The Pastor-Teacher: One Calling, One Office
I do not in any way entertain the idea that I will persuade my brethren who differ from me as regards this gift of pastor-teacher. In fact, it is not my intent today to persuade, but rather to give my reasoning on why I hold the position to be true to the intent of the inspired writer of Ephesians. It really comes down to accepting or rejecting Pastoral authority. – Joel Taylor
I am unashamedly Baptist. I am also a fan of Presbyterian theologians. James Henley Thornwell, Benjamin M. Palmer, Dan Baker, John Girardeau to name a few. All were tremendous preachers, and God’s gifts to the church body.
I am also a proponent of the pastor-teacher, or a ‘senior teaching elder’ (for my beloved Presbyterian brethren), called of God, staying in his working office, praying and studying the Word of God faithfully all week long and focusing only on the feeding and leading of God’s people. That is his duty before God. If he does not delegate some responsibilities to other men to minister in other areas so that he can concentrate on those things, feeding and leading, he is being negligent on many levels. And anyone who teaches otherwise is in error.
Now most will agree that a pastor-teacher, or teaching elder, should focus on those things. However, as is sometimes the case, there are those who want to veer away from sound doctrine and have it their way. This is one reason why ‘home churches,’ where everyone takes turns preaching and there is no true leader, are so unbiblical in operation.
Like many blog posts, this one all started with a tweet in the meta. Aren’t you shocked? I viewed a series of tweets by a much loved brother in Christ, and became concerned after one comment regarding the idea of a pastor dedicated to studying all week and then preaching, while delegating other aspects of ministry to others as being “Crazy!”
Brethren, for a man, called of God to proclaim His Gospel, to diligently pray, study and prepare perpetually each day, and to feed and lead the flock is not only not ‘crazy’, it is his duty before God!
The calling and gift of pastor-teacher is a singular one. That has always been my position, and is the biblical teaching from the Apostle Paul. I base this upon scriptural grounds, not tradition, although I by no means dismiss the historical heritage I have been blessed to inherit from my Baptist forerunners. The issue is a critical one, and should not be dismissed as being of less import than other doctrines for the following reason, at the very least. It is a gift, among a list of other’s, whose purpose is explicitly said to be:
“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:12-14, ESV)
So we have in this passage the idea of equipping the saints for ministry, unity of the faith in the knowledge of God, standing firm in sound doctrine and so forth. Obviously, a misunderstanding of any of these gifts and their Divinely ordained purpose affects our understanding in regards to their implementation within the body of Christ.
I do not in any way entertain the idea that I will persuade my brethren who differ from me as regards this gift of pastor-teacher. In fact, it is not my intent today to persuade, but rather to give my reasoning on why I hold the position to be true to the intent of the inspired writer of Ephesians. It really comes down to accepting or rejecting Pastoral authority. Hopefully, by restricting the topic to a narrow focus, I will be brief….hopefully!
The Apostle Paul, speaking of the ascended Christ, enumerates a few, albeit incomplete, list of gifts from Him in verses 7-14 of chapter 4 of Ephesians:
Eph 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”… “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 7,8; 11-14., ESV) [Note: I have intentionally left out verses 9 and 10 contained in the parenthetical for the sake of clarity.]
Now then, let’s look at verse 11 a little closer:
ESV: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,..”
You will note the phrase, “the shepherds and teachers”. The ESV is very accurate here! The original Greek for this verse contains the definite article ‘the’ as does the ESV. This is important, as we’ll see.
