Instruction in the Word of God

by Gene Taylor

In speaking of the one who is "blessed," Psalm 1:1-3 says, "Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper."

The "blessed" one delights in the law of the Lord. It is his primary focus. He meditates on it day and night. It is a source of refreshment and life to him. He is as a tree planted by a river because his life becomes fruitful and productive. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described such a person as one who will "hunger and thirst for righteousness" in a desire to be filled (Matthew 5:6). One of his greatest blessings is to receive and share instruction in the word of God. Learning and teaching God's law are activities he eagerly anticipates and thoroughly enjoys. Therefore, he values those times when saints assemble for study and worship because he knows he will be with people who, like him, respect and adore God's word.

As seen in the New Testament, proclamation of the word of God was act of the worship of the first century church. In Acts 20:7, when the church at Troas assembled for worship, the apostle Paul preached to them. In 1 Corinthians 14, even with the presence of spiritual gifts, instruction in God's word was a central part of their assemblies.

As with the other expressions of worship, instruction in God's word must be given and received "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). To receive or give instruction "in truth," one must have God's word as his only source for it is "truth" (John 17:17). One who proclaims a message to those assembled for worship must "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11), i.e., he must allow his message to rest upon and be in accordance with the revealed will of God. There is no room in any pulpit for speculation, opinion, or the ideas and philosophies of men for such makes worship vain (Matt. 15:9).

For worshipers to receive instruction "in spirit," they must have the same noble attitude of the Bereans who, in Acts 17:10-11, examined the Scriptures to see whether or not the message spoken by the apostle Paul was truth. They must be discerning hearers, alert to anyone who would teach anything other than the "oracles of God." One who blindly follows false teaching is without excuse. Jesus said, "...if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch" (Matt. 15:14). No one must allow anything other than the word of God to be taught during worship assemblies.

The Teacher's Responsibilities

A teacher's responsibilities are great (James 3:1). In the first place, he must know that portion of God's word he is attempting to proclaim. He has to be aware of his listeners' needs and their level of comprehension. He must never inject his own whims or opinions into his message. He must proclaim the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), i.e., he cannot delete any portion of Scripture because someone might find it offensive. He should not tickle "itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:1-4) by just speaking those things people want to hear and not the things they need to hear. He must equally and evenly apply the word to all showing no partiality to any one at any time (1 Timothy 5:21).

The best advice one who would teach others can receive is found in 1 Timothy 4:16 where the apostle Paul told Timothy to "Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you." One who teaches must first apply the word to self (Romans 2:21-22). Since teachers are to be "faithful" (2 Tim. 2:2), no one should desire to teach unless he is striving to be faithful in all aspects of his life.

The Hearers' Responsibilities

Even though the teacher's responsibilities are great, those of his hearers are of equal magnitude. The Bible places a great deal of emphasis on hearing the word. An oft-used expression in Scripture is, "he who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 11:15; Luke 8:8). It also emphasizes what kind of hearers we should be.

The good hearer: