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Preaching and Teaching According to the Bible

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.

Acts 17:1-4 (ESV)

Let’s define a few words in order to understand what Paul is saying here. Let’s start with the word Proclaim, this is the Greek word, kataggéllō; meaning “To tell, to declare plainly, openly or aloud… To announce, to proclaim (Acts 13:38) … By implication meaning to preach, to set forth.”[1] The focus on this proclamation was Christ; Paul tells us, “…This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you…” Now, this was not just an uninterrupted sermon as we do today while folks just listen without any opportunity to ask questions. The Bible tells us here that Paul “…reasoned with them from the Scriptures.”

The word Reasoned is the Greek word dialégomai; Meaning “To speak back and forth or alternately, to converse with, to reason, to present intelligent discourse… To dispute, discuss. To teach publicly, to present intelligent arguments… To argue.”[2] This was not just any argument; at the center of this discussions was the Word of God. As questions came in concerning Paul’s faith, he had some explaining to do. 

The Bible is clear that Paul was “explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead.” This Explaining is the Greek word dianoígō; meaning “To open. To open what before was closed… To open the ears, eyes, understanding, heart (Mark 7:34, 35; Is. 35:5; Luke 24:31), to open the eyes of anyone, i.e., to cause to see what was not seen before (Sept.: 2 Kgs. 6:17), to open the mind, the heart, i.e., to make able and willing to understand, receive (also Acts 16:14; Sept.: Hos. 2:15), to open the Scriptures, to explain, expound.”[3]

Our preaching does not focus on the “10 steps to prosperity” and how to find the perfect wife; the preaching is focus on Jesus and the Gospel. Mark 16:15 tells us, “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”  (ESV) The word preach here is the Greek word kērússō; meaning,  “To herald, to proclaim… to announce publicly (Matt. 10:27; Luke 12:3; Acts 10:42; Rev. 5:2; Sept.: Ex. 32:5; Esth. 6:9, 11; Joel 2:1)…Especially to preach, publish, or announce religious truth, the gospel with its attendant privileges and obligations, the gospel dispensation.”[4] When the Apostle Paul is tells us in First Corinthians 1:23 “…but we preach Christ crucified.” (ESV) He is referring to the same Greek word kērússō. Preaching focuses on Jesus; it gives folks an opportunity to ask questions and argue and it also gives the preacher the opportunity to explain the Scriptures to the people. This system is biblical and allow folks to grow much faster. 

Our idea of preaching is a preacher in front of a passive congregation that, in some cases is allowed to say amen and, in many others, stay quiet in “reverence” to the Word. It is very common in our churches to see the preacher with a big pulpit set on a stage to make him higher than the people. Folks are not allowed to ask questions; they are not allowed to fact check the preacher they must sit quietly. 

Now, in this example Paul was speaking to Jews who were not believers. Paul was operating as an evangelist here. The Scripture here is very clear that “And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” But the church also gathered daily as part of their life, they were a community… a family. Those were gatherings, not services as we know it. Acts 2:42 tells us, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” ESV) Now, in When believers came together in the ancient church they did to focus on God’s Word, fellowship one to another and prayer.

Moreover, these gatherings were promoted participation; the idea of one man preaching from a pulpit is totally foreign to the New Testament. Paul let us in those gatherings and take a look at what they did in those gatherings exactly, 

What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorderbut of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. 

First Corinthians 14:26-33 (NIV)

Participation, participation, participation… Never a one-man show in our gatherings! In conclusion, the primitive church preached Jesus to the lost and focus on the gospel or good news. This was done with the open participation of the sinner. One can conclude that some of those exchanges, as the apostles reasoned with them, were not necessarily friendly. We must remember that it did not take long before believers were kicked out of the synagogues and the preaching of Jesus became illegal. When believers came together it was also an open discussion with questions and the opportunity for the gifts of the Spirit to flow. I am sure there was corrections involved, I am sure folks said crazy unbiblical things, but the church was able to know what folks believe and teach them accordingly.

Preaching and teaching according to the Bible is totally foreign to what is done in the institutionalized church; reason why we don’t see many miracles, we don’t see many healings or deliverance; reason why there is so much theological and doctrinal ignorance and, reason why so many believers are not utilizing their gifts.

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

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