Teaching the Learner, Not the Lesson

One of the most important lessons a teacher can learn is that they have been given the responsibility to teach learners not lessons. Now, that is not to say that the lesson is not important, however the learner must remain a central focus of the learning process. If the student is not learning, then the teacher is not teaching.

As beneficial as having Biblical knowledge appears to be, it is not the end goal. One must transform Biblical knowledge into applied Bible knowledge in order to benefit from the learning process.  In Creative Bible Teaching, Lawrence Richards and Gary Bredfeldt write, “By knowing our students, we can help our students not only make more direct and specific application of Scripture to their lives, but we can also help them see the very contemporary nature of the message of the Bible” (p. 94).

A great example of this is seen in Matthew 19 as Jesus speaks with the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler is curious about how to have eternal life. Jesus responds that one should keep the commandments. Just to be certain, the rich young ruler asks Jesus to clarify which commandments, where Jesus then tells rim “do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and one your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:18-19). The rich young ruler, acknowledges that he has kept those commandments, and inquires of Jesus what he still lacks.

“I have kept all these,” the young man told Him. “What do I still lack?” “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me” – Matthew 19:20-21.

Jesus identified the rich young ruler was great at knowing God’s Word and obeying God’s Word, but had not been transformed by God’s Word. He was not obeying God’s Word out of a response of gratitude, but rather as an attempt at selfish gain. When teaching the Bible, we too should desire to see our students responding to intellectual gain with a heart change, and hands eager to respond.

In a recent article published for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society from an address given at the annual meeting of the ETS in 2016, John Piper opened with, “I thought I might begin this message by affirming that the devil could be a member of the Evangelical Theological Society. The reason I thought this might be true is that to be a member one need only affirm the truth of two statements: ‘The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory’” (ETS March 2017, volume 60, no. 1, p. 81).

Though Piper eventually argues that the devil could not in fact be a member of ETS, he still created a challenge toward having knowledge of Scripture, and having knowledge of Scripture impact your everyday life. Piper argues, “what keeps the devil out, and keeps you in, is the connection between the truth of the Word and the beauty and preciousness of what it reveals. What keeps him out, and you in, is the connection between affirming the truth of the Word and the Trinity and treasuring the value of the Word and the Trinity. The devil wants to break that connection. You don’t.” (Piper, ETS March 2017, volume 60, no. 1, p. 82).

Having a deep knowledge of Scripture does not separate us from Satan and his followers. What separates Christians from Satan and his followers is a desire to be connected to the truth of the Word, the beauty and preciousness of what it reveals, and a desire to respond to the Word. As Paul wrote in Romans 1, we are called to glorify God as a response to Him revealing His glory. Paul writes, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened (Romans 1:19-21).

As we reflect on seeing God’s Glory in both creation and in His Word, we are inclined to respond in one of two ways: (1) Joshua 1; or (2) Psalm 1. In Joshua 1, The LORD gives the command to Joshua to that “this book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it” (Joshua 1:8). Here Joshua is given a command, that if he obeys, he will receive blessing. It is certainly profitable to study God’s Word, but Psalm 1 clarifies the heart in which God desires we study the Word when it describes, “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).

Teacher, do not merely teach God’s Word out of requirement, but rather teach it with a delight and desire to let God’s glory transform the students of God’s Word who have been entrusted to you for this season. May His glory be revealed through your faithfulness.

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