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The work of on-field missionaries is the same as the role of the church: edification (includes teaching), evangelism, and benevolence. Each of these 3 areas will be an area of focus in these articles. Missionaries must know and learn how to teach. How can someone share the gospel if they do not know how to teach or understand the Biblical view of it?

The focus during the on-field portion of the mission should be on teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Glover Shipp, 18-year missionary, author of forty books, senior editor for the Christian Chronicle wrote to prospective missionaries:

God has always wanted to save all of mankind. He has always wanted His people to be his voice throughout the world, to transmit His message to others. Never has there been a greater need in our world torn by wars, conflicting ideologies and evil on an almost unprecedented scale. And never has there been a more noble calling than that of leading souls lost in darkness to the light of our Lord’s Way.[1]

Dr. Shipp underlined the importance of missionaries answering the call to share the gospel. A warning exists for the short-term missionary who does not make his primary goal teaching the gospel.

People can be sincere in their desire to know and understand God’s word (as the Ethiopian Eunuch was) but without proper instruction a significant obstacle to understanding is encountered “Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, how can I unless someone teach me (Acts 8: 30b-31a)?” Those passages could not be understood apart from combining teaching about Jesus. Jesus taught His disciples for three-and-a-half years before sending them out in the great commission. While it is true the disciples were sent out on a limited commission (Matt. 10:5-15), it was not until Jesus was raised from the dead that He finally sent them out fully (Matt. 28:19-20). In this great commission Jesus confirmed the need for His disciples to “teach them to observe all things that I commanded you.” Commenting on this verse, R. T. France, said, “… baptizing and teaching spell out the process of making disciples … he is here presenting a different model whereby baptism is the point of enrollment into a process of learning which is never complete; the Christian community is a school of learners at various stages of development.”[2] James Estep, professor of Christian education, wrote, “Jesus’ commission to his disciple to continue his disciple making endeavors explicitly included teaching. Christian education must maintain the focus on making disciples of Christ, which does not simply end with conversion but requires continual instruction for maturing in the faith.”[3] The encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch and the great commission emphasize the need for teaching in order for one to be saved and a continual teaching in order for one to mature.

The Greek language has several words related to teaching. The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT) defines the Greek word disdaskalia (teaching) appearing 21 times in the New Testament as the action of teaching or instruction.[4] Didache (instruction or teaching) appears thirty times and is defined by EDNT as the active sense of instruction or of speech and exhortation in the form of teaching. The word didaskalos (teacher) occurs ninety-seven times in the New Testament. The verb form is consistently used “in the sense of teacher—when the audience is named in the account—in the sense of instruct. The noun designates a teacher, used in the vocabulary as an honorific address.”[5] Below in Table 2.3 is a list of Greek words related to teaching.

Should all Christians strive to be teachers? Mature Christians are expected to teach those less mature. The Hebrews writer rebuked his readers for the fact that, though they ought to have been teaching others by then, they themselves were still in need of rudimentary instruction (see Heb. 5:12).” The term “teacher” in this verse refers to all; anyone who is mature in Christ should lead others by word and example to maturity. As a person matures in Christ they are expected to teach others. All Christians are called to maturity as evidenced throughout the New Testament (1 Cor. 3:1-15; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-21).

Table 2.3 Key Greek Words Related to Teaching

Greek Word


Root Meaning(s)

