One of the main facets of the ministry of Jesus was teaching, and He was often referred to as Teacher. How can we model our teaching after the pattern of Christ? The following is an excerpt from Restoring the Ministry of Jesus that outlines four characteristics of effective teaching:
If we want people to become grounded in the truths of Scripture, then we have a responsibility to give them proper and effective teaching. Whether or not people decide to put the teaching into practice is outside of our control; our job is to teach soundly. Because of the important nature of teaching, James says that those who teach will be judged more strictly (see James 3:1). We ought to take that warning seriously and strive to teach with purity and effectiveness. Below are some of the qualities that make up effective teaching.
As we have already seen, when Jesus taught, the people noticed that His teaching carried an authority with it that was lacking in the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. Have you ever noticed that some teachers just seem to have an authority in their voice? When they speak people listen, and there is a weightiness to what is said. Two people can say the same words or teach the same basic message but produce totally different results depending on the level of authority that each one carries.
There is no substitute for this type of authority and anointing and it is not something that can be learned. It comes from a deep relationship with God and a revelation of His Word. When you stand in the presence of God and His Word becomes a reality in your life, then you will truly experience and believe what you teach and your words will carry weight.
Jesus did not simply teach the letter of the law, He got to the spirit of the Law. The letter refers to the actual words on the page and the spirit refers to the purpose and motive behind the words. While the letter of the law impacts outward behavior, the spirit of the law cuts to the heart. Let’s look at one example to illustrate this point.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
You can see how Jesus is separating the letter from the spirit of the law by the way that He phrases His words: “You have heard that it was said…But I say to you.” The letter of the Law says “Do not commit adultery.” The spirit of the law says “Do not have an adulterous heart.” There is a big difference between these two because it is possible to never commit the act of adultery and yet still have an impure and adulterous heart. Jesus said that we should “first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matthew 23:26). Changing outward behavior does not ensure inner purity, but cleansing the inside will certainly cause a positive change of behavior. Therefore, Jesus cut to the spirit of the law.
There are plenty of other examples that we could look at, but I think this example gets the point across. It is not enough to know and teach what the Bible says. Effective teaching means that we must interpret it properly and get to the real meaning behind the words. Remember, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Good teachers have the ability to take complex concepts and explain them in a simple way so that even new believers and the unlearned can understand. Teachers are explainers. The job of a teacher is not to impress people with how smart they are or how much they know. It is to break down the teachings of the Word into ways that even a child can understand.
This does not mean that we water down the message or that we cannot delve into deep truths of the Word. It is possible to speak with depth and even get into the Greek and Hebrew meaning of words and still teach in such a way that people can understand you. The teachings of the Bible are not meant for an intellectually elite class of people. Jesus was able to relate to the common people—this is one of the traits of an effective teacher.
And finally, effective teaching instructs people in the whole counsel of God. It is important that people are grounded in the fullness of truth and not just certain individual doctrines of God’s Word. There are certain things that the Bible teaches that seem to contradict each other apart from seeing the big picture and being grounded in the whole counsel of God. Overemphasizing one doctrine over another will cause the people of God to be lopsided in their thinking and living. There is a tremendous need for true balance in our teaching.
God is a multi-faceted being with a multi-faceted nature. He is holy and just as well as merciful and loving. He is good and kind but can also be fierce and stern. He is an all-compassionate Father as well as an all-consuming fire. We are called both to love God and fear God and to be both His servants and His friends. Jesus is both the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the gentle Lamb of God. The amazing thing is that all of these things are true at the same time. We need to teach the whole picture of who God is and not just part of His character.
This type of balance in teaching applies to many other areas as well. We need to teach a balance of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man; between the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit; between humility and boldness; between the Word of God and the Spirit of God; between God’s mercy and grace and His judgment and power. Like Paul told the church in Ephesus, we need to be able to say “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
Everywhere Jesus went, people were miraculously healed, set free from evil spirits, and transformed by powerful teaching and preaching. Restoring the Ministry of Jesus calls us back to the foundation of walking like Jesus walked and doing what Jesus did. It shows how to bridge the gap from our current condition to walking in our inheritance in Christ. As you read, your heart will be stirred to seek God’s face and go after all that He has for you and the church today!