Teaching with Authority
Jesus taught with authority. The crowds and the disciples observed this and it astonished them. It was so different than what they were used to from the scribes—the experts in the Law—the highly educated scholars (Matt 7:28-29).
When Jesus completed His teaching compiled in the Sermon on the Mount—found in Chaps 5–7 of Matthew—He shared a parable about the wise and foolish builders (Matt 7:24-27). The simple truth of this parable is obvious since Jesus stated it—those who hear the teaching of Jesus and apply it are like a person who builds their house on a rock foundation.
What about those who hear His teachings but don’t apply them? They’re foolish! As with the metaphor in the parable—a solid foundation is essential for building a physical house. Likewise, a solid message or Bible study needs a firm foundation.
If Jesus laid aside His divine power and status when He became a man (Phil 2:6-8)—How was He able to teach with such authority that people, including His disciples, were astonished?
Where did Jesus gain His authority to teach?
It’s easy to assume Jesus had great authority when He taught because He was the Son of God. But that’s not what He says—He taught with the authority of the Father under the Father’s guidance and spoke words the Father gave Him (John 12:49-50).
This is what any follower of Jesus is called to do when gifted and called by God to preach and teach. But how can we teach with authority as Jesus did?
Is it possible for us to teach with authority as Jesus did?
It doesn’t come from hours of study, although our personal study is important. It comes from God—God’s Spirit dwelling in and upon us. This is what Jesus promised—
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 things that I said to you (John 14:26)
Reliance upon the Holy Spirit is essential for preaching and teaching with true authority from God. He is the starting point for understanding God’s written word and gaining insight and direction for whatever message is to be preached or taught.
Reliance upon the Holy Spirit is essential.
John the apostle reminds us of this in his first epistle—
But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (1 John 2:27—also see 1 John 2:20)
A firm foundation
As mentioned in a previous post, sound exposition requires solid exegesis—an accurate, faithful study of the Scripture text itself guided by the Holy Spirit. This is what’s needed as a foundation for any message—regardless of how it’s delivered.
Sound exposition requires solid exegesis as a foundation for any message.
The first step for preparing a message—after prayer—is our own exegetical study of the text to be preached or taught—a drawing out the truth from the text being studied. It’s helpful to have a basic understanding of hermeneutics but the guidance of the Holy Spirit is still key to gaining insight of any Scripture text.
Commentaries and other references are helpful for understanding cultural and historical and grammatical context, even for understanding the meaning of key words in their original language. But they shouldn’t be our first source of insight and study.
Our starting point
Our starting point needs to be our own reading and studying of a text guided by the Holy Spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to be the primary interpreter of God’s Word.
Let the Holy Spirit be your primary interpreter of God’s Word.
A simple and practical approach to exegesis is possible using the Inductive Bible Study (IBS) approach. For me, IBS is a simple and practical way to apply basic hermeneutical principles for studying the Bible.
I learned this as a missionary in the Philippines and teaching leaders in other countries over the past 25 years. As a cross-cultural missionary, I learned how to teach in a simple way while leading students and leaders into a deeper understanding of the Scriptures. IBS as a primary means of exegesis has served me and many other pastors and missionaries well.
I believe IBS is more than adequate for pastors and teachers of local congregations since few of us teach seminary grads. Biblical exegesis can get quite intense and technical but the goal is , as Pastor Chuck Smith said, to “teach the Word of God simply.”
[See below for some links on hermeneutics and IBS]
Do we trust God and His Word?
The role of a pastor—a shepherd to God’s people—is challenging. How can we keep feeding God’s people with authority and authenticity? It’s not that easy to come up with something fresh and engaging week after week but that’s an important responsibility of a pastor. We’re also called to equip the people of God and oversee various aspects of the church’s ministry.
So, how much do we trust the Holy Spirit and God’s written word? This may seem a strange question to ponder but it needs to be answered if we want to teach with authority as Jesus did.
How much do we trust the Holy Spirit and God’s written word?
Paul’s second letter to Timothy is filled with important exhortations and truths. One of those bedrock declarations is—
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV
This sums up our primary means for doing the work of the ministry—pastoring God’s people.
But do we really believe this? Do we trust that the Scriptures are breathed out by God (literal meaning of the Greek)? Is God’s written word really trustworthy and sufficient? Yes!
But if we’re confident in this, then we need to back it up with action. We need to trust the truth of God’s Word and God’s Spirit dwelling in us to feed and lead God’s people.
Our primary example—Jesus
This is how Jesus prepared His disciples who were the first church! Even after His resurrection, He gave them a remedial review of the Scriptures and their need to wait for, receive, and live by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures
“And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:44-45, 49 ESV)
One more exhortation from Paul—
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)
This is my desire and goal when I prepare a message to share with God’s people with true godly authority. My confidence isn’t in myself nor in others but in God’s written word and His Spirit dwelling in and empowering me.
It’s also my hope for pastors and teachers of God’s people throughout the Body of Christ.