Summary: God appoints men to teach His people. Self-appointed counterfeits promote themselves to the detriment of the assemblies of our Lord. However, those whom He appoints bless the people of God.
JAMES 3:1, 2
THE TEACHER’S BURDEN
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”
This past week, as the chairman of our deacons and I were caring for some church business, we were approached by a man inquiring about the services of the congregation. As we talked, he began to give his particular reasons for not attending church, despite professing appreciation for both my preaching and my strong stand on the Word of God. He mentioned in particular one point of doctrine of which he emphatically declared I was in error.
I pointed him to a portion of the Word, which he abruptly dismissed by saying, “I’ve studied that, and I don’t want to talk about it.” He continued by pointing to a particular cult that does hold to his peculiar view, but stated that he would not worship with them because they were wrong on almost everything else.
The dismissive view expressed by that man is not as exceptional as one might imagine. A tendency to dismiss teachers who give their time to study of the Word is noted among the professed people of God. Presumably, this is because Christians prefer to embrace their biases rather than consider what is written in the Word. Paul spoke of a time “When people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” [2 TIMOTHY 4:3, 4]. I am quite certain that the days of which the Apostle spoke are fully upon us.
In setting after setting I have been stunned to observe professed Christians who rejoice to receive the words of a teacher, until their own prejudice compels them to dismiss the teaching of the Word. An attitude of arrogance marks many, if not most, of God’s professed people so that they exalt their own bias over the teaching of the Word. Consequently, when the teacher does not pander to their own perverted tastes, these self-proclaimed moral and ethical experts search out teachers who will affirm the preconceived notions they as rebellious believers hold.
Because of the lack of reception to the teaching I have endeavoured to deliver to God’s people, I have often felt an empathy with the myth of Cassandra. You will recall that Apollo blessed Cassandra with the gift of prophecy, but because his love was unrequited, she was cursed so that her gift would not be believed by anyone who heard her speak. So it often appears that God’s people eagerly hear the preacher speak, but refuse to accept what is taught, preferring instead their own prejudices to what is taught in the Word of the Lord.
Throughout the Word of God are laments concerning the lack of reception of prophetic truth, even as the people embrace errant teaching. Long years before the Advent of the Saviour, God warned Ezekiel, “You are to [the people] like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it” [EZEKIEL 33:32]. Even the Master charged the religious people of His days in the flesh with such duplicity. “I have come in My Father’s Name, and you do not receive Me. If another comes it his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the Only God” [JOHN 5:43]?
False teachers would not persist among the churches of our Lord if there were no welcome extended by God’s professed people. However, there are many people receptive to error. Tragically, there are a plethora of disseminators of error willing to say whatever the people wish to hear. As Jeremiah observed:
“An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so.”
[JEREMIAH 5:30, 31]
Though James’ words confront those who think to teach, they are pertinent to all who name the Name of Christ the Lord. The people of God are responsible to assess the message of those who teach and to hold them accountable. Join me, then, in exploring the teacher’s burden.
THE BLESSING OF TEACHERS — Teachers are a divine gift to the churches of our Lord. God equips gifted men and appoints them to instruct His people in righteousness and godliness. Throughout the Word of God are statements attesting to the divine nature of the teaching office. One of the best-known statements must surely be that which is found in the Ephesian encyclical. “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” [EPHESIANS 4:11-14].