Position Papers: 1973 - 1993
7th General Assembly, 1979,7-23, p. 77
REPORT OF THE AD-INTERIM COMMITTEE ON
NUMBER OF OFFICES
Two Offices (Elders/Bishops, and Deacons) and
Two Orders of Elders (Preaching/Teaching Elders,
and Ruling Elders):
A New Testament Study
George W. Knight, III
Jesus Christ is Lord and Head of the church which is his
body. He rules over the church by his Word and Spirit. Through the work
of the Spirit he gives to his church men as officers to equip believers
for service, so that the church may more faithfully serve Christ in maturity
and love (Eph. 4:11ff.). Through his word, the Bible, he specifies the
qualifications and duties of those men so that his people may recognize,
elect, and appoint such men, and acknowledge Christ's rule in and through
them (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1). In this way, God's Word, the Scriptures, provides
the description of the offices (or officers) that Christ gives his church,
and serves as the only infallible guide for the church in recognizing
those offices and those who serve in them.
The Scripture not only lays down the qualifications of such servants, but also gives them descriptive titles or designations and indicates the functions that they are to fulfill in the church. In so designating these offices by specific titles or designations, and also by differentiated functions, the Scripture provides for the church the answer to the question: What offices does Christ continue to give to the church and how many are there?
The answer to this question has varied in the history of the Christian Church and also more particularly in that manifestation of the church called Presbyterian. Among the latter, the answers have tended to gravitate to one of two conclusions: (1) a three-office view, i.e., clergy distinguished from lay ruling officers (elders) and deacons (lay serving officers); and (2) a two-office view, i.e., elders (teaching and ruling, clergy and lay), and deacons (lay serving officers). Proponents of each view have been vigorous in their advocacy and extreme polarizations have resulted. On the one hand, some three-office advocates have stated that the references to elders or bishops in the New Testament apply only to ministers and not to "ruling elders" at all who are then found only in the reference to "helps" and/or "administrations" (or "governments") in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and that their responsibility is limited to ruling or administration and does not include any form of teaching. On the other hand, some two-office advocates have stated that there is no distinction within the office of elder at all, such as is commonly designated by teaching elder and ruling elder, or by minister and ruling elder.
The basis for these two answers in the pages of the New Testament is not hard to find. It is that the New Testament both uses two titles only to describe or designate the officers (cf. Phil 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1, 2, 8 and 12) and also describes these officers by using three functions, i.e., teaching, ruling and serving (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2 (teaching), 5 (ruling or caring) and 13 (serving). The result of this fact is that the elder is spoken of not as having one function, but two, namely, teaching and ruling. The two-office advocates have emphasized the fact that the offices may be designated by two titles only, elders (or bishops) and deacons. The three-office advocates have emphasized the fact that the functions are three-fold and that the offices should correspond to this fact, namely, teachers (ministers), rulers (ruling "elders") and those who serve (deacons).
It is the thesis of this study, attempting to compare Scripture with Scripture and to harmonize all Scripture truths, that the solution to the seeming dilemma or impasse is to be found in a mutual and complementary recognition of the facts that there are indeed two titles or designations, elders (or bishops) and deacons, but also that within the office of elders there are two functions and that one of those functions, teaching, may be given in a heightened way or as a special gift to some, but not all the elders. Therefore, a distinction may be made within the office of elders designating some as teachers (or ministers) as the New Testament does. This is specially noteworthy in Ephesians 4:11 where within the larger circle of elders, all of whom are undershepherds or pastors, some are further designated as teachers. The study that follows seeks to unfold the Biblical truths and to demonstrate that the thesis proposed is indeed the truth of Scripture. The first portion of the study will unfold the two offices in Scripture, that is, elders (or bishops) and deacons and emphasize that the term elders (or bishops) is used in the plural and embraces all the governors or rulers in the church. The second half of the study will then direct attention to the distinction within the one office of elder and will indicate that there are some who labor in the Word and teaching. Before focusing on these two aspects, a preliminary paragraph will distinguish the continuing offices from those extraordinary and non-continuing offices of apostles and prophets.
It is important to realize that the question, which we naturally ask, "What offices does Christ continue to give to the church and how many are there?" recognizes that Christ does not continually give to the church those special and extraordinary offices of apostles and prophets. The apostles of Jesus Christ are those personally and directly chosen by him (Mk. 3:14; Lk. 6:13; Gal. 1:1), eye-witnesses of his resurrection (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 15:8-10), and with the prophets are the special recipients of revelation (Eph. 3:5) and thus form the non-repeatable foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). These two offices, since they have accomplished their unique and non-repeatable functions and tasks, occur only during the foundation days of the church, the New Testament age, and are not now found in the growing and continuing superstructure of the church (cf. 1 Peter 2:15ff.).
