Spiritual Gifts: Teaching



For the next four weeks, we will examine the role of spiritual gifts in our Christian walk. Just as the baptism of the Holy Spirit has been debated throughout church history, the nature of spiritual gifts has also been a topic of much debate. This reflection series will outline four of the most debated spiritual gifts that often follow a baptism by the Holy Spirit. There are other gifts, such as prayer; however, for the moment we will only discuss four. The four spiritual gifts are:

  • Teaching
  • Tongues
  • Prophecy and Vision
  • Healing

All four of these gifts have a core purpose in common but as we will see they are unique from each other in the way they are used. This week, we reflect on teaching.

As Jesus said, in order to spread the message of the Gospel to a fallen world, there must be teachers to assist people in understanding challenging teaching. The gift of teaching does not rest on a foundation of successful research.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

   the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. -1 Corinthians 1:18-25

In fact, the gift of teaching has very little to do with knowledge. The gift of teaching goes beyond the mind. This gift is strengthened and powered by wisdom: not the wisdom of men but the wisdom of God. A person gifted in the area of teaching can go beyond well-rehearsed lessons or sayings. They instill in the learners something deeper than mere mental assent. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the teacher channels the wisdom of God in the same way that Jesus did during his ministry. Jesus was able to see things that no one else could. He could see the heart of the issue before anyone else seemed to know the topic. It is this very nature that is given to an individual blessed with the gift of teaching.

The gift of teaching enables the teacher to teach to the heart, the place that needs teaching the most. The gift of teaching also enables the teacher to speak clearly to a variety of listeners. In the Gospels, Jesus’ effect on hearers is not limited by the demographic of his audience. Jesus spoke clearly to every heart ready to listen. The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach clearly and succinctly, in a way that differs from man’s teaching of spirituality, codified and complex philosophical webs of theological nonsense that result in confusion and not liberation. God always desires to be well understood.

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ -Jeremiah 33:3

The gift of teaching allows an individual to teach about God in a way that achieves this goal.


Tossing in the Tide: Purpose and Jesus


This is the final installment of the Tossing in the Tide Thursday reflection series. If you want to catch up on the series, check out the previous sections: Intro // Motivation // Power

At the beginning of this series, we talked about motivation when offering help or doing favors. Motivation and the purpose behind spiritual leadership tend to be quite closely related.  The motivation to offer help is directly associated with the purpose of offering help. For example, as an English teacher, my purpose is to give my students an improved understanding over time to the point where I can hopefully see a gradual progress in their ability to speak English.  My purpose is not to teach anything else outside of my given curriculum.  Science and mathematics are beyond my qualifications and responsibilities and should thus demand none of my attention. In my classes, I am motivated to focus on only what will help achieve my purpose for my students.


When seeking spiritual guidance or leadership, one must keep in mind the purpose of the help.  In positive spiritual guidance, two important ideas stand out:  the purpose of the help is always clearly identified, and the purpose constantly shapes the instruction.  As students enter a new classroom at the start of a semester, the first step for a teacher is to notify the students of the class that will be meeting in that classroom.  Often, one or two students, who misunderstood the schedule or misunderstood the class times, will bashfully stand up and walk out of the class.  The reason a teacher takes this first step with the class is that for a student to be there who does not belong would be a waste of time for both the teacher and the student.  Staying where you know you do not belong is pointless.  Once the correct students are in the correct place, the teacher passes out the class syllabus, which details the goals and objectives of the class: the “purpose” of the class.  This procedure is tedious to all, but important nonetheless.  The students need to be made aware of the end goal of the class and the upcoming lessons so that there are no surprises.  Everything required of them is clearly explained from the beginning.

Full disclosure is a vital part of healthy spiritual leadership.  There should be no secrets as to why the help is being given and what the end goal is.  In positive spiritual guidance, the purpose should always be to strengthen understanding and faith in Jesus Christ.  Anything short of that indicates, to revert back to our first day of class scenario, that you are in the wrong class altogether.   If there is even the slightest indication that the purpose of spiritual “help” is to strengthen any relationship other than the one you seek with Jesus Christ, get out!

John the Baptist is famous for many things but one of his most famous sayings comes from the Gospel of John in Chapter 3.  When questioned about the authority of Jesus, John responded in beautiful humility:

“He must become greater; I must become less.”

A spiritual leader is either serving to become great or is serving, like John, to make Jesus greater.  The moment the attention transfers from Jesus to the leader, you can be sure that the path is not the one you once shared with Jesus and John.

The second sign of healthy spiritual instruction is that the instruction keeps pace with the needs of the student.  Too many times, someone seeks advice or council in a spiritual leader but, over time, the assistance evolves into something entirely different.  Just as in a class there should always be a constant, active effort by the teacher to tailor the lessons and methods of instruction to best assist the students in understanding the subject better, so spiritual guidance must be personal to the needs of the one learning, rather than the favorite personal style of the teacher.  Students are different because people are different.  Students have various learning styles and learn in different ways, similar to or unlike their classmates.  The situation is no different in the case of a Christian trying to better understand Jesus and his or her relationship to him.

With the purpose always in sight, a spiritual leader should always be aware of how to best reach the goal of a stronger bond between the believer and God.  For example, some people find that meditating in silence and in prayer is a very effective way to rest in the presence of the Lord and to grow in faith.  While I also believe that silence is often overlooked by a modern Christian mind of ceaseless activity and distractions, this practice affects different people in different ways.  For some, the idea of meditating in silence for prolonged periods of time sounds uncomfortable at best.  It is difficult for someone to realize the value of meditating in God’s presence when the God in which to share the presence with feels like a stranger.  If someone told me to spend one entire minute in the dark with a perfect stranger that I knew nothing about in complete silence, I would not be comfortable at all.  In fact, I can think of about one hundred other things off the top of my head that I would rather do before doing that.  To someone that does not know who God is, this is not far from what crosses the mind when someone says, “Just get quiet and pray.”  Insisting that the person you are advising follow an unexplained, untried method just because it works or worked for you, might prove unfruitful.  In fact, it might act as a stumbling block rather than a step up in their relationship with God. Help that helps with true purpose always adjusts the methods of worship and demonstrates the activities of fellowship so as not to place a burden on the Christian in need that may negatively affect the goal that both should be striving toward

There must always be one common goal when it comes to spiritual guidance and assistance. The motivation that inspires the help should never be self-centered.  Rather, the motivation should always remain humbly submissive to a Christ-centered mission to serve.  The purpose of positive spiritual guidance should always be to achieve a better understanding that the true healing cannot be credited to any person’s wisdom.  The medicine gradually working its healing power through the spiritual veins of a new heart for God is only the word and Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The doctor can recommend the treatment, but the medication is what truly heals.  If we find ourselves more in awe of prophetic preaching from the mouth of a prophet or the healing power of a healer or the lights and sounds of a Sunday service, we must always ask ourselves if all of these things are strengthening or weakening our faith in and love for Jesus Christ alone.  If we find that the new leadership or advice we are following is strengthening our relationship to something or someone other than Jesus, we are regrettably still being violently tossed in the tide.  The only way to assure security amidst the shifting waters is to grab ahold of “The Rock” which is Jesus Christ. No prophet, pastor, teacher or friend should ever claim to be, “the way, the truth and the life.”  Only Jesus can and only Jesus is.