You Ought to Be Teachers! (1)
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. Hebrews 5.12
Every Christian’s calling
Every Christian is called to follow Jesus as His disciple. That means we walk the path of obedience Jesus walked (1 Jn. 2.1-6), do the good works of ministry Jesus did (Eph. 2.8-10), and proclaim and teach the Kingdom Jesus came to bring near (Acts 1.1-3, 8). As disciples of Jesus we are actively engaged in making others disciples as well (Matt. 28.18-20), by the witness of our lives and words, and both with those who do not know Jesus and those who do.
So we need to prepare ourselves each day for this work of being and making disciples, so that we will be ready to follow Jesus wherever He may lead us in building His Church and seeking His Kingdom.
And most of us have a good bit of work to do in this regard.
Ask anyone who’s ever been responsible to fill Sunday school or VBS teaching slots – they’ll tell you it’s a thankless job. Like the parable of the wedding feast, it seems almost everyone you ask, cajole, or otherwise try to enlist for teaching has a “really good excuse.”
“I don’t have the gift of teaching” or “I don’t have time to teach.” Those are perhaps the two most common responses, and I have no doubt that those who make them are doing so out of sincere hearts and honest self-evaluations.
But it’s possible to be sincerely wrong at times and to evaluate ourselves by improper standards. For example, what if teaching others the things of the Lord is not simply a matter of spiritual gifts or available time? What if it is a matter of duty? What if being a teacher of the things of Christ is simply part of what’s involved in being a disciple – in following Jesus?
I rather suspect that our response to opportunities to teach would change if we really understood that teaching is a responsibility incumbent upon every disciple of Jesus Christ. To follow Jesus means that we are ready to make the most of every opportunity to teach Jesus to others. We who are disciples are also called to make disciples – no excuses, no exceptions.
Teaching in two directions
That’s what the writer of Hebrews is saying in our text. He’s not writing to teachers only, but to believers of all kinds scattered in various congregations around the Roman Empire. He’s saying that all those who were listening to or reading this letter – every Christian – has a responsibility to teach: “you ought to be teachers.” You can’t get much clearer or more direct than that. If you’re hearing or reading this letter, you ought to be a teacher. Every Christian is charged with the duty of teaching.
Certainly being called to teach Jesus to others doesn’t mean we all need to earn special degrees, or be appointed to some particular teaching post in our church. Teaching others is something we do as part of our life of following Jesus, and teaching opportunities open before us in just about every situation.
Think of teaching in the informal as you are going context of Jesus (Matt. 28.18-20), and not merely in the formal, classroom template familiar in our churches. Everyone in your Personal Mission Field is a candidate for instruction, beginning with those who already know Jesus and who therefore, should be eager to learn more about Him.
We are called to teach one another, as Paul explains us in Colossians 3.16 and Romans 15.14. One of the most important contributors to growth as a disciple is the sharing, encouragement, and instruction we receive from one another, not primarily in formal classroom settings, but mainly in our everyday conversations and interactions.
In the days of the apostles, the churches didn’t have Bible study groups or Sunday school classes. Formal teaching was done by pastors and elders, but all believers were expected to teach, encourage, admonish, and edify one another as part of their ordinary relationships, in conversations designed to impart the grace and truth of Christ in love (Eph. 4.15, 29; Col. 4.6).
But all Christians are also called by the Lord to teach unbelievers, those we see each day, week after week, who have not yet believed the Gospel of the Kingdom or received the command of Jesus to follow Him. The progress of the Gospel has been entrusted to the Church, to every follower of Jesus Christ, all those who have received the Holy Spirit. In His power we are to be witnesses for Christ (Acts 1.8), and, while that certainly involves how we live, it also includes the conversations we initiate and sustain with the lost people around us.
We ought to be teaching the Good News of Jesus to our neighbors, and we ought to be building one another up in the truths of the Word of God. We ought to be teachers! But are we?
No place for placeholders
The Christians who first received the book of Hebrews were not teaching as it was expected they should. Instead, they were hanging around familiar doctrines, dawdling at the spiritual growth water cooler, and merely holding a place in their church, but contributing nothing to its edification or increase.
They were stuck on a few basic principles of Christian life and doctrine – principles which, because everyone in church knew them, there was no need to talk about them. They must have felt safe and comfortable there, because they didn’t evidence any inclination to move on to more “solid food.” They weren’t growing in the Lord, so they didn’t have anything to teach or learn from one another.
And if they didn’t talk to one another and teach one another in the church, it was a sure bet they weren’t talking to their lost neighbors, either. As followers of Jesus, these believers were not fulfilling their duty. They should have been teachers.
As should every follower of the Lord – you and I and all the other disciples of the Lord.
1. Do you agree that, in some manner, all followers of Jesus ought to be teachers? Why do you think most of us are not?
2. What opportunities for talking with others about the Lord do you have during a day?
3. Can you think of anything that might help you begin to be more confident and consistent in teaching others about Jesus?
Next steps – Preparation: Make sure you have mapped out your Personal Mission Field, so you know who the people are to whom the Lord is sending you as a teacher. Watch the video, download the worksheet, and begin working your arena of ministry and teaching.
T. M. Moore
You can download all the studies in this series, “Disciples Making Disciples,” by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.