The Teacher And His Words
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
“For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).
In many churches teachers are in short supply. Evidently many who have the Spirit-given gift of teaching are not using it as they should. On the other hand, a Christian must never assume the role of teacher without clear leading from above. As the teacher of the early Jerusalem church wrote, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). Christ taught in our text that by our words we shall be judged and either justified or condemned. Since for “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36), how much more so will the words of a teacher be scrutinized, especially a teacher of the word of God.
Another reason one should be slow to don the cloak of a teacher is that even a teacher finds it hard to live up to his own teachings. “For in many things we offend all [better, ‘we all stumble’]. If any man [stumble] not in word, the same is a perfect man” (James 3:2). Speaking of the Jewish teachers, Jesus instructed His listeners to do what they said, not what they did (Matthew 23:3), and then He lashed out at them with seven stinging “woes” (vv.13–33).
The proper use of the teaching gift perhaps yields greater honor than most, but also greater condemnation if error or hurt creeps in. The church does need all the gifts and should not neglect any genuinely Spirit-given gift of its members.
Nevertheless, one might contemplate the aggressive, anti-creationist stance taken by many professors at evangelical churches, colleges, and seminaries today, teaching theistic evolution, the day-age theory, framework hypothesis, etc., and wonder if Christ’s reference to the “millstone” around the neck might apply (Luke 17:2). JDM