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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Alvah Sabin Hobart, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Crozer Theological Seminary
From Pedagogy for Ministers, 1917
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: MATT. 28:19.
MR. SPURGEON once said that he could not talk on any public occasion without a text. If he did not have one stated he had one in mind. The text controlling my thought in these chapters reads as follows:
Go ye, therefore, And teach all nations, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world.
This commission is the most important of Christian teaching next to the promise of salvation by faith in Jesus.
It not only was necessary for their guidance, since he left the whole cause for which he came into the world in their hands, but it was necessary for their encouragement in the arduous undertaking. If they had not done what this directed them to do the message and the teaching of Jesus would have evaporated from men's minds in a generation or two and made no considerable mark upon the world's life.
But because they sought to obey the command, and to pass it on to others, and because the churches also have ever since taken it as their commission, the Gospel has been preached, and the truth has been taught to a great portion of the world.
And since the pastors are the natural inheritors of the commission to teach, it is in a special degree incumbent on them to give attention to the full import of the commission.
It has four consecutive steps.
"Go." It is not "stay and give the gospel to all that come," but go to all. "Teach" all nations. That included what Paul said he was especially told to do. (Rom. 1:5 "By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:"
Rom. 10:14 "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"
Gal 1:16 "To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:"
It was what the twelve did not attempt to do very enthusiastically. Peter needed to be taught it again when he was sent to Cornelius. (Acts 10:1-48.) The whole church in Jerusalem needed to have it pressed upon them after Peter had been taught it. Nearly all Jerusalem Christians had failed to see the full import of it, and it took persecution to scatter them before they were able to see it as a duty to speak the word to the Gentiles also (Acts 11:19-2I) and persuade them to enroll in the school of Jesus as " disciples" or students.
"Baptize." That is lead them out into a public confession in the appointed way.
"Teach" them. After they are enrolled in the school of Jesus do not think that all is now done; that now they are "saved"; as if salvation meant only some sort of insurance against future punishment, but give them the enlightenment and discipline of life that will lead them to do what Jesus had taught that men ought to do to "observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
This "teaching them to observe" is to crown your endeavors. It is to be the goal to which you are to try and bring them all. It is the dominating purpose that should regulate and infuse itself into all your other work.
We do not have the record of the actual work of those twelve. But we have the record which makes it certain that they learned well the meaning of the commission, for they and the first generation of believers preserved in the gospels the teaching of Jesus. Both by recorded word and by the example of the Lord himself we are freed from doubt concerning what sort of lives he desires us to live.
Consider then the importance that is attached to teaching.
In the Old Testament Moses was a great teacher. (Deut. 4:I·) "Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do [them], that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you." This Moses has been the most influential of all the men of history except the Man of Nazareth. Mosaic ideas of justice and mercy, of truth and fidelity to duty, of courage and patience saturate the practices of all the Christian world.
When Samuel came to the leadership of Israel he said to them: "Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way:" (1 Samuel 12:23).
Elisha appears to have been at the head of a school for the prophets. (II Kings 2:3-7; 4:1; 5:22; 9:1.)
Job said of God, "Behold, God exalteth by his power: who teacheth like him?" (36:22.) See also 35:11.
The Psalms abound in allusions to the teaching of truth.
Psalm 25:8, "Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way."
Psalm 34:11, "Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD."
Psalm 51:12-13, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit.
[Then] will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Psalm 90:12, "So teach [us] to number our days, that we may apply [our] hearts unto wisdom."
A study of the Psalms shows that all the fundamental principles of education were employed by those who arranged the ceremonial services of the temple. There is a rich amount of song in which the character of God is declared. There are songs of praise from the men of great faith. There are warnings against wickedness. The grandest metaphors and the finest of similes are used to express good men's ideas of God. Then there are the historical psalms like the 104-106, in which the history of the nation as God had guided it was taught by repetition. In all this the purpose was not simply to tell the story of the nation but to show that God's hand was in it all.
Merle d'Aubigne wrote in the preface of his history of the Reformation, "The history of the world should be set forth as the annals of the Sovereign king." ... "I have gone down the lists whither the recitals of our historians have invited me. There I have witnessed the actions of men, and of nations, developing themselves with energy, and contending in violent collision. I have heard a strange din of arms, but I have nowhere seen the majestic countenance of the presiding Judge."
