The Office of Teacher or Doctor

Then spake Jesus… saying, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”

Mt. 23:1-3

“And He gave… some pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry…”

Eph. 4:11-12

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers…”

1 Cor. 12:28



Order of Contents

More Quotes
May a Person Teach who is not Ordained?





Voet, Gisbert – ‘On Whether there is an Office of ‘Doctor”  from Ecclesiastical Politics  (Amsterdam, 1669), pp. 479-81  trans. Charles Johnson

Owen, John – Of the Office of Teacher in the Church  Buy  1688  12 pp.  being chapter six of his The True Nature of a Gospel Church and its Government, found in volume 16 of his 16 volume works.

This is the best short work arguing for the office from scripture.  Owen was a congregationalist, which view held that teachers must be called by the local church and could preach and administer the sacraments. 

The Scots, which this webmaster agrees with, held that doctors could be called by presbyteries, could work outside the bounds of the local church, and did not have the power to preach or administer the sacraments.

Heidegger, Johann – On the Office of Doctor  Buy  trans. 2017

“Johann Heinrich Heidegger (1633-1698) was one of the great Swiss theologians of the seventeenth century.  He served as Professor of Theology at Zurich from 1667 to 1698.  Heidegger is remembered for his leading role in the drafting of the Formula Consensus Helveticus, a document, although moderate in tone, intended to unite the Swiss churches against the innovative theology of Saumur.  His Corpus Theologiae Christianae is a massive and learned presentation of orthodox Reformed dogmatics.”



Fentiman, Travis – Introduction to the Office of Teacher  2014  27 paragraphs, with four Appendices of 44 more paragraphs.

Here is a comprehensible introduction to the historic, Reformation view and that of the Westminster Assembly, showing the Biblical warrant for the Office of Teacher.  Further resources are suggested in the article for further study.  

Myers, Andrew – Office of Doctor  2009  34 paragraphs

This is an anthology of excerpts from 14 reformation era creeds, books of discipline and documents demonstrating that the Office of Doctor was the universal view and practice of the Reformation and post-reformation eras.  Read here to see how these godly divines understood the particulars of the office, including its Biblical warrant and functions.




Henderson, Robert – The Teaching Office in the Reformed Tradition: a History of the Doctoral Ministry  Buy  1962  277 pp.

This is an invaluable, exhaustive dissertation on the history of the Office of Doctor in the historic, Reformed Church, though it is not exegetical and does not cover many of the Biblical arguments.  He very clearly distinguishes the different conceptions and practices of the Office of Doctor in the Middle Ages, Calvin’s Geneva, the Scottish Church, the French Church, the Dutch Church, the English Church (including the Westminster Assembly), and in the puritan Congregational churches. 



More Quotes  (in addition to those in Myers’ article)


The Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France  1559

Ch. 11, ‘Of Baptism’, Canon 2  in Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, vol. 1, p. xliv

“A Doctor in a church may not preach, nor administer the sacraments, unless that he be at the same time both Doctor and Minister.”


The Synod of Dort  1619

First Head

The Offices

Article 2

The offices are of four kinds: of the Ministers of the Word, of the Professors of Theology, of the Elders, and of the Deacons.”


Samuel Rutherford  1642

Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbytery in Scotland, 1642, London

Ch. 20, Whether or not the government of the Church of Scotland can be proved by God’s Word to be lawful?

Article 2, Officers of the Church

The ordinary officers of our Church are Pastors, to whom belongeth the word of exhortation, 1 Tim. 3:1-3; 2 Tim. 1:7,8, Doctors, who in schools expound the word of God, and convince gainsayersRom. 12:7,8; Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28, Governors, or governing Elders who rule well, Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Tim. 5:17; Acts 15:23, and Deacons who care for the poor, Acts 6:2-4; 1 Tim. 3:8-12.  


Article 5, Pastor’s Duty

The doctors’ way is doctrinal, to inform the mind and defend the truth against gainsayers (Rom. 12:7).


Article 10, Schools and Doctors

There are with us Doctors of Divinity who teach in schools and Universities, men tried to be holy and learned, and then put in office, as 1 Tim. 3:10, under whose instruction are students aiming at the holy ministry called expectants, as in the Jewish Church in their colleges, were young prophets, or sons of the prophets, as 1 Sam. 10:5; 2 Kings 2:7; 2 Kings 4:1; 1 Kings 20:35These Doctors and also the teachers of human literature, who train up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4, if they aim at the ministery, prophecy in our presbyterial meetings, 1 Cor. 14:29.


A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church-Discipline penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker…  wherein the way of the churches of New England is now Re-examined  (London, 1658), p. 22

“2. The contret [contract?] of a lecturer that preacheth the word to diverse professors from sundry Churches, if:

1. He have no warrant to administer the seals, or to exercise discipline over them; he seemeth to me some catholick doctor I read not of in scripture, not unlike the Popish and prelatical deacon, who may preach and baptize (as a midwife to them in case of necessity may baptize) but not to administer the other seal.

