by Jeff Dominguez
Teaching is of great importance in the Christian faith.
In the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, He explicitly stated that when we make disciples, we are to teach them to observe (obey) all that He commanded us.
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
From this passage, it is clear that teaching is the responsibility of the church. This is why there’s the gift of teaching (Rom. 12:6-8/1 Cor. 12:28/Eph. 4:1-12). Teaching is not easy. So to be able to do it effectively, we need the help of God.
In Acts 8, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch also demonstrates the importance of teaching.
“Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”
So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”Acts 8:26-31
After Philip explained that it was Jesus whom Isaiah was referring to (v35), the Eunuch believed in the Gospel and got baptized right at that moment (v36, 38).
From these two passages alone, we can see why teaching is very important in the Christian faith. Aside from the fact that teaching is a command, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch reveals to us that teaching helps others to understand the Gospel of Christ. It emphasizes the need for personal-level evangelism. Just as the Apostle Paul said,
“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.‘Romans 10:13-15
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Lastly, James’ disturbing warning about teaching solidifies its importance and reveals why we should take it seriously.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”James 3:1
Altogether, these passages emphasize the importance of teaching. However, I’m not here to talk about that. This editorial is not about the importance of teaching, but the BIBLICAL PURPOSE OF TEACHING. Why do we need to teach others? Why did Jesus command us to teach others to observe all of His commands? Why are teachers going to be judged more strictly?
WHY, WHY, WHY?
Well, the answer can be found long way back to the time of Moses. Let’s revisit that story.
Before the Israelites enter the Promised Land, Moses reminded them to faithfully obey the ways and commandments of God. This was recorded and became the Book of Deuteronomy. Out of all these commandments, the Israelites considered Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to be the greatest and most important. They called it, THE SHEMA (Hebrew word for “hear”).
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.Deuteronomy 6:4-9
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
As you might have noticed, the command to teach is there once again; and not just once! The command to teach God’s ways to their children was repeated at least three times in this book (4:9-10/11:19/32:46). Clearly, God was serious about this. But again, why?
In this context, the Israelites were about to take over the land of Canaan (the Promise Land). This land was not a vacant lot. It was occupied primarily by the Canaanites who worship foreign gods and practice evil things that are detestable to God. God has given the Israelites a very explicit command to wipe the Canaanites completely and never intermarry with them (Deuteronomy 7). The ultimate purpose behind this command was to preserve their covenant way of life and to prevent it from being corrupted by these foreign and evil practices.
Therefore, in this context, the purpose of teaching was to preserve and pass on their covenant way of life to the next generation.
But take a guess. Do you think the Israelites succeeded in this?
Sadly, they didn’t. Through the power of God and the leadership of Joshua, they were able to conquer Canaan. However, by their own fault, they failed to wipe the Canaanites completely (Judges 1:27-36). When Joshua died, the tragic thing that Moses was fearing to happen, happened.
“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that He had done for Israel.Judges 2:10-15
And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And He sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.”
This passage shows the results of failing to teach others the ways and commandments of God. It resulted in a whole generation who did not know the Lord or the work that He had done for them. And because they didn’t know God, they followed other gods whose ways are against the ways of God.
My dear Brothers and Sisters, THIS IS THE PURPOSE OF TEACHING.
THE BIBLICAL PURPOSE OF TEACHING IS TO PRESERVE AND PASS ON THE WAYS OF GOD TO THE NEXT GENERATION.
Many people think that the purpose of teaching is to develop a skill or ability, train someone in a certain task, or even simply to inform. While this may be true, this is not entirely the case for Christianity.
In Christianity, the biblical purpose of teaching is to preserve the Christian teachings and way of life and pass it on to the next generation.
Moses commanding the Israelites to teach the ways of God to their children is equivalent to Jesus commanding His disciples to teach their disciples to observe all of His commandments. We don’t teach to simply inform or pass on knowledge; we teach to preserve and pass on the Christian way of life to the next generation. And if you’ve noticed, Jesus specifically commanded us to “TEACH THEM TO OBEY.” He didn’t say, “Teach them so they could learn.” To obey the commandments of God is more important than learning all kinds of biblical knowledge (John 13:17/James 1:22). We teach to ensure that the next generation will obey God and live a life that is pleasing to Him. This is God’s purpose for teaching.
“Many of us are teaching to inform but not to preserve. We fill their heads with biblical information but not the motivation to live a holy life. We teach others about the Bible, but we don’t teach them to teach others about the Bible.”
As a Bible teacher, I wrote this article to open the eyes of my fellow Bible teachers. I believe that many of us will agree that Christianity today is in constant decline. While many churches pop out every year, we are not effectively producing Christians who truly live up to the ways of God. And for me, that is probably because we have forgotten the biblical purpose of teaching. Many of us are teaching to inform but not to preserve. We fill their heads with biblical information but not the motivation to live a holy life. We teach others about the Bible, but we don’t teach them to teach others about the Bible. This is the glitch in our system today that hinders us from effectively passing on the Christian faith to the next generation.
I am hoping that this article has opened your eyes and realigned your understanding of the true purpose of teaching. Again, we don’t teach to inform; we teach to preserve.