Monday, August 10, 2009


Sorry for the delay in recent posting. I recently had some major surgery but all is well and God be praised.

The following was written by Tom Ascol, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral Florida. What do you think?

Pastor – Theologian
Christ intends for His churches to be led by men who meet certain qualifications. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, the apostle Paul writes very plainly about what the Elders of a church must be. The main concern is character. They must be men whose lives are exemplary in holiness.
In addition to however, men who would shepherd God’s flock must be doctrinally sound. They must believe truth sincerely and be able to teach it clearly. In the first chapter of Titus, after highlighting the moral qualifications that every elder is to possess, Paul makes this point in verse nine. An elder he writes, "must hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict".

Churches are to be served by pastors who are sound theologians. That idea strikes many as strange today because the last hundred years have witnessed a separation of those two roles. Pastors belong in the churches while theologians, we have been led to believe, belong in the Universities and Seminaries.

Paul’s instruction to Titus, however, forces us to admit that every pastor is called to be a theologian. The truth that God has revealed in His word is to be explored, understood, believed, taught and defended. That describes the work of a theologian, and pastoral ministry cannot be effectively carried out by a man who does not engage in this kind of effort. Churches are to be governed by the word of God. Those men who bear the responsibility to lead a church have no alternative but to be well grounded in scripture.

A pastor must be firm in his grasp of the word "as taught" or more accurately "according to the teaching" as the NASB renders it. Paul is referring to what by that time had become a recognized body of doctrinal teaching. Before a man can be qualified to serve in the role of Pastor in a church, he must "hold firm" to the doctrines revealed in God’s word. That is, he must understand these doctrines and believe in them. neither superficial thinking about nor half hearted commitment to the teachings of scripture will suffice for the man who would be a pastor in the church of Jesus Christ. This means the pastors are to be men who give themselves to diligent study and who constantly cultivate humble faith.

Paul mentions two reasons why a pastor must be a careful theologian. The first has to do with his responsibility to nurture and care for the flock he serves. Shepherds must feed their sheep and the only diet that God has prescribed for His people is His word (Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Pet. 2:2). An overseer in the church must be "able to teach" (1 Tim 3:2) because it is through the ministry of the word that believers are nourished. As David Wells rightly suggests, a pastor is a truth broker whose primary responsibility is to study, proclaim, and apply God’s word so that "moral character is formed and Christian wisdom results" in the people of God. This is the first reason a pastor must be a theologian – so that "he can give instructions in sound doctrine".

But a pastor must not only teach God’s people, he must also defend them. he must affirm truth and refute error, both of which require discernment born of careful study. The church of Jesus Christ has always been plagued with people who "contradict" sound doctrine. It is the job of pastors to rebuke such persons so that their error does not spread like gangrene through the body (2 Tim. 2:15-18). The Pastor must be "well instructed" Calvin wrote, "in the knowledge of sound doctrine; the second is that, with unwavering firmness of courage…and the third is that he make his manner of teaching tend to edification".

The greatest theologians in the history of the church have been faithful pastors. And the greatest pastors in the history of the church have been careful theologians. Obviously the names appearing on both lists (with rare exceptions) are the same. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Gill, Edwards, Fuller, Spurgeon and so many others, were pastor theologians. They were men who took the apostolic qualifications for elder seriously and in fulfillment of their calling to shepherd God’s people, faithfully gave themselves to the work of theology.

J. I. Packer has wisely noted, "To be a good expositor…one must first be a good theologian. Theology…is what God has put into the texts of scripture, and theology is what preachers must draw out of them". if we hope to see renewed spiritual vitality come to our churches, then we must insist that those who serve as pastors recognize that inherent in their calling is the responsibility to be sound theologians. Only then will God’s people be properly instructed in the way of Christ and effectively protected against the errors and heresies that corrode spiritual health.



  1. John,

    Are you saying that pastor and elder are always interchangeable as terms? An elder can always be the pastor but a pastor is not necessarily an elder.

  2. Oops, for some reason one whole sentence was not posted. Let's try this again.

    Are you saying that pastor and elder are always interchangeable. I see it more as an elder can always be the pastor but a pastor is not necessarily an elder.

    Hope that makes more sense.

  3. From what I have studied in scripture, the term pastor is relegated to the one who tends and feeds and cares for the flock. This is from everything I see, the elder. To assign the responsibility of pastoring the flock (protection, feeding, nurturing etc) to anyone else opens some real difficulties.

    What would be their qualifications? where are they mentioned in scripture? Like the office of Evangelist we are shown both a general and a specific function of the terms. all are to share their faith with the lost and can generally be said to be evangelizing but that does not necessarily make them evangelists in the way we see the oficial and gifted office. One can care for another sheep but that is in a general way rather then a specific way.

    When we use the term "a" pastor or "the" pastor we are pretty much without scriptural support unless we are talking about the Elder who was given this specific responsibility by te Apostle Paul in Acts 20. I do believe the terms elder and pastor are in fact interchangable and refer to the same man.

    The term minister is another topic all together since the word minister in scripture is always translated from the Greek "diokonos" which as we know is "servant". our transliteration at times clouds the understanding since Paul, Timothy and even Jesus Himself were refered to as "diokonos" and we know they were all more then mere deacons.

    The topic however was that of an elder as a theologian. if an Pastor/Elder cannot know and communicate and defend the word of God he has fallen short of at least one of his main ministries


  4. Understood. I have a little bit a different take on it. Hope you been over to my blog lately. It's odd how we wrote these things around the same time. As you know I respect your opinion and knowledge. So I would like to hear your comments on what I said about the subject.

    And as alwasy remember to vote on the poll.

    Take care John and see on CCT.