Vol. 3, No. 6
"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12).
When I was in the United States Air Force, I was taught that the sergeant was the "backbone" of the military. In the same sense, the teacher is the "backbone" of the church. He is the "line supervisor" in the work of edification of the body.
James 3:1 (ASV) reads, "Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment." Wait a minute! Did James really say that? And what about Hebrews 5:12, "For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food." Is this a contradiction?
The simple answer is: Of course not! One need only look into context to see what James is telling us. He is not saying that we should not teach, but that we need to be careful what we teach. There are entirely too many passages that speak to us as teachers to deny that every Christian has some teaching responsibility.
The apostles and prophets recognized their teaching responsibilities. Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 14:19, "howbeit in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue." Even in the use of miraculous gifts, Paul was more concerned with teaching than with demonstration. In a like manner, when we come together to sing, though we may also gain joy in the process of singing, our foremost concern must be with teaching, and teaching that which is truthful. Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God." There are many songs in "our" hymnbooks today that do not teach the truth, though the songs themselves may be popular. This is a danger to our teaching.
The evangelist is commanded, "And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient" (2 Timothy 2:24). The caution here is like the one given earlier in James 3:1; the evangelist must take care what he teaches. As mentioned in a previous article on the elders, some evangelists today are "apt to teach" almost anything! This shows the importance for each of us to "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
A few years ago, I was in the unenviable position of sending out resumes to various churches in search of a pulpit. As I was going about trying out in different locations, I was frequently put upon to deal with some error that my "competition" had espoused. I was even told that a fellow "preacher" had indicated that he could "prove from the Greek" that an elder did not have to be married. I am not a Greek scholar, but do know enough to be able to challenge such men in their allegations. It is of grave importance today to be certain of the teacher before giving him free reign over the flock of God.
Pastors/elders/bishops, as previously mentioned, need to be "apt to teach" (1 Timothy 3:2). This is an axiom of the faith that the church cannot avoid. How can a man shepherd the flock if he lacks the skills to guide?
Titus 2:3-4 states, "that aged women likewise be reverent in demeanor, not slanderers nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good; that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children." In this passage, the particular instruction of the older women is mentioned. For the older women to do that which the Lord commands, they must have a desire to teach, and the younger women must be willing to be taught. In more and more instances today, younger women are doing the teaching in women's settings. This is not God's intention concerning teaching.
If these admonitions were not enough, we also have the "great commission," which begins by telling us to "preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15), and ends with the instruction of "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20). This shows that we all are to be teachers, but our teaching should be "sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1), "wholesome words" (1 Timothy 6:3), the things that faithful men can impart to others (2 Timothy 2:2), so that they may teach others also. The teacher is indeed the "line supervisor" in the edification of our "Father's business," the church.
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