In the OT God is said to ‘ordain’ (AV) or ‘establish’ (NRSV) the government of the Universe (Ps. 8: 3) and its geographical divisions (1 Chron. 17: 9). This means that God ‘orders’ or ‘appoints’ or ‘institutes’ or ‘invests’.

Similarly, he ‘ordains’ certain persons with authority, and they may delegate that authority to others, as Moses to Joshua (Num. 27: 18–23), by means of the laying on of hands. In the NT God institutes governments (Rom. 13: 1) and is said to ordain in advance events concerning salvation (Rom. 8: 29–30).

God also ordained certain persons to perform functions: Jeremiah was to be a prophet (Jer. 1: 5). But the idea of ordination to a function appears more strongly and frequently in the NT: the Twelve were ordained or charged to preach and to heal (Mark 3: 14–15) and elders (presbyters) were ordained or appointed by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14: 23), since Paul himself had been ordained an apostle (Gal. 1: 15). As an apostle, he ordained others to lead local communities (2 Tim. 1: 6).

The Pastoral Epistles represent an early stage in the institutionalizing of ordination and ministry. The intention is to continue the ministry of the apostles and to remain faithful to their teaching. In ordaining, the Church, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Tim. 4: 14), provides for the continuing proclamation of the gospel and for service to the community in the name of Christ. The laying on of hands is the outward sign of the gift of the Spirit.

Paul writes that Titus was ‘appointed’ (2 Cor. 8: 19, NRSV, REB; ‘elected’, NJB; ‘chosen’, AV) by the Churches, and the Greek verb literally has the meaning of stretching out the hand: possibly therefore a description of the similar appointments—of the Seven (Acts 6: 6), of Barnabas and Paul at Antioch (Acts 13: 3).