Wisdom

Spiritual Gifts: Teaching

gifts

For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on teaching.

As Jesus said, in order to spread the message of the Gospel to a fallen world, there must be teachers to assist people in understanding challenging teaching. The gift of teaching does not rest on a foundation of successful research.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

   the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. -1 Corinthians 1:18-25

In fact, the gift of teaching has very little to do with knowledge. The gift of teaching goes beyond the mind. This gift is strengthened and powered by wisdom: not the wisdom of men but the wisdom of God. A person gifted in the area of teaching can go beyond well-rehearsed lessons or sayings. They instill in the learners something deeper than mere mental assent. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the teacher channels the wisdom of God in the same way that Jesus did during his ministry. Jesus was able to see things that no one else could. He could see the heart of the issue before anyone else seemed to know the topic. It is this very nature that is given to an individual blessed with the gift of teaching.

The gift of teaching enables the teacher to teach to the heart, the place that needs teaching the most. The gift of teaching also enables the teacher to speak clearly to a variety of listeners. In the Gospels, Jesus’ effect on hearers is not limited by the demographic of his audience. Jesus spoke clearly to every heart ready to listen. The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach clearly and succinctly, in a way that differs from man’s teaching of spirituality, codified and complex philosophical webs of theological nonsense that result in confusion and not liberation. God always desires to be well understood.

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ -Jeremiah 33:3

The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach about God in a way that achieves this goal.

 

The Impossible Religion: Standards

This reflection series,  “The Impossible Religion,” reveals five specific problems that people have with the gospel of Jesus. These impossibilities arise when Christianity is a religion to achieve, rather than simply the “good news” of grace and redemption that will naturally transform us. Christianity outside of Christ’s redemption is in fact impossible, but with God nothing is impossible. For the next five weeks, we’ll go through Scriptures from five different areas of the Bible in order to confront these impossibilities:

  • Impossible Devotion
  • Impossible Standards
  • Impossible Trust
  • Impossible Power
  • Impossible Purpose

Impossible Standards (Proverbs 31)

Whenever I read the book of Proverbs, I always start pen in hand, intent on underlining “the good parts.” But every time, I quickly realize that to underline “the good parts” would find me underlining the entire book.  In 1 Kings we read about the gift of wisdom granted to King Solomon and the proverbs are proof of that gift.  The wisdom in the book of Proverbs is unique, different from anything else.

The Proverbs do not necessarily strike us as “impossible” as we read the sayings and feel intrigued, rebuked or encouraged.  That comes when we attempt to put these perfect words into practice in our admittedly imperfect lives.  The sayings in real-time and real-life swiftly transition from wise words in private to a burden too heavy to bear in public.  When faced with the challenges of this world, whether riches, anger, impatience, or pain, we tend to shake off “the good parts” as we indulge in our truly natural “human nature” and err on the side of the sinful flesh.

Throughout the entire book of Proverbs, Wisdom is depicted as a woman.  This woman of wisdom cries out to the passing pedestrians on the street, pleading with them to listen to her. All the while, she is challenged by an opposing voice from the opposite side of the street, also in the form of a woman, however, not a woman depicting wisdom and righteousness but rather “foolishness” or sin.  Throughout the entire book of Proverbs this woman of wisdom pleads for the people to listen, often to no avail.  It is her voice that we are meant to hear as we read the Proverbs and her words that we find perfect at one moment and burdensome at others.

The difficulty in taking advice stems from lack of trust in the source.  As we listen to the advice we are constantly evaluating the source giving the advice while perhaps making snap-judgments along the way.  “Does this person have a right to advise me?”  “What do they know about this?”  “Who are they to talk?”  It is from this mindset that we make our decision whether to follow the advice or not.

The proverbs are potent and almost hypnotic, small bursts of wisdom that captivate with their clarity. We chuckle from time to time as we read, saying things like, “That’s so true.”  But when the time comes to practice the sayings in our daily life, we take offense at the words and the source due to their unrealistic standards.  We don’t like to look like failures, and when we compare our lives to the wisdom of Proverbs, we often do. It’s easy to feel like a failure when confronted with the perfect advice and standard of Wisdom embodied.

Proverbs 31, the final chapter of Proverbs, is particularly fascinating: we finally get to meet the source of the sayings and words. At last, we meet this “woman of wisdom.”  Not only does she have wise sayings to offer us, she is, more importantly, an individual that puts the words into practice.  For all intents and purposes, she is perfect.

We might wonder how knowing that this woman practices the sayings is any help to us. “Good for her, but we still feel like the loser.” The only way to have confidence in advice is to trust the source, and to see the source likewise practicing the advice.  One of the things that hurts the church the most is that Christians fail to “practice what they preach.”  It is because of this careless, irresponsible and hypocritical approach to the Gospel that many avoid church, fall away from the church, or in general fall apart.  Superficial belief and worship was what most offended Jesus during his three-year ministry.  The idea that people tailored religion to fit their lifestyle led Jesus to call out the religious crowd, not the outcast sinners, as the hypocrites.

When it comes to practicing wisdom and these “perfect words,” the only way we can have confidence that we average people can reflect this wisdom is to understand the source.  In Proverbs 31 we meet the woman of wisdom.  However, as we know, this woman is not real, she is a literary device created to embody the sayings and to relate the words to us in a way we could understand. The true source of our wisdom is the “teacher of all teachers” and “shepherd of all shepherds.”  He is the one that said the sheep listen to his voice.  He is the one that promised and delivered the impossible.  He told us that we cannot do it alone, and that to attempt to reflect the wisdom of the proverbs using our own effort is futile.  With him, through him will we be awed by the wisdom, and ultimately overcome and transformed by it.  The voice of Jesus, the one that spoke the truth and is the true voice of wisdom that we can confidently follow.