Written by Paul J. Bucknell on November, 19, 2020
The Powerful Teaching of God’s Word
Hidden factors make for the powerful teaching of God’s Word
I wonder how many Bible teachers populate the world? How many of them are great Bible teachers? The Lord has appointed and gifted many of His children, from every language and nation, to become great teachers of His Word (Eph 4:11-12).
The Lord desires to manifest His glorious Word to His lambs powerfully. Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” The Lord continues to care for His hungry lambs by appointing many pastors and teachers worldwide (John 21:15-17). We acknowledge that there are self-appointed, self-indulging shepherds. The Lord reproves them, “Should the shepherds not feed the flock?” (Ezek 34:1-2)
Our focus, however, is on the number of poor preachers and teachers who can, by God’s grace, grow in their teaching and preaching abilities. As long as the pastors are weak, the church lays in weakness.
It’s easy to issue a criticism without a solution, but this does not help the struggling shepherds. Below, I have tried to get beyond the important but still superficial skills to the heart of great teaching and preaching.
Great Teaching and Preaching
I need first to clarify the greatness of which I speak. Even the world inside the church speaks much about greatness, just as the disciples did.
““What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest” (Mark 9:33-34).
“Greatness” does not describe how good one preacher’s sermon is compared to another, but on how God’s Spirit anoints a preacher/teacher to present God’s truths powerfully. “Greatness” is not determined by congregation numbers, a high profile, or one’s salary but by his faithfulness in proclaiming God’s Word.
True greatness depends on how each preacher and teacher handles his God-given spiritual gifts and opportunities. God holds them accountable to Himself, and so only faithfulness before God counts. God has a plan to build-up excellent preachers and teachers within their own contexts and situations. Teachers must avail themselves to this plan of God.
Paul calls Timothy to “present yourself approved to God,” but it’s a proper challenge for all teachers of God’s Word.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).
So what makes for the “accurately handling the word of truth,” which I here equivocate with being an excellent teacher of God’s Word?
We can discount one factor. With more content available at our fingertips and displayed on our computer screens, greatness no longer belongs to those possessing a copy of the scriptures and less to do with those possessing insights from others.
Though we much appreciate their work, our goal is not to be like some well-known preacher. God calls and equips each teacher along a unique, God-devised pathway. Let’s be encouraged and guided by other great teachers of God’s Word, but let us not be fooled, trying to be like them. Our purpose is to share Christ’s likeness so we can appropriately carry out God’s purposes in our context. You might prayerfully seek how that particular preacher helps you desire God’s Word more (James 1:21).
Some Thoughts on Great Teachers
I’m no natural speaker; I feared public speaking from my youth up. Although I now having a skill set built up from over the years, I still struggle with some aspects of preaching. As I age, weaknesses such as nervousness, unnatural pauses, forgetfulness, and sentence structure confusion increasingly stain my worldly teaching scorecard. Though these things somewhat describe my situation and abilities, they are inconsequential in light of God’s great calling for my life. The same is true for all of us. We must not allow our difficulties to hinder us from carrying out our conviction and calling—as long as we can appropriately carry our out our duties.
Sure, one day, I, like you, will speak my last sermon. George Whitefield preached right up to his death, dying the day after his last sermon. Let’s rise to the task of equipping the saints before us by the power of the Spirit of Christ. Paul rightly records our needed approach—“take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus.”
“Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12).
The Nature of Spiritual Learning
Most Bible classes focus on relaying knowledge about incidents or characters in a Bible book rather than being an instrument by which people are changed in the presence of God.
I avoid the academic approach because it falls far short of what God desires to do through our teaching. Please do not assume that we are not to advance our knowledge. For example, in a recent sermon on John 15, I compelled myself to do a separate biblical study on John 15:2, so I could ascertain and defend the proper meaning (most translations and commentators differed). I allowed God’s charge to be faithful to God’s Word lead me to do this extra study.
When teaching succumbs to the mere transmission of knowledge, we gain confidence in our knowledge and teaching abilities rather than deepening our reliance on the Lord and the purposes for His Word. Paul reminds us, “Knowledge makes one conceited” (1 Cor 8:1).
- Vital Steps to Great Preaching
Bible teaching must learn to accommodate God’s spiritual sphere, or we will mimic the world’s approaches. Observe these particular dynamics at work or miss out on the rich blessings from God’s Word. Here are three prerequisites for excellent Bible teaching, each depending on the other:
- Be a humble learner and allow God’s Word to be implanted in our lives.