2. If he be a lawfully called Pastor, I shall say, the meeting is a true visible Church of visible members met from sundry churches, and is not a fixed, but a transient church, and it is no more absurd to say [that] these [auditors] are members of four visible churches, to wit, transient members, than to say they are members of the whole catholic, visible Church, and baptized.  Whether Jews or gentiles, all, by one spirit, unto one body, 1 Cor. 12:13., being all one body, having one spirit, one faith, one Lord, one baptism.  Eph. 4:4-5, though they belong to diverse particular churches:”


James Fergusson, Commentary on Eph. 4:11.  HT: Andrew Myers

The other two are ordinary office-bearers, pastors and teachers; I say two, though the disjunctive particle “some,” be not cast in between them; for they are distinguished, Rom. 12:7, 8, and the exercise of their respective offices is distinguished also, 1 Cor. 12:8; so that by pastors are meant those who, besides their ability to open up the text of Scripture in some measure, are chiefly gifted with the word of wisdom, wisely and powerfully to apply the word for working upon the affections, as the matter requires; and the teacher is he who is gifted with the word of knowledge, or ability to open up the mind of God in Scripture, establishing truth, and confuting error, without insisting much upon particular application; which office, because of the church’s poverty, is confined to the schools, and the ordinary exercise of it before the people left upon the pastor.”


Paul BaynesCommentary on Eph. 4:11.  HT: Andrew Myers.

“Pastors, that is, ministers that labored in the word of exhortation, and ministering the sacraments.

Teachers. Ministers that labored in the word of doctrine or knowledge; for as the persons are here distinguished, so the gifts elsewhere.”


George GillespieAn assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland, ch. 2:

But they differ, in that the pastor labors in the word of exhortation, that is, by the gift of wisdom applies the word to the manners of his flock, and that in season and out of season, as he knows their particular cases to require.  The doctor labors in the word of doctrine, that is, without such applications as the pastor uses; by simple teaching he preserves the truth and sound interpretation of the Scriptures, against all heresy and error.  The ruling elder doth neither of these, but labors in the government and policy of the church only.  The Apostle has distinguished these three sorts of elders, 1 Tim. 5.17, “Let elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.”  Where, as [Theodore] Beza notes, he distinguished the word, which is the pastor’s part, from doctrine, which is the doctor’s part.  Even as Rom. 12:7,8, he distinguishes teaching from exhortation; and 1 Cor. 12:8, puts “the word of wisdom,” and “the word of knowledge,” for two different things. Now, besides those elders which labor in the word, and those which labor in doctrine, Paul speaks to Timothy of a third sort of elders, which labor neither in the word nor doctrine, but in ruling well.  Hence it appears how truly the Book of Policy, ch. 2, says, That there are four ordinary, perpetual, and necessary offices in the church, the office of the pastor, the doctor, the elder, and the deacon; and that no other office, which is not one of these four, ought to be received, or suffered in the church.”


Edward Leigh, was a member of the Westminster Assembly

Annotations on the New Testament, 1650

Matt 23:39

…so that this should be the meaning, I [Jesus] have behaved Myself humbly and lovingly amongst you, and have discharged the office of Teacher, now the course of my calling being finished, I will depart, and you shall not enjoy Me hereafter…

John 7:37

Jesus stood.  When otherwise the custom of that age carried it, that the teachers sat, even as Christ also often did, but here He stood that He might signify that He would seriously execute the great Office of Teaching.



May a Person Teach who is not Ordained?

The General Rule

John Calvin

Commentary on Luke 3, verse 2

“Hence infer, that there are no regular teachers, but those on whom God has conferred the office; and that it is not enough to have the word of God, if there be not likewise a special calling.”


Exceptions to the Rule

Samuel Rutherford

Due Right of Presbyteries (1646), Part 2, p. 272

“5th Distinction:  There is a formal calling of the Church, as the laying on of the hands of the elders, and a virtual and interpretative calling or tacit approbation of the Church, when learned men of eminent gifts, not in office, do write commentaries, sermons on canonical Scriptures, and tractates refuting heresies; to this the tacit approbation of the Church is required, but these have not ordinary pastoral care, nor are they the ordinary converters of souls to Christ, as the pretended prophets of Separatists are [claimed to be].”


A Peaceable and Temperate Plea  (1642), ch. 19, p. 298

“2. As a singularly graced Christian, he [the civil king] may write sermons and commentaries on holy Scripture for edifying the Church; but this should be done by him by no kingly faculty.”


On John Owen’s View

‘John Owen on commending Edward Polhill as a lay theologian’  from Edward Polhill, The divine will considered in its eternal decrees, and holy execution of them. By Edward Polhill of Burwash in Sussex Esquire (2nd edn; London: Thomas Shelmerdine, 1695), unpaginated.


Other Lay Persons who wrote theological works during the 1600’s

Edward Leigh, Andrew Wellwood, Johnston of Wariston, Francis Rous, Archibald Campbell




Related Pages

The Government of the Church

The Offices of the Church