Examples of usage

didasko -usual NT verb   for teaching              


to teach

Matt. 4:23; 28:20; John 6:59

paratithemi - used   regarding parables of Jesus


to place beside

Matt. 13:24; Mark 8:6; Acts 16:34



to put together, cause to coalesce

Acts 9:22



to interpret, to explain thoroughly

Luke 24:27; 2 Cor. 12:30



to set or place out

Acts 11:4; 18:26; 28:23



to train a child, to chastise, discipline

Eph. 6:4



to warn, admonish, exhort

Col. 1:28



to prophesy, to speak for

Matt. 11:13; 15:7; 1 Cor. 13:9


verbal instruction

to echo, sound from above, resound

Luke 1:4; Acts 18:25; Gal. 6:6



to announce, make known, declare

Acts 17:3



to pass on, to hand over

1 Cor. 11:2, 23; 15:3

The New Testament lays out certain qualifications and specific actions for teachers. These instructors must be faithful (2 Tim. 2:2). Paul commanded Timothy that teachers must believe. Faithfulness is critical for anyone who teaches in the church. He must be able to discern both good and evil (Heb. 5:14). A teacher must be able to correct error when they see it. When Aquila & Pricilla heard Apollos teaching in error, they corrected him (Acts 18:24-28). A teacher of God’s Word must also be spiritually mature (Heb. 5:11-14). A teacher must be a servant of God (2 Tim. 2:24). He should equip the saints for the work of ministry and edify the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12). Additionally, he must teach with integrity, dignity, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned (Titus 2:7). See Table 2.4 below for qualifications and actions of a teacher.

Table 2.4. Teacher Qualifications and Actions




Equip the saints for the work of ministry

Spiritually mature

Edify the body of Christ

Servant of God


Discern good and evil



Correct error


Soundness of speech

The New Testament, however, does talk of a stricter account for teachers: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (Ja. 3:1). Ralph Martin, professor of New Testament, wrote:

Rather than seeing James as imposing something new on his readers, we probably should understand that the serious nature of assuming teaching responsibilities was a widely known matter (cf. Matt. 23:1-33; Luke 20:47), though the authority of the Jacobean tradition needed to be reasserted in a situation where it was evidently under fire and where the teaching office was devalued.[6]

Dr. Martin goes on to say that James’ intent was to remind believers of the high standard of behavior for teachers. Ronald Habermas, professor of Biblical Studies, said James was warning unqualified instructors. This understanding should not discourage believers from becoming teachers. It “should elicit proper respect for learning and teaching, as God intended.”[7]

The New Testament seems to speak of a “teacher” as a specific role or office in the church. “And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? (1 Cor. 12:28-29)” Ephesians 4:11-12 also illustrates this point, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Andrew Lincoln, professor of New Testament, comments on this passage by emphasizing that there is no evidence to support “teacher” as an official office of the church. Paul is talking about groups of people, not their positions.[8] The vital core of the verses on teachers is the emphasis on their functions, not on the person’s status. Ephesians 4 is not talking about a Biblical model for the office of teacher. God calls every Christian to prepare others for God’s service.

If teaching is not an office, is the ability to teach a gift from God? “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching” (Rom. 12:6-7). Octavio Esqueda, professor of Education, wrote, “Although all believers are called to teach God’s Word to people (Matt. 28:20), the Holy Spirit especially empowers some individuals with the gift of teaching.”[9] John W. McGarvey, one of the most influential men in the restoration movement, would disagree, “The gifts of the Holy Spirit were various miraculous powers, intellectual and physical. These were conferred only upon a few individuals, while the gift of the Spirit is promised to all who repent and are immersed.”[10] Gary Hampton, director of the East Tennessee School of Preaching, wrote, “The use of spiritual gifts was compared by the apostle to childhood, or immaturity, and the time of God’s completed message to manhood, or maturity. The perfect word will supplant the partial spiritual gifts.”[11] Today the Lord aids the Biblical teacher by providing the inspired word and blessing him with the abilities of speech, listening, etc. However the gift of teaching is no longer miraculous but is providential and aided by the revealed word of God.

Is teaching limited to the role of a man? What does God’s word say about women and teaching? “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence (1 Tim. 2:12).” Commenting on the gender issues, Don McWhorter, author and preacher wrote that women must recognize “the role assigned women in a mixed gender situation and out of her love for Christ and the church by being happy and content in that role. The men are to speak the prayers and the lessons while the women are to learn, which means to receive instruction and understanding from another.”[12] It is important to note this does not exclude teaching children or other women. In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul indicates Timothy became great in his faith due to the teaching of his mother and grandmother. Titus exhorted women to be teachers of other women: “The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things (Titus 2:3).” In the very next verse Paul gives areas of specific focus for older women to teach younger women to “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands so the word of God will not be blasphemed.” Another study to show the importance of both men and women teaching would be a look at Pricilla and Aquilla and their teaching (Acts 18:24-28).

