The Biblical Role of a Teacher and Teaching in the Church

A while back a friend had me answer some questions pertaining to the Biblical role of teaching, as I had mentioned I felt like God has been calling me to help or fulfill this role in some sense. For various reasons we never got to go through the questions with each other. Maybe someday we will. I also never quite finished filling out all the answers. Maybe someday I will do that, too. Just a note, this is in no way an exhaustive treatment of this issue. Not even sure if I am capable of doing an exhaustive treatment. This is just me thinking through some things and hoping to possibly explore more. This is an unedited version, grammar mistakes, misspellings and all. If it can in any way be a help to anyone, then it would be quite the blessing to me. Grace and peace! Tyler,

These are some questions and some thoughts that I have worked through, and am still working through, as pertains to teaching. They are good questions to ask yourself and to ponder through. There are also some thoughts I try to ask myself before I begin teaching to center my heart and attitude before Christ to be sure that I am leading others well and in a way that is glorifying to Christ. I look forward to getting together to work through some of these things.

Answer all these questions using ONLY the Bible. Give Scripture references.

1. Define: Teacher. A teacher is someone who passes on to others what he or she has apprehended themselves because they believe what they have is valuable. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have gazed upon and touched with our own hands--this is the Word of life.... We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And this fellowship of ours is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1, 3) For the Christian, the supreme value in our life is Jesus Christ, so this is what we are compelled to pass on.1 "As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) Because all Christians have been called to the great commission, all Christians, in some sense, are to be teachers. This is not a chore, but it is a mandate. And it is also a plumb line in which to keep us focused when we begin to wander.2 All Christians are to be missionaries. In some sense all Christians are sent into the world3. Therefore all Christians are to be disciple makers. In some shape or form the baton is being perpetually passed to everyone. The great commission says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you....” (Matt. 28:19-20a)

Part of teaching others to observe is teaching others to teach others because part of what Jesus commanded is to teach. Therefore in order for those who are being taught to observe all that Jesus commanded means that they will have to move out in the great commission, making disciples and teaching others as well. It is a never ending, glorious cycle. From a human stand point, every one must first be a learner. It is someone who has something to pass on, because it has been passed on to him/her. A teacher must be a learner first. A disciple maker must be a disciple first. We must first apprehend before we can pass on.

The learning part comes first. It is the most important.4 Otherwise we do not have anything to pass on. The more we learn, the more we can pass on. But it also can’t stop there. Because if it does, it means we really haven’t learned anything, we are being disobedient. True learning is not just assent, or acknowledgement, but also apprehending. Apprehending means we take it in, and whatever we have taken in, moves us towards, being and doing what we have taken in.

In other words, we can’t say we have learned the great commission, and then go and move in the middle of nowhere, never having anything to do with people in any way whatsoever. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” (James 1:22-24)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.... You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:8, 14-14)

A true teacher is one who learns and then passes on what they learn. A true teacher is a doer and hearer of the word. A true teacher learns from Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit5, through Bible reading, study, and meditation as well as through other Spirit filled faithful men and women who teach the Bible down through the ages. And then takes what he or she has learned and passes it onto others.

This is a never ending process. We are to be life long learners and life teachers. We never fully arrive.6 The Christian life is a life long race. It is not a sprint. It is a marathon.7

2. What is the purpose/role of a teacher within the Church?

The purpose or role of the teacher is to strengthen others faith8, to present everyone mature in Christ9, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ .... so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine .... making the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. In other words, it is to help the body of Christ so as all the different people with all their different gifts function healthily.

So everyone has this role in some sense, but not everyone is particularly gifted in it. In much the same way, every one is called to evangelism, but not everyone is particularly gifted at it. Everyone is called to be hospitable but not everyone is particularly gifted at it. And so on and so forth. No one can say, well, I am not a very good teacher, or I am not very good at evangelism or I am not very hospitable, so I don’t have to do those things. No. It’s not how it works.

Nevertheless God gifts each person with particular gifts . Therefore there are different roles to be filled by people with different gifts10. Every individual within the body of Christ matters. Every individual within the body of Christ has at least one gift11. Therefore everyone is indispensable12

And one of the purposes or roles of each person and each person’s particular gift or gifts is to help people who don’t have those gifts be better at doing and being those things themselves. In other words, we might not all have every gift but God calls each of to each gift. Because all good gifts come down from the Father of lights13 and he dispenses all accordingly, each with their own gift(s) for the building up, mutual edifying, and common good14 of the whole church. Yes. Each person must fulfill there role with their gift (s) and no one else can fulfill it quite the way they do. Evangelist can build the church. Teachers can equip the church, and one cannot quite do the other like the other. But each can also help each other do the other better because everyone is called to do all, just might not be particularly gifted at all. So the stronger helps the weaker be stronger at what they are weak at.15

It’s not the most important to be to caught up in what exactly is the gift you have. The goal should be to strengthen each others faith. If what you are doing strengthen’s others faith, it might be what you are gifted at. So for a teacher, one particular purpose of a teacher would be to teach others within the body to better utilize and more effectively live out their particular gifts.

