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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part Two)

Don Stewart :: What Is the Gift of Teaching?

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What Is the Gift of Teaching?

The Various Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Part Two) – Question 4

God has given certain people in His church the gift of teaching. In one list of spiritual gifts, Paul put teaching behind apostle and prophet. He wrote the following.

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers (1 Corinthians 12:28 NRSV).

Teachers are listed right behind apostles and prophets.

Paul also wrote to the Ephesians about the Lord giving teachers to the church. He explained it in this manner.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11 NKJV).

Teachers are listed behind evangelists in this grouping.

We also find that Paul mentioned this gift when he wrote to the church at Rome. He compared teaching with serving.

If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach (Romans 12:7 CEV).

There obviously is a gift of teaching in the church.

The Gift of Teaching Defined

The gift of teaching is a God-given ability to properly interpret and explain God’s Word to others. The gift of teaching is a very important gift. This can be seen by its mention in several of the lists of spiritual gifts. We can make the following observations about teaching.

Teaching Is Not the Same as Illumination

Sometimes the gift of teaching is confused with illumination. Illumination is when the Holy Spirit takes a truth of God and makes it real to the person. Teaching, on the other hand, is when someone explains God’s truth to others. The gift of teaching does not necessarily mean the teacher has superior knowledge. The teacher merely understands the truth of God and is able to clearly explain it to others.

Teaching Is Not the Same as the Gift of Prophecy

The gift of teaching is not the same as the gift of prophecy. The prophet is someone who spoke forth God’s Word. The teacher takes that which comes from God and explains the meaning to people. The gift of teaching has nothing to do with the method that God’s truth is revealed. It refers to how the truth is relayed to others.

In our present day, Christian teaching only concerns that which is recorded in Scripture – it does not comment upon prophetic words that others give.

Teachers Are Essential to the Church

Proper teaching is essential to the life and service of the church of Jesus Christ. The last verses of Matthew’s gospel record Jesus emphasizing this to His disciples. Matthew writes.

Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world (Matthew 28:18-20 CEV).

Jesus’ last commandment to the disciples involved them teaching others. This underscores the importance of teaching.

The Leaders of a Church Should Be Teachers

Paul said that leaders in the church should be able to teach. He wrote the following to Timothy about the qualifications of an overseer.

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2 NASB).

Teaching is something given with the gift of being a pastor, but it is not the same gift. A teacher can be a pastor but he does not necessarily have to be.

We do find that teaching was a vital part of early worship services. Indeed, when Paul wrote to the church at Corinth he emphasized the importance of teaching in the service.

How is it then, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation. All things must be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 HCSB)

Teaching God’s truths is a key ministry in the church.

This is consistent with what Jesus said about loving God. In fact, He said that we are to love the Lord will all of our mind. Matthew writes.

He [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NRSV).

We must have sound teaching to be able to do this.

The Apostles Taught While Threatened and Persecuted

Even though they were threatened with bodily harm, the apostles of Jesus Christ continued to teach others about Him. We read the following discussion among the religious authorities in the Book of Acts.

But perhaps we can stop them from spreading their propaganda. We’ll warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again. So they called the apostles back in and told them never again to speak or teach about Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard.’ The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God (Acts 4:17-21 NLT).

The threats to do physical harm to these people became a reality. The Bible says explains what happened when the religious leaders were deciding what to do with Jesus’ disciples.

His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:40-42 NIV).

Those these men were beaten for their testimony of Jesus Christ, they did not stop proclaiming His truth. Indeed, they could not stop. This tells us what they thought of the importance of teaching God’s Word to others.

There Were Women Teachers

Women were given the gift of teaching. The Bible says that older women were to teach the younger women. Paul wrote the following to Titus.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5 ESV).

Women were allowed to teach other women. In fact, they were encouraged to do so.

Teachers Have a Greater Responsibility

The Bible also warns of the great responsibility of being a teacher of the Word of God. James wrote.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1 NRSV).

Note that teachers will be judged with greater strictness. This fact should cause anyone who wishes to teach God’s Word to others to realize the tremendous responsibility involved in this effort.

There Are False Teachers among the Church

Unfortunately, there are false teachers who have entered the church. Scripture warns against these people who are teaching counterfeit truths. Peter put it this way.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1 ESV).

There were those in the church who taught falsely. Unhappily, this is still true today. There are indeed those who teach false doctrine within the church.

