The Gift of Pastors and Teachers

November 11, 2012 / No. 3645

Dear Radio Friends,
Every age has seen its share of self-appointed, self-proclaimed teachers. There is no exception to that in the days in which we live. The cults today are based upon the teachings of men who claim special revelation. There are hundreds of para-church organizations all of which claim the support of a wide variety of churches but are under the authority of none. Many claim to be authoritative teachers of the Bible though they have received no authority from the church and therefore from Christ. Many are swept along by their teachings, too. People are no longer interested, it seems, in whether Christ’s authority is represented by those who teach. People have itching ears, always desiring to hear something new and different. They heap unto themselves teachers who have little learning in God’s Word, but who give them exactly what they desire to hear. The end result is that people are tossed about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
The Word of God in the chapter before us warns the church against teachers and preachers who claim authority to themselves but have none. In today’s broadcast, we consider Ephesians 4:11 and 12. These verses read:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Paul plainly points out to us in these verses those whom God ordains to teach His Word to God’s people. We must therefore look to the church where we are members to instruct us in all that is necessary for faith and walk.
There is nothing in the church of Christ that destroys the blessed unity and the bond of peace more than when certain members rise up in pride and attempt to make themselves equals with the office bearers in the church. The unity of the church as institute is ruined when men or women in the church set themselves up as teachers and oppose the office Christ has ordained in the church for their welfare.
This is not to say that members of the church must blindly follow after what is taught them or not examine it against the rule of Scripture. But it is to say that even when opposing a heretic in the pulpit, a member may not make of himself something he was not called by the church to be. Let us consider the Word of God in this passage in this whole matter.
Before examining the lists of offices given us in Ephesians 4:11, we need to review the profound reality of the church. You see, the church is defined for us again here in verse 12 as the body of Christ. The church, as a whole, is one body—a blessed unity. However, as we well know, a body is made up of individual members. The same is true of the church. Those chosen in Christ and saved in His blood make up the individual members of that body. As such, they each have their own function. Paul writes in verse 7: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Every believing member of the church has gifts and talents that are to be used on behalf of the body. As a result, the members of the church function in perfect harmony, in blessed unity with one another.
This is true of the members of the church because all of them share one thing in common: faith. They have one faith that has been worked in them by one Spirit, the Spirit of their one God and Father. Faith is itself that gift of God by which God, in His grace, grafts each of us into Jesus Christ, that as a result we become one body with Christ. It is that faith that not only unites us together with Christ, but also binds us in peace with one another. All believers share in a blessed unity with each other. And we express that unity as we live together and worship together as fellow saints in the church.
But in order to keep the unity of the church we ought to realize something more about that church. God has given certain members official functions in the body, functions they perform on behalf of the church by serving in particular offices to which they are chosen by the church. These functions we may not simply assume to ourselves. These duties are given by Christ to specific men called by the church. You see, Christ does everything decently and in good order in His church. Paul writes of that in I Corinthians 14:33. That is the point that Paul makes in Ephesians 4 too. Christ stands at the head of the church. He is ascended into highest glory to rule over His body, the church. From heaven, Christ gives grace to each member to perform his or her particular task in the church. To some men within the church Christ has given the task to teach and to lead His people. That is their particular calling. Christ bestows on certain men, as they are called by the church itself, His authority. Christ also equips them for that particular office in the church. Their function is to perfect the saints.
As believers in the body of Jesus Christ in this world, we must recognize the work of these men in our lives and in the church. We make use of them in order that we might be instructed and led in the ways of God. They are, after all, given to the church by Christ Himself, we are told in verse 11. Notice: “And [Christ] gave some.” The men listed here in this verse are a gift of Christ to His church. And as such, Christ expects us to use them in order that we might be perfected as saints.
Who are these men? Paul makes reference to apostles, prophets, evangelists, and, finally, to pastors and teachers—four offices of men who serve and have served in the church. All of these were and are called for one specific purpose: to teach the Word of God to God’s people. There is listed here, first of all, the apostles themselves. This is a specific reference to the twelve apostles, including Paul. These men were called by Jesus Christ Himself for the benefit of the church. However, their office and work was a temporary one. According to Ephesians 2:20, God used the apostles specifically to establish His Word and lay the foundation of the New Testament church. That was their particular function in the body of Christ. By means of preaching and teaching, by means of their letters (inspired by God), the apostles were used by Christ to establish the faith and unity of the church, the foundation of the church.