In some sense everyone again is a teacher in this way. Those who have the gift of evangelism can not only evangelize which is helpful and useful to the body and the mission of the body, but they can also help others, even teach others who are not gifted at it, be better at it, too. Those who have the gift of encouragement can teach others to be better encouragers. This way everyone is mutually building up, edifying and strengthening each others faith.

Those who have the gift of teaching can help all those other people with all their different gifts be better at ‘teaching’ everyone else who don’t have those gifts to be better at doing those things. This way of God doing things really shows the communal and relational aspect of his being.16 We are like living stones17 being joined together, growing into a holy temple in the Lord, being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.18 Often, within the role the teacher fills, there is a dual role of shepherd. This is not always the case but it often is. In fact, the really only distinct qualification of a Pastor besides him not being a new convert is that he has the ability to teach.19 A case could be made that he indeed should have that spiritual gift. God wants his people taken care of, but the way they are to be taken care of, is in, and through and under his word.20 Those who are shepherds are to shepherd through, and by and with his word. Not all teachers are shepherds but all shepherds are teachers. God has even given the church a particular office within his local assemblies that are supposed to be filled with people who have been called to and given the gifts needed to fulfill the gifted office.

People that fill this office are not better. But the office should be revered. Because it represents God’s word and is to be a ministry of that word. The purpose and goal of ministering God’s word is to move people’s hearts towards seeing God’s word as beautiful and then to observing God’s word as fulfilling and pleasing. This is an impossible task. No human is adequate for this. So we must rely solely on the Holy Spirit. (Here, it is God who grants repentance, but he doesn’t do that apart from human involvement. Therefore the one ministering, carrying the message of repentance must strive to be who God wants him to be.) So all of that said, the purpose of the teacher in the church in a more narrow sense, it is the teachers job to equip others, to prepare others, to help others to be able to do ministry. And in a lot of ways, since every Christian has there own unique gifts that they are more uniquely gifted at, it is to equip them, prepare them and instruct them in using those gifts to the best of their ability, under the authority of God’s word, for his glory.

3. What is the goal of teaching?

The goal of teaching is to glorify God and to open peoples eyes to his glory. To be used of God so as more and more people would see him more clearly, and treasure him more dearly. The goal of teaching and the purpose of teaching is closely interlinked. The goal of teaching moves out from the role and purpose of teaching, to present everyone mature in Christ.

The goal of the teacher, is to have his pupils, move out by God’s grace, in living out and breathing in all that God says we are and says we are to do as being one of his people. To goal of teaching is to teach others to be better learners. Teach others so as they would be stable and not be carried around by every wind of doctrine. Teach others so as they may be able to teach others. To teach others so as they would be able to teach others how to teach others. To teach others so as they might be able to move out in the mission of God with proper fluency and zeal. Where they know how to articulate the gospel and the story of God and they also love what they know how to articulate.

Jesus said, teach others to observe all that he has commanded. Part of what he has commanded, is to teach others. So part of being a teacher is to teach others how to teach others. In a sense, if a person were to look at it as a job, a good teacher would be able to work him or herself out of a job by teaching others who have the same gift, in such a way that they could easily replace him. Though, this is not true, no one can every be replaced. Sometimes our official role or capacity in a church will need to come to an end or sometimes our particular role was only for a time and a place. And if God gifted us and called us for a particular time and now God is calling and gifting some one else to fulfill that role. This is a good thing. And we need to be training people, to keep the ball rolling and the mission of God going forward. Or maybe we need to be sending people out from our particular local body to be a part of another local body somewhere else or plant another local body somewhere else and we need to give them the tools to replicate. In other words, we need to pass on to others what we have seen and heard and learned from Jesus so that they can do the same things.21 The goal of teaching, then, is to help others be better great commission fulfillers. To make better learners and better teachers who will thereby be better God glorifiers.

4. What/Whose authority is the teacher under?

The teacher is under the authority of God and therefore under the authority of God’s word, since it is primarily God’s word in how God has revealed himself to us. Everything we know, must be filtered through the authority of God’s word. We don’t learn everything there is to know from the Bible. But we learn how to learn everything there is know rightly from the Bible.22

The teacher if a shepherd as well, is to be an under-shepherd. Or you could say, an under- teacher. A teacher only has as much authority as is being faithful to God’s word. A teacher has a derived authority or derived instructions. A teacher is passing on instructions and information, from God to others. A teacher is solely the medium or the conduit. We have no message, in and of ourselves. We are to shepherd and teach under the authority of the message we have been given.

5. What are the expectations and ramifications of being a teacher of the Word? The ramifications is, it should cause us to tremble. For we are handling the very word of God, and this is no small task. It is a heavy task, but it is also a gloriously joyful task. The expectation is that we are to be faithful. No more, no less. Yes, God has revealed to us, what to think like, what kind of attitudes to have, how to teach, what to teach, and with even a goal in mind of moving people towards more faithful ministry. And yes, God’s word will not return void, and yes, he will accomplish all of his purposes. But we don’t ultimately know what those purposes will look like when they are accomplished. Yes, we have an idea, we have a goal, and we have a purpose. But we must lay our preconceived ideas aside and humbly submit to God.

