The Pauline Theology of Pastoral Teaching

The Pauline Theology of Pastoral Teaching
J. Davila-Ashcraft

Pastoral Teaching forms the greater and more important part of any ministerial work, and thus an understanding of its goals, motivations, scope and beyond are crucial. Without a knowledge of these and other pertinent issues, pastoral teaching could well suffer deficiency or even apathy. Of course, the best starting point for exploring this issue is Sacred Scripture, and in Sacred Scripture the most prolific writer, the Apostle Paul. It is there that we find the information we need.

The Primary Motivation (Matthew 28:19-20) The Great Commission forms the central motivation, though not the only one, for engaging in pastoral teaching. The goal of any minister should be the salvation of souls. Christ is very clear in this admonition that we are not only to “make disciples” and baptize, but to teach them “to observe all that I have commanded you.” This quite obviously implies the absolute necessity of pastoral teaching as a condition of the fulfilling of Christ's command.

Beyond the command of Jesus, what are some of the practical motivations a pastoral teacher should have? Paul's writings demonstrate that pastoral teaching contains the motivations of “giving instruction that encourages faithfulness.” (I Tim. 1:18) This instruction is demonstrated to encourage prayer, intercession, and thanksgiving even in the face of persecution. The “encouraging faithfulness component is something evidenced throughout Paul's writings, wherein he not only personally exposes hypocrisy and lies, but teaches elders to do the same. (I Tim. 4:2) It seems obvious that when Paul uses the word encourage he implies teaching by both word and example. Paul also comes back often to the theme of strengthening the faithful. (Acts 15:32) Interestingly, this strengthening not only of the faithful, but the churches (Acts 15:41; 16:4-5) includes not just teaching, but preaching, since both encourage and strengthen the church and people in the faith, since it also includes delivering new light. Ultimately, it is “Fear of the Lord” that inspires Paul to teach and preach. Here it must be understood that fear is not referring to any emotional state, but rather to respect for God's will and purpose. (II Cor. 2:11)

Paul's example gives us much insight into the basic goals of pastoral teaching. First I want to briefly address teaching the youth. Paul makes specific mention of encouraging the youth to be righteous examples. As mentioned previously, this encouraging takes the form of teaching by both word and example. The fact that Paul is concerned directly with the teaching of youth certainly strongly implies a need for pastors to be aware of the needs of youth and to address those specific needs in their teaching. (Tim. 4:12) So one of the goals of pastoral teaching is the instruction of youth in the principles of the Gospel. Beyond this, pastoral teaching should have the goal of instructing the faithful in living a holy life. (I Thess. 4:1; Eph. 4:20-24; Eph. 5:15; Phil. 1:27; Titus 2:2-7) The pastor needs to be prepared to teach people how to live according to the Gospel, to order all the affairs of their lives after the teachings of Christ. This implies everything from marriage and family issues, to finances, to public conduct, to interaction with friends and non-believing family members. Our lives are a constant example to others of the Gospel of Christ. Paul's concern, as ours should be, is to teach the faithful how to be a good witness. Paul also frequently speaks of strengthening the souls of the disciples, and explaining the meaning of the suffering of those who embrace the Gospel. Preparing the faithful for difficulty so that there is not a loss of faith appears to be what is implied by strengthening the souls of disciples. (Acts 14:21)

The scope of Pauline teachings is a tremendously vast expanse of subject matter. It includes not only matters of theology, but the scope includes addressing issues of modesty in dress, decency and proper behavior ( I Tim. 2:9-11), and watching both our life and our doctrine closely, since we tend to live as we believe. (I Tim. 4:16) Our example of faithfulness has an impact not just on us, but on those watching us in the congregation, and in the world around us. Thus we find in Paul's writings the obvious admonition for pastors to teach the people to do what is good in God’s sight. (Titus 3:14) What is good in God's sight goes beyond mere appearances, but to interaction with other believers. Paul even addresses the issue of arguing. He says to avoid arguing, and to warn the divisive person twice. What we see here are issues of church discipline that pastors must be ready to and capable of addressing. (Titus 3:10) This connects to Paul's statement regarding those who need correction in II Tim. He is very specific in his language, saying to instruct them gently. Pastors then must be prepared to tackle disciplinary issues (even if that means disfellowship of a persistent problem), but to do so with tact and a desire for restoration rather than punishment. 

