And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for a work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ.
Because of the ascension of Christ, gifts were given to men (Ephesians 4:8). The context and grammar of this passage make it clear that this does not refer to offices or titles in the church but spiritually gifted men. It should be noted that these gifted men are given to equip the saints so that the saints can perform a work of ministry. This in turn will lead to the edification of the body of Christ. There is no mention in this passage that a separate caste of ministers or clergy should take it upon themselves to be the primary workers in the local assembly.
In a general sense the word means one who is sent. In a technical sense this was a foundational gift that was accredited by special signs and wonders (2 Cor. 12:12). It was limited to the establishment of the church (Eph. 2:20). An apostle must have seen Christ and been a witness of the resurrection. This gift is not limited to the original Twelve. The lot fell on Matthias and he was numbered with the eleven (Acts 1:26). Barnabas is called an apostle (Acts 14:14). James, the brother of the Lord, is mentioned (Gal. 1:19). Paul was the least of the apostles, one untimely born (I Cor. 15:8).
The gift of prophecy is also mentioned in Rom. 12:6 and I Cor. 12:10. The gift of prophecy may have involved both foretelling and forthtelling of God’s truth. The New Testament prophet received direct revelation from God and taught people for their edification, exhortation, and comfort (I Cor. 14:3). Chrysostom distinguishes prophets from teachers in that he who prophesies utters everything from the Spirit, while he who teaches sometimes discourses from his own understanding. The work of the apostles and prophets was distinctly supernatural and temporary, until the completion of the Divine revelation.72
With the completion of the New Testament Canon came the cessation of prophetic gifts. Because of this transition the injunctions given concerning “prophecy” appear to now apply to “teaching.” The principles underlying each are the same. The gift of “teaching” now played a larger role because of the passing of the gift of Prophesy (I Cor. 13:8). This is intimated in the statement in 2 Peter 2:1, “there arose false prophets among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers.” A prophet spoke by immediate revelation from God; a teacher delivers his message from and in accordance with the Scriptures.73
The gift of evangelist leads one to focus his energies on proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers. The work of an evangelist may be itinerant. It may include more than just preaching the gospel. It might involve baptizing converts and the early stages of discipleship (Matt. 28:18). It might include the initial steps of establishing a local assembly. Timothy was exhorted to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). This included the appointment of elders and deacons in the local assembly. In Acts 21:8, Philip, one of the original seven, is called an Evangelist (cf. Acts 6:5).
Pastors and Teachers
The gift of shepherd-teacher is only mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. The gift of teaching is also mentioned in Rom. 12, and I Cor. 12-14. The gift of teaching is sometimes given alone and sometimes given in connection with that of shepherding. The gift of shepherding is not listed by itself. In Ephesians 4:11 the postpositive conjunction, de, and the article, tous, are not repeated before didaskalous. This suggests that these two words, pastors and teachers, express two functions performed by the same gifted man.74 In this instance the two are associated in a special way, as one who teaches engages in a measure of pastoral work.
In modern culture, pastoring is normally thought of in a clerical sense and teaching is normally thought of in an academic sense. Neither is the biblical nature of these words. Shepherding is the ability to provide for, care for, and protect God’s people. Teaching is the ability to explain God’s truth to people.
The Greek noun, poimhv, is found 18 times in the New Testament. Five times it is used literally of those who tend animals, such as sheep and goats. Twelve times it is used to show the relationship of Christ with His people. Christ is pictured as the “Good” or “Chief Shepherd” (John 10:11; Heb. 13:20; I Pet. 2:25). The Greek noun, poimhn, is used only once to refer to a spiritually gifted man (Eph. 4:11). It is never used as a title or technical term for the leader of a local assembly. It is not used in Scripture as a synonym for the “office” of elder. The word “Pastor” is not used as an official clerical title in the New Testament. A shepherd-teacher is a spiritually gifted man given to help shepherd the flock by means of teaching. Shepherding, is an act that is performed by the elders of a local assembly. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the “Chief Shepherd” or “Senior Pastor.” Elders are to shepherd the flock but they are never encouraged to take the clerical title of “Pastor” upon themselves. Biblically, there is no such thing as the “Pastor” of a local assembly. If a man is called “Pastor” he is called not by his office, but by one-half of his spiritual gift. 75
It is interesting to note that the title that has become most common in our churches today, namely, pastor, was not used in conjunction with a church in the New Testament.76
It’s odd that the great apostles - Peter, Paul, and James - do not once address or give instruction about the “pastor” of the church. (Ephesians 4:11 refers to the gift of shepherd, which is a spiritual gift like teaching or leading that one or several of the elders will possess.)77
An Elder may have the gift of pastor-teacher but this gifting is not required for him to hold the office. An Elder must be “able to teach” but he is not required to have the gift of expounding the Word in a public gathering. He was to know the Word well enough to be able to instruct and disciples others or refute those who contradict sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).78
A comparative analogy can be drawn to help illustrate this Scriptural point. Evangelists are spiritually gifted men (Eph. 4:11), yet no claim is made that each local assembly should have a single or senior evangelist. It is possible that one or more elders in a local assembly might be spiritually gifted evangelists, but no suggestion is made that all or any of the elders of an assembly must have the gift of evangelist. Neither this nor any other gifting would make them any more or any less qualified to be an elder. In the same way, having the gift of pastor-teacher does not qualify one to be an elder. The prerequisites for the office of elder are moral and spiritual, not spiritual gifts.
