Should Our Physicians Be Ordained?

The monthly medical missionary column.

By G. A. ROBERTS, Associate Secretary, General Conference Medical Department, Medical Extension

It was said of Jesus that He "went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people." Matt. 9:35.

Christ gave a perfect representation of true godliness by combining the work of a physician and a minister, ministering to the needs of both body and soul, healing physical disease, and then speaking words that brought peace to the troubled heart."—Counsels on Health, p. 528.

Jesus was anointed "to preach the gospel to the poor ; . . . to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, . . . to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Luke 4:18, 59.

Why, then, did He spend most of His precious three and a half years of preaching time doing the work of a physician? Is a Christian mission­ary physician today justified in following His example ? The answer is found in Ministry of Healing: "The gospel which He taught was a mes­sage of spiritual life and of physical restoration. . . . The same ministry is committed to the Chris­tian physician."—Page 11 I. Is Christ's work still the pattern for doctors in this day?

"He was the greatest physician the world ever knew, and yet He combined with His healing work the impart­ing of soul-saving truth. And thus should our physicians labor. They are doing the Lord's work when they labor as evangelists, giving instruction as to how the soul may be healed by the Lord Jesus."—Counsels on Health, p- 544.

Is there any other field of work more important or more successful in soul winning than that of the faithful, God-fearing physician ? No. "There is no missionary field more important than that occu­pied by the faithful, God-fearing physician. . . . There is no field where a man may accomplish greater good, or win more jewels to shine in the crown of his rejoicing."—Testimonies, Vol. V, P. 448-

Should Christian doctors seek to do both lines of work ? Yes. "As you walk and work in the counsel of God, doors will be opened before you of opportunities for uniting the work of the min­istry and that of a physician."—Counsels on Health, p. 547.

Let us ask a few more pertinent questions, and find their answers in the Spirit of prophecy.

What recognition does heaven give to a Christian physician? "The physician who is converted and sanctified through the truth is registered in heaven as a laborer together with God, a follower of Jesus Christ."—Testintonies, Vol. VI, p. 229.

How responsible a position does he occupy in the sight of heaven? "The physician . . . occupies a position even more responsible than that of the minister of the gospel."—Ibid., Vol. V, p. 439.

What influence will such a doctor have, even in his bedside 'ministry? "As he stands by the bed­side of the sufferer, striving to speak words that will bring to him help and comfort, the Lord works with him and through him."—Ibid., Vol. VII, p. 72.

"The physician who ministers in the homes of the peo­ple, watching at the bedside of the sick, . . speaking hope to the dying, wins a place in their confidence and affection, such as is granted to few others. Not even to the minister of the gospel are committed possibilities so great or an influence so far reaching."—Ministry of Healing, p. 132.

Should a Christian doctor leave his medical work to enter the ministry? "I have been surprised at being asked by physicians if I did not think it would be more pleasing to God for them to give up their medical practice and enter the ministry. I am prepared to answer such an inquirer : If you are a Christian and a competent physician, you are qualified to do tenfold more good as a mis­sionary for God than if you were to go forth merely as a preacher of the Word."—Counsels on Health, pp. 503-504.

How should a Christian physician labor? "Every physician should know how to pray in faith for the sick. . . . He should labor as one of God's p. 544. 

"There is efficiency and power with one who can combine in his influence the work of a physician and of a gospel minister."—Ibid., p. 546.

Physician's Work as Exalted as Minister's

How should the Christian physician's work be regarded by himself and others? "The Christian physician should regard his work as exalted as that of the ministry. He bears a double responsibility ; for in him are combined the qualifications of both physician and gospel minister. His is a grand, a sacred, and a very necessary work."—Testimonies, Vol. VII, p. Hs

What trust is committed to the physician? "To the physician equally with the gospel minister is committed the highest trust ever committed to man. Whether he realizes it or not, every phy­sician is entrusted with the cure of souls."—Min­istry of Healing, p. 119.

What bedside ministry can the physician do for others in addition to that done for the patient? "In attending to the sick, the physician will often find opportunity for ministering to the friends of the afflicted one."—Ibid., p. 121.

"To the relatives of the sick, whose hearts are full of -sympathy for the sufferer, he may find opportunity to speak the words of life."—Testimo­nies, Vol. VI, p. 231.

What is really the work of the medical profes­sion? ''The physician who loves Christ and the souls for whom Christ died will seek earnestly to bring, into the sickroom a leaf from the tree of life. He will try to break the bread of life to the sufferer. . . . This is the solemn, sacred work of the medical profession."—Ibid., p. 230.

