In establishing leaders in His church, God established two primary categories of church offices. The first of these includes those offices that were given to the church temporarily. Apostles and prophets, for instance, laid the foundation of the church and passed from the scene after the first century (Eph. 2:20). The second category of offices includes those positions that will remain in place until the return of Christ. Elders and deacons will lead the church until our Savior's second advent, but these respective positions are not the only continuing church offices. The Lord has also provided teachers to instruct His people until He returns in glory.
Didaskalos is the Greek term we translate as "teacher." In the ancient world, a didaskalos was one who mastered a certain skill or subject area and taught it to others. Initially, the didaskalos was one with a large amount of theoretical knowledge but who was not necessarily concerned with applying this knowledge practically. This led the esteemed thinker Socrates (469–399 B.C.) to reject the title because he viewed philosophy as an intensely practical discipline.
Over time, this changed. By the first century, Jews used the title of didaskalos to refer to teachers who had a great deal of knowledge and could apply it practically to everyday life. The Jews gave the title to men who were highly skilled in the law of Moses and the rest of the Old Testament. Jesus was called a didaskalos because of His understanding and application of God's law. In fact, the Gospels refer to Jesus as didaskalos more than forty times.
Christ is the ultimate Teacher, but He is not the only teacher of God's people. Our Creator continues to call and equip teachers in the church even to this day. He has gifted many individuals with the skill to interpret, communicate, and apply the teaching of God's Word to God's church. This call to teach is a high and weighty calling. As today's passage indicates, not many should become teachers because the Lord judges teachers more strictly than others. Because of their influence, there are more opportunities for teachers to lead people astray than there are for ordinary laypeople to lead others astray. Teachers must not take their call lightly, for they will have a lasting impact on God's people for good or for ill.
God holds accountable all of the teachers in His church, whether they lead the two-year-old Sunday school class or teach a graduate-level seminary course. Thus, all Christian teachers must study diligently and work hard to present their subjects clearly and without error. As the church, we can encourage our teachers in this by offering training opportunities and other helps to make sure our teachers are fully and properly equipped to handle God’s Word rightly.