Bible Teaching is a Responsibility for All, a Gifting for Some, and a Calling for Few

If I could summarize Paul’s second letter to Timothy in a sentence it would be this, “Paul writes to encourage and embolden Timothy to do the hard work of teaching sound doctrine to those who will teach others also.” From beginning to end, it is Timothy’s teaching ministry that Paul is addressing. Timothy is to teach those who will be able to teach others also (2:2). He is to handle the Word rightly (2:15), and he is to preach the Word in season and out of season (4:2).

We recently did a class at our church on the ministry of teaching in the local church. Our aim was to teach church members how to teach so that they could teach others also. We decided to let 2 Timothy be our guide. We worked through the book over the course of 6 weeks pausing particularly to draw implications for our own teaching ministries. Over the next couple blog posts, I will recap some of those observations.

‌3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:3-7

Responsibility for All

The first teachers that Paul references are actually teachers from years gone by. Paul references his ancestors. They are the ones who passed down teachings of the Old Testament to Paul so that he was able to connect God’s story to the person and work of Jesus. Paul then references Timothy’s more immediate ancestors. It was his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice who taught Timothy to believe. Lois and Eunice modeled a teaching ministry in Timothy’s young life.

There is a kind of Christian teaching that is the responsibility for every Christian person. Every household in Israel was called by God to be a place of teaching. “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Wisdom in the proverbs is a matter of both giving and receiving instruction. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8).

In the New Testament, Jesus commands that his disciples make disciples by teaching all that he commanded them (Matthew 28:20). According to Paul, the whole church bears this responsibility of teaching one another. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another” (Colossians 3:16). More explicitly in Titus, Paul commands older men to teach sound doctrine and for older women to teach what is good to younger women (Titus 2:1). No Christian person, regardless of temperament or personality, can say that teaching is just not their thing. While not everyone is called to stand up in front of the congregation to preach a sermon, every Jesus follower is called to teach truth to someone else in some relational capacity. It is this speaking the truth in love ministry that all saints are equipped to pursue for the building up of Christ’s church (Ephesians 4:12-15).

Gifting for Some

While everyone is called to teach in some capacity, some people are particularly gifted for a formal teaching ministry over larger groups within the local church. Timothy was apparently gifted in this way. Paul reminds Timothy to fan into flame a gift that God had given. From the context, it is apparent that this gift is a teaching gift.

In Romans 12, Paul emphasizes a diversity that exists within the church. God has given diverse gifts to different members within each church. One of those gifts identified is the gift of teaching (Romans 12:7). Peter likewise teaches that each has received a gift from God to steward. These gifts include either speaking or serving type gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11). There will, therefore, be those who have a natural ability to understand, explain, and apply God’s Word to hearers. Like the prophet Samuel, the Lord does not let any of their words fall to the ground (1 Samuel 3:19). Those who are gifted to teach are able by God’s grace make complex things understandable. They speak and people listen. Such a divine gifting is a noticeable phenomenon. Those who are gifted in this way should not waste their gift but should steward it for the good of God’s people in some capacity. Just because they have the gift of teaching does not necessarily mean they should be a pastor, but it does mean they should be using their gift to teach others.

A Calling for Few

While all are responsible for teaching God’s Word and some are gifted to do so with extraordinary effectiveness, there are a few who are called by God and his church to devote their lives to such a ministry.

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher,

2 Timothy 1:8-11

Paul certainly experienced a unique call by God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, but he also lumps Timothy in with himself when he speaks of God’s holy calling on both of their lives. Paul goes on to say that God appointed him to a preaching and teaching ministry. He similarly says that it was the Holy Spirit who appointed the elders in Ephesus to their pastoral ministry (Acts 20:28). In Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul regularly recognizes elders as those uniquely called to formal teaching ministry in the church. Elders must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9) But, even among the elders there are those who give their whole selves to the work . He writes, “The elders who are good leaders are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17).

Conclusion:

Everyone is responsible for teaching somebody. Some are gifted for the work of teaching to larger groups in more formal settings, and a few are called to give their full selves to the teaching ministry as a pastor in a local church.

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