Volume 13, Number 2, July-August 2009

Teaching and Preaching

by Roj Beaumont

Teaching and preaching are 2 different words. Matthew 11:1 relates that Jesus departed to preach and to teach. Since two different words were used to identify what Jesus did, we might reasonably conclude that he did two different things. But in what ways are they different? What did Christ, Paul or the apostles teach and what did they preach, and to whom?

The vast majority of times when the words teaching or teach occur in the New Testament they are translated from the same Greek word; didasko (Strong’s #1321). In Thayer’s explanation of the word it says: ‘to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses.’ Didactic means to instruct but the definition of a discourse is to talk, converse, hold forth in speech or writing.

So teaching is more of a two-way process involving interaction with others. The question-answer process acted out in schools is a typical example of this. Pupils have interaction with a teacher often asking questions when information is not clear or it needs reiteration. The final instructions Jesus gave to his followers, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them…” (Matt 28:19) is to teach not preach. “For indeed because of the time, you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again what are the first principles of the oracles of God. And you have become in need of milk, and not of solid food” (Heb 5:12). So it appears we are to develop the ability to teach others. Since congregations are generally only “preached” to or at, this is going to be a difficult assignment because people learn by example. “But the servant of the Lord must not strive, but to be gentle to all, apt to teach, patient” (2Tim 2:24).

But what about preaching? In the New Testament preaching is generally translated equally from two Greek words, kerusso (Strong’s #2784, 62 times) and euaggelizo (Strong’s #2097, 54 times). Thayer’s Lexicon explains the word kerusso as,to proclaim after the manner of a herald; always with a suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority, which must be listened to and obeyed.’ The suggestion here is, be quiet and listen because I have something to say to you. In Thayer’s it adds, to proclaim openly, especially used of the public proclamation of the gospel and matters pertaining to it, made by John the Baptist, by Jesus, by the apostles and other Christian leaders. This is significantly different from teaching. What about euaggelizo, ‘…in the New Testament used esp. of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation.’ (Thayer’s)

There are scriptures that include both words, teach and preach. In Matt 4:23 and Matt 9:35 we find on both occasions that Jesus was teaching in the synagogues and preaching the Gospel. Later the two words are used in Acts 28:31 where it relates how Paul spent 2 years in his rented home in Rome preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God and teaching about Jesus the Christ.

Whom we preach (Christ), warning everyman, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Col 1:28).’

It must be noticed however other things on occasions are preached in the New Testament: the resurrection (Acts 4:2), Christ/Jesus (Acts 8:5, 35), Christ is the Son of God (Acts 9:20), and the remission/ forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38, Luke 24:47).

Teach Fellow Believers, Do Not Preach to Them

Having looked at all the scriptures that include the words teach and preach and their derivatives, a very clear pattern shows up. On only one occasion can I find disciples or believers preached to and that is in Acts:20:7. This is the occasion that Paul ‘preached’ in Troas until dawn, and as stated in the NLT “…since he was leaving the next day.’ Actually here the word ‘preached’ is neither from the Greek word kerusso or euaggelizo. Of the 60 times the word for “preached” occurs in the New Testament it is translated on this one occasion only from the Greek word dialegomai (Strong’s #1256). Here Strong’s adds; ‘i.e. discuss (in argument or exhortation)’. In Thayer’s Lexicon it adds; ‘to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss’, adding ‘drawing arguments from the Scriptures.’

So on the one occasion Paul is recorded as preaching to his fellow believers (in the KJV), he didn’t! He is, in fact, involved in discussion! Indeed, most other translations say “spoke”, “talked”, “discoursed” or something similar. This Greek word: dialegomai is where we get the word dialogue. Looking up the definition of this word in the Oxford Dictionary it says, ‘Conversation…between two or more persons.’ In order to follow Christ we must imitate Paul (1Cor 11:1):

Paul’s habit was “reasoning with them out of the scriptures” (in the synagogue) (Acts 7:2).

