I will be leading my first Bible study at the prison in a couple of weeks. Since this is my first Bible study, do you have any suggestions that would help me make it a success. I am planning on a study of the Sermon on the Mount. Any suggestions would be helpful,
There are two important recommendations and four very important principles for Bible study. If a leader of a Bible study misses these points, it will not matter what you teach – God will be displeased with your service to Him.
Be a Faithful and Holy Teacher
The first principle for a teacher of God’s Word is to be a faithful man before God in all that you teach and in your personal holiness,
And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. 2 Timothy 2:2-4 (NASB)
Paul wrote these words to Timothy. The phrase “faithful men” always pulls at my “heart strings.” That is what I want to be – a faithful man. That is what God wants us to desire to become.
A faithful man is someone who not only shows up every time to teach; but according to 2 Timothy 2:4, he is one who works hard in his preparation to teach. There are teachers and preachers who wait until the last minute to prepare for a sermon or a lesson. They depend on things they have already learned. They are dry water fountains with little or no living water to give to others and their people are hungry. With so little time set aside to prepare, they cannot give quality time to researching background information or for checking the Greek or Hebrew for shades of word meaning that help us understand what God is really saying. They need time to investigate problems of understanding that occur in the passage they will be teaching. Teachers and preachers need to be faithful men who really study hard. They should spend hours preparing. A faithful teacher is one who seeks only to teach what is true – not what he wants the Word of God to say. When he comes to the Word of God to study, he comes to learn – to seek God (Exodus 33:12-13; Jeremiah 29:13) – to discover Him. The teacher must always come to the Word of God as a student and never as one who has learned it all. He MUST always be ready and willing to change his mind about what he thought was the truth, should the Word show him he has been wrong in his understanding.
A faithful man is one who flees sin (2 Timothy 2:16-19). He does not flirt with sin. He flees sin. That is why we see high standards for leaders given in 1 Timothy 3:1-12 and in Titus 1:5-9. God is more interested in the character of a man than in his service. We forget that God removed Moses from leading the Jewish people into Canaan. God removed him because he sinned in Numbers 20. Ultimately, God does not need us! He can always find a Joshua to take our place. The ministry can continue, but God has moved on to someone else. In this case, the teacher misses a great privilege and honor to speak for God.
Give God the Credit
Give God the glory if others praise your teaching. Daniel the prophet did.
Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians, nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place.” (NASB) Daniel 2:27-28
Is it not amazing that Daniel did not walk in and take some credit for “having solved the mystery?” He did not! Most of us do. After we teach we are eager for someone to tell us what a great lesson, study, or message that was. We need to give God the credit even when the people praise us.
Depend Upon the Holy Spirit
How often we forget that the Holy Spirit is the real teacher and not we ourselves,
Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him. (NASB) 1 Corinthians 2:13-14
We can teach with all our heart and might, but unless the Holy Spirit is teaching through us the hearts of the listeners will be minimally impacted. And if they do learn something that is life changing, something that is very meaningful – guess who the teacher is? We are only the tool that God uses. Before a man or woman of God studies, prepares, teaches or preaches the Bible he or she needs to pray and submit to the Holy Spirit. Teachers and preachers need to ask Him to teach them before they can teach others. Teaching and preaching should result from the overflow of what the Holy Spirit has taught them during the week. Then they should ask the Holy Spirit to control what they communicate. He is the teacher’s teacher! One pastor has stated that after he has studied and prepared his sermon or teaching, he then asks God to make whatever changes He wants to his sermon. That is a great reminder that what we teach is about communicating God’s message. Teaching and preaching is not about us and our favorite hobby horse.
James 3:1-2 warns us to be accurate in what we teach because we will be judged for our teaching. What kind of judgment is He talking about? We do not know. He does not say but the implication is that we will not enjoy it. Unfortunately, accuracy only occurs when we pour time and effort into faithful study. The first step in teaching a book of the Bible or a passage of the Bible is to know it. That requires reading it and rereading it as many times as you can. Read it until you can remember the flow of the passage or book and what each chapter and/or verse is about. After you understand the flow of the book, then dig and start trying to understand the details.
Obtain a great book on principles of Bible study such as:
– How to Study the Bible by R. A. Torrey.
– How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur
– How to Study Your Bible by Kay Arthur
– Protestant Biblical Interpretation by Bernard Ramm
Purchase a solid book that summarizes and systematizes Bible truths such as:
– Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue (2017)
– Evangelical Theology (Lightner, 1986)
– Systemic Theology by Wayne Grudem (IVP)
If you are studying a book of the Bible, purchase at least three commentaries. Most likely they will disagree on minor points. That will help you to struggle with the true meaning of the verses in the book. But be careful what “Christian” books you purchase. There are many Christian commentaries that are filled with false teaching. Many Christian book stores sell what is popular and not what is biblical. Remember God holds you accountable – not the author of the book you read. God wants a faithful man. As a start, it is suggested that you review the lesson on “How to Study the Bible.” At the end of the study is a suggested basic core library. We recommend a more comprehensive publication titled “850 Books” as a resource for selecting solid Christian books that will be helpful to the teacher and preacher.
Every teacher and preacher should study hard and long before they declare, “Thus says the Lord.” When he or she speaks, the speaker should use a style that is comfortable. However, avoid any teaching style that leads to a sharing of doctrinal error. Remember the teacher is ultimately responsible for what is taught. A great book on how to teach or preach is “Well-Driven Nails” by Byron Forrest Yawn. It will be of great encouragement.
The next recommendation may surprise some teachers. It simply says your message should seek to make “One Point.” Someone may ask what does that mean? The phrase “One Point” attempts to address a serious communication error of many teachers. Many teachers do not work hard in organizing what they are going to teach and as a result they share everything that they want to share. That is, they cover too many points and that results in confusion. It is important to realize that everything a teacher or teacher says – illustrations, words, use of Greek words – whatever he or she chooses to say should support one point – one theme – the one idea or the one principle that God is teaching in the passage being studied.
Teachers must remember that God should receive the glory if someone has “been blessed,” “enjoyed,” “learned, ” or “was encouraged” by what was said. It was really the Holy Spirit who taught them. He calls us to be faithful men and women.
Suggested Links:850 Books
God’s Great Passion
How To Study The Bible