8 May 2008

Is There a Place for Preachers? Teachers? or Worse ‘Scholars’ in the Kingdom of God?

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bobby's World, Books, Exegesis, Ministry, Preaching

From time to time I am questioned about being a “preacher.” Especially a preacher that works with a local church. There are those who claim that a local church having a preacher retards the growth of the local church … it “hinders studying to show oneself approved” as it was recently put to me. Then there are those who accept that there is a place for preachers but they have no use for “scholars.” This position is not, in my view, materially different than the one just mentioned. Yet I believe there is a place in God’s community for teachers, preachers and even scholars. God gives gifts to his community.

For those who rant about the arrogance of the scholars and/or preachers have often demonstrated no little self-sufficiency – pride in not knowing! I want to call it nothing short of blind prejudice. That is what it is prejudice pure and simple. But Scholars have as much a role in the kingdom of God as any other “fool” … and that is what we all are but some of us don’t know it.

The anti-teacher position is explicitly contradicted in the Scriptures themselves. Paul said that God has given some (not all) disciples to be teachers (1 Cor 12.28; Eph 4.11). The Greek term didaskalos is, in the Gospels, a translation of the term rabbi (cf. Jn 1.38; 20.16). Paul says God has equipped the church with these “teachers/rabbis.” Teaching is not the only gift given to the church but it is one of them. Further the NT tells us that not every Christian should be a teacher (James 3.1). Likewise, the Hebrews’ Preacher scolds disciples in Heb 5.12 along similar lines. All of this, and more, shows that in the NT, and the early church, there were people who had a unique role in the church as teachers/rabbis … A teacher is simply one who has studied and knows more than some one else that knowledge is not an end in itself but is for the building up of the body of Christ. At least if I read James correctly that is the idea …

Not many of you should presume to teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3.1)

If language means anything at all then this texts that there are some Christians gifted as teachers and some are not. This does not (contrary to the anti-teacher, anti-preacher rhetoric) mean anyone is “lording” it over anyone. All gifts are given for the common good. Meditation upon the diversity of gifts and the unity of God’s people anyway would help us (see 1 Cor 12.1-13).

Those who in their pride, prejudice or arrogance claim that they need nothing and no one other than themselves suffer from a spiritual malady. They suffer from a willful amnesia that robs their lives of depth and direction. To claim that I and my personal experience and my knowledge is the standard for understanding and interpretation is the height of arrogance! It is in fact a mockery of biblical authority. The real authority, in this anti-teacher, anti-scholarship position, is nothing less than “myself” and what “I” think/feel/believe. The canon is ultimately me! Nothing else is allowed to shed light. Beloved readers this is not respect for the Bible. It is nothing less than worshiping at the idol of modernism and the cult of self. There is no place in Scripture that supports this position … none!

To further examine this position lets focus our thoughts on 2 Timothy that some seem to believe intends for us to have a book and nothing from anything/one else. But first a quotable quote:

Scripture does not teach that the Bible alone thoroughly furnishes the man of God for every good work, but that the Bible in ADDITION to what had already been given does so ...” (James A. Harding from 1906)

Paul says in 2 Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

The “logic” of the “Just me, myself and my Bible only … I don’t need a book, a teacher and surely not a scholar” … folks goes something like this. Paul says that Scripture is adequate. If Scripture is adequate, then nothing more is required. If nothing more is required, then the use of outside material implies the inadequacy of the Bible, contradicting Paul’s statement. Therefore, nothing in addition to Scripture can be used to equip us, because nothing else is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. ” This function is the sole province of the Bible.

That’s the so-called argument. But it is wrong. Why? For starters the word “adequate” modifies the believer, in the Greek text not the word Scripture. The words Paul uses to describe Scripture are “inspired” and “profitable. ” The Torah is useful to accomplish a certain end–an adequately equipped disciple–because it is the very counsel of God. Paul’s teaching in 2 Timothy was meant to qualify the nature of Scripture, not to disqualify the usefulness of other material or resources (like a teacher).

