Teaching has been on my mind recently.
The Bible says that not all are called to be teachers, for as Paul writes to the Ephesians “… truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Yes, some are called to be teachers, for, as the Easy to Read Version (ERV) interprets Ephesians 4:12 “to prepare God’s holy people for the work of serving, to make the body of Christ stronger.”
In fact, the Bible is given to us for a number of reasons other than teaching; as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.”
God takes Bible teaching very seriously and warns many times about the false teachers who will come and seek to divert the faithful from the true word of God, into heresies and false doctrines. James 3:1 also warns teachers about the seriousness of being a teacher, saying “My brothers, do not be many teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.”
All the warnings aside, there is an underlying implication in the Bible that we are all to be teachers of some type. Indeed, Hebrews 5:12 is quite explicit on this point saying “You have had enough time that by now you should be teachers. But you need someone to teach you again the first lessons of God’s teaching. You still need the teaching that is like milk. You are not ready for solid food.”
Yes, as I understand the underlying implication, all Christians are called to be teachers, but not all are called to the Office of Teacher, just as not all who prophesy are called to the Office of a Prophet; but when we receive good teaching, we are expected to pass it on prepare God’s holy people for the work of serving, and to make the body of Christ stronger.
In 1 Corinthians 2:12 we read two interesting things: “But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God, so that we might know the things that are freely given to us by God.”
The first is that we are receiving from the Holy Spirit, and secondly that we are receiving freely, from the Holy Spirit. These have implications for us, as Matthew 10:8 explains, saying “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. You have received freely, freely give.”
Therefore, that which we have received; that teaching which we have freely received, we are expected to freely give on to others, indeed, to freely pass on to others.
As I read the New Testament regarding teaching, there are not a lot of signs that the Lord Jesus Christ sat His disciples down in a classroom environment and lectured them, following up with written exams, gradings and graduation certificates. That does not mean, of course, that He did not formally teach them on occasions, nor that he did not test them on occasions.
If we look at Luke 11:1 we read “And it happened as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.” The Lord then proceeded to teach them, but it was not until they asked.
Rather than teaching the disciples as a classroom academic exercise, the Lord Jesus taught his disciples by living His life as a role model of how he wanted them to lead theirs. He was the teaching personified. Everything He did and said, and indeed even everything he did not do, was a teaching of how to live the good and proper godly life of a Christian.
I don’t know if Jesus actually tested His disciples per se, but here are two examples in the Bible where His disciples failed the test, or if not a test, to live up to His expectations of them. The first appears in Matthew 17:19-20, as “…the disciples came to Jesus apart, and said, Why could we not cast him out? And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief. For truly I say to you, If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Move from here to there. And it shall move. And nothing shall be impossible to you.’”
The disciples failed here due to unbelief, as they were unable to cast out particular demons. The second is Matthew 26:40 when “… He came to the disciples and found them asleep. And He said to Peter, What! Could you not watch with Me one hour?” Here, despite Jesus’ training in prayer, the disciples were unable to pray for even one full hour and watch over Him as He himself prayed.
In both cases, the disciples had failed to live up to the minimal expectations of Jesus in these areas.
Jesus was a great teacher, not because I say so, but because the Bible says so. At the age of twelve when Jesus went to Jerusalem, He got left behind when Joseph and Mary departed and “it happened that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and questioning them. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:36-47).
Then as an adult, this carpenter spoke in the synagogue “and it happened, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His doctrine. For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).
The question which arises is this: where did Jesus receive His teachings? I believe the answer is “in prayer, at the feet of God the Father.”
Where did the disciples of Jesus receive their teachings? I believe the answer is “at the feet of Jesus.”
Where ought we to receive our teachings? I believe the answer to a large extent, is “from the Holy Spirit.”
You may well say that these answers are great, but times have moved on and things are different today. Whom do I have in mind today as Christian example of learning from the Holy Spirit? I would like to offer a man of whom you may never have heard, an Indian by the name of Sadhu Sundar Singh.
