The responsibility of teaching God’s word must not be taken lightly. It is serious business and must be thoughtfully and humbly considered before we engage in it. James, the brother of the Lord, warned his readers that not everyone should become a teacher. In Jas. 1:3 he said, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” His point was that teachers will come under greater scrutiny from God because of the influence they wield over their students. This truth was graphically illustrated by the Lord in one of His criticisms of the Pharisees. In Mt. 15:14 the Lord said of them, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
Nevertheless, we are commanded to teach each other. This is the divinely inspired prescription for the propagation of God’s word and it must not be ignored. In 2 Tim. 2:2 Paul told Timothy, “The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” As we consider what Paul commanded, we can see God’s wisdom at work. Knowledge of His word is perpetuated by teaching it from one person to the next, and from one generation to the next, until the end of time. If we obey this command, there will never again rise a generation that does not know God or the great things He has done (cf. Jdg. 2:10).
The second aspect of God’s wisdom is seen in the first clause of Paul’s command. He told Timothy to teach the things he had heard from Paul himself. Timothy was not free to teach whatever he thought was best. He was constrained to teach only what Paul had proclaimed. He was also constrained to teach everything that Paul had proclaimed (cf. Acts 20:27). This is a limitation that has often been ignored or overlooked by those who stand to teach others. This flaw in human character is why James warned that teachers will incur a stricter judgment.
Peter addressed this issue in 1 Pet. 4:7-10. He said, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace; whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (ESV)
The bottom line is that any time one stands up to teach or preach, he must do so as one who is conveying the very words of God. The Greek term translated “oracles” in v. 11 is a word that is often used to refer to the scriptures or to words that God Himself has spoken. So then, when one stands to teach he must teach the very words of God. He is not at liberty to alter or omit or add to anything found in the scriptures. He is not at liberty to bind his opinions on others, but must faithfully proclaim only that which is found in God’s word.
In the Old Testament, the phrase “Thus says the Lord“, appears more than 2,000 times. In each case the prophet then relayed exactly what God had commanded him to speak. Prophets who failed to do so fell under condemnation. If God was so particular with these men, who served under the old covenant that was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), how much more so will He be with those who serve under the covenant of Christ? Therefore, let us speak only the oracles of God in all we preach and teach.