See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.
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OF THE TEACHERS AND MINISTERS OF THE CHURCH. THEIR ELECTION AND OFFICE.
7. Regularly every Pastor should have a separate church assigned to him. This, however, admits of modification, when duly and regularly made by public authority.
While we assign a church to each pastor, we deny not that he who is fixed to one church may assist other churches, whether any disturbance has occurred which requires his presence, or his advice is asked on some doubtful matter. But because that policy is necessary to maintain the peace of the Church, each has his proper duty assigned, lest all should become disorderly, run up and down without any certain vocation, flock together promiscuously to one spot, and capriciously leave the churches vacant, being more solicitous for their own convenience than for the edification of the Church. This arrangement ought, as far as possible, to be commonly observed, that every one, content with his own limits, may not encroach on another’s province. Nor is this a human invention. It is an ordinance of God. For we read that Paul and Barnabas appointed presbyters over each of the churches of Lystra, Antioch, and Iconium (Acts 14:23); and Paul himself enjoins Titus to ordain presbyters in every town (Tit. 1:5). In like manner, he mentions the bishops of the Philippians, and Archippus, the bishop of the Colossians (Phil. 1:1; Col. 4:17). And in the Acts we have his celebrated address to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus (Acts 20:28).
Exactly. There must be bishops who are over churches, and the bishops are the successors of the apostles. Thus, the New Testament teaches a hierarchical arrangement: precisely what we have in the Catholic Church. And there is a pope who is over the bishops. Calvin wants to despise this in the Catholic Church, yet he himself sets up a similar arrangement for his Calvinist "church."
Let every one, then, who undertakes the government and care of one church, know that he is bound by this law of divine vocation, not that he is astricted to the soil (as lawyers speak), that is, enslaved, and, as it were, fixed, as to be unable to move a foot if public utility so require, and the thing is done duly and in order; but he who has been called to one place ought not to think of removing, nor seek to be set free when he deems it for his own advantage. Again, if it is expedient for any one to be transferred to another place, he ought not to attempt it of his own private motive, but to wait for public authority.
So much for independent, congregational, non-denominational Church government . . . Calvin's view lies somewhere between that and Catholic / Anglican / Orthodox hierarchy.
8. Bishops, Presbyters, Pastors, and Ministers, are used by the Apostles as one and the same. Some functions, as being temporary, are omitted. Two—namely, those of Elders and Deacons—as pertaining to the ministry of the Word, are retained.
In giving the name of bishops, presbyters, and pastors, indiscriminately to those who govern churches, I have done it on the authority of Scripture, which uses the words as synonymous.
Herein lies the error. Although there is indeed some overlap of terms and a less-than-rigid classification system in Scripture, still, bishops are said to have certain tasks that go beyond those of priests / pastors. Bishops (episkopos) possess all the powers, duties, and jurisdiction of priests, with the following important additional responsibilities:
1) Jurisdiction over Priests and Local Churches, and the Power to Ordain Priests: Acts 14:22, 1 Timothy 5:22, 2 Timothy 1:6, Titus 1:5.In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), episkopos is used for overseer in various senses, for example: officers (Judges 9:28, Isaiah 60:17), supervisors of funds (2 Chronicles 34:12,17), overseers of priests and Levites (Nehemiah 11:9, 2 Kings 11:18), and of temple and tabernacle functions (Numbers 4:16). God is called episkopos at Job 20:29, referring to His role as Judge, and Christ is an episkopos in 1 Peter 2:25 (RSV: "Shepherd and Guardian of your souls").
2) Special Responsibility to Defend the Faith: Acts 20:28-31, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Titus 1:9-10, 2 Peter 3:15-16.
3) Power to Rebuke False Doctrine and Excommunicate: Acts 8:14-24, 1 Corinthians 16:22, 1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:10-11.
4) Power to Bestow Confirmation (the Receiving of the Indwelling Holy Spirit): Acts 8:14-17, 19:5-6.
5) Management of Church Finances: 1 Timothy 3:3-4, 1 Peter 5:2.
The Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-29) bears witness to a definite hierarchical, episcopal structure of government in the early Church. St. Peter, the chief elder (the office of pope) of the entire Church (1 Peter 5:1; cf. John 21:15-17), presided and issued the authoritative pronouncement (15:7-11). Then James, bishop of Jerusalem (kind of like the host-mayor of a conference) gives a concurring (Acts 15:14), concluding statement (15:13-29). That James was the sole, "monarchical" bishop of Jerusalem is fairly apparent from Scripture (Acts 12:17, 15:13,19, 21:18, Galatians 1:19, 2:12). This fact is also attested by the first Christian historian, Eusebius (History of the Church, 7:19).
