the weblog of Alan Knox

What is teaching from the perspective of Scripture

Posted by on Feb 1, 2012 in discipleship | 4 comments

What is teaching from the perspective of Scripture

If you’ve been following my blog over the last several weeks, then you know that we went through a “teaching workshop” as a church. It took us four weeks to discuss various topics related to teaching (as found in Scripture) such as “Who Teaches?”, “The Motivations for Teaching,” “The Essence of Teaching,” and “Teaching When the Church Gathers.”

Even though I led the workshop, I learned alot from my brothers and sisters while we went through the workshop.

If you are like me, when you first hear the terms “teaching” or “teacher” you think about someone who stands in front of a class or group and shares information with others or helps them understand a complex or new concept. Of course, today, many teachers and classroom settings have turned to different methods of communicating information, moving away from lecture and toward dialog, discussion, case studies, etc.

However, in all of these methods, the point is the same: Teaching is the transmission of information, ideas, or principles from one person to another or to a group.

But, when we study the idea of teaching in Scripture, we get a completely different picture. Yes, teaching in Scripture may begin with or include the transmission of some kind of information or concept, but that alone is not considered teaching.

In Scripture, the information that we share with one another – even important information about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, mankind, Scripture, salvation, etc. – are just the beginning steps of teaching. And, the sharing of information in Scripture is never separated from the further aspects of teaching.

What are those “further aspects” of teaching? Well, in Scripture, teaching is for life change, for conduct, for way of life. While teaching may begin with information, it continues with a purpose of seeing someone live according to that information. Teaching is not just telling someone about God, but showing them how to live and helping them to live in respond to who God is.

And, again, “information” part is never separated from the “how to live” part in Scripture. One flows into the other seamlessly. The teacher is the one who both shares the new information (or reminds of old, known information) and the one who demonstrates how to live according to that information and the one who walks beside the other person who is learning to live according to that information.

I hope you get the picture from that last paragraph that teaching in Scripture is part of sharing life together and cannot be separated. In reality, speaking to a group of strangers is not teaching according to the examples that we find in Scripture. In fact, speaking with a group of people – even giving right, correct, true information – is not teaching unless it is accompanied by walking together, side-by-side, good-times-and-bad, life.

By the way, I’m not talking about “application.” You see, in any teaching or sermon prep class that I’ve ever taken, I’ve been taught to include explanation, illustration, and application in my lessons. Everyone knows that we need “application” so that people will know what to do with the information that is presented. But “application” is simply another form of illustration and explanation unless it is demonstrated – lived out – by the one(s) teaching. Unfortunately, very little can be demonstrated in most teaching environments. Demonstration happens while we share our lives with one another.

Think for a moment about the epistles that Paul sent to various churches. From first glance, it seems that those epistles were examples of teaching through sharing information without sharing life. Sure, Paul had spent time with many of the churches (not the Colossians, and not the Romans – yet). But, in fact, Paul DID provide a living example and demonstration to go along with the information that he shared in his letters. Those living examples and demonstrations had names like Timothy, Titus, Tychicus, Phoebe, Onesimus, and Epaphroditus.

These people not only hand delivered Paul’s letters, they provided living examples of what it meant to living according to what Paul was proclaiming and writing. They were – in reality – the continued instructions (teachings) to the churches.

In tomorrow’s post, I will examine some of the implications for sermons, lectures, discussions, dialogs, Q&A’s, and other methods of teaching.


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

  1. 2-1-2012

    I remember seeing a book at a Christian bookstore with the title, “Yes, But How?” My heart raced. I don’t disagree with all the stuff I know and hear from others. I just struggle doing it at all, doing it well, or doing it again.

    The book was zero help. As you pointed out Alan, application and illustrations are less than 2 dimensional black and whites when we need to see these things modeled in 3D technicolor.

  2. 2-1-2012

    Alan I’m new to your website and appreciate your insights. This was an excellent, well written article. Just this year I have really struggled with being the example of all I’ve taught. Years ago, the Lord called me to teach and I’ve always found myself in settings where I was teaching and often those older than me or in different life settings. For example, one of my first classes I was called to teach, was a married couples class and I was single. Now today, as a married man, I teach a class containing many of the elders in my church. From seminary, I too learned “explanation, illustration, application.” Because I often received comments on my teaching style and people enjoyed my teaching I believed I was often doing all the Lord had called me to. I was always only concerned my lessons were biblically based, which is important of course.

    But recently I was really struggling with “doing all the Lord had called me to.” I say this because I realized (or it was probably more like the H.S. showed me) I was not living out all I was teaching. When I hear K.P. Yohannan speak for example, I can’t help but stop in my tracks to hear him, because I know he is speaking from all he has lived and experienced. The words of scripture come alive because he is living proof of all he is teaching. Even in the elder class I teach, there is a couple in there that are Wycliffe translators who, when they’re not traveling, are in our class. When they raise their hand to speak I hold on to all they say and think they should be teaching not me. It is because they are living examples, again, of what scripture is. I am a Voice of the Martyrs representative in Tucson, AZ. I often struggle to be their voice because I see a huge gulf between their way of life and mine (but his is a whole other topic.) But even when I would pick up a book by Richard Wurmbrand, the found of the Voice of the Martyrs, I cling to every word because he teaches from the life of a man who endured suffering for Christ.

    I am truly learning and have been learning that right believing does not always translate into right living. I must be living right. Again, I must confess, while I might be able to hold a class’ attention to my lesson, I don’t see these same people flocking after me during the week to follow my way of life! Shame on me right? Your article seemed to be written at just the right time as I have been thinking about the fact that teaching is more than the transfer and discussion of knowledge. I find I have always been attracted to those whose lives are living examples of the faith and I want to be around them. Yes, teaching is more than just information, it is a way of life!

  3. 2-1-2012


    It is impossible to communicate “how” from a book or from a stage. Unfortunately, Christianity and churches have focused on that type of “teaching” for so long that anything else seems less important and perhaps even unnecessary.


    Awesome comment! Thank you so much for chiming in. What you’ve shared is exactly what I was trying to get across in this post.


  4. 2-3-2012

    awesome point. I just read something recently that said that Paul used the ‘discussion method’ of teaching – used by the jews & greeks prior to him… for teaching the Church…. and the more public proclaiming was really just for those that had not heard the gospel…. but that isn’t seen at all today, either.

    instead we broadcast the teaching and I don’t even know where the gospel is sometimes in all of it…

    it makes sense to me though that public, broad ‘broadcasts’ should be used for proclaiming the Good News to those that don’t know…and then the teaching for the Church would be the ‘discussion method’ (like in the lecture hall at Tyrannus acts 19:9 and the intimate gatherings in homes & daily living acts 20:20) backed with daily living as you’ve stated. it seems so much easier to teach from a pulpit rather than the grind of daily life. i don’t know how many of our leaders would fare to not be so distant from their ‘followers’.