Some teachers are highly qualified, yet all the degrees in the world do not make them able to teach. You may have experience this at school, college or university. The lecturer is highly qualified and knows his or her subject but is not able to convey that knowledge to his or her students in a way that that are able to understand.
When doing at Management Diploma in the 1990’s, we had a lovely, friendly man … a qualified accountant who taught us Business Accounting and Financial Management. He worked for a huge accounting business and on Saturdays he taught at this college. He was successful as an accountant … but he could not take the material to be taught and make it understandable to us as students. Often I would pose questions that he could not answer off the cuff. He needed to work a test paper first before he could explain how the sequence worked and made sense to arrive at the correct answer.
The same is true in Christianity. Many mature believers have all the theology and doctrine in their heads but they cannot translate it in an easy to understand way so that new believer can grasp and understand the deeper truths of the Christian Faith. As we deal with the attributes required for eldership, we find Paul saying under inspiration that an elder must be able to teach. Let’s read the passage again:
1Ti 3:1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
1) The elder must be able to teach. Immediately you might say this rules out many men. True, one must understand that not everyone is qualified to teach in a Church. This is the reason for Paul’s list of qualities or attributes in the passage above. It is not that an elder has some of these … he needs to have all of them! In some Church Organizations, elders, be they ruling elders (Church Council Members or Wardens) or teaching elders (presbyters) are examined and when successful in their knowledge of Scripture, Church Governance and morality will be ordained publically. The congregation needs to be protected as we saw in Acts 20. Installing anyone as an elder … and especially as a teaching elder, will result in chaos, lack of control and the people exposed to potential spiritual harm.
2) Because the elder must be able to teach, he needs to be totally committed to the Word of God as his only authority. He must agree and believe that the Bible as we have it, is God’s fully inspired, totally inerrant, absolutely infallible Word and his full and final authority for life and ministry. Should he, without total conviction agree to this with all his heart, he may not be an elder because he would not be “able to teach”.
3) Does “able to teach” mean every elder must be able to preach in Church and or run a Bible Study or Home Group? The answer is no! But … he needs to be able to share the Gospel accurately; make leadership decisions based upon the Word of God and be able to counsel people when confused or in need of discipline. In other words … “able to teach” does not always mean public teaching.
4) Considering what was said under the previous point … the elder must understand …
(1) The Gospel. This is part of being able to teach!
1Co 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Should an elder not be able to share the Gospel, which is the heart beat of the Christian Church, he cannot be an elder. Salvation depends upon the Gospel and sharing the Gospel is teaching.
(2) The Whole Council of God. Our example comes from …
Ac 20:27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God
Mat 28:20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
I would suggest that Paul understood what Jesus said and practiced it. Elders, even those who do not fill the pulpit need to ensure that the “whole will of God” is taught systematically in the Church as the years pass by. The spiritual development and preparation for Glory is dependent upon this.
(3) The Purpose of Teaching. It is education. It is taking a soul and reshaping the heart and mind to conform to the Word of God.
2 Tim 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
From the earliest of days Timothy was groomed in Scripture by his mother and grandmother. Because it is the out-breathed Word of God, the elder needs to grasp its purpose in the life of the Church.
(a) Teaching. Coming out of paganism, there needed to be a shift from the ingrained teaching of idolatry to the true God. The Bible needs to be taught. This is true for today as well. Although people might not be pagan, they might be Christianized, meaning they have ideas but not Truth.
Jn 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
(b) Rebuking. The idea here is rejecting that which is unbiblical and persuading the hearer of the Truth of God. Far too often believers remain silent to maintain peace, yet this word directs us to lovingly reject error and persuade people of what God’s truth about any given matter is.
(c) Correcting. If God’s Word is ignored or broken, there needs to be loving correction. It seems as this word has its original though in:
Dt 27:26 “Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”
And the Pharisees’ words used incorrectly against Jesus in:
Jn 7:49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
Correcting is bringing people back to what the Word of God means, not what they think it means or their take on any passage. Like with rebuking, many refuse to do correcting to maintain peace. Such error leads to problems in the Church.
(d) Training. The back drop of this word is a child growing up into adulthood requiring to be trained or else they remain “childlike” even though an adult. In the Church, teaching is all about education. The elder must be willing to learn and be willing to teach because his duty is to protect the Church of God. As outsiders come in, so the elder must prevent pagan ideas from coming into the Church.
Our Father, graciously help the elders of Churches to know the Word and apply the Word to the understanding of Your people. Amen.