Teaching in the Church
The scriptures have a lot to say about teaching in the church. The words, teach, teaching, teacheth, and taught appear a collective 105 times in the New Testament. Likewise, the word doctrine(s) appears 50 times in the New Testament. Moreover, the word teacher(s) appears 13 times in the New Testament and the words, instruct, instructed, instruction appear a combined 8 times in the New Testament. The sheerr volume of appearance of these words tell us that the Lord placed a great importance on teaching in the New Testament Church.
Some teaching in certain venues is prohibited in the church. An example of this is found in 1 Tim. 2:12: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Moreover, 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 says: “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” Therefore, the typical Sunday school made up of woman teachers and unqualified men teachers with divided classes would not be consistent with clear biblical teaching.
There are venues in which godly women are to teach. For instance, 1 Tim. 5:14 says: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” In bearing children and guiding the house, the godly women often do a large portion of the teaching of their children. Timothy was a beneficiary of the teaching of his mother and grandmother: 2 Tim 1:5 “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” In my early years, most of what I knew about biblical teaching I learned from my mother.
Another venue for godly women teaching is found in the older sisters in the church teaching the younger sisters in the church: 2 Tim. 2:3-5 “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” This teaching is not done in a public venue but in private guidance to the younger women.
There is also an example of a woman teaching in a private conversation: Acts 18:24-26 “And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” In this, we see Priscilla and her husband expounded (teaching) the way of God more perfectly to Apollos. I have had the rich experience in my early years in the ministry where godly women instructed me privately about some things that I needed to understand. I am deeply appreciative of such.
In the scripturally acceptable venues in which women are to be teachers, the godly women provide some of the most important instruction in the church.
Public instruction in the word of God is primarily done by the elders (pastors) in the church. One of the qualifications of an elder is that he must be apt to teach:
1 Tim. 3:2 “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;” The Lord gave the apostles the command in Matt. 28:19, 20 “Go ye therefore, and teach 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 alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” With the Lord’s command to the apostles came a great responsibility for teaching. They were first to go and then to teach. Next they were to baptize, then they were to do much more teaching. In this manner, the Lord’s people would become disciples of the Lord. Obviously a lot of teaching was to be done.
Some have thought that all teaching in the church is to be done through standing in a pulpit and preaching. However, when such issues arise, then we should let the scriptures be our guide and not some private interpretation of some historical document. Every Primitive Baptist Church I am aware of has an article of faith that states something similar to this: “The scriptures of the Old and New Testament are our only rule of faith and practice.” To argue for a rule based solely on an historical document is contrary to the above article of faith and plain biblical teaching. We must let the scriptures be our guide. When looking at the venues and manner in which teaching is to be carried out in the New Testament Church we will let the scriptures be our guide and not some historical document.
The best example in the scriptures for preaching and teaching is the Lord himself. The first time we see the Lord teaching is when he was 12 years of age: Luke 2:46, 47 “And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” On this occasion the Lord used the teaching method of listening and asking and answering questions. Asking questions is an effective tool in stirring up people minds. Answering the questions that others ask is also effective in teaching. The Lord did not need the scriptures as he is the ultimate author, yet we need to ask questions about the teaching of the scriptures to stir up people minds and to answer their questions with scriptural answers so that they can be assured of the truth. We also note that the Lord was sitting in this teaching session.
On other occasions we see the Lord sitting while teaching or instructing the people:
1. Luke 5:3 “And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.”
2. John 8:2 “And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.”
3. Mat. 26:55 “In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.”
4. Mark 4:1 “And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.”
From the above it is safe to conclude that much of the Lord’s teaching was done while he was sitting down. He also taught, while sitting daily, in the temple. He was conducting a daily study of the scriptures.
Next, the Lord taught in the synagogues, which, of course, were not New Testament churches:
1. Matt. 4:23 “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”
2. Matt. 9:35 “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”
3. Matt. 13:54 “And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?”
4. Mark 1:21 “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.”
This certainly teaches us that as we are led by the Spirit of God we should go and teach wherever the Spirit leads us. Just because we are in their place of worship does not mean that we have to partake of their errors.
We also see where the Lord taught on a requested subject: Luke 11:1 “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” This was teaching by request and we should be prepared to do likewise. Paul was requested on one occasion to preach what he had previously taught: Acts 13:42 “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.”
Moreover, Phillip was requested of the eunuch of Ethiopia to teach on a particular passage of scripture: Acts 8:29-35 “Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.”
As ministers of the gospel we should be prepared to teach individuals or groups on particular subjects, texts or passages of scriptures and to preach by request as well. Certainly all of this would need to be by impression from the Spirit of God. The concept sometimes promoted that all preaching is teaching and that all teaching should be done by preaching is not supported by the scriptures. There are times when the words teach and preach are used in the same passage of scripture. If the words meant the exact same thing, then why are both words used in the same sentence? The fact is that they carry different meanings and are interpreted from different Greek words:
1. Preach - 2784. kerusso, kay-roos'-so; of uncert. affin.; to herald (as a public crier), espec. divine truth (the gospel):--preach (-er), proclaim, publish.
2. Teaching - 321. didasko, did-as'-ko; a prol. (caus.) form of a prim. verb dao (to learn); to teach (in the same broad application):--teach.
The following scriptures have the words teach and preach together:
1. Matt. 11:1 “And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.”
2. Acts 5:42 “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
3. Matt. 4:23 “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.”
4. Matt. 9:35 “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”
5. Acts 15:35 “Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.”
6. Acts 28:31 “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”
Obviously there is much more to teaching than just preaching. Now that is not to minimize the effect and need for preaching. Yet teaching can take several formats and is a needed part of the instruction of God’s people. Please note that in Acts 5:42 the apostles and ministry were daily teaching and preaching both in the temple and in every house. They were not just preaching in every house, but they were also teaching in every house. The phrase, “bible study,” has a bad connotation to certain people. I cannot understand why. These people seem to think that when a pastor leads a study of the scriptures with members of his congregation or with people outside his congregation that he is doing something unscriptural. However, the above certainly point to the fact that teaching is an important element in the understanding that the Lord’s people have of the things of God.
Bible studies can be carried out in numerous venues. Some men publish church newsletters, church pamphlets, or publish books on biblical subjects. These are all studies conducted by those individuals as well as those who write for the periodicals. They are bible studies and are conveyed to other people for the purpose of teaching them on the meaning of various verses, texts, passages, subjects taught in the scriptures. This is a bible study. Others may use emails or forums to convey their understanding of biblical subjects, verses, passage of scriptures, etc. This also is a form of bible study. Some men who stand before a congregation and preach are very organized in their thoughts and stay focused on particular subjects or passages of scripture so as to convey the teaching on those subjects or passages of scripture. This is also a form of bible study.
Likewise, a pastor sitting, as Jesus did, and explaining the meaning of subjects in the scripture or passages of scripture to members of his congregation or to people outside his congregation is conducting a bible study. The only difference between those who write for newsletters, pamphlets, and books and the ones who open their mouth and teach is the venue of their teaching. One uses his tongue and the other uses his pen.
Elder Vernon Johnson