Second, the argument proves way too much. The Scripture Paul has in view is the “Old Testament,” specifically the sacred writings of Timothy’s childhood (note verse 15). These are what Paul identifies as being able to “give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

If the “Old Testament” Scriptures are ALONE (and they are the only scriptures under consideration in the context) adequate, and if Paul means to suggest that the addition of any useful information about man is wrong, then how do we justify adding the words of the New Testament to the fully adequate Old Testament? Even Paul’s words (as well as Peter’s, John’s, etc.) would be inadmissible, including the very words of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which make this claim.

Since this is ludicrous and self-defeating, the entire objection crumbles. Paul did not mean to convey that other sources of knowledge were an assault on the Scripture’s completeness.

Perhaps even more problematic to this view, 2 Timothy 3:15 doesn’t even teach that the Scripture is adequate. As stated above, a close look at the text reveals that the words “inspired” and “profitable” describe the Scripture. However, the word “adequate” does not describe the Scripture, but rather “the man of God” who uses the inspired Scripture in a profitable way. Note carefully: “…that the man of God may be adequate , equipped for every good work.” Once again, the proof text itself has unwittingly been maligned to say something it just doesn’t say in its context … thus James A. Harding was correct and a wise teacher.

What does “adequate” mean here? It probably means what adequate usually means, that the man of God has everything that is essential. Food and air and water are adequate to keep one alive, but their adequacy doesn’t imply that nothing else is beneficial.

The problem only arises if one imposes a foreign sense of adequacy on this passage, i.e., nothing else is allowed. If we hold that Paul and the Apostles wrote legitimate Scripture, then that proves Paul’s didn’t intend such a restriction. That’s my point.

God has granted certain people to the church. He has given us evangelists, he has given us shepherds, he has given us folks who are generous and a host of other graces. But God has also give the church TEACHERS. The same word is Rabbi … just a different language. Teachers/Rabbis are folks with certain abilities and personalities that can be of service to others.

Teachers no more retard the spiritual growth of Christians than a math teacher retards the growth of a student in geometry or a dentist keeps people from brushing their teeth. Teachers and dentists serve useful functions. Teaching and “scholaring” are not the only gifts in the church, they are not the greatest gifts in the church … nor are they the worst. This gift is given by God’s grace like all for the building up of the body as a whole … for service.

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says ‘When he ascended on high he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men and women’ … 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 …” (Eph 4.7-12)

Thank you God for the gifts, all the gifts, you have given to the church … including those who have learned the language of Paul, Jesus and Moses.

Seeking Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

36 Responses to “Is There a Place for Preachers? Teachers? or Worse ‘Scholars’ in the Kingdom of God?”

  1. Steve Puckett Says:

    Seems Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 9 is pretty clear as well, also 1 Timothy 5:17-18.

    I worked bivocationally for the first few years of my preaching and earned the majority of my income from a job other than preaching/teaching. I like the freedom of this arrangement financially, but practically in today’s “church word” it is all I can do to carry out my calling with the hours I have in a full time arrangement.

    Peace.

  2. Jeanne Says:

    Well, if “scholars” retard the growth of the individual Christian, it is only becaue the individual Christian is too lazy to argue with the scholar. The Bereans had the right idea… nothing wrong with searching the scriptures to see if what you’re hearing is true. Honestly, if a mature Christian is not reading/listening to viewpoints from all over the Christian world, not to mention some non-Christian, anti-Christian and un-Christian viewpoints, I think he’s missing out on an incredible opportunity to clarify what he believes.

    I can’t help wondering if maybe the anti-scholar attitude is based more on envy and pride than actual concern for truth.

  3. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Ahh … you just might be onto something there Jeanne. Just maybe.

    Bobby V.

  4. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    I was always jealous of Eddie Van Halen because he could play guitar better than me too …

    Bobby V

  5. Justin Says:

    Bobby,
    I had to go look it up – you are right, it is the man of God that is adequate.

    I had memorized the proof text version!

    Thank you for this.

  6. nick Says:

    Bobby,

    How do you read 1 john 2.27?

    It seems that the Johannine literature might be directed to a subtly different community than either the Jerusalem community under James or the different Pauline congregations.

    “Needing no teacher” is certainly no excuse for the arrogance and the rudeness of much of the ME wing that so powerfully opposes other forms of Christianity.

    It is no surprise, though, that such groups maintain the “our way or the highway (to hell)” ecclesiology that gave them birth.

