James 3:1-2 – A Word to Teachers

by | Updated June 19th, 2020

Being a teacher carries with it grave responsibilities. In this passage, James is warning us to take every precaution before deciding to become teachers of the Word of God. Therefore, we must consider a calling to teach, make sure we are called, then proceed accordingly.

James 3:1-2 – “My brethren, be not many masters (teachers), knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation (judgment). For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”

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Who He is Addressing

“My brethern.” James is Addressing fellow believers, brothers, part of the body of Christ, and the family of God. This is an expression of endearment and love (John 13:34-35, Romans 5:5, 1 John 4:11). His love and compassion is being expressed, desiring them to be the best they can be in whatever calling they might have.


“My brethren, be not many masters teachers.” James is challenging all who dare to pursue a position of teacher of the Word to have the right attitude. James was a teacher. There are many in the body of Christ who are called to teach but we must view ourselves properly in our position. It’s not only how we view ourself, but how we view others.

Matthew 23:8 – “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master (Teacher), even Christ; and all ye are brethren.”

We are not to lord our position over those we are instructing. We are all brethren! Jesus is the real teacher and shepherd, we are merely under-shepherds and teachers under the Master Teacher, Jesus Himself.

1 Peter 5:3 – “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.”

Our goal must be to lift up those we are instructing and not make them feel as if they are on a lower level than us. They must never be made to feel inferior to us.

Philippians 2:3-4 – “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

Many Teachers

James was not saying there should not be teachers in the body of Christ. There are many He has chosen to be teachers in the church. Those who are teachers should be encouraged in their vocation, not discouraged. God has chosen you specifically for this purpose. It is a divine gifting that He has placed within you.

  1. The Five-fold ministry. These are people God has given to the body of Christ and His church. They are not just gifted, but are themselves the gifts Jesus gave to strengthen, edify, and equip His people for the work of the ministry. The ultimate goal being maturity and Christ-likeness.

    Ephesians 4:11-13 – “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

    Teachers are a part of the five-fold ministry. In fact, teachers actually referred to twice. Each time the writer mentions the gifted person he says “and some.” The exception being at the end of verse 11. There he says, “and some, pastors and teachers.” Every pastor is or should be a teacher but not every teacher is a pastor.

  2. Motivational gifts. The gift of teaching is mentioned in the motivational gifts. These are gifts we are naturally motivated or inclined toward. They flow out of us naturally once we have been born again. They may have even been in a person somewhat prior to their conversion. After the new birth, the Holy Spirit begins to make these gifts to shine.

    Romans 12:6-8 – “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”

  3. Deacons and elders. Those in any position of leadership in the church must be able to teach, including elders and deacons. Though their primary calling and gifting may not be that of a teacher, they still must be able to teach. This is listed in the qualifications of any position of oversight in the church.

    1 Timothy 3:2 – “A bishop (overseer) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober (self-controlled), of good behavior (respectable), given to hospitality, apt (able) to teach.”

    Acts 20:28 – “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.”

    1 Peter 5:1-3 – “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.”

  4. The mature in Christ. Every believer must be able to teach to some degree. This is the discipleship process. We are all called to be and make disciples. When we’re saved, someone should begin discipling (teaching) us how to follow Christ. Once we begin to grow in our relationship with Jesus and mature we must in turn begin to teach and disciple someone.

    Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go ye therefore, and teach (make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

    2 Timothy 2:2 – “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

    Hebrews 5:12 – “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.”

C.A.P. – Calling, Ability and Participation

The primary focus of James is to those Christ has specifically chosen to be teachers in the body of Christ. Though every born again believer should be teaching to one degree or another, there are those God has singled out to be teachers. These are the ones James is addressing and challenging.

There are those within the body He desires to make into teachers. We must be confident this is His plan for our life. If you feel and desire to be a teacher, there are certain things you must consider. You must be sure you are prepared to face the task that’s before you before proceeding into a teaching ministry. Below are three things a teacher must consider:

  1. Calling. Are you called? Has God called you to be a teacher? If God has not singled you out, chosen you, and commissioned you to teach you had better think twice before proceeding. The stress it will place on your life and the damage you could potentially cause if you are not called will be great.

    Hebrews 5:4 – “And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God.”

    Be sure you are called! Many people push themselves into positions they are not called to be in. If you are not called to teach, don’t pursue it! You will save yourself, the church, and the cause of Christ a lot of trouble if you will just get behind other teachers of the Word and support them in what they’ve been called to do. On the other hand, if God has truly called you pursue it with everything you have.

  2. Ability. Make sure you have the ability and gifting to teach. If you are not gifted in the area of teaching it will place untold pressure on your life as well as those who are around you. There’s nothing worse than trying to function in an area you’re not gifted in.