Much historical and patristic evidence also exists for the bishopric of St. Peter at Rome. No one disputes the fact that St. Clement (d. c.101) was the sole bishop of Rome a little later, or that St. Ignatius (d. c.110) was the bishop at Antioch, starting around 69 A.D. Thus, the "monarchical" bishop is both a biblical concept and an unarguable fact of the early Church. By the time we get to the mid-second century, virtually all historians hold that single bishops led each Christian community.
To all who discharge the ministry of the word it gives the name of bishops.
This is untrue, based on the data compiled above. The bishop occupies a higher office.
Thus Paul, after enjoining Titus to ordain elders in every city, immediately adds, “A bishop must be blameless,” &c. (Tit. 1:5, 7).
Note that Timothy is functioning precisely as a Catholic bishop does, by appointing elders (or priests):
Titus 1:5 . . . appoint elders in every town as I directed youThus, Titus is under the authority of Paul, and others are under his authority. That is a three-tiered hierarchical structure, any way one looks at it. Therefore, even if the terms somewhat overlap in the New Testament, as the Church was just beginning, nevertheless we see differentiation in actual duties, which is essentially all that is needed to establish Catholic ecclesiology. Furthermore, Paul appears to be passing on his office to Timothy (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:6,13-14; 2 Tim 4:1-6), and tells him to pass his office along, in turn (2 Tim 2:1-2) which would be another indication of apostolic succession in the Bible.
So in another place he salutes several bishops in one church (Phil. 1:1).
But in this passage he mentions "bishops and deacons." And he is careful to distinguish them elsewhere, since he mentions the qualifications of bishops, specifically, in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7. But then he separately writes about the qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-10. Thus, if he makes this differentiation, it stands to reason that he probably does the same with regard to elders. Also, Paul often referred to himself as a deacon or minister (1 Cor 3:5; 4:1; 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 11:23; Eph 3:7; Col 1:23-25), yet no one would say he was merely a deacon.
And in the Acts, the elders of Ephesus, whom he is said to have called together, he, in the course of his address, designates as bishops (Acts 20:17).
A bishop is a chief elder, just as in the Catholic Church, a bishop is also a priest. He is a sort of super-priest. A bishop can still be called a priest, but priests cannot be called bishops unless they are bishops! And who appoints bishops? The pope does that. But in Calvin's ecclesiology he have apostles appointing bishops, but their office doesn't continue (denial of apostolic succession). How, then, are they appointed today; by whom, with neither apostles nor popes? By majority vote of congregations? That certainly isn't found in Holy Scripture. Or do they simply appoint themselves and take on an air of "authority" -- as in Calvin's own case?
Martin Luther made the same error of jumbling up into one big catch-all category, all of these New Testament offices:
Here it is to be observed, that we have hitherto enumerated those offices only which consist in the ministry of the word; nor does Paul make mention of any others in the passage which we have quoted from the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians. But in the Epistle to the Romans, and the First Epistle to the Corinthians, he enumerates other offices, as powers, gifts of healing, interpretation, government, care of the poor (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28). As to those which were temporary, I say nothing, for it is not worth while to dwell upon them. But there are two of perpetual duration—viz. government and care of the poor. By these governors I understand seniors selected from the people to unite with the bishops in pronouncing censures and exercising discipline. For this is the only meaning which can be given to the passage, “He that ruleth with diligence” (Rom. 12:8). From the beginning, therefore, each church had its senate, composed of pious, grave, and venerable men, in whom was lodged the power of correcting faults. Of this power we shall afterwards speak. Moreover, experience shows that this arrangement was not confined to one age, and therefore we are to regard the office of government as necessary for all ages.On this account I think it follows that we neither can nor ought to give the name priest to those who are in charge of Word and sacrament among the people. The reason they have been called priests is either because of the custom of heathen people or as a vestige of the Jewish nation. The result is greatly injurious to the church. According to the New Testament Scriptures better names would be ministers, deacons, bishops, stewards, presbyters (a name often used and indicating the older members). For thus Paul writes in I Cor. 4 [:1], "This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." He does not say, "as priests of Christ," because he knew that the name and office of priest belonged to all. Paul's frequent use of the word "stewardship" or "household," "ministry," "minister," "servant," "one serving the gospel," etc., emphasizes that it is not the estate, or order, or any authority or dignity that he wants to uphold, but only the office and the function. The authority and the dignity of the priesthood resided in the community of believers.(Luther's Works, Vol. 40: Church and Minstry II, edited by Conrad Bergendoff, Philadephia: Muhlenberg Press, 1958, p. 35; primary work: Concerning the Ministry, 1523, translated by Conrad Bergendoff; my bolding)
Government is absolutely necessary, but so are hierarchy, monarchical bishops over geographical areas, a papacy, councils, priests, and apostolic succession: all of which Calvin rejected.
