the weblog of Alan Knox

The teacher in teaching

Posted by on Nov 6, 2008 in edification, service, spirit/holy spirit, spiritual gifts | 8 comments

I often write about spiritual gifts, like I did yesterday in my post “Charismatics“. Because I often write about spiritual gifts, people often reach my blog from search engines when they are seeking information about gifts.

The primary thing that people search for is something like “define the various spiritual gifts”. Thus, they want to know what it means to be a “teacher” or “prophet” or “exhorter” etc. They are probably disappointed if they read any of my blog posts, like a recent series that I published about “Spiritual Gifts“. Why? Because I do not try to define the various spiritual gifts. Why? Because, for the most part, Scripture does not define the various spiritual gifts. As I explained in that series, the authors of Scripture were not interested in defining the various gifts. Instead, they were more interested in HOW those gifts were used – whatever the gift happened to be.

For example, Paul exhorts the Romans to use their gifts which the Spirit has given them. If their gift is teaching, then they should use that gift by… guess what?… teaching. In whatever way the Spirit has gifted the individual, then the individual should exercise that gift (not trying to exercise some other gift) to the benefit of the other people in the church.

Interestingly, Paul does not limit the exercise of spiritual gifts to the leaders of the church – either the pastors/elders or the deacons or even the apostles. His exhortation is for all followers of Jesus Christ (indwelled by the Spirit) to exercise their spiritual gifts as the Spirit gives them.

Yesterday, Dave Black also wrote a very important essay called “Are You a Teacher?” He writes about the distinction between spiritual gifts and the responsibilities of all believers. Thus, the Spirit gifts some as teachers, but all are responsible to teach. The Spirit gifts some as givers, but all are responsible to give. The Spirit gifts some as pastors, but all are responsible to care for one another.

Dave writes:

Of course, all of us are to be teachers in one sense; we are to “teach … one another” (Col. 3:16). And in Hebrews we read, “By this time you ought to be teachers” (Heb. 5:11). We all have something to teach others – or should. I can’t tell you how much I delight in hearing my wife or some other member of our Sunday School class utter encouraging words of instruction during our lesson time, or in reading the Bible studies that Nathan has written, or in visiting websites written by “laypeople” that are chock full of good, practical Bible teaching. In fact, sometimes informal conversations around the Word can be more effective, more persuasive, more powerful, more life-changing than formal instruction. But this does not mean that all should be teachers in another sense. As James writes, “Let not many of you become teachers” (James 3:1).

Thus, even though some are gifted by the Spirit to teach, all are responsible to teach. It follows, then, that all of us – even those gifted by the Spirit to teach – can learn from (be taught by) others – even those NOT gifted by the Spirit to teach.

Dave also exhorts us not to leave teaching or other service only to those who have been recognized as elders or specially trained. He says:

Are you a teacher? Do you have something to contribute to the Body by way of “upbuilding, encouragement, or consolation” (1 Cor. 14:3)? I’m quite positive that you are, and that you do. Fear not then to express your spontaneous zeal in teaching others what the Lord Jesus has taught you. It matters not what level of formal academic training you may have had or not had. If we are members of the Body of Christ, we have the privilege and, yes, the responsibility of teaching one another. I emphasize this great truth everywhere I go. You do not need special training in a theological college to be a God-trained and God-taught teacher in the church. Just look at Paul’s use of theodidaktoi in 1 Thess. 4:9: “You yourselves have been God-taught.” Or read John’s instruction in 1 John 2:20, 27 about the chrisma (anointing) you have from God. Or see the promise in Jer. 31:33-34 that God would write His law on the hearts of His people and teach them directly as part of Jesus’ New Covenant ministry.

On the other hand, some of you are specially gifted in the area of teaching. Here is my advice to you: Do not think you need to be an elder or a pastor to teach! As Paul puts it in Eph. 4:11, all pastors are teachers, but not all teachers are pastors. I believe a healthy church will have both shepherd-teachers and sheep-teachers, working together in harmony for the building up of the entire Body of Christ. In other words, a New Testament church will have a host of teachers, not only ready to impart knowledge, but to receive it.

I believe that one of the main reasons that the church is weak today is that service – especially the exercise of spiritual gifts – has been relegated to church officials only. The church as a whole does not exercise their gifts for the benefit of the church as a whole. Thus, the church is not receiving all of the “upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation” that it should. One person – of even a group – of highly trained individuals cannot take the place of the working of the Spirit through the entire church.