That could not be said of the Bible. It sketches the path along which the nation of Israel stumbled; but the hand of God is in every leading event, and the guidance of God in every great man's life. The historical books and the devotional books alike are books that teach the things of God and the duties of man. Even the out bursts of praise from joyous souls, and the mournful cries of men in great trial, were sought out and inserted in the book to teach the way of God with men. The charge of d'Aubigne against modern historians cannot be brought against the books that make up our Bible. In that Book the "majestic countenance of the judge" always shines upon the path of the people who worship him.
ln the New Testament. Here the record shows that Jesus' great work was teaching. Matthew 7:29, "For he taught them as [one] having authority, and not as the scribes."
Mark 10:1 "And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again."
John 7:14, "Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught."
John 3:2, "The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God."
And these verbal designations are only indications of what is in the heart of all his ministry. He was always teaching men the things of God. All Jerusalem and all Galilee thought of him not as some great, fiery orator, like John the Baptist, nor like the prophet Elijah, but as a man who was stirring up the country by his teaching. He set men to thinking. When he rebuked he showed them why they deserved his rebukes.
When he exhorted he gave them reasons for his exhortation. When he would inspire them to courage and endurance he gave the truth which was back of his encouragement. (John 18:37, "Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.) When he stood before Pilate and was asked if he were a king he replied, "I came into the world to bear witness to the truth."
After he was gone his disciples became teachers. The complaint made about them was, Acts 5:25, "Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people."
Acts 5:42, "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
When the church was started at Antioch, Barnabas came and found Saul who was then getting a great name as a teacher. Acts 11:26, "And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."
Apollos was said to have "This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord," (Acts 18:24) " but he was not fully informed. Then Aquila and Priscilla "took him unto [them], and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." This seems have been the first theological school after ascension.
The nature of the work. Beyond all these exemplifications of the teaching habit of great leaders, and beyond all the suggestions that may come from the word "teacher" or "teaching," there lies in the very nature of the pastor's work the necessity for teaching. The pastor's work is to lead men to high moral and spiritual life. But that can only be done by enabling them to see and feel the truth that moral and spiritual life rest upon. Men may be scared into an outward conformity, but they are not transformed by it.
Break a man's sense of fear and he will go back to his sins as "the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." (2 Peter 2:22) Men may be coaxed into joining a church to please friends or to gain some social end, but they are not lifted in their life. Men may be hired to join the procession of the Christian world by promises of heaven or something that they value more than heaven. Such are only a higher kind of "rice Christians."
All these fail when the times of trial come. But the man who has been made to see the truth that underlies all the Christian life is as sure to go the way of truth as water is to run down hill. Men cannot commit themselves, and they ought not to commit themselves, as the Christian must commit himself, either to a system of ethics or to a theory of life or to the man Jesus as Savior, unless they know enough about them to justify their faith. If they know but little they can trust but little. If they begin their discipleship upon an erroneous idea of what it means they will desert the cause when they discover their error. They must be taught the principles correctly.
It is the men who are convinced that stay in the line of duty. When men have begun correctly they must still be taught the truths adapted to more mature experience. If they have been mis-taught they are to be corrected. As Paul wrote to Titus, they must be convinced by sound doctrine. (Titus 1:9) An incorrect doctrine will deflect a man's conduct as surely as a load of steel will deflect the needle of the ship's compass. One cannot hold a philosophy that is against the Christian teaching without his life being gradually deflected from the Christian path.
A Utilitarian will find his estimate of conduct out of harmony with the estimate made by a man who is an Idealist. A Calvinistic theology will impart a tone to a man's life different from that which an Armenian theology will give. This is why Paul in his attempts to correct the life of the disciples began his letters with a doctrinal section and then from the doctrine he proceeded with his "Therefores" to specific lines of duty.
(Rom. 5:1) Therefore ... we have peace with God.
(Gal. 5:1) Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.
(Eph 4:1) I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
Note the first words of nearly every chapter of Hebrews and see how the logical inference from the preceding truth is made toward a practical duty. Thus it appears that the teaching function of the pastor is not an incidental but an essential element in his proper fulfillment of his high calling.
The pastor is a man who has been up into the high mountain of truth and seen the far-reaching landscape. He has found the path by which he can climb again. Then he comes down and leads his people up to where he has been. And when they have seen the vision from that viewpoint, they will never be the same people again. Some of the details will fade from the mind but there will be a residue. The world will never be so small again. Life will never appear so short or so unimportant. The emotion may die out, the ambition of the hour may be satisfied, but the soul itself will remain larger and purer for the vision.