    Your gifting will have to be cultivated. Everything doesn’t just fall into your lap when you begin to teach. No great teacher began that way. Any good gift is perfected with use. The first time I tried to teach the Word it fell flat. It would have been easy to give up at that point. I found that the more I taught the better teacher I became.

  3. Participation. It will take a great deal of participation on your part to cultivate your gift as a teacher. It doesn’t come easy. You will have to spend a lot of time in diligent study and preparation. It takes studying the Word as well as much research. It takes a lot of hard work to be a great Bible teacher!

    2 Timothy 2:15 – “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

    In my first pastorate I taught through a different book of the Bible in each of our three weekly services. To prepare I researched at least seven commentaries on each passage we were covering. I would then study, meditate, and pray over the notes I had taken. The Holy Spirit would begin giving me what I was to present to our people. I later taught systematic theology during our mid-week service using the same process.

A Warning to Teachers

“We shall receive the greater condemnation (judgment).” We will give an account one day of our gifting and how we used it. We must take this calling very seriously. James is telling us not to step into this calling lightly. This is serious business. There will be a day of accountability.

Romans 14:10-12 – “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 – “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

2 Corinthians 5:10-11 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”

The judgment seat of Christ is a judgment where we will give an account of our gifts and talents. Some will receive reward while others will have their works burned up yet “be saved yet so as by fire.”

  1. What we teach. Teachers will give an account at the judgment seat of Christ for what we teach. This is why we must take time in diligent study to be sure we are teaching the Word accurately. Don’t just throw something together. We must make sure we have done our due diligence.

    2 Timothy 2:15 – “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

    We must make sure our teachings are built upon the proper foundation – the Word of God, the person and cross of Christ, and sound Biblical doctrine. Nothing else will do!

    1 Corinthians 2:1-5 – “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

    It concerns me greatly that much of what is being taught today is built upon a faulty foundation. Rather than God’s Word and the person of Christ, much of it is based upon worldly, self-help messages and pop psychology with possibly a scripture thrown in at the beginning or end. There is very little sound doctrine being taught in our churches today. We are commissioned to:

    2 Timothy 4:2-4 – “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

    1 Timothy 4:13 – “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”

    Titus 2:1 – “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine.”

    1 Corinthians 3:11 – “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

    Acts 4:12 – “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

    Acts 20:27 – “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”

  2. Example. It’s imperative we set the best possible example we can. We are all in the flesh and subject to the weakness of the flesh. We will never live out a perfect example but we must do our best. We must teach our people to follow our example but only as we follow Christ and not where we fall short.

    John 13:13 and 15 – “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”

    1 Corinthians 11:1 – “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

    Hebrews 13:7 – “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”

    1 Peter 5:3 – “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.”

  3. Judgment of others. The judgment of man is often much more severe in this than God’s. Man seldom shows mercy where God does. We often receive the same judgment we have dished out to others. If we judge we shall be judged, if we show mercy we’ll receive mercy.

    Luke 6:36-38 – “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

    Matthew 7:1-2 – “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

    Romans 2:1-2 – “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.”

    In applying this to being teachers, it’s very likely this has as much to do with man’s judgment as it does God’s. When you decide to teach you will fall under the judgment, criticism, and scrutiny of men like you will never imagine. In fact, Jesus said, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).

    Man will critique, criticize and scrutinize every thing you say. People will frequently miss the entire point and substance of your message and find one little thing you say wrong. How often have people gone up to the person preaching and teaching the Word and point out one insignificant thing while missing the entire focus of the message. “You quoted the wrong scripture reference here” or “I noticed you let a participle dangle in your lesson today.”

  4. Offensive word. We must never take out the offense that is naturally in the Word. God’s Word will offend people! Jesus often offended. In fact, often when He had a large crowd following Him He would say something that would offend the whole bunch and thin out the crowd (John 6:60-66 and Luke 14:25-33). However, we must be cautious not to offend where there is no need.

    James 3:2 – “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”

    Often well-meaning pastors and teachers offend because they want to maintain a particular position. If it is not causing us to compromise the Word of God, sound doctrine, or the person of Christ, we must think twice before letting something bring offense.

    Frequently, we let something bring offense in a situation where there is no need. The people get mad, leave the church, and we’ve lost good people when there really was no need. Even worse, we’ve cut off all opportunity to minister to them. Don’t get me wrong, we must never compromise the Word. But we must not allow non-essentials to bring offense.

    Not only have we cut off ministry in their lives but bad seed has been planted, feelings are hurt, and they will often vent those feelings as a result. Gossip will begin which damages the reputation of the ministry and church. We’ve not only cut off ministry to the person(s) in question but countless people may never be ministered to because of the bad seed that has been planted. The person who can find the delicate in this is a perfect (mature) man. This is a demonstration of true maturity.

James 3:1-2 – “The same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”

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