“You Ought to Be Teachers”
“For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the first principles of the sacred pronouncements of God.”—Heb. 5:12.
1. (a) What kind of instructor do men today need? (b) Where can they find such an instructor, and why is He best qualified?
WHO can point out the way to sure success? What teacher knows the secret of life itself? No man can fill that role; yet never were men in greater need of such an instructor. No man can truthfully boast that he knows what tomorrow holds. (Prov. 27:1) None among men hold the secret of life, so that they can hold back the hand of death. For the answers to these things it is both reasonable and urgent for us to turn to the One who made man, and who therefore knows what man needs in order to live and be successful. As Elihu, the faithful companion of afflicted Job, truthfully said: “Look! God himself acts exaltedly with his power; who is an instructor like him?” (Job 36:22) He is the one who knows what lies ahead. “I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isa. 46:9, 10, AS) As the Source of life, he knows the secrets of life. In his “hand is the soul of everyone alive and the spirit of all flesh of man.”—Job 12:10.
2. How does the formula for success at Joshua 1:8 affect Christians today?
2 Since his Word can illuminate the pathway of men and point the way to follow, the divine instruction found in Joshua 1:8 must be conformed to by those who find success: “This book of the law should not depart from your mouth and you must in an undertone read in it day and night in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it, for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.” That “book of the law” that Joshua was instructed to give attention to provided prophetic patterns of grander things to come and was written for our instruction. As we both meditate upon those prophetic types and look intently at Jesus Christ, the one to whom they pointed, we find clearly set before us the way that leads to Jehovah’s favor, the way that is successful.—Gal. 3:24; Heb. 12:2.
3. Where do many seek instruction, and why unwisely so?
3 The majority of men have failed to listen to the counsel the Bible gives. Some hopelessly see no solution to mankind’s problems. Others are of the same mind as worldly-wise Bildad, a would-be comforter of Job who relied on the philosophies of men. “Ask, please, of the former generation and direct [your attention] to the things searched out by their fathers. Will not they themselves instruct you, tell you, and from their heart will they not bring forth words?” (Job 8:8, 10) They set aside the Word of God in favor of human traditions. Since they find pleasure only in those teachers who deceitfully tickle their ears, Jehovah says: “‘I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and I will shove the intelligence of the intellectual aside.’ For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not get to know God, God saw good through the foolishness of what is preached to save those believing.”—1 Cor. 1:19, 21; Mark 7:8; 2 Tim. 4:3, 4.
4, 5. For us to be taught by Jehovah, what attitude must we display?
4 To receive instruction from Jehovah God we must come to him as a child to a father whom he loves and deeply respects. Jesus taught us to approach him that way. “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.” (Matt. 6:9) We are invited to seek his instruction. “If anyone of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching, and it will be given him. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about. In fact, let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah; he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.” (Jas. 1:5-8) Those who can leave the skepticism of the old world behind and who remember that it is not the position of men to call into question the ways of God will receive the instruction they seek. Doubters, scoffers and skeptics will not receive anything from Jehovah, neither wisdom nor life in his new world.
5 The psalmist David well stated the attitude of those who learn from the Great Instructor Jehovah God: “He will cause the meek ones to walk in [his] judicial decision and he will teach the meek ones his way. Who, now, is the man fearful of Jehovah? He will instruct him in the way [that] he will choose.” (Ps. 25:9, 12) Their desire is that expressed at Psalm 143:10: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Your spirit is good; may it lead me in the land of uprightness.” They are meek and teachable; they have faith; they acknowledge him as God; they are confident that his way is upright. With such a proper viewpoint, they are in line to learn from him.
INSTRUCTION THROUGH GOD’S SERVANTS
6. How did Adam and Noah serve in Jehovah’s arrangement for instructing his people?
6 From earliest times Jehovah used a teaching channel through which instruction was provided. Adam was the first human prophet of God and was used to convey to his wife Eve the communications he received from Jehovah God. Noah was another man used by God as a teacher. From their youth Noah had apparently taken great care to instill in his sons faith and the fear of God, with the result that both they and their wives were acceptable to God. About fifty years before the Flood the Lord God specifically mentioned that they were also in line for preservation. Not only did Jehovah tell Noah that the world was to end, but he gave specific instructions on what steps to take to survive that world destruction. Noah did not fail to give like specific instruction to his sons. Their acceptance of him as the one used by God, their obeying him and following him into the ark resulted in their preservation when the ungodly world went down in destruction.—Gen. 6:13-7:7.
7. What are a few of the things that made Moses’ teaching particularly effective?
7 When Moses was sent to lead the Israelites from Egyptian slavery to the free worship of God, Jehovah told him: “I will teach you what you ought to say.” (Ex. 4:12) As one taught by God, Moses knew that certain things would cause instruction to make a deep impression. For that reason he did not fail to show the value of the information he presented: “And now, O Israel, listen to the regulations and the judicial decisions that I am teaching you to do, in order that you may live and may indeed go in and take possession of the land that Jehovah the God of your forefathers is giving you.” (Deut. 4:1) He continued telling them to obey Jehovah and he contrasted the benefits of such a right course with the fate of those who were destroyed for engaging in the disgraceful and God-dishonoring worship of Baal of Peor. He did more than tell the people God’s law. He explained it, illustrated the value of it and for emphasis repeated matter, of special importance.
