In 1 Corinthians 12:29, Paul rhetorically asks, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?” The implied answer is “no.” Not everyone in the first-century church was expected to be a teacher, any more than everyone was an apostle, a prophet, or a miracle worker. But in Hebrews 5:12 we read, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers …” Why do these two passages seem to be saying conflicting things?
The texts in question are addressed to two different audiences in separate places and times, dealing with two very different issues. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is confronting the problem of jealousy and discord due to the misuse of miraculous gifts; each member should be contributing his/her part for the benefit of the whole body. In this context, “teachers” fulfil a special role in the church (cf. James 3:1).
In Hebrews 5 the problem is lack of spiritual growth and maturity. There comes a time when all Christians ought to be “teachers” in some sense, whether by: (a) example (Matt. 5:13-16; Rom. 16:19; 1 Tim. 3:7; 4:12, 15; 5:25; 1 Pet. 2:11-12); (b) open confession of one’s faith (Matt. 10:32; Heb. 4:14; 10:23); (c) defense of the faith (1 Pet. 3:15; Jude 3); (d) fulfilling one’s “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:17-21; cf. Matt. 28:18-20); and/or (e) developing and utilizing God-given teaching talents (Rom. 12:7; Eph. 4:11). It is this latter (more specific) sense that is considered in 1 Corinthians 12, whereas in Hebrews 5 the broader sense is in view.
--Kevin L. Moore