“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” James 3:1
That Bible verse has bothered me for many years – as well it should. James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote a letter that hits followers of Christ hard, especially those who teach and lead. While that verse didn’t keep me from teaching the Bible, it has been a constant reminder of being careful about what I teach. Teachers will receive a “stricter judgment.”
That said, let me add that teachers who teach correctly also receive great reward. That reward includes pleasing God, being to the praise of His glory, and making disciples.
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20
Teaching is one aspect of the overarching process of making disciples. Jesus and Paul are two great examples for how the disciple-making process works.
“From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. ” Matthew 4:17-23
Note the process:
- Messenger – Jesus
- Message – Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand
- Method – Choose, Call, Challenge
- Motivation – Lead by example, Teach the truth
Notice the similar disciple-making process with Paul and Timothy:
Choose and Call
“Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him.” Acts 16:1-3
“And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia, Paul was compelled by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:4-6
The result was Timothy’s becoming a disciple-maker.
“For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:17
Timothy played a vital role in Paul’s ministry. He is mentioned many times in the Book of Acts and some of Paul’s letters (e.g. 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philemon). Notice the importance that correct doctrine (teaching) had in Paul’s process with Timothy:
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” 1 Timothy 1:1-7
“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1 Timothy 1:18-20
“These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:14-15
“If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” 1 Timothy 4:6-16
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5.
Paul ended his first letter to Timothy with a passionate and heart-felt challenge and a warning:
“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:20-21
Paul wrote something similar in his second letter to Timothy:
“Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 2 Timothy 2:14-19
“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” 2 Timothy 1:13-14
Many Christians believe we should be more progressive in our beliefs and practice. They regularly question me about why I emphasize words written by men who lived two-thousand years ago instead of embracing new ideas, new ways of thinking, new ways of practicing the Christian faith. My answer is quite simple: God commands that we believe, practice and teach what He revealed two-thousand years ago.
As Paul wrote Timothy – “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me.”
As Jesus told His disciples – “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” How long does God want us to teach people to observe all things that He commanded us? “even to the end of the age.”
The concept of progressive Christianity is a dangerous fallacy. It does not make disciples of Christ, it does not teach people to observe everything Jesus commanded, and it does not end well for those who believe it. But, you say, can’t Christians be progressive? Absolutely! Here’s how –
“Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
If you want to truly be progressive in a way that God will bless and that your progress is evident to everyone:
- Meditate on God’s revealed Word
- Give yourself entirely to them
- Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine that Jesus, Paul and the other apostles taught
- Continue in them for the rest of your life
- In doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you
That is another great reward of making disciples, teaching them to observe Christ’s commands.
Something new that we’re going to do this year is share some Teaching Notes with you. Though I say “something new,” many of the notes will be from 40 years ago. I recently found some of my teaching notes from the 1970’s and thought it might be helpful to share them on the GraceLife Blog. One of the things I like to do from time to time is compare what I’m teaching now to what I was teaching decades ago. It goes back to what Paul wrote Timothy about holding fast “the pattern of sound words.” As teachers of God’s Word, are we holding fast to the pattern of sound words that Jesus and His apostles gave us? Are we standing on solid ground when we open the Bible and teach the Gospel of Christ? Are we “progressing” in the right direction?
I hope and pray that this new series of Teaching Notes will be helpful to you in your service to the Lord.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.