The word pastors does appear in the New Testament:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.
(EPHESIANS 4:11, NASB, AUTHORS' EMPHASIS)
The following observations are to be made about this text.
> This is the only verse in the entire New Testament where the word pastor is used.2 One solitary verse is a mighty scanty piece of evidence on which to hang the Protestant faith! In this regard, there seems to be more biblical authority for snake handling (see Mark 16:18 and Acts 28:3-6) than there is for
Today those who feel called to the ministry of the local church generally believe their options are limited to serving as a pastor or worship leader. While being called to the Lord's work is definitely a real experience, these positions did not exist in the first century. Nevertheless, though their office is without scriptural basis, pastors often do help people. But they help people despite their office, not because of it.
A derivative form of the word poimen is used in Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2-3.
the present-day pastor. Roman Catholics have made the same error with the word priest. You can find the word priest used in the New Testament three times. In every case, it refers to all Christians.'
> The word is used in the plural. It is pastors. This is significant. For whoever these "pastors" are, they are plural in the church, not singular. Consequently, there is no biblical support for the practice of sofa pastora (single pastor).
> The Greek word translated pastors is poimen. It means shepherds. (Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd.) Pastor, then, is a metaphor to describe a particular function in the church. It is not an office or a title.' A first-century shepherd had nothing to do with the specialized and professional sense it has come to have in contemporary Christianity. Therefore, Ephesians 4:11 does not envision a pastoral office, but merely one of many functions in the church. Shepherds are those who naturally provide nurture and care for God's sheep. It is a profound error, therefore, to confuse shepherds with an office or title as is commonly conceived today.'
> At best, Ephesians 4:11 is oblique. It offers absolutely no definition or description of who pastors are. It simply mentions them. Regrettably, we have filled this word with our own Western concept of what a pastor is. We have read our idea of the contemporary pastor back into the New Testament. Never would any first-century Christian have conceived of the contemporary pastoral office!
Richard Hanson observes, "For us the words bishops, presbyters, and deacons are stored with the associations of nearly two thousand
Revelation 1:6, 5:10, 20:6. R. Paul Stevens, The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work, and Ministry in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 173-181.
Banks, Paul's Idea of Community, 131-135. The New Testament never uses the secular Greek words for civil and religious authorities to depict ministers in the church. Further, even though most New Testament authors were steeped in the Jewish priestly system of the Old Testament, they never use hiereus (priest) to refer to Christian ministry. Ordination to office presupposes a static and definable church leadership role that did not exist in the apostolic churches. Marjorie Warkentin, Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 160-161, 166.
The words of Job come to mind: "Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man" (Job 32:21).
years. For the people who first used them, the titles of these offices can have meant little more than inspectors, older men and helpers. It was when unsuitable theological significance began to be attached to them that the distortion of the concept of Christian ministry began."'
First-century shepherds were the local elders (presbyters)' and overseers of the church.' Their function was at odds with the contemporary pastoral role.'
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