The next office of men to which our text refers is that of the prophets. This group of men does not refer to the Old Testament prophets, since Paul is speaking in our text here in Ephesians of the New Testament church. There were men called prophets in the early church. We learn of these men in Acts and Corinthians and in a few other passages of the New Testament Scriptures. These prophets served the church in a different capacity than the apostles. These men were members of the church, called by the church, because they were especially gifted by God to explain to the New Testament church the Old Testament Scriptures—especially as they now had been fulfilled by Christ. There were also just a few men left out of the Old Testament church to whom God gave special revelations of future events. Otherwise this was no longer true of the New Testament prophets. They had the gift of explaining the fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures. They knew the Old Testament Scriptures and, it seems, God endowed them with the special gift of being able to explain these Scriptures in New Testament terms. Obviously, this office was destined by God to disappear, too, just as the office of the apostles. Once the church of the New Testament understood the relationship between the Old and the New, then the pastors and teachers assumed this role of the prophets.
The third office referred to in verse 11 is that of the evangelist. An evangelist was closely allied to the office of the apostle, although, once again, they held an inferior rank to that of the apostles. The work that God appointed them was auxiliary to that of the apostles. These men were chosen by the apostles themselves to go out and preach the gospel in new places. They served almost in the same capacity as do our missionaries today. But they were authorized by the apostles to do so. Once again, their office was destined to end. When the apostles died, then there was no longer anyone who could authorize such an evangelist to preach. This office, too, therefore, was simply replaced by that of the pastor and teacher who carried on the work of preaching to those inside of the church and also, as an evangelist, to those outside of the church.
That brings us, then, to that final office that is mentioned here in these verses—that of pastor and teacher. These two are, quite obviously, not two separate offices. Paul lists these two under the same article and, therefore, they refer to the same office. The pastor and teacher is synonymous with the office of the minister of the gospel as we refer to it today. Or, perhaps, we might just simply call him the preacher.
This office of the church has continued until our present day and, probably, will keep on serving its function until Christ comes again. The reason for this is clear from Scripture. We learn in various places of Scripture that the pastor and teacher is one who is called and sent by the church. This was not true of the prophets or evangelists or, for sure, the apostles. Christ appointed the apostles. The apostles appointed the evangelists. The prophets were just members called by certain churches who were allowed to explain a prophecy to their congregation because of the gift that had been given them. But, as time passed, the functions of all of these were absorbed into the office of the pastor and teacher, since he was continually being trained and called and ordained by the church for that particular work. So it is that the pastor and teacher is the one office that has continued until present time.
And today, this Word of God is important to you and to me as regards this particular office. Christ has given to His church today pastors and teachers. These men Christ has called through His church. And they now function on behalf of the church as the God-ordained means by which we are instructed.
Then this brings us to the purpose Christ has given these men to the church. This is related to us in verse 12. The purpose is this: for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Christ gives to His church pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints. That is the particular function they serve in the church. You and I are saints. That is how Paul refers to us here. That means that we are those who are sanctified in the blood of Christ so that we are holy in Him; we are cleansed from the corruption of sin. Christ accomplished this work for you and for me on the cross. He killed sin and its power. He crushed the hold of Satan, and set us free from the bondage of sin. Now, we who are believers are holy, the servants of righteousness. That work of Christ has made us saints. But that we are saints does not mean that we are no longer sinners. We are! We still have within us that old man of sin, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. We are, therefore, far from perfect, far from complete as far as our holiness is concerned.
For that reason Christ has given you and me pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints. So long as we are in this life, we are called to obey God, to grow in our life of sanctification or in our life of holiness. We have lots to learn, do we not, about being holy? And we also have setbacks along the way. We stumble, we stray from the way of sanctification. And for that reason Christ has called and ordained in the church certain men to lead us, admonish us, instruct us in the way of sanctification. We need a certain spiritual adjustment along the way. We need, oftentimes, to re-route our life in order to get back into that walk of holiness. And God has given pastors and teachers to His church in order to admonish and instruct us to do that. How do they perfect the saints? By being pastors and teachers.
