On Eagles Wings Ministries

Dr. Rudy Rodriguez D.D.

Dr. Rudy Rodriguez D.D.

Dr. Rudy is like no other educator in the industry. His method follows a 3 step process he has perfected through 2 decades getting results for himself and over a decade helping people just like you get results.

Commissioning Ministers

         

            The next purpose of the laying on of hands is connected with the sending out of apostles from a local church             

            The Local Church at Antioch             

            The local church at Antioch in Syria provides the clearest example of this.             

            Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus (Acts 13:1-4).

             

            This passage provides a great deal of information about the way in which, according to the New Testament, a local church conducted its affairs.

            First of all we notice that in this church at Antioch two definite spiritual ministries were present and were recognized by the church: those of prophet and teacher. Within the congregation five men were recognized and mentioned by name as exercising these ministries.

            Second, we notice that these leaders in the congregation not only prayed, but they also fasted. Furthermore, they did not merely fast privately as individuals, but they fasted together in a group.

            This is in line with Joel’s prophetic exhortations for the last days.             

            Consecrate a fast,

            Call a sacred assembly;

            Gather the elders

            And all the inhabitants of the land

            Into the house of the Lord your God,

            And cry out to the Lord (Joel 1:14).

            Blow the trumpet in Zion,

            Consecrate a fast,

            Call a sacred assembly (Joel 2:15).           

            After these exhortations to united fasting by God’s people, there follows the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.          

            And it shall come to pass afterward

            That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28).             

            This prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh received its initial fulfilment on the day of Pentecost and in the experience of the early church. Now in our day, once again, a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh, but on an even greater scale, is being re-enacted around the world. The early church received “the former rain” of the Holy Spirit, as promised in Joel 2:23. Today we are experiencing “the latter rain,” as promised in the same verse.

            Since the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is for us in these days, it is only logical to acknowledge that the exhortations to united fasting in the same prophecy of Joel are also for us. It would be illogical to apply the exhortations to fasting to some past or future age, while reserving the actual outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the present. In fact, the whole context of Joel’s prophecy makes it plain that periods of united fasting and prayer are one main preparation which God’s people should make if they wish to enter into the fullness of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh, as promised by God for these last days.

            Joel’s prophecy lays special emphasis on the leaders of God’s people. Joel 1:14 specifies “the elders”; Joel 2:17 specifies “the priests, who minister to the Lord.” Thus the spiritual leaders of God’s people are called upon to set a public example in this matter of fasting. Clearly the leaders of the church at Antioch understood this, for “they ministered to the Lord and fasted” (Acts 13:2).

             

            Paul and Barnabas Sent Out     

            The outcome of their waiting upon God with fasting was guidance from the Holy Spirit.             

            The Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).             

            One reward which they received was that the Holy Spirit spoke directly to them and in this way revealed to them the mind and purpose of God for the extension of His work through them. The phrase “the Holy Spirit said” indicates that the words following, “separate to Me Barnabas and Saul…,” are the actual words spoken by the Holy Spirit.

            In the light of other New Testament teaching on the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is reasonable and scriptural to suppose that the Holy Spirit spoke on this occasion through a human instrument, either by the gift of prophecy or by the gifts of tongues and interpretation.

            It is important to notice the exact words used by the Holy Spirit:            

            Separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them (Acts 13:2).           

            The verb phrase “I have called” is in the perfect tense. This indicates that God had already spoken privately and individually to Paul and Barnabas about the work that He wanted them to do before He spoke publicly concerning them and their work to all the leaders of the church.

            Thus the words spoken by the Holy Spirit publicly to the group of leaders were both a revelation and a confirmation of the call which Paul and Barnabas had already received privately from God. Since Paul and Barnabas were both mentioned by name in the public utterance of the Holy Spirit, it is plain that this utterance was not given through either of them, but through one of the other men present.

            How did these men react to this supernatural revelation of God’s will?            

            Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away (Acts 13:3).            

