Last week I said that the gifts of pastors and teachers were closely tied together by Paul in Ephesians 4:11, and this is an issue of some disagreement. Some believe that Paul meant one single office of “pastor/teacher,” while others contend that he has in mind two separate offices, “pastor” and “teacher.” While it is certainly possible to push this distinction too far, I think it is best to see this as Harold Hoehner suggests: “two characteristics of the same person who is pastoring believers (by comforting and guiding) while at the same time instructing them in God’s ways.” The reason for this is primarily grammatical. When he introduces the gift of pastors and teachers, Paul uses an article before “pastors” but not before “teachers.” This, along with the fact that he uses a different conjunction between “pastors” and “teachers,” than between any of the other gifts suggests strongly that he is grouping these two terms together to refer to the same gift. In other words, pastors are teachers. This is consistent with the rest of the NT teaching on the qualifications of a pastor.
In 1 Timothy 3:1-2, Paul says, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach.” What Paul calls a “bishop” here is actually a pastor, since the terms are interchangeable in the NT.1 So according to 1 Tim. 3, it is required in pastors that they be “able to teach.”
We see something very similar in Titus 1:7-9, where Paul explains the qualifications for “bishops” once again, saying, “For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” In this case, the word doctrine is simply the word for teaching, so Paul is saying that the pastor must hold firmly to the teaching he has received, so that he may be able to encourage believers and refute skeptics.
While there may be others within a local congregation who teach the word of God, it is clear that Christ himself gave pastors to the church to serve as guides to lead the flock. This is done by a variety of means, but chief among them is the important work of teaching and preaching the word of God. This is why Paul singles out pastors who “labor in the word and doctrine (teaching)” as examples of “elders who rule well,” and are therefore worthy of double honor (1 Tim. 5:17). We ought not put pastors on a pedestal of spiritual greatness, but we should recognize that they are one of God’s gifts to the church.
1The clearest place where the terms are equated is in 1 Peter 5:1-2, where he speaks to the “elders who are among you,” and exhorts them to “shepherd the flock of God, which is among you, serving as overseers.” The term “shepherd” is the verb form of the word “pastor” in Eph. 4, and the term “overseer” is the same word as “bishop” in 1 Tim. 3.