    It does, though, sound like the author of 1 John envisions a teacherless assembly.

  7. preacherman Says:

    I have been bless to have seen first hand the power of the Holy Spirit working through believers. It is encouraging to see what the Holy Spirit does when we let Him work and don’t squash it. I think the Church needs to let the Holy Spirit do its job through us. I believe that teachers, preachr, and scholars should be humble. Humility is a virtue that every believer should have. Bobby, thank you so much for this post and your blog is one of the best I read. I am strengthened and challenge to think about my life, faith, church and relationship to God. God bless you brother in countless ways. May you feel his presence daily.
    In Him,
    Kinney Mabry

  8. Frisky Ridgewood Says:

    Dear Bobby,

    I completely agree with you about the truth that God grants certain people the gift of discernment …. The gift of seeing the real meaning beneath the words of scripture. I envy those who are “experts,” theologians, Bible historians who are willing to teach. That’s why I go to events like the Pepperdine Lectures. I hunger to sit at the feet of those who can shed some new light on a scripture I might have been reading all my life, but whose real impact in my life can be revealed by a spirit-filled, love-filled teacher.

    I wish I had time in my life to be a real scholar. But I discovered that my true calling is to be a comforter and because of certain events in my life, I feel as if God is specifically bringing me in contact with people who need to be assured of God’s love for them after divorce. I am like the little toe-nail on the Body of Christ.

    I do believe that each person should read the scriptures prayerfully and thoughtfully to see what the living word of God is saying to them personally. I do think that the Word of God, read simply and humbly can move a person to accept the unbelievable gift of the gospel. But I also think scholars can give us insights on how to more correctly apply the “simple” gospel and how to see the incredibly rich, full, amazing entity the written word is. I never cease to be completely blown away by some nugget of truth that is revealed to me (often by a Bible scholar).

    However, I have a couple of areas of worry. First, in Christian traditions like the Catholic church (which is my husband’s tradition) and others, some people in that fellowship believe that the priests, bishops, pope and other church fathers have the ultimate say on the meaning of scripture merely because they are the scholars and experts of the laws of God. Some in that fellowship believe that because the scholars and theologians have had the “truth” passed down directly to them, that normal parishioners need not bother with trying to decipher the word of God — that the priest and teachers will do it for them because they are more fully equipped to do that. (And I admit, I would bow to a John Mark Hicks or Bobby Valentine or Rubel Shelly or a Dan Knight or a host of others when trying to figure out the way to read a certain verse.)

    Why shouldn’t I leave the deciphering of scripture to the scholars and teachers? I guess I am just stubborn enough to want to know what I think the scriptures are saying personally to me. And I do believe that the written Word of God has within it the power of the living God of the Universe. One thing I keep in mind, however, is that the early church, the early Christ followers, the early believers did not have a New Testament. They were taught with stories, little personal vignettes and most importantly with the holy lives of Christians living the gospel to their culture. They shared their belongings. They turned the other cheek. They gave to the poor. They were light and the salt to a hopeless and oppressed people.

    The second thing I worry about is when the scholars stress the intricacies of doctrine at the expense of comforting and loving those who need God’s love. For instance in the area of divorce there are countless sad stories of people (people who God loves and Christ died for) who are turned away from fellowship or who are “punished” because of a teacher or scholar’s wrong (in my humble opinion) application of the words of scripture. If I’m going to err, I would rather err on the side of loving and accepting a child of God than err on being too dogmatic on some fine point of doctrine. (I understand that godly teachers and scholars are also continually helping clarify the false application of the word.)

    I am called to shine God’s light. Scholars and teachers help me “flesh out” what that means in my own day-to-day comings and goings, but the “shining” is still up to me. I think God will forgive my authentic, though sometimes even doctrinally faulty, attempts to shine his light. I think God will be disappointed with me if I am timid with his glorious Word for fear of doing some little thing wrong. I personally believe we are to boldly, ecstatically, unashamedly share our gifts whether those gifts are teaching, comforting, healing, preaching, discerning or whatever. We have access to the incredible Word of the living God of the Universe! How amazing is that?!! In boldly telling and living that to the world, we all will make some mistakes along the way. I am eternally thankful that the Holy God of the Universe will and can work through even my stumbling, imperfect understanding of his will and proclamations of his love.