9. Distinction between Deacons. Some employed in distributing alms, others in taking care of the poor.
The care of the poor was committed to deacons, of whom two classes are mentioned by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, “He that giveth, let him do it with simplicity;” “he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:8). As it is certain that he is here speaking of public offices of the Church, there must have been two distinct classes. If I mistake not, he in the former clause designates deacons, who administered alms; in the latter, those who had devoted themselves to the care of the poor and the sick. Such were the widows of whom he makes mention in the Epistle to Timothy (1 Tim. 5:10). For there was no public office which women could discharge save that of devoting themselves to the service of the poor. If we admit this (and it certainly ought to be admitted), there will be two classes of deacons, the one serving the Church by administering the affairs of the poor; the other, by taking care of the poor themselves. For although the term διακονία has a more extensive meaning, Scripture specially gives the name of deacons to those whom the Church appoints to dispense alms, and take care of the poor, constituting them as it were stewards of the public treasury of the poor. Their origin, institution, and office, is described by Luke (Acts 6:3). When a murmuring arose among the Greeks, because in the administration of the poor their widows were neglected, the apostles, excusing themselves that they were unable to discharge both offices, to preach the word and serve tables, requested the multitude to elect seven men of good report, to whom the office might be committed. Such deacons as the Apostolic Church had, it becomes us to have after her example.
No disagreement here . . . Calvin (unlike Luther) at least appears to distinguish between deacons and other offices.
10. Third part of the chapter, treating of the Ordination or calling of the ministers of the Church.
Now seeing that in the sacred assembly all things ought to be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40), there is nothing in which this ought to be more carefully observed than in settling government, irregularity in any respect being nowhere more perilous. Wherefore, lest restless and turbulent men should presumptuously push themselves forward to teach or rule (an event which actually was to happen), it was expressly provided that no one should assume a public office in the Church without a call (Heb. 5:4; Jer. 17:16). Therefore, if any one would be deemed a true minister of the Church, he must first be duly called; and, secondly, he must answer to his calling; that is, undertake and execute the office assigned to him. This may often be observed in Paul, who, when he would approve his apostleship, almost always alleges a call, together with his fidelity in discharging the office.
We wholeheartedly agree that there is such a thing as a call or a vocation. I wonder, then, to whom did Calvin go to confirm his own self-perceived calling as the founder (and in effect, super-bishop) of a new sect? To whom did Luther go? Failing that, then even by Calvin's own statement, the very origin of Protestantism lacked an essential quality: confirmation of a call for those who assumed for themselves extraordinary teaching and governing authority.
If so great a minister of Christ dares not arrogate to himself authority to be heard in the Church, unless as having been appointed to it by the command of his Lord, and faithfully performing what has been intrusted to him, how great the effrontery for any man, devoid of one or both of them, to demand for himself such honour. But as we have already touched on the necessity of executing the office, let us now treat only of the call.
Calvin thus seriously undermines his own supposed authority . . .
11. A twofold calling—viz. an external and an internal. Mode in which both are to be viewed.
The subject is comprehended under four heads—viz. who are to be appointed ministers, in what way, by whom, and with what rite or initiatory ceremony. I am speaking of the external and formal call which relates to the public order of the Church, while I say nothing of that secret call of which every minister is conscious before God, but has not the Church as a witness of it; I mean, the good testimony of our heart, that we undertake the offered office neither from ambition nor avarice, nor any other selfish feeling, but a sincere fear of God and desire to edify the Church. This, as I have said, is indeed necessary for every one of us, if we would approve our ministry to God.
Everyone (not just the clergyman) has a calling or vocation in life, according to St. Paul (1 Cor 7:17).