He was born on September 1889 in Rampur, a village in the Punjab, and educated at the Presbyterian missionary school nearby. After years of traveling in India, Tibet, and Nepal, Sadhu Singh set his sights further afield, journeying to China, Malaysia, and Japan in 1919 and in 1920 toured Australia, England, and the United States. In 1922 he traveled throughout Europe and he is believed to have died in the foothills of the Himalayas in 1929.
In “Wisdom of the Sadhu,” Sadhu Sandar Singh writes :
“Educated people, especially those I met in the West, repress their native intuition and substitute in its place a kind of artificial rationalism. That is why the Master called simple fishermen as his disciples.
I studied theology in a theological seminary. I learned many useful and interesting things no doubt, but they were not of much spiritual profit. There were discussions about sects, about Yesu Christ and many other interesting things, but I found the reality, the spirit of all these things, only at the Master’s feet.
When I spent hours at his feet in prayer, then I found enlightenment, and God taught me so many things that I cannot express them even in my own language. Sit at the Master’s feet in prayer; it is the greatest theological college in this world. We know about theology, but he is the source of theology itself. He explains in a few seconds a truth that has taken years to understand.
Whatever I have learned has been learned only at his feet. Not only learning, but life, I have found at his feet in prayer.
I do not condemn theologians wholesale, but it is unfortunately the fashion in Western thinking to doubt and deny everything. I protest this tendency. I never advise anyone to consult theologians, because all too often they have completely lost all sense of spiritual reality. They can explain Greek words and all that, but they spend too much time among their books and not enough time with the Master in prayer. It is not that I oppose all education, but education without life is certainly dangerous. You must stop examining spiritual truths like dry bones! You must break open the bones and take in the life-giving marrow.” (page 179)
When I first read this passage about 5 years ago, it implanted itself in my mind and has sat there ever since. Then recently, as I read a theology book on the Book of Revelation, “Revelation Chapters 1-5” by J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988) I read this (page 121):
“This is a special message from the Lord Jesus to all the churches for which you need the blood-tipped ear* to hear. This is the reason that you and I must be very careful in our study of the Word of God, that we do not run ahead of the Spirit of God, but that we let Him be our teacher. If you have a blood-tipped ear,* He wants you to hear what He has to say; Only the Spirit of god can make the Word of God real to you.”
As I read McGee’s words, the words of Sadhu Sandar Singh cam instantly to mind:
“I found the reality, the spirit of all these things, only at the Master’s feet …
Sit at the Master’s feet in prayer; it is the greatest theological college in this world….
Whatever I have learned has been learned only at his feet. Not only learning, but life, I have found at his feet in prayer.”
The same Holy Spirit who taught Singh is still doing the same for us today. I know for a fact because for on rare occasions, I have been the recipient of such teaching and I have seen it demonstrated in others around me regularly.
What unlocks the teaching of the Holy Spirit in our lives today? Singh gave us the answer as he wrote “Not only learning, but life, I have found at his feet in prayer.”
Yes, PRAYER is the means by which we may unlock the teaching of the Holy Spirit for our lives, PRAYER and only prayer.
* Blood-tipped ear
“Then he [Moses] presented Aaron’s sons, and Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet. And Moses threw the blood against the sides of the altar.” Leviticus 8:24.
Both Aaron and his sons were symbolically covered with blood as Moses put a bad of blood on their right ear lobes, their right thumbs and on the big toe of their right feet. The blood-tipped ear symbolizes the ear that will hear the voice of God; without that, it is not possible Him as the natural man does not receive the things of Christ. The blood-tipped hand is essential for Christian service, without it, it is impossible to serve the Lord before one is saved. Similarly, the blood-tipped foot is essential for our walk before God. All of these are symbolic of the fact that our total personality and being must be presented to God.
~ Angus MacKillop