How has the Spirit gifted you? Then it is your responsibility to serve other believers in that capacity. If the Spirit has gifted you in teaching, then teach. Are you a pastor? Then teach. Are you not a pastor? Then teach. Do you not have a formal environment in which to teach? So what? Teach anyway in whatever opportunities the Lord gives you.

Is your spiritual gift not teaching? You are still responsible to teach, but you are also responsible to exercise whatever spiritual gifting you have been given.

If all believers started serving one another and the world as God has gifted us, I think we would see a huge difference in the church and the world today. As long as we relinquish our God-given responsibilities to others because of position or training or apathy, then I think the church will continue to be ineffective in the lives of believers and in the lives of others.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 11-6-2008

    Wonderful post brother.
    I really enjoyed the quote from David. Allan you defiantly have a talent. Keep using it! :-) I hope that you and your family have a great rest of the week.

  2. 11-6-2008

    I have recently been studying authority in the scripture.
    Most often, the word translated into authority is exousia and its first meaning is power of choice.

    I greatly enjoyed this post. May the “authority” of the believer increase in choosing love and its related exertion. The richness of gifts to be given within the Body of Christ has been dormant too long.

  3. 11-6-2008

    Some are gifted by God to teach that is true. But all are called to make disciples and that involves an element of teaching.

    The church needs all the body to obey the command of Christ, not just those gifted to teach.

  4. 11-6-2008

    Brother Alan,

    I have greatly enjoyed your last posts on gifts. Especially after recently going through repentance for wanting to “push” my agenda (which is a good one) rather than serve those in front of me. Even good things can be used in a sinful way. Thank you for the reminder that the community of God is all about serving others.

    Peace to you brother,
    From the Middle East

  5. 11-6-2008


    Thanks for the comment. I hope you and your family have a great week as well.

    David (ded),

    When I read your comment I though about what Paul wrote to the Galatians. He wrote that we are not FREE to serve one another.


    You said, “The church needs all the body to obey the command of Christ, not just those gifted to teach.” Exactly!

    From the Middle East,

    I’ve had to repent for trying to push my own agenda before as well. Its amazing what God does when leaders get out of his way.


  6. 11-11-2008

    I’ve enjoyed reading your insight about spiritual gifts. It has been very helpful. I think what you’re expressing is not expressed often enough. I have a few questions. 1. I’m confused by what Paul meant by saying that someone could pray in the spirit while remaining unfruitful in the mind. Does this mean the speaker did not necessarily have an understanding of the foreign dialect he was using? 2. Although I agree that the Bible itself doesn’t seem very specific in detailing the gifts, wouldn’t those especially gifted as prophets have to be recognized as such by the church, if the church had the responsibility of letting only 2 or 3 or them speak?

  7. 11-11-2008


    Thanks for the kind words and the questions. I’ll try to answer, although I haven’t thought specifically about those questions so this will be “off the cuff”.

    1) Paul wrote, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also…” (1 Cor. 14:14-15) In this part of 1 Cor 14, Paul is explaining that whatever edifies the church is what is “fruitful” during the meeting of the church. If Paul were to pray only with his Spirit in a way that even his own mind could not understand, then it would be “unfruitful” because it would not edify the church. In the case that Paul mentions, it seems that even the one praying does not understand what he is praying.

    2) Paul applies the 2 or 3 guidelines to both prophecy and tongues. By extension, I think it could also be applied to other gifts, i.e., teaching and exhortation. It could be that Paul is specifically saying to limit each gift to exactly 2 or 3 people. If so, this seems like a strange way to say it. However, if this is the case, then yes, we would have to know exactly which gift a person was exercising. I think there is another explanation though. Instead of specifying exactly how many people exercise each gift during a church meeting, Paul could be warning against two extremes: a) only one person speaking during a meeting and b) a “free-for-all” where everyone has to have their say.

    Again, these answers were “off the cuff”. I think about them more. If you want, you can continue the discussion in this comment thread if you want to offer your own answers.


  8. 11-13-2008

    Thanks for giving me more to think about. I may ask some further questions down the road. Thanks too for staying involved with this whole vital issue.


  1. WOF: Thoughts on Mega-Churches and how big you think fellowships should be - Christian Forums - [...] on their own: Returning Biblical Education to The Church The Most Ignored Words of Jesus The teacher …