And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42).
Till I come, give heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13).
Instruction regarding the message of the faith in Christ as revealed in Scripture remains an integral act of the assembly. Throughout time Christians have come to a better understanding of the faith through the instruction provided in Bible study periods during the assembly.
Preaching and teaching are similar enterprises in the New Testament. Christians are to preach and teach the Gospel and should listen to preaching and teaching as well. Those who preach often teach, and those who teach often preach.
Distinctions between preaching and teaching involve format and method. Preaching involves public proclamation, while the Greek word translated “to teach” is didasko, and it means “to hold discourse with others to instruct them” (Thayer’s Lexicon). Teaching mostly focuses upon instruction, whereas preaching can focus on instruction as well as exhortation, reproof, and rebuke. While teaching can be done without significant student input (as in lecturing), many teachers allow and even encourage dialogue with students. If some participants do not understand aspects of the subject at hand, the teacher can easily be made aware of this and can inform and/or correct any misunderstandings immediately. Preaching and teaching are both profitable and both have their place in providing instruction, exhortation, and encouragement.
As with preaching, so with teaching: evangelists often teach, but any man of the congregation can teach in the assembly (1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 4:11, 2 Timothy 4:1, 6). Since Paul declares that women are not to exercise authority or teach men in 1 Timothy 2:11-12, they may not preach or teach before the whole assembly, but are able to serve as teachers for children and for fellow women (cf. Titus 2:4-5). All teachers must recognize the seriousness of the obligation: teachers receive stricter judgment, since through instruction they influence not only themselves but also all who hear them (cf. James 3:1).
The message of God as revealed in Scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, are to be the subject of instruction (Acts 2:42, 2 Timothy 3:15-17). Instruction is accomplished either through the study of a particular book of Scripture or by investigating a theme or practice regarding which the Scriptures give insight and wisdom. Some studies may provide a survey of a lot of information while others may involve a deeper investigation into a particular book, subject, or theme. Care must be exercised so that the whole counsel of God is taught so as to guide disciples onto maturity in Christ (Acts 20:28, Hebrews 5:14).
Through instruction in and dialogue about the Gospel of Christ, Christians have the opportunity to learn more about the Gospel, be reminded of its great truths, and refine and sharpen each other’s understanding of the Gospel and how we are to apply its message to our lives today. Let us devote ourselves to the diligent study of the Bible and the faith so as to grow into mature disciples of Jesus!
Ethan R. Longhenry