    Keep up the good work!

    Love,
    Suzy

  9. Tim Archer Says:

    I think the story of the Ethiopian in Acts 8 suggests that there is room for an interpreter for the common man.

    I think the role of the preacher/teacher/scholar can easily be misunderstood by some and abused by others, but that doesn’t mean that the role itself is inappropriate. Many parts of the Christian faith become wrong when misapplied, concepts like obedience or grace. That doesn’t make them dangerous in and of themselves. It’s always wise, however, to be aware of the dangers.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim

  10. nick Says:

    Ahh, but Tim… Grace IS dangerous!

    No sarcasm (weird, huh?)

    No wittiness (par for the course)

    Grace is the most dangerous force ever unleashed on earth. Why else do so many people do everything in their power to bottle it up?

  11. Sherry Lollar Says:

    Proverbs 27:17 says that as iron sharpens iron, so men sharpen each other. Dialogue between those of us who are students of the Word, with each other and with the scholars serves to sharpen each of us.

    In the book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart), Fee and Stuart state that if you come up with a brand new interpretation of a passage that no one else has thought of, you are probably wrong. The arrogance that Bobby speaks of leads one to believe that he or she has all the answers and has nothing to learn from anyone else.

    It takes maturity and humility to admit that we don’t have all the answers and have not perfectly (and rightly) “divided the word of truth.”

    (See Bobby, I commented on your blog!)

    Sherry

  12. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Suzy,

    I am delighted you are hear teaching us. You are quite kind to me but I in no way consider myself in the same league with the scholars you name. I am a minnow, 😉

    As for you though I would in fact call you a theologian. Indeed you are a pastoral theologian in the best sense of the word. Martin Luther quipped that

    “It is living, dying, and even being condemned which makes a theologian–not reading, speculating and understanding.”

    A real theologian wrestles with God, not ideas about God but like Jacob of old becomes Israel. Since you have experienced a sense of condemnation and you have turned that for the benefit of poor folks like me you ARE a theologian! And you have wrestled with the text. Sound Doctrine means healthy for living teaching … that is what I have found in Radical Recovery. I praise God for Suzy!

    Now I also appreciate the concerns you raise. They are real. But scholars do not replace individual work and study. Teachers are resources nothing more and nothing less. Greek is not necessary to get into heaven … though Hebrew may be 😉

    Great to have you around.

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  13. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Nick,

    First John 2.27 has to be read in context like all things. I do not think the author envisions a teacherless community. I think 3 Jn shows us this. Diotrephes is out of line but Demetrius certainly seems to be traveling teacher.

    Back to 2.27. Again this is not a teacherless society for the author himself is doing just that. They have an anointing … humeis is plural. John is not talking about individualistic discernment here but the community of believers itself that will test this new fangled doctrine about the Person of Jesus Christ. John picks this back up in 4.1-6. The group will decide, on the basis of received tradition, if this new teaching is in accord with the apostolic testimony concerning Jesus the Christ.

    This is how I understand what is going on in 1 John.

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  14. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Sherry thanks for the insight. Glad to have you around. Good text from Proverbs.

    Bobby V

  15. laymond Says:

    Jer 31:33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    Jer 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

  16. Polycarp Says:

    Nothing much more that I can add, but it is a great post.

  17. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    What are you saying Laymond? I don’t get it …

    Bobby V

  18. laymond Says:

    Bobby, as I read your post, you do say we need preachers, scholars, learned brethern, to teach us less learned brethern, what we should know in order to know the Lord, and how to obey the gospel. You ask me just what I,m saying if you notice, I said nothing, but Jeremiah said quiet a lot about what you were writing about.

  19. laymond Says:

    Quote; “Scripture does not teach that the Bible alone thoroughly furnishes the man of God for every good work, but that the Bible in ADDITION to what had already been given does so …” (James A. Harding from 1906)

    I fully agree with (J. A. H.) about the bible not being all we need, but just what was it that we have already been given?
    Jer 31:33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

    Jn:14:16: And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
    17: Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
    18: I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

    Quote; The “logic” of the “Just me, myself and my Bible only … I don’t need a book, a teacher and surely not a scholar” …

    Yeah they are right about the scholar, or a book written by that scholar, but they still need the “teacher” The great teacher.

