Teacher and pastor – One category or two?
The bride of Christ has been given gifts but are teacher and pastor two gifts or one?
God has given many gifts to the church, and the main purpose of the gifts is to edify the body of Christ so that God will ultimately be glorified. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 14:12 that we are to strive to excel in the gifts that will build up the church.
1 Cor 14:12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. ESV
While Paul encourages Christians to excel in building up the church, most complementarians do not believe that women are allowed to build up the church by being gifted as teachers. How can they disallow the Holy Spirit’s ability to Sovereignly decide who receives the gifts? Ephesians 4:11 says:
Eph 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, NASB
Here we see separate gifts that God has given to the church, but the list in Ephesians is interpreted by some with “pastors and teachers” as one “office.” John MacArthur says it this way:
pastors and teachers. This phrase is best understood in context as a single office of leadership in the church. The Gr. word translated “and” can mean “in particular” (see 1 Tim. 5:17). The normal meaning of pastor is “shepherd,” so the two functions together define the teaching shepherd. The MacArthur Study Bible
MacArthur is identifying “and” as not a conjunction between two separate gifts, but a “particular” emphasis on the gift. In other words, in MacArthur’s world, a pastor is the teacher.
Others point out that there is a singular definite article before the term pastor and no definite article before the term teacher. The one definite article they say, connects the two together in such a way that the one gift should be called singular as pastor-teacher.
However, the exact same grammar is also in Matthew 5:20 where “scribes” and “Pharisees” have a singular definite article before two nouns joined by the Greek “kai” or “and”.
Matthew 5:20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus has connected the scribes and Pharisees as having a common type of “righteousness,” however is Jesus here saying that the scribes and Pharisees are one united thing? Would it be proper to call them scribe-Pharisees as a singular unit? No, not at all. While most scribes were Pharisees, certainly not all Pharisees could be called scribes. The Pharisees and scribes are related, as they have a common self-righteousness, but they are not the same. Here is another example:
Matthew 2:4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
Again we find in Matthew 2:4 that there is one article for the two nouns which are joined by “kai”. So we need to ask, are the chief priests all scribes? Should the chief priests be called chief priest-scribes? Again we have to say no. Although the chief priests and scribes are placed in a related function in the verse, they are not the same, and one can be a chief priest without being a scribe. John MacArthur admits that the chief priests were mostly Sadducees while the scribes were mostly Pharisees. The fact that they are listed together with only one definite article does not make them completely tied together so they must be listed as a hyphenated noun or as referring to a united “one.”
So does the fact that pastors and teachers share a common definite article in Ephesians 4:11 mean that they are so interrelated that there is actually only one gift and only one function? Should they be listed as a hyphenated noun as if they are only one gift? No, it cannot mean that as comparing Scripture to Scripture shows us clearly that teacher is a gift of its own.
Many complementarians state that only pastors are allowed to be teachers because of the common definite article, but the grammar of Ephesians 4:11 cannot remove the singular gift of teacher and attach it inseparably with the gift of pastor. Paul lists teachers by themselves in 1 Corinthians 12:28 without any attachment to the gift of pastor.
1 Cor 12:28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
Paul also states that the distinct gifts are to be utilized with the grace given to each of us. We can note that the one who teaches is to use it in proportion to his/her faith in their act of “teaching” not in “pastoring”.
Romans 12:6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
Romans 12:7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;
While the gifts can operate together, they are distinct, and the portion of faith for each gift is distinct. Why is it so important for complementarians to try to remove teachers as a separate category of gift apart from the category of pastor? It is because teachers were historically listed as the kind of the gifts that were very clearly done by people who were ministering to the whole church. The Bible Knowledge Commentary by Valvoord states:
Gifted apostles, prophets, and teachers characteristically ministered to a whole church, and so would engender unity and mutual edification. Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures.
I would like to suggest that we as the church would do well to embrace all of God’s gifts that reside in whomever God desires to gift. If it pleases God to gift women as teachers, we need to allow them to fulfill their gifting so that it benefits the church and to that, their gifts can be rightly used to grow the church into maturity.