From the book, The Memoir of David King - Ministry in the Church of Christ.
Teachers (pages 311-316).
"First apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers." 1 Cor. xii:28.
There are yet come under notice several important questions relating to the duties of the eldership, including those that embrace the exercise of discipline. We, however, consider that the ground will be more speedily got over by having the various ministries fairly in view before entering upon those questions, and, therefore, this paper will deal with teachers.
Apostles, prophets, overseers, and evangelists are necessarily teachers, but they are not the only teachers of the churches. A church may have efficient teachers when without brethren of the required experience and fitness for oversight. Having elders, it does not follow that they are the only teachers. It was never intended that teaching should appertain exclusively to their office. The Lord designs that no one talent shall be wrapped in a napkin because its possessor has not others - the great Head of the Church calls into exercise all the members of the body -
"For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. 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 showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. Rom. xii:5-8."
This did an apostle intimate that teaching, exhorting, ruling, ministering (though sometimes exercised by the same person) are distinct, and may each be used to the glory of God by those who cannot engage in other service. It devolves upon the elders of the church, or upon the evangelist, to bring into use and to mature all the teaching power of the Church. Not that all may teach, for there are many who cannot speak to edification, and the apostolic rule excludes all such. There is no more reason in expecting every member of a church to become a public teacher than there is in expecting every member of the human body to become a tongue. And while the "one man system" has shrivelled and enfeebled the tongue of the church, the "all teacher system" is a still worse malady. A church with a swollen and inflamed tongue is a frightful spectacle. The apostle James writes, "Be ye not many teachers" (didaskaloi). James iii:1. Take heed that ye teach not divers doctrines, for the doctrine of the apostles is one; and take heed also that you seek not to push yourselves into positions you are not able to fill.
But there are those who never can be teachers who might give a word of useful exhortation, whilst there are some who cannot even do that, and who should be required to keep silence in the churches. "Ye may all prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, that all may be comforted," referred to the prophets, and is limited to those who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, and, therefore, to edification. This proves that even when the edification of the church was provided for by direct inspiration, the Lord did not commit oversight, teaching, exhorting, ruling, ministering, etc., to one man - the pastor or minister - but to many, that all might learn, that all might be comforted: as though the apostle had said, no one man, not even an inspired one, is sufficient for the edification of an entire church - what will suit one will not be adapted to others, and therefore, "Ye (who have the prophetic gift) may prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, that all may be comforted." 1 Cor. xiv:31. The good order inculcated by the apostle lies equally distant from the popular "one man system," which dwarfs the mind of the church and completely buries capabilities, killing its one worker by over-labour, and its hundreds of others by want of opportunity to work, and at the same time leaves the bulk of the work undone; and from, on the other hand, that licentiousness, miscalled liberty - where everyone may do everything, whether to edification or not. In an instance or two we have heard men boasting of their liberty, and saying to their more sober neighbours, "Come and witness our order," and we have found in their order plenty of disorder. If the service is to commence with a hymn, it must be left to anyone to give it out who desires to do so - the reading of the Scripture must not be committed to those who are able to read with propriety, that would be taking away the liberty of the brotherhood - the preaching must also be open, and everyone permitted to chime in - and as to teaching, any attempt to restrict it to those who are able to edify would be denounced as downright popery. Such, in the opinion of some, is order. But in the opinion of all right-minded men it is confusion. "Liberty" it is called, but, if it be liberty, it is demented and in need of a strait jacket and a passport to a lunatic asylum. It is an insult to common sense.
Those may teach who can edify, and none others have the right. But who is to determine as to fitness, and by what standard is the teacher to be measured? The church is to determine. Elders, and evangelists before elders are ordained, have oversight in all that relates to the edification of the body. If then one thinks himself able to edify his brethren when he is not, those who by official position are responsible for their edification have to request such alteration in matter, manner, or language, as the case may require. If he be unable, or unwilling, to comply with their request they should require his silence. If he deem their decision not in accordance with the mind of the church, they should, at his request, submit to the church the question, "Is the teaching or exhortation of this brother to your edification?" and the answer of the church is final. This meets the enquiry concerning the standard by which the individual is to be measured. Their are brethren with "itching ears" whom few can edify - it may be questioned whether they can be built up in the most holy faith. This one does not reason with sufficient method, and the other fails to tell anything they do not already know - in fact the bulk of the teaching to them is horrible, and they wish that brethren A. and B. would do all the speaking. This class is not to be regarded - ere long you may expect them to make shipwreck of faith, or to be found "sitting under" some pulpit orator whose well-termed periods are music to the ear, though his words never reach the heart. There are also brethren far from destitute of faith and love who are apt to err upon this question. They are large-brained men, men of considerably culture, and not without spirituality. They judge of the speaker’s power to edify by the benefit they derive from his discourse. But not one teacher in five hundred will reach their level, yet nine out of ten might be much edified by that which profits them but little. Ability, then, should be determined not alone by the power of the speaker, but in part by the condition of the hearers. Let the gospel be preached to miners in Cornwall, and a man who has toiled among them, well acquainted with divine truth and able to tell, in their own dialect, with love and power, what he knows and feels, will be to them a better preacher than one who comes with honours from Cambridge. Let a Church of such men be gathered. When they know the truth and the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts, in their own terms (many of them offensive to cultivated ears) they will edify one another. But place these men to speak to another assemblies, and edification will not result. The voice then of the church (or of the majority), saying "we are edified," is enough. The minority who are not able so to say, must look for help from other speakers, and endeavour to find nutritious portions in the preparations of those who do not generally advantage them, remembering that good food, in some cases, does not build up the physical system owing to impaired digestion.
"Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak." 1 Cor. xiv:34. Why not? The law of the Lord forbids it. But, "I don’t see why it should." Perhaps not. Then, "I don’t like it." Very likely. But the will of the Lord be done. But may not women teach? Certainly. The sisterhood are called to teach - as mothers they are teachers - as elder sisters they are called to instruct the younger - they are not forbidden to teach the brethren, and never forbidden to preach the gospel - Priscilla and Aquila taught the eloquent Apollos the way of the Lord more perfectly, and many a brother has learned much from well-informed Christian women. The restriction applies only to the meetings of the church. There were women who did prophesy, but there they were not to use their gifts. To the prophets it was said, "Ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn," and so on, but it was immediately added, "Let your women keep silence in the churches," etc. In one important sense we are for all Christians, male and female, both teaching and preaching, and so assuredly were the apostles. And how sadly is this preaching and teaching neglected. Christian men and Christian women, then, awake to your true position as preachers of Christ and teachers of the thing of His kingdom! As Nathan spake unto David speak ye. In the house, shop, market, speak for Christ, "Teach from house to house." Let every brother be a home missionary, and every sister a "Bible woman."
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