Pastor means, literally, a shepherd. A minister of the gospel is a shepherd, and he functions this way in the church by going in and out among the sheep of Christ, counseling them, leading them with God’s Word. He goes into their homes and brings them the Word of God in their particular weaknesses and needs. He comforts them when they are sick or dying. He instructs them when they walk down the wrong pathway. He admonishes them when they stubbornly walk in sin. And he does this always using the Word of God. He is a pastor. He loves his sheep as Christ loves His sheep. And it is his desire, above all else, to keep his sheep from straying into the wilds of sin, there to be devoured by the world. That is what you and I are to see in the pastors God has given to His church.
What is more, you must look to the minister of the gospel as the one called to serve not only as pastor but teacher. The pastor is also a teacher. He is called and ordained by Christ in the church to teach God’s people God’s Word. Because we are sinful saints, we need to be instructed in God’s Word. We must learn the doctrines of salvation and we must learn how to apply them to our lives. God has ordained ministers of the gospel to serve that function in our lives, too. They thoroughly prepare themselves in school to be able rightly to divide the Word of truth. They devote their lives solely to reading and study of God’s Word. They seek to understand the Scriptures. They mine the truths of God’s Word. And they serve the function in the church to teach officially, on behalf of Christ, the Word of God to God’s people. Neither may any usurp that office and deem himself more capable of doing that than the minister. Nor may the teacher in the church neglect the work of the ministry or the truth of the Scriptures in all of his teaching.
Now, when this perfecting of the saints is performed through the office of pastor and teacher, the result will be that the saints will serve one another. The next phrase of verse 12 is not parallel with the first one. This next phrase does not refer to the work of the pastor and teacher. It refers to the function of the members of the church. Christ, through the pastor, perfects the saints for the saints’ work of ministry. Literally, this phrase means the work of service. When a person ministers to someone else, he is serving them. This is the idea expressed in this phrase in this passage, too. The preaching must perfect the saints for this end—that the saints may better serve one another in the church and serve Christ outside of the church by means of their witness. We are led by the pastor and taught by the teacher in order that we might learn better how to serve within the organism of the body of Christ.
When we learn to serve in that body, using the gifts Christ has given us, then the unity of the church and the bond of peace will prevail in the church. When this happens, then the proper edifying of the body of Christ will take place. That is what we learn in the last phrase of verse 12, where it speaks of edifying the body of Christ. That is, after all, the end or goal of the work of pastors and teachers, that through their labors the church will be edified, again, literally, built up. Christ sends forth men into His church to lead, direct, and teach the members of the church how to serve the church in this world.
As a result, that church grows in strength and in grace; God adds to the church by means of the witness of her members to others outside of the church; and the church becomes stronger in her faith and in her knowledge of God. The church becomes more mature, able to withstand the wiles of the devil and to fight the warfare of faith. When this work is performed in the church institute (the preaching of the Word, to saints who are willing to hear that word and live that word), then those saints will grow spiritually stronger and will be bold to stand together for the cause of Christ in this world. The church will grow stronger in the unity of the body of Christ and the bond of peace.
All this has some very practical applications for our lives, too, that we want to touch on just for a moment. This is the way Christ has chosen to strengthen His church—by means of these offices. These are the men we are to use to be led and taught in matters that pertain to our spiritual lives. And we, as sheep, ought not be led astray by others who would usurp the authority of a pastor and teacher to themselves. Notice that a pastor is a shepherd. That means that he is the under-shepherd of Christ, who is the Chief Shepherd. The under-shepherd who leads us into God’s Word loves us as Christ loves us. And he is concerned for our souls more than any other. We as sheep must not think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. We need not follow after many teachers or assume to ourselves the role of a teacher in things spiritual when Christ chooses to teach us by means of teachers He has ordained and sent.
And that comes as a warning to pastors and teachers, too. They had better feed the church of Jesus Christ. They had better feed it on the Word of God, and nothing else.
Believing member of the church, do you hear God’s Word being taught in truth from week to week? Is God’s Word being rightly divided? Then in your church you must seek spiritual advice. In the church you must learn of the Scriptures and how they apply to your everyday life. Do not despise what Christ gives His church. Take heed to the preaching. It is the gospel unto salvation. Then we will be fit for holy service in the church. Then the whole body, fitly framed together, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love. In that we find the unity of the church.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, again we come before Thee to thank Thee for Thy Word, a Word that Thou hast given into the hands of pastors and teachers to preach to us. May we be happy that we can be fed by Jesus Christ our Shepherd. Forgive us of our sins of this day. Guide us according to that Word that we hear and that we can study for ourselves. For Jesus’ sake we pray, Amen.