Category: Teaching

Prerequesites for Teaching the Bible

A few weeks ago I offered three simple thoughts on teaching the Bible. While all of us are expected to teach the Bible privately to others, not all of us are called to teach the Bible in a public setting. For those of us who sense a desire and a calling to teach the Bible publicly, however, we must make sure we meet the all the right spiritual prerequisites. Teaching the Bible is serious business (James 3:1). What are these prerequisites?

(1) New birth through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:3; 1 Cor 2:11-14). In order to rightly teach the Bible, we must be born again; otherwise we will further aggravate our condemnation and potentially lead others astray because the Teacher, the Holy Spirit, does not reside in us and is not aiding us in our interpretation of Scripture (see Prov 10:17).

(2) Firm belief that the Bible is God’s inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word (John 10:35; 1 Tim 3:16-17). Without a firm belief that Scripture is God’s inspired, inerrant, authoritative word, we will be unable to teach with power and conviction, and we will likely lessen our listeners’ confidence in the Scripture. Before we step into the pulpit or behind the lectern, we must settle this issue once and for all.

(3) The pursuit of personal holiness in the fear of the Lord (Prov 1:7; Matt 5:8; Heb 12:14). If we are not first pursuing holiness in the fear of the Lord, our spiritual judgment will be skewed and we will not be able to rightly interpret or teach the text. We will also become guilty of hypocrisy like the Pharisees who preached but did not practice (Matt 23:3).

(4) A clean conscience (Rom 14:23; 1 Tim 1:5; Hebrews 9:14; 10:22). Similarly, we must maintain a clean conscience if we are going to teach effectively, for if we defile our consciences, we hinder our ability to think clearly over the text. We will also be robbed of genuine conviction and our teaching will lack power (Prov 28:1).

(5) Cultivation of Godly Motives. We must also be cultivating the right motivations for teaching the Bible:

The glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). Teaching the Bible first and foremost is for the glory of God. We teach for his pleasure and in order that his purposes might be accomplished.

The joy and spiritual benefit of Christians (Eph 4:12-16; Phil 1:25). Tied intimately to this goal of glorifying God is the joy and spiritual benefit of those whom we are teaching. In other words, you must love the people you are teaching or what you say will be spiritually incoherent to their ears (1 Cor 13:1-3).

The salvation of sinners (John 20:30-31; 1 Cor 9:19-26). Finally, our love for God and our love for others will overflow into a desire to see men and women saved through our teaching ministry. Some professing Christians who have yet to truly come to Christ may be convicted and saved under your ministry; or visitors of church members may trust Christ through your ministry. We should desire this kind of evangelistic fruit.

(6) The Mortification of Wrong Motives. While we are cultivating godly motives for teaching God’s Word, we must simultaneously put ungodly motives to death. Tending the plants while ignoring the weeds will decrease your chances for a full yield in the future. Both works—cultivation of godly motives and the uprooting ungodly motives—will help ensure fruitfulness.

Attempting to earn our righteousness (Rom 4:5). Because we are justified by faith alone, we don’t need to teach in order to earn God’s favor. We have all the favor we need in Christ. If you don’t feel compelled to teach publicly, then don’t teach publicly. You are not a second-class Christian by choosing not to teach.

The praise and recognition of men (Matt 6:1; 23:1-7; Gal 1:10). Most deadly to our spiritual lives is pursuing the ministry of teaching for our own glory. Pride—the pursuit of man’s praise—kills faith and destroys our spiritual life (John 5:44). If pride goes unchecked, we will eventually fall into greater and greater sin and become worthless to the people we are teaching.

The love of authority (1 Peter 5:3; 3 John 1:9). Tied to the desire for man’s praise is the enjoyment of holding authority over people. If you find that you relish the thought of people respecting you and honoring you for your position as a teacher (see Matt 23:5-7), repent immediately, ask God’s forgiveness and cleansing, and set teaching aside for a season if you need to. There are few things worse than a teacher who lords it over his people (1 Peter 5:3).

Trying to avoid other ministry responsibilities and callings (1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 Cor 12:14-20; Eph 5:25). Finally, do not pursue a teaching ministry in order to escape other clear biblical callings. If you have other “less showy” gifts that should be used in the church, don’t pursue teaching in order to escape the responsibility to exercise your gifts in these other vital areas. Also, remember that teaching takes a lot of preparation time. You cannot neglect other responsibilities (like being a husband or father) in order to teach; this will only lead to hypocrisy and a loss of respect from those you teach.

How Our Preparation Can Make Our Teaching Ineffective

In their helpful book Effective Bible Teaching, James C. Wilhoit and Leland Ryken remind us that ineffective teaching arises at one of two levels: (1) the planning and preparation level; (2) the presentation level. In this post I want to focus on the planning and preparation level. What happens in the planning stage that causes us to be ineffective in our teaching? Wilhoit and Ryken mention six pitfalls we should avoid as a prepare to teach. Continue reading “How Our Preparation Can Make Our Teaching Ineffective”

The Ministry of Reminding: Encouragement for Ordinary Bible Teachers

Serving as a teacher in a church with an abundance of graduate and post-graduate students can be tough.  Alright, it can be downright depressing.  With the bulk of one’s audience comprised of carefully studied, well-thought, broadly-read theologians, one who dares consider himself a teacher among such an assembly can often succumb to nagging feelings of intimidation and fear.  If you are like me, you might often find yourself wondering what you might say this Sunday that many of your listeners haven’t already heard…or read…or thought extensively about. Continue reading “The Ministry of Reminding: Encouragement for Ordinary Bible Teachers”

The Theologian's Character: More Wisdom From John Frame

I just completed John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. The book is a wealth of theological and spiritual insight and I highly recommend it.  It now resides on my desk, ready for its most valuable contents to be recorded onto my laptop.  The following quote, I believe, places all theological labor in proper perspective.

Thus the theologian’s character gives him, by grace, that exemplary life that is requisite for the work of Christian teaching.  But even if we seek to ignore that aspect and focus exclusively on verbal theology, we will find that, too, is highly influenced by the theologian’s character.  Negatively, I believe that many of the ambiguities, fallacies, and superficialities that about in theology are failures of character as much as (or more than) intellect.  Many of these could be avoided if theologians showed a bit more humility about their own level of knowledge, a bit more indulgence in pursuing the truth, a little more simple fairness and honesty (324).

Notice that Frame attributes theological “ambiguities, fallacies and superficiality” more to the theologian’s character than to his intellect.  In other words, you may work hard in research, give yourself to reading and writing, and exercise your mind with categories of logic and philosophy, but if you are not giving equal or greater effort to cultivating Christian character, you may be just wasting your time.