Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Office of Teacher

"The elders who direct the affairs of the church are worthy of double honor" (1 Timothy 5:17a)

The word 'teacher' is used in the New Testament primarily with reference to Jesus, but it occurs elsewhere as well. One of the most revealing places is John 3:10, where Jesus calls Nicodemus a “teacher” and makes it clear that a teacher is someone who understands the Bible and theology and is professionally involved in teaching. The New Testament office of teacher is that of pastor-theologian.

In the Bible, the teacher and the rabbi are accorded a great deal of respect. The disciples of the teacher, and of the prophet in the Old Testament, waited on him and took care of all his needs. In ancient Israel, people rose up when a teacher entered the room or the synagogue. And in the Christian church (in most place outside of America), teachers and pastors even today are accorded such ceremonial respect.

1 Timothy 5:17 says that elders who direct the affairs of the church are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. This implies that some elders have a special task of teaching and others do not. This distinction in some branches of the church underlies the difference between “teaching elders” (pastors) and “ruling elders” (men who oversee the people and govern the work of the church). In addition, many branches of the church ordain men who are not functioning as elders in a local church to be teachers in Christian schools, colleges, seminaries, and other special ministries.

Ephesians 4:11 says that the ascended Christ gave to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastor/teachers. This is a list of four types of men, the last of which is given two names (pastors and teachers). We know that the apostles were only for the period before the Bible was completed, and it is generally agreed that the same is true of the prophets, since the Bible is the completed prophetic Word of God. Some have held that the office of evangelist was also temporary, but it is more common to find that the office of evangelist is that of “church planter.” After the evangelist plants the church, the pastor-teacher comes to lead it, assisted by the elders, deacons, and deaconesses.

Showing respect for the teacher in the church is a way of showing respect for the teaching. It is the office, not the person, that is due such respect. Think how you can communicate that respect to the teachers that labor in your church. Encourage others in your fellowship to do the same.