  20. kingdomseeking Says:

    I have heard this argument directed more to books than teachers and preachers. Some never read books (or listen to teachers and preachers other than they local preacher) because all they need to do is read the Bible as it is. While I do not discount the great value in just reading the scriptures as they are, this attitude leads to inbred theology. And we all know the disasterous outcomes that come about in other arenas of life where inbreeding takes place:-).

    Rex

  21. nick Says:

    Laymond,

    Then we’d better throw away all your English translations, and get busy praying for the gift of tongues, so that we might understand Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic.

    Because every time we open an English translation, we are accepting the fact that we need a human teacher.

    How do you read Matthew 28:18-20, Laymond? From the pen of an eyewitness and follower of Jesus, attributed to the very lips of Jesus, is a command for his disciples to teach baptized believers.

    You’ve said yourself that you are a “Gospels-Only” Christian (even though the word Christian doesn’t appear in any gospel)… will you now elevate Jeremiah above Jesus to fit your own opinion?

    Or, perhaps there is a difference between “Know the Lord” and “all things whatsoever I commanded you.” The Spirit that dwells in the people of God will lead unbelievers to know the Lord, and will take up residence in them, allowing them to “know the Lord” without further instruction. BUT, according to Jesus, further teaching by more experienced believers is required after baptism to enable us “to do all things whatsoever [Jesus] commanded.”

  22. nick Says:

    In “What Have They Done With Jesus,” BWIII approvingly cites Raymond Brown’s assertion that “This man [in 1 Jn 2.27] seems to disavow the teaching office associated with local church elders.”

    He also suggests (affirming his agreement with Paul Trebilco) that there may have been at least 3 streams of Christianity by the late second century – streams that were parallel in orthoDOXY but divergent in orthoPRAXY. A Pauline stream, the Torah-true Jerusalem stream that he says lasted well into the medieval period, and this Johannine stream that may have been more exclusivist and community-driven than the Pauline stream.

    You know my love of learning and teaching, so we have no disagreement at all about the message of your blog. I’ve just found that passage to be extremely intriguing for a while now, because it seems to validate (not as exclusively correct, but as one approved worship practice) the mutuality portion of the ME school of thought.

    That’s all; the Johnannine literature just seems to point to a more decentralized assembly than the Pastorals.

  23. nick Says:

    I meant late FIRST century.

    It’s getting late in the Eastern Time Zone. UGH.

  24. laymond Says:

    Nick, I am sure you know what I am talking about, and it has nothing to do with translation. If we add all the souls saved by the bible, scholars, and books, the total would still be “ZERO” . and I might add different translations into the mix.
    May God bless

  25. laymond Says:

    I have one last question for Bobby and Nick. If the bible had never been written, do you believe the world would have remained just as lost as before Christ?
    but to Bobby’s question, yes there is room. but that don’t mean there is a need.
    may God bless

  26. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Laymond,

    I beg to differ with you from the get go. The fact of the matter is there is a “Bible.” And I believe it is God’s word. And since I want to read God’s word … and I do not have that trick of Joseph Smith quite down yet (and I suspect you don’t either) … then it was NECESSARY for the work of scholarship. That is unless you simply pull revelation out of the air??

    The Bible is not the Holy Spirit for sure. Rather it is the tool of the Spirit and the Spirit illumines that text in many profound ways. But I am trying to figure out what you would know about the Story of Jesus if it were not for the Gospels? The only reason you have the Gospels is because of a scholar.

    It is that simple.

    Blessings,
    Bobby Valentine

  27. Jeanne Says:

    My family and I just watched a fascinating movie last night that illustrated this discussion rather nicely. The movie was _Luther_, with Joseph Fiennes (sp?)from about 2003. It was, of course, the story of Martin Luther. As we all know, he was a priest, a monk, and a scholar (doctorate), who not only spoke out against the abuses of the clergy (fellow scholars and priests, bishops, pope) but also wrote out his arguments (Aaagghh! a writer!), preached them from the pulpit, and worst of all, used his scholarly gifts to translate the Latin Bible (which Jerome had so nicely put into the common language of *his* time) into German so his less educated countrymen could read it for themselves. How’s that for irony? It sometimes takes a scholar to know when the rest of us are putting their faith in abusive teachings.