The sequence of Pauline teaching appears to be the following: first the presentation of the Gospel message. This includes a stress on justification by grace rather than works, and devotion to doing what God commands. In other words, a stress must be placed on teaching the fullness of the Gospel without fear of losing church members, etc. (Titus 2:15) In fact, we see in Paul's writings the fact that some people must initially be taught the proper respect for law and authority before they can go on to the “meat” of the Gospel. (Titus 3:7-8; Titus 3:1-2 ) Pastors today must understand that in the face of a Post Modernist culture, where people do not believe in absolutes in either morality or ethics, they may often be called upon to teach people a proper respect for God's law and for spiritual authority. This may include rebuking people (again, gently), but always includes encouraging them. Pastors should be prepared to do so.

Pauline methodology is just as creative as his scope of teaching. One notes the consistent willingness of Paul to include others in his ministry. He is not afraid to delegate authority and responsibility to others whom he has previously taught. (Eph. 6:22; II Tim. 4:11) Paul was committed to preaching the Word of God with help from John. This demonstrates his willingness to share the work of preaching and teaching with others. (Acts 13:5) This is not only for the purpose of teaching, but also for handling the affairs of the local church. (Titus 1:5) Of course, in order for someone to do so they must have been instructed as to how to carry out the affairs of the church. This also means a pastor should pay careful attention to the gifts and talents of those he is teaching and preparing. He should teach the faithful to do works of ministry within their gifts rather than trying to do it all himself, following the example of Paul. ( II Tim. 3:17) This may require spending a prolonged period of time at one church. (Acts 11:25-26) Paul made himself available and spent a prolonged length of time among the faithful in Antioch. So teaching and preparing others for ministry should not be considered a quick and easy thing, but should be approached with care and attention to detail with the understanding that you're in it for the long haul.  Acts seems to show a sort of training/teaching session for elders in the local church.  (Acts 18:11) Part of this training would be to prepare them for Paul's own absence. Similarly, pastors should teach with an eye to instruction such that even in your absence the faithful know what to do and how to do it.(Acts 20:17-38) It must also be noted that fasting and worship played an integral part in Paul's life, as it should all pastors lives. (Acts 13:2;  Acts 16:25) Without this aspect of a pastors own spiritual life he can easily get caught up in doing, rather than being.  

Paul focuses quite a lot on the maintenance of orthodoxy and the exposing of heresy in the midst of the church. (Gal. 1:8; II Thess. 2:2) He commands others not to teach false doctrine, to “keep hold” of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience, to guard the Gospel, warn the faithful and avoid evil. This very strong concern for doctrinal purity and clarity should not be lost on pastors today. In fact, it is perhaps far more important that pastors guard the Gospel, since we can see the horrible results in many evangelical circles when that pastoral concern is neglected. Paul appealing to the elders in Jerusalem for clarity in difficult issues is also an example to pastors today. Sadly, evangelicals tend toward a libertarian approach to ecclesiology, and thus break with the hermeneutic of continuity- the consensus of the church universal as to what constitutes orthodoxy. The example of Acts 15:1-2 demonstrates the role of ecclesiology in teaching, in that the church has always considered it proper to take difficult issues before a council of elders to come to a Biblically sound answer.

Finally we address the issue of pastoral qualifications. The Pauline requirements are strict, including solid family life, sobriety, gentleness, self control, hospitable, respectable and possess an ability to teach.(I Tim. 3:1-5) Has to be a mature believer and have a good reputation.(Tim. 3: 6-7) I Tim. 3:10- He cannot be hastily put in a position of authority, but should be tested. This indicates training and mutual discernment. The pastor must be willing to give himself to the ministry God prepares Him for, and not to look at it as a means to earn a living or gain wealth and worldly praise. (I Tim. 4:15; I Tim. 6:3-5;II Tim. 2:4-7) He must be someone willing to guard not only the Gospel, but the flock given to him. (I Tim. 6:20) He can never be ashamed to testify and never fear persecution. Also, Paul stresses grace in our call to a holy life, and not personal worthiness or work. Being a pastor does not somehow make us holy. Pastors must live in such a way that they are approved by God in their ministry and teach sound Biblical truths. Pastors must also know how to keep a confidence, and avoid gossip and silly, unproductive discussions that are not edifying or do not bring glory to God. Some might feel they are disqualified from pastoral ministry because they are not gifted speakers, or some other such perceived weakness. However, Paul is clear that eloquence not necessary. God will use the gifts he gave us to his glory if we simply allow Him to do so. A pastor must also live a transparent life; one that is blameless and demonstrates the fruits of the spirit. (II Tim. 3:10-11) A difficult calling indeed, but one with a multitude of blessings in store for the faithful servant of God's people.

Copyright 2016