8. What group regularly taught the Israelites Jehovah’s law, and how did they do their work?
8 The privilege of teaching God’s Word was not limited to Moses. In his parting instructions to the nation before his death he bestowed a special blessing upon the Levites, saying: “Let them instruct Jacob in your judicial decisions and Israel in your law.” (Deut. 33:10) Years later they were still faithfully carrying out that assignment. “And they began teaching in Judah and with them there was the book of Jehovah’s law, and they kept going around through all the cities of Judah and teaching among the people.” (2 Chron. 17:9) They did not fail to use the Sacred Scriptures available in their time as the basis for their teaching, but they did not feel that their assignment had been fulfilled by simply telling the people what the Scriptures said or by reading portions of it. Even after their return from captivity years later it was said of their teaching that, along with their reading, there was a “putting of meaning [into it], and they continued making explanation in the reading.” They were teachers.—Neh. 8:8.
9. What kind of teacher was Jesus, and what change in the teaching arrangement among God’s people did he institute?
9 In the fall of A.D. 29 another teacher appeared on the scene in Palestine. He was not a Levite; he was of the royal tribe of Judah. He followed the pattern of earlier servants of God in that he went out to the people, instead of requiring that they come to him. “He went round about to the villages in a circuit, teaching.” (Mark 6:6) Men who heard him, even his opponents, said that never had another spoken as he did. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, acknowledged: “Rabbi, we know that you as a teacher have come from God; for no one can perform these signs which you perform unless God is with him.” (John 3:2) And Jesus himself made clear that he did not speak of his own originality. He was the one used by God to instruct His people. With Jesus something new in the field of teaching opened up. No longer was the privilege of teaching limited to the tribe of Levi or other specially appointed persons. Even fishermen and tax collectors were called by Jesus and instructed for this vocation. They were to be teachers. So they traveled about with Jesus to learn from him. (Luke 8:1; John 14:10) As public instructors they would have to learn to deal with the public, to present the message clearly and to answer questions for sincere inquirers. They had the marvelous opportunity to learn from the greatest teacher that has ever walked on earth.
SCOPE OF THE TEACHING WORK
10. In what sense would Jesus’ disciples do greater works than he did?
10 Although there had never before been on earth a teacher like Jesus, he said: “He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do, and he will do works greater than these, because I am going my way to the Father.” (John 14:12) This would be true because, as Jesus said, “I am going my way to the Father.” His work on earth was nearing a close. But his disciples would be able to continue the work for which they had been trained over a period of many years and do so in a wider field.
11. How has the prophecy at Acts 1:8 been fulfilled?
11 He told them: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) When the holy spirit was poured upon them, anointing them, they began their ministry there in Jerusalem as Jesus had said. People from many nations who were gathered there had opportunity to hear the good news in their own tongue. Not long afterward, when Stephen was stoned to death, “great persecution arose against the congregation which was in Jerusalem; all except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. However, those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” (Acts 8:1, 4) In 36 (A.D.) further expansion of the work opened up when the Lord God sent Peter to the Gentile Cornelius and his household to teach them the truth. During the twenty and more years that followed, the apostle Paul was used to further pioneer the way into the nations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Today, in 164 lands, “to the most distant part of the earth,” the good news of the Kingdom is being preached in obedience to Jesus’ command.
12. Through what channel is theocratic education provided today, and how do the Scriptures show this?
12 In our time, no less than in centuries past, Jehovah has been using men on earth who make up his organization to teach persons of good will. He has arranged that “through the congregation the greatly diversified wisdom of God” may be made known. (Eph. 3:10) It is these members of the spirit-anointed congregation of God that “as living stones are being built up a spiritual house for the purpose of a holy priesthood.” (1 Pet. 2:5) Men of good will in all nations are coming to recognize this as the provision of God for instructing them in his requirements for life. So in increasing numbers they say: “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.” (Isa. 2:3, AS) Here they are taught to follow the example of Christ Jesus, to obey his commands. They learn that the command of Jesus to his people includes them when it says: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the consummation of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Yes, they learn that now, in this consummation of the system of things, they ought to be teachers of the things commanded by Jesus.
TRAINED TO BE TEACHERS
13. How did the apostle Paul show that the ranks of teachers would be expanded, and who today is doing such a work?
13 It is not enough to tell people they should teach others; to be competent for the work they must be properly instructed. Paul provided such training for Timothy by taking him right along with him in the missionary work. Later he wrote to faithful Timothy and encouraged him to continue his Christian growth and to give particular attention to training others for the teaching work that must be done. “You, therefore, my child, keep on acquiring power in the undeserved kindness that is in connection with Christ Jesus, and the things you heard from me with the support of many witnesses, these things commit to faithful men who in turn will be adequately qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim. 2:1, 2) The Society today, doing a work like that of Timothy, has continued to provide for training others to be teachers of the truth.