First, however, let’s be reminded of an important lesson in dealing with the Greek language. It has been a blessing for me that I have been exposed in my education to both Classical as well as New Testament Greek (and I assure you, it is easier to translate from the Greek the Gospel of John than the Odyssey of Homer!) If you are a seminarian, or a pastor who works closely with the NT Greek (and I pray you do!) you will already be familiar with the Granville Sharp’s Rule, which comes into play here. For those unfamiliar with it, a brief summary:
“The following rule by Granville Sharp of a century back still proves to be true: `When the copulative KAI connects two nouns of the same case, if the article HO or any of its cases precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle; i.e., it denotes a further description of the first-named person.’” (A Manual Of The Greek New Testament, Dana & Mantey, p. 147)
Dr. James White puts it in simpler terms:
“Basically, Granville Sharp’s rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word ‘and,’ and the first noun has the article (’the’) while the second does not, both nouns are referring to the same person.” (James White)
So in Ephesians 4:11, in the phrase “the shepherds and teachers” we have just such a case. The original Greek reads thus:
tous de poimenas kai didaskalous
‘tous is the definite article, ‘the’. The word ‘kai’ is ‘and’ in this case. So we have a clear case where Granville Sharps rule comes into play! We’ve got two nouns, the first with ‘the’ in front, and the second without. What’s it mean? It means that shepherd and teacher is referring to the same person, and the same office.
Clearly, one may be a teacher and not be a pastor, but you will not find a biblical pastor who is not a teacher!
On this John MacArthur writes:
Verse 11 reads, “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.“ The last category of gifted men is teaching-shepherds. The Greek construction indicates that “pastors and teachers“ are not two words, but rather a hyphenated word, pastor-teacher. The word “some,“ which is before “apostles,“ “prophets,“ “evangelists,“ and “pastors,“ is not before “teachers.“ This is because it is not set apart as a separate category. And I might add that the word “pastor“ only appears once in the whole Bible– here in this verse. Translators used the Latin word pastor for the translation of the Greek word poimen. I don’ know why they did this because every other time poimen is used in the Bible, it is always translated with the idea of shepherding. So the best translation of “pastor and teacher” is teaching-shepherd.”(emphasis mine, ed.) (Online source)
“I rather think they intend one and the same office, and that the word “teachers” is only explanative of the figurative word “pastors” or shepherds; and the rather because if the apostle had designed distinct officers, he would have used the same form of speaking as before; and have expressed himself thus, “and some pastors, and some teachers.”
In closing, let it be known I am well aware that John Calvin (whose interpretation was adopted by early Reformed and Presbyterian churches) argued that the apostle was designating two distinct offices. I reject that, and on biblical grounds. I am a Calvinist insofar as I hold the doctrines of grace, yet Calvin was often wrong on more than one occasion, and where he is, we must part ways under that heading. After all, where Scripture has no tongue, we should lend no ear!
Brian Schwertley has done a masterful job at explaining why Calvin’s view should be rejected, an excerpt of which I will give here:
“Calvin’s view (which is found in the Westminster Directory) should be rejected for the following reasons. (1) In the sentence that lists the various offices in the church, each particular office is preceded by the word “some” (tous de). Yet the recurring “some” (tous de) is omitted before the word teacher (didaskalous). Pastor and teacher are connected by the simple conjunction “and” (kai). “The absence of the article before didaskalous [teacher] proves that the apostle intended to designate the same persons as at once pastors and teachers. The former term designates them as episkopoi, ‘overseers,’ the latter as instructors.”106 “Were they two separate offices we would expect to read, ‘He gave some, apostles; some, prophets; some, evangelists; some, pastors; some, teachers;’ but the apostle writes, ‘some, pastors and teachers,’ linking the two together; and generally speaking, these two offices are found in the same man.”107 (2) There are no historical examples in the New Testament of a separate office of teacher or doctor as described by Calvin. While we owe a great debt to Calvin as the greatest theologian and expositor in the sixteenth century, it is likely that he was reading a modern function back into the New Testament. The university professor was a development of the middle ages. The seminary professor came into being even later after the Protestant Reformation. (3) The New Testament describes pastors as men who are able to teach. In their role as shepherd or pastor (poimeno) they are elders ([presbuteroi] Ac. 14:23; 15:2-4; 20:17; 1 Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:5; 1 Pet. 5:1) and overseers ([episkopoi] Ac. 20:28; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:70) who have the ability to teach (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:9; Rom. 12:7-8). d.) It is simply impossible to separate biblical teaching from exhortation. “The thing is well nigh impossible. The one function includes the other. The man who teaches duty and the grounds of it, does at the same time admonish and exhort.”108 While it is certainly true that some pastors are much better at teaching than others and some may be better at personal counseling and human interaction than others, all should continually work at improving in both areas.” (online source)
Loved this post… just dropped in from the Tag Browser… but this was definitely a good read. Made me think…. and I liked the explanation of the pastor-teacher in the Greek. Definitely a good post.
