- Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church:… third are teachers, then… (1 Cor 12:28).
- If you are a teacher, teach well. (Rom 12:7)
- Here Paul includes the last of his enumerated roles before moving on to those he lists without Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. (Eph 4:11)
This important ministry occurs third in this list and in Romans 12:6–8, where it’s behind prophecy and serving, rather than behind apostles and prophets (1 Cor 12:28). In Ephesians 4:11, it’s fourth, behind apostles, prophets, and evangelists; and there, it’s the dual role of pastor-teacher.
Nature of the Gift
Pastors train God’s people for the “work of service,” ministries labeled with Peter’s second label, “whoever serves” ( Pet 4:11)A teacher’s job is retaining, passing on, and interpreting the already-given apostolic tradition. In the Pastoral Epistles, teaching appears to be an authoritative ministry appointed to transmit the apostolic message faithfully (2 Tim 1:13–14; 2:1–2; Titus 1:9). So Timothy was not only to pursue that ministry but to teach others to do the same (1 Tim 4:13, 16; 2 Tim 2:2). Sometimes that involves the exposition and interpretation of Scripture (Acts 15:35; 18:11, 25; Rom 2:20–21; Col 3:16; Heb 5:12). Sometimes it means explanation or reiteration of apostolic injunctions (1 Cor 4:17; Rom 16:17; 2 Thess 2:15; 2 Tim 2:2; 3:10).
The gift can be pastoral, as Paul implies by referring to the double office of pastor-teacher (Eph 4:11). Its inclusion in two lists, once as the single title “teacher” the other as “pastor-teacher” indicates that all pastors must be teachers, though not all teachers are pastors. He says God gave “pastors-and-teachers.” Some speak of the five-fold office (Eph 4:11), but this doesn’t refer to a fourth and fifth role in the list; rather, it refers to a dual fourth role, pastor-teacher. There can be no such functionary as a pastor without the gift of teaching that he exercises. If God has called you to the pastorate, he has called you to be a teacher.
Although the noun “pastor” occurs only in Ephesians 4:11 in reference to church ministry, the related verb “to shepherd” occurs several times in this sense (John 21:15–17; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2). And using the term “flock” as an image of the church implies the title pastor for its leaders (Acts 20:28–29; 1 Pet 5:2–3). This shepherd imagery comes first from God, who is our shepherd (Gen 49:12; Ps 23:1; 89:1; 40:11), and then from Israel’s leaders (2 Sam 5:2; Ps 78:71; Jer 23:2; Ezek 34:11). So too, in the church “the Great Shepherd” is Jesus Christ (John 10:11–18; Matt 18:12–14; Luke 15:3–7; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 2:25; 5:4), after whom pastors should pattern their ministry (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2).
The term “pastor” or “shepherd” was used alongside “overseer” and “elder” to describe the church leaders (cf. Acts 20:17, 28, where “elders” are “overseers” who “pastor” the flock). Note particularly the example of Epaphras, through whom the congregations of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis were founded (Col. 1:7–8; 4:12–13).1O’Brien, Ephesians, 299; and for further discussion, O’Brien, Gospel and Mission in the Writings of Paul: An Exegetical and Theological Analysis, (Baker, 1995), 61–64. The pastor’s function is that of an overseer (Phil 1:1) and elder (cf. Acts 20:17, 28; 14:23; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:17, 19, etc.): the nurture, care, and management of congregations (1 Thess 5:12; Rom 12:8).
Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12). It’s interesting to note that this “work of service” for which a pastor trains a congregation could well refer to the very gifts and functions that compose the second half of the table of gifts, labeled with Peter’s second label, “whoever serves.” The pastoral training task strengthens the church’s ability to serve and has this ultimate aim: “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (Eph 4:13).
Jesus, who was the very Logos made flesh, taught “like one who had authority”The Bible provides many examples of the exercise of the gift of teaching. In the Old Testament, we see Solomon as a teacher, especially as depicted in Proverbs (Prov 1:1; 10:1; 25:1), but also in Ecclesiastes—though a bit jaded (Eccl 1:1–2, 12; 7:27; 12:8–10). And we see Ezra, the model teacher who “had determined to study and obey the law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
In the New Testament, we see Jesus, who was the very Logos made flesh and thus “taught them like one who had authority” (Mark 1:22); we see Paul, who had been “chosen… to teach the Gentiles about faith and truth” (1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11); and those of Antioch who were “prophets and teachers:8 Barnabas, Simeon (called ‘the black man’), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul” (Acts 13:1). Note the authoritative roles played by these teachers, as apostles and prophets.
A notice about Apollos and his teaching indicates that the teaching gift doesn’t make you infallible or above learning from others. “He was an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy” (Acts 18:24b–25a). Stellar qualifications for any teacher’s resume; however, “he knew only about John’s baptism” (Acts 18:25b). So “when Priscilla and Aquila heard him,… They took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Indeed, the best teachers are teachable and life-long learners.
The role of pastor-teacher requires devotion. Paul told Timothy, “Focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them” (1 Tim 4:13). It requires a calling and should be exercised with caution. James warned, “Not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly” (Jas 3:1, see Ezek 3:17–18; Luke 12:47–48; Acts 20:26–27).