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 Yes, there are historical references to provide context to events in the Bible, and word studies to more precisely examine what the original authors’ words meant.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.