Sometimes, when teaching others about the Bible (particularly in a structured setting, like a class or Bible study), I tell the other participants about what I call an “old Bible teacher’s trick”. (This works especially well when finding out that one must teach without any advance warning or time to prepare!) The “trick” consists of two steps:
- Open up the Bible and read it.
- Talk with the class about what it says.
I hope that my students – those to whom I have said this over the years – understand the irony of my point: That’s all that we should be doing when teaching from the Bible. Yes, there are historical references to provide context to events in the Bible, and word studies to more precisely examine what the original authors’ words meant. However, the basic principles of teaching from the Bible include explaining what it says, understanding what it meant to its original recipients, and connecting its message to our lives today so that we can take the appropriate action.
In fact, extra explanation often isn’t required. As much as I might like to eat peach-flavored ice cream, or to draw out a dripping peach slice from a can of heavy syrup, sometimes a bite of a fresh peach is just what I need to satisfy my taste buds.
In the same way, the message of the Bible has led readers to new insights and life change for millennia, even when no one was around to explain all of the more intricate or complex concepts woven throughout its pages. In fact, this message that God imparts to the readers of His Word (in its “unfiltered form”) must match anything that other teachers say about the Bible (their interpretation), or else the latter are wrong.
In fact, often just listening to someone read passages from the Bible and soaking it in is enough to learn what God has to say to us.
Having said this, those who explain the Bible to others certainly have a role to play. In the book of Acts (see below), God called one of His disciples to catch up with someone who didn’t understand a passage from the Bible. The result was a real-time lesson.
Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
Acts 8:29-31 NASB
While I believe that there is a significant role for teachers of God’s Word, the fact remains that sometimes their primary role is just to present the Word of God. How many times has God placed a message on your own heart about a passage that was read by a pastor or teacher, entirely separate from the point that was being made in the lesson?
I encourage you to seek out speakers and authors who focus on the Bible as the foundation for their messages. Illustration, exposition, and explanation are not inherently bad (and often can be instrumental to communication), but they must be founded – and grounded – in truth.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
2 Timothy 4:1-2 NASB
(Or, read all of 2 Timothy 4:1-5 for more context.)
And, on the other side of things, if you don’t have a formal Ministry or Biblical Teaching degree, don’t be afraid to read the Bible with others and talk about it. Although God sometimes chooses to work through a variety of means, He doesn’t need anything extra to speak to us (or to anyone else) when we take in His Word. Don’t make reading and talking about the Bible more difficult than it needs to be.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
9 thoughts on “Don’t Make Things Too Difficult”
Excellent post and one that I take to heart every day. God’s Word is what we feed on daily (along with prayer) and one of the joys of God’s Word is that no matter how often you have read through the Bible, God continually opens new insights or appreciations every time that we do. Grace and blessings!
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Thank you for your words of affirmation. May we each be fed by the word of God every day, and become hungry for it when we are away for too long.
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Amen! I echo what Bruce said! Only God could have communicated so simply that a verse can reset and anchor my mind for the day ahead, yet continue to weave his eternal concepts (and a personal ongoing relationship) into my being.
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I particularly like the comparison to an anchor. Without a fixed place – a solid rock of foundation, as it were – I know that my day would be thrown about in the ocean of chaos that surrounds me. Thank you!
This goes well with the blog post at https://lifereference.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/a-lesson-in-transition-2/ . We are to take to heart our Lord’s directive to make disciples and know that His Word accomplishes that directive when we simply put it out there, simply. Those who are especially gifted in teaching and educated in details may be able to fill in some of those details, but those details are “frosting on the cake” and not the main substance of the message which anyone can put forth.
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I remember reading that article yesterday, and being forced to stop and think about the implications of “a class that never graduates”. Serving a sovereign God, I’m sure this is no coincidence, of course. (There must be a word for this sort of “holy timing”, when God inspires multiple followers of Jesus to talk about related topics, so that God’s message is multiplied by the combination.) May it always be about Him!
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Yes! God’s Word does not reurn void! There is no privilege so great as to open the Bible and simply share its truth! As a writer, I always have stories and personal thoughts and insights, but they are inconsequential in comparison to the applied Word of God! Especially when it is applied directly to the heart!
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Thank you for sharing this. Just this morning, as I momentarily thought that I had forgotten my notes for teaching a Bible Study, I was reminded of this simple principle. Had my notes been left at home, and if the class had been left with the alternative to just read and hear the Scripture, and talk about what it means, I think that God could have achieved His purpose in our lives just as well (if that had been His plan).