You even made me stop and pause with the house church ‘criticism’… as a member of a house church, the temptation was to get my heckles up… but with careful consideration I can see where you’re coming from … made sense! The word did say that the believers listened to the apostles’ teaching, not went around letting everyone teach… I will be thinking more about that.
Great post… definitely made me think…
Thanks for the encouraging words brother!
Nicely written article WITH the Scripture references to back it up. Thanks for posting this.
Amen Brother! Great post! I just taught through this very text last night.
I will add that there are no lone-ranger Christian out there, if they are truly born again they will be a part of a fellowship that has a pastor-elder/teacher.
I leave you with this comment from Vincents Word Studies:
Pastors or shepherds. The verb ποιμαινω to tend as a shepherd, is often used in this sense. See on 1Pe_5:2; see on Mat_2:6. The omission of the article from teachers seems to indicate that pastors and teachers are included under one class. The two belong together. No man is fit to be a pastor who cannot also teach, and the teacher needs the knowledge which pastoral experience gives.
Than you for your word to us here today.
I am in complete agreement with you on the dangers involved with home churches. I can see how easily the Church could be undermined and disintegrated from within because of a lack of teaching and pastoring in a home church situation. That being said, I can also tell you that I was romanced by the thought of it at one time because of a lack of pastoring/teaching in any church that we had visited, in what seemed like an endless search. We were hesitant to jump from the frying pan (apostate/purpose driven teaching) in one church, only to see some of the same teaching wherever we went. Most would say, “Well, you’re being too picky!” My question in reply is, “I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a pastor expositorily preach the Word each Sunday and stick to the Bible as his chosen textbook for preaching it.” We did meet in our home for a time with some other friends and family. It was a nice time of refreshment and peace after going through such a spiritual battle for Truth. But, it wasn’t long before God led us to a wonderful church, not too far down the road, where we could once again place ourselves under the teaching of a wonderful pastor. After over two years, we are feeling blessed. We continually pray for our pastor as he works so hard in the Lord’s service. We are enjoying serving the Lord with other believers, using the gifts/abilities that He’s so graciously given us. If we had stayed in the home church situation, we would have missed out on so much. Thanks for writing this Joel from a pastoral point-of-view.
Dear Brother in Christ,
I accidentally came upon your web site and the posting on the pastor-teacher office. While I agree with you with the thought that the pastor-teacher office is one office( the english language makes it very plain),it does not necessarily mean that there will be only one single pastor for each local church. In fact all these titles of pastor, elder,overseer, presbytor and shepherd refer to the same office. The singular office of ‘PASTOR’ or ‘SHEPHERD’ belongs only to the Lord Jesus Christ and no man should occupy that place, as our Lord himself said so when He said,”I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD” Jn.10:11. Uder His headship he has given to each local church, pleural elders. The Lord’s method for His work by us mortals is 2 or 3. Although He had given power to do miracles and to preach the good news about the kingdom of God to the twelve, as well as to the seventy individually, he always sent them 2 by 2. Only to accomplish an evil work did he send a disciple sigly. That was no other than Judas Iscariot.Hence I feel, the office of a single pastor for a local church is not God’s plan.
Greetings, and thank you (sincerely) for your comment. But I believe you’ve misunderstood me. When I say the office is singular, I was not saying there should only be a single pastor-teacher in a fellowship body. No! I am simply saying that biblically speaking, you cannot seperate the teaching aspects from the under-shepherd! The Greek text is clear: “the shepherd and teacher” is referring to one and the same gift!! It does not refer to two seperate gifts! And you are absolutely correct, there is One Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, amen to that!
