Pastor-Teacher? Making Sense of Ephesians 4:11-12


Controversies in the Church are usually fought over opinion.  Sometimes translation, but usually opinion.  There is a great deal of opinion in one of the few controversies found Ephesians 4:11.  

The Question: Is the pastor and the teacher two separate gifts to the church or are they the same?  In other words, should it be "pastor-teacher" as some translate this text or is it "pastors and teachers" as others see it?  

To help us answer this question, it might be helpful to look at a clue in the original Greek.  You can see it even if you don't know Greek. (Note the repeated word.)

τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους

There is a pattern that hinges around τοὺς.  It's the article, the "the."  (There's also an argument that it might be some; but either way, it still helps us understand the pastor/teacher question.)  The apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors. . . wait.  The article is not present before the teacher.  Instead, it's καὶ, which is "and."  Pastor and teacher. Harold Hoehner says this pattern "is to mark out distinctly different gifted people without implying a contrast as it would have in earlier Greek" (Ephesians, 2002).   Hoerner also argues that Paul is not listing offices, but gifts.  But I might suggest that they are gifts to the church, not necessarily in the same grouping as the gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit.  But this is not to say that apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors (and maybe even teachers) are not empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

Now, it should be pointed out that there is a reasonable argument that the article is different between pastors and teachers because these might be the more regular and normative persons of the local church unlike the other roles, thus setting these two gifted persons in a different category.  And there is yet another argument that says all pastors are required to be teachers as well, but not all teachers are required to be pastors.  Therefore, the pastor does both jobs but the teacher does not pastor.  The same might be said of the evangelist.  Wouldn't an evangelist need to teach in order to share the gospel?  The argument suggests that this distinction allows for the role of teacher alone.  

There have been hundreds of pages written on this controversy.  The scary part is how many other parts of this verse cause God's people to argue.  The irony is how much God's people are to live and dwell in unity in the previous verses. 

There was a time when I thought it was important to know if pastor and teacher were one in the same or two distinct things.  But what changes depending on the answer?  

If you are feeling the Lord lead you to teach or pastor, just do it.  Having a clean, distinct box to put your calling in really is not inline with any of the called men (and women) in the Bible.  Do what you're called to do and don't worry if it's being a pastor or a teacher by title.  Titles are meaningless in the Kingdom.  Teach if you can and the Holy Spirit has gifted you to teach.  Or pastor those God has called you to pastor.  Or do both if that's your calling.  After all, the point of this text is not about these roles, but about the saints who should be dong the work of ministry and growing into maturity.