Must Elders Be Skilled in Teaching?

Desiring God | 9/14/2017 | David Mathis
cyanbyte (Posted by) Level 3
Does the qualification that pastors and elders be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2) mean skilled in teaching or something more akin to willing and able when necessary?

In the New Testament, “pastor,” “elder,” and “overseer” are three names for the same teaching office (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5–7; 1 Peter 5:1–2). Pastors are elders are overseers. And the pastors are the chief teachers (Ephesians 4:11). Pastoral authority, in the New Testament, is always tied to teaching. Faithful leaders exercise oversight centrally through teaching, and teaching is their main instrument of exercising authority. Ongoing teaching is centrally important in the Christian church, and is the central work of her lead officers.

Qualification - Word - English - Bar - Standard

But how central? The qualification is “able to teach,” but able is an ambiguous word in our English. Is “able to teach” a high bar or a low one? Is this a minimal standard or maximal? Does able point to elders being skilled teachers or simply willing to teach if needed?

More to the point, are elders the kind of men who can teach if a gun is put to their head, or are they the kind who won’t stop teaching even at gunpoint?

Ability - Possibility

Ability or Possibility?

“Able to teach” translates a single word in the original (Greek didaktikos), which appears only twice in the New Testament, in the elder qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:2 and the qualifications of “the Lord’s servant,” who “must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24–25). Neither of those texts alone answers our question, but Titus 1:9 sheds some important light. Given the clear overlap between the elder-overseer qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, we find Titus 1:9 puts more flesh on what Paul means by “able to teach”:

Elder - Firm

[An elder] must hold firm to...
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