Simply because elders are required to “shepherd” and be “able to teach” does not mean that all or any of them will have the gift of pastor-teacher. There may be men in the local assembly who have the gift of pastor-teacher who are not elders. In some instances, they may not be qualified to fill official leadership positions. Spiritual gifting has no direct bearing on one’s qualification as an elder.
There is no reason to require that a local church be permanently limited to one teaching elder (cf. Acts 13:1; 15:35), nor do all gifted teachers need to be or qualify to be elders. All gifted teachers should be given the opportunity to teach in the local congregation. Also, a gifted teacher may need to help a number of churches that need better teaching. Although teaching is an exceedingly important task, teachers should not be unscripturally elevated above their fellow brethren. They must not be given special titles, special clothes, or special credentials. They are fellow brethren whose function is to build up the saints by teaching the Word.79
Some claim that the spiritually gifted pastor-teacher is to be the “ruling” or “teaching” elder of the local assembly. There is no biblical basis for claiming that one elder carries more authority than another. Occupying the position of elder does not mean that one must have a particular spiritual gift. Having a particular spiritual gift does not give one elder charge over the others. At the most, it might mean that an elder with the gift of pastor-teacher would spend much of his time instructing the saints. This would most likely be in public but it may also be in small groups, or even in private. A man may exercise the gift of pastor-teacher and not hold an official leadership position at all. It is a mistake to confuse spiritual gifting with the office of elder in the local assembly. Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11). Elders are spiritually qualified men who desire to hold the office (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).
Another mistake is made when the New Testament pattern of an assembled meeting is misunderstood. There may have been protracted periods of time when teachers instructed on apostolic doctrine (Acts 11:26; 18:11). This was not part of the normative weekly meeting of the Saints. First Corinthians gives a glimpse of what a normal meeting of a New Testament assembly was like.
The saints would gather on the first day of the week for worship, prayer, instruction, and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). Because many of the early Christians were slaves or from the working class they would often meet in the evening, hence the term, "Lord's Supper". The men would exercise their spiritual gifts publicly while the women partook silently with covered heads (1 Cor. 11-14). Saints were allowed to exercise spiritual gifts as the Holy Spirit led (1 Cor. 14:26). Elders had the responsibility of general oversight but performed no specific function in the meetings of the assembly. If an elder had the gift of teaching he might teach. If an elder had the gift of tongues he might speak in tongues. His office gave him no position of preeminence in the meeting. The meetings were Spirit led and all men were encouraged to participate.
Moore and Neff write:
The early church was committed to the breaking of bread (public worship) and prayer (both public and private worship). The Lord’s Table seemed to be the central focus of the church meeting. We learn from 1 Corinthians 11 that the assembly regularly examined themselves (in relation to sin) and proclaimed the Lord’s Person and work, looking to His imminent return (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-28). It continued throughout the life and growth of the church: believers gathered on the first day of the week “to break bread” (Acts 20:7a).80
72 W. E. Vine, The Church and the Churches (United Kingdom: Christian Year, 1994) p. 40.
73 W. E. Vine, The Church and the Churches, p. 70.
74 T. K. Abbott, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark) p. 118.
75 Some take the titles of Reverend, Teacher, or Father upon themselves. The Lord warns against such practices (Matt 23:8-10). Even among assemblies that adhere to the biblical practice of the plurality of elders it is not uncommon for men to take the title of “Pastor-Teacher” of a local congregation.
76 Earl Radmacher, “The Question of Elders,” p. 5.
77 Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership, p. 15.
78 Donald L. Norbie, New Testament Church Organization, p. 45.
79 Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership, p. 247.
80 John Moore & Ken Neff, A New Testament Blueprint for the Church (Chicago: Moody, 1985) p. 67.
Copyright 2008 by Joe Fogle. All rights reserved.