Teaching Those Who Can Teach Others

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus… (2 Timothy 2:1-2; 14-17, ESV)

I’d like you to take a few moments to think about the people who have taught you and encouraged you in your walk with God. Bring their faces to mind and take time to remember what they did and said that impacted you. Can you see them? Can you remember what it felt like to be around them and to listen to them? I can, and it cheers me to think of them. We each have people who invested in us, encouraging our faith and faithfulness to God. Take some time to give thanks to God for them.

Paul was one of those people in Timothy’s life. Paul connected with him on the second missionary journey, and he invited Timothy to join him and Silas in their ministry. Eventually, ministering together for some time, Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to lead and teach the congregation and to counter some false teaching occurring there. Timothy had his hands full, and I suspect he wished Paul was there to tackle the problems he was dealing with. But now Paul is in prison, and was relying on Timothy to use everything he had learned to respond in a way that strengthened the church.

Paul knew this wasn’t just a matter of Timothy’s abilities, or how much he knew and could explain. Paul begins this passage by urging Timothy to be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. He will need God’s strength for the task ahead, and he can find that strength through his relationship with Christ. By grace, we receive the strength we need for the tasks God calls us to. Paul pointed him to the source of his own strength – being united with Christ—foundational for his teaching efforts.

Next, Paul encouraged Timothy to remember the teaching that Paul had shared in so many settings. Timothy had traveled with Paul and had repeatedly witnessed him explain the good news of the gospel, both to Jews and to Gentiles. Ephesus needed this core gospel message! Though they had already heard it from Paul, now Paul calls on Timothy to remind the Ephesians of the gospel’s truth and to exhort them not to start quarreling about word nuances. Timothy was to continue clearly teaching this same message, and equipping others in Ephesus to teach that same gospel message to others. Paul’s goal wasn’t to gather ever larger groups to hear Timothy speak, but to multiply the ministry of the Word, equipping others to pass on the same truths of Scripture to those who needed to hear.

Paul also recognized that Timothy needed to do more than simply repeat messages that he heard Paul preach. He needed to do his own study of the Bible and teach on new issues that, over time, would arise. Timothy needed to know not only the content of certain familiar parts of the Scriptures, he also needed to know how to study them well so that his teaching was rooted in God’s Word, not merely his own reflections. Timothy did this deep study and teaching before God, and Paul wanted him to receive God’s approval for his teaching efforts, and not be ashamed of doing it poorly. Paul contrasted this kind of teaching effort with what some others were doing, calling theirs “irreverent babble”, which undermined, rather than encouraged growth in godliness. It infected the body the way gangrene spreads to surrounding healthy tissue from an infected wound. Paul’s imagery is clear – teaching can either build up the body of Christ to be healthy, or it can tear it down, infecting it until it can no longer function.

This passage encourages and prods me to remember how important careful study of the Scriptures is before I lead a Bible study, and it reminds me to seek God’s grace and strength as I both prepare and lead. I must devote myself to study and to prayer. I must also remind myself that I’m not just teaching the people in this group. I’m equipping them to teach others, and the things I teach may be passed on if some of them lead future Bible studies (much like planting a seed yields future crops). I must show them how to study the Scriptures, that they be equipped to rightly handle God’s Word, not just to pass on my interpretation. This adds another aspect to my teaching ministry—that I must be attentive to these long-range goals, not just the immediate lesson before me.

I’m thankful for your ministry of leading your Bible study group. I pray, with Paul, that you will be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. I pray that your teaching will pass along the gospel story in clear and compelling ways, and that God will use you to equip others to do the same!

Father, I’m so thankful for the men and women who taught me your Word, taught me how to study it, and how to teach it to others. I ask that you would be my strength, that your grace would give me courage and wisdom as I study and as I teach. Help me to keep learning how to study the Scriptures well, so that my teaching builds up your church and equips others to carry this message forward in their own teaching. I give you all the praise and thanks. Amen.

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