In the previous post, I presented the need for strong Biblically grounded youth in today’s society. The fact of the matter is they are few and far between, for a postmodern pragmatic mindset has infiltrated our very churches. In part II of this study the spiritual gift of teaching is examined in order that we may understand what is required of Christian teachers.

The position of the teacher is closely related to that of the pastor, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph 4:11). Many scholars hold the opinion that pastors and teachers encompass a single gift. However, the roles of these ministries—while foundational in nature—constitute two distinct functions. The role of the pastor includes that of teaching: more importantly though, his primary focus is spiritually feeding the flock under his care. The role of the teacher is to complement the instruction of the pastor and further supplements him by developing a strong foundation within the body. A teacher achieves this goal through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12

First a distinction must be made between the ability to teach and the gift of teaching. There are a score of fantastic teachers in the secular world: people who have the ability to teach others and who perform to the highest of standards set by our society. However, within the Christian community a person’s ability to teach holds no weight apart from the gift of teaching; for teachers in the church must focus on the truth of the message and the correct philosophies regarding this truth. On this topic Paul writes: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God which works all in all” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Paul unambiguously states that these gifts, no matter the specific administrative position, are all granted by the Spirit, that they are “given to each one for the profit of all” (v. 7). Not only are there multiple gifts, but every gift profits the entire body. Furthermore, it is the Spirit who distributes the various gifts; for Paul notes: “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (v. 11). To summarize, Garland comments that the various gifts are Trinitarian in nature and concludes Paul did this intentionally to show that all the gifts come from the same source.

The word gift (charisma) is defined as a gift that in its very nature is the result of a gracious action. Garland translates charisma as a “grace-gift” and notes that Paul uses this word to describe a “wide range of phenomena.” This passage is hence dealing with gifts granted by the Spirit, which are “free and undeserved…, an unmerited gift from God’s grace.” Now, to the matter at hand: “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers…” (1 Corinthians 12:28). The importance of these gifts rest in the function they perform in the church body, not the office they may hold. Fee correctly identifies that these gifts are not expressed apart from the person who has been graciously given said gift by the Spirit; for these specific gifts have been given to the church with which to build a strong foundation upon. Paul continues, “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers?…” (v. 29). He is affirming two notions with these rhetorical questions: 1) Not everybody will have one of these gifts—but all are important—Paul is reinforcing the need for diversity (cf. vv. 24-26). Moreover, 2) these gifts are distinguished from the other gifts due to their function; apostles, prophets and teachers are all foundational in nature and are specifically guided by the spirit.

Apostle and prophet were gifted to select individuals to serve a specific function in God’s divine plan. These two positions are guided by the Spirit and revelatory in nature. Prophets were used to reveal God’s nature prior to the church age and to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. Apostles were used by God to establish the church; they were specifically appointed by Christ and sent with the full authority of Christ. Teachers on the other hand are guided by the Spirit; they hold positions apart from revelation. As the foundational roles faded from the scene, the teacher became increasingly important. James supports noting, “My Brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). He warns that the role of the teacher carries with it a high level of responsibility. The function of a teacher further develops in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 4

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:4-8, 11-13).

Within his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul clearly asserts five distinct positions—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers—which hold a specific function with the church body. These gifts are specifically for perfecting, ministering and edifying the body of Christ (v. 12). John Owen maintains, “There is no other place of Scripture wherein at one view the grant, institution, use, benefit, end, and continuance of the ministry is so clearly and fully represented.” The role of the teacher is part of this ministry; for the gift of teaching has been freely and graciously given to individuals specifically for the advancement of the church.

Continuing his argument, Paul writes: “That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness, of deceitful plotting” (Eph 4:14). False teachers represent one of the biggest dangers to young Christians, for in cunning craftiness they wait to deceive believers. More specifically those who are young in faith are the most susceptible to false doctrine. The job of the teacher provides true doctrine grounded in correct presuppositions and philosophies; therefore, to properly accomplish this, teachers must focus on discernment. Furthermore, it is imperative that teachers teach others how to properly discern false teaching and avoid it. Paul affirms such in his letter to the Romans: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom 16:17-18). All too often, these simple that Paul refer to are the Christian youth of today who do not receive a proper foundation as commanded; consequently, when exposed to the pragmatic philosophies of the world, they are easily deceived. It should not surprise us that this problem is occurring, for throughout the Old Testament the hearts of the simple were deceived by the teachings of false prophets.

-Next, the correlation between the teachers of today and the prophets of yesterday.

James F. Stitzinger notes there are additional passages linking these two roles as a single function (see 1 Tim 5:17; Titus 1:9); he continues commenting on a natural cohesion between the terms (“Spiritual Gifts: Definitions and Kinds,” TMSJ 14 [Fall 2003]: 173). While Stitzinger’s linguistic argument is strong there are multiple instances in the N.T. which mention teachers apart from pastors (see 1 Cor 12:28; Acts 13:1; et al.).

David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), pp. 575-77).

BAGD, s.v. “charisma, atos, tou,” pp. 878-879.

Garland, 1 Corinthians, p. 575).

Stitzinger, “Spiritual Gifts: Definitions and Kinds,” pp. 150-151.

Gordon D. Fee further notes that these various ministries are not to be thought of as offices; for the gifts themselves—and not the person—are the focus of Paul’s argument (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], pp. 619-621).

The gifts of miracles, healings, helps, governments, and tongues are not discussed in this study since these gifts are not meant to be ranked. Fee notes Paul intended for the first three to be ranked and the others are mentioned specifically to show diversity (The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 619). Fee give three reason for this view: 1) Paul drops the “then…then;” 2) the miracles and healings are reversed from an earlier mention (cf. 1 Cor 12:9-10); and 3) there is no significance between these remaining gifts, they all have various purposes that are no lesser or greater than one another.

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, 16 vols. ed. William H. Goold (reprint of 1850-53 ed. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1979), 4:487