There is no doubt that one could do a biblical theology of teaching. One could even focus on the “gift of teaching” (Romans 12:7).
I do not plan to do that (at least not right now 🙂 ).
However, within the context of local church leadership, the office of Elder in particular and Paul’s instruction in the Pastoral Epistles, I believe, the following two passages are very helpful in shedding light on this question: “What does it mean that a pastor/elder must ‘be able to teach’?”
1 Timothy 4:13-16 & Titus 1:9 – 2:1
I will look at the first one today…
NKJ – 1 Timothy 4:13-16
13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.
15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.
16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
In 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul clearly tells Timothy the purpose for this letter, “that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”
This purpose is introduced with the idea that Paul may be delayed in his coming to Ephesus.
Here in 4:13 Paul once again mentions his pending coming to Ephesus. He then instructs Timothy on the critical activities which must consume his focus during this period of Paul’s absence.
Based on the context of 1 Timothy and the clear exhortation in 2 Timothy 2:2, it seems clear that these activities were not only for Timothy himself, but would have been for all those he identified and appointed as elders within the church. (As an aside, I do not believe Timothy was an elder. He is never referred to with that title. I believe his role was “apostolic representation” – or something like that – where he was tasked by Paul himself to train-up and appoint elders within the church. However, with that said, Timothy would certainly have been qualified (and then some) to be an elder and his model for the training of others would have been his own life and practice.)
So what was it that Timothy was supposed to be devoted to?
- Public reading of Scripture.
- Exhortation – this noun is related to the verb used in Titus 1:9.
Of course, this is not meant to be comprehensive, as if Timothy would never do anything else (i.e. administer baptism or the Lord’s Supper), but these must be his focus and would certainly consume most of his time and energy.
All three items are directly related to the expounding and teaching of Scripture. It is really impossible to define Timothy’s role – or that of an elder – without teaching being at its core.
I believe it would have been incomprehensible for Paul and Timothy to hear of an elder who was not a teacher. If you look at the quotes in yesterday’s post it seems like it would have been incomprehensible to the leaders of the church’s first 1,500 years of existence too.
Verse 14 is, of course, a bit complicated and complex. However, in the very least it seems clear that Timothy had a gift and within this context very well could have been the gift of teaching, which would be consistent with Romans 12:7 where teaching is mentioned as one of the gifts of the Spirit. It seems evident that a man can be gifted in the area of teaching or not. This is not an issue of a learned skill (totally) nor is it something that one should be jealous of in others. If it is a gift, it is given by the Spirit. If a man does not have this gift, but he is “in Christ” then he has another gift(s) which he should be using for God’s glory and the church’s good.
Verse 15 on the other hand clearly reveals that even if one is gifted that does not mean they have arrived and there is no need for improvement! There certainly is! Teaching is hard work. It is not just the process of mastering a body of information/content, it is an art of communication and delivery. This is something that should be thought through, worked out, and sweated over. Others should see progress over time.
So on one hand there seems to be a gift of teaching while on the other hand it is something that can be further developed and improved. One can further develop the skill that corresponds with the gift. This is huge as it relates to discipleship and training of men within the local church. Men should be trained in a body of knowledge (see further comments under Titus 1:9), they should also be trained and given opportunities to practice/develop the skill of teaching. As they are further trained and given these opportunities it will become apparent as to whether they are gifted.
It is possible a man could be qualified in every other area for the position/office of pastor/elder, but not be “able to teach.” The fact is every Christian is to pursue the same character as an elder, but an elder MUST have this character. Every Christian should be teaching others, but an elder MUST “be able to teach.” In addition this seems to be the only qualification (possibly the “above reproach”) differentiating elders and deacons.
Verse 16 => A pastor/elder should be no less concerned about his effectiveness as a teacher than his character qualifications (no more so either, of course). Both will have a huge impact on his own life and the lives of those under his care.