Teaching is the nearest to miracle-working of anything we can do. To give a man a clear idea of a great truth is to put something into his mind that will remake the whole man. History is full of instances in which a new view of the facts of life changed men so much that the words of the apostle are suitable, (James 1:18) "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth..."
Elijah's work was spectacular. His deeds seem like ancient marks of high water that we look at and wonder if the water ever was so high, and if it ever will be again. The Psalms are rippling streams of sparkling water inviting us to drink. Ezra no doubt did some good exhortation, but the work of which he has most reason to rejoice now is that he organized the temple services on a teaching basis, and wrought to secure a bible for the instruction of Israel.
The hymns of the church are not only vehicles for the worshipping soul to express itself, but they are schools of instruction. Looking at the churches that we call strong churches--not large churches always--and we see that they have been the care of educational pastors. The men who are honored most among us all are men who have the teaching gift. I do not mean to say that "house going" pastors and "ingathering" pastors have little usefulness, for they are both useful and necessary; but I mean that the more permanent results are from the labors of those who have the teaching gift well exercised and developed.
Evangelism has a great place in the work of the kingdom. Mr. Moody, Sam Jones, George Finney, Gipsy Smith, J. Wilber Chapman, are names that will be remembered. But their work is scattered about and they cannot stay to conserve it. But others had a work that remains.
It has been written of one (F. W. Robertson) of them that "on those whose tendencies were toward skepticism the effect of his sermons was remarkable:
"I never hear him," said one, "without some doubt being removed, or some difficulty being solved. Young men who had boasted publicly of doubts which were an inward terror to them could not resist the attractive power of his teaching, and fled to him to disclose the history of their hearts, and find sympathy and guidance."
"The most visible part of his work was among working men. He bound fifteen hundred of them together in a bond of mutual helpfulness."
"Dissenting preachers spoke of his sermons with praise. Business men wrote to say that they felt that Christianity was a power in life. Men whose intellect had been wearied with pulpit sameness read them with interest. Fourteen editions of his sermons have been printed and are yet read by many with profit."
Mr. Spurgeon was a great educator. Not only in his preaching did the teaching element abound but in his pastoral work and plans his college and his preachers' school were central. His work all has the earmarks of true pedagogy.
Mr. Beecher taught, but in his own peculiar way. He was so much of a student of psychology that he was an interpreter of men to themselves. He always based his sermons and his appeals on some common and familiar experience, and then started from that to practical inferences from the experience. His congregations were religiously well trained. And when he died, although they were thus made orphans, yet without a quaver the church went on with the work he had begun.
On the contrary Mr. Talmadge in the same city, at the same time, gathered great congregations and was a great pulpiteer. But when he was gone it took only a few weeks to disband the church. They had been accustomed to stare at his great stereopticon metaphors; they had reveled in his poetic fancies; but they had done no thinking on great problems and had no power to solve them.
(After writing the above the following editorial appeared in the Watchman-Examiner: Dr. Talmadge was a pulpit orator of the flamboyant, sensational type. His sermons were not intended primarily for the edification or the comfort of a local congregation and were quite as applicable to the people of Kamchatka as to the people of Brooklyn. He had no personal touch with people of his congregation and no intimate knowledge or of their needs or their aspirations. When the great Tabernacle went up in flames the church collapsed. In the great heterogeneous congregation there was not enough energy and spiritual life to enable it to get together to erect a new house of worship; so the church went out of existence, and the members scattered to other congregations.)
As a more recent instance we may name J. Campbell Morgen. Perhaps no man of equal ability in preaching mingles so much of the true teaching quality as he. Some of his views and of his interpretations may not meet with your approval, but his ability to impress them on his audiences is hardly equaled by any one.
"The foremost thought of the ministry is responsibility for the oversight of souls, so that the two (soul winning and discipleship [teaching]) can hardly be kept apart, with the further task of religious instruction. The idea of stewardship in connection with the minister has special reference to providing the household with supplies of divine truth." (Oswald Dykes.)
"By manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." 2 Cor. 4:2.
The teaching pastor, therefore, is in the best of company and has the surest, brightest prospects of long and unfailing usefulness.
I urge you to cultivate with all possible enthusiasm, care, and patience the teaching quality of your preaching. It will be the people whom you have "convinced by sound doctrine" who will stand by when the strain comes. Those whom you only please without edifying will hide when the storm arises. The young whom you educate will recall with gratitude your ministry. They will tell their children, "He is the man that showed me the truth. All that came afterwards only watered the flowers that he planted."