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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


James 3:1-2 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

The lesson text is taken from the New King James Version of the bible. The King James Version, uses the word masters instead of teachers. Most bible scholars consider the New King James Version of this text to be the better, and more specific, rendering of this passage. The word master is used many times in God's word and has a number of meanings. In various places, it is used as lord, governor, ruler, or supreme authority. Both God and Christ are often referred to as Master. The head of the household as well as the slave owner, were called master. However, in the lesson text, the word translated masters comes from the original word didaskalos, which carries the specific meaning of instructors or teachers.

The title of this lesson is a play on the old saying, "Too many cooks spoil the soup". My wife had a recipe for vegetable soup. My mother also had a recipe for the same. Both vegetable soups were excellent. However, both tasted differently. Comparing the two soups - some vegetables were different, some spices were different, the consistency was different, as well as the base stock in which each was prepared. Suffice it to say that most cooks prepare vegetable soup differently. To illustrate this old saying, if you had 50 cooks help in preparing one kettle of vegetable soup by using their own "special ingredients", chances are that the soup would be "spoiled", and wouldn't taste nearly as good as each soup prepared by its own cook.

The body of Christ is the church, which is made up of individual Christians. Although it has many members, it is unified into one body, as referred to in Ephesians 4:4. As a unified body, it also has one Spirit, hope, Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God (Vs. 4-6). The church is commissioned to teach these truths to its own membership (the flock) under the oversight of elders (1 Peter 5:1-2). Ephesians 4:11 describes the various groups within the membership that were/are responsible for the instruction of the flock. There were apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

For this particular lesson, the discussion will be limited to the final group responsible for the instruction of the gospel of Christ - teachers. James says, in the lesson text, let not many of you become teachers. How could too many teachers, of the word of God, be a bad thing? For James to address this situation in the church, it must have been a problem at the time of his writing, and, by inference, could be a serious problem in any congregation of the church even today. To use our analogy of too many cooks spoiling the soup, so to can too many teachers spoil the message from the word of God. And how can it be spoiled? It results from teaching doctrinal error. In many instances it is probably not intentional errors, but errors that results from attempts to teach by members having a lack of scriptural knowledge and understanding.

A teacher holds a very influential position in the church. However, his qualification should not be based on authoritative power, but power derived from superior knowledge of God's word - a knowledge that is gained by many hours, days and years of bible study - a knowledge that is gained by sitting at the feet of other qualified, well seasoned gospel preachers. We know this is the message that James presents to us in the lesson text when he warns that the words of a teacher can cause himself, as well as his listeners, to stumble by teaching error. Its seriousness is stressed when James says that judgment will be applied to teachers because the errors of their belief are taught as bible truths to others, rather than opinions. It is the multitude of personal opinions that seem to cause the erring teacher, and his students to spiritually stumble.

The lesson text tells us that the position of a teacher of the bible is not to be taken lightly. It is a serious matter. As a teacher, what you say, the messages you teach, and the manner in which you teach it, can affect the salvation of each person in your audience. Generally speaking, within a congregation of God's people, there may be many members, but few qualified biblical teachers, due to insufficient knowledge and understanding of God's Holy Word. Unless qualified, one should not attempt, or be allowed by the eldership, to teach. The number, or quantity, of teachers is not significant. When the number of teachers is stressed within a congregation, it will inevitably result in including teachers that may not qualified.

What is needed, yea, what is required is quality teachers, well versed in God's word, well seasoned in Christian living, and approved by the eldership of the congregation. The message of God should never be compromised by incompetent teachers - God's Word should never be "spoiled by too many teachers".