I’ve been in two classes at this conference and amazed at the difference between the two instructors. One is laid back, lectures in long sessions (two hours the first day before she put us to work),talks slow and repeats herself constantly. The other one is high energy, humorous, talks fast, and gives brief instructions as we work, putting us to it immediately. While I’m learning from both of them, I do like the second style better.
The Bible has a lot to say about teachers. James says that not many of us should aspire to that position. In this case, he means spiritual teachers. In those days, scribes and rabbis fell into that category. These people, particularly the scribes, were information gatherers who passed on all they knew to others. It was a big responsibility and since teachers were highly respected, they needed to teach rightly. Again, this concerns spiritual teachers. False teachers who taught contrary to God’s Word were, and still are, highly condemned.
In Matthew 23, Jesus talked to His disciples about the scribes (teachers) and Pharisees who loved the respect of men, sought the best seats at feasts, and especially enjoyed being called “Rabbi” by others they considered beneath them. Jesus said, “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.”
Of course He didn’t mean this as an all encompassing command. Paul talked about teachers in the church, and our need to respect them. Jesus was talking about putting a title and a position above the relationship I have with Him. I’m never to consider that any person is the source of spiritual truth. Jesus is that, and only Jesus.
Occasionally I’ve met people who exalt a certain pastor. It might be their own, or one they had in the past (and the one today usually doesn’t meet that standard). Sometimes the one they put on a pedestal is a radio preacher, and there are some very good ones (and some that fall into the category of ‘false teacher’). In almost every instance, the person who exalts a pastor in this way is not open to any other opinions or interpretations. Worse yet, they have stopped growing in their own spiritual life. In their insistence that this man’s teaching is the only teaching worth listening to, they have stopped listening to God.
I suppose the disciples were in danger of wanting to be such teachers, the ‘spiritual authorities’ of their day. Surely they did have a special relationship with the Messiah, and they were learning much about the heart of God. But Jesus warned them and me that no one person has the entire inside scoop on the will and mind of God. We are all ‘brethren’ and each of us has what I call ‘blank spots’ in our understanding. We may partly fill in those blanks for each other, or compensate for them, but we all need the Lord.
No one person can get inside me like Jesus can. No one can know my specific need for the moment, for each day. No one can feed me or inform me about issues and problems related to future decisions or past mistakes. He is my teacher, and to put someone else in that position would be a terrible idolatry.