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What does the Bible say about teaching?

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Teaching is a necessary and valuable part of life. We come into this world ignorant, and we must be taught: language proficiency, motor skills, cultural norms, social customs, manners, moral values—all these and more are the product of the learning process of childhood. Since teaching is a key element in acquiring information and developing knowledge, it is not surprising that the Bible has much to say about teaching.

Teaching is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift . . . is teaching, then teach” (Romans 12:6–7). In this context, teaching refers to the God-given ability to explain God’s Word; the teacher has the supernatural ability to clearly instruct and communicate knowledge, specifically the doctrines of the faith and truths of the Bible (1 Corinthians 12:27–29).

Teaching is a requirement for pastors: “Now the overseer is to be . . . able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2; cf. 2 Timothy 2:24). The Bible instructs the pastor to teach sound doctrine based on the written Word of God: “Command and teach these things” (1 Timothy 4:11). Those who are taught by the pastor are then to continue the process of disseminating information: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). Note here that the gospel is “entrusted” to us, and that teachers of the gospel must be “qualified”—part of the qualification is that we be “reliable.”

Teaching, like preaching, was an integral part of the work of an apostle (Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 4:1). Paul knew that he was a teacher of the gospel according to God’s will: “And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher” (2 Timothy 1:11).

Jesus, of course, was the greatest teacher, and He is often referred to as “Rabbi” or “Teacher” (e.g., Luke 13:10; John 1:38; 3:2). In His teaching, our Lord used illustrations (Luke 7:31–32), object lessons (Matthew 6:28), current events (Luke 13:4–5), and many stories (Matthew 13; Mark 4:2). He utilized lecture (Matthew 24), dialogue (John 3), rhetorical questions (Luke 18:8), and proverbs (Luke 7:45). He gave “homework” and followed up on it (Matthew 9:13; 12:7). He used hyperbole (Matthew 5:29), metaphor (John 9:5), and provocative language (Luke 13:32). Always, Jesus the teacher had the best interests of His students at heart; always, the subject of His teaching was the absolute and unchanging truth of God.

Other people whom Scripture identifies as teachers include the Levitical priests (Leviticus 10:11), Moses (Deuteronomy 4:14; 6:1), the apostles (Mark 6:30), fathers of children (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:7; Proverbs 1:8; 4:4; Ephesians 6:4), fellow believers (Romans 15:14), Nicodemus (John 3:10), Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), and God Himself (Nehemiah 9:20; Psalm 25:12; 32:8; 71:17).

Jesus said that the logical end of effective teaching is that the pupil becomes like his teacher: “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40). He said this in the context of a warning to be careful whom you choose as your teacher, because if “the blind lead the blind . . . they [will] both fall into a pit” (verse 39). So, if you want to be godly, find teachers who are themselves godly.

The Bible also has warnings about hypocritical teaching (Matthew 23:3; Romans 2:21) and false teaching (Acts 20:28–31; 1 Timothy 6:3–4). In fact, whole books of the Bible are devoted to countering false teaching in the early church (2 Peter and Jude). “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The test for any teaching is whether or not it aligns with the teaching of Jesus and the apostles.

The day is coming when teaching will be unnecessary: “No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:11; cf. Jeremiah 31:34). In the day when we see Jesus face to face, we will know even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

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This page last updated: November 11, 2022