Apt and Able
Growing up, I remember hearing sermons about elders who were “apt to teach.” This statement is based off of the King James Version of 1 Timothy 3.2 and Titus 1.9. This same expression is used of the “Lord’s servant” in 2 Timothy 2.24. This phrase caused conclusions to be made that a leader in God’s church should not only teach but be “likely or having a tendency” to teach. God’s leaders eagerly anticipate their next opportunity to share God’s truth.
Nowadays, most translations have changed this phrase to “able to teach.” The difference in these translations is important because one speaks of ability, while the other speaks of attitude. To say someone is capable of doing something is not the same thing as saying they are likely to do something. While I might be capable of eating a roach, I am not likely. In contrast, I might be likely to attempt rock climbing, but I am not currently capable. These are two very different ideas.
The Greek term translated “apt” and “able” is didaktikovs (pronounced di-dak-ti-kos). This term is only used here and in 2 Timothy 2.24 of the “Lord’s servant” so there is little context in Scripture to help define the term. One reason this term has been newly translated is because of the parallel passage in Titus 1.9. This passage clearly speaks of being able to teach and handle the word of God accurately.
This is not a definitive reason to redefine a term. It could be that God’s instruction is that the elders and servants of His Church be both ready and capable to teach others. This certainly is true of all of us. The writer of Hebrews rebukes his Christian audience for not being ready to teach even though they had been Christians long enough to be ready (cf. Heb 5.11-14). All Christians are expected to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks” (1 Pet 3.15). All Christians should be capable of “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2.15). Notice these verses include both being ready and capable to teach others.
This requires just two simple things from each of us. First, we must have a passion for the message. If we care deeply about our topic, we will talk about it often. We will constantly study it. We will develop our own understanding and grow in our ability to delve deeply into the truth. Secondly, we must have a passion for the audience. If we care about the people we are sharing God’s truth with, we will never give up on their salvation and redemption. We will find opportunities to share His truth because we care about their souls.
These two passions are the very motivations that make good elders. Good elders care about God’s truth and they care about the people they lead and teach. Likewise, God’s servants care about God’s mission and His message. Let us all be more apt and more able to teach.