I’d like to address a principle found in the New Testament. I want to remind everyone of what makes a New Testament principle. A principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption.” So, a New Testament principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption that was established or expounded upon in the New Testament for believers seeking to follow the Lord Jesus as His disciples, individually or collectively.”
To introduce this principle, let’s look at a few verses. Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
And also, 1 Corinthians 12:28 ESV “And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various kinds of tongues.” Therefore, this New Testament principle is that God has given each believer a spiritual gift.
A super-natural enabling
Most Bible students will quickly recognize that there are several passages that deal with spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is a super-natural enablement given by God to you at the time of your new birth. This gift is given to you along with a ministry and a series of related works that use the gift in an appropriate setting to accomplish God’s purposes.
God was gracious enough to give us some examples of these spiritual gifts. (I don’t for a moment believe that every spiritual gift has been enumerated in all of the passages on spiritual gifts.) God was also gracious enough to tell us the purpose for the gifts being given.
They weren’t given to us, by God, for our own personal enjoyment, or even our own personal ministry. They are not to be buried and “kept for later” or exchanged because we aren’t happy with the one(s) we received. Rather, they were given to us by God to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
The main goal of the gifts
Most of you are saying “brilliant” at this moment because that is soooo obvious. But, I would like to suggest that perhaps from time to time we have lost sight of the goal when discerning gifts in our local meetings, etc. I am thinking, at the moment, specifically of the gift of teaching.
I fear that for one reason or another, we have made the gift of teaching a “rite of passage” where every young man (or middle aged or older) is given a chance (or chances or even the platform regularly) to “teach.” We all know that we don’t believe in a “one man teaching ministry” but yet, we have embraced an everyman, or nearly everyman teaching ministry. That is certainly not scriptural (more on that later.)
Teaching is a heart-to-heart endeavour that, with all the other gifts, is designed to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. We ought not to be merely explaining Bible passages Sunday after Sunday. Almost any brother who studies the Word can explain a passage! But, dear saints, that is not teaching as envisioned by God and described in Scripture.
Biblical teaching is NOT the same as explaining or expounding a Bible passage. Think, as well, on the passage in 2 Timothy. Paul writes to his younger brother who is actively engaged in ministry, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Notice again, that the goal is to equip the man of God for work – not to inform him (or her) so that they can pass a test or impress their co-workers, but to EQUIP them!
Going beyond just explaining the truth
Both Jesus Christ and Paul handled the Truth in the same way – like a manual for life and ministry. Their teaching was more like that of a trade school than an academic setting. Paul’s letters clearly show that even in the structure where he lays out (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) biblical principles in the first part of his epistles and then the last section is filled with what to do with the principles.
In other words, “Here’s the truth and here’s what you do with it.” Neither of these men merely explained a passage, and neither of these men spoke to their students’ heads. They were speaking to their hearts.
Praying for teachers
As believers who must be equipped by other believer’s faithful use of their spiritual gift, we need to be in prayer that the men of God who provide the biblical instruction to us and our dear brothers and sisters are men of God equipped to teach – equipped to teach with the goal of equipping to do work.
We need to pray for men of God to take the platform who have a heart burden to speak to their listener’s hearts, not their heads. Most believers can explain a passage, but I would suggest that few, the ones given to the assembly by a Sovereign God as a teacher (or teacher-shepherd) are able to teach like Paul and the Lord.
This article is a compilation of 2 posts in a series originally published at Digital Sojourner in 2012.