A teacher in the Lord’s church (whether he be an elder, deacon, preacher or a Bible class teacher) has a tremendous responsibility, not only for what he teaches but how he conducts his life. Every Christian has this responsibility, but because of his position of leadership, the teacher is looked to for guidance, not only for instruction, but also by example. Every teacher should realize that he must not only teach the truth but that he be exemplary in conduct. Paul admonished his beloved child in the faith, Timothy: “Let no man despise your youth, but be an example to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). These words apply to every evangelist today. It is imperative that every teacher be prepared by diligent study to accurately and efficiently teach the word of God, and that his life be above reproach.
James warned, “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment ” (Jam. 3: 1). Speaking is an indispensable part of the preacher’s work; therefore, he must be cautious as to his words. This is why James continues his warning in verse 2, “For in many things we all stumble. If any stumble not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.” This is the setting for the remarkable treatise on the tongue which follows. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for evil speaking, warning them of the consequences. “And I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned” (Matt. 12:36, 37). The teacher is responsible for what he says; thus every time he speaks, he should remind himself that someday he will have to stand before God Almighty in judgment to give an account (Rom. 14:10-12 f; 2 Cor. 5:10).
The man whose life is not commensurate with his teaching is inconsistent, and his influence is destructive. He has no respect from those who know what he does. Many young converts and those weak in the faith have been discouraged, shaken, and in instances, have left the faith because some teacher in whom they have placed their confidence has betrayed them by his conduct. We cannot respect the teacher who says: “Do as I say, but not as I do. ” Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul was doing just what we should all do. He was trying to follow Christ who is our perfect model. He urged us to follow him as far as he followed Christ. Paul, having given no occasion for any man to stumble, commanded others not to do so (1 Cor. 10:32). He reminded Timothy of his own conduct and commended him for following it. “But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, patience, persecutions, sufferings; what things befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecution I endured: and out of them all the Lord delivered me” (2 Tim. 3: 10,11). Paul not only had a tremendous influence upon Timothy and upon the churches, but his godly conduct continues to influence the countless who read his biography and writings in the New Testament throughout the ages.
Gospel preachers are teachers of the word of God, but his public “position of the Scriptures from the pulpit focuses special attention upon him. It is for this reason that the cause of Christ has suffered immeasurable harm from those who teach the truth, but whose lives are ungodly. Men who have unusual pulpit ability, but whose lives are immoral, have been a great detriment to the Lord’s work. There is much more to being sound than just being so in the pulpit or in the class room. Hypocrisy, in all its forms, is despicable in the sight of God and denounced by Jesus (Matt. 23). Honesty is more than telling the truth. Truth that is spoken is made even more attractive by honesty in the life of its teacher. There is much to be considered in the old adage: “I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one any day.”
Perception can be practiced in more ways than one. Paul admonished, “Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17). The Christian is to take forethought; he is to provide things that are honest and right, and is to provide for his family. He should exercise forethought when he enters a business transaction to be sure it is not “shady.” He should be open and “above board” with all whom he deals.
Ungodly teachers should be dismissed and exposed, if they refuse to repent. When elders of a local church receive inquiries about such men, they should be forthright in exposing them. If brethren would withdraw from those guilty of disorderly conduct (2 Thess. 3:6) and then expose them , many churches could be spared mental anguish and irreparable damage. On the other hand, we have also known of instances where churches having received warning about a preacher, ignore the warning and hire him anyway. They pay the price, but it is too late. The damage to the church has already been done. The influence of the church in some places has been almost annihilated because of the sinful behavior upon the part of its members, especially elders and preachers.
Conclusion: The solution to the problem of sin committed by the teacher is the same as that any other member of the church. Each and every teacher should read and ponder the following words of Paul: “You therefore that teach another, teach you not yourself? you that preach a man should not steal, do you steal? You that say a man should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery?” (Rom. 2:21,22).
Evaluate the act of sin before you commit it. Contemplate what it will do, to your soul, to your wife, to your children, to your parents and anyone who knows you, and consider the impact that it will have upon the precious church of our Lord. Therefore, before you take on the great responsibility of teaching God’s Word remember what is required and expected of you, “Practice what you preach!”