James is encouraging us to allow our faith to be genuine – real. As we’ve studied the first two chapters
of James we have seen what real faith looks like in relation to trials and temptations and loving one another. Throughout
James, the author uses instruction and then an explanation or example to allow us to put hands and feet to our faith. His
passion is that our faith would show through how we live our lives. He assumes one fact: By God’s grace through faith
we have already come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Now he wants us to consider how we will live out that
faith. If our faith is real, our life will give evidence to it.
Read verses 1-2
As we begin looking at chapter 3 today we see that James turns to the use of our tongue, whether it be in what
we say or teach as a teacher of the truth or in our everyday life roles as a believer. Do we really know
the power of our tongue? It is not the first time that James addresses the tongue…1:19 urges us to be quick to
listen and slow to speak. In 1:26 he refers to bridling the tongue as a demonstration of pure and undefiled religion. This
verse shows us again that what we do really demonstrates what we believe in our hearts. And that is what James is stressing
– not just to be hearers of the Word, but doers. In 2:12 He admonished the believers to speak and act as those being
judged by the law of liberty. When we obey the Word of God in our speech and action, there is maturity, blessing and freedom.
Is verse one concerning teachers just an isolated sentence in the midst of his letter? Let’s think about
this for a minute. What is the verse saying about teachers?
There is an instruction …"Not many of you should presume to be teachers…"
Apparently many among the people he was writing to were desiring to be teachers of the truth. Remember they were strong in
the law, but had a lot to learn about God’s grace. There was a need for teachers of the truth.
There is a warning …" that we who teach will be judged more strictly." James warns
them that teachers will receive a stricter judgment. He is explaining to them that there is a great responsibility and accountability
in teaching the word of truth.
Today I want to zero in on the responsibility and accountability of a teacher. You may
say you will never be a teacher. You may not be given the spiritual gift of teaching, but does that mean that you don’t
ever communicate biblical truth to someone else through what you say or how you act? Why should we not presume to be teachers
of the truth?
Let’s look at the spiritual gift of teaching.
Romans 12:6-7 identifies teaching as a spiritual gift given according to the grace of God. How should you exercise
it? If you teach – teach! Don’t waste it!
I Corinthians 12:27-29 gives the teacher a place of responsibility in the body of Christ. God has appointed first
apostles, second prophets, third teachers. Teaching is given a high place of responsibility in this list of gifts given to
the body of Christ.
What is this teacher’s responsibility?
Ephesians 4:11-12 states that certain gifts, including teaching, are given to equip believers for the work of service,
so that the body of Christ may be built up until they reach maturity. This echoes the theme of James – becoming whole,
complete. This gives the teacher real responsibility and purpose.
What about the teacher’s accountability?
With that teacher’s responsibility comes accountability. James notes that the teacher’s judgment will
be stricter at the judgment seat of Christ. Because of his position in the body of Christ, he has increased influence over
others and therefore has increased responsibility and accountability.
I Corinthians 3:10-17 emphasizes teaching the pure Word of God.
God used Paul in Corinth to establish the church. He laid the foundation
(verse 10) as an expert builder and that foundation was no other than Jesus Christ. In the scriptures the laying
of that foundation is done through the proclamation of the message about Jesus Christ and his life and death and resurrection.
This message relates the truth of God’s love and forgiveness for each of us. The message must be proclaimed in order
for others to hear and believe. After that foundation is laid, there are others who build on it and primarily they are the
teachers in the body of Christ. Paul challenges them to build with the proper material that will stand the test of the fire
of judgment. He notes two types of building material. The lasting material (gold, silver and costly stones) or the perishable
material (wood, hay or straw). The lasting material symbolizes that pure truth that is dug out of the Word of God, just like
these metals are dug out the earth. Solid, lasting principles that have stood the test of time. The perishable material represents
worthless or faulty truth, perhaps just the doctrines and traditions of man rather than the principles and precepts of the
Word. They are like the wood and hay and straw which are grown easily and blown away quickly. They don’t stand the test
of time and the "weather" of life. Jesus speaks of this kind of teacher in Matthew 15:7-8 as ones who honor him with their
lips, but their heart is far away. Their teaching is "but rules taught by men," not the law of liberty.
Titus 1:10-11 states that there are rebellious, empty talkers, deceivers who upset whole families and their motives
are for their own gain, not the glory of God.
The builder (teacher) will be held accountable on judgment day when he stands before the judgment seat of Christ
and gives an account for his deeds. When we’re building God’s temple – the temple of the Holy Sprit - it
is serious business! The Christian worker who builds with perishable material will be spared but he will lose his reward and
his work will be destroyed. That’s strong language which clarifies the teaching of James in chapter 3:1. Each time I
study in preparation to teach, this is a sobering truth which I must consider. I Peter 4:11 when Peter encourages the church
to use the gifts given them, he says that "if anyone speaks, it should be as the one speaking the very words of God."
It is quite startling to me when someone says "Don’t you remember when you taught" …and gives me scripture
and verse. One prayer I often use before I teach is from the Psalms 19:14… "May the words of my mouth and the meditation
of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
Teachers have great responsibility and accountability according to the Word.
How do we apply this truth to those who don’t have the spiritual gift of teaching? Do
all believers have teaching responsibility in communicating truth?
Hebrews 5:12: Paul warns the Hebrew Christians about how easy it is to fall away from the things of God, he states
that they should all be teachers by this time, but they still need someone to teach them the elementary truths of God all
over again. We all should be growing in our faith, building on the solid rock, Jesus Christ, and coming to the point where
we are able to communicate the truth that we know with someone else, as well as going on to grow in the knowledge and grace
of God. We need to eat the meat of the Word – deeper truths and understandings should be our desire. Even though we
continue to learn, we are teachers to some degree or another. We all need to be able to communicate truth.
In II Timothy 2:24, Timothy states that all the Lord’s servants should among other things be "able to teach."
We all are called to communicate the truth of God’s Word to others. Even in the end of James 5:19-20, James says we
need to be able to turn back with truth those who stray from the truth. Restoration calls fro communication of truth.
We all have some responsibility to teach in certain situations. We all have the role of a teacher to one degree
or another. - through our words and through our behavior. We will all give an account for the deeds done in the body whether
good or bad at the judgment seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10). We all need to understand our accountability to our Lord
and Savior, Jesus Christ as we communicate truth.
How are you communicating truth in those whose life you have the role of teacher? Your children, your grandchildren,
your coworkers, your small groups.
Real Faith respects the responsibility and accountability of communicating truth.