The Purpose of Good Teaching Is to Lead Believers to Maturity

The purpose of good or sound teaching is to bring believers in Jesus Christ into maturity. Paul wrote the following to the Ephesians.

The One who descended is the same as the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, [growing] into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness (Ephesians 4:10-13 HCSB).

The goal is the maturity of the believer.

The Gift of Teaching Can Be Developed

The gift of teaching is God-given. Indeed, it is not a natural talent. However, this God-given gift can be developed. In fact, a person with the gift of teaching should spend time to become more learned in God’s Word. Proper teaching is essential to the growth and development of the church and thus the teacher should be as trained as possible to accomplish this task.

The Teaching Gift Can Be Exercised in a Number of Ways

This particular gift of teaching God’s Word can be exercised in any number of ways. It can take place in a regular setting. The spiritual gift of teaching can be exercised from the pulpit, the classroom, through writing, and through counseling.

Teaching Can Be in a Regular Setting

Teaching the Word of God to others can take place in a regular setting. This can occur in Sunday school, home Bible study, Bible school, or seminary. In each of these places the gift of teaching can be exercised. For example, the Bible says the Apostle Paul taught an entire year at the city of Antioch. We read about this in the Book of Acts.

When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching great numbers of people. (It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26 NLT).

Interestingly, Paul thought it necessary to remain in Antioch for a year to teach the people God’s truth.

Paul also taught at the city of Corinth for eighteen months. We also read of this teaching time in the Book of Acts.

And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them (Acts 18:11 ESV).

In addition, Paul spent two years teaching at Ephesus where he taught the Word of God to those in the vicinity.

This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10 ESV).

Many of the people of Asia heard Paul’s teaching as he remained in the city of Ephesus.

Therefore, biblical teaching can be done on a regular basis from one location.

Teaching Can Come in the Form of Writing

A person can also exercise the gift of teaching without ever speaking a word. God has given some the ability to teach others through the written word. There are many Christian writers, who do no public speaking, yet are using their gift of teaching to educate God’s people.

In fact, the entire Scripture is an example of how teachings can live on beyond the person. These teachings that were given orally were eventually committed to writing so that the teaching could last beyond the years of the teacher. Indeed, the teachings found in the Scripture have last some three thousand five hundred years.

Teaching Can Occur Informally through Christian Counseling

Teaching can also be expressed through Christian counseling. A Christian counselor, who uses the Scripture as the basis of his or her counseling, is teaching God’s people while at the same time helping them with their particular problem.

Teaching, by means of counseling, does not always have to be solving someone’s problem. A husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla, informally taught Apollos, a man mighty in the Scriptures, so he also could teach others. The Bible explains it this way.

He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. (Acts 18:26 NRSV).

Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos when they realized that he had not been fully taught the message of Jesus Christ.

In sum, we find the gift of teaching one of the most valuable of the spiritual gifts which the Lord has given to His church. Indeed, proper teaching is essential for the spiritual health of believers.

Summary – Question 4
What Is the Gift of Teaching?

The gift of teaching is a vital one for the church of Jesus Christ. It consists of instructing believers in the truths of the Lord. From Scripture we discover that both men and women were given the gift of teaching though women were restricted in whom they could teach. They were allowed to teach other women as well as children but not to instruct men from a leadership position.

We find that teaching was such an important gift that when the apostles were told by the religious leaders to stop teaching in the name of Jesus they refused. This caused them to be persecuted as well as physically harmed. Yet they could not and they would not stop teaching others the truths about the Lord.

In addition, those who are in a leadership position in the church should be teachers of God’s Word. In fact, one of the requirements for a leader was the ability to teach.

The teaching gift can be exercised in a number of different ways. For example, it can occur in a regular setting. We find that the Apostle Paul spent one year in Antioch, a year and a half in Corinth, and one year in Ephesus teaching the Word of God to the people.

There is also the possibility of teaching others through the written word. Indeed, many great Bible teachers instruct others mainly through their writings rather than their spoken words.

Biblical counseling is another way by which the gift of teaching can be exercised. As the counselor is instructing the person in God’s truth, they are teaching them.

While the gift of teaching is certainly God-given, it can and should be developed through diligent study. Believers, however, are to study the Scriptures for themselves as well as be aware of false teachers. Teachers are also warned that they will be evaluated more closely than others because of the responsibility which comes with the gift.

The ultimate purpose of good teaching is to bring people to maturity in Jesus Christ. This should be the desired goal of all who teach God’s Word.

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