James 3:1

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. James 3:1

James now begins Chapter 3 by once again addressing fellow believers with the words, “My brethren.” He is concerned about the quality of understanding matters of doctrine within the fellowship, and so he says to them, “let not many of you become teachers.”

The word he uses signifies one competent in instruction. In this case, he is referring to a knowledge of Scripture and its right application, meaning proper theology. This is obvious because he is writing to an assembly of believers who are gathered as a synagogue (verse 2:2), meaning a group which has come together for this purpose.

His words indicate that a few who are qualified and knowledgeable in the word are far more preferable than having many teach but who are unqualified. Indeed, there are many valid reasons for this, but James then goes on to give one main reason for the directive by saying, “knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”

Using the first person plural, James is including himself in being a teacher, and the consequences of this if his duties are not properly handled. As a teacher of the word, he has a concern even for his own state as a teacher. It shows a care and a concern that his doctrine and instruction is more important to him than merely holding the position.

The results of not having this care and concern for doctrine will lead to an unfavorable judgment. The KJV unfortunately and incorrectly translates this word as “condemnation” rather than “judgment.” As James is writing to believers (my brethren), and as this means that they are in Christ and are saved, there is a truth revealed elsewhere in Scripture concerning this matter – as is noted by Paul in Romans 8:1, 1 Corinthians 11:32, and elsewhere – which is that believers have gone from condemnation to salvation. Ours is a judgment not for condemnation, but for rewards and loss.

James’ point is that a teacher who is unqualified will not be excused because of his lack of knowledge, but will rather be held to a higher standard because of the position he has assumed. Instead of rewards for accepting the challenge, there will be loss for failing to bring honor to the position, sound instruction to those who listen, and glory to God through the instruction.

Life application: Having a proper understanding of the Bible before teaching ought to be the norm, but it is more often than not the exception. Very few ministers, pastors, and teachers have actually read through the Bible even once. Bible teachers will often use non-biblical texts for Bible study, something which defeats the purpose of the study. Rather than the word itself, teachers are known to refer to A Purpose Driven Life, the Left Behind series, or one of a number of other non-biblical texts as if they were authoritative for successful living, or for an understanding of points of doctrine, such as end-times events.

If you want bad doctrine, just click on the internet and type in “Bible Study.” There are millions of sites containing such bad information that it simply isn’t possible to discern what is right and what is wrong without already knowing what the Bible actually says. Is it ok to drink alcohol? Only one answer is correct – Yes or No. But without having personally studied the issue, how can you know which is true?

What should be the truth about Christian giving – tithing or something else? What does the Bible really teach about tithing anyway? The list is long of such lesser issues which can lead people down faulty paths, and which will inevitably set our lives on unhappy courses. How much worse then with the greater issues such as justification, sanctification, proper conduct within the church, and etc.

Consider other major doctrines such as the Trinity, the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc. If you have gotten those wrong, your salvation very well may be in question. And yet there are millions of people who either deny these fundamental truths, or don’t know where they stand on the issue. If the masses who aren’t teachers are in trouble, then how much more will be the teachers of such heresies. Misdirected faith is wasted faith. Make sure you read your Bible and know the truth – eternity awaits.

Lord God, may You be our guide and our teacher through the word You have given. When we attend a Bible study or read a commentary, may You open our eyes to the truth of what is being taught. Give us proper biblical discernment as a gift to us so that we might not sin against You. This we ask in the beautiful name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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