Paul, every Sabbath “reasoned …and persuaded…” (Acts 18:4).

Paul “….entered into the synagogue and reasoned with…” (Acts 18:19).

Paul, for 3 months, was “disputing and persuading the things…” (Acts 19:8).

Reasoning and disputing again comes from Greek word dialegomai. Paul did not preach to them but discussed with them most probably ‘drawing arguments from the Scriptures’.

Gospel Preached to Unbelievers

A large proportion of the times that preaching occurs there is the mention of the Gospel; examples include Acts 9:10 and Matthew 10:7. It would have been difficult holding a dialogue or two-way conversation in teaching the Gentiles since they would not have a basis on which to discuss much, as regards Christianity. The interaction with the Jews was different. So what was Christ’s example? It was Christ’s habit to go to the synagogue and meet others on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16), but what did he do there? There are 10 occasions where it records he taught there, one where he read and only two occasions he preached. But what happened with the apostles and how often did they preach? They certainly preached among the Gentiles (Gal 2:2), but what about when they were in the synagogues? It was a place of verbal interaction, NOT one of an ordered and regular format. There are however 2 recorded examples of Paul preaching in the synagogue; Acts 9:20 and Acts 13:5.

But what about the meetings of Christians in the New Testament? There appears to be little to go on here except in 1Corinthians 14:23-40. Orderly involvement could be the words to summarize what Paul advocated when he wrote to the Corinthians about their meetings. It would appear teaching applies mainly to the converted while preaching is to the unconverted.

In the churches today the vast majority of those attending each week are believers; therefore it would seem to be inappropriate and unnecessary to preach (proclaim) to them week after week. Particularly when one considers that to preach is from the two Greek words; euaggelizo from which we get “evangelise” and the other, kerusso, which is to proclaim always with a suggestion of formality, gravity, and an authority, which must be listened to and obeyed. As the congregations are effectively being taught to just listen and never to participate in discussions on religious matters, they will be relatively ineffective discussing ‘religion’ particularly with those outside the environment of the church, among friends and family. However after services in many places I have found it rare that fellowship is about the sermon or in fact religious matters in general, which it appears it should be:

….call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shall honour him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words (Isa 58:13).

Discussion Helps Us Remember a Teaching

Discussion in a service definitely encourages ‘debate’ after the formal service has finished. When no interaction occurs within a service this seems rare, it is as though the end of a service is the finish, what is said is a done thing and not open to debate or discussion. From my experience people rapidly forget even the topic of the sermon let alone the content of it. Discussion and interaction cements the information in the memory, it makes you think rather than just listen and maybe doze or dream of other things.

Did Paul, as he went from church to church, ever give a formal, kerusso? No, he taught them, didasko. …He will remind you of what I teach…in all the churches wherever I go.’(1Cor 4:17, NLT) As already stressed previously teaching involves interaction, preaching doesn’t. The services are, certainly from my experience, notable in their complete absence of any interactive contribution from the congregation.

But does it matter? Is it important?

Follow me as I follow Christ (1Cor 11: 1)

Or as other translations put it: Imitate me…’ This obviously applies to both the ‘ministry’ and the congregations. Both Christ and Paul regularly attended the synagogue on the Sabbath. (Luke 4:16, Acts 7:2). So we today need to go to an equivalent place to meet fellow believers. Since the Synagogue at the time of the N.T. was merely a meeting place, (not a ‘church building’) we need to go somewhere where we can meet fellow believers whether it is at a ‘church-meeting’ or someone’s house.

Based on the information we have in the New Testament what do we find Jesus and Paul doing in the Synagogue? In reiteration: Jesus is recorded as reading on one occasion, twice preaching, yet 10 times teaching. (Five times as much teaching as preaching?)

As for Paul, his habit was to reason from the scriptures while there on the Sabbath (Acts 17:2).

Every Sabbath reason and persuade (Acts 18:4).

