|Vol. 2, No. 5||Page 12||May 2000|
Studying the Bible
Study To Teach Others
One of the fundamental laws of teaching is, “You cannot teach what you do not know.” Unfortunately, many believe the only criterion for being a teacher is the willingness to teach! This inevitably leads to the blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:14), so that ignorance begets ignorance which begets ignorance. Teaching others carries a great responsibility (James 3:1), and this responsibility includes knowing God’s Word well enough to communicate it to others. Thus, diligent study must go hand in hand with those who would teach. The writer of Hebrews said, “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat” (Hebrews 5:12). How can we avoid having such a denunciation apply to us? Only through studying the Bible.
Every Christian has the responsibility of taking the Gospel to the lost (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20). Though some may not have the greatest ability and while some may be so young in the faith that they do not know much, neither of these works as an excuse. The responsibility to teach implies the responsibility to study in order to teach. Paul told Timothy, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The Gospel is perpetuated by teaching people the Gospel and teaching people to teach the Gospel. At the very least, every Christian should know how to teach the plan of salvation, the unique character of the church, the nature of true worship, the church’s work and organization, as well as a basic summary of Christian morality, also presenting Scripture for authority on each subject. Does this seem odd? Does it seem like asking too much? These are the basics that are necessary to carrying out the great commission! If we cannot explain to others why we live, worship and act the way we do, we are failing one of the most elementary tests of our Christianity (1 Peter 3:15).
Those who would teach Bible classes are responsible for knowing and discerning truth in regard to the material they are teaching (James 3:17; John 17:17). Preachers must know the Word so that they can preach the word, instructing those who should have good knowledge to start with (2 Timothy 4:2). Elders must know enough to teach mature Christians (1 Timothy 3:2), enough to correct those in error (Titus 1:9ff) and enough to lead a congregation humbly but forthrightly in the practice of truth. It is not enough to know more than the ignorant. We must study so as to be among the knowledgeable.
Bible knowledge is the key to good Bible teaching. Too often, we have come to rely on manuals and commentaries so much that we never really absorb the actual Word. Therefore, we must learn to use these things as helps, but never as crutches. It will require effort and time, but if we are to teach God’s message, his message must be the one we really know (Psalms 119:11, 97, 105).
We have grown lazy in our Bible study in the last few years. We have come to expect things and life to be easy. Since World War II, we have experienced a technological revolution. We now have so many items of convenience that we expect everything to be convenient. Dishwashers save us time washing the dishes. Electric washers and dryers save us time cleaning our clothes. Microwaves save us time cooking. Fast food saves us time spent in a diner. And computers save us time by making corrections easier than ever thought possible. But have you noticed how we now think about these items of convenience? Most of us wouldn’t know how to live without them! And computers are now becoming faster and faster. People who have older computers are no longer satisfied. Why? Because there are now faster CPU’s on the market. We want things to come quickly and easily for us. But despite those who might argue to the contrary, there is not a shortcut to learning the Bible. You can’t buy the Cliff’s Notes. There certainly are marvelous tools available to help the serious Bible student. But without a determined, diligent, honest, hard working student, they are just trophies on a shelf collecting dust.
In order to study the Bible, we must renew our commitment to thinking and exercise our minds accordingly. We spend far too much time watching television programs promoting immorality, and even when the content is good, we often allow the television to “think” for us. Students in school prefer to be given the answers rather than work to arrive at the proper conclusion. Cheating is on the rise not only in our public schools but also in our universities. Beyond this, students today are learning to study in order to pass a test instead of studying to learn.
But life and thinking is not like this at all. It requires hard work and effort. Schoolwork is designed to work the mind. Much of higher mathematics, besides having practical applications, encourages logical thought. College courses should require you to use your mind. Today, many attending colleges seem to think that they are just supposed to soak in information. If this were the case, where would we get the discoveries of tomorrow? It will not happen without someone choosing to think. There is peer pressure today in many fields, attempting to produce uniformity through conformity. But peer pressure is just an excuse not to think and act for yourself. Thinking requires us to accept the facts even when they disagree with common thought. Disagreement itself does not make one courageous or thoughtful. It is the disagreement on the principle of truth that separates the thinker from the pack. But, unfortunately, thinkers are becoming a dying breed. We seem content just to limp along and accept mediocrity in our schools, in our work and in our Bible study. But you can help turn the tide! You can be an active, thinking Bible student. Now is the time to apply yourself. Don’t wait around until you are not so busy, because that time will surely not come! The Lord needs knowledgeable elders, preachers, teachers and members. The church needs members who know the book and can recognize error. You can become just what is needed. So, start studying now; learning will never be any easier.
