In my last post I pointed to fellowship as one of the signs of a spiritually strong church (Acts 2:42). My focus was on rooting out judgmentalism and seeking an environment of genuine acceptance based on who we are in Christ. It’s in a such an atmosphere that we can confess our faults to one another and be healed (James 5:16). It’s in such an atmosphere that true love is known (John 15:12).
Another mark of a spiritually effective church is strong preaching and teaching. Acts 2 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (42a NIV). In fact, teaching is listed first among the marks of the church, and in that day items were placed first in the list for emphasis. The point is clear: a church must be a teaching church if it is to be what it is supposed to be.
And what was that teaching? The teaching of the apostles. A spiritually healthy church is an apostolic church, a church devoted to the apostles’ teaching. For us today this means receiving the apostolic witness of the New Testament as authoritative for how we are to believe and behave. (This includes the Old Testament because the apostles’ based their teachings in the New Testament on the 39 books we call the Old Testament.)
In just a few weeks we return to our normal Sunday School routine and to confirmation classes. This is a good time to remind ourselves how important the teaching ministry is to the health of our church. We will only be as healthy as our teaching ministry. Let us be praying for our Sunday School teachers and for me as your pastor-teacher, that all of us will be faithful stewards of the trust we’ve been given. Let us pray for the guidance of THE teacher who alone can guide us into the fullness of truth. John tells us that this teacher is the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27).
Likewise, may we all commit to growing in our understanding of the Scriptures. The Bible commends the people of Berea for checking for themselves whether Paul’s teaching was in line with Scripture (Acts 17:11). Nothing builds faith like coming to understand what the Bible teaches for ourselves.
One of my favorite Luther quotes:
“We must ourselves know what we believe, namely, what God has said and not what the Pope or the councils decree or say. For you dare not trust in men, but must trust in the bare Word of God" (St L. IX:1235 f., quoted in Christian Dogmatics by Francis Pieper).
It’s when we know why we believe what we do that faith is strengthened, and we’re moved to action. It becomes our own possession, instead of something outside ourselves. That’s why the best preaching and teaching helps people see clearly what the Bible teaches and points people to trust God’s word (rather than the word of a mere man).
And when we trust God’s word by acting on it lives change, and we become a spiritual potent people. May God increasingly make this true of us here at Salem!