Three months disputing and persuading on the Sabbath in the Synagogue (Acts 19:8)

Yet in only two recorded examples do I find Paul preaching there, Acts 9:20 and Acts 13:5. So when they met others on the Sabbath preaching occurs on occasions but definitely not every week. If ‘we’ preach or sit listening to preaching regularly we are not imitating or following Christ or Paul. If we are involved where teaching, being taught or discussing the scriptures occurs most or even some weeks, then we are imitating or following Paul and of course Christ. Preaching is a one-way process while teaching is two-way process.

All Believers Need to Be Ready for Some Teaching

Should all Christians endeavour to be faithful? If so, then this verse is relevant:

And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well (2Tim 2:2, NAB).

Yes; we are all to develop into faithful people. Therefore we also need the know-how, the practice and then the learned ability to become effective teachers. This is not in any way in conflict with James 3:1: “…let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” There is a difference between someone in a capacity of teaching, in the case of giving an active discourse in front of an assembled group (Apollos, Acts 18:26), and that of being approached by one or more and asked why we believe or do things as we do.

Many will also hold the view that with a ‘free for all’ people will end up believing different things and this will result in ‘anarchy’. But it says in John 16:13: “However, when the Spirit of Truth, has come, it will guide you into all truth.” The assumption I make, however, is that the believers present will possess God’s Spirit. Note the word ‘guide’; it is not ramming anything down ones throat.

…and be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear … (1Pet 3:15).

Meekness and fear is important to stress in this context. 1 Corinthians 14:30 is a scripture that appears to be ignored by most. However if this was applied then God’s Spirit would be allowed the opportunity to correct abuses and inaccuracies that I am sure we are aware happen all the time.

If a revelation is revealed to another sitting by, let the first be silent.” In this way, all who prophesy [or teach] will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. Remember that people who prophesy [or teach] are in control of their spirit and can wait their turn. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the other churches. (1Cor 14:30-33).

John's’ Gospel account (KJV) does not even include the word ‘preach’ or its derivatives: preached, preaching or preacher. The same however cannot be said for the word “teach”. It occurs 3 times referring to the teaching of Gentiles, Jews and believers. The word “taught” occurs 8 times usually referring to Christ as having taught in the temple or synagogue. “Teacher” occurs on one occasion: “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher (Not preacher!) come from God (John 3:2).

Some have quoted Paul when he tells Timothy ‘Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine’ (2Tim 4:2) to say that here he is instructing Timothy to preach to the brethren. But does it say that? In context we read in the New Living Translation, “Preach the word of God. Be prepared whether the time is favourable or not.” Note that these are separate sentences from what follows:  Patiently correct, and encourage your people with good teaching.” So we have the first part to preach persistently, the assumption that most appear to have is that it is to the brethren. The second part is to teach, but here in context it is to ‘your people’, in other words the brethren. Some may say the whole context of chapter 4 is that of instructing Timothy on how to minister to the brethren. This is not the case, since in v5 Paul instructs Timothy to ‘Work at bringing others to Christ.’ NLT Or ‘..do the work of an evangelist.’ KJV , and you do not do that with brethren.


So what do I conclude after studying teaching and preaching?

1. All believers need to develop the ability to teach others, but not to preach to them. Probably a much larger proportion of people are converted due to their interaction with friends and relatives than the ‘written word’ or mass media. Probably more success in ‘converting’ people would be incurred if some of our energy was directed to this end, that of teaching rather than preaching.

2. Teaching is a two way process, so there is the obvious need for us to be actively encouraged to talk about our beliefs. (Hence ‘interaction’ is essential.) Since this definitely was not an activity that was at all encouraged in the past we therefore ‘all’ need this practice. Practice as they say, makes perfect.

3. Preaching the Gospel (Gal 4:13) or ‘Christ’ (Acts 8:5, 35) is the active intention of people who are ‘called’ to such an activity “And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom 10:15). This should be directed to nonbelievers in particular.            &

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