us? Jesus is in our whirlwind. When we are worried, he is not worried at all. What’s on the other side of the whirlwind is the most significant ministry that God will do through you. And the journey there, it’s not punishment, but preparation. As leaders, we trust God, but the question is, can God trust you? You prove that to Him by how you act, respond, and believe in the midst of the whirlwind.
“Father thank you for the whirlwind. It wasn’t the most fun part of this journey, but it prepared me the most and reminded me of your steadfast love the most because you were right there the whole time. Thank you for being in every storm. You are always faithful, and because of that, I know there is no whirlwind that can keep me from where you are taking me.”
— Love your Son, Weston
The Call to Disciple-making
Ask 10 church planters what the church is supposed to do and at least 9 of them, if not all 10 would point you back to the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples…” Jesus told his disciples as he was challenging them with his final words before ascending to heaven. Ask those same church planters how to make disciples, and you’ll get 10 different answers!
I think that sometimes we get so busy in the tasks and responsibilities of leading a ministry that we forget to keep disciple-making as the main thing in our churches. Thankfully, there is a resurgence of disciple-making in the North American Church.
Robert Coleman, in his classic “Master Plan of Evangelism” examined how Jesus intentionally prepared, selected, equipped and deployed his discipled. If you haven’t read that book lately, it would be a good one to take your leadership team through.
Disciple-making is not about getting the right curriculum to take everyone through. It’s about engaging people in a relational process of becoming like Jesus, living like Jesus, and loving like Jesus. Then reproducing that in another generation of Christ followers. As you think through your ministry strategy, keep in mind these seven characteristics of disciple-making to infuse into the DNA of your church:
- Spiritual disciplines – practices that help us grow closer to Jesus
- Relational – loving others like Jesus in authentic community
- Missional living – engaging the world around us like Jesus
- Biblical truth – growing in biblical understanding so that we think like Jesus
- Experiential – regular activities such as mission trips, prayer walking, serving the poor and sharing your faith help to move truth from the head to the heart
- Character transformation – becoming like Jesus as the Holy Spirit brings renewal
- Multiplication – reproducing disciples like Jesus did
If you haven’t started yet, prayerfully invite a group of 5 or so people to join you for a journey of disciple-making! I meet with my group of 5 guys on Sundays @ 7:30a and we’re going through my favorite, “Discipleship Essentials” by Greg Ogden. They’ve already committed to finding another group of guys to each take them through a relational disciple-making process when we finish. Join me in this disciple-making movement and we’ll see God impact our communities with his love!
Discipleship Pastor, Venture Christian Church
One most important assignment on our Missionary agenda is to meet all the Pastors and Church leaders. This was a successful, when some Pastors and Leader from other mission stations came together at the Church premises.
Both Presiding Bishop Dr Seth Anyomi and Rev Ed Arcton addresses the Leaders. Challenging them to arise to the occasion of the times and be different by the living example lifestyle and commit to the challenge of unfinished missionary task. Reaching our to other parts of the township and villages. Our missionary trip was a fruitful one. We give all Glory to God.
Question: “Should the title of ‘reverend’ be given to a church leader?”
Answer: Psalm 111:9 (KJV) states, referring to God, “Reverend is his name.” Some interpret this as saying the title “reverend” is to be used of God alone and vehemently oppose any human church leader being referred to as “reverend.” The original Hebrew word, though, is not referring to a title. It is declaring that God’s name is to be “revered, highly respected.” The NIV, NAS, NKJV, and ESV all render the Hebrew word “holy and awesome” instead of the KJV’s rendering of “reverend.”
Whatever the case, if you are uncomfortable using the title “reverend” for a church leader, by all means, use some other title. In most churches/denominations, the title of “reverend” is given to a person who has undergone formal ministry training and has been examined by those in church leadership. This is commonly known as “ordination.” A “reverend” is a person who has been formally “ordained” into the ministry. First Timothy 5:17 states, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” A godly man who exemplifies 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and sets a godly example in word and deed is worthy of being “respected.” Whether or not the title of “reverend” should be used is a matter of personal conviction and preference.
Question: “What is a bishop, biblically speaking?”
Answer: In the New Testament, a bishop is a person who functions as a teaching leader among a local group of Christians. The Greek term episkapos has also been translated as “episcopal,” “elder,” “overseer,” or “pastor.” All refer to the same office and are therefore synonyms.
In the earliest churches, their leaders were simply referred to as “elders.” For example, in Acts 20:17 we read, “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” In Philippians 1:1, Paul introduces his letter “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.” Apparently, there were originally only two leadership positions in the church: elders (or bishops) and deacons.
In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul speaks twice regarding the qualifications of elders/bishops, those he considered the leaders of the local church (also notice that these elders generally served as teams rather than as single leaders). In 1 Timothy 3:1–7 we read,
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer [bishop], he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
From this list, we conclude several things. First, the job of bishop is a noble task. Second, the job is a limited task (male pronouns and references are used throughout). Third, integrity is critical (above reproach, committed to his spouse, clear-thinking, self-controlled, well-respected, friendly, not influenced by alcoholic drinks, not violent or argumentative, not greedy, caring for his children, and having a good reputation among the unchurched). Fourth, he must have the ability to teach. (Deacons, whose requirements are listed in the next verses, are not required to have teaching ability.) Titus 1:5–7 shares a similar list for elders, but it adds the ability to rebuke false teaching. When Peter wrote to this group of church leaders, he called himself a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1).