- Carefully depend on God’s Spirit as to know what God would have us say.
- Powerfully proclaim His Word to accomplish His purposes.
Remember that we are primarily a learner, and that our teaching can only be useful as we continue to be His students.
1. Humbly acquire God’s Word
A great Bible lesson produces the humble awe of God and His ways in the heart, bringing teacher and student, preacher, and congregation closer to God. Unfortunately, the sad effect of secular learning has sullied the once sacred study of God’s Word in His holy presence.
When we read His Word for ourselves, we desire and expect our Lord to cross over from His heavenly domain to bear helpful illumination for our earthly lives (Mat 6:10). Sometimes, we are quite acquainted with the areas of our lives that need improvement, but many a time, we are not.
It matters little; we study or teach in faith, that is, in God’s presence. One crucial part of great teaching is the humble realization that we need to grow as we learn and teach. This learning from God brings a mature confidence, not boastful in self but God. From this point of repeatedly seeking our Lord to be our expert Teacher and Trainer, God strengthens our faith in His timely teaching. We come into the study of His Word, expecting Him to teach us new, vibrant, and applicable truths.
Great teachers are eager students.
Come with Great expectation into God’s Study
If we find we are not eagerly learning, there could be several wrong things. We have tried to show the proper attitude of studying God’s Word above. Let me mention one more problem that can occur.
If you discover that you are anxiously preparing for a message because of limited time, then you are not trusting the Lord and are trying to prepare without the Spirit’s help. Instead, pause for 5 to 10 minutes to pray aloud.
Pray honestly. Tell Him your situation until you become desperate for His help. Teaching God’s Word is a fruit of our communion with Him. There are times when we are given little or no warning; God has grace for us in those situations too.
- Admit and repent from your anxiety and other sins
- Confess your inability to teach without Him (hurried or not)
- State that He is in charge of that class
- Express your desire to be used of Him
- Admit that He can help you no matter how little time you have
- Affirm that He is in charge.
- Convincingly tell Him that you are there to learn and grow in Him.
- Make sure you have a team of prayer warriors holding you up in prayer.
Our approach to the lesson is critical. Sin and distractions negatively affect a proper learning attitude, making us more occupied with our struggles than our learning. Every time we come before God’s Word, we need to insist that He will speak first to us.
I view the regular habit of meeting with the Lord in the morning before encountering my day as essential. It’s here that I bring up my daily responsibilities before the Lord, as I know them, and seek His leading and help. I also get to check out my faith level for the day and repent as needed.
Whether He will directly use what we are learning in our teaching does not matter. The most important part is the faith—the conscious realization that we are working with and depending upon the Lord. I have many Bible study notes from previous years when God daily shaped my heart and mind. Though they are now digitized, it doesn’t mean I can’t daily learn from Him. Join with me to eagerly seek His instruction (warning, encouragement, etc.) so that He can adequately work with us.
We need the Holy Spirit to teach us.
2. Consciously lean on God’s Spirit
As teachers of His precious Word, we possess the privilege of scrutinizing great portions of God’s Word, gaining endless opportunities to delightfully acquire His Word. But this also becomes our challenge. Familiarity can breed superficiality or even dislike.
Have you, like me, been tempted by having a thought like this infiltrate your minds, “I already read this passage five times and taught it twice?” The evil one wants us to conclude that we have nothing more to profit from this passage. Satan seeks to steer our minds into a fog of doubt, snuffing out our faith.
We should never lose our love for the Lord or His Word. We need to be very concerned whenever God’s Word loses its excitement for our students or us. Revelation 3 reminds us that when we become spiritually self-sufficient (wealthy or rich), our spiritual nakedness is revealed.
“Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see” (Revelation 3:17-18).
If the Lord is not regularly enriching the teacher, how will the students fare? If you are teaching because of habit, position, or salary, those around you will sense that.
The opposite is true, too, however.
When God stirs your mind and heart, then you secure exorbitant confidence in Him who speaks through you to others. As your faith strengthens, you will become increasingly sensitive to the Lord by studying God’s Word and preparing to teach others. Excellent teaching is first caught then taught.