            Notice that they did not immediately send Paul and Barnabas off on their God-appointed mission. First they set aside further time for fasting and prayer. This was the second time they had fasted and prayed together. Through their first period of prayer and fasting they received the supernatural revelation of God’s plan. In their second period of prayer and fasting it is reasonable to suppose that they united together to claim on behalf of Paul and Barnabas the divine grace and power which they would need for the accomplishment of God’s plan.

            Thereafter, the sending forth of Paul and Barnabas from the church at Antioch was consummated by one further ordinance. The other leaders of the church laid their hands upon Paul and Barnabas and so sent them forth.

            In contemporary Christiansity the title usually given to Christians workers sent forth from a local church is “missionaries.” However, the actual word used in the New Testament is “apostles.”

            This becomes apparent if we compare the phraseology used in Acts 13:1 with that used in Acts 14:4 and 14. In Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas are described as “prophets and teachers.” In Acts 14 they are called “apostles.” The word apostle means literally “one sent forth.” Thus this title was applied to Paul and Barnabas after they had been sent forth from the church at Antioch.

            By its origin the word missionary likewise means “one who is sent.” Thus the words apostle and missionary have the same original meaning. However, in modern Christianity the word missionary is applied in many cases where it would not be scriptural to use the word apostle.

            An apostle is, by definition, someone sent forth by divine authority to accomplish a special task. Many  professing Christians have the impression that the apostles of the New Testament were limited to the twelve originally appointed by Jesus while on earth. However, a careful study of the New Testament does not support this view. In Acts 14, both Paul and Barnabas are called apostles, yet neither of them was appointed during the earthly ministry of Jesus.

            A similar conclusion follows from a comparison of two verses in
1 Thessalonians. In 1 Thessalonians 1:1 three men are named as joint writers of the epistle: Paul, Silvanus (or Silas) and Timothy. In 1 Thessalonians 2:6 these three men say of themselves: “We might have made demands as apostles of Jesus.” That is, all three of them were recognised as apostles.

            In fact, a thorough examination of the New Testament reveals more than twenty men who are called apostles. However, it is outside the scope of the present study to analyse the full extent of the apostolic ministry.

            Returning to the original sending forth of Paul and Barnabas, we need to ask: What was the purpose for which the other leaders laid hands on them?

            First, this act represented the open, public acknowledgement by the church leaders that God had chosen and called Paul and Barnabas to a special task and ministry. Second, by laying hands upon Paul and Barnabas, the other church leaders claimed for them the special spiritual wisdom, grace and power which they would need for the successful accomplishment of their God-given task.

            In this respect, this use of laying on of hands in the New Testament is closely parallel to the incident already referred to in the Old Testament where Moses laid hands upon Joshua, publicly acknowledging God’s choice of Joshua as the leader who was to succeed him and also imparting to Joshua the spiritual wisdom and authority needed for his God-appointed task.

            God’s own summary of the process by which Paul and Barnabas were appointed and sent forth from the church at Antioch is given in the next verse.             

            So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia (Acts 13:4).             

            Notice that phrase “being sent out by the Holy Spirit . . .” The church at Antioch and its leaders were the human instruments by which God revealed and worked out His will for the sending forth of these two apostles. But behind and through these human instruments there operated the wisdom, foreknowledge and direction of the Holy Spirit.

            In the final analysis it was He, the Holy Spirit, the executive agent of the Godhead now present on earth, who was responsible for the commissioning and sending forth of these two apostles.

            In the whole procedure followed at Antioch we find a perfect example of divine and human co-operation – God and His church working as partners together.

            Let us now consider briefly what was the outcome of this first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas into which they had entered by the direction of the Holy Spirit, with prayer and fasting, and with the ordinance of laying on of hands.             

            From there they sailed [back] to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. And when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:26-27).             

            There are three points of interest to notice here.             

