By Jeffery Kingry
The responsibility of the teacher of truth is a grave one: James wrote, “My brethren, be not many of you teachers, knowing that we shall be judged by a more strict standard” (Jas. 3:1). When men were chosen for public service in the church, Paul reminded them, “It is required in stewards that they first be found faithful. . .” (1 Cor. 4:2ff). A teacher takes the very souls of those he teaches into his hands. If he “handles the word of God aright” then he molds them into righteousness. If he, through ignorance or perverseness, teaches them anything but the truth “then both shall fall into the ditch.” In the work of the church it is imperative that only qualified teachers be allowed to teach our children, the new converts and babes in Christ, and to address the church in a teaching role.
In the Holy Spirit’s instruction as to the organization and function of the church, He gave us “evangelists, pastors, and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). The work of these elect men was “for the perfection of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the ultimate building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
As there are qualifications for elders-pastors-overseers-(1 Tim. 3; Tit. 1:5ff; 1 Pet. 5:lff), and for evangelists-preachers or ministers-of the Gospel (2 Tim. 2; 4:5; 1 Tim. 1:18; 5:21; 6:13), so are there qualifications for teachers.
“The teaching which you have received of me in the presence of many witnesses, the same you must hand on to trustworthy men who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:1,2). A man’s first qualification as a teacher is that he be faithful: faithful in the discharge of his responsibility, faithful in his relationship to God in practicing the truth that he teaches, and faithful to the truth in the Word that he handles. Our word “faithful” is a translation of the Greek word pintos: “faithful, steady, dependable, sure, true.” The faithful steward was one who was consistent and constant in the service of his master. He was contrasted with the servant who neglected his duty and procrastinated while wasting his time in selfish pursuits (Matt. 24:35-51). The “on again-off again” Christian is not qualified to be a teacher of truth. The “Sunday morning attender” is not qualified to be a teacher of God’s word. The false teacher, the worldly, the one who lives to the flesh is not qualified to be a teacher. Faithfulness in living as a Christian is also a requirement. One cannot teach and not live the message he teaches from the word of God.
“In all things showing yourself a pattern of good works” (Tit. 2:7). “Have you persuaded yourself that thou art a guide to the blind, an instructor of the simple, and a teacher of children . . . why then, you teacher of others, do you not teach yourself” (Rom. 2:17-21)?
Example is the greatest teacher of all. A brother or sister who is knowledgeable and “apt” to teach is still not qualified to teach if he or she cannot control a lying, gossiping, or divisive tongue (Jas. 3:13ff). Even if one has an excellent intellect and the “gift of gab,” he may speak a good fight, but his fruit in temperance (Phil. 4:5; 1 Cor. 9: 25-27), sacrifice (Jas. 5:10,11), or spirituality (Rom. 12:2; Phil. 3:18, 19; Col. 3:2,5) will determine his qualification as a teacher.
“For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God. . . For everyone that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14).
One can know “first principles,” i.e. baptism, faith and works, the resurrection, judgment, etc. (Heb. 6:1,2), and still be a babe. Babes in the use of the word of God are not qualified as teachers. The mature teacher is able to “speak as the oracles of God,” “giving an answer of the hope that is within him,” “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince . . .” Inability to answer basic questions from the Bible or to direct people to the truth in any question of life is an indication of immaturity in the use of the word. “All scripture is inspired of God . . . that the man of God may be well-prepared at every point” (2 Tim. 3:16,17; Wms. Trans.).
Able To Teach
“The servant of the Lord must . . . be apt to teach” (2 Tim. 2:24). The requirement of practicality of all teachers is that they have the skill, or ability to teach. The word of God makes “manifest” or clear, open, and visible. Truth is light; it reveals. It provides answers to problems, gives direction and purpose. The teacher, however well-meaning, who is a confusing teacher, who obscures, who often is misunderstood, who makes questions instead of providing answers, who leaves people wondering what is right, and questioning what the teacher teaches, is not the kind of man the church needs to lead in a study of the Bible. “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6).
Do our teachers meet any qualifications? Do we require anything from a teacher other than that he be an adult and willing? Have we made any effort to qualify teachers for God-given responsibilities? We would not think of appointing unqualified elders, or supporting a preacher who did not meet God’s requirements. But, often we will push any body that is warm into a classroom.
Brethren, the church of the future depends on what is taught now. The concepts new converts will shape their lives by are being formed today. The children in each home are building a foundation for the life they will live as adults in the future. We need to be assured by the life and fruits of those who have responsibility for teaching that they can produce mature saints from responsible handling of the word.
Some Practical Advice
In a practical way these goals can be achieved by respecting God’s word and demanding that all teachers be qualified. It is not enough to wish the problem away. We can take those who are marginally qualified and train them. We can require a change in life-style or living from those whose example is slack. Do not look the other way when a teacher stands before your teen-agers talking about temperance, self-control, and godly living with a package of cigarettes in his shirt pocket. Do something about it! Demand that the church have some form of goals in its teaching, some form of qualification for its teachers. It is not a wise precedent to permit every teacher to choose their own material, substitute, and to permit teachers to teach for years with no form of observation or counsel.
Every child of God can be a teacher if he is willing to qualify himself for teaching others. It will require study and putting into practice what you learn. “By reason of use” men became proficient in handling God’s word-and ceased to be spiritual babes (grown by reason of time, but with the spiritual development of an infant).
Truth Magazine XIX: 55, pp. 874-875
December 4, 1975