  28. Matthew Says:

    This was great work. Finished the M.Div Bobby, also I am reflecting on my schooling, mentioned HCU, love to know your thoughts. Also, got a ‘A’ on the Thesis.

  29. nick Says:

    Laymond,

    I’ll answer yours when you answer mine. I’ll even share it with you again:

    How do you read Matthew 28:18-20, Laymond? From the pen of an eyewitness and follower of Jesus, attributed to the very lips of Jesus, is a command for his disciples to teach baptized believers.

    You’ve said yourself that you are a “Gospels-Only” Christian … will you now elevate Jeremiah above Jesus to fit your own opinion?

  30. Frank Bellizzi Says:

    I just now took the time to read this post. Nice work, Bobby.

    I’m glad someone mentioned that if it weren’t for the scholars none of us would be reading the Bible in translation. How does that get overlooked by the anti-scholar people? Here’s how. In some cases, folks are so anti-intellectual, anti-historical that it hasn’t even occured to them that they’re reading a translation.

    Btw, it seems as though the “just me and my Bible” attitude has been around for a long time. In the prologue to the De Doctrina Augustine tackles it. Basically he says, “Hmmm. Why is it that everyone has to be taught how to read, but some people think they need no instruction when it comes to understanding the Scriptures? In the first instance, you can’t fake it. But in the second instance, you can fake it . . . but you shouldn’t.”

  31. pfutrell Says:

    Good word BV…and a great argument for the necessity of the continuation of spiritual gifts in the church today…If it weren’t for arrogance and ignorance we might see more of the Holy Spirit’s involvement today…

  32. Veto F. Roley Says:

    Part II:

    Bobby, I have had the pleasure to learn from teachers like Carl Ketcherside, V.P. Black and Gus Nichols. Ketcherside ran an innercity ministry in St. Louis when I was a student at Washington University. Black, Nichols and many others came out to our house since my father was an operator at the local lock and dam and, therefore, had ready access to catfish and, since the lock and dams were mainly located in very rural areas, deer meat. I have learned from a lot of notable teachers and am glad that God gave them the gift not only of teaching, but also of wisdom, regardless of their lack of formal education or their abundance of formal education. I have also studied at the feet of people like Dr. Carl Conrad. I remember one of my professors – I forget his name and probably should look it up – being fond of the Cardinal Newman quote, “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” The religion department was strongly in favor of the Jesus Seminar. Degrees do not make one wise in God’s ways. Degrees frequently only show that we are wise in man’s ways, can write well-written papers and can give the expected answers on tests. While there are a large number of people with degrees that have great Spirit-given wisdom (I would count my good St. Louis friend Steve Griener as being among these), there are a large number who seem to be like Jannes and Jambres, always learning and never finding Truth. Further, like Ketcherside, there are a number of people who never stepped into a college classroom as a student – I and others were able to bring him onto campus as a teacher – but who have deep and great wisdom, granted to them by the Holy Spirit, and a amazing Spirit-birthed talent of teaching.

    While we do not need to reject someone as a teacher because he has degrees, I think we make a grave mistake when we say someone is a teacher solely because they have degrees. Gentile Christians in Berea were commended for testing what their teacher taught them to see if his teaching was true. We often breeze over this passage without taking the time to identify the teacher whose teaching was being held to the microscope of Scripture and, in this case, Old Covenant Scripture specifically. The teacher being examined was Paul, possibly, aside from Jesus, the most important teacher in the Christian church. If these Gentile Christians are commended for their examination of Paul (using a foreign Judaic to make the examination), how much more should we examine any teacher who wants to stand up and teach us? We, as students, have an obligation to prayerfully meditate on God’s Word, seeking out the Spirit’s wisdom in our lives, and hold those who would teach us accountable for what they teach. Just as a student should be willing to learn, a teacher must be willing to be accountable.

    “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:10-16).

