Teaching and Exhortation
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 12:7b …if teaching, in teaching;…
Teaching involves instruction. It helps intellect and understanding by giving clear explanations of the Bible. Ignorance of Scripture is the mother of error. Teaching, a gift vital to reversing this problem, is given to many.
Since this is a gift God gives a person at conversion, education and training are not prerequisites to it. The best Sunday School teacher I had as a child could not read. His wife would teach him the lesson on Saturday.
A true teacher likes to study, to do research. When I return to my office after being away for several days, a mountain of work awaited me. I plow into it, and after a few hours, I often think I will lose my mind. Too much administrivia can make me want to pull my hair out.
But when my exasperation nears explosion, if I can get to the stack of books I use to research sermons, I suddenly feel better. I feel content when I study. I love books; they are not mean, and never bite, fight, or whine.
For teachers, extended preparation is no problem. We gladly cross land and sea to glean the answer to a question or to find a good illustration or story. The transfer of truth matters most to us.
A teacher believes the best people in the audience are the ones taking notes. Pencils and paper give proof of spirituality.
Teachers tend to be overly scholastic, to detail listeners to death. If we see the word Nineveh, we have to squelch the desire to tell how thick, tall, and wide its wall was, how many chariots could ride on the top of it side by side, what type of rock it was made of, and how many died building it. The thought is so invigorating that I’m having trouble containing my excitement thinking about it right now.
Shallow Bible handlers read “They traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue” (AC 17:1) and immediately start telling of Paul’s preaching ministry.
True teachers want to scream, “What about Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica – what was their population, history, geography, and form of government? Did their water come from fountains, rivers, cisterns, or wells?
To save us and our listeners from ourselves, we teachers are given as a part of our spiritual gift the desire to pass on truth, to set up a lesson in a way to make it practical and interesting. We have the gift of teaching if people don’t fall asleep when we teach, and they keep coming back for more.
The critical importance to Christianity of communication which captivates is why I believe drama, writing, music, and the arts are part of the teaching gift. These disciplines capture attention, and challenge in unique, varied ways people’s perspectives of God and life.
A picture, cartoon, movie, essay, book, song, artwork – all can serve as attention-arresting props. They make the message more meaningful by bypassing worn-out circuits of the brain, creating new nerve pathways to penetrate a soul’s essence.
Francis Schaeffer said of Christianity, if we lose the arts, we lose the culture. The arts powerfully communicate truth. It’s not art for art’s sake, but art for God’s sake, to bring Him honor, and art for truth’s sake, to drive Christ’s message home.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of teaching in the life of a church. I repeat, Bible ignorance is the mother of all error. Thus, it should be no surprise that even though not everyone has the spiritual gift of teaching, the Bible indicates every Christian should be a teacher in some way.
Hebrews 5:12 says its readers should be teaching others. The Great Commission (MT 28:19-20) also presents teaching as a responsibility for every believer.
In some way every Christian is to be a teacher. Nothing is to be received by the believer without it being shared.
Everything given to us must be passed on to others. This is true even of knowledge received. We do not have the right to display intellectual selfishness.
We all learn, therefore we must all teach. Every member of the body has learned truths about Scripture they can share with others.
You say, “I could never teach adults.” Teach teenagers. If that is not for you, teach children, toddlers, or babies.
Every believer should teach, which is why we should thank God for Sunday School. It gives every church member a chance to do what God wants them to do – to teach.
The gift of teaching keeps us sensitive to accurately interpreting God’s Word. Proper teaching saves heartaches by keeping people on the right track.
General Wolseley needed a band of men to trek at night across a stretch of desert to aid in a surprise attack. A young officer, using only stars as his guide, led his men to the precise spot indicated, and won the victory, but was mortally wounded.
When Wolseley approached the dying man’s bedside, the young officer straightened his face and shoulders as best he could and said, “General, didn’t I lead them straight?” As the old general wept, the young officer died. God grant us grace to lead others in the right way. When life’s battle is done and our Heavenly General calls, may we be able to say, “We led the people straight.”
Romans 12:8a “if exhorting, in exhortation;”
This is the gift of encouragement, the ability to uplift others. Encouragers can spot a person who’s down.
They are almost glad to see someone sad, for they want to minister one-on-one to an aching heart. Generous with honest praise, they send post cards or emails, pat people on the back, give hugs, hold hands, say positive, uplifting words.
Our Bible example is Barnabas. His name means son of encouragement (AC 4:36 NAS). He took Paul under his wing (AC 9:27) when other believers were skeptical, and came to the defense of John Mark when Paul rejected him. Had Barnabas not exercised his gift of encouragement, half our New Testament books would not have been written.
We often speak of William Carey, the founder of modern missions. Little is ever said of his sister who lay paralyzed, confined in a bed for fifty years. Propped up by a pillow, she wrote long letters of encouragement to her brother for years.
The gift of encouragement is helpful in Stephen Ministry, counseling, and mentoring. This may very well be your gift if you are more interested in making others feel good about themselves than in making them feel good about you. There’s never a shortage of need for this gift.
Everyone wants encouragement. We all can relate to the little boy who said to his dad, “Let’s play darts. I’ll throw and you say ‘Wonderful!’”
Since everyone is helped by encouragement, it is no surprise that all Christians are commanded to exercise this ministry every day (HB 3:13). Ever be seeking ways to help others on the road of life.