  1.   We are here given an authoritative, scriptural account of the purpose for which the church leaders had laid their hands upon Paul and Barnabas. We are told that, by this ordinance, Paul and Barnabas had been commended to the grace of God for the work. Thus, the laying on of hands constitutes a means by which God’s servants may be commended to the grace of God for a special work to which God has called them.
  2.   We must observe the outcome of the labour of Paul and Barnabas. The Scripture states that they completed their God-given work. This means that they successfully accomplished their work, without omissions or failures. Someone has said, “God’s callings are God’s enablings.” In other words, when God calls a man to a special task, He also makes available to that man all the means and the spiritual grace required for the complete and successful accomplishment of that task.
  3.   We should notice the impact of their ministry upon the Gentiles. The Scriptures state: “God . . . had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Paul and Barnabas did not beat against a closed door. Wherever they went they found that God had gone before them to open the doors and prepare the hearts. Such is the power of united prayer and fasting: to open doors that otherwise would remain closed. The power thus generated by prayer and fasting was made available to Paul and Barnabas according to the needs that lay before them, through the ordinance of laying on of hands.            

            In this connection I would add my own conclusion, based on varied experiences in many different lands: New Testament results can be achieved only by New Testament methods.           

            Appointing Deacons and Elders           

            It remains to consider one further use, recorded in the New Testament, of the ordinance of laying on of hands. This use is somewhat similar to that which we have just examined.            

            Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a murmuring against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them (Acts 6:1-6).             

            Here we have an account of the appointment of seven men to an administrative office in the church at Jerusalem. By the common consent of almost all interpreters, it is agreed that the office to which these men were appointed was that which came to be designated by the official title of “deacon.” We find that the appointment of these men as deacons was made effective through the laying on of hands by the church leaders.

            In order to understand this procedure more clearly, it is necessary to analyse briefly the structure of leadership in the local church of the New Testament. This basic structure was extremely simple. It consisted of two – and only two – classes of administrative officers. These two classes were elders and deacons.

            To those who are familiar only with the 1611 King James Version of the New Testament, it might appear that there are, in addition to elders and deacons, two other classes of church officers – namely, bishops and overseers. However, a closer examination of the actual words used in the original Greek will reveal that this is not so. In fact, the three titles “bishop,” “overseer” and “elder” are merely three different names for one and the same office. The English word bishop is derived, with a few small changes, from the Greek word episkopos. The plain, literal meaning of this Greek word episkopos is “overseer.” Sometimes the 1611 King James Version rendered the word as “overseer,” at other times as “bishop.”

            Some of this confusion still persists in the New King James Version. For example, in Acts 20:28 and in 1 Peter 5:2 this Greek root episkopos is translated by the English word overseer. On the other hand, in Philippians 1:1, in 1 Timothy 3:2 and in Titus 1:7 the same Greek word episkopos is translated by the English word bishop. No matter which word may be used in translation, each alike describes one and the same office. If we desire the plainest and most literal translation of the Greek word episkopos, undoubtedly this would be “overseer.”

            Again, the examination of these and other New Testament passages reveals clearly that the title “elder” denotes precisely the same office as that of “bishop” or “overseer.”

            For example, in Acts 20:17 we read that from Miletus Paul:             

            . . . sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church.            

            In verse 28 of the same chapter Paul said to these men:             

            Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (Acts 20:28).             

            Thus, by putting these two verses together, we learn that the two titles “elder” and “overseer” denoted one and the same office.

            Again, Paul writes to Titus:            

            For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you (Titus 1:5).            

            In verse 7 of the same chapter Paul describes the qualifications which an elder should possess, and he says:             

            For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God.             

            In other words, Paul uses the two words elder and bishop interchangeably to describe one and the same office. Peter’s use of these titles agrees with that of Paul. In 1 Peter 5:2 he writes to the elders and says:             

            Shepherd the flock of God . . . serving as overseers.             

            The same persons are called both elders and overseers.

            Thus we find that these three words, bishop, overseer and elder, are merely three different titles used to designate one and the same office. Probably the title most commonly used for this office is that of elder.

            In addition to the elders, we find, as already stated, the deacons. Apart from these two – elders and deacons – no other administrative officers of the local church are recorded in the New Testament.

            The main qualifications for these two offices are set forth in the following passages of Scripture: Acts 6:3, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9.

