Except Some Man Guide Me
“How can I, except some man should guide me?” Acts 8:31
The prophet Isaiah states clearly that “all thy children shall be taught of the LORD.” The Apostle John elaborates on this concept of Jehovah as teacher in 1 John 2:27:
“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: But as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye should abide in him.”
The method of God’s teaching is further brought out by the same Apostle John in his Gospel, chapter 16, verse 13: “Howbeit when he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.”
If God is to be the Christian’s teacher, and the holy spirit the medium by which he teaches, what need is there of man in the teaching process? Does God directly teach the Christian, but not the Ethiopian? Why does the Ethiopian eunuch in our text claim that he cannot understand the Scriptures, “except some man shall guide me?”
The Apostle Paul complicates the matter further in the tenth chapter of Romans: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call upon him on whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!”
The seeming conflict between these two sets of Scriptures is simple. Either God teaches directly or he teaches through men. Both views can seemingly be supported by Scripture. One solution which presents itself is that God taught Israel through the medium of chosen men but teaches the Church directly through the holy spirit. However, the Apostle Paul does not permit this easy explanation.
“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore, he saith When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. . . . and he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Eph. 4:8, 11-16
If God taught the Christian directly why did he give us Apostles? why prophets? why evangelists? why pastors and teachers? The answer is easy. Because we needed them. Why? “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
It is important to note that Christ’s gifts to his Church are not all alike. Some were to be apostles, others prophets, others evangelists and others pastors and teachers. There is a need for each category, therefore, Jesus supplies that need.
APOSTLES: Naturally the first thing we think of when we see this word is the twelve apostles of the Lamb. They are the foundation teachers for the Church. (Rev. 21:14) Their role was unique. It is generally agreed that they alone were the inspired teachers of the New Testament church. The argument for the inspiration of the apostles begins with Jesus’ promise to Peter in Matt. 16:19—
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Just two chapters later in Matt. 18:18 we find the same promise, minus the “keys” reiterated to a larger group: “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind in earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Although some may assert that the “ye” applies to the entire church (see verse 17), the second person pronoun argues against this interpretation. If it applied to the church, it would require the third person pronoun “they.” The use of the second person pronoun means that he is referring to his listeners, in this case, the apostles, “the disciples” of verse 1.
The commentator Jamieson, Fausett and Brown has this to say on the text: “Here, what had been granted a short time before to Peter only is plainly extended to all the Twelve; so that whatever it means, it means nothing peculiar to Peter, far less, to his pretended successors at Rome.”
There is a third place where a similar expression is found and again it is in connection with the apostles. This is in John 20:21-23, “Then said Jesus to them again, peace be unto you: as my father has sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, receive ye the holy spirit: Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained.”
On the basis of these texts it seems safe to assume that divine inspiration was given to the apostles and to none others.
This however does not answer the question as to whether the apostles in Eph. 4 are limited to the twelve. In Acts 14:14 Barnabas is called an apostle. In 2 Cor. 8:23 Titus and other brethren were also called apostles. In Heb. 3:1 Jesus is called an apostle.
In 2 Cor. 8:23 the Greek word translated “messengers” in the King James is the wordapostolos used of The Twelve. The word apostle simply means “sent one,” a representative or delegate of another. Jesus was God’s apostle, Barnabas and Titus were apostles of various churches, because they were sent forth by them, representing them, but only the twelve were “apostles of the Lamb.” As Titus and “the brethren” were apostles “of the churches,” so God has been pleased to use elected representatives of ecclesias as his teachers.
PROPHETS: It is obvious that the prophets here spoken of are not the prophets of the Old Testament because they were a gift of Jesus “when he ascended on high.” (Eph. 4:8)
The gift of prophecy was one of the gifts of the spirit to the early church. It undoubtedly referred to a special divinely given ability to predict the future, but the word prophet goes beyond this. Strong’s Concordance defines a prophet not only as a foreteller but also “by analogy, an inspired speaker.” It seems to be in this latter sense that Paul is using the word in Ephesians.
The preaching ministry has been a significant one throughout the church’s history. Much of the New Testament spreading of the Gospel was through preaching. The spiritual education of the church was through the medium of preaching. The maintenance of the Christian faith through its two thousand year history is due largely to the preaching ministry. These preachers have been commissioned not only to stir up and motivate God’s flock but more particularly to educate them, to teach them.
EVANGELISTS: According to Nelson’s Bible Dictionary the New Testament evangelists “were not attached to any specific local church. They traveled over a wide geographical area, preaching to those with whom the Holy Spirit led them.” In other words, they were itinerant preachers. A New Testament example would be Apollos. Limiting evangelism to the work of public witness appears to be a false limitation. The distinction between prophets and evangelists is apparently more in regard to their appointment by a given church, or lack thereof.
PASTORS AND TEACHERS: These two terms refer to one office, not two. In A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by Dana and Mantey we have reference to Granville Sharp’s rule of the Greek. “When two nouns are in the same case, connected by kai [and], and the first noun is preceded by the definite article while the second is not preceded by the article, the second noun refers to the same person or thing to which the first noun has reference and is a further description of it.” In plain English, the office here is “pastor” with, “teacher” being merely an additional description—a pastoral teacher.
The word “pastor” means shepherd and is linked by the same Greek rule in 1 Pet. 2:25 with the office of bishop, or overseer. It is evidently a reference to an office in the church which very few are qualified to fill. Note the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 4:15:
“For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”
It was because of Paul’s fatherly, or pastoral role that he could continue in the next verse saying: “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.” It is significant that in 1 Cor. 11:1 he limits this admonition with the phrase “even as I also am of Christ.”
This role of pastoral teaching applies to those whom God has set in the Church with special aptitudes for personal counseling. They are not many, one in ten thousand, if we are to take Paul’s words literally, but nevertheless, a great gift from our Lord.
There seems to be no question then that while God does take on the role of being our teacher and the holy spirit his channel, he also uses many human agencies in our instruction. We do not learn the truth by some miraculous enlightenment of the mind, or mysterious voice whispering in our ear or by a vision in the night. Instead, as Paul says, we grow “by that which every joint supplieth.” The method God chose “compacts” the body together and makes every member dependent upon every other member.
Of course, there are limitations to human teachers. Only the Twelve were inspired, and even they did not always speak by inspiration. (1 Cor. 7:6, 12)
Human fallibility is often demonstrated by human changeability. Truth is unchangeable, men are not. Once a truth has been thoroughly proven and accepted it becomes a touchstone to gauge the accuracy of other teachings. In this connection note the Apostle Paul’s words in Gal. 1:8:
“But though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
And again, the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.”
Teachers are sent of God; but God does not send not all who claim to be teachers as his true teachers.. The authenticity of their teachings must be verified by God’s own Word, the Bible. Not all teachers are gifts from God, though we thank God for those who are.