  33. Veto F. Roley Says:

    Bobby,

    I want to bring a balancing view to the conversation… Two posts as together they are too long… Part I:

    There is little doubt God, through the Holy Spirit, many of His disciples, both men and women, with the talent of teaching. And He also gifts many of His disciples with the gift of wisdom. ISTM that the gift of teaching is not simply knowing more about the subject than the class, and that could be included for some teachers, but having the ability to explain some aspect of God’s Word in a way that that audience – whether it is one or many – learns what God wants them to learn. The gift of wisdom is the ability to understand God’s deep mysteries and Truth. While some Christians may possess both gifts, it does not seem necessary to me that the Christian possessing the gift of teaching must also have the gift of wisdom. Perhaps this teacher is entrusted with the foundational Truths about God, Truths that we need to be reminded of frequently even as we grow in maturity in the Spirit. Nor does it seem to me that the Christian possessing the spiritual gift of wisdom must also be imbued with the spiritual gift of teaching. It may be that God wants the one He has made wise in the world to struggle and be humbled by a difficulty in teaching.

    The main issue I have with your blog is that it seems to be from an anthropocentric point of view. I firmly believe that both Christian teaching and learning are Pneumocentric. And this is scary thought to people from our background, or at least from my background. As I grew up in Alabama mainstream Churches of Christ, I was taught that the Holy Spirit was rarely active, if ever, to not be Pentecostal/Charismatic in my beliefs. As a result, I grew up with a Christian faith that was, in practical terms, deistic binitarianism. Now, I understood the Holy Spirit was the third member of the Trinity, but He had little purpose or raison d’être in my Faith. As I have matured, I have come to know the active and present ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. Part of that activity is in appointed disciples for teachers and granting other disciples as recipients of the spiritual gift of wisdom. But one of the primary roles the Holy Spirit plays in the believer’s life is teacher. He takes what we study, what we hear, what we meditate on and teaches us about the deep things of God. He works through the Word, yes, and He works through teachers, yes. But He primarily works through the believer, through the believer’s meditation and prayer about God’s Word and teaching. As we surrender ourselves on the alter and become that living sacrifice that God wants us to be, not removing ourselves when the cutting gets difficult, He renews our thinking to be like that of God and transforms our natural longings to be like those of God. In this process of theosis, the Holy Spirit makes us into God’s image and the things that were difficult before become our nature.

  34. amerikiwi Says:

    I’m not convinced the Holy Spirit is responsible for everything with which he is attributed today, and if he is, it seems to me that “scholarship” is superfluous. Anyway, on a more pedantic note, I question the observation about “the OT scriptures ALONE” being Paul’s exclusive focus in 2 Tim. 3:16. He had earlier included Luke’s writings in what he regarded as “scripture” (1 Tim. 5:18), and whether he viewed his own writings as such, Peter certainly did (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Just saying…

  35. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Well my friend there is this thing called historical context. Timothy did not know either the Gospel of Luke nor the writings of Paul … and certainly not the First Epistle to Himself since childhood. Not many scholars actually think 1 Timothy actually quotes the Gospel of Luke anyway but that does not defeat the point I was making.

    I agree that not everything people claim of the Spirit is really from the Spirit but that likewise does not undo what the Scripture says the Spirit actually does. He does give gifts to the church and among those gifts are teachers.

    Blessings.

  36. amerikiwi Says:

    Thanks for the response. I’m really not trying to make a big deal out of this, but my initial thought upon reading your argument about 2 Tim. 3:16 was “over-kill” (which ultimately detracts from the point you’re trying to make). Historical context is exactly what I’m concerned about. Granted, Timothy would not have been exposed to the writings of Luke & Paul from childhood (as per v. 15). But v. 16 makes specific reference to “all” scripture, which I’m suggesting would include Paul’s previous allusion in 1 Tim. 5:18. I understand that many scholars deny that Luke is the source of the quotation (while rejecting Pauline authorship), but taking the texts at face value and appreciating that the term “scripture” applies to what is written (and Luke 10:7 is the most likely written source), the argument is less than convincing which asserts that the OT is the apostle’s exclusive focus in 2 Tim. 3:16. I am not necessarily disagreeing with your final conclusions but am seeking clarity on this particular point.

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