Still, however, a man may have been duly called by the Church, though he may have accepted with a bad conscience, provided his wickedness is not manifest. It is usual also to say, that private men are called to the ministry when they seem fit and apt to discharge it; that is, because learning, conjoined with piety and the other endowments of a good pastor, is a kind of preparation for the office. For those whom the Lord has destined for this great office he previously provides with the armour which is requisite for the discharge of it, that they may not come empty and unprepared. Hence Paul, in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, when treating of the offices, first enumerates the gifts in which those who performed the offices ought to excel. But as this is the first of the four heads which I mentioned, let us now proceed to it.
Those whom God calls, He enables and gives the desire to undertake the tasks they are called to (Phil 2:13).
12. 1. Who are to be appointed ministers? 2. Mode of appointment.
What persons should be elected bishops is treated at length by Paul in two passages (Tit. 1:7; 1 Tim. 3:1). The substance is, that none are to be chosen save those who are of sound doctrine and holy lives, and not notorious for any defect which might destroy their authority and bring disgrace on the ministry.
But who chooses, or "elects" them? This difficulty in Calvin's ecclesiology was already discussed above.
The description of deacons and elders is entirely similar (see chapter 4 sec. 10-13). We must always take care that they are not unfit for or unequal to the burden imposed upon them; in other words, that they are provided with the means which will be necessary to fulfil their office. Thus our Saviour, when about to send his apostles, provided them with the arms and instruments which were indispensably requisite. And Paul, after portraying the character of a good and genuine bishop, admonishes Timothy not to contaminate himself by choosing an improper person for the office.
Here is Church hierarchy again: Paul is over Timothy, who is over those whom he appoints. But if there is no successor to Paul the Apostle (Catholic say bishops are that), then who would tell Timothy what to do, and who would appoint him?
The expression, in what way, I use not in reference to the rite of choosing, but only to the religious fear which is to be observed in election. Hence the fastings and prayers which Luke narrates that the faithful employed when they elected presbyters (Acts 14:23). For, understanding that the business was the most serious in which they could engage, they did not venture to act without the greatest reverence and solicitude. But above all, they were earnest in prayer, imploring from God the spirit of wisdom and discernment.
Elders were appointed by above, according to this very passage.
13. 3. By whom the appointment is to be made. Why the Apostles were elected by Christ alone. Of the calling and election of St Paul.
The third division which we have adopted is, by whom ministers are to be chosen. A certain rule on this head cannot be obtained from the appointment of the apostles, which was somewhat different from the common call of others. As theirs was an extraordinary ministry, in order to render it conspicuous by some more distinguished mark, those who were to discharge it behoved to be called and appointed by the mouth of the Lord himself. It was not, therefore, by any human election, but at the sole command of God and Christ, that they prepared themselves for the work.
This was manifestly not true in Paul's case. In his very conversion experience, Jesus informed Paul that he would be told what to do (Acts 9:6; cf. 9:17). He went to see St. Peter in Jerusalem for fifteen days in order to be confirmed in his calling (Galatians 1:18), and fourteen years later was commissioned by Peter, James, and John (Galatians 2:1-2,9). He was also sent out by the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-4), which was in contact with the Church at Jerusalem (Acts 11:19-27). Later on, Paul reported back to Antioch (Acts 14:26-28). Acts 15:2 states: ". . . Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question." The next verse refers to Paul and Barnabas "being sent on their way by the church." Paul and Barnabas are not shown as having any particular authority at all in the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:4-30). The key figures were Peter (leader of the disciples) and James (bishop of Jerusalem). Paul and Barnabas get one line of attention: "they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles" (Acts 15:12). They were then sent off, or commissioned by the council (15:22-27). Even after the council was over, Scripture informs us that Paul was preaching what it concluded: "As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem" (Acts 16:4).
All of this scarcely suggests of Paul (an apostle), Calvin's description:
It was not, therefore, by any human election, but at the sole command of God and Christ, that they prepared themselves for the work.St. Paul was called by God but also called and confirmed and sent and directed by men.
Hence, when the apostles were desirous to substitute another in the place of Judas, they did not venture to nominate any one certainly, but brought forward two, that the Lord might declare by lot which of them he wished to succeed (Acts 1:23).
This demonstrates apostolic succession in the Bible. Yet Calvin rejects that notion, as historically always understood.
