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The Responsibility of Being a Teacher: A Biblical Perspective

Teaching and/or preaching the Word of God can be an extremely fulfilling ministry.  It is a much-needed service, especially in a day when the culture seems to be moving further away from God and His Word.  Many people actually feel that God has called them to teach and preach His Word as their life’s vocation.  This is a solemn duty and a great privilege that comes with great rewards and great responsibilities.

We find a warning in James 3:1 that should cause anyone wanting to be a teacher to evaluate the proposition carefully.  Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1 ESV).

Those who use the King James Version of the Bible [1] will notice that it has the word ‘masters’ instead of the word ‘teachers’.  The Greek word ‘didaskalos’ is best translated ‘teacher’.  However, the idea of ‘master’ is indeed contained within the Greek word ‘didaskalos’ because one who teaches others is often looked upon as a master, or as one who has more knowledge than someone else.  Therefore, both meanings are inherent in the Greek word and both meanings are appropriate.

Biblical Responsibility of Being a Teacher [2]

The teacher must never forget the Person behind the message. We must never get so caught up in teaching a particular view or favorite doctrine that we forget we are saved because Jesus paid for our sins on a cross.

One Should Take Care to Teach Truth

In I Timothy 1:5-7, the apostle Paul warns that certain people should stop teaching.  The doctrines these certain people were teaching were described by Paul as ‘different’.  These doctrines centered around frivolous and speculative imaginings instead of the true Gospel.  The men teaching these false doctrines, wanting the prestige and power that comes with being looked upon as teachers, were actually leading people away from the Truth of God.  Not only were they teaching false doctrines but also they were doing it for selfish reasons.  Instead of being motivated by, “…a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (I Timothy 1:5), they engaged in ‘vain discussions’ (ESV) about things they did not understand but about which they still made ‘confident assertions’ (I Timothy 1:7 ESV).  In other words, they delivered these false doctrines with an air of authority, as if what they were saying should be accepted without question.

We see much of this type of rhetoric today.  Leaders, both secular and religious, who confidently claim to have knowledge [3] others do not have, or they claim to know how everyone should behave or what is best for everyone.  However, their only source of authority is their own selfish ego.  We must get back to teaching what the True source of authority, God’s Word, has to say about our priorities and our lifestyles.  To teach otherwise is to teach ‘myths and vain discussions’ (I Timothy 1:6 ESV).  This type of teacher is strictly condemned by Paul in Romans 1:20-24 and by Jesus in Matthew 23:15.

Tips for Teaching Biblically

We must pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).

The believer should always rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, strength, and wisdom.  We must never believe that we have everything so figured out that we no longer need to trust God to superintend our ministries.  Christians should bathe every endeavor in pray to our Lord and Savior.

We must make sure our motives are right.

There are already too many professing Christians who do what they do merely to make themselves look good, to seem important, or to gain wealth.  The Bible tells us to, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 ESV).  The believer should teach others from a humble heart, thankful for the opportunity to be used by God for His glory.

We must make sure our relationship with God is right.

Notice how the classic passage on defending the faith begins, “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15 ESV).  This passage does not say that we should charge headlong into an argument, debate, instruction, teaching, or preaching at the drop of a hat, crushing our opponents with our well thought out apologetic rhetoric.  Rather, it says that Christ should be the Lord of our hearts at all times.  The Holy Spirit will give us the ability to make our defense in a gentle and respectful manner.

We should study diligently the topic on which we will teach.

Although this passage may be directed at leaders in the church, it certainly applies to anyone wishing to teach spiritual truths to others.  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth”  (II Timothy 2:15 ESV).  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” KJV Anyone considering teaching must first be a student of the Bible.  This passage tells us that it requires commitment to study God’s Word in order to know it well enough to teach others.

We must remember that we are not infallible.

God is infallible, we are not.  There are certain essential truths [4] in the Bible that are non-negotiable.  However, there are other verses, passages, and portions of Scripture for which there may be more than one interpretation.  We must leave room for honest differences of opinion amongst Christian brothers and sisters.  There may be something that we have not understood properly.  Leave room for other views as long as they do not contradict clear biblical teaching.

Conclusion

To be a teacher of God’s Word is a lofty and honorable undertaking.  However, anyone embarking on such a journey must meet some prerequisites: first, one must be a committed follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.  No one is able to correctly interpret the Word of God [5] if he or she is not dedicated to Him and His glory.

In addition, the man or woman who desires to teach the Bible must have a deep love for God’s Word.  The prospective teacher must believe that everything to live a godly life is contained within the pages of God’s written message to humanity.  The teacher should be convinced enough of that fact that he or she patterns his or her life on its precepts and desires to see others do the same.

Lastly, the teacher must never forget the Person behind the message.  We must never get so caught up in teaching a particular view or favorite doctrine that we forget we are saved because Jesus paid for our sins on a cross.  Salvation is not based on the accumulation of knowledge.  Saving faith is not based on what we know; it is based on whom we know.

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Resources

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV)

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