“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).- James 3:1
Over the past few days, we have looked at some of the major leadership positions that God has provided His church. We looked at the apostles and the foundational role they played in providing us with the New Testament. We then turned our attention to two continuing offices in the church — elders and deacons — and explored the calling given to these officials to lead and to serve.
In addition to the aforementioned offices, God has provided one more: teacher. Like elders and deacons, the cultural background of this term will help elucidate its meaning.
Our English term teacher is a translation of the Greek word didaskalos. In ancient Greece, the didaskalos was one who was a master of a specific skill and was involved in instruction. He not only mastered a certain task, he was also able to teach it to others, much like our modern master craftsmen and professors. At first, the term denoted someone who tended toward a high level of theoretical knowledge without being concerned for practical application. Socrates, for example, rejected this title because it implied that he was unconcerned with bringing his teaching to bear on everyday life.
However, by the time of Jesus this was no longer the case. In Jewish culture, rabbi, or didaskalos, was a title that emphasized both knowledge and practical application. In fact, the term referred to one who was skilled in the law of Moses and was able to show his students the character of God from the Scriptures. Because of His authority and teaching skill, Jesus is called didaskalos forty-one times in the Gospels. It was a title that He readily embraced.
While Jesus is the ultimate teacher, God in His providence has continued to provide teachers for His people over the course of history. He has gifted individuals with special skills to interpret the Scriptures in order to nurture and uphold His people.
Today’s passage reminds us that teachers shall face a stricter judgment than the average Christian. This is because God calls His people to submit to them in order to learn about Him, thus making them vulnerable to receiving inaccurate teachings. Those of us who are teachers must not take the task lightly, for the well-being of souls in no small measure depends upon the teachers God has ordained.
Has God called you to be a teacher in His church, whether it be as a professor, Sunday school instructor, or Bible study leader? If you are in the teaching ministry now, study and pray diligently so that you may produce good fruit. If you are a student, pray that your teachers will always guide you according to the truth of God’s Word.
Passages for Further Study
1 Cor. 12:28