We need to be very careful of the attitudes that are conveyed when teaching, for that is where the seeds of faith and unbelief are sown. If the devil can carry out his deceitful work in the teacher, he can seize the students’ minds (cf. the Parable of Sower, Luke 8:12). Teachers can be more dangerous than helpful in their Bible classes. Be careful! Without actively leaning on God, teachers teach in self-reliance.
Satan seeks to steer our minds into a fog of doubt, snuffing out our faith.
Approach each biblical lesson or sermon as a time that He wants to work in you during your preparations. This is a demanding discipline for those who regularly teach His Word. Only when postured as Jesus’ disciple do we welcome our Lord to work with us in our teaching. This is the way it is with all kinds of service, whether the gifts of help, giving, or teaching. Great teaching springs from the Holy Spirit’s powerful working in us and others.
Learning God’s Word is a spiritual activity. We must never separate the Spirit’s work from the learning of God’s Word. Although many sermons and commentaries typically present studies as knowledge, we must refuse to be tainted with this secular approach. Instead, we believe in God’s Word, which states,
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13).
We must avoid that confident professional-type of teacher because he has taught the class before. It’s okay to be an expert in a certain field of study, but we must still be “taught by the Spirit.” We can typically gauge our dependence upon the Holy Spirit by the amount we pray for a class. This self-examination might be an embarrassing test but necessarily revealing.
We are God’s coworkers.
- How much do we want to be taught by God?
- How much do we think the Spirit of God is involved in our teaching?
- What do your prayers for your students reveal?
3. Faithfully proclaim God’s Truth
We are God’s coworkers and need to regularly rely on His direction, protection (Mat 6:13), and strength. We are dependent upon the Spirit of God to regularly work in us, through us, through our life circumstances, and in the hearts of others.
We only can boast of what God does within us.
Great Biblical teaching, therefore, purposely depends upon the work of God in the lives of others.
Consider your goals of teaching and preaching. Is this not what Paul says in Timothy 3:16-17? What should be happening when we teach?
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Paul knows God wants to work in the hearts of people through His Word. Most classes on the Bible, however, teach our minds, but we want the Lord to teach our hearts and spirits too.
Spiritual warfare arises each time
we approach the pulpit or lectern.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
As we further grasp the spiritual dynamics behind the teaching of a biblical lesson, we will humble ourselves and increasingly depend on our communion with God through the Holy Spirit. We dare not teach alone! The classroom becomes the frontline of a great battle. Great teaching includes gaining spiritual insights into one’s heart. We come humbly before Him, desperate for Him to lead us in our thinking, preparation, and even guiding the words we might use. We prayerfully depend upon Him to work with our students. Age and experience should not lessen this dependence upon our God but all the more increase as we seek our Lord to be more magnified through the powerful teaching of His precious Word.
Questions on Great Biblical Teaching
- Explain what the author means that a great teacher must be an ongoing learner.
- What is great teaching of God’s Word? Use 2 Timothy 2:15 to guide your answer.
- How do pride and jealousy interfere with the teaching of His Word?
- What dangers does the secular field of teaching introduce to the teachers of His Word?
- What does 2 Timothy 3:16-17 say about the goal of great teaching and preaching?
- As a teacher, are you conscious of working with God as you teach? Explain.
- How should we pursue being an ongoing learner of God’s Word?
- What should you do when you see that you are no longer an eager learning disciple?
- Pick the most meaningful of the last three points under Vital Steps to Great Preaching and share why it means much to you.
Other Related Resources by Paul J. Bucknell
- Spirit Dependent Teaching expounds 7 Principles on excellent teaching by providing seven principles of Spirit or God-dependent teaching, a functional definition, an illustration and how the teacher needs to be impacted by this principle.
- Desirous | Purposed | Humbled | Prayerful | Attentive | Changeable | Meditative
- The word ‘disciple’ means learner. The disciple is not only observing what is happening but as a good learner, constantly adjusting his/her position.
- Second of all, as much as we tell our trainee that this is bad or good, they will ... a certain truth to the disciple, but still, the learner goes by his or her old thinking.
- There are many good people around, but how does an average person, an average Christian, become a great person? Abram was ... Abram waarner.
- This teaching is essential and for this reason alone we should compel ourselves to send out teachers of God’s Word to everyone everywhere. (2)proof” ...
- They need God’s Word now. Any good teacher or preacher will make the material his own before teaching it. We have in our short history produced many original ...