What You Teach Really, Really Matters

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

Do you have a communication gifting? Have others commented on how well you speak or write? Do you find yourself dreaming about using your gifts in ministry? Wonderful! We are praying for more herald-labors in the gospel harvest (Matthew 9:38). Consider it strongly.

But as you consider, consider this:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1)

When it comes to people being saved, it all hangs on what they believe. So when it comes to teaching, heaven and hell are in the balance. What you teach people really, really matters. You will be judged by what comes out of your mouth and your keyboard. And you will be judged more strictly than others.

Teaching is serious business. The Holy Spirit even limits his activity based on what teachers teach (or don’t teach). In Acts 19:1–7, Paul found a group of twelve Christians in Ephesus who had been presumably taught by Apollos before he had a correct understanding of baptism or the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When Paul asked them “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” they answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So he asked them, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John's baptism.” So Paul promptly taught them correctly, baptized them, and laid hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit and “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.”

Teachers tremble: the Holy Spirit withheld blessing from these believers until they were taught correctly.

Why didn’t the sovereign Spirit simply overcome Apollos’s good intentioned but deficient teaching and fill these disciples right away? Because God’s design is that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Jesus is the Word (John 1:1) and the truth (John 14:6). The Spirit honors the word of Christ because he is the “Spirit of truth” (1 John 4:6). Like he did for Cornelius in Acts 10, the Spirit may draw or direct people to where they will hear the word of Christ, but he will wait for the word of Christ to be preached or taught (Romans 10:15) before he grants the blessing of it. To the degree the word of God is taught deficiently, the blessing of it is withheld. And the teachers will be held accountable for the blessing they withheld from their hearers.

So if you want to be a teacher, wonderful! Teachers are precious gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:11). But take Paul’s warning very seriously: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).


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Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.