The earliest writings of the church fathers also seem to confirm this role of bishops as the teaching leaders who served alongside deacons to oversee the church. Both Clement of Rome (c. 95) and the Didache referred to elders and deacons from the late first century to the early second century as the church’s leaders.
Over time, additional layers of leadership were added to the church. Eventually, the term bishop came to be applied to a regional church leader who administered many churches. At the Council of Nicea in AD 325, the church leader of each city or area represented his region’s churches. These leaders were referred to as “bishops.” Many Christian traditions continue to embrace this role of bishops today.
However, the biblical teaching is that elders and deacons lead local churches. The elder was also known as a bishop or pastor and functioned in that role. This does not make additional church leadership roles wrong (to meet important needs for regional or national leadership among groups of churches), but indicates that Scripture points to elders and deacons as the local church leaders.
There are people who think that in New Testament times, a bishop (episkopos, which has the literal meaning of overseer) and a priest (presbyteros, presbyter, elder; the ancient term for a Christian minister) did not hold distinct offices, but that these were just two names for the same thing. Some people base this on their subjective conviction that the organizational structure of the church developed over time, but many base it on their reading of the New Testament. However, the New Testament only gives us the qualifications for these offices, not their functions. Understandably, the qualifications are pretty much the same, but that does not mean that their functions were the same. So the question is still open.
Ignatius’ letters used to be the epicenter of the dispute over the roles of bishops and priests in the ancient church.
Ignatius was a bishop who was arrested in Antioch for being a Christian and was taken to Rome by Roman soldiers for his execution. He traveled about the same route as Paul, and he wrote letters to churches that Paul founded, plus a few more that were not mentioned in the New Testament and may have been founded in the meantime. In these letters, it is clear that there are people who still have personal memories of Paul and that Ignatius is deeply affected by the fact that he is recapitulating Paul’s journey to Rome. Ignatius defers to the bishop of each of these major churches and commends the people to their bishop’s leadership. In fact, he mentions that Onesimus is the bishop of Ephesus, which may (or may not) give us the ending to the story in Philemon.
Ignatius’ letters were accepted as authentic by Roman Catholics but they were rejected by Protestants. Catholics felt that since Ignatius mentioned bishops, bishops were present in the early church. Protestants felt that since Ignatius mentioned bishops, the letters were late forgeries. It turned out that everybody was right! The ancient church had bishops, and the letters were a conflated Latin version.
In the 17th century James Ussher, an Anglican, reconstructed the authentic letters of Ignatius, and John Pearson, also an Anglican, pretty much proved their authenticity. There was renewed dispute about them in the 19th century, but that was settled by J. B. Lightfoot. Today the matter is pretty well settled. Ignatius wrote about bishops because there was a clear functional difference between bishops and priests at the end of the first century. Bishops presided over the priests in the main church of a major city and supervised the priests who served in smaller churches in the outlying towns. Since only priests can become bishops, you could say that all bishops are priests, but not all priests are bishops. All of the churches, from Antioch to Rome, were set up that way.
Some people are convinced by their own subjective judgment that the organizational structure of the church developed over time into the bishop-priest system that I just described. I am skeptical of this idea, because I think that it is highly unlikely that ad-hoc organizational changes here and there would produce a uniform polity over such a wide and diverse area. It seems to me that such a process would produce diversity, not uniformity. But let’s think this out anyway. The church was founded in Jerusalem in about AD 33. Ignatius was born about AD 35, he became bishop in about AD 69, and he traveled to Rome in about AD 105. At the time of his trip, all the churches he encountered, from Antioch to Rome, had the bishop-priest system. Now if priests and bishops were synonyms for the same office in AD 33, but different enough in AD 69 for Ignatius to hold an office of bishop that was distinct from the office of a priest, the change would have taken place during a 35-year period. It would mean that a complete innovation in the organizational structure of the church swept over the world within the last generation that knew Jesus and the apostles personally! I do not think that is even possible, let alone likely.
How can we explain why so many churches that were founded by so many different people over such a wide geographical area had the same bishop-priest system in such a short time? The best explanation, I think, is that they were all set up that way in the beginning.
I observe that many of the people who believe that priests and bishops were originally synonyms for the same office belong to churches that do not have bishops. So it appears that this theory is driven not by historic or biblical evidence, but from the desire to invalidate the historic churches or to avoid invalidating one’s own church polity. This has more to do with history and circumstance than Scriptural understanding. All branches of the church had bishops until the Protestant Reformation. Protestant bodies that originated in areas where the Catholic bishops exercised political authority or were corrupt, tend not to have bishops. Protestant bodies that originated in areas where Catholic bishops were not problematical do have bishops. So this is why Swedish Lutherans have bishops, but German Lutherans don’t. Protestant bodies without bishops came up with scriptural justifications for their polity after the fact. Many Protestant bodies deny that they have bishops, even though they do have regional structures with authority over the regular clergy, which amounts to the same thing.
I think we should ask whether it is necessary for us to reproduce historic polity in modern churches for the modern churches to be valid. I don’t think it is, because the Roman Catholic Church has cardinals, which the ancient church did not have. And I’m pretty sure that none of the churches in the New Testament had a Minister of Music, either. So my opinion is that the bishop-priest system (evident in one form or the other in the Orthodox, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and many Protestant churches) is the ancient and original time-tested system, and that it is a very good idea to make individual ministers accountable to a regional authority. But does it have any affect on the validity of a church body if they are not called bishops and priests? Is there a commandment to have or avoid any particular church polity?