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How To Tell A Good Teacher

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Your Christian life is greatly affected by the people you spend time with. The Bible is very clear on this, that we need to choose our friends, our church, and our teachers very carefully. The people we associate with can have an almost mystical, unnoticed effect upon us. One thing is so certain, we will be changed by the people we hang around; either for the good or the bad.

You see, much of what we come to believe is absorbed by us indirectly, when our guard is down, when we are consciously disengaged. Ideas and subliminal messages come into our minds under the radar and lodge in her belief system. And here is the rub, "What we come believe gets lived out in our life." A year from now you will be a different person than you are today, primarily from the absorption of ideas, opinions, and beliefs you allow yourself to be exposed to.

Paul says "Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

1 Cor 15:33. That's the natural process of things.

It's not that these bad people are trying to convince us to do bad things, "Hey, let's go out to the tavern, it's fun and it won't hurt you."

The influence of bad people is more subtle then that. By associating with them, their character and values seep into our lives. They slip under the door of our mind or come to us camouflaged attached to some truth.

Now, Jesus warns us against one of the most powerful influences in our lives, the people who teach us. He implies in this passage that we need to choose our teachers wisely and carefully and that there is a way we can do this.

He says in Mark 12:38, "Watch out for the teachers of the law." This is not a blanket statement regarding all teachers of the law. What he is saying here is to "Watch out for the teachers of the law who display the following two characteristics." This is how you can tell who to avoid and thus protect yourself from their influence and example. READ PASSAGE

Paul has a passage that matches this one in very significant ways. He tells Timothy "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

1 Tim 4:12

Why is Timothy told to set an example to the flock? Because example is the most powerful way to influence others for their good.

Now notice what Paul tells him in, "Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (to be an example) Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers (influence)." 1 Tim 4:15-16

"Watch your life and doctrine closely" these are the same two things Jesus mentions in our passage about how to tell a good teacher from a bad one.

Notice, we are not concerned here with discovering bad teaching, but bad teachers, or bad pastors for that matter. So we can stay away form their corrupting influence.


  • "While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is ("simply") the son (descendant) of David?" v.35
    • Matthew records it, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?"
    • The Law teachers' view was correct but incomplete.
    • To prove that the Messiah is David's Lord, Jesus quoted Psalm 110:1
  • "David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared ("David speaking by the Spirit, calls him, "Lord" Mt 22:43): “‘The LORD (Yahweh) said to my Lord (Adonai): 'Sit at my right hand (place of highest honor and authority) until I put your enemies under your feet ("until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Ps 110:1). David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?" v.36-37 The Messiah is both God (David's Lord) and man (his descendant)
  • You can tell a bad teacher because they are frequently off-base on key beliefs.

"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Ac 17:11

They wanted what Paul was saying to be true for they examined the Scriptures to find confirmation. This was not a questioning distrustful attitude, but a positive finding reinforcement for the truth.

We need to be cautious at first with any new teacher; then when we gain confidence, we need to open ourselves up to the voice of God through that person.

    • The job of the pastor is to teach and feed Christians, but if you see your role as the listener as approving and disproving everything that is said, you will never be feed by God's word. The pastor has a message from God, God wants to say some things to you.

"Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Ti 4:2

Now, if we remain in a mood of suspicion and think that is our role as a listener, then we will never hear a word from God.

Balance is needed, "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." 1 Th 2:13

So here was a teacher of the law who did not believe in both the deity and humanity of Messiah. What would Jesus have us to do if we encounter such a man. If what is being taught is a foundational truth, crucial to the core of our faith, we are to find the exit and do it now.

  • A number of years ago, a man in the church got me aside with a cup of coffee to talk about our theological differences. He started by saying, "I know we believe differently about salvation: you believe in salvation by repentance and I believe in salvation of faith." It about floored me! I said, "I not only believe in salvation by faith, (I got a little snippy) I understand it (implying that maybe he didn't)."

Well, we talked about it a little bit, then I asked him a question that relates to our study. You've come to this church for many years and have thought in your mind that don't believe in salvation by faith, the doctrine of the reformation, the hallmark of protestant churches. Why didn't you do the right thing and leave?

Before you ever leave a teacher of a pastor because you feel his is teaching something that is seriously off-base, make sure you go to him and ask him directly what he believes on that subject. Let him tell you what he believes and then make your decision. Too often we listen to sermons and think we know what someone believes and it has just been a big misunderstanding.

Extra Credit: Best criterion for detecting a teacher or pastor who is worth listening to , "He who speaks on his own (his own ideas) does so (his motivation) to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him." Jn 7:18


38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”

Not behaviors (except, "devour widows houses"), but the heart behind them.

"Such men" who like doing these things "will be punished most severely."

Sermons from this passage on how you should dress, on making short prayers instead of long.

Mark says they "like" dong these things, while Matthew says they "love" doing these things.

"Everything they do is done for men to see." Mt 23:5

"Flowing robes"

"They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels (conspicuous) on their garments long (noticeable);" Mt 23:5

Small square leather boxes containing slips inscribed with scriptural passages and traditionally worn on the left arm and on the head by Jewish men during morning weekday prayers.

Sometimes people wear very large crosses for attention reasons.

J Pastors who have to buy expensive cars and Rollex watches to show people that God has prospered them.

"be greeted in the marketplaces"

with formal titles: "Rabbi" (teacher), "master", "father" by the common people who respected them highly. Treated like celebrities.

"the most important synagogue seats" those reserved for dignitaries

Arguing at Billy Graham crusade who was going to sit on the platform and where.

"the places of honor at banquets"

seated next to the host and received preferential treatment.

"They devour widows' houses"

Was a vivid figure of speech for exploiting the generosity of people of limited means, especially widows.

Jesus says stay away from teachers or pastors who teach false doctrine or who live in ways inconsistent with the Bible

Pick your teachers not for their charisma, attractiveness, speaking ability (Paul), or leadership skills, but for their faithfulness and character. If you find one like that, he is worth listening too!

"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." 1 Ti 4:15-16


Who's your teacher (Jesus) and what are you going to believe (gospel)?

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