I. Two Offices (Elders/Bishops, and Deacons)
When we move beyond the apostles and prophets, we find that the offices
which Christ continues to give his church are sometimes referred to without
a specific name or title, but simply by their functions and activities
(cf. Heb. 13:7 and 17; 1 Thess. 5:12,13), and sometimes by different words
(elders, pastors and teachers, bishops or overseers). But in the midst
of this variegated usage, we find two terms (elders or bishops) being
used throughout the New Testament, in Acts (11:30; 14;23; 15: 2, 4, 6,
22, 23; 16:4; 20:17, 28) and by Paul (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1 and 2; 5:17;
Titus 1:5,7), Peter (1 Peter 5:1) and James (5:14), that serve to overarch
and include the other terms and the descriptions of functions that relate
to oversight. On two occasions we find the term deacons used alongside
of this pervasive use of elders/bishops (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:12). We thus
find three terms used in a more or less technical sense to describe offices.
They are elders (presbyteroi), bishops (episkopoi), and
deacons (diakonoi). The first two refer to the same group of men
and thus are different words for the same office. We can therefore speak
of the New Testament as referring to elders or bishops on the one hand
and deacons on the other, and thereby grouping the offices into these
two categories or functions.
That the two words "elders" and "bishops" refer to the same office is manifest from the following passages (Acts 20:17 and 28; Titus 1:5 and 7; and a comparison of 1 Tim 3:lff. and 1 Tim. 5:17). In Acts 20:17 the elders are called from Ephesus to meet with Paul. In Acts 20:28 he designates that same group of elders as bishops or overseers (episkopoi). Paul directs Titus to appoint elders in every city (Titus 1:5) and then goes on to describe those same officers by the term bishops or overseers (Titus 1:7). In 1 Timothy 3:2 Paul uses the term "bishop" to speak of the office of those who teach and rule the church (1 Tim. 3:2 and 5), but then when he returns to the question of remuneration for those who rule and also spend their full time in the occupation of teaching the church, he calls them elders or presbyters (1 Tim. 5:17). In the light of this evidence, we see that with these two terms, elders and bishops, we have two words to designate one and the same group of offices in the church. The one term, elder or presbyter, reflecting particularly the Old Testament background and usage, designates them in reference to their maturity and authority. The other term, bishop or overseer, more common to the Greek-speaking world, designates them in terms of their particular responsibility of having the oversight and care of the church.
These two terms, elders and bishops, serve as the embracing terms which encompass the other designations found in the New Testament for the same activities or functions. This is most evident in 1 Peter 5:1, where even the Apostle Peter is willing to speak of himself as a fellow elder, in view of the fact that he shares with the elders the responsibility for the oversight of the people of God. And this truth is specifically apparent in Acts 15 when the decision is rendered by the apostles and elders acting together and sharing the oversight (15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4). Likewise, the ordination or laying on of hands is said to be by the presbytery (1 Tim. 4:14), and that includes the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 1:6), and, furthermore, in Acts 13:1-3 the men who lay on hands are more specifically designated as prophets and teachers.
The officers in the church at Ephesus are referred to as elders or bishops in Acts 20:17, 28 and 1 Tim. 3:1 and 5:17, and as evangelists and pastors and teachers in Eph. 4:11. Both because of what we have seen in the preceding statements, i.e., apostles are fellow elders and prophets and teachers perform the action of presbytery by laying on hands, and because Acts, 1 Timothy and Ephesians refer to the same church and the same officers, we may properly infer as a good and necessary consequence that evangelists and pastors and teachers are elders. Certainly the Ephesians passage regards them as leaders who equip the church, a task recognized elsewhere as the particular responsibility of elders (cf. among others, Acts 20:28, 1 Tim. 3:4, 5 and 5:17).