God will call his sheep, through our teaching, and equip his sheep through our teaching, to the building up, edifying and maturing of his saints. But he will do it in his way, and in his timing. It’s our job to toil at being faithful, to toil at planting seeds, in our learning, and in our teaching, and then to plod forward in that faithfulness.

This is what is expected of us. We can’t cause things to happen, we can’t make things happen. But we have a responsibility to be faithful in exercising what God has called us to, and given us the ability to do.

This is no light responsibility, nor any easy task. Sometimes in our desire to see fruit, at least from a humanistic stand point (large numbers, fame, recognition, etc) we might resort to unscriptural ways of doing things. And this is not good. This is not good, because we could build big things, not being faithful to God, and our big things would be useless. Yes, God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines, and we, all are not one hundred percent faithful to God, even on our best days, but it is not being a crooked stick, that we strive for. Consistently being unfaithful, as a way of life, whether in ignorance or on purpose, sooner or later, I cannot help but think, will not end well. The same could just as easily be said, about being negligent of our duties and calling. If we know we should be doing something and are not doing it, it is sin.

It is our job to be faithful to God and his word, not whether we built a big church, or had all kinds of books published, or had tons of influence with tons of people. No. It is according to God’s revealed will, and that standard alone, by which we will be judged.

Now, I could name off all kinds of standards by which a teacher should be a faithful to, because sometimes we say things like, “we need to be faithful to God’s word” and we think, ‘what does that even mean”. Well, it means, be faithful to what God’s word says.

Teach God’s word, and only what God’s word says, bringing everything into subjection under it. We are not here to invent things, we are here to proclaim things. We are stewards of God’s word. II Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” In other words, work hard at it. And I Corinthians 4:2 says we are to be faithful stewards of God’s word. “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” Three of the most important characteristics pertaining to one handling God’s word; work hard, be faithful to it and proclaim it. Do this willingly, not under compulsion (1 Peter 5:2) James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” So a teacher has expectations and there are great ramifications. to be those things, and will be judged accordingly. So we should take this seriously. It is why you should not take the desire to be a teacher lightly. But a reason a teacher should be all those things is so, we as a teacher can say, follow me as I follow Christ. And if we are telling people and showing people what it’s like to follow Christ. It really better be Christ we are pointing to, saying coming along and follow me as I follow him.

6. Who is the Teacher? The One who has never had need of being taught?

A teacher is one who has learned, is learning and will keep learning and being instructed by is the one who actually has who has never had any need of being taught and has authority over all things. Namely Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the source and fountain of all knowledge.23

A teacher is a life long learner and pupil of Jesus Christ, one who can say, follow me as I follow Him.24 A teacher is one who is strangely content with who he is, and who his pupils are in Christ, and yet, at the same time, is constantly yearning to press himself and others, on into greater heights of fellowship with him.25

7. How did Jesus teach?

Jesus taught as a faithful servant.

Jesus taught by the power of the Spirit.

Jesus met people where they were at.

Jesus taught as a prophet Jesus taught as a priest

Jesus taught as a king. Jesus taught with his words. Jesus taught with his actions. Jesus taught in everything that he did.

Rules of Engagement - Christ is far more interested in what He is doing in you than what He is doing through you. - You cannot teach what hasn’t penetrated your head, heart, life already. (Though I agree with the statement, especially the way it is worded, I do not believe we have to have personal experience to be able to teach it. It is possible to teach things that we do not have any personal experience with in our own life. Because what we are ultimately teaching is God’s word, not our experience. And it is possible to have God penetrate our head, heart and life, even in areas we have not may not ever experience. One example, though I could give hundreds, is marriage. It is possible to teach authoritatively on marriage and never had been married yourself. The truths could have penetrated all that you are, and you could have never been that. The Apostle Paul is a good example)

- It is ALL about Jesus Christ! If your teaching never gets back to Gospel and Jesus at some point, it is all done in vain whether you are teaching the Old Testament or New Testament.

  • God’s Word is sufficient. - Must teach from place of humility and authority. - Must teach for glory of God and not glory of self. ______Footnotes________

1 Yet when I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because I am obligated to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16) 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2) 3 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

4 “And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

5 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26)

6 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way (Philippians 3:12-15)

7 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

8 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12) 1 Thessalonians 3:2

9 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

10 Romans 12:3, 6 11 1 Corinthians 12:7 12 1 Corinthians 12 13 James 1:17 14 1 Corinthians 12:25 15 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 16 Ephesians 4:4-7, 1 Corinthians 12:13 17 1 Peter 2:5 18 Ephesians 2:22-23 19 I Tomthy 3:1-7 20 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 4:2 21 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:1-2) 22 1 Corinthians 10:31 23 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3) 24 1 Corinthains 4:16, 1 Corinthians 11:1

25 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 3:12-17)

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