The Teacher's Qualifications
Unfortunately there are no specific lists of qualifications f or teachers like those recorded in the New Testament for elders and deacons. Yet there are many isolated references in the New Testament relating to their functions and duties. Those who teach should not only realize that teaching is essential, they should be aware of the seriousness of their task (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 5:12; Jas. 3: 1).
it is important that Bible classes have good teachers. The success of the class depends largely upon the one doing the instructing. It is certainly better to have inferior facilities in which and with which to teach than inferior teachers. While some natural ability is essential, good teachers are made, not born.
In order to show that our greatest need is well trained, capable teachers, this writing concerns itself with those qualities which make a good teacher.
The Teacher Should Be A Christian
"Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" (Rom. 2: 21). In the role of teaching, nothing can substitute for personal experience. One may know much about the faith once delivered. But if he has never experienced what it means to be immersed into Christ for the remission of sins (Rom. 6:1-6; Acts 2:38), his teaching will have a cold, dead ring about it. One cannot impart to another a conviction which he does not personally own. He is not qualified to stand before a class and tell them of the things pertaining to God until he himself is acquainted with the Father. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of God's family (Gal. 3: 26-27). The thrill of teaching others the gospel of Christ is beyond expression.
However there is more to it than merely believing and being baptized (Mk. 16:16). A teacher should be a faithful child of God faithful in the study of the Bible, faithful in prayer, faithful in attendance and a living example. Only those who have been partakers of the divine nature can speak with a compelling voice regarding the word of reconciliation.
The words of the Apostle are very appropriate at this point: "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2). Look to Jesus. Follow His commands. Be faithful to him unto death (Rev. 2:10).
The Teacher Should Be Constantly Growing
"No horse gets anywhere until he is harnessed. No steam or gas ever drives anything until it is confined. No Niagara is ever turned into light and power until it is tunneled. No life ever grows until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined."1 Certainly all growth that is not toward God is growth toward decay. As a person responsible for his own spiritual welfare and the welfare of those whom he teaches, the teacher should feel the need for continuous cultivation and deepening of his own spiritual life. The teacher should work out a plan for meditation and study, and then spend the rest of his life working that plan. The teacher as a fellow citizen with other saints groweth unto a holy temple (Eph. 2:21). "Study to show thyself approved unto God" is certainly an injunction having greater application than to preachers alone (2 Tim. 2:15, 2).
The Teacher Should be Sacrificial
The admonition: "present your bodies a living sacrifice" fits the scheme of teaching well. Not only must the teaching role he one of extreme sacrifice of one's very being, it requires other sacrifices in order that other people may be taught the Word of God. Take the matter of training for example. Much time and effort goes into this area alone. Just as Jesus selected twelve men and spent three years training them for the work they were to accomplish, so the teacher should be willing to make the sacrifice to prepare for the task of teaching. It takes time, attention, sweat and tears, but it is worth all the sacrifices made. "Give what you have to someone," said Longfellow, "it may be better than you dared to think." If you are not willing to make the personal sacrifices required, then do not teach! You are wasting time. You will be doing an injustice to yourselves and to those needing instruction.
The Teacher Should Desire to Teach
A good teacher is one who is on fire with the zeal of the Lord. Like Jeremiah of old, some feel that they cannot make mention of God, nor speak His Name. Yet they are compelled to speak out! "His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (Jer. 20:9). It takes little talent to spot a teacher who loves to teach. The enthusiasm is apparent; zeal begets zeal. A burning thirst for a greater knowledge of God's Word is constantly instilled in each student. Sacrifices to this end become apparent.
Teacher friend, why are you teaching? Because you had to? No one else would take the class? Reappraise your role and realize that you cannot write your life with a pen and pencil. It is written only in actions and conduct as a tutor. The world around us is creeping to everlasting destruction. Far too many teachers are filled with inactivity. Look at it this way: all that is essential for the triumph of evil is that we cease to teach. When you possess that vital spark to teach, do not lie at anchor. Push out to the sea. You are assured of favorable winds. The candle lighted in Palestine nineteen hundred years ago will never be put out. Become a torch bearer for the Lord (Phil. 2:15-16).
At this point a word of caution is necessary. "Are all teachers?" (I Cor. 12:29). No, not all who desire to teach can teach. There must be some foundation upon which to build. Most everyone can train themselves, or be taught certain skills of teaching. Some will progress slowly while others will advance rapidly. Each teacher should strive to understand his own limitations and work accordingly. This is true with reference to abilities, subject matter, age levels to be taught, etc. Remember, the teacher who realizes his limitations and confesses his inadequacy is prepared to improve.
The Teacher Should Love And Teach Truth
In order for one to love and teach truth, there must be a desire to know truth. We live in an age when the influences of philosophy with its "leap of faith."2 have caused many to believe that there is nothing logical or rational about faith. People are being taught that truth is relative and not absolute.
The teacher who desires to know truth will not shun from a firm stand on New Testament Christianity as a realistic approach to the needs of modern man. We know that God is, that He has revealed His mind or will (I Cor. 2:6-13), and that the New Testament is relevant to the twentieth century. If the New Testament is not our basis for knowing the will of God today (Heb. 1: 1-4; Gal. 1: 11 - 12), then there can be no truth. If there is no truth, then there is no hope for us. Failure to hold to truth as absolute, something that can be known by the whole man, is to abandon everything for which Christ died (Heb. 9:15-17).
Truth can be known. One is not a bigot when he says he knows truth. It is the standard with which we measure the Conduct of others. Consider the following Scriptures:
"The elder unto the elect lady and her children . . . Also all they that have known the truth ... I rejoice greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received commandment from the father" (2 Jno. 1, 4, italics mine, jt)
The main goal of the teacher should be that of teaching truth. There should be no deviations from it. Wherever deviations from truth exist, there will be apostasy (2 Tim. 4: 1-4). Lack of love for truth leads to condemnation (2 Thess. 2: 10).
A Teacher Lives The Truth
As obedient children we are to be examples "in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity" (I Tim. 4:14). Each teacher should show himself a good "example of good works" (Tit. 2: 7) - Thus the darkness of error is illuminated by truth and righteousness in our lives. Both the fife of the teacher and his teaching of truth are essential. With others of like faith, the teacher is "salt of the earth and light of the world" (Matt. 5:13-16). Since salt gives flavor to and possesses powers of preservation, what kind of flavor do you as a teacher give your students? Teachers must not be guilty of displaying inconsistency between what they actually are and what they teach (Rom. 2:21-24).
Teaching the Bible is a glorious work and the good accomplished by a sincere, dedicated teacher can only he evaluated by eternity. Two of the most precious commodities known to man are in the hands of the teacher: The truth of God and souls to be molded after the pattern of God's word. All plans and programs, all methods worked into the functional arrangements of the various churches of the Lord are well and good, provided they do not violate the New Testament. However, all the finest methods in the world will not substitute nor replace the need for good teachers. Our Bible classes need desperately teachers who are dedicated and devoted. 3
1. Alan M. Bryan, My God And Myself (Smithfield: Success Dynamics), p. 43.
2. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press), p. 21.
3. An article by Jimmy Thomas, entitled "Good Teachers!' is an excellent source for reference. It is making its rounds in various bulletins. Also Firm Foundation (Sept. 9, 1969) contains a good article dealing with the teacher's relation to truth (pp. 569-571).
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 47, pp. 6-8