Posted by: watchman | August 8, 2009

First Timothy 3: Able To Teach

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach
– I Timothy 3:2 (TNIV)

There is a difference between preaching and teaching. Here, Paul asks that overseers be apt to “teach” (didaktikos).

Preaching – this is more of a proclamation. Haddon Robinson writes that the word preach means to “cry out, herald, or exhort.” It is a challenging, public message. The word comes from the idea of a nobleman’s herald crying in the streets a proclamation or edict. In a time before Twitter, this is how word got around.

Preaching is very important to the Christian tradition. It is a part of worship and evangelism. However, it is not teaching. Preaching far far too often is lost in the ego of a pulpiteer. To think that an act rooted in the poor suffering prophets of old has become something you would advertise in a newspaper with an image of your face is astounding.

Creepy Preacher Guy

Teaching -Teaching implies a more intimate, mutual interaction about a subject matter. In the first century culture a “didact” could have been a traveling lecturer or a tutor. Whatever the case, they were knowledgeable enough to teach others, which is why I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase here – “He must know what he’s talking about”

The idea of the differences between a teacher and a preacher reminds me of Socrates’ Apology speech. In his speech, Socrates is refuting his accusers’ accusation that he led youth astray with his teaching. He claims that he could not have done this since he was never a teacher, because he was never paid for his teaching. He then lists a bunch of people who get paid very well to teach and tutor and says they are the real teachers that people listen to. He can tell how well they are listened to by how much money they make!

Sadly, I wonder if the delineation could not be the same between preachers and teachers. Preachers have become some sort of professional speech givers. They are famous, with book deals. While a humble sister can sit at a cafe with a Bible and a cheap cup of coffee and probably accomplish so much more.



  1. I understand that there is some difference between the two,but what is the point of mentioning it here?

  2. Spicewriter,

    I suppose that I did not flesh it out well in the post. I have always been taught that when Paul says “teach” he is referring to the preaching ministry of the overseer. However, he is not referring to preaching, he is referring to teaching.

    Preaching is very important. In fact, Paul that it was vital to spread the Good News. However, it is very different than the challenging work of discipleship and teaching.

    Thanks for the question!

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