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Tape No. I-4378Page
It’s a very interesting topic you’ve given me because in 1944 the Lord specifically called me to be a teacher of the scriptures. That is my basic calling. I was still in the British Army, had no church connections, didn’t have any idea what the future held, I still had a position at Cambridge University if I wanted to go back to it. The Lord was very specific. I think I should quote the words that He used because they’re important. In those days He used to speak to me in King James English, which I really like because it has certain advantages, the second person singular and plural are different so it’s clear whether you’re talking to one person or more than one—which is not clear in modern translations. He said to me:
“I have called thee to be a teacher of the scriptures in truth and faith and love which are in Christ Jesus—for many.”
I have to say I have seen that calling exactly fulfilled. If God had given me any idea of the number of people I would be reaching I could not have believed it, because in those days there was no technology. I have a radio program today which is in ten languages and basically reaches every continent on earth, including the people of China in their own language. In fact, in four Chinese dialects. I mean, if God had even given me any indication of what was ahead I would have been totally unable to believe it.
I’m going to just speak from personal experience. The Lord said in truth and faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. I have seen that the development my ministry has followed has three steps: truth, faith and love. Because I was a philosopher by my background I was analytical in my approach to scripture. I wanted to find out what it really said. So the first thing that I was excited about was truth.
But after some years I realized that truth doesn’t do much good without faith. I began to teach on faith and I have a great deal of teaching on that subject.
But fairly recently God gave me a new emphasis which is on love. To me this is now the most important part of any ministry, is love. One of the scriptures that’s become very vivid to me is 1 Timothy 2:5. In the New American Standard Version it says:
“The goal of our instruction is love.”
I’ve come to believe that any instruction that does not produce love is missing the goal. I had to acknowledge that some of my instruction in the past was not really producing loving people. It was producing people with knowledge but often without love.
I have an outline and I don’t know whether I should go by it. The interesting thing is that in all the years no one has ever given me this topic, being a teacher. Furthermore, I’ve never taught on it. Furthermore, I’ve never heard anybody else teach on it. I’ve heard teaching on apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors; never heard any teaching on being a teacher. So, it was a real personal challenge for me.
The scripture I’d like to begin with is one that could possibly moderate your enthusiasm. It’s in James, chapter 3 and verse 1.
“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”
I’ve pondered the full meaning of that. I understand the word teacher in that connection to be a teacher of doctrine. In Greek the word teacher and the word doctrine are from the same root. And so, I’m going to focus on the teaching of doctrine. I think the first scripture that I would go to would be Acts 2:42. It says about the new believers in Jerusalem:
“They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, the breaking of bread and in prayers.”
There are four things there: doctrine, fellowship, eating together and prayers. But as I meditated on this message I came to see that the primary requirement is to continue in the apostles’ doctrine. And I think wherever the church has departed from the apostles’ doctrine it has ended up in trouble and in failure. I conceive that the ministry that James was talking about when he said “don’t be many teachers” was this teaching of Biblical doctrine.
I’m just going through my outline. 1Timothy 4:1 points out something rather frightening.
“The Spirit [the Holy Spirit] expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.”
This points out that not only does God have doctrines but demons have doctrines. I personally believe every major false doctrine is the product of a demon. It’s one of Satan’s major tactics against the church, is to produce erroneous doctrine.
Then in 1Timothy 4:16 Paul says to Timothy:
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrines; continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
I think it’s important that Paul says first of all take heed to yourself, secondly to the doctrines. If you are wrong in your personal life, right doctrine will not accomplish what it should. But, if you continue in both you will save yourself and those who hear you. And for me it’s important to save myself. Not everybody has that perspective but I don’t take it for granted that I’m saved or that I will be saved.
Then in 2John 9–11 John says something very frightening which I don’t think I’ve seen sufficiently attended to by the church about doctrine. It says:
But the more literal translation is whoever goes beyond. And that I think means goes beyond what the Bible authorizes. 2 John 9:
“...and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.”
Now, I understand the doctrine of Christ is the basic truth about Jesus Christ which is contained in the creed. Jesus is the Son of God, He was born of a virgin, led a sinless life, died an atoning death, rose physically from the dead, ascended into heaven and is coming again in power.
Now, the majority of the Anglican bishops today do not believe that. They don’t believe in the physical resurrection. This is not an attack on the Anglican Church, it’s an example of how people have departed from the doctrine of Christ.
Then John goes on:
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive it into your house nor greet him, for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”
That’s really a very radical statement. But, we have to be careful about those with whom we fellowship. A scripture that I haven’t in my outline but it comes to me is—well, I’ll read it, it’s in Romans 14:22, the second half.