Is a teacher worthy of sharing in the blessings of those he teaches? Paul states, “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches (Gal. 6:6).” Richard Logenecker, professor of New Testament wrote that Paul “speaks of the duty of those who are taught to make material provision for their teachers.”[13] Dr. Logenecker highlights several other inferences that can be made concerning this verse:

  1. Formal Christian Education or instruction was going on in the churches of Galatia.
  2. The content of what was instructed was the Christian message or the basics of the Christian faith.
  3. Christian teaching was a heavily time-consuming occupation that deserved material and/or financial compensation.
  4. For some reason unknown to the reader Christian teachers were not being adequately compensated materially in some or all the churches of Galatia.
  5. Paul thought it incumbent on those who received instruction to take initiative to rectify this wrong. Paul laid the onus on those who benefited from Christian instruction to compensate adequately those who gave instruction, which is still the most appropriate action today.[14]

A Christian can teach in three vital mediums: song, words and actions. All members of the church can teach one another through ‘psalms, hymns and spiritual songs’ (Eph. 5:19). A Christian can also teach with words to others (Acts 2:40). Though one of the most powerful ways a Christian can teach or can learn is through actions or service (Ja. 2:14-18). A dear brother and preacher of the gospel in Orlando, Florida named Willie Fulmore often said, “a sermon lived is much more effective than a sermon preached.”

What role does the Spirit of God have in teaching?

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).

This verse does not contradict the need for qualified teachers to instruct Christians but rather emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit. The role of the Holy Spirit was critical in the early church as it is today but does this supernatural knowledge apply to Christians now? Jim Sheerer, author and pulpit minister correctly uses the Bible to explain this text.

The anointing was of the Holy Spirit who continued to abide in them. Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would come and lead them into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit came on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and led the apostles into all truth (Acts 2). Christians do not need any other teaching other than that which they received from the men whom the Holy Spirit inspired. They need no other teaching. The Holy Spirit does not guide each Christian individually. He guided the men who were inspired and wrote the New Testament.[15]

            Missionaries should prepare diligently for the work before them. In order to do things the Lord’s way missionaries will need to be ready to teach and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with both unbelievers and new believers. They must understand what teaching is all about and dedicate themselves to teaching the simple truth of God’s word in a loving way.  


[1] Glover Shipp, Fire in My bones: From the Great Commission to Revelation and Beyond (Winona, MS: J. C. Choate Publications, 2009), 127, 129.

[2] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 1115-1116.

[3] James Estep, Michael Anthony, and Gregg Allison, A Theology for Christian Education (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2008), 67.

[4] Horst Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 316-317.

[5] Ibid., 317.

[6] Ralph Martin, Word Biblical Commentary: James (Grand Rapids, MI: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988), 108.

[7] Ronald Habermas, Teaching for Reconciliation: Foundations & Practice of Christian Education Ministry. Rev. ed. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001), 124.

[8] Andrew Lincoln, Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians (Grand Rapids, MI: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), 251.

[9] Ibid.,83.

[10] Goebel Music, A Resource and Reference Volume on the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Colleyville, TX: Goebel Music Publications, 2000), 22.

[11] Gary Hampton, Strengthening the Temple of God (Valdosta, GA: Colson Printing Company, 1995), 23.

[12] Don McWhorter, God’s Woman: Feminine or Feminist (Huntsville, AL: Publishing Designs, 1992), 121.

[13] Richard Logenecker, Word Biblical Commentary: Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), 278-279.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Jim Sheerer, New Testament Commentary (Chickasha, OK: Yeomen Press, 2001), 1086.

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