The Teacher and the Taught

More on Galatians 6v6

I think v6 tells us something about the one who teaches, and something about the one who is taught, and something about the relationship between them.

The one who teaches the word. I think this says something about what to prioritise as we look for a pastor. Obviously this isn’t the only qualification for a pastor, but it appears to be the primary role that they are to fulfil: teaching the word. The pastor isn’t responsible for managing all the ministry in the church. Ephesians 4v11-12 says God provides the pastor to equip the congregation for ministry, and he does that by teaching them the word.

I think it’s worth clarifying the word teaching. To teach means to transfer understanding. If I understand something and someone else doesn’t understand it, then to teach them means to transfer my understanding to them – to communicate my understanding in such a way that the other person comes to understand too. I could talk at people, articulating what I know perfectly accurately, but if they still don’t understand, then I’ve failed to teach them. We’re looking for a pastor to teach the word.

We like a sermon that stirs our emotions and makes us feel inspired to go out and live boldly for Christ. And if the word never stirs our emotions, there’s surely something wrong. But it’s also perfectly possible for a man to give a stirring and inspiring talk using quotes from the Bible but without actually transferring a proper understanding of the word to the congregation. It’s not really the preacher’s job to stir us up; it’s his job to teach us the word, and then, when properly understood, the content of the gospel will stir us up and motivate us to love God and love our neighbour.

The one who is taught the word. Does that describe us? Are we ready to be taught the word? Are we ready to be taught, and is it really the word that we want to hear?

When we listen to sermons, are we listening for what the word says, or are we just waiting for some of the preacher’s helpful illustrations and practical advice that applies to our daily lives? Of course the Bible is relevant to our daily lives, but I think one of the big things I’ve come to understand in the last 5 years or so is that this book is not really about me; it’s about God. It seems kind of silly when I put it like that. I’ve grown up in a Christian home, going to church every week since birth, but in my twenties I had this big revelation: the Bible is all about God. In hindsight I would say I used to read the Bible through a self-centred lens. Rather than reading God’s word to get to know God better, I was just looking for how it applied to me. We can do a similar thing with sermons. Do we want to be taught the word of God, or are we really only interested in hearing about ourselves?

As usual, it’s easy to think of people out there in other so-called “churches” that don’t really listen to the word of God; they take the “judge not” part, but leave the parts that don’t fit with their own ideas. But as usual, I think we need to keep watch on ourselves at least as much as we keep watch on those other churches. After many years of listening to sound teaching in this church, are we still teachable? If someone has thoughts about how things should be done in church that differ from what we think, are we willing to listen to how they’ve reasoned from the Bible and perhaps even change our minds, or do we think “I’ve been a member of ________ Church for x no. of years; I’m sure I know better than this person”?

The one who is taught the word should share all good things with the one who teaches. It’s a good thing for teachers to be able to devote themselves to teaching without having to do other work to earn money to support themselves. Apparently this was an issue in Galatia. The congregation was expecting the pastor to work for free. Of course it can go too far the other way too. When you hear of a preacher with a private jet, something’s wrong. If a man goes into Bible teaching for the money, there’s a problem. But the congregation should provide for the pastor’s material needs. However, it’s not just about writing a cheque. It’s about sharing. We’re not just paying the preacher for his services that we consume. There’s fellowship between the teacher and the one who is taught. Don’t just sow money into the collection, listen to the sermon and go home again, pursue a relationship with the teacher.

So I think Paul is building on what Jesus said about paying attention to what you hear and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Paul is saying it’s not just about listening to preaching. The more you sow into sharing all good things with the teacher, which includes giving materially yes, but also building a relationship, the more you will reap rewards from their teaching.

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