Called To Teach
1 and 2 Timothy; Titus
Most scholars agree that 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are the last letters written by the Apostle Paul. Two of the major themes of these short letters are teaching and learning. Children and new converts must be taught the rudiments of the faith or "first principles." Furthermore, we all need to be instructed in how to live the "life of Christ." Paul makes it abundantly clear in these three letters that the "continuation of the church throughout the ages demands the transmission of Bible truths" through a program of teaching, (2 Tim. 2:2). BUT is our concept of teaching in harmony with Paul's? It is the purpose of this article to determine what Paul meant when he said, "teach," and to apply that meaning in our personal and public programs of Bible education.
Education -- What is it?
Dictionary definition: "...the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life. (Random House Dictionary) Therefore in the modern sense of the word, education is focused on knowledge and the intellect. The failure of our school system is based on the lack of application. The lack of instruction in how to live what we learn and the lack of providing examples of those that are living these lessons have brought the modern educational process to a standstill.
Jewish education in the time of Paul was different from our idea of teaching and learning. The Jewish concept of "holiness." (Lev. 19:2; 20:26) "It was the destiny of the Jewish people to be different," (Barclay). Holy means to "be set apart," to be different and so the Jewish way of life exists because they have learned to be different. The Jewish system of education reached beyond the imparting of knowledge and preparing oneself intellectually and caused its disciples to become holy and develop a particular lifestyle. Do we have the kind of teaching and learning going on in the church today that takes us beyond intellectual knowledge and on to a life that can truly be styled as "walking in the footsteps of Jesus?" Are we using our best resources to communicate this lifestyle to the next generation of believers?
Goals Of Education
Paul begins each of the three letters with a similar exhortation concerning the true goals of Christian teaching.
(1 Tim. 1:5) - But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (NAS) Paul warned Timothy concerning false doctrine and urged commitment to truth.
(2 Tim. 1:13) - Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (NKJ) Paul's teaching is a "pattern" of truth that we must emulate in our own lives and in our own teaching.
(Titus 1:1) - Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness-- (NIV) Bible knowledge is never an end in and of itself, but instead must lead us to love, faith and godliness.
Measuring learning. Paul shows us a simple way to measure whether a learner has encompassed the truth, namely, has the truth produced a distinctive way of life in them? The measure of effective Christian teaching goes beyond how much a person knows and reaches out to how that person lives.
Who is the truly "educated Christian?" The one who has read the most commentaries, gone to Bible College, memorized the most Bible verses, or has the right answer to any question of doctrine or the one who has gone beyond all these things and is practicing love, faith, and godliness in their life? Evidence of an "educated Christian" is more than a measure of what is known. The educated Christian knows how to link truth with life. The product of a true Christian education then is loving, trusting, and godly men, women, boys, and girls. The true indicator of a well-taught Christian is not only his knowledge, but also more importantly his character.
Truth and Life.
The link between the academic (truth) and the practical (holiness, godliness) in a Christian's education cannot be broken. Please note the following five points made by Paul:
Sinful acts are contrary to sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:9-11).
It is important how we conduct ourselves in the church (1 Tim. 3:15).
The goal: "knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness" (Titus 1:1).
Things in accord with sound doctrine include: temperance, self-control, endurance, and reverence (Titus 2:1-3).
Those who trust God must be devoted to doing what is good (Titus 3:8).
Lessons learned from these passages include:
Knowing the truth and being committed to sound doctrine must lead to godliness, love, self-control, reverence, etc.
Truth is expected to impact on lives and our lives must be in harmony with the truth.
Truth produces a godly lifestyle not vice-versa. It's truth, accepted and applied, that brings out the godliness in us.
Teaching that says that the faith is simply a good way of life is totally unacceptable, but so is teaching that says the faith is simply a system of beliefs.
The teaching that Paul demands includes a communication of doctrine plus conduct that equals a whole new way of life. Christian education must touch the entire person, shaping our beliefs, attitudes, values, and behavior. 1 Timothy indicates that Bible teaching does involve verbal instruction, but it also involves urging, pointing out, commanding, setting an example, giving instructions, and becoming personally involved in the learner's life. If the truths of the Gospel are known, then it is time for the Christian learner to move on to living lives that are in harmony with the spiritual truths. As Paul says, "learning how to conduct (ourselves) in God's household."
Titus 2 will show how to implement the type of teaching that Paul demands:
But as for you, speak [assert or proclaim] the things which are proper for sound doctrine [namely, the lifestyle that shows sound doctrine]:
that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience;
the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things [the older women's lives will stand as an example to the younger women]
that they admonish [to encourage, advise, or urge to a moral life and good judgment] the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
Likewise exhort [encourage] the young men to be sober-minded,
in all things showing yourself to be a pattern [an example to be followed] of good works; in doctrine [the act of teaching doctrine] showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,
sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.
Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back,
not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
teaching [giving parent like guidance and daily correction] us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke [to bring to light and expose] with all authority. Let no one despise you.
Christian education must involve passing on information, but must go beyond that to shaping lifestyles.
Christian education deals with every aspect of our lives including such topics as the stress of daily living and our relationships with our fellowmen.
Christian teaching is a broad term that encompasses bringing the truths of the Gospel to bear on the daily lives of the learners by setting an example, instructing, encouraging, advising, urging, exhorting, guiding, exposing, and convincing.
Christian education is working when both the teacher and the student are striving to adhere to the faith and walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
[Note: The material in this article was adapted from Study Guide 151 of Larry Richards' Teacher's Commentary, pp. 966-970.]
By Carey Dillinger
From Expository Files 9.10; October 2002