Monday, September 28, 2009

The Shepherd as Teacher

Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (15) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (16) from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Last week we opened the discussion of the office of pastor, or “shepherd”, as the Greek “poimēn” is most properly translated. We discussed the scope of the office as comparable to the office of apostle in regards to its necessary wide range of gifting. This spiritual shepherd is tasked not only with feeding a flock, but tending to their many varied spiritual needs, & so must wear many different hats on any given day. So while feeding the flock is only part of the shepherd’s ministry, I believe it is the most important part.

The shepherd’s protection for his flock from outside aggressors, the wolves, is a very important component of his job of tending them, but Scripture tells us (Romans 7) the flock’s most consistent aggressor comes from within, not without. While it is true that Satan prowls as the hungry lion (1 Peter 5:8), it is the flesh that most often consumes us. Either way, it is the faith within the heart & mind (Rom. 7:25, 1 Peter 5:9) that is our sword & shield against our adversary. Where does this faith come from? The Word of God is both sword & shield in the fight, & for us to utilize these tools we must both have them & be enabled in their use:

Romans 10:6-15 But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) (7) or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). (8) But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); (9) because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (11) For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." (12) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. (13) For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (14) How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (15) And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"

The spiritual shepherd’s most pressing need, therefore, is preach to & teach his flock- to make the word near them, in their mouth and in their heart- so they might have that righteousness based on faith, not carnal might. This is the pastor’s preeminent portion- to strengthen his flock by feeding their faith- & this is garnered by such only by the nearness of God’s Word to that heart & mouth.

Beyond the philosophical biblical mandate for the pastor to be a teacher is the technical biblical mandate. The Greek article “ho” precedes each office in Eph. 4:11, but it does not precede “teacher”. The esteemed 18th century Greek grammarian Granville Sharp’s most famous contribution to understanding Koine Greek is stated thusly:

When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case of personal description respecting office, dignity, affinity, or connection, and attributes, properties, or qualities, good or ill, if the article ho, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle: i.e. it denotes farther description of the first-named person..."

So, in other words, this rule dictates the two should be considered one in the same person, just as in Titus 2:13 “God” & “Savior” refer to the same person in the indicative “Jesus Christ”.

Feed a starving man a fish or a fennel makes him set for the day, but teaching him where & how to fish & farm makes him set for life. Likewise then, a good shepherd feeds his flock the full Word of God- the fennel and the fish, the spinach and the steak, the broccoli and the beef- along with the promise of a heavenly dessert to come later. In so doing, he grows the flock into maturity as they are nurtured for each day, but are also concurrently learning where the fish & the seeds of life are found- in Scripture, & how they are to be gathered, allowing the flock to begin to sustain themselves to some extent. The shepherd should not be forced to carry the full burden of caring for the flock’s every trifling need, for as blessed with the varied gifts of God as he is, he is still just a man, & not laboring behind him in the work of gathering the flock’s provisions forces the shepherd to be nothing more than a daycare provider for retarded, infant sheep. Such a shepherd’s devotion & love for his flock would be to his glory when the Chief Shepherd appears; but the flock will be sorely ashamed in that day if the cause for their perpetual infancy was, in fact- not inborn retardation- but a simple blasé, slothful, indifference towards the work of the shepherd.

1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (12) We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, (13) and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. (14) And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

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