A warning for teachers

Teachers of God’s Word must be aware of their responsibilities. Accordingly, James offers an intimidating warning that we must understand.

“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1, NKJV).

Christianity is a taught religion (Matthew 28:18-20; Titus 2:3-4) so it can’t be that James is trying to dissuade us from teaching (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The ancient world had immense respect for orators and philosophers. They developed a following and their money and fame spread as their reputations increased (Acts 24:1-9).

With the scribes, Pharisees and the Judaizing teachers as a backdrop, God’s warning is very important. If we teach the gospel, we must be committed, faithful and humble. Unqualified, greedy and covetous teachers have no place in the kingdom.

Spiritual leaders did great damage to God’s people throughout the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34:1-10; Malachi 2:1-2, et al). We must remember that Christ is everything and we’re nothing (John 1:1-5; 14:6; Job 40:3-5).

A Jewish maxim proclaimed, “Love the work, not the title.” Despite the legions in the religious world, God’s Church is not the path to fame and fortune. We bow to Christ, not the other way around (James 4:10). Jesus is Lord, not a stepping stone.

The Bible has extraordinary power and we must be focused on glorifying Christ to bring its power to the world (Ephesians 3:20-21). When we’re trying to steal the spotlight, we need to put down our robes, titles and diamonds and stay far away from rostrums and pulpits.

Instead, let us bow low, so Christ can stand tall. His message is far too important for our interference (Galatians 1:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Let us stop promoting ourselves and study with all of our being (Acts 17:10-11).

Paul’s prescription for unity

Jesus prayed for unity among his followers.  In Ephesians, Paul described God’s plan to create unity through Christ.  Is there hope today for unity among believers?

When faced with the problem of religious division, Paul simultaneously undermined false values that foster divisiveness while cultivating principles promoting the unity God desires. His prescription boils down to three guidelines:

Continue reading “Paul’s prescription for unity”

Not like other teachers

by Barry Newton

Wish to be perceived as credible? Advice readily arises from many quarters: Don’t overstate the evidence. Qualify your statements with a tentative aspect. Speak with a mid-western accent. Don’t speak too fast, or too slow. The list goes on and on.

According to most scholars, Jewish religious teachers were regarded as reliable during the first century of this era if they cited previous recognized authorities.

In fact, to depend upon what prior teachers had affirmed was required unless the teacher happened to be an ordained rabbi. Have a question? Expect the answer to be dug up from within a rich and deeply rooted wisdom tradition.

Enter Jesus. “You have heard it was said … but I say unto you ….” This unordained teacher broke their customary religious pedagogical conventions.

Jesus conveyed authority, not just by exercising power, but also through declaring his teaching to be the final word on a subject.

Upon concluding his Sermon on the Mount, “the crowds were amazed by his teaching, because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law” (Matthew 7:28,29).

Today, careful teachers couch their statements with a degree of tentativeness lest tomorrow’s discoveries invalidate today’s assertions thereby exposing their error. The language of “it seems,” “most likely” and so forth provides a safe retreat to “I spoke with the best information I had available to me at that moment.”

This is precisely how Jesus differs from teachers past and present. While some might pontificate but do so as limited and fallible humans, and while others might rely on either repeating accepted authoritative voices or preserving for themselves the escape hatch of being tentative, Jesus knew the truth.

He knew what was true and will always be true. And so, he spoke.

“I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak just what my Father has taught me” (John 8:28).

“The word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:24).

“My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me” (John 7:16).

Through the voice of Jesus we hear a teacher unlike others. Just how significant is this?

“The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge, the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48).

While the post-modern chorus of conflicting, affirming and affronting messages continues unabated, there is a voice that stands apart. There is a teacher whose message is worthy of our closest attention.

Hear the word of the Lord.

Education

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by Stan Mitchell

“The only thing more expensive than getting an education is not getting an education” (Anonymous).

“Seeing the crowds he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them saying …” (Matthew 5:1,2).

In this way Matthew begins his account of the Sermon on the Mount. The greatest person who ever lived was a teacher.

The greatest thing anyone can do today is teach God’s ways. It might be to three-year-olds, their eyes shining with the attention they receive, it might be to teenagers, trying so hard to act cool, barely concealing their sense of inferiority.

It might be to adults, a few at a time or in throngs, as Jesus did.

A school teacher reaches decades into the life of her children, and far more than that when her children have children of their own. What a difference she makes!

But a Bible teacher reaches into eternity.

Do you teach Bible classes? Thank you! Would you like to? Let me know, please. Do you feel you need help? Talk to me. We can put you in a classroom with a more experienced teacher.

Do you remember what the biblical standard for a mature Christian was?

The Hebrew writer said it was the ability, and willingness to teach: (Hebrews 5:11-14, ESV).

How wonderful is it when a professional teacher lends her training and experience to teaching at her local congregation. How wonderful when she shares her expertise with we amateurs!

How wonderful when a teacher persists (in spite of weariness and criticism) for decades in this task. How wonderful is it when a teacher grows, develops his craft, and does this for the Lord’s glory!

Jesus wore some wonderful names. They called him “Lord” and “Savior,” but perhaps most of all, they called him “Rabbi” –teacher (John 1:41). We could do well to follow that example.

Preparing to teach

by Richard Mansel, managing editor

Teaching requires that we yield a part of ourselves and step away from our comfort zones. Teaching is a fearful thing for many people and they dread it. Nevertheless, Christianity is a taught religion (Matthew 28:18-20) and requires a significant sacrifice.

Naturally, our minds, ever quick to rationalize, will look for an avenue of escape. James appears to provide one:

“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1, NKJV).

However, before we sprint into the shadows, let us see what James meant. Would the Lord’s own brother betray the Great Commission and the mission of his Lord?

Nestled in the context of faith and works, this admonition is steeped in humility before God (James 4:10). The dangers of the tongue follow our text before merging into a discussion of wisdom and understanding.

James is trying to encourage his readers to grow, realizing the grave responsibilities that come from teaching God’s message.

We must be filled with humility, love and respect for the Word so we can share the gospel message with the world. The great commission is for all and we utilize our skills and opportunities to put Jesus before the world (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Realizing that the Word comes from God, man must bow before it (John 1:1-5,14; 2 Peter 1:21; Jeremiah 1:9; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). We yield our stubborn will to Christ’s message (John 12:48). The consequences are too staggering to consider (Galatians 1:6-9).

The admonition here is to prepare ourselves spiritually and intellectually. We learn the Word and make it a part of our being so we can be powerful teachers (Psalm 119:89-96; Psalm 119:169-176).

God demands that we purge sin from our lives so that they will not distract from the gospel message (Matthew 7:1-5). The price is too high to place our own ego before God’s will.

Before we dare teach–whether publicly or privately–we must allow the Word to penetrate our own lives (Hebrews 4:12) before we turn it on others.

We must strive for purity, so the message can be heard as God intended. When we become transformed (Romans 12:1-2), the Word will be rejuvenated in a lost and dying world.