When once we have observed that for the New Testament the terms elders and bishops serve as the embracive designation of one particular group of men or office and that another term (diakonos) has become a technical term for the ones who specifically have the task of service in the church, i.e., the deacons, we are impressed by the fact that the New Testament refers to the offices in the church under only these two heads or two offices (Phil. 1:1, 1 Tim. 3:1, 2 and 12; compare Acts 6:1-6). When the Apostle Paul desires to address the officers of the church of Philippi, he does so using two terms and addresses two groups of officers - "the bishops (overseers) and deacons" (Phil. 1:1). In his letter especially written to order the life and government of the church, 1 Timothy (see 1 Tim. 3:13), a letter written near the end of his life when church government is evidently settled and fixed, the apostle again speaks of only two groups under these two words, bishops and deacons (1 Tim 3:1 and 2, and 12). Similarly, when the divisions of labor and of functions were accomplished in the early church at Jerusalem in Acts 6:1-6, we find the same two-fold division. The apostles (fellow-elders) continue in the oversight functions of ruling and teaching (Acts 6:2 and 4), while the seven are given the function of service (diakonein) at tables (Acts 6:2 and 3). In summary, we see the New Testament speaking of two offices, bishops (or elders) and deacons (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1 and 2, and 12), and the church of Jesus Christ today should follow that authoritative norm and pattern.
When we ask the distinction between these two offices, we find that the terms used serve themselves to describe that difference. The elders/bishops (overseers) are those who have the spiritual oversight (cf. 1 Peter 5:2, episkopountes), which is specifically said to be ruling and teaching (1 Tim. 3:2 and 5; 5:17; Titus 1:9ff). Such ruling and teaching is not specified for the deacons (diakonoi) in 1 Timothy 3 in a list which in other ways is almost parallel to that for the bishops, but these two functions are clearly omitted (see 1 Tim. 3:8ff). We deduce from Acts 6:1-6 that the deacons should continue the practice of those first deacons, the seven, which was to care for the poor and needy and to perform other service ministries for the church under the oversight of the elders (cf. Acts 11:30). When a congregation is first being formed, deacons may be omitted from the officers elected and their functions will be carried on by the elders until that work is too heavy and men are chosen for such diaconal services (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5ff.; cf. Acts 6:1-6).
The perspective of the New Testament that there are only two permanent and ordinary offices that continue in the church, elders/bishops and deacons, is borne out not only by the fact that these two terms are used to designate all the permanent offices in the New Testament church and thereby place them in only two offices, but also by an awareness of the fact that the elders/bishops are always considered as a group of men who share together those two responsibilities involved in oversight, namely, teaching and ruling. The references to a plurality of elders in every church preclude these references from referring only to those whom we call ministers or preachers today and clearly include those whom we call ruling, as well as teaching, elders. The evidence for this affirmation is set forth in the following paragraphs.
The first churches established by Paul on his first missionary journey, small an persecuted as they may have been, each have a plurality of elders appointed for then (Acts 14:23, "appointed elders for them in every church"). Elders (plural) are called from Ephesus to Miletus and all of them are called overseers (episkopoi) and are given the task of shepherding or pastoring (poimainein, Acts 20:28) the church of God an defending it (Acts 20:30, 31). Like the church at Ephesus, the church at Philippi has a plurality of elders/bishops (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:17). As in the case at Ephesus, so also the new congregations on the island of Crete located in the cities are to have a plurality of elders in every city. And, again, like the elders at Ephesus, these elders have their unified oversight function described in the two tasks of teaching and ruling (Titus 1:911 and 13). James similarly speaks of calling a group of men designated elders to minister to a particular need in a congregation (James 5:14). Peter also refers to elders in the plural (1 Peter 5:1, notice also all the plural references in verses 2-4) in each of the congregations addressed by his letter (cf. 1 Peter 1:1), and speaks of them as shepherding (poimanate) the particular flock among them (1 Peter 5:2). In I Thessalonians 5 and in Hebrews 13 the elders or bishops are not referred to by such designations, but are referred to in both cases in the plural as a group which has the unified and shared responsibility of teaching and ruling (1 Thess. 5:12, 13; Heb. 13:7 and 17).
In all these references to the elders in the plural there is also an emphasis on the fact that they share together as a group the unified and shared responsibility of teaching and ruling, of shepherding and exercising the oversight. So these two truths belong inseparably together. The oversight or shepherding of the church belongs to a plurality of elders and to the plurality of elders belongs the responsibility of oversight and shepherding. That plurality of elders encompasses all the elders known to the New Testament, which can be referred to as teaching elders and ruling elders.
Thus a uniform picture emerges from the New Testament. From the earliest days of the New Testament church to the last letter written by Paul (from Acts 11:30 and 14:23 to 1 Tim. 3:lff., 5:17 and Titus 1:9) and with unified testimony from the various writers (Luke, Paul, Peter, James, the writer of Hebrews), there is agreement that there is one group of men who have the oversight, called elders or bishops, and that this oversight includes both teaching and ruling. Such evidence is an overwhelming testimony to the fact that the oversight of the church is committed into the hands of a group of men called by the New Testament elders/bishops and that their task or function includes both teaching and ruling as one unified and shared responsibility.
