The Pastor-Teacher Holds the Key: Eph 4:1-24

When the ascended Christ took his place in Heaven, he both received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33) and poured him out, much as a monarch at a coronation both receives gifts and also dispenses largesse. Although it is difficult to be precise about the four gifts mentioned in v.11, I tentatively take the apostles and prophets to be the foundational gifts (clearly implied in 2.20) and that they were succeeded by the evangelists and pastor-teachers. There is virtual unanimity that the pastor-teacher was one person, so we ought not to carve him up and talk about somebody being very good pastorally, but not much good at teaching. Similarly it is not biblical to speak of somebody being a superb preacher but weak as a pastor. He is to pastor by teaching and the rest of the passage explains why, for the pastor-teacher is a keyring on which five vital keys hang:

1. The pastor-teacher holds the key to every4netneer ministry.

The danger of the clerical bottleneck remains, with the so-called omnicompetent Vicar feeling he has to five up to all expectations. Rather, he should stick to – or recover – his priority as a teacher, and them according to v. 12, the inevitable result will be that he recovers for the laity their ministry.

2. The pastor-teacher holds the key to unity. This is one of the great themes of the chapter. The unity they the New Testament envisages is not some woolly ecumenism (that uncontrollable urge to merge) but a unity in the truth. Paul’s frequent injunction is to ‘be of one mind’. Truth is the sphere in which the mind operates. Unity will then come as a result of faithful and consistent teaching.

3. The pastor-teacher holds the key to maturity (vs 13, 14, 15)

The immature person is tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine blown across the Atlantic and then pushed out in paperback. The person who stands firm in the welter of novel ideas that is being circulated is the one who has been well taught and firmly grounded in the scriptures by the pastor-teacher who has devoted himself to the priority of teaching the faith.

4. The pastor-teacher holds the key to evangelism (v. 20)

The mark of the Gentiles (vs 17-18) is not primarily gross immorality, but rather futility of mind, darkened understanding and ignorance. An unusual description of becoming a Christian is given in v, 20 – leaning Christ’. In order to learn Christ, someone else has to be taught Christ. So the pastor-teacher must be his own evangelist and he will see people becoming Christians as he steadily ‘teaches Christ.’

5. The pastor-teacher holds the key to holiness (v. 23)

One visitor to these shores felt that Anglican preaching was marked by moralising and exhortation. In the Bible we find that belief and behaviour are married. Mind and morals go together. Christian holiness and ethics is the response to the revealed truths about God. A congregation will grow in godliness and Christ likeness as the pastor-teacher maintains the
ministry of expounding the Word of God. This priority is impossible without strong convictions about the nature of scripture… together with an iron will.

Jonathan Fletcher, the author of this exposition, is a minister in the leadership team at Emmanuel, Wimbeldon