“...happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”
Or, what he endorses. God has made it personally clear to me that I am not to endorse things that I do not believe are right. Let me say that frankly and I don’t mind being quoted. I consider much of what is called the prophetic movement I would not endorse. I have refused to attend their conferences and minister together with them. Now, amongst them there are some beautiful brothers in the Lord. But, I consider that presentation of the prophetic ministry to be an error. I have felt that God would hold me accountable if I endorsed it. That doesn’t mean I will never preach anywhere with any of those brothers but I will not do it in such a way that I apparently give my endorsement to what they’re teaching. The error is they’re false prophets. By a simple standard, they’ve prophesied things which didn’t happen. I mean, I’m not going to name people but I can name at least half a dozen well known Charismatic personalities who have predicted things that never happened—like earthquakes, tidal waves, wars and also revival. I mean, I must be careful, I don’t intend to name anybody but I think this is really greatly affecting Britain at the present time, to tell you the truth. It’s because it’s taken over in large parts of America. That’s just a personal expression.
Now, as I see it, this I think is relevant to all of you, there are two levels of teaching. There are those who initiate and those who reproduce. I would guess that the majority of you are dealing with those who reproduce. I’ll give you two scriptures.
One is already quoted, 2Timothy 2:2:
“The things which you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit those to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Somebody pointed out there are four generations in that. There’s Paul, there’s Timothy, there’s the faithful men that Timothy teaches and there’s the faithful men that they will teach. But I don’t believe that they all had the responsibility to determine what to teach. They were to teach what Paul had taught Timothy. This is, in a sense, remaining in the apostles’ doctrine.
And then in Titus 1:9, speaking about overseers or elders it says in verse 9:
“That they must hold fast the faithful word as they have been taught.”
So they didn’t necessarily initiate the teaching but they received the teaching and held onto it. It seems to me that’s probably mainly the kind of person that you will be dealing with.
Now there are many other forms of communication in the church and they are not all teaching. When it says not many should be teachers it doesn’t mean that only a few people should speak. I think there are many other forms of teaching and I’ll list some. You’ll find them in 1Corinthians 14 or in Romans 12. I won’t go to them.
Prophecy. Prophecy is open basically to all believers, both men and women.
Interpretation of tongues. I believe the same.
And then Paul says in 1Corinthians 15 “if anyone has a revelation.” I believe God can give a revelation to any member of the body of Christ. And often it comes through a person who would not be considered very important. I think one of the reasons for that is it keeps our eyes off human personality.
Then there is testimony which I believe is open to every believer. In fact, I believe every believer should be prepared to give a personal testimony.
Then there’s exhortation which I think is essentially the ministry of encouragement. The word in Greek can mean two things, to stir up or to cheer up. I think that’s what that ministry is. I believe it’s very much needed in the body of Christ today. And again, I do not believe it’s limited to men.
Then counseling. Again, is a very real and important form of ministry. I think God hasn’t set any limits to those who counsel provided that they’re counseling proceeds out of sound doctrine.
And then people who minister in special area of need such as the family, for instance. Or, those who minister to drug addicts and others. I mean, there are people who are called to special areas of ministry.
Then another is referred to in Titus which is older women teaching younger women. I believe that’s a ministry for women. I don’t believe basically that men can effectively carry that out. The word teach there is not the word for teaching doctrine, it’s really for discipling. I think there’s a tremendous need for that in the church today. Multitudes of young women are growing up who’ve never had any pattern or example or instruction in their homes. I really respect the women who are providing that.
But, the important thing I want to emphasize is all these must be tested against primary doctrine. So, none of them should be untested.
Now I come to a controversial scripture which has probably troubled a lot of people. That’s 1Timothy 2:12 where Paul says:
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
One thing I point out about that which people don’t often take into account is it’s a personal statement of Paul’s own principles. He does not actually say do not permit a woman to teach, he says I do not permit a woman to teach. However, when I compare the results achieved by Paul with those achieved by his critics, I must say I treat Paul’s opinion with great respect. But, in the light of many other passages in the New Testament, I personally understand that. I do not permit a woman to teach what we say basic doctrine or primary doctrine. This is simply a theory of mine and I’m not offended by women preachers. I mean, I don’t get hot under the collar, I have many friends who are. I’m not sure that they’re exactly in line with scripture but it doesn’t worry me. I believe that there is something about the female personality that does not function well in certain areas. They are areas that in some way demand a comprehensive grasp of a large field of subjects. I mean, you may be able to give examples but I do not find that women have ever excelled in musical composition. It would be hard to think of a woman composer. I don’t find that—I may be wrong, but they normally excel in mathematics and from my own field I can’t think of one woman philosopher that has made an impact on history.
What I want to suggest is there’s something in common to all those fields. It’s the ability to grasp a whole thing and make a symphony out of it, if you want to say that. I think personally that’s a limitation of the female mind. I’m not saying there wouldn’t be exceptions but they’re definitely exceptions.