II. Two Orders of Elders (Preaching/Teaching Elders, and Ruling Elders)
To this clear evidence for the two offices of elders/bishops and deacons,
and the task committed to the elders/bishops should be joined the emphasis
upon one function for some, namely teaching, that 1 Timothy 5:17 introduces
among those who serve in the office which is there designated by the official
term elders (or presbyters). With this passage we have now returned to
the two functions found in the one office of elder, namely ruling and
teaching, and to the fact that sometimes as here, the one function of,
teaching receives particular emphasis.
Although all elders are to be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2) and thus to instruct the people of God and communicate with those who oppose Biblical teaching (Titus 1:9ff.), the 1 Timothy 5:17 passage recognizes that among the elders, all of whom are to be able to teach, there are those so gifted by God with the ability to teach the Word that they are called by God to give their life in such a calling or occupation and deserve therefore to be remunerated for such a calling and occupation. The relation between the elder especially gifted to teach and all the other elders who are to be able to teach is analogous to but not identical with that of the heightened ability of all the elders compared to that of all believers who are called on to teach one another (Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19). That ability to labor in the Word and teaching is described in 2 Tim. 4:1-7 as the ministry which is specifically designated by the phrase "preach the Word." Those elders especially gifted to teach labor or work hard at their ministry (1 Tim. 5:17) and like the ordinary laborers, they deserve their wages from such labor. Although any elder who devotes his time to the ruling of the church so that it becomes his calling and occupation is worthy not only of the honor of respect, but also the "double honor" of the honorarium or wages, the one whom we designate the teaching elder or the teacher among the elders is especially in view in this passage because such responsibility demands full time service in this calling and occupation.
Once it is recognized that within the office of elder there is a heightened or specialized function of teaching and preaching the Word, the insight has been provided to integrate other passages into our study, especially those which refer to teachers. Although all the references to teachers in the letters of the New Testament do not necessarily refer to those in an office in the church, those that do are most helpful. We have already seen teachers acting as elders in Acts 13:1-3 in laying hands on Paul and Barnabas (cf. 1 Tim. 4:14). Paul in two passages distinguishes the functions which he fulfilled as a minister of Jesus Christ by using the words preacher, apostle and teacher (1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11). In those passages he is not describing separate and distinct offices, but rather distinguishes the functions of authoritatively announcing the good news (preacher or herald), of being the authoritative eye-witness and spokesman (apostle) and of instructing in the truth (teacher). By separating and distinguishing the functions which he fulfilled as a minister of Jesus Christ, he highlighted each aspect of his unified ministry and calling.
Similarly, when the apostle is considering the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Coronations 12, he distinguishes various gifts or functions relating to offices of the church alongside of and intermingled with other gifts which do not have an office in the church in view (1 Cor. 12:28-31, cf. verses 4ff. especially vs. 7). Apostles and prophets are at one end of the spectrum and refer to offices. Tongues are at the other end of the spectrum and are regarded as a gift without reference to office.
In this list which moves from an official office at one end to an example of an official gift at the other, we find two gifts mentioned which relate to the office of elder, namely, "teachers," and "administrations" ("governments" KJV) (kuberneiseis) (1 Cor. 12:28, NASB). [The reference to "helps" (antileimpseis) probably is to be related primarily to the deacons whom we see in the seven of Acts 6 performing helpful deeds in serving and caring for widows (Acts 6:1-6).] Here the twofold functions of teaching and ruling are now distinguished and emphasized. And the distinction is given emphasis by referring to the one gift as "teachers" rather than as teaching and by numbering it as third, which puts it only after apostles and prophets. On the other hand, the word used is administrations or governments rather than that of governors, which would more exactly parallel teachers. Administrations is a broader and more general concept. The Greek lexicon of Bauer-Amdt-Gingrich states that "the plural indicates proofs of ability to hold a leading position in the church" (pg. 457).
