Ideas from Paul on Teaching the Gospel
What Works for You?
My personal scripture study found me in 1 Corinthians 14 the other day. I sometimes have a hard time with Paul’s round-about way of speaking (I actually find Isaiah easier to understand than Paul, but I’ve always been a huge Isaiah fan), but I found some great counsel in this chapter about being an effective gospel teacher.
Here are the text of the verses, along with the notes that came to me. This is pretty raw. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. What methods have you found to be effective? What qualities have your favorite gospel teachers exhibited?
Use Correct Words and Language
1 Corinthians 14:19:
“Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”
Here’s what I got out of that verse:
- No matter how many languages you know (Paul knew five or so), it doesn’t matter what you say if people don’t understand you, even in a gospel setting.
- Will five words work better than 10,000 to get your message across?
- Teach to the common denominator (not lowest common one, just the prevailing one).
- Teach simply, and let the spirit carry the message across.
- Even if you have a firm understanding of complex topics, teach simply, in terms easy to understand.
Edify, Always Edify
“Everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things done unto edifying.”
I love the word “edify,” to build up. We all have something to offer. A different insight, perspective, experience, talent, or gift. Everyone will see things a little differently. Those differences are what will edify others around you and cause growth in others who are ready to learn.
“…that all may learn, and all may be comforted.”
If There Is Confusion
If you’re confused, it’s not being taught correctly. Either the teacher doesn’t understand something about the principle or concept, or doesn’t know how to explain it well. When truth is being taught, the comfort and peace of the Spirit should accompany and testify of that truth.
That thought is backed up by the verse 33: “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.”
Teach to the Whole, Not the Individual
And if it seems like one or two people don’t get it while the majority do comprehend it, and you are confident you have taught correctly, to the point of edification, that’s on them, not you. Again, that idea is confirmed in verse 38:
“But if any many be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” There have been times I have known of an individual’s personal struggle with certain points of doctrine. I have made the mistake of teaching a principle directed to that person, under the guise of “instructing” the entire class. This is not how God would have us teach the gospel.
We should teach the doctrine, and when taught correctly, the Spirit will testify of the truth. As difficult as it is to watch someone struggle with the gospel and/or the church/leadership, it is not your responsibility to try and change your mind. What is your responsibility is to stay within the stewardship of teaching the gospel to the whole. When you are willing to let the Spirit guide your words, the truth that individuals need to know and understand will be carried to their hearts by that Spirit – testifier of truth – not by you.
The point of every lesson in church should always be to prophesy of Christ. You should do all you can to seek that gift.
Verse 39: “…covet to prophesy.”
This is one of the only times I can think of that the word “covet” is appropriate. Testifying of Christ should be our highest priority as gospel teachers. To testify of Christ, you must first know for yourself that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world.
“The ultimate purpose of everything a gospel teacher does—every question, every scripture, every activity—is to invite the Spirit to build faith and to invite all to come unto Christ.” (“Teaching in the Savior’s Way.“)