Proclaim 2019- Session 2- Teaching

One of the easiest things for teachers to do is rush to prepare. We can easily fail to put the time needed into knowing before teaching. The result is that we misrepresent God’s word. God’s word is far too important to present flippantly. Preparation is the difficult and time consuming part of this process. Today, we are going to look at a passage that is often misinterpreted by entire religious groups and denominations because they are reading their own thoughts into the text rather than working to discover what is actually being written by the author of the text (God through His selected human agents). This particular passage is often used to defend tradition as an authority for life and ministry. The word, tradition, is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. In this exercise, we will exegete (prepare) and exposit (expose by correct teaching) what it means that we are instructed to stand firm and hold to the traditions. Please take a few moments and look at 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 and outline the passage to the best of your ability. Don’t use the notes in your study Bible or in a commentary. Sometimes those things keep us from learning how to really read and explore God’s word. It’s okay if you struggle with this. It is why we have training in the church.

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2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.

We remember, when studying a passage, we read the whole book. I know you probably did not have the time to read all of 2 Thessalonians in this brief exercise. What I will do is outline the text up to this point so that we can have at least the preceding context of this passage.

  • 1:1-5- Paul addresses the Thessalonian believers to encourage them through persecution. This persecution was given by God for their sanctification.
  • 1:6-10- God is just and will not leave persecutors unpunished.
  • 1:11-12- Our sanctification through affliction and God’s justice are by grace for the glory of Jesus Christ.
  • 2:1-12- There will be a great apostasy (mass falling away from the Christian worldview) and false teaching will abound greatly. This influence will be a deluding influence sent by God for the purpose of judging those who take pleasure in wickedness.

Verses 13-17 follow logically from Paul’s statements concerning persecution, affliction, the great apostasy, and the abundance of false teaching in the world. Now that we have the basic context, we walk through this passage verse-by-verse. It is tempting to take one idea from this text, extrapolate on it, and force all kinds of applications. I listen to other pastors’ sermons often, in our area and others, and this is something I hear people doing all the time. It is an example of merely using the Scriptures instead of teaching the Scriptures. It is easy to misrepresent God’s word when we do this. So, we look verse-by-verse because God’s word is something that we don’t want to mess up.

In verse 13, we see that, as opposed to God handing wicked people over to delusions (v. 11), God has chosen true believers “from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” This is an explicit doctrinal statement concerning God’s soteriological work (work of salvation). If we teach something other than this, we contradict the explicit message of the text. Furthermore, this is why Paul, Slivanus, and Timothy (1:1) give thanks for all of those who are believers. God is the one they thank.

In verse 14, we see that it is explicitly God who does the calling. He does so through the presentation of His Gospel. God does this so that those who are called may share in Christ’s glory (1:12).

In verse 15, then, we see Paul apply the doctrine he has explained up to this point. Because we are being saved and sanctified through persecution, affliction, apostasy, and abounding false teaching and because God is calling us as His people that we might share in Christ’s eternal glory, we stand firm and hold to the traditions. The text indicates, by the conjunction, “But…”, that these traditions are opposed to apostasy and the abounding false teaching previously described. In fact, Paul clarifies in this verse that these traditions were taught to the people by word of mouth or by letter from “us” (Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy; 1:1). The traditions being referred to, here, are what is written in the New Testament for us; particularly the epistles (letters of the Apostles and a couple other disciples). To know what is meant by “word of mouth,” we must know the way in which Paul will instruct Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:7-11 when he will serve in Ephesus. There is a place where Scripture defines what should be taught by word of mouth. If this will be Paul’s instruction to Timothy in Ephesus, then it is Paul’s instruction as Timothy and Silvanus teach everywhere else by word of mouth. Timothy is to teach, explicitly, the word of God and have nothing to do with worldly fables, what we would refer to as the traditions of men. What was taught to the Thessalonians by word of mouth was an exposition of God’s word!

In verses 16 and 17, Paul offers a prayer or a blessing over the Thessalonian believers after encouraging them to hold to the traditions (what is explicitly written in the New Testament letters and the correct expository teaching of God’s word).

According to Paul in these verses, the authority of the church is Scripture alone and, explicitly, not human tradition or the traditions of the church. This is how we study and teach Scripture. The more we know and understand, the better equipped we are to rightly divide the word of truth. If our pastors and other teachers don’t prepare and preach or teach in this way, we will most definitely miss what the Scriptures are saying. There is a difference between merely teaching from the Scriptures and actually teaching the Scriptures. Sadly, most preacher-teachers don’t preach or teach the Scriptures.

Teaching Workshop

  1. Teaching Basics
    1. How do we prepare for each sermon or lesson?
      1. It begins with our own study and personal growth, this includes our sitting under a God-gifted teacher.
      2. We cannot begin by thinking about the teaching moment or our position as a teacher.
        1. Why might this be dangerous?
      3. When the opportunity comes to preach or teach, we prayerfully select our content.
        1. Will we have a topical (or systematic) series or will we teach through a book of the Bible?
        2. Why?
      4. Prayerfully study the whole book or topic in depth before starting.
      5. Study each passage even more in depth during the series. 98% of what we do is preparation, prayer, and personal growth. This is why pastors and ministry leaders need 20-40 hours/week to prepare a lesson that may only span 30 minutes to an hour.
      6. How do we study the Bible?
        1. Danger of topical preaching and teaching:
          1. It is more likely that we will let our thoughts lead the text rather than the text lead our thoughts.
        2. Begin with the text.
          1. Read it.
          2. Learn the terminology.
          3. Discover the theological and practical truths explicitly stated in the text.
          4. Where it is unclear, ambiguous, or vague, compare it with the doctrines described in other parts of the Bible.
          5. Write or type these truths in your own words. This will help you explain it to others.
          6. Plan your application. Write it down, and strive to apply the text rightly. While there is only one correct interpretation, there can be many right applications. Still we must discern what those applications are.
        3. The Moment of Truth
          1. Those of you have have taught or preached, please share some embarrassing moments with those around you.
          2. How can we avoid distractions?
            1. There are always things happening that tempt us to stray from the teaching moment (Video 39:00-43:45).
          3. Leading a conversation without getting lost in it.
            1. Begins with our preparation.
            2. God’s word is too important to present flippantly.
          4. Answering questions without chasing rabbits.
          5. The importance of answering questions.
            1. We are talking to people, not at them.
          6. It’s about the content, not the teacher; and the content is about Christ.
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