Continuing our look at the “office gifts” that Christ has given to His Church, as listed in Ephesians 4:11—And [Christ] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers—we come to the most important one for our day: the pastor-teacher.
Pastors translates the Greek poimen, which means “shepherd.” In secular Greek, it referred to the herdsman who tended and cared for the sheep. It was also used metaphorically to refer to a leader, a ruler, or a commander. Plato, for example, compared “the rulers of the city-state to shepherds who care for their flock.” This meaning was carried over into the New Testament. A pastor is a man who cares for and feeds the flock.
Teachers, then, is didaskalos, which from Homer (8th–7th Century B.C.) onwards was used in the sense of a teacher or tutor. The term covered “all those regularly engaged in the systematic imparting of knowledge or technical skills: the elementary teacher, the tutor, the philosopher, also the chorus-master who has to conduct rehearsals of poetry for public performance.” This is the sense in which it is used in the New Testament: “Men holding this office had the task of explaining the Christian faith to others and of providing a Christian exposition of the Old Testament.” So the Christian teacher is one who systematically imparts Divine Truth and practical knowledge based on the Word of God.
The key to understanding both these terms, however, is that they refer to the same office; they are not to be separated. A misunderstanding of this principle leads to a great deal of error. One Greek authority makes this abundantly clear by explaining what is called the “Granville Sharp’s Rule,” which states: “. . . when there are two nouns in the same case connected by kai (and), the first noun having the article [the], the second noun not having the article, the second noun refers to the same thing the first noun does and is a further description of it.” It’s interesting that more liberal interpreters either downplay this fact or deny it altogether. This is no doubt due, at least in part, to the fact of little teaching and weak leadership in such groups. To deny this fact of the language, however, is blatant folly. The evidence is overwhelming.
This is, in fact, the whole point of the “shepherd” imagery (poimen); the shepherd meets all the needs of the sheep: care, feeding, protecting, exhorting, etc. To divide pastors and teachers into two offices destroys the entire picture. This would have been crystal clear to readers in Paul’s day. The idea of one shepherd who fed the sheep and another who tended to their needs would have been totally foreign to them because a shepherd did both.
May we further add that I Timothy 5:17 clearly puts the two functions together: “Let the elders [another title for pastors] that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” “Labour” is kopiao, “to labor to the point of exhaustion in word and teaching.” These two functions define the teaching shepherd, because the majority of his time must be spent in the Word of God so that he can adequately feed, exhort, and protect the sheep. A shepherd who does not do that is betraying his calling and hurting the sheep, which is tragically quite prevalent in our day.