As I mentioned in my post “To equip the saints for the work of ministry,” for the next several posts I’m going to consider the work of the gifted individuals listed by Paul in Ephesians 4:11 in equipping Jesus’ followers for doing the hard work of serving others. Remember, in Ephesians 4:12, Paul wrote that this is one of the reasons that Jesus gave these spiritual gifted people. I’ve already written about some ways that some of those spiritually gifted people can equip the saints for the work of ministry: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds.
So, in this post, I’m going to consider the fifth and final gifted group in the list: How do teachers equip believers for the work of serving others?
Of course, as I said for apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds, teachers (and any other follower of Jesus Christ) can build up and encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ in many different ways. But, in this passage, Paul is focusing on the spiritual gifts that God gives to his children through Jesus Christ. So, how does someone gifted as a teacher prepare the church for works of service because of that gifting?
Now, as we consider the role of teachers in equipping the saints, we need to remember something important: While Paul connected teaching and shepherding closely (they are actually one “item” in the list – i.e., shepherds-teachers), the fact that he used separate terms shows that there is some difference in the two. So, I’ve decided to deal with them separately.
Interestingly, as with the other spiritual gifts and spiritually gifted people, the terms teach and teacher are not defined in Scripture, even though those terms are probably used more than any other term related to spiritual gifts. Many people are described as teachers in Scripture, and even more are said to teach. (In fact, in several places, all believers are called to teach, but that’s for a different post.)
It would seem that a teacher’s primary role is to explain in ways that many can understand. This is important to me, because teaching is often only associated with knowledge or facts. But, knowledge – even true knowledge – is not beneficial to others if it is not explained in a way they can understanding. Often, this type of explanation occurs with words. But, just as often – perhaps even more so – explanation occurs in action.
Thus, teachers would equip the saints by helping them learn to explain as well. This means that teachers how to help their brothers and sisters to know how to ask questions, how to listen to other people, and how to determine whether or not people are understanding.
I think there are many examples of this in Scripture. For example, we see Jesus explaining the parables to his disciples. This passage also gives a good example of this type of equipping:
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:24-28 ESV)
As a teacher, have you ever helped others learn to explain the things of God to others? Has a teacher ever equipped you to teach?