Bible Question:

Is the pastor the only one who can teach? When I read the scripture, my understanding is that the Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher and will guide me into all truth. Please help me with this.

Bible Answer:

The question we are concerned with is, “Can only pastors teach and preach the Word of God?” Some pastors believe that only they are essential for the spiritual growth of the church. Others believe that only the pastor can teach in the church. Therefore, we must ask what does the Bible say?

The Spiritual Gift of Teaching

A close examination of the New Testament shows us that teachers in the church are chosen by the Holy Spirit because the spiritual gift of teaching is assigned by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11). In Romans 12:6-8 we are told that the Holy Spirit gives a variety of spiritual gifts and in verse 7 we are told that one of them is teaching.

“. . . or he who teaches, in his teaching; . . .” Romans 12:7 (NASB)

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 also lists a variety of spiritual gifts.

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. 1 Corinthians 12:28 (NASB)

Here we are given the priority of some of the different spiritual gifts. It does not appear that the list is exhaustive. The gift of apostleship is first. Prophets are the second most important spiritual gift. The spiritual gift of prophecy is that of “speaking forth” for God. The gift in the third position of importance is that of teaching.

A passage that describes the spiritual gifts essential for the spiritual maturity of the saints is Ephesians 4:11-13. Here the Holy Spirit tells us that apostles, prophets and pastor-teachers are given to the church for its spiritual growth.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NASB)

Therefore, we are told that God has given the spiritual gift of teaching to the body of Christ, the church. This is an unique gift that not everyone has.

Examples of Teachers

The New Testament has many examples of men who were teachers and were not pastors. The first is a man named Apollos. Acts 18:24-26 tells us that he was teaching the way of the Lord in a synagogue. Then Priscilla and Aquila took him aside to teach the Way more accurately to him. Apollos was not an apostle, prophet or pastor.

1 Timothy 1:3 reveals that Timothy was teaching in Ephesus. He mostly likely served temporarily as a pastor.

As I urged you upon my departure for  Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines . . . 1 Timothy 1:3 (NASB)

Then in the second chapter of 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul urges Timothy to teach and entrust what he had been taught to other men so that they could teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).

If we pay close attention to both Titus 1:9 and 1 Timothy 5:17, we discover that every elder must be capable of teaching. This means that both pastors and each elder in a church are to be capable of teaching the Word. James 3:1 leaves the impression that men and women in addition to the pastor of the church were teaching in the church.

Therefore, at this point we have the example of Apollos, Timothy and other men who were teachers. Pastors are not the only ones who can teach the Scriptures. This is demonstrated both by principle and example.

Conclusion:

Hebrews 5:11-14 is a warning to Christians to study the Bible faithfully and attend a church where the pastor teaches the Bible verse-by-verse and in depth. The goal is to learn the Bible so that we can know our God and how He wants us to live. Instead many churches today preach a watered-down message. They serve milk because the people do not like the spiritual meat. Listen to Hebrews 5:12-13.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. Hebrews 5:12-13 (NASB)

Therefore, we urge you to study the Bible yourself and also sit under a pastor who is serious about teaching the Bible first and then applying it. The basis for strong application is a solid understanding of the Bible passage.

Suggested Links:

Bible Teaching For Spiritual Maturity
The Purpose Of Spiritual Gifts
Overview Of Spiritual Gifts
The Speaking Gifts, part 1
The Speaking Gifts, part 2
The Serving Gifts
The Temporary Gifts