This one verse today is very interesting and one we should consider carefully today. It goes to the heart of ministry and who is capable of teaching the word of Jesus. Let’s first have a quick look at the verse itself.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.”
Peter and John had just performed a miraculous healing where they had healed a crippled man through the power of the name of Jesus. The leaders of the Jews were most unhappy about this and the fact that they then preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in the temple to the many thousands who had gathered together.
But in this verse it is the perceptions of the leaders and priests of the Jews that is interesting and it shows us a great deal.
First let us look at the words of the Jews. They recognised that Peter and John were “uneducated common men.” Now in those words they are showing their prejudice, for there is no such thing as a common man. Jesus later showed Peter that he too should not call anyone “common.” In the vision where The Lord showed Peter a great sheet lowered from heaven with all kinds of animals and told him to rise and kill and eat, Peter said he had never eaten anything common or unclean. The Lord answered back saying, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:15)
In that teaching Peter was about to go to bring the gospel to the Gentiles and The Lord was showing him that they were not common or unclean. He was teaching Peter to discard his prejudices about the Gentiles, for they too were now to become part of God’s people.
But the Jews did not see Peter and John as teachers for they were common men in their eyes. They were not of the educated classes. They were not priests, Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers or educated in any of the religious sects. They were fishermen and not educated in the ministry and teachings of Judaism.
When Jesus called the twelve, He did not choose the teachers and religious people of the day. He chose fishermen, tax collectors and the “common” folk who He would train to take His gospel to the world. They were not steeped in the religions of the Pharisees and other sects of Judaism and so they had very little that needed to be undone to take this new teaching. They were “new wine skins” able to take the new wine/teachings without bursting as old wine skins would if new wine is put into them.
The apostle Paul was an exception, and Jesus said to Ananias when he was to lay hands on Paul to receive his sight, how much Paul would suffer for the name of Jesus. And Paul did suffer. Not just physically, but he had to tear down all of the teachings of his former life in Judaism and count them all as rubbish as he began to take on Christianity. The end of Romans chapter 7 shows some of the struggles Paul had.
Taught By Jesus
But we see too that Paul, like Peter and John and the other early disciples, was not taught the doctrine and the gospel of Jesus by men, they were all taught by Jesus. Peter and John sat at the feet of Jesus and walked with him day after day watching and hearing and learning the truth of the gospel.
Jesus had already been put to death and gone to the Father when Paul became a Christian at his conversion on the road to Damascus. But look at what Paul says concerning his learning of the gospel and the truth of the new covenant in Galatians 1:11-12.
11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.
12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
As we see here, Paul too was taught the gospel by a direct revelation of Jesus Christ. He did not go back up to Jerusalem to learn it from the earlier disciples but went on to Damascus and was taught it by revelations from Jesus Christ.
We should also note here too that when we receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Note the words of John 14:26.
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.
The Holy Spirit is the teacher who will open up our eyes to the truth of the new covenant and the gospel of Jesus Christ in our minds, hearts and lives. And that is part of the reason why God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit and why we all should receive this gift. The gospel and the new covenant are spiritual teachings and a man who has not received the Holy Spirit cannot learn the fullness of them or understand them. Note the words in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13.
12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
So it is the spirit taking the words of Jesus and the truths of God who teaches us and enables us to understand the things of the spirit. It is not man who does this for man is not of the spirit until he receives the Holy Spirit.
But of course men do teach other men the gospel today just as the early disciples taught others in their day. But the gift of teaching is not bestowed on men by other men. It is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit.
The ministry gifts that were given to the church included gifts of teaching but these are all appointed not by men but by God as it says in 1 Corinthians 12:28. Note especially that it is God who appoints people to receive these gifts and use them in His church.
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
Also we see in Ephesians 4:11-13 that God gave gifts to men for the purpose of teaching, preaching and building up the church so that we all attain maturity in Jesus Christ.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
In all of these situations we must note that the call to teach and the giving of the knowledge to teach comes directly from God. No man can qualify another person as a teacher or preacher of The Lord for these are gifts from God given through the Holy Spirit. He appoints a man to do the work of teaching and preaching because we are doing His work. Men or institutions of men cannot approve a man to teach and preach the word of God for it is His work and His approval that matters.
And yet we know today that there are a huge number of theological colleges, bible schools and universities pumping out pastors, priests, preachers and ministers and giving them a man’s degree to qualify them to teach and preach.
They are not necessarily accredited by God and are not necessarily teachers of the things of God. They are being accredited as teachers of a form of ministry that accords with the views and opinions of a certain religious denomination, order or sect.
What does Paul say about people who receive “their letters of recommendation” from men? Consider his words in 2 Corinthians 3:1-3.
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?
2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.
3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
No, it is not those who are commended by men and receive their letters and degrees from a university or college who are necessarily the teachers of Gods word. It is those who have been appointed by God and given the gifts of teaching and preaching that are commended by God and who rightly handle the words of the truth. They do not teach a form of ministry based upon the principles of a sect or denomination, but they have learned the truth and been taught by Jesus through the Holy Spirit and speak the words of the truth for the benefit of the hearers and to the glory of God.
I am not saying the people who come through bible colleges and the like cannot teach the gospel and have not been called by The Lord to do a work. However they are being steeped in a form of religion that may not accord with the truth of the covenant and may have to strip away much of what they have learned to find and then preach the truth, just as Paul had to strip away his former life of Judaism before he could fully teach the truth.
Too many come out of the bible colleges and theological seminaries and universities with a degree and a job. They approach the preaching of the word as a job rather than a calling of The Lord. And in so doing they become as Paul described so many in his day in 2 Corinthians 2:17.
For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
When it is just a job and not a calling, when it is perceived as a source of income or, heaven forbid as some do, a means of becoming wealthy, then they have missed the mark. The purpose of the call to preach and teach is to serve so that the church is built up and the members of the body are brought to maturity in Jesus Christ. Teachers and preachers of the truth are not commissioned and ordained by men in a college or university, they are commissioned by God, in the sight of God and speaking the truth in Jesus Christ.
Be careful then who and what teachings you follow. The truth can be found if you look for it in Jesus name, seeking to be taught by Jesus in the Holy Spirit. Seek Him out first and ask Jesus to bring you the teachers to guide you, but go to Him first. Ultimately it is Jesus who teaches us by the working of the Holy Spirit.
And don’t take my word for it either. Go to Jesus first and foremost for you may find that the fulness of the truth does not exist in the organised religions, denominations, sects and so on of the church today. There are elements of the truth in all of the churches, but the fullness is not in them, especially where they ordain ministers according to their own sets of standards and not the standards of The Lord.
As the writer of Hebrews said in Hebrews 13:11-13,
11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.
12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
Do you want to find the truth of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the new covenant? Then you may need to do as it says above and step outside the camp (that is, outside the organised church), which is where you will find Jesus who also suffered, died and shed His blood for us outside of the organised religion of His day.
We are to be taught by Jesus through the Holy Spirit just as the early disciples were. The Holy Spirit is our teacher today and the Holy Spirit gives gifts of teaching to those whom The Lord sees fit to teach. These are bestowed on people according to the will of God, not the decisions of man. It is not based on a final exam like any university, but on the condition of the heart of a person.
So do not presume that only a person with a degree or a diploma can be a teacher of the word. In some cases if you follow such a person, they may be a modern day Pharisee, ordained by man and not by God. Be careful who you follow and who you listen to. Follow Jesus. Follow God and listen to the voice of The Lord and not the voices of men.
(Image sourced from stock.xchng provided by Sigurd Decroos)
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