In this way we ought to understand Paul’s declaration, that he was made an apostle, “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father” (Gal. 1:1). The former—viz. not of men—he had in common with all the pious ministers of the word, for no one could duly perform the office unless called by God.
In his initial calling, yes, this is true. But this doesn't mean that he was some "lone ranger": not in submission to the Church, as has been amply shown.
The other was proper and peculiar to him. And while he glories in it, he boasts that he had not only what pertains to a true and lawful pastor, but he also brings forward the insignia of his apostleship. For when there were some among the Galatians who, seeking to disparage his authority, represented him as some ordinary disciple, substituted in place of the primary apostles, he, in order to maintain unimpaired the dignity of his ministry, against which he knew that these attempts were made, felt it necessary to show that he was in no respect inferior to the other apostles. Accordingly, he affirms that he was not chosen by the judgment of men, like some ordinary bishop, but by the mouth and manifest oracle of the Lord himself.
This incorrectly excludes all the human elements of authority and calling, even in Paul's case, as outlined above. Calvin apparently just sees here what he wants to see. And perhaps this sort of reasoning is how he ultimately justifies his own prominent position in early Protestantism. God alone called him; therefore he couldn't be properly opposed by anyone, and all who do are God's enemies (precisely as Luther also thought of himself). Quite convenient . . .
14. Ordinary Pastors are designated by other Pastors. Why certain of the Apostles also were designated by men.
But no sober person will deny that the regular mode of lawful calling is, that bishops should be designated by men, since there are numerous passages of Scripture to this effect.
Sensibly, this would require a "super-bishop"; i.e., a pope.
Nor, as has been said, is there anything contrary to this in Paul’s protestation, that he was not sent either of man, or by man, seeing he is not there speaking of the ordinary election of ministers, but claiming for himself what was peculiar to the apostles: although the Lord in thus selecting Paul by special privilege, subjected him in the meantime to the discipline of an ecclesiastical call: for Luke relates, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2).
This is better, for it recognizes that Paul was in some sense subject to other men.
Why this separation and laying on of hands after the Holy Spirit had attested their election, unless that ecclesiastical discipline might be preserved in appointing ministers by men? God could not give a more illustrious proof of his approbation of this order, than by causing Paul to be set apart by the Church after he had previously declared that he had appointed him to be the Apostle of the Gentiles.
God and men worked together, as always . . .
The same thing we may see in the election of Matthias. As the apostolic office was of such importance that they did not venture to appoint any one to it of their own judgment, they bring forward two, on one of whom the lot might fall, that thus the election might have a sure testimony from heaven, and, at the same time, the policy of the Church might not be disregarded.
Why, then, should an apostle be replaced at this juncture, but then never again, with no further line of succession? It makes no sense to have a succession with Matthias, but not an ongoing succession. If the apostles were an altogether unique class, with no later succession, why bother to have one succession?
15. The election of Pastors does not belong to one individual. Other Pastors should preside, and the people consent and approve.
The next question is, Whether a minister should be chosen by the whole Church, or only by colleagues and elders, who have the charge of discipline; or whether they may be appointed by the authority of one individual? Those who attribute this right to one individual quote the words of Paul to Titus “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city” (Tit. 1:5); and also to Timothy, “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (l Tim. 5:22). But they are mistaken if they suppose that Timothy so reigned at Ephesus, and Titus in Crete, as to dispose of all things at their own pleasure. They only presided by previously giving good and salutary counsels to the people, not by doing alone whatever pleased them, while all others were excluded.
But of course. Even popes usually act in concert with bishops (and councils) and take into account the opinions of priests as well; even of the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful), including laypeople. It doesn't follow, however, that there are no tasks in which they act alone, with authority unique to them.
Lest this should seem to be a fiction of mine, I will make it plain by a similar example. Luke relates that Barnabas and Paul ordained elders throughout the churches, but he at the same time marks the plan or mode when he says that it was done by suffrage. The words are, Χειροτονήσαντες πρεσβυτέρους κατ᾽ ἐκκλησίαν (Acts 14:23). They therefore selected (creabant) two; but the whole body, as was the custom of the Greeks in elections, declared by a show of hands which of the two they wished to have. Thus it is not uncommon for Roman historians to say, that the consul who held the comitia elected the new magistrates, for no other reason but because he received the suffrages, and presided over the people at the election. Certainly it is not credible that Paul conceded more to Timothy and Titus than he assumed to himself. Now we see that his custom was to appoint bishops by the suffrages of the people.