14, 15. What are some of the provisions made by the Society to equip all to be teachers, and how does each provision contribute to that objective?
14 Aware of the advice that “you ought to be teachers in view of the time,” the Society makes regular arrangements to help all to progress to that level of Christian maturity. (Heb. 5:12) Since local overseers hold a key role in this program, one of the Scriptural requirements for every overseer is that he be “qualified to teach.” (1 Tim. 3:2) In 16,883 congregations throughout the world the Society has arranged for a regular study of the material in the Watchtower magazine, along with the Bible. It keeps all abreast of the teaching work to be done. Not only is material covered, but those in attendance are given opportunity to express it themselves and hear others comment on it, this equipping them to teach others. No dedicated person or other person of good will who really appreciates Jehovah’s channel for instructing his people would want to miss even one of these meetings if he can avoid it.—Heb. 10:25.
15 Then there is the weekly ministry school. Teachers are speakers, whether they talk to one or many at a time. They must also be able to dig out information from reference books. These things they learn to do well in the ministry school. The service meeting provides counsel on actual use of knowledge acquired, and this is followed up by practical training from mature ministers in the field service. Instructive Bible talks arranged for the public are also eagerly attended by the Witnesses, who are edified by points drawn to their attention on the relation of Bible prophecy to current world happenings and the application of Christian principles to the problems of modern-day life. They must keep such information at their fingertips in order to be able to teach “all kinds of men.” The weekly congregation book study is conducted following the pattern of the Watchtower study, but since it is usually a much smaller group and there is no set amount of material to be covered, it affords opportunity to discuss more thoroughly the points under consideration. Add to this the circuit, district, national and international assemblies. Consider the wide coverage of material for home reading regularly provided in the Awake! magazine. Has the theocratic organization taken to heart the Scriptural counsel to help God’s people to become qualified teachers? Definitely, yes!
16, 17. What part does the family play in theocratic education, and how was the need for this emphasized to the Israelites?
16 However, the congregation has not replaced the home for education in the New World society. Neither educational center can be dispensed with; both are important parts of the New World educational system. Parents are the day-long instructors of their children; and when they carry out a well-arranged program of Christian training in the home, the beneficial effects are enjoyed by both members of the household and all who have occasion to share their fellowship.
17 The responsibility of parents to teach their children was deeply impressed on the minds of the Israelites before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 4:9, 10 the advice is found: “Only watch out for yourself and take good care of your soul, that you may not forget the things that your eyes have seen and that they may not depart from your heart all the days of your life, and you must make them known to your sons and to your grandsons, the day that you stood before Jehovah your God in Horeb, when Jehovah said to me, ‘Assemble the people together to me that I may let them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they are alive on the soil and that they may teach their sons.’” Again in the sixth chapter they were reminded: “You must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” And in the eleventh chapter they are again told: “You must also teach them to your sons.” Moses stated the matter several times because of its importance.
18. What regular program of Christian education is there in well-ordered Christian homes?
18 Part of the program of home instruction carried on in well-organized Christian homes throughout the world is the regular daily consideration of the text provided in the Yearbook in English and found in The Watchtower in other languages. It is best for the father to lead the entire family in this discussion, giving each member of the family opportunity to make some contribution to the discussion. But even if one of the parents is not in the truth and does not care to participate in the discussion, the believer would do well to see that the children benefit from this provision every day. Additionally, it shows deep concern for the spiritual needs of the children when the parents set aside an hour or more a week to conduct a regular home Bible study with them. Time is taken to go to the homes of others to teach them and their families the Bible, so why not provide that same service for one’s own family? It is just as important as other field ministry, and such a regular study conducted with one’s own children who are not yet dedicated may be reported to the congregation as a home Bible study.
19. What traits should parents as teachers endeavor to cultivate in their children, and with what benefit?
19 Of course, as the children grow up there are many other things they must be taught. For example, respect for others. If it is required of the child at home, it will be natural outside the home. If it is practiced by the parents themselves, the children will have a good example to copy. (Eph. 6:1-3; 1 Tim. 5:17) Dependability is important. It is not learned by children whose parents spend their lives putting things away after the children have used them or finishing jobs the children were given to do. Results are far more happifying when parents teach the children to accept responsibility. (Matt. 25:14-30) It is good to teach children how to think reliably and how to make proper decisions. Reason things out with them, impressing on their minds the Christian principles that guide right conduct, the harm that comes to one from wrongdoing, and the blessings that result from following the right course. (Jer. 10:23; Prov. 3:5, 6) Merely commanding them to “Do this!” or “Don’t do that!” will not achieve that goal. Proper development of these and many other traits is at least as important as proper growth of the body. Parents are entrusted with this important teaching assignment.
20. Who in the New World society “ought to be teachers”?
20 All in the New World society look to Jehovah God and Christ Jesus as their great instructors, the ones who can guide them to everlasting life and to success. They take to heart the inspired counsel that originated with these instructors and that says to them: “You ought to be teachers.” Whether parents or children, whether spending all or part of their time in the ministry, whether overseers or otherwise, they know that there is teaching work in which they can share, and now is the time to do it.