            Upon the basis of these passages, we may summarise the main features of these two offices as follows. The primary task of the elders is to give spiritual direction and instruction to the church.

             

            Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in the word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17).

             

            Here the two main duties of elders are described as “ruling” and as “labouring in the word and doctrine.”

            On the other hand, the word deacon, in its original form, means a “servant.” In Acts 6:2 the primary task of the deacons is to serve tables – that is, to minister to the material needs of the congregation. In doing this, they were also serving the apostles.

            The procedure for appointing deacons is outlined in Acts 6:3-6. The apostles delegated to the congregation as a whole the responsibility for choosing from among their own number men suited to fill the office of deacon. After these men had been chosen by the congregation, they were brought before the apostles, who first prayed over them and then laid hands upon them.

            This act of laying hands upon the deacons served three main purposes.

             

  1.   The apostles publicly acknowledged thereby that they accepted these men as fit to hold the office of deacon.
  2.   They publicly committed these men to God for the task for which they had been chosen.
  3.   They transmitted to these men a measure of their own spiritual grace and wisdom needed for the task that they had to carry out. Two of these men appointed as deacons – Stephen and Philip – subsequently developed outstanding spiritual ministries of their own.

             

            For an account of the appointment of elders we may turn to Acts.

             

            And when they [Paul and Barnabas] had preached the gospel to that city [Derbe] and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed (Acts 14:21-23).

             

            Various features of this account are significant. First, the appointment of elders, like the sending forth of apostles, was accompanied by corporate prayer and fasting. Clearly the New Testament church understood that this was the scriptural way to obtain the direction of God in making all important decisions.

            Second, the people to whom Paul and Barnabas returned at this point are first called merely disciples. After the appointment of elders, however, they are described corporately as a church. It is the appointment of elders that marks the transition from a group of individual disciples to the corporate entity of a church.

            Third, the appointment of elders was the responsibility of the apostles, as representatives of God’s authority. In this, however, they did not rely on their own judgement but were the instruments of the Holy Spirit. Speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul says:

             

            Therefore take heed . . . to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers (Acts 20:28).

             

            According to the divine pattern, all appointments in the church should proceed from the Holy Spirit.

            In Acts 14:21-23 no specific mention is made of laying on of hands. However, Scripture provides two strong reasons for believing that Paul and Barnabas did, in fact, lay hands on those whom they appointed as elders.

            First, this appointment exactly answered to the two main purposes for which laying on of hands is used throughout Scripture. By it, the apostles endorsed and set apart the chosen leaders of the local congregation. At the same time they imparted to them the wisdom and authority they would need for their task.

            Second, in 1 Timothy 5:17-22 Paul is giving Timothy a series of instructions on how to relate to the local elders. He concludes by saying: “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily.” Although this warning is appropriate for any of the various uses of laying on of hands, it seems probable that Paul is here referring to this ordinance primarily as a way of ordaining elders.

            This would indicate that the accepted way to ordain elders was by laying hands on them.

            In closing this study, let me enumerate the five main purposes indicated in the New Testament for the laying on of hands: 1) to minister healing to the sick, 2) to help those seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit, 3) to impart spiritual gifts, 4) to send out apostles and 5) to ordain deacons and elders in a local church.

            In order to understand these five uses of laying on of hands, we have examined the pattern of daily life and administration of a local church, as revealed in the New Testament.

            If we now sum up the lessons learned in these three chapters that have been devoted to the laying on of hands, we see that this ordinance has a close and vital connection with many important aspects of the Christians life and ministry.

            It is directly connected with the ministry of healing; with the equipping of believers for active witness through the baptism in the Holy Spirit; and with the commissioning of specially called Christians workers. It is often associated with the gift of prophecy. It also strengthens the life of the local church in two ways: spiritually, through the impartation of spiritual gifts; and practically, through the appointment of deacons and elders.

            For all these reasons, the ordinance of laying on of hands logically takes its place in Hebrews 6:2 among the great foundation doctrines of the Christians faith.