Wednesday, October 06, 2010

TEACHING IN THE BODY OF CHRIST

My friend Tom Crisp and I have been engaged in a fascinating email discussion lately and I wanted to share some of what we’ve been talking about here to get more reactions and thoughts from you guys.

The conversation started when Tom observed that many in the Organic Church arena tend to read 1 Corinthians 14:26 as if it says that everyone can teach as opposed to the more American model where only one person stands up front and teaches everyone else.

Tom said that while Paul's Body metaphor suggests active participation in church meetings where all use their various gifts to minister to one another, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is therefore a teacher.

He goes on to say, “I think Paul is better read in 14:26 as saying each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue OR an interpretation. He's not saying to the Corinthians that, when they meet, everyone has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue and an interpretation. He'd just finished saying in chapter 12 that different gifts are given to different members of the body for the common good, then in verse 29, he asks rhetorically, "All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? ... All do not speak with tongues , do they? All do not interpret , do they?" where the context strongly suggests the answer to those questions is 'no'. Thus his saying in chapter 14 that he wishes everyone spoke in tongues, but more so that all would prophecy, the implication being that not everyone had these gifts.

[Therefore] I'm inclined to read 14:26 as suggesting, then, that, when the Corinthians met, everyone contributed his/her gift to the meeting, but that only some contributed the gift of teaching.”


In response, I said that I totally agree with Tom’s assertion that not everyone in the Body is a teacher, or has the gift of prophecy, etc. No disagreement there. But, the more I thought I about it I realized that there was another way to look at the situation.

While the scriptures suggest that there are a variety of different spiritual gifts given to the Church and that not everyone has the same gifts, the Bible also tells us that all should be able to share their faith with unbelievers, for example. Dose this mean that everyone has the gift of evangelism? Of course not. But it does suggest that every believer is a member of the priesthood of believers. (see 1 Peter 2:9 and Revelation 5:10) Therefore, even if one does not have a specific gift to evangelize, or to pray for the sick, etc., it does not excuse that Christian from sharing their faith or praying for someone in need. In other words, in the Kingdom of God we are not allowed to say, “that’s not my job!” because we’re all members of the priesthood of believers.

Looking again at the passage:

"What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." – (1 Cor 14:26)

As I read this I wonder if teaching is really so central to Paul's concept of what is important when the Church gathers? As I read through his epistles I tend to come away with the idea that Paul has a greater concern that the people of God love one another and know the love of Jesus. It seems that Paul is much more concerned, at least to me, with edification and the "strengthening of the church" than he is with teaching. Especially when we read through the entire epistle of 1 Corinthians I think Paul leaves a stronger impression that he values "Love" and "Prophesying" over teaching.

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” – (1 Cor 14:1)

Over in 1 Cor 14, in verse 31 Paul says; "For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged."

Doesn't this suggest that Paul does think that "all can prophesy" in the gathering? Or is that "can" more about having the freedom to do so, if not the ability or gifting?

Tom’s response to this is that Paul is speaking only to the prophets here and not to the entire church. This may be the case. (In fact, I think he’s correct.) But, again, the prophesying done here is by a group of people, not only one person, and the purpose is that “everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” This suggests, again, that the goal of the meeting is not only instruction but encouragement and it’s being accomplished through a participation of everyone in the Body – whether those prophesying or those teaching or singing, etc.

However, later on I realized that we were both taking an academic approach to this subject. If we were talking about a group of people who got together to discuss Trigonometry or to study the Chinese language, we would expect that they might require a teacher - an expert - to help them understand the material. But in the Church we are not only gathering for the purpose of understanding information. In fact, whenever two or more gather, the Author of the Book is in the room! The main character of the book is on site and available to explain Himself to us!

The Holy Spirit - the author of the Bible - is living within us. We are capable of reading the Word and asking Him to lead us and reveal the Truth to us. And He will!

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” – Jesus (John 16:13)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5

“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him.” – 1 John 2:27

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." – Jesus (Matthew 18:20)


So, even if the people who have the "gift of teaching" are not present for one of our gatherings, it's still possible for everyone else in the room to read the Scriptures, and pray, and ask God for wisdom and insight. If they do this they should expect to receive revelation from God Himself through the Holy Spirit.

In this way, the Church is never without a teacher. She has been filled with the Spirit of God, and the head of the Church is in her midst. Jesus has promised that He is the Good Shepherd and that His sheep can hear His voice. (see John 10:14-16)

Again, this doesn't make everyone in the room a teacher, but everyone in the room does have access to hear The Teacher and share what they learn from Him. Therefore, it’s still possible for everyone in the Body to come together under the Headship of Christ and share the gifts they’ve received from the Holy Spirit and participate in the life of Jesus together.

What do you think?

3 comments:

Bill Faris said...

Everyone can make comment, as Keith points out. It is our privilege to do so as members of the community of Christ seeking truth by His Spirit.

But making comment and "teaching" are different. Indeed, James warns that: "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly".

So I think there is a distinct role for "teachers" who are recognized as such and who will bear both the privilege and the responsibilities that go with the role.

Anonymous said...

Yes!

Anonymous said...

Seems that by looking on to verses 29-31 that two or three should speak (prophesy) and that "for you can all prophsey" is referring to those 2 or 3. This does indicate that it is according to the gifts rather than a free-for-all.