September 10, 2006 Q & A

Ordination in the OPC


What are the requirements for ordination in the OPC? Does the OPC require seminary training? Are requirements for ordination a standard to obtain recognition of men or is it more biblically based?


The Biblical requirements for the ordination of a minister can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9:

"The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, 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." (1 Tim. 3:1-7 ESV)

"For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." (Titus 1:7-9 ESV)

In these passages, besides being a man of Christian maturity and integrity, the minister must be one who is able to teach, give instruction in sound doctrine, and confute those who contradict. In order to fulfill that calling, the OPC requires that a minister ordinarily be a seminary graduate. (The same is not required of a ruling elder.) You can look at recommended curriculum for ministerial preparation to see the important areas of study we would expect a seminary education to cover here.

Still, we recognize that there will be times when God has called and gifted a man for ministry who has not had that formal theological education. Our Book of Church Order says that an exception may be granted "only if the presbytery, after reporting the whole matter to the general assembly and weighing such advice as it may offer, shall judge, by a three-fourths vote of the members present, that such exception is warranted by the qualifications of the candidate."

Every minister in the OPC must be carefully examined. We believe that our requirements for ordination are not only called for by the passages above but are an important way of protecting Christ's flock from harm. It is dangerous to give the sacred office to unqualified men. You wouldn't want an unqualified doctor to operate on you, especially in a matter of life and death. Ministers are spiritual physicians, and the faithful proclamation of God's word is a matter of eternal life and death!

I hope I have answered your questions.



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