The Ministry of Teaching God’s Word – Romans 2:17-20

 
I have hesitated on several occasions, thinking about whether or not to continue our study of Romans. My problem has been that this is not only deep and heavy, but it is dark and heavy. Even though there are some positive points in these first three chapters, their main thrust is negative. These are not fun chapters to preach. But before we can get to the dessert, we have to eat the Brussel sprouts and baked squash. Before we can get to the joy of salvation, we have to understand the depths of our sin and the depths of the Saviour’s sacrifice for us.

For example, our message this morning was not a happy one. “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” But it needs to be recognized that before Paul accuses those people of adultery, he admits that they correctly taught that “a man should not commit adultery.” Before he accused them of stealing he said that they knew that “a man should not steal.” When he said that they had broken the law, he reminded them that they had first boasted in the law. There are tens of thousands of people, who have completely unlearned that adultery and theft are evil. What a blessing there is in having that knowlege. Was Israel wrong in boasting in the law? Absolutely not! Should we teach our children not to lie, cheat and steal? Of course we should. There are positive aspects to Paul’s message here. And it’s about some of these positive things that I’d like to briefly address you here this evening.

And by the way, because these chapters are so dark and gloomy, I am trying to keep these messages a little shorter than usual. I don’t want to hide God’s Word, or avoid the tough messages. But neither do I want to make any of the saints of God hate the thought of attending the House of God.

Tonight I want to briefly consider what it is, and what is required: “to teach God’s Word.”

First, before the Bible can be properly shared with people, it has to be understood by the teacher.

We don’t have the same blessings that the prophets had in the early days of God’s revelation. When the Lord put a message into the mouth of Ezekiel, Joel or even the Apostle John…. When they repeated what the Lord had given to them, it wasn’t necessary that they understand it. It was the word of the Lord; it was true and accurate; It would be explained by the Holy Spirit at the appointed time. But the prophet didn’t always understand the import of what he was saying. But for the modern teacher or preacher, who doesn’t have new revelation, there is a handicap involved. He must go to the ancient revelation and digest it sufficiently before he can explain it to others. He is obligated to understand and expound God’s Word, so that his audience can begin to understand the revelation itself. So he has to know his own heart, the hearts of his hearers and the condition of society well enough to make an application of that word to the needs of the day.

Paul says to the Jew or to the rabbi of Israel: “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law.” Before a teacher can teach, he must have been taught. – “instructed out of the law.” When I first sat under the ministry of Bro. Ken Johnson, I was amazed at breadth of his knowledge. He could pick up subjects totally unrelated to the Word of God and talk for hours. As we visited in the homes of neighbors, he could talk about their jobs, or hobbies or sports as if he was an expert in them. But that kind of knowledge is only beneficial to a point – the gospel teacher must also be well instructed in the Word of God – the law.

He must also be able to “approve the things that are more excellent.” The meaning is that this Christian teacher must be able to discern between the really important and the not so important. I remember one visit with Bro. Johnson, when he began talking with a lady about the yarn that she was using in her knitting. He was talking about the difference between rayon, nylon and natural fibers, and even I was impressed. He said that when he was in Bible school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he worked in a plant that manufactured some man-made fibers. And as a child he grew up in the cotton growing region of West Texas. Then after talking about cotton and Rayon, he used the reference to Bible school to come back to our purpose in the visit. There are subjects which are central and there are others that are secondary. And that even includes things within religion. There is no need to debate with a lost man about angels, the history of Methodism, the feeding of the 5,000 or the necessity of tithing. It doesn’t matter what kind of bush it was that Moses saw burning; what matters was the Lord.

But before someone can teach the will of God to another person, he must know the will of the Lord. And as far as I can see, that requires an immersion in the Word of God. Any of us might be able, in a short period of time, to learn the meaning of a small passage of scripture. But usually that short period has been preceded by other lessons already taught and learned. And usually small passages of scripture are not all that need to be known and heard. I’m not saying that a person shouldn’t try to teach God’s Word to a friend or child until he has been a Christian for 13½ years. But I am saying that we won’t be great teachers unless we are immersing ourselves in the Bible for long periods of time. The best of God’s teachers rest in the promises, boast in the Lord, knowing His will, and being well-instructed out of the Word of the Lord.

Then they can really begin their teaching ministry.

Paul uses several statements which basically expose the various kinds, or levels, of Bible teaching.

For example, he begins by referring to being “a guide of the blind.” If we liken knowledge to light, then anyone who is ignorant of a certain subject is blind to that subject. But the Bible specifically applies the word “blindness” to the spiritually blind – the lost. And the lost are spiritually blind because they spiritually dead. “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ.”

“And he (Christ Jesus) called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

This should bring to our attention, that teaching is an act of faith on the part of the teacher. Particularly is this true when it comes to teaching the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That blind man is in desperate need of the miracle of sight before he can see Christ as his Saviour. And that includes our precious children, who we think are so particularly smart. Until the grace of God opens their eyes, they aren’t going to see the really important things.

Secondly, the teacher is bringing a light to them which are in darkness. We might think of this as a reiteration of the previous point, and we wouldn’t be wrong in doing so. But we also might think of it as a slight step forward. Just because we can’t see something or anything, doesn’t necessarily mean that we are actually blind. We may have the ability to see, but just not enough light in which to get it done. We may have a question about this doctrine or that one and it just doesn’t make any sense. And in comes the teacher who he has studied that question before. He has read several commentaries on the issue and been through the intellectual mill. He doubted his own interpretation and debated with himself on the subject. But the Lord eventually blessed, and he now is able to understand that question and explain it. So he comes to us in our darkness and distress and points to several scriptures which turns on the electricity and our darkness flees away.

The next level of teaching might be described as instructing the foolish. I know that some people might not like to make a distinction between this man and the previous one. But there really is quite a difference. There is one person who is in a dark room and cannot see. And then there is another who could see, but can’t see, because he refuses to open his eyes. We might be prone to call him “a fool” and let him cry at the darkness for the rest of his life, but that is not the way of the servant of God. Only by the grace of God are WE not in that man’s kind of blindness. If we are God’s teachers, then we are obligated to help him as much as any of the others, even if he is a fool.

Then finally there is the happiest of positions: teacher of babes. The word for “teacher” is “didaskalos” did-as’-kal-os. I have to admit to having a new perspective of parenting now that we have Sahalie in our house. She is teaching me things that I somehow missed when her mother was the same age. For example, this week she started talking more and more. I believe that she really has things that she’d like to say; not life and death things; not things to cry about; but things that she’s like to discuss. But she has no teeth and her tongue is just as spastic as her arms and legs. And yet she is usually quite happy to practice her speaking abilities. And some day she will talk, and her first word of course, will be “grandad.”

What a joy there is in teaching babes. We’re talking about little people who have a clean slate, with nothing to unlearn before learning the truth. These are little people who want to learn, but who haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet this idea or that problem. And these are people who often times, when they see the truth, are overjoyed to find it; there isn’t any skepticism or doubts. They are like Sahalie, with their eyes almost bursting out of their heads as they excitedly look upon something brand new.

What a joy it is to be a teacher of the things of God.

What challenges there are. What rewards there are. What a responsibility there is in teaching the things of God.