I think that’s the function of a man who teaches primary doctrine. It involves an overall grasp of the plan of God and the revelation of God. That’s where I think you brothers really need to, in a way, examine yourselves, consider what your qualifications are. I don’t know any of you, I’m not in a position to say, but I’ve got a little list of what I consider to be requirements to teach primary doctrine, a teacher of doctrine—not somebody who gives a counseling message, or somebody who gives a testimony, or somebody who gives a prophecy, or somebody who ministers to a special group of people, I’m not thinking about that. This is my little list:
Colossians 1:23 would be the first scripture. It’s a very interesting passage. If we go from verse 23 through verse 25, and that’s in the middle of a sentence:
“...if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven; of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
And though the word minister has got a lot of religious connotation it actually means a servant. I think that’s the first essential of this is to understand that we are servants of the gospel. We say to the gospel, “You give the orders, I obey.” I’m not trying to improve on you, I’m not trying to correct you. It’s not my function, it’s to reproduce you.
And then he says:
“I now rejoice in our sufferings for you and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ for the sake of His body which is the church, of which I became a minister.”
Paul was first a servant of the gospel and second a servant of the church. I think we have to keep that in the right order because if we see ourselves as servants of the church without seeing ourselves as servants of the gospel, we will do what the church wants us to do. We are not free to do that if it’s contrary to the gospel.
There’s a very clear historical example of Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron both had a unique revelation of God but when it came to pleasing the people, Aaron was willing to make the golden calf. Moses would never have done that. I think this is a kind of dividing line. Is it more important for us to obey the gospel or to do what people want? I think it’s a very important decision that we have to make. I think there are a lot of contemporary preachers who have made the wrong decision, to say the truth. I’m not saying that to be critical.
In other words, let me say this. Our business is not to correct the scripture. You know, there are more preachers who are correcting scripture than are teaching scripture.
2Timothy 3:16, which I quoted I think this morning:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God and if profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction and righteousness.”
I believe that the person who is a teacher of doctrine in this sense must have a comprehensive grasp of the whole Bible. Otherwise, if you want to make the Bible prove something you can make it prove anything you want to believe or you want people to believe. For instance, it’s not enough to know the epistle to the Romans, you have to know the epistle of James. You have to be able to balance. It’s not enough to know the book of Kings, you have to know the book of Chronicles because Chronicles explains a lot of things which are not stated in the historical version of Kings. For instance, Chronicles says it was Satan who tempted David to number the people but you don’t find that in Kings.
I also think that it’s important to be familiar with the minor prophets. I’ve just been in fellowship with a brother who has produced a book which is not available here in American or England called The Cry of Compassion. Its main thesis is the enormity of the sin of abortion. In essence he’s saying that all of our cultures are going to pay the price for that sin. But his message is taken primarily from Amos and Hosea and Jeremiah. It’s an extremely powerful message.
But the majority of contemporary preachers don’t really pay much attention to Amos and Hosea, yet they have a message that’s uniquely appropriate for our culture today.
Then the third requirement I would say is to be uncompromising. I had an experience while we were in this, quote, sabbatical, in Hawaii. I was praying one day and I had a mental picture of a church building, a typical church building with all the things you associate with a church. But the whole building was filled with fog so you could only dimly see the outline of various things. I was kind of wondering what this fog was. One clear word came to me, it was compromise. I think basically most of the truth of the Bible has been obscured by compromise. To be uncompromising is a challenge to our character. It will often make us unpopular with some people. But I think if we compromise we have failed to fulfill our function.
Two more requirements. We have to be free from personal prejudices—racial, social, denominational. I think personally one very important thing we have to be free from is nationalism, which is a form of prejudice. I hope I won’t offend anybody by saying but it seems to me that error of the church in World War II was that they put nationalism before faithfulness to the Word of God. That’s my reading of the German situation. I mean, there were many, quote, born again ministers who nevertheless became supporters of Adolf Hitler. They were more motivated by nationalism than they were by scripture.
And, let’s admit it, that’s a temptation that used to be the British temptation, too. I mean, today we don’t have an empire and the motivation is not so strong. But I was born in India when it was the crown jewel of the British sovereign and I can remember the tests that I went through in putting my loyalty to Christ before my loyalty to Britain. I don’t believe loyalty is bad provided it’s in the right order. I don’t believe that that’s come to an end. I think the same temptations are going to confront Germany, to say the truth. And not only Germany but many other nations.
And the last one is, which I’m sure you’ll all appreciate, a teacher of scripture needs to be orderly and systematic. I’ll give you an example of Hebrews 6:1–2 where the six basic doctrines are given in an absolutely logical order. Repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. In that order they take you from a starting point of the Christian faith to the culmination.
So, thank you for listening so patiently.
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