What part does the missionary doctor act? "As he . . gives advice to those who are mentally and physically diseased, the physician is acting his part in the great work of making ready a people prepared for the Lord."--Ibid., p. 233.

Will the importance of bedside, soul-winning ministry increase or decrease as we near the end? "On the sickbed Christ is often accepted and con­fessed; and this will be done oftener in the future than it has been in the past ; for a quick work will the Lord do in our world. Words of wisdom are to be on the lips of the physician, and Christ will water the seed sown, causing it to bring forth fruit unto eternal life."—Ibid., p. 233.

What should be the attitude of the conferences toward talented Christian physicians? "Talented Christian physicians, having superior professional ability, should be sought out and encouraged to engage in the service of God."—Ministry of Heal­ing, p. 117.

Proper Recognition for the Physician

As our final question, we would ask, When talented Christian physicians respond to the call, what recognition should be given them? To sum up what has gone before, it would appear that the work of such a consecrated Christian physician, whether largely at the bedside of the sick and dying, or in public service, is of such a high, holy, sacred, and ministerial nature that he very properly should be ordained to the ministry.

"The work of the true medical missionary is largely a spiritual work. It includes prayer and the laying on of hands; he therefore should be as sacredly set apart for his work as is the minister of the gospel. Those who are selected to act the part of missionary physicians, are to be set apart as such."—Counsels on Health, p, 540.

The term "set apart" employed in these state­ments is the same term employed in designating the ordination of Barnabas and Saul. "He [the Holy Spirit] instructed the church by revelation to set them apart publicly to the work of the ministry. Their ordination was a public recognition of their divine appointment to bear to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the gospel."—Acts of the Apostles, p. 161.

Before doctors are ordained, their Christian experience and work should indicate clearly that they have "already received their commission from God Himself," for ordination "adds no new grace or virtual qualifications." The church, in ordain­ing doctors, sets its seal "upon the work of God."

When God's commission was to be more fully carried out, the Holy Spirit laid upon the church the work of ordaining Paul and Barnabas. How­ever, they were not ordained to, or because of, any official position, but to become missionaries to the heathen, to a sacred work. For this same purpose should doctors be ordained now when they engage in the sacred work of gospel medical ministry at home or abroad.

It was from the date of his ordination that Paul reckoned the beginning of his apostleship in the work of the church. He was to carry the gospel to the Gentiles, a special ministerial work for that time. Christian doctors are as verily called of God to a special ministerial work for this day, uniting true medical ministry with the proclama­tion of the gospel to all the world.

We shall need specially qualified ordained men around the world to carry on the peculiar work of the message in that time, soon to come, when there will be no other "work done in ministerial lines but medical missionary work."—Counsels on Health, p. 533. It could even be that because of persecution in some places in the world the only free ordained ministers will be ordained doctors. What a blessing they will be to the cause then, for among those who will engage in the medical missionary work of the last days, physicians will be best qualified.

We are told that ordaining physicians "will strengthen them against the temptation to with­draw from sanitarium work to enga-e in private practice."—Ibid., p. 540. Will it not also 'strengthen them in every other way? No doubt there are now unordained physicians in our work who could well and profitably be ordained, and others who should be sought out who would qualify. They "should be sought out and encour­aged to engage in the service of God."—Ministry of Healing, p. 117.

When ministerial students finish their theo­retical course in college, they serve an internship in field work, practicing the theories they have studied while in school. After that they take up their regular work, first as ministerial licensees, then as ordained ministers. Students in the College of Medical Evangelists are privileged to begin their soul-winning evangelistic internship at the beginning of the third year of their course, while still in college, and at this time they begin the work of personal ministry after the same pattern of their entire future lifework. Therefore, when a student of the medical college has finished his fifth year of study and work, actually he has al­ready served three full years, equivalent to a practical evangelistic internship.

Students whose lives and work have shown the call of God might be given recognition at the close of their fifth year, if called into denominational service, in the granting by the conference of a medical-evangelistic license, which would be com­parable to the ministerial license given to min­isterial graduates who are called into the work. Later, at a proper time, when experience in service and other conditions and circumstances warranted it, ordination would follow, the same as ordination follows a ministerial licensee's successful experi­ence in soul-winning work.

One's life background and Christian experience lead up to this sacred ordinance. Paul's back­ground for ordination was not that of Christian experience or Christian education under Chris­tian influences, but rather a violent, though divine, reversal of his whole past and a renunciation thereof. By all means let us recognize and cap­italize on the evangelistic and ministerial impor­tance of true medical missionary work.

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By G. A. ROBERTS, Associate Secretary, General Conference Medical Department, Medical Extension

May 1945

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