So far, I have attempted to explain Harold Hoehner’s view as he presented it in this paper given at ETS: “Can a Woman be a Pastor-Teacher?” Here is his argument in summary:
- Many misunderstandings (his estimate was 95%, I think) about women in ministry are caused by a blurring of the distinctions between spiritual gifts and offices.
- Scripture gives qualifications for offices. Qualifications are given for apostles, elder/ bishops, and deacons/deaconesses.
- Scripture does not give qualifications for gifts. Gifts are given according to the will of God through the Holy Spirit.
- Since there are no qualifications given for the list in Ephesians 4:11 (apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers), pastor-teachers are individuals endowed with spiritual gifts, not offices.
- Therefore, even if women cannot hold a certain office, they can be pastor-teachers if they are so gifted.
To be honest, I have no desire to discuss women in ministry. Instead, I would like to discuss his distinction between spiritual gifts and offices.
First, my understanding of spiritual gifts seems to differ slightly from Hoehner’s understanding. Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, through believers, for the benefit of others (1 Cor. 12:7). Scripture does not indicate that believers are endowed with gifts for life, or that believers can recognize their particular gifts. The “name” of the gifts (i.e. serving, leading, teaching), seem to come from the benefit given to others. In other words, someone has the gift of teaching because what the Spirit does through them teaches others. It is possible that the Spirit could use the exact same actions/words to encourage others at the same time. Therefore, the gift is recognized as teaching for group 1, while it is recognized as encouragment for group 2. Yet, the Spirit is working through the same person’s words.
If this view is correct, then we should not emphasize that a person is “exercising” a certain spiritual gift. The person does not control whether or not, or how, the Spirit decides to work through them. Instead, as Peter says, the person should speak and/or act according to the will of God, and allow the Spirit to use those words/actions as He chooses.
I do recognize that there are people within Scripture that are called “teachers,” “prophets,” “servants,” etc. However, in my view, this is the recognition of others that these are the primary ways that the Spirit works through those individuals. Thus, for one known as a “teacher,” the Spirit normally uses that person’s words to teach others; therefore, other people recognize this and refer to him/her as a “teacher.”
This is illustrated in 1 Cor. 12-14. In 1 Cor. 12:29, Paul asks the question, “Are all prophets?”, expecting a negative answer: No, all are not prophets. Thus, Paul recognizes that, for certain believers, the Spirit regularly uses their words as words of prophecy. But, the Spirit does not normally work this way through everyone. Then, in 1 Cor. 14:31, Paul states, “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged.” In this verse, Paul recognizes that, even though the Spirit may not normally use someone’s words as prophecy, that potential is always there, because the Spirit chooses how He will endow gifts according to His will.
I realize that this may seem pedantic. However, I think the distinction is important. Which is important: 1) I should teach others, or 2) I should speak as the Spirit leads me, even if no one “learns” from my words. I am not responsible for how others receive my words or actions; however, I am responsible for obeying God is everything that I do and say.