Monday, December 15, 2014

Teachers beware - James 3:1

"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1)
Teachers are an essential part of the Body of Christ and of the Church of Jesus Christ. Speaking of apostles and prophets, Paul says, "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone," (Ephesians 2:19-20) Apostles and prophets are primarily concerned with the foundation of the church; insuring that it is foundation is secure and properly situated with respect to Jesus Christ. However, with respect to teachers, Paul says, "And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:28) Now some may say that Paul is giving simply a listing of functions within the church rather than a ranking of functions. However, I believe that, next to apostles and prophets, teachers are critical in the long term health, growth, and viability of the church, which is the Body of Christ. Once the foundation has been laid and the body established, its pressing need is to be taught the word of God, the ways of God, and how to become the Body of Christ.

Because of the important role teachers serve in the body, and because of the authority and sway they hold over the people's mind, God holds them to a higher standard of fidelity than other believers. Many people may believe wrong, but when a teacher teaches wrong, God takes notice. Their stricter, or greater, judgment is like unto the two servants which Jesus spoke of. "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." (Luke 12:47-48) Teachers have been given much in regards to knowledge and understanding of God and, as such, are held accountable for what they have received. They have been given much and much is expected of them. Their stricter judgment is as the judgment that befell Moses who lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. His actions were more strictly judged than those of the people. There was the time when God told Moses to strike the rock, but he, in his frustration with the people, struck it twice instead of once. "Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.'" (Numbers 20:11-12) Moses was not faithful to the word of the Lord and as such was barred from entering into the promised land.

The scriptures gives some suggestion to teachers to help them avoid this greater judgment. First, before we teach others, we must first allow Jesus to teach us. "If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus..." (Ephesians 4:21) Secondly, we must not think too high of ourselves. Paul chides the Jews who thought they were, "a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth." (Romans 2:20) yet who were so only in their own minds. Thirdly, we must live the truth before we seek to teach it. "you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?" (Romans 2:21) Fourthly, we must not teach beyond our knowledge and understanding. "Wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions." (1 Timothy 1:7) And lastly, we must remember that we are not called to teach our own ideas, but to perpetuate the teachings and traditions of the Apostles, for that's what it truly means to be apostolic. "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2)

David Robison

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