“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching …” (Acts 2:42). This tells me two things about the early church: (1) members were hungry for teaching; and (2) leaders taught.
We have a pretty good idea about what they taught. Based on the content of Peter’s Pentecost sermon as well as other passages in Acts, they exposited Scripture. (See Acts 2:16-21,25-28; 3:22; 7:2-50; 8:30f; 13:16-41; 15:15-18; 28:23,26-27.) They taught as Jesus taught them. He had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:32,44–45).
Bible teaching was in the beginning—as it always must be—at the center of church life.
Let’s be clear about what we mean by “Bible teaching.” Teaching the Bible goes beyond using a biblical passage as a peg on which to hang good ideas. Bible teaching approaches the Bible in such a way that allows the biblical text to set the agenda and to speak for itself. What God has said in His Word is what we must teach.
Walter Kaiser, in Toward an Exegetical Theology, comments: “In the midst of all the feverish activity to restore the Church once again to her former position of influence and respect, all sorts of programs and slogans have appeared. But regardless of what new directives and emphases are periodically offered, that which is needed above everything else to make the Church more viable, authentic, and effective, is a new declaration of the Scripture with a new purpose, passion, and power. This we believe is most important if the work of God is to be accomplished in the program of the local church.” (emphasis added)
Consider these 5 reasons (not meant to be exhaustive) why the church must prioritize strong Bible teaching.
1. The church must teach the Bible because it is God’s Word.
Rather than using a lot of theological-sounding words to make the point, let’s put it in a way my grandchildren can understand: What the Bible says, God says. All of Scripture (yes, even Leviticus) was “breathed out by God,” meaning the writers wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. Because it is God-breathed, “it is profitable for teaching,” and the result of teaching the Scriptures is that believers are “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
2. The church must teach the Bible because it is God’s authoritative Word.
When we say what the Bible says, we speak with authority—God’s authority. When we go beyond what the Bible says—even though it may be good advice, we speak in our own authority.
3. The church must teach the Bible because it is sufficient.
Because the Bible comes from God and carries His authority, it is uniquely sufficient to accomplish His purposes. Anything of eternal significance that results from our teaching or preaching happens because of the power of God’s Word—not because of our comments about God’s Word.
Some churches today undermine and deny Scripture’s sufficiency by relegating the Bible to the periphery of the church’s worship. Because worship is an intelligent and loving response to God’s revelation of Himself, the Word needs to be central in worship—not an appendix to worship. A congregation that doesn’t know the Word of God is incapable of worshiping God “in Spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
4. The church must teach the Bible because it is required.
Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not just converts, and disciples are made by teaching the Word. This is a requirement for fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:20).
5. The church must teach the Bible because it is needed.
Churches are filled with biblical illiterates. Research reveals this as a fact. We should expect biblical illiteracy in secular society, but not in the church. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be surprised by Christians’ lack of biblical knowledge when churches marginalize biblical teaching.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching …”
Bible teaching was at the center—not the periphery—of early church life. May it be so today!