The Gift Of Teaching

by | Nov 30, 2015 | Book of James | 0 comments

“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that greater judgement we will receive” (James 3:1)

Such a somber statement by James can cause one to pause as to whether it is better not to be a teacher so as to not incur this greater judgement. Two questions could easily be asked from his statement. The first is what is the purpose of a teacher and the second is “judgement relating to what”?

Classical Greek understood the role of a teacher to be an instructor or tutor of others. The teacher was to impart knowledge from a specialized field to those who are seeking to both learn and increase their knowledge in that field. That understanding has changed little over the centuries. 

The New Testament took the role of teaching seriously. The Hebrews were rebuked for remaining in an infantile understanding of doctrinal truths without moving ahead and teaching others. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and solid food” (Heb.4:12) 

A requirement for an elder was being “able to teach” (I Tim.3:2). Added to this list are moral qualifications which could also be an indicator of what the Bible considers to be necessary to be an effective teacher. Though skill levels may vary there seems to be no variance on the moral requirements of the individual. This may give an indication of what James speaks to regarding judgement. 

There is secondly a charismatic office of teacher. “God has appointed in the church first apostles, secondly prophets, third teachers and the list goes on (I Cor. 12:28). In Ephesians the office of teacher is listed fifth. “He gave them apostles, and prophets, and evangelists and pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). Both passages are clear that these are God-appointed gifts (appointed/gave), or as Paul speaks of his apostleship, “I did not receive this from man nor through man but through Jesus Christ and God the Father” (Gal.1:1). Each gifts’ main purpose is “to the equipping of the saints unto the work of ministry, unto the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).

The office of a teacher requires then three things. First it is a gift from God given for a specific purpose, “to equip and build”. The teacher is accountable to the Giver of this gift to be used for the stated purpose. Secondly, the receiver of the gift is accountable for one’s moral character, both to God and to those to whom one teaches. “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (I Tim. 4:16). Thirdly, the teacher is accountable for the content of one’s teaching, in order to “rightly divide the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:14) so that truth might correctly and accurately be imparted to others.

The judgement that James speaks of is not being labelled as a poor teacher but as one who is unfaithful and unworthy of this God-given gift of teacher. The issue is not in the gift or the Giver but in the moral lapses, in the character failings, in doctrinal errors and “in being weighed in God’s balances and found wanting” (Dan.5:27). As such that person will be held to a stricter account for the gift given and the fulfilling of that gift. The gift will be weighed against the two-fold purpose; “to equip and to build”. 



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