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this subject. It seems from my study as I’m teaching through Ephesians that the question of “pastor-teacher” cannot be settled simply by appealing to the Granville Sharp rule. There are not only stylistic, but biblical / theological considerations that bear upon one’s interpretation as well.
As for the construction, the same construction is used in Eph. 2:20 where Paul uses a definite article followed by “apostles and prophets” (not proper nouns) and we do not believe that he intends by that that there is an office of “apostolic-prophet.” So, too, the grammar of Eph. 4:11 – by itself – does not settle the issue. Again, the same book speaking of offices within the church, uses the same construction for two separate, but related offices.
First, it is true that all pastors must be “apt to teach.” One of the primary duties of the pastor is the teaching ministry within the church. We are to esteem and recognize those who “labor in word and doctrine.” So the connection of “pastor/shepherd” with the work of teaching is, in many ways, self-evident in the office. This is clearly implied by the background usage of “shepherd” throughout the OT where the work of the shepherd is understood in terms of “teaching” and the spiritual care of the flock.
Indeed, one would wonder why Paul would deem it necessary to make such a statement when the apostles were also “teachers” (cf. Acts 18:11; 20:20, etc.) as well as the prophets and evangelists. In fact, Paul’s primary ministry to the church was “teaching.” Why did he not say, for example, “he gave some “apostle-teachers, prophets, evangelist-teachers, etc.” Implicit within the title of the office are the duties of the office (cf. 2 Tim. 1:11; Acts 20:28ff).
Additionally, the NT speaks to both the gift of teaching as well as “teachers” outside of the context of the elder / pastor (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28; James 3:1, etc.). We see in Acts 13:1 there were in the church both prophets and teachers.
The apostle’s meaning is expressed rightly by Andrew Lincoln in his commentary (WBC, Ephesians page 250):
“…it is doubtful whether there is enough to demonstrate that the two ministries were always exercised by the same people. It is more likely that they were overlapping functions, but that while almost all pastors were also teachers, not all teachers were also pastors…The one definite article is therefore best taken as suggesting this close association of functions between the two types of ministers who both operate within the local congregation.”
As we examine various commentators, we find the following who see the passage speaking of two separate, but closely related, functions within the church:
John Calvin, Andrew Lincoln (Word Bible Commentary), Frank Thielman (Baker Exegetical Commentary), John Stott (Bible Speaks Today), Peter O’Brien (Pillar NT Commentary), William Klein (Expositor’s Bible Commentary), Harold Hoehner, Ernest Best (ICC), Rudolf Schnackenburg
Those who see one and the same office – as you have articulated it, include:
Karl Barth, John MacArthur, John Gill, William Hendriksen, F.F. Bruce (New Int’l Commentary NT), Charles Hodge, Kline Snodgrass (NIV Application Commentary)
What I find very unsatisfying about the exposition by those who believe the verse should be rendered “pastor-teacher” is that these commentators seem to “take it for granted” that lack of the same construction as the previous office gifts automatically means that Paul’s meaning is “pastor-teacher.” There is very little – if any – interaction or consideration for the gift / office of “teacher” outside of the role of the pastor or interaction with the oft-repeated objection that “all pastors must be able to teach, but not all teachers are pastors.”
Finally, if teachers are not intended as a separate, but related, group then this gifted “office” / “function” within the church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28) is completely absent from this passage – though “teachers” are listed, as mentioned above, with the prophets in Antioch. Additionally, passages such as James 3:1 or Rom. 12:7 (and others!) must be marginalized so that the gift of teaching and teachers is much less significant – though listed by Paul in other passages.
With these considerations – especially seeing that the lack of the definite article before ‘teachers’ does not necessitate the rendering “pastor-teacher,” I personally don’t see that there is enough biblical evidence to support that rendering.
God bless you, brother! And thank you for the opportunity to articulate some the things I’ve been working through in my own study on this issue.