By: Casey Bonilla
Matthew 23:8-10 “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ” (ESV).
*In context, Jesus is speaking to crowds and his disciples regarding the Scribes and Pharisees.
From the moment we come earthside, our learning begins. Some skills our human body knows on its own, but the rest – we are taught. Whether this be from parents, siblings, other guardians, society, or the world itself – we are taught. At some point it’s likely you entered some form of formal education, learning from teachers deemed older, wiser, more experienced, or more qualified. This is the system by which the world operates.
Has the church relied too heavily on the world’s teaching system and standards?
Disclaimer: Teachers are good things. Formal education is a good thing. Seeking wisdom and knowledge from others is a good thing. Respecting and learning from the experience of others is a good thing. There are people specifically gifted to teach and share and they offer great wisdom. Proverbs 9:9-10 says “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Instruction and learning is good, but the Lord must be the foundation.
However, when it comes to Scripture, when it comes to God, when it comes to gaining wisdom and understanding – we only need one teacher. The One who knows all. The Bible is God-breathed truth and instruction, providing for us the life and words of Jesus Christ, written and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says in John 14:25-26, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Here it becomes clear that together, the Trinity can and will teach us all we need to know. This is reiterated yet again in 1 John 2:27 where it is written, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie – just as it has taught you, abide in him.” God has given us the truth written in scripture and the spirit of truth within us, so that we have all that we need, through Him, to discern what is true and what is good. By the power of the Holy Spirit we can all understand what God is revealing to us through His word. The truth remains the same then, now, and forever – and the teachings of the Holy Spirit will never be false. The Bible can easily be misread, misinterpreted, and used out of context (or even within) to claim and spread lies. False teachers will use the word of God as justification for their beliefs, and the world is susceptible to believe these lies. You will not be able to discern between true and false teachings until you’ve allowed the Holy Spirit to be your first teacher.
I know many might feel overwhelmed or intimidated with the Bible, and automatically seek help in unpacking all that this holy book contains. Where does one begin? What does it all mean? How do you actually study it? It’s not an easy task to take on. The need for guidance is expected. God already knew, and he provided the answer. He knew how the world would change and how these words written thousands of years ago would grow harder and harder to understand over translations and loss of cultural context. The specificities might be unclear to the modern reader, but His message has and always will be the same. You don’t need to know Hebrew or Greek or be a history scholar to grasp what He is trying to say through these books. These good things can be helpful in revealing more about God, but the simple greatness of God is evident in the Scriptures alone. Open your Bible and the Spirit will begin to reveal to you who He is. You can listen to sermons and lessons all day long, but until you sit alone with the word of God and the one who breathed it into existence, you will be missing the opportunity to have the truth written directly on your own heart. The foundation of truth will allow your learning to expand, but it must first be carefully and intentionally set in place. We must dedicate the time to building.
As you begin to grasp the wondrous nature of the Bible, the desire to gain a deeper understanding will surely follow. When you decide to turn to outside sources for context, clarity, or information, your foundation will guide you. Does their teaching align with Scripture? Is it rooted in truth? Relying too heavily on any earthly teacher, no matter how wonderful they are, can all too easily lead to idolatry. A truly good teacher will always point you back to the source, because the Spirit is their source. More important than any sermon, lecture, or book is the Word of God. Those gifted in teaching will be able to not only teach, but to acknowledge that their own wisdom is from the Lord, and direct all they teach back towards Him and his word. Even Jesus himself did not take credit for his own teachings, but gave all glory to God. John 7:14-18 says “About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” All glory to God.
If you’re not sure where to begin, a great place is with the words of Jesus – The Gospel gives us direct access to the very words spoken by the teacher. Our God is gracious and our God is generous. If you desire to learn from the Scriptures, He will provide. The more we learn about God, the more our thirst for Him grows. To know more, to learn more. There is always more.
The first step is to simply open the Bible. Show up with a simple curiosity or show up with a deep desire to know your Father more; those who seek will find the Lord.