Jerry C. Brewer
When James wrote, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (Jas. 3:1) he addressed a grave matter that ought to arrest the attention of every Christian. He wrote of the grave responsibility of teachers, which is how the word “masters” is rendered in the American Standard Version. In his commentary on the book of James, Guy N. Woods wrote,
The influence which teachers exercise upon their pupils is often immeasurable; and, the impressions which they make on the impressionable minds of their students, either for good or ill, are far-reaching in nature. It is therefore vitally important for those who thus do to be duly conscious of the importance of the work to which they aspire, and to make the requisite preparation thereto (New Testament Commentaries, James, 1965, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, p. 154).
Teaching the Bible—whether in class or personally—is a grave responsibility and James says the teacher who fails to understand that shall, “receive the greater condemnation.” Bible teachers have a great deal more to answer for than Christians engaged in other areas of service, and there are certain things required of one who would teach the Bible.
Living And Teaching
Paul instructed Timothy to, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).
Of importance in this passage is the order of things to which Paul exhorts Timothy to, “take heed.” The very first is “thyself.” Before one can be an effective God-approved teacher of the Word, his life must first be one of faithful Christian service. One who is not faithful in all things pertaining to the Christian life cannot teach others. How effective is the teacher’s admonition to not forsake “the assembling of yourselves together” (Heb. 10:25) when he is sporadic in his attendance? What one does normally speaks louder than what he says.
The same command that Paul gave Timothy was given to Titus. “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity. Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you” (Titus 2:7-8). Is a Bible class teacher who uses foul language being “a pattern of good works” in “sound speech that cannot be condemned?”
The Bible teacher must not only know the will of God, expressed in the Bible, but he must live it as well. The doctrine to which the teacher, like Timothy, must take heed is the teaching. The teaching of Christ and the apostles must be demonstrated in his own life, as well as being taught to his pupils. Paul asks, “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Rom. 2:21). The teacher who, in effect, tells his pupils, “Do as I say and not as I do” negates what he teaches by his own life. Brother Woods further says,
The minimum qualifications (for teachers, JCB), as indicated here, are, (1) faithfulness; (2) ability to teach others. Where either is lacking the results will be far short of what is desirable. However faithful one may be, without the ability to instruct, it is impossible to edify; and though great ability to teach is possessed, unfaithfulness on the part of the teacher nullifies much of the good that otherwise may be done (Ibid, p. 156).
Of special note in the above citation is the order of qualifications for the teacher, gleaned from both Timothy and Titus: 1) Faithfulness in one’s conduct before God and, 2) knowledge of God’s word. Lacking either of these disqualifies one as a teacher of God’s word. One must approach the task of teaching God’s word—whether person- ally, from the pulpit or in the classroom—with trembling, “knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”