These observations should not be surprising because these facts are quite in accord with I Timothy 5:17. There we noticed that among the elders, all of whom are to rule, are some "who work hard at preaching and teaching" (NASB). Paul in 1 Corinthians acknowledges the need for the gift of administrations or governments for the rule and oversight of the church. Alongside of that gift he recognizes some with the word teachers who also labor in the Word and teaching (again cf. 1 Tim. 5:17). The word "teachers" must not be regarded as an exclusive reference that separates them from those who have the gift of administrations because we have already seen that Paul can refer to himself as being not only an apostle, but also a preacher and teacher. Since therefore at least two of the gifts in the list in 1 Coronations 12:28-31 can refer to one person, we must not let the fact that the gifts of teachers and administrations are distinguished lead us to think of them erroneously as separate offices. The evidence of the New Testament already considered has demonstrated the unity of the office of elder and the fact that it involves both functions, that is, that of teaching and of ruling (cf. again the passages cited in previous paragraphs of this study). On the other hand, we must give adequate weight to the fact that these functions can be distinguished and emphasized in both 1 Tim. 5:17 and now in 1 Cor. 12:28-31, particularly, the function of teaching. To do justice to such distinction and emphasis we may say, as Dabney has already done, that within the one office or class of elders there are embraced two orders, that of the preaching or teaching elders and that of the ruling elders. Ephesians 4:11 provides in principle further insights into the proper correlation that the distinction brings.
Ephesians 4:11 says "And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers" (NASB). The first two groups, apostles and prophets, are the extraordinary and non-repeatable foundation offices, as we have shown earlier. The term evangelists is used only three times in the New Testament. In addition to its occurrence here, Philip, who had been one of the seven of Acts 6 is designated an evangelist (Acts 21:8), and Timothy is urged to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). The term "evangelists" itself provides the best definition of the work or task of the one in view, namely that he is one who proclaims the evangel, the Gospel. This is a function which may be distinguished from that of the pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11) and seen as a specialized ministry (Philip, Acts 21:8), but at the same time it is also a function which should mark the ministry and proclamation of all those who like Timothy are called to preach the Word (cf. 1 Tim. 4:15). In view of the fact that the gift of proclaiming the Gospel and planting churches is necessary in the church until the end of the age, this ministry is permanent and not confined to the apostolic period. In view of the fact that evangelists in Eph. 4:11 are in the list of those offices which are distinguished from the saints or believers in general (Eph. 4:12), we may properly regard them as a specialized manifestation of that office whose task is elsewhere described in similar terms to those used here, that of edifying and equipping the saints, namely, the office of elder (Eph. 4:11, 12).
It remains for us to consider the statement "and some as pastors and teachers" (tous de poimenas kai didaskalous). We are aided tremendously in our understanding of the offices referred to in this passage by recognizing that the pastors and teachers in the church at Ephesus are referred to in two other places in the New Testament, namely, Acts 20:17-35 and 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and 5:17. It is this triple perspective which throws light on the two terms pastors (poimenas) and teachers (didaskalous).
Let us consider the first word "pastors." The Greek term means literally "shepherd" and is used in this literal sense in the New Testament of the shepherds at Jesus' birth. Because the people of God are figuratively regarded as sheep, the one who tends, feeds and exercises oversight over them is called the shepherd in a figurative sense. This figurative usage in reference to the religious leaders was already evident in the Old Testament (cf. Jer. 2:8; 3:15; Ezek. 34:2). The figurative usage in reference to religious leaders in the letters of the New Testament is found only here in Eph. 4:11 (Heb. 13:20 and 1 Pet. 2:25 refer to Jesus and the Gospels use it figuratively of Jesus). The solution to the question of what group is in view in the term "pastors" is to be found by recognizing that the shepherding or pastoring responsibility is given to all the elders/bishops in Acts 20:28. "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock (poimnio), among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd (to feed, KJV) (poimainein) the church of God which he purchased with his own blood" (NASB). The verb used in Acts 20:28 "to shepherd," "to pastor" (poimainein, also translated "to feed") is the verbal form of the concept and term we are considering in Eph. 4:11, i.e., "pastors" (poimenas). The Acts passage indicates by this usage that all the elders/bishops have a shepherding or pastoral responsibility and may be designated pastors. When we ask of the Eph. 4:11 passage, who are the pastors?, we may answer from Acts 20:28 and context, they are the elders/bishops. This answer is borne out also by the passage in 1 Peter 5:1-4 which speaks of the task of elders. Here again the task of elders in their collective capacity is described in shepherding or pastoring terms: "shepherd (poimanati) the flock (poimnion) among you" (1 Peter 5:2; cf. verse 3, "the flock"). So we may deduce from the Apostle Peter as well as the Apostle Paul in Luke's account in Acts that pastors equal elders/bishops. And finally, this insight is borne out by the other reference to the elders in Ephesus in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and 5:17. To take care of the church (1 Tim. 3:5) and to rule the church (1 Tim. 5:17) is another way of saying shepherd or pastor the church, and taking care of and ruling the church is presented in 1 Tim. 3:5 and 5:17 as the task of bishops/elders as a whole. We may conclude that the pastors in view in Eph. 4:11 are all the elders/bishops.
