Here are my notes from a recent seminar on teaching the Bible at a Crosslinks SMILE training conference.
What is the Bible?
The Bible is, from the very first word to very last full-stop, about Jesus and our salvation by grace that comes through faith in him.
The Bible is a combination of…
- wisdom, history and prophecy in OT that point us forward to Jesus.
- witness statements and pastoral letters in NT that point us back to Jesus.
Ultimately it is how God has chosen to speak to us.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
As Christ’s ambassadors, we have his authority in the Bible…
- because God has spoken it.
- he has spoken all of it.
- and he never speaks in error.
Which means we can know precisely what Jesus wants to say to us and we can know precisely what Jesus wants to say to others. This means we believe in…
- verbal (the Bible is God’s word).
- plenary (all of it is God’s word).
- inerrancy (that it is without error and is reliable).
This is why it is much better to work through chunks or entire books of the Bible, instead of picking topics.
- it is how God has given it to us.
- all scripture is useful – even the order things appear in the various books and letters.
- besides, you’ll be surprised how many topics come up as you work through the text.
The Bible is a carefully God-inspired man-written blend of different genres, written by over 40 different people, spanning 2500 years of history, all wrapped up into 66 books and letters which all speak of Jesus and our faith in him.
How should we use the Bible?
Okay, so we have Jesus’ authoritative words right here. So how should we wield that authority? How should we use the Bible? Just because the Bible is without error, does that mean how we use it will be without error?
Obviously no, and Bible tells us that. In Titus (must study this and Timothy letters, if undertaking any ministry) we see…
- there are people who oppose sound doctrine and teach falsehood.
- we must be people who ‘hold to trustworthy message’ and ‘teach what is in accord with sound doctrine’.
Illustration: Imagine being given finest, sharpest sword that has been passed down in your family from generation to generation. That is what we have in the Bible (Ephesians 6, Hebrews 4).
- imagine sword in hands of a child or idiot/fool.
- compare with sword in hands of trained warriors.
We need to be working towards being trained warriors rather than inexperience children or fools.
What we’re going to do now is…
- see how the original authors set about using the word of God as they wrote it.
- think about how we can follow their pattern as we set about using the word of God today.
Thankfully God, in his wisdom, included this in his word!
- v9 the writers of the OT taught people, with great care.
- v10 what they taught/wrote was truth, and they made sure that the truth was reliable in every way.
- v11 but this teaching affected lives, directing their actions and keeping their hearts fixed on Jesus.
- v11 and this teaching was ultimately given by Jesus, through his Holy Spirit.
- v12 lastly, a warning against turning to other teaching besides or in addition to the Bible.
2 Peter 1:15-21
- v15 the NT writers made sure their teaching could be recalled and passed on.
- v16 what they taught/wrote was truth, because they were eye-witness accounts.
- v19 we should pay attention to this teaching: live by it, believe it, trust it – keeping hearts fixed on Jesus.
- v20 no word of Scripture (OT or NT) came from the will of man, but from God through Holy Spirit.
- v21 warning of teaching that comes from man alone.
So, key principles…
- we are to teach faith in Jesus – communicate and pass on knowledge of who he is and what he has done.
- we are to teach truth and teach it reliably.
- we should teach truth that changes lives.
- we should teach in the power of the Holy Spirit, prayerfully asking for him to be at work in us as we prep and speak/lead.
- if you’re not teaching in Jesus and on Jesus, quit and go home. Seriously, stop.
Note: there is a Big difference between us and them.
- Revelation is now complete (Hebrews 1:1-2).
- so no need for Holy Spirit to inspire us in the same way with new revelation.
- Instead, Holy Spirit speaks to us what has already been said (John 16:13-14).
Three steps to preparing to teach the Bible
Step 1: Pray!
Teaching the Bible is from first to last a work of God through us by the Holy Spirit, so we must depend on him in prayer.
- pray for the Holy Spirit to be at work.
- pray for repentance and faith in Jesus.
- pray for your hearers.
- pray for yourself.
Step 2: Spend time on content
Remember, we are to teach faith in Jesus truthfully and reliably, being wary of anything in addition to Scripture (includes our own understanding as well as books, websites or commentaries).
What does it say?
- spend ages in the Bible: scribbling, note taking, cross-referencing, meditating, talking, etc.
- context (Bible timeline, flow of the book, immediate context).
- pay attention to specific words (logic, connections, similies/metaphors, even ‘a’s and the ‘the’s (eg John 1:1 and Jehovah’s Witnesses).
- so try to use a literal translation (ESV best for this, NIV good middle ground, NLT good for easy hearing).
- pay attention to the general flow (themes, ideas, arguments).
What does it mean?
- is it descriptive or prescriptive?
- exhortation or warning?
- use the rest of the Bible as a commentary (Bible software/websites are great for this).
- only then use commentaries, reference books, etc.
What is the point?
- what is the surprise, turning point, hook, big deal? Look for a key word / image / phrase / doctrine / emotion / person.
- if someone were to ask your hearers what it says, could they say? What would they say?
Why is this important?
- what difference does this make (head, heart, hands).
- what needs to change in us (start, stop, alter).
How do we suppress this (Romans 1)? (more for when speaking to adults/teenagers)
- personally, then our hearers.
- do you need to tackle this resistance?
How is Jesus the hero?
- remember, Bible is about Jesus. He is the hero!
- Example: David and Goliath – not about David, it’s about Jesus (the victor for his people). David points us to Jesus.
- make sure you talk about Jesus – use his name, even in OT texts (eg, Cain & Abel cf Hebrews 11)!
Step 3: Spend time on communication
Remember, we’re teaching truth but we need to make sure the truth is heard.
Who are you communicating to?
- Christians, unbelievers, works-minded, assurance-starved?
- what needs explaining/clarifying?
What are you communicating?
- is the text narrative, wisdom, letter, apocalyptic?
- try and use what’s already in the text.
How are you going to communicate it?
- what do you need to say/ask in order to
- teach the truths of Jesus
- clearly make the point about Jesus
- change hearts and minds to love and follow Jesus
- how are you going to buy people’s attention (how are you going to keep it interesting without selling out to entertainment)?