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"What I'm looking for is 'sound biblical teaching'! "The person making that statement to me (I'll call him Fred) was decisive and passionate. That is, until I asked him just what he meant by that phrase. I got the sense that no one had ever asked Fred that question up to that moment. Decisiveness and passion seemed to give way to uncertainty and hesitation.  


I was pretty sure I knew what Fred meant by 'sound biblical teaching' but I wanted him to articulate his understanding. After a few minutes of verbal fumbling, he was able to tell me that he was looking for a Church that systematically taught the truths of the Bible as inspired by God.  


I have always been a believer in the inspiration of the Christian Scriptures. That is something that has never wavered over the years. But what has changed is my understanding of what it means to teach the Bible. As a Pastor, I have come to see that 'biblical teaching' involves much more than what some of our secular education methods and models would suggest.  


For me, biblical teaching involves at least four distinct components  




In our western culture, much of our current education method involves the communication and transfer of information. That is, facts, data, ideas and concepts that are able to be understood at a cerebral level. Oftentimes, at the end of the teaching term, the student is asked to complete an examination or write an essay or assignment to demonstrate that he/she has grasped the information and is able to re-state it in a way that shows the teacher that the information component has been understood.  


As a master-teacher, Jesus Christ taught His disciples this way. He communicated facts, data, ideas and concepts. The four gospels that tell us of the life of Jesus and those four documents provide numerous examples of Jesus communicating information to His close followers. For example, He taught them what we call the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5,6 & 7).  


So, the communicating of information is a vital aspect of 'sound biblical teaching'. But knowing - even understanding - biblical information and assuming that is all that is involved is to severely discount the biblical concept of teaching. There are three other indispensable aspects that must be included in our definition.  




Many truths and realities cannot be taught at an information level only. To the verbal component of teaching must be added the visual - the application and demonstration of that particular truth or data. So it is that in many trades the practitioner must demonstrate to the apprentice how he/she goes about the task so that the apprentice can see the concept in action.   Again, the master-teacher, Jesus Christ, communicated 'sound, biblical teaching' by demonstration.


On one occasion, recorded in John 13, Jesus' took a bowl of water and a towel and undertook the role of a household slave by washing the feet of His disciples. Apart from a private, verbal interaction with Peter, this teaching about humility was done without words. It was all visual rather than verbal. Demonstration rather than information.   It was only after this powerful demonstration was concluded and Jesus had resumed His seat that He introduced the 'information' component and called His disciples (His apprentices, if you prefer) to be sufficiently humble to wash the feet of each other.  




Here is a key statement that I believe as a Pastor: we have taught our people nothing until they are doing it. The goal of 'sound biblical teaching' is not the accumulation of more information. The goal is obedience. To do the teaching, not just know the teaching.   In fact, the master-teacher emphasized this after the towel-and-bowl episode when He said, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them". (John 13/17).


It is a cause for sadness (and change) when we realize that in many churches (evangelical churches in particular), there is an emphasis upon knowing biblical truth without a corresponding and equal emphasis upon doing biblical truth. This situation exists despite numerous biblical calls or commands to put into practice the truth found in the pages of Scripture. James 1:22-25 is just one example of such a call.  


Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.  


Another telling statement comes from the master-teacher Himself.   "


Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."Matt 7:24-27NIV  


It's obvious as we watch Jesus teaching his disciples that His aim was to involve them in doing the teaching (participation) rather than just knowing (information) or watching (demonstration). In due course in their discipleship/apprenticeship experience the time would come when He would send them out to do what they initially had heard and seen in the life of their master.  


He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness……. These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Matt 10:1-8NIV  




Here then is the ultimate goal of all 'sound biblical teaching' - the transformation of one's life and relationship with God, oneself and others.  


Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17-18 NIV )


  "…..transformed into his likeness…"  When all is said and done, transformation is the heart of God for each of us.  


Some years ago I took the opportunity to learn to fly (in an aircraft!). It was one of those seasons of life that was so special I can still recall it with some detail - unlike some others seasons!   My instructor often took me into the small classroom where there were a few desks and a chalkboard. He would patiently explain to me the principles of flight and aerodynamics. He would draw diagrams that helped me understand the importance of the shape of the wings and things like airflow over the surfaces of the aircraft. That was information.  


From there he would take me out to the training aircraft and show me how to do pre-flight checks. There were external checks to be done as well as internal checks. Then we started the aircraft, taxied to the runway and took off into the wild blue yonder. All this time I watched carefully knowing that, in due course, I would have to do what he was doing. That was demonstration.  


I can still remember the day when my one hour lesson involving flying circuits and touch-and-go landings was just 45 minutes old. My instructor told me to come to a full stop landing. Without further warning, he stepped from the aircraft and said, "Now I want you to do a circuit on your own. This is your first solo flight. You're ready!"  


I had no time to get nervous as I taxied the aircraft onto the runway threshold. The seat next to me where the instructor had always sat to this point was empty. As the aircraft lifted off the runway I was possessed of a feeling that was a mix of absolute exhilaration and sheer panic! Yet this moment was what my teacher/instructor had prepared me for the many weeks beforehand. That was participation.  


By nature I'm not given to overt displays of emotion. But that day I rushed home, charged into the house repeatedly calling my wife's name until I found her in the kitchen. She looked at me with wide eyes wondering what incredible news - good or bad - I was about to deliver. "I've done it! I've just done my first solo flight!"The expression on her face could be roughly translated into something like, "Who are you really and what have you done with my husband?"  That was transformation.  


We have not taught our people anything until they are doing it. Until they are enjoying the fulfillment that comes when they not only know but do 'sound biblical teaching'.   I've often wondered about Fred and his search for a church that had such teaching. Would he really like to belong to a church that had as its goal training and mobilizing Fred into active ministry? Or was he looking for a church that would give him theologically correct information, a measure of demonstration but certainly not expect his participation leading ultimately to his life transformation?      

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