We must now turn our attention to the term "Teachers" and its relationship to pastors in Eph. 4:11. In the grammatical construction of the entire statement of Eph. 4:11 each of the positions named has the definite article "the" before it, except for the term teachers. The list would read in a literal translation as follows: "And he gave the apostles, and the prophets, and the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers." The effect of omitting the definite article "the" before teachers is that it groups pastors and teachers together in one class or category. (In Greek grammars this is called the Granville Sharp rule.) Rather than reading "the pastors, and the teachers," the statement reads "the pastors-and-teachers." In effect, we may say that the apostle regards the teachers as belonging to the class or category of pastors. But at the same time, and especially in the light of 1 Cor. 12:28-31, the teachers are a specialized and emphasized order within that larger class. And this is exactly how he has spoken of elders in 1 Tim. 5:17. 1 Tim. 5:17 states that among that larger group of elders, all of whom rule, there are those who labor in the Word and teaching. What the apostle Paul has said in 1 Tim. 5:17 is now said in Eph. 4:11 by the expression "the pastors and teachers." All elders are pastors. Among the elders, all of whom have a pastoral or shepherding responsibility, there are some who labor in the Word and teaching whom the New Testament calls teachers as here, or as those who preach elsewhere. That pastor/elder is a preaching or teaching pastor/elder. Here again, to use Dabney's terms, we have two orders and one class or office. The one class or office is that of pastor/elder/bishop. The two orders within that one class are teaching or preaching pastors/elders on the one hand and ruling pastors/elders on the other hand. The non-repeated definite article "the" tightly joins the two orders together as one class or office. The word teachers added to that of pastors indicates a specialized ministry among that of the pastors/elders.
Why then was the term "evangelist" separated from that of pastors and teachers? Because the activity of evangelists, as important as it is to the work of the church and the eldership, is not so intrinsically a part of the work of the eldership in reference to its role as pastors of the flock that it should be given as a definite aspect of pastoring as teaching was. To be an elder in reference to the flock is by definition to be one of the pastors of the flock. And pastoring the flock involves of necessity that some at least must labor in the Word and teaching and be teachers. But pastoring the flock does not involve intrinsically evangelists. Evangelists are gaining lost sheep, not caring for saved and gathered ones. So the apostle has placed that aspect of eldership, evangelists, in a separate category and recognizes that some have special gifts for that task.
The New Testament makes a distinction within the one office of elders of some who labor in teaching the Word. The church through the ages has been faithful to the New Testament when it has done the same. When we inquire further about the duties and responsibilities of those among the elders who are laboring in the Word and teaching, the teaching or preaching elders, we must not only return to the passages about elders and bishops in general, but also consider those passages referring to Timothy and to Paul who were involved in this particular aspect as fellow-elders who were laboring in the Word and teaching in the capacity of teaching or preaching elders (cf. 1 Cor. 9; 2 Cor. 3, 4, 5; 1 Tim. 4:6-16; 2 Tim. 1:3-14; 2; 3:10-4:8).
Therefore, the church which seeks to be faithful to the New Testament will seek to keep in perspective and balance the unity of the office of elders/bishops, which when joined by the deacons leads the New Testament to speak of the permanent offices of the church as just these two, and also the distinguishing function given to some among the elders by means of a particular gift of teaching and a corresponding activity. This will mean that all the elders rule together and are together responsible for the teaching of the church. It will also mean that of that plurality some will be more gifted by God to teach than the others and therefore in distinction from those others will make that ministry their vocation, whereas the others possessing the same authority will remain in other vocations while they share in the oversight. The unity and parity within the one office of elder helps to foster the mutual submission to one another, which in turn helps to preserve the humble servant quality of the eldership, and, at the same time, the unique Lordship of Christ. The recognition of differing manifestations of gifts, especially in that of teaching, within the unified eldership exalts the sovereignty of Christ's Lordship, who gives gifts as he will for the good of his church, and helps to ensure that that most needed gift of teaching Christ's Word will have full emphasis and free course in his church. By this, his Word of instruction and the enabling of his Spirit, Christ orders and edifies his people, the church, the body of Christ.