Teaching as a spiritual gift
Romans 12:68 (NIV) We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
The person with the gift of teaching finds that he can communicate Biblical truths to others in such a way that will impact lives. This person also finds it satisfying to do Bible study and search for God’s truths. He is given special wisdom by God to understand His truths.
Ezra was one person in the Bible who on several occasions specifically referred to as a teacher of the law (Ezra 7:6,11,12,21). Note the characteristics of a teacher chosen of God.
Ezra 7:6 (NIV) this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.
When Ezra taught, peoples’ lives were impacted and they wept openly.
Nehemiah 8:59 (NIV) Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 7 The LevitesJeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiahinstructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. 9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
Teaching as a Christian responsibility
While those who are given the gift of teaching should concentrate their efforts on some form of formal teaching (ie in cell group, Sunday School, etc), everyone is required to teach God’s truths.
Parents have the responsibility to teach God’s truths to their children.
Deu 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
Husbands are expected to instruct their wives.
1 Corinthians 14:3435 (NIV) women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
Those who are matured are expected to teach the younger ones.
Titus 2:3 (NIV) Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
Christians are expected to teach their fellow Christian brother what is right when they have gone the wrong way.
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
How to be an effective teacher?
Lead a life which is close to God.
Ezra 7:10 (NIV) For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
Here lies the secret to Ezra’s powerful teaching ministry. He devoted himself to the observance of God’s laws and not just teaching what he does not observe himself.
1 Timothy 4:1112 (NIV) Command and teach these things. 12 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.
A teacher must take God’s word seriously before he can teach others to do the same. When Ezra found out that the people had sinned, he tore his hair and clothing. The people who had sinned saw how serious Ezra was with God’s word and they became serious as well.
Ezra 9:14 (NIV) After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighbouring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. 2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.” 3 When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. 4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.
A teacher must dwell richly in God’s word.
Ezra 7:10 (NIV) For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Many people want to make teaching their ministry but are not willing to take the time to study God’s word in detail. How can we become good teachers if we do not first know the word well. There is also a need to invest money in books and reference materials if you want to be a good teacher.
A teacher needs special wisdom from God in order to understand God’s truths and teach them to others.
Ezra 7:25 And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of TransEuphratesall who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
John 14:26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Live by what you teach
A teacher must be extra careful that he abides by what he teaches.
James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
Rom 2:21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?
The teacher should be careful that what he teaches is correct.
Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.
A teacher may, due to his misunderstanding of God’s word, cause others to break God’s commandments (even if this is done unintentionally). God will hold him responsible.
Mat 5:19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
When a teacher teaches, there will be times when he encounters things which he does not know or is not sure; he should abstain from these topics unless he is sure. If a teacher is asked a question during class which he cannot answer, he should refrain from answering for risk that he might give the wrong answer.
Remove obstacles to learning
Enlist the help of the Holy Spirit to remove any obstacles that stand in the way of God’s message as well as give the audience special wisdom to understand the message.
Satan, who steals God’s word away, will have to be bound.
Matt 13:19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
When you teach, the evil spirits are working hard to take away God’s truths before it has a chance to reside in the person’s mind. We have to bind all such activity.
We also pray that God will remove whatever other obstacles that may hinder our teaching (like past experiences, prejudices, pride, etc).
Mark 6:3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Our previous experience determines our ability to believe certain things. In this case, the people from Jesus’ hometown had difficulty believing that He is the Son of God because they knew that He was a carpenter’s son and even watched Him grow up. Likewise, a person may be unable to accept certain Biblical truths because of his past experiences. You should pray that God will remove whatever hindrances.
Removing of hindrances is not good enough. We can take an additional step by asking the Holy Spirit to give wisdom to your students.
Colossians 1:910 (NIV) For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
Rely on the Holy Spirit to tell you what to teach.
Even Jesus relies on the help of the Holy Spirit in His teaching ministry.
Acts 1:12 (NIV) In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
God has promised that He will guide us as to what to say and we can claim this promise.
Exodus 4:1012 (NIV) Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” 11 The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
This does not mean that we do not prepare for the lesson and completely rely on the Holy Spirit to do the work. It means that we should not be overly anxious and prepare precisely how we should say each sentence. Give the Holy Spirit room to move and pray that He can speak through you to teach the message that He wants not the message that you want. Even when we are preparing the lesson, we can pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to construct the lesson in such a way that will meet the needs of the audience.
Help the students to practice whatever has been taught.
It is not enough if your audience listens to and understands your message; they must practice it. Head knowledge will not get us anywhere.
James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Ezek 33:31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice.
Matthew 10:2931 (NIV) Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Jesus taught two truths – no sparrow will fall to the ground without the Father knowing and allowing it; and even the hairs on our heads are numbered. Imagine if Jesus stops there! What good will this truth do to His listeners. But Jesus carried on with a life application technique. Because of these two truths, we know that God cares for us and we do not need to be anxious about our lives.
A good teacher helps the students to apply Biblical truths. Not only that, he prays that God will give the people opportunity to practice what they have learned.
Ascertains the level of his students and tailors the message accordingly.
1 Corinthians 3:12 (NIV) Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldlymere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
Jesus is an expert when it comes to tailoring the message to different groups of people. To the common man, Jesus used simple illustrations from life. (For further studies – Matt 5-7, Matt 13) When talking to experts of the law, He quotes the Scriptures. He quoted the scriptures only to the Pharisees or Satan. (For further studies – Matt 4:4,7,10, Matt 9:11-13, Matt 12:1-8, Matt 15:1-9, Matt 21:13,16)
Teach only what will edify the group. If you find that the topic is too controversial and that it might stumble a group of young Christians, abstain from it.
1 Timothy 1:34 (NIV) As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work which is by faith.
Teach with authority.
Mark 1:21-22 21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.
The Jewish teachers often quoted from well-known rabbis to give their words more authority. But Jesus didn’t need to do that. He knew the words of God by itself has authority. There is no need to borrow support for God’s word.
Titus 2:15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority.
Ezra 10:5 Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath.
When Ezra heard that the people had indulged in inter-marriages (ie marrying another race of people that worshipped other gods), he demanded that they divorced them (Ezra 10:1011). What a bold use of authority!
Teach with gentleness.
2 Tim 2:25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
It was earlier discussed that a teacher should exercise authority that is inherent in God’s word. A teacher must not be accommodating, agreeing to everything even when he knows they are not correct. However, a teacher must still instruct and correct gently.
What would comprise a good lesson?
Convincing – Have you managed to convince your readers of the spiritual truth?
Organized – Is the lesson organized, with logical order and no overlaps?
Meet needs – Is the lesson relevant to the needs of your students?
Practical – Can your lesson be applied in daily life?
Recallable – Is the lesson recallable? One simple way is to use an acronym like this one.
Interesting – Are you including facts that are new to the reader and interesting to them?
Simple – Is the lesson easy to understand? Can you use illustrations to make it simple?