God treats the teaching of His Word as a serious job. Sadly, not everyone shares the Lord’s perspective on this issue. In the evangelical world today, many people think that anyone and everyone is fit to lead a Bible study or devotion. Students often believe that they can teach the Bible to other students or even adults simply because they profess to be Christians. As a teacher, I do not let students lead my homeroom devotions or lunchtime discipleship teaching. This is not because of disrespect towards them, but because of my deep respect for the task of teaching the Bible.
God has not given everyone the spiritual gift of teaching His Word. This is evident by the fact that one qualification in 1 Timothy 3 for a pastor or elder is they “be able to teach.” Such a requirement for the church’s leaders assumes that not everyone is fit to teach the Bible. Similarly, even though teaching the Bible is a gift, it is a gift that must be developed through study and practice. To earn my Masters of Divinity degree in pastoral ministry, I spent 90 credit hours over a period of five years studying the Old and New Testament in English and in their original languages of Greek and Hebrew. I studied the Bible’s teachings on topics like marriage and the family, systematic theology, and ethics and morality. I sat under godly men who were themselves gifted and trained Bible teachers. I took specific classes on how to prepare and deliver sermons and Bible lessons. And all of this was after I had spent 10 years from age 14 to age 24 sitting under gifted preaching and teaching in Sunday school, Sunday morning worship services, and Sunday and Wednesday evening Bible studies. While not everyone who would teach the Bible needs to attend seminary or Bible college, they at least need to have spent several years learning under people who have. We need to be disciples or learners of God’s Word for a long while before we are ready to be teachers of it to others. We can’t share knowledge that we don’t have.
This is why James warns us today that “not many of you should become teachers.” Why would he say this? Because teachers of God’s Word will “be judged more strictly.” The church will hold them accountable for the content and quality of their teaching. More importantly, the Lord will one day judge their work. This is a scary thought that ought to make everyone who considers teaching the Bible pause and humble themselves before God. We will all be judged for our words on the Day of Judgment. Teachers will be held to a higher standard because they will be judged for what they have taught others. While no teacher of God’s Word will be perfect, they ought to strive for it. Teachers of God’s Word must be equipped and prepared to handle the Bible faithfully and accurately. Only when a person is proven to be sound in their doctrine and capable of teaching the Bible with clarity, conviction, and compassion should they be allowed to teach it. Similarly, Bible teachers should have a solid testimony of several years of Christian living that is above reproach (see the rest of 1 Timothy 3). That is a high standard, but it should be. After all, it is God’s own book we are talking about. We should treat the Bible and the teaching of the Bible as a serious job just like God does.
The Text (James 3:1)
1Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Questions to Think About
- How has today’s post changed the way you think about the teaching of God’s Word?
- Have you ever listened to a Bible teacher do a poor job of handling God’s Word? How did that make you feel and why?
- What would you say to someone who said they want to lead a Bible study or devotion but you know that person does not know much about the Bible and does not regularly sit under solid Bible teaching at church?
- Why do you think God takes the teaching of the Bible so seriously? What negative effects can bad Bible teaching have on those who hear it?