Paul arrived in Athens to find a crowd gathered at Mars Hill. Taking the opportunity given to him, he preached a powerful sermon about “the unknown God.” As he brought his lesson to a close, he emphasized the resurrection of Christ and the certainty of judgment to come.
“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:32-34).
What made the difference in these three groups of people? They all heard the same sermon. They heard the same speaker. Yet some laughed at the sermon, others declined to commit one way or the other, while some truly believed. What was the difference between the three? Attitude.
Even today, different people can pick up the Bible and arrive at different conclusions. While in some cases the differences may be caused by inadequate preparation or poor skills, more often than not our attitudes sway us. Why? Our attitudes influence how we utilize or do not utilize the skills we possess. Our attitudes determine whether or not we will listen to a given point of view. Our attitudes guide us through the corridors of facts presented and tell us which way to take ¾ even if it should disagree with the map. Our attitude is the lens through which we study the Bible. If our lens itself is out of focus, it blurs the truth revealed in the Bible and distorts what we see, causing us not to see the truth ¾ not because it is not there, but because our lens is out of focus.
When was the last time you seriously did some introspection regarding your attitudes toward the Bible? Take, as an example, the last time you were upset by something someone said in regard to your religious beliefs, whether in a Bible class, a sermon or a personal encounter. Were you truly open to the point of view being presented to you? Were you upset afterwards? Why? Were you angry? Did you feel threatened? Now, how much time did you take to examine what the Bible said about it afterwards? Many times, we expose the dirt on our lens in Bible study when we fail to evaluate what the Bible says. We then complain about how dirty people look when we actually need to apply the cleaning cloth to our attitude (Matthew 7:1-5).
Attitude is important. It affects our approach to life, and, more important still, it affects our approach to the truth of God’s Word. When we think we already know what God says, our attitude keeps us from learning. When we refuse to accept what God says, our attitude makes us dogmatic about our own opinions. We must make sure that we do not have any improper attitudes affecting our Bible study or we have condemned ourselves to willful ignorance, because improper attitudes will keep the truth away from our eyes, leaving us to live and operate in a self-created illusion that has so substance.
Pride in Bible Study
Pride is one of those “attitude” sins that touch every area of life, and Bible study is no exception. The wise man said long ago, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Whenever a Bible student begins his study thinking that he already knows the answers, his motive is wrong. Bible study is about learning what God has to say ¾ not seeing whether or not he agrees with you. It is pride that causes us to suppose that we must be right and that creates the desire within us to try to control right and wrong ¾ at least in our own minds.
When Paul preached in Thessalonica, “the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people” (Acts 17:5). The Jews’ envy existed because of their arrogant presumption of spiritual superiority, which Paul had exposed by his preaching, and their jealousy at Paul’s success. Their pride not only caused them to reject the Gospel themselves but to assault those who accepted it. Pride caused them to seek solace in their physical control over the house of Jason and others when they could not control the message. Sometimes, even today, people first become defensive, due to their pride, when their assumptions are challenged and then strike back offensively with verbal assaults and illogical arguments, once again from pride.
Earlier in Acts, when the apostles were preaching, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had shown the same disposition, “Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). Later, among themselves, they acknowledged a miracle that had been performed, but, due to pride, they refused to admit their mistake publicly, and even tried to suppress any knowledge of the event. Some people may privately admit that their ideas, beliefs and teaching do not match the biblical record, but, at the same time, their pride keeps them from admitting this publicly or making the changes required. However, this problem generally stems from others. More common in personal Bible study is the belief that questioning previously held positions is a lack of faith or a sign of weakness. However, nothing is as strengthening and faith-building as the reassurance brought by an independent examination of the evidence. The only thing to lose by such an examination is an erroneous belief. However, in order to expose these, you must first be willing to lose your pride.
Pride convinces us that nothing is as important as our own position and blinds us to the value of truth. Pride makes us believe that we could not possibly be wrong. Pride keeps us from ever considering that we might have accepted an erroneous teaching. Therefore, as we approach Bible study, let us remember the apostle Paul’s words, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).