Here is the passage:
Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.The Greek word for appointed is cheirotoneo; the only other place it appears is at 2 Cor 8:19: "and not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work which we are carrying on, for the glory of the Lord and to show our good will."
There is debate on the meaning of the word in this passage, with some maintaining that it means "appointed without consideration of popular opinion" and some thinking it means nomination with public approval or selection of numerous candidates suggested by the congregation. I submit that at face value, at least, it means that Paul and Barnabas simply made the selection. This would seem to be backed up also by Paul telling Titus to "appoint elders in every town as I directed you" (Titus 1:5).
We must therefore interpret the above passages, so as not to infringe on the common right and liberty of the Church. Rightly, therefore, does Cyprian contend for it as of divine authority, that the priest be chosen in presence of the people, before the eyes of all, and be approved as worthy and fit by public judgment and testimony, (Cyprian, Lib. 1 Ep. 3). Indeed, we see that by the command of the Lord, the practice in electing the Levitical priests was to bring them forward in view of the people before consecration. Nor is Matthias enrolled among the number of the apostles, nor are the seven deacons elected in any other way, than at the sight and approval of the people (Acts 6:2). “Those examples,” says Cyprian, “show that the ordination of a priest behoved not to take place, unless under the consciousness of the people assisting, so that that ordination was just and legitimate which was vouched by the testimony of all.”
There certainly were instances of this in the early Church.
We see, then, that ministers are legitimately called according to the word of God, when those who may have seemed fit are elected on the consent and approbation of the people.
Calvin makes it a hard and fast rule, but this is not so crystal clear in the New Testament.
Other pastors, however, ought to preside over the election, lest any error should be committed by the general body either through levity, or bad passion, or tumult.
This is a "moderate" opinion on the wide spectrum of Protestantism. We Catholics contend that the most sensible, biblical standpoint is to have bishops both ordain and appoint priests to their specific duties.
16. Form in which the ministers of the Church are to be ordained. No express precept but one. Laying on of hands.
It remains to consider the form of ordination, to which we have assigned the last place in the call (see chap. 4, sec. 14, 15). It is certain, that when the apostles appointed any one to the ministry, they used no other ceremony than the laying on of hands. This form was derived, I think, from the custom of the Jews, who, by the laying on of hands, in a manner presented to God whatever they wished to be blessed and consecrated. Thus Jacob, when about to bless Ephraim and Manasseh, placed his hands upon their heads (Gen. 48:14). The same thing was done by our Lord, when he prayed over the little children (Mt. 19:15). With the same intent (as I imagine), the Jews, according to the injunction of the law, laid hands upon their sacrifices. Wherefore, the apostles, by the laying on of hands, intimated that they made an offering to God of him whom they admitted to the ministry; though they also did the same thing over those on whom they conferred the visible gifts of the Spirit (Acts 8:17; 19:6). However this be, it was the regular form, whenever they called any one to the sacred ministry. In this way they consecrated pastors and teachers; in this way they consecrated deacons. But though there is no fixed precept concerning the laying on of hands, yet as we see that it was uniformly observed by the apostles, this careful observance ought to be regarded by us in the light of a precept (see chap. 14, sec. 20; chap. 19, sec. 31). And it is certainly useful, that by such a symbol the dignity of the ministry should be commended to the people, and he who is ordained, reminded that he is no longer his own, but is bound in service to God and the Church. Besides, it will not prove an empty sign, if it be restored to its genuine origin. For if the Spirit of God has not instituted anything in the Church in vain, this ceremony of his appointment we shall feel not to be useless, provided it be not superstitiously abused. Lastly, it is to observed, that it was not the whole people, but only pastors, who laid hands on ministers, though it is uncertain whether or not several always laid their hands: it is certain, that in the case of the deacons, it was done by Paul and Barnabas, and some few others (Acts 6:6; 13:3). But in another place, Paul mentions that he himself, without any others, laid hands on Timothy. “Wherefore, I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6). For what is said in the First Epistle, of the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, I do not understand as if Paul were speaking of the college of Elders. By the expression, I understand the ordination itself; as if he had said, Act so, that the gift which you received by the laying on of hands, when I made you a presbyter, may not be in vain.
We fully agree that ordination is conferred by the laying on of hands. We simply add that the normative person to do this is the bishop.