In the last weekly, we see how it is important that we should understand the nature of the pastor’s
work and his faith (1 Thess. 5:12-13). Thus, we shall endeavour to get a better understanding
from the Scriptures on this subject for the next few weeks.

The term “pastor” in the New Testament is found in Ephesians 4:11-12. It comes from the Greek
ποιμην (poimen), which literally means, “a shepherd”. The verb form of this term (ποιμαινω,
poimano) is used in Acts 20:28, where the elders of the Ephesian church are called to “feed” (i.e.
shepherd) the church of God. Thus, a pastor is one who is called to be an “under shepherd” of
God’s people. As the “under shepherd”, he follows the command and direction of the Great
Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 13:20; c.f. 1 Pet. 2:25), to care for God’s flock.
The care of the Great Shepherd for the sheep is most vividly described in Psalm 23. In this Psalm,
we see the Great Shepherd feeding, leading, comforting and defending the sheep. Similarly, the
“under shepherd” is also required to be God’s instrument to feed, lead, comfort and defend the
flock which is purchased by God’s own precious blood.

Two main thrusts of the shepherding duty are presented in Acts 20. Firstly, Paul warns of
grievous wolves who will come in from outside to destroy the flock (v.29). He also warns of men
arising from the congregation itself, who will seek to draw disciples to themselves (v.30). The
pastor is therefore called to “watch” (i.e. be observant and alert) and warn about these dangers
(v.31). By doing so, he serves to protect and guard God’s flock. Secondly, the pastor is to declare
the whole counsel of God. By doing so, he seeks to convert sinners, and build saints in the most
holy faith (see Acts 20:32). Thus, the second aspect of his duty is to instruct or teach. Thus, we
can say in summary that the pastor must nurture and lead the people of God, as one who is called
to be the “under shepherd”.

The priority of the pastor to instruct the flock in God’s Word is further borne out in Ephesians
4:11-12 and 1 Timothy 5:17. Firstly, in Ephesians 4:11-12, he is called the “pastor-teacher”, with
the term “teach”, explaining how he should shepherd the flock of God by teaching the Word of
everlasting life. Secondly, 1 Timothy 5:17 reveals that he is the “teaching elder”, “Let the elders
that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and
doctrine.” Of key importance is the presence of the adverb “especially” (μάλιστα, malista), which
has the meaning of, “to an unusual degree”. All elders are dedicated to the rule and administration
of the church. However, there are those who involve themselves to an unusual degree in
labouring in the word and doctrine. These would be the teaching elders (i.e. pastors) who are
involved not only in the administrative oversight of the church, but also in the teaching of God’s
Word to the congregation. This is the reason for the teaching elder being afforded, “double
honour”. This “double honour” is bestowed upon him because while the ruling elder is actively
involved in ruling, the teaching elder is involved in both ruling and teaching.

While performing the duties laid upon him by the Lord, it is also important for a pastor to
understand that his call is to shepherd God’s flock and not his own flock. This is the flock which
God has purchased “with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). He must thus not lord over God’s flock,
as though he is the master over God’s heritage, but rather serve as an example to God’s people (1
Pet. 5:2-3). He must not abuse the saints but must shepherd them with tender care. He must love
the people of God.

Let us now have a closer look at the various duties of the pastor.

The Pastor’s Duty to Guard Himself

In Acts 20:28, Paul exhorted the Ephesians elders to take heed to themselves and to all the flock
of God. This Greek word translated as “take heed” (προσεχω, prosecho), has the idea of being in
a state of alert and to pay close attention to something. It is interesting to note that Paul asked the
elders to pay attention to themselves first. The dangers which assail the flock of God are the very
same dangers that will assail the leaders too. If they fall, the rest of the congregation will fall with

Paul gave similar advice to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16 – “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the
doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hearthee.”
(1 Tim. 4:16)
In this instance, Paul was exhorting Timothy of his personal responsibility
to be mindful in hanging on (ἐπεχω) to the doctrines of the Scriptures. When he is keeping in
the pathway of right doctrine, others will follow suit and be saved from the evil times.

The pastor must bear in mind that he is the chief target of Satan and his minions. If the pastor
fails to live godly, he stumbles the entire church, and can cause the downfall of the flock of
God. Therefore, to minister effectively, the pastor must first make sure that he is walking close
to God in His Word and prayer. He must keep his heart with all diligence (Prov. 4:23), and
maintain an intimate fellowship with God.

In the midst of ministering to God’s people, it is easy for a pastor to neglect his personal walk
and devotion with the Lord. When a pastor does not walk rightly with the Lord, where does he
find grace to look after God’s flock? “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Cor. 2:16b)
Thus, a pastor’s first duty is to guard himself and make sure he is walking rightly before the
(To be continued)


Hi Pastor Clement, may I ask a question about the incident when angel Gabriel spoke to
Zacharias and then Mary? How do we know their responses were different? Their responses
sounds similar (Luke 1:18, 34), but then it seems Zachariah was chastised but not Mary. What
is the difference? Thank you.

While first reading, there seems to be little difference in the responses of Mary and Zacharias to
Gabriel, but closer examination reveals critical differences.

For Zacharias, we note that Gabriel’s appearance to him was an answer to prayer (Luke 1:13).
What exactly was this prayer? The content of Gabriel’s answer seems to indicate that it was a
request for a son, and for the salvation of Israel. Having prayed for these things, and later
questioning on how he may be sure of this, reveals a wavering and doubting heart concerning
the answer of Gabriel. It is just like us today, who pray to the Lord for answers, and after He has
given His answers, we doubt His answers when it is not to our liking or understanding.

We should also observe Zacharias’ basis for his doubt in verse 18. His argument is that he and
his wife were old. However, as a priest well-versed in the Scriptures, he ought to have
considered the example of Abraham and Sarah. Isaac was born in their old age (100 for
Abraham, 90 for Sarah). Thus, the birth of a son to parents of old age had a precedent in the
Scriptures. Do also refer to the account of the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4.

As for Mary, the Scriptures did not indicate that Gabriel’s appearance was an answer to Mary’s
prayers. Therefore, the circumstances for Gabriel’s appearance were different. The miracle
performed also had no precedent – a virgin birth. Mary was also by this time espoused to Joseph.
This meant that Mary had to keep herself pure (i.e. to remain a virgin) until the consummation
of the marriage. This consideration further increased her sense of wonder with regards to the

We must also observe from verse 45 the testimony of Mary’s cousin, Elisabeth, which was
made in the Holy Spirit (c.f. v.41). She testified that Mary “believed”. If we look carefully at
verses 34-38, Mary did not seem surprised that the Messiah was to come. Rather, she was
wondering how the miracle would be performed. So rather than describing her as doubtful, we
should understand Mary as being bewildered and mystified by the wonder that she should be the
mother of the Messiah. Zacharias on the other hand, wondered how he can “know” of the things
which Gabriel has spoken (i.e. how he can be sure of the things), instead of how they were to be
performed. In other words, Mary was seeking clarity, while Zacharias was expressing doubt.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew