And Jesus gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:8-16
I’ve had my share of teacher encounters over the years. In first grade my teacher had a Bible on her desk. It was open to a picture of Jesus on the cross. I remember being very touched by that picture. “That’s terrible,” I said. “Yes,” she said, “He suffered for your sins. Are you a Christian?” She knew that in the terms our church used, I had not yet become a Christian. That was a matter of declaring one’s faith publicly and being baptized.
Actually I was a Christian. I believed in Jesus. I would soon be baptized. I still remember Mrs. Young. She was a member of the church my family attended. What a wonderful teacher with a delightfully-blessed heart for Jesus and for people.
I also had what would have to be called a very discouraging teacher. One day, I brought a book to school that I had read. It was a book club offering that also included a check-list to be done after reading it. One of the items on the checklist was, “I will tell my teacher about this book.”
“I read this book,” I told her one day. “What am I supposed to do about that?” she asked. Talk about taking the wind out of a young boy’s sails, and stunt a love for reading and of books that would last many years! I still remember that moment some 60 years later.
Paul says that Jesus gave some to be…teachers. What a gift are those teachers who open up Scripture to us, and who bring us closer to Jesus! What a blessing they are who build up the church. These do not merely impart knowledge. They not only provide theological insight. They see to it that that true and deeply-insightful theology deepen our relationship with Jesus and leverage us to grow up into him who is the head: Jesus Christ our Lord.
One more example: One assignment during my seminary instruction was to read a book by the revered first president of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod C.F.W. Walther. Titled, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, I read the book and was very discouraged by it. I was convicted on every page. I am not worthy to serve Christ as a pastor, I thought.
When we reviewed the book in class, Dr. Aho (the professor who had assigned the book to us) said, “Brothers! When I read Walther, I conclude he really knew the sinful hearts of men.” That’s all the specifics I remember of what he said. But I also remember thinking, If Dr. Aho feels that way, and he’s truly a great servant of Christ, perhaps I can serve Jesus as a pastor. I’m certain he also said that our righteousness is in Christ, and that only through Jesus’ mercy can anyone do this great work. But I remember his honest transparency about his own need for God’s mercy and Christ’s forgiveness.
I thank God for Dr. Aho. He was a great and faithful, humble and dedicated teacher and preacher. Through him the body of Christ was built up. He spoke the truth in love to his students and to all to whom he preached. Dr. Aho died several years ago. But I still remember him fondly and consider him a truly great teacher.