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)