Brother Ron Barnes
Founder and Pastor
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Brother Ron answers your questions about religion, spirituality and ministry
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Dear Brother Ron
Are all baptisms equally authoritative or are there two forms of authority? Some ministers claim the authority to baptize through priesthood endowments and ordination. Others claim that ministry and baptismal authority can only be endowed by the laying on of hands. Which priesthood authority is better?
The physical act of baptism is merely a public display of an inner commitment to follow the will of God. It really doesn't matter how or by whom you are baptized. By the time the physical act has occurred, the inner commitment should already have occurred. If it has, then the physical baptism is a mere formality. If it hasn't, the physical act is irrelevant.
Your question, however, refers to the much broader issue of ministerial authority. To properly address this issue, we must examine the question of what is a church. The word translated in the Bible as church is the Greek word ecclesia, which means a coming together of people. This is what Yeshua was talking about in Matthew 18:19-20:
Mat 18:19Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
So, in the Biblical sense, a church is not a building or organization. A church is a group of people who have gathered for worship. It would follow, then, that the power to recognize priestly authority rests with the people of the church. In today's society, however, churches have organized into secular denominations and the power to recognize priestly authority has been delegated to the officials of those denominations. So the authority of the priesthood is whatever those officials say it is.
I am a bishop of the Universal Ministries. The position of the Universal Ministries is that God ordains. They just do the paperwork. I feel that my authority depends on the work I do in the service of our Father. Since He is the only one qualified to evaluate my work, any earthly validation is pretty much irrelevant.
So getting back to your question about baptism, anybody who shares your devotion and service to God would be able to baptize you. After all, what organization granted baptismal authority to John the Baptist? If it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you.