“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . .the one who teaches, in his teaching.” Romans 12: 6-8.
“And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:28
“He who descended is the One who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4: 10-12
The last spiritual gift listed in Ephesians 4 is teaching; the Greek word for teacher is didaskalos or instructor. The Great Commission in Matthew 28: 18-20 is followed by the phrase “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” Go and make disciples, baptize them and “teach” them.
Pastor Billy Graham* writes that “one of the greatest needs in the Church at the present is for more teachers of the Bible” .
Why would he make such a statement? Clearly a Christian can read the Bible on their own but can that person explain the Bible like a spirit-led teacher can? No. The spiritual gift of teaching can be developed but it is not something that can be acquired or learned with a college degree.
In my life, I can think of two people who have taught me so much about the Bible; neither of them have a seminary degree. Although one can strive to improve their teaching, a person with a Ph.D. but without the gift of teaching will not be able to instruct about the Bible as one without a degree but who has the spiritual gift of teaching.
Ok, what are the characteristics of a Christian with this spiritual gift; what makes them special? One thing is the ability to make complex concepts simple and understandable. Another characteristic is compassion for God’s Word and compassion for the student who thirsts for God’s Word. Too often, teachers get “inflated” self-perceptions and they expound on their subject matter, with the attitude that their words are so important that students should cherish every crumb they offer. People with the spiritual gift of teaching cherish their knowledge of God’s Word and cherish anyone who hungers for more knowledge about His Word. The person with the spiritual gift of teaching has an inquisitive mind, always trying to learn more about our Lord. The new information is for their growth and for sharing with others. They learn in order to share. The person with the gift for teaching takes teaching seriously, asking God to lead them through the Holy Spirit and they respond to His leading, knowing that God will give them what they need to instruct when the time comes.
He does give them what they need when the time comes…
Not all Christians are concerned with their spiritual growth but all Christians should be. I am going to refer to John Wesley** and his concept of “sanctifying grace.” Wesley felt that too many Christians focus on salvation as the peak event of their lives. After salvation it is over, their faith is static. Wesley explains that salvation is only the beginning as we begin our Christian lives and experience God’s gracious presence in transforming us into the people He intends us to be. It is through God’s sanctifying grace that we grow and mature in our ability to try to live the life Jesus lived.
This is where the teacher can enter into the picture as so many Christians have questions that teachers can address. Teachers have teaching methods that can reach out to hungry Christians and teachers can utilize inspiring explanations that can take a young, immature Christian to a deeper, more mature relationship with Jesus Christ.
Wesley said we’re to press on, with God’s help, along the path of sanctification toward perfection, not being satisfied with salvation alone. By perfection, Wesley did not mean that we would not make mistakes or have weaknesses. He understood sanctifying grace as the continual process of being made more perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin.***
Billy Graham refers to 2 Timothy 2:2 as a way to explain the impact of the gifted Bible teacher. “The things that thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” This is the basic formula for building up the Church. Paul taught Timothy, Timothy shared what he knew with faithful men, and these faithful men would then teach others. The process goes on and on with the spreading of more knowledge until the Church is spread to the entire world. Graham is so humble when he says my “Mass crusades, in which I believe and to which I have committed my life, will never finish the Great Commission, but one-by-one ministry will.”
If Christians could develop the desire for God, turn to His Word [the Bible], and feel emboldened to share His Word through spirit-led teaching, that could do the job.
Let’s revise Graham’s statement. “[I] will never finish the Great Commission but [teachers with the spiritual gift of teaching] will.”
I think Pastor Graham would approve of the revision…
*from his book The Holy Spirit
**founder of the United Methodist Church
***based on the UMC.org website