Teaching is one of the most basic elements of the church. People gather together to hear a sermon, a Sunday school lesson, or a Bible study. Generally this is led by a more mature Christian who has spent more time studying the Bible and can answer most questions. In this regard instruction is important because it helps us to understand the Bible and who God is.
Teaching is important for another reason however. We often think of instruction as taking place with a teacher but personal study time is just as important if not more important than group instruction. The reason for this is because of our relationship with God.
Relationships are built around communication. A relationship with poor communication is going to suffer if not fail altogether. We communicate with God through prayer, which is one of the essential elements of an effective church. But we often forget that this is only one way communication. If we are to have a good relationship with the Lord we must not only talk to Him in prayer, we must listen. Through the study of His Word are we capable of hearing what God has to say to us.
My former pastor and mentor holds Proverbs 9:10 as the key to the entire Bible. There are several other verses that are similar to it which just emphasizes its importance.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
If you want to understand God, you have to know Him. And if you want to know Him, you have to study His Word. God is revealed to us in many ways in the Bible. We are told about Him and His characteristics. We see His interactions with man in the Old and New Testaments. And of course we see God in His Son Jesus.
But we don’t get to know any of this if we are not willing to study God’s Word and meditate on it.
2 Timothy 2:15 says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
Doing your best is not a simple job. Doing your best is not just showing up for work. It is showing up prepared and ready with everything that you need to do the job. Our job here is to correctly handle the word of truth. If we’re to do so, it’s going to take some time and effort.
How long does the average person spend getting ready in the morning? The answer probably differs a lot between men and women but regardless each person has to spend some time preparing for their day. They bathe, comb their hair, brush their teeth, and may do several other things before they are ready to go out the door.
The point is that many of us spend more time getting ready in the morning than we do to present ourselves to God as one who correctly handles the word of truth. Not that our appearance is completely unimportant but we need to keep things in perspective. God should be worth more of our time and attention than our hair and makeup.
Another reason that study is important is for our maturity. Most of you are familiar with the Great Commission but I bet you’ve never given it much thought. Matthew 28:19a:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”
This is a missions verse and rightly so. But what does it say? Go and make converts? It says to go and make disciples. A disciple is more than just a convert. There are some denominations that are great at making converts. They have grand evangelistic programs and people come and they say a prayer and everybody is happy. And then those people are never heard from again. That is not a disciple. That is not fulfilling our mission.
A disciple is a student. There’s nothing fancy or spectacular about the title. We should all be students. We should all be learning, no matter what level we are on. We are never going to reach the point where we can say, “I have arrived, there is nothing new anyone can teach me.”
We should always be learning. You can read a Bible passage that you’ve read a hundred times before and gain something new from it. The meaning doesn’t change but it may hit us differently at different times because of something that we’re going through in our life. This is God speaking to us and it is why constantly studying, both on our own and with others, is so important.
Christianity is a journey, not a destination. Too often we treat it like it is a place to arrive at rather than something that we constantly work upon. We are cleansed of our sin at the moment of salvation but that isn’t the same as being a mature Christian. Maturity is only gained through study. The New Testament gives several examples of this. In Ephesians 4:11-14 Paul writes:
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”
Part of the work of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is to impart knowledge of the Son of God which brings about maturity. Maturity prevents Christians from being victims of the devil’s deceits.
Paul speaks of maturity and having not reached it yet himself in Philippians 3:12-16:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
If Paul says that he had not reached full maturity, we haven’t either. He is mature because thanks to His study God has made things clear to him. But he recognizes that he still doesn’t know it all. But if there is an issue that he needs to learn, he trusts God to give him the knowledge that he needs. But Paul can only say this because he is studying. God will not magically impart something on Paul.
We need to study God’s Word. Obviously it is important to be at church to hear the sermon but it goes far beyond Sunday morning. What I say is only important because I believe it is what God has said in His Word. But we need to be fed more than once a week. We should be diving into God’s Word daily. I’m not going to pretend that that is easy or that I have perfect study habits because I don’t. But I do know that the more we do it, the easier it will become. And the more we do it, the better off we’ll be.