Do We Love Enough to Teach?
I have borrowed heavily from Brother Harry Osborne after reading his article of the same title. If caused me to do some serious soul searching. A love for others will cause us to bring them to Jesus. We see such a love at work. Upon learning about Jesus from the preaching of John the Baptizer, Andrew “findeth first his own brother, Simon” and “brought him unto Jesus” (Jn. 1:35-42). When first century followers of Christ were so totally changed and blessed by coming to know Christ, they naturally shared that rich blessing with others.
In the first century, the gospel was spread throughout the world within a few years. Was that solely due to apostles like Paul and John? No, the book of Acts shows us that individual Christians (like us) who were not apostles carried that gospel to the lost wherever they went. When a great persecution arose against the saints in Jerusalem, we are told that many were scattered to other places. “They therefore that were scattered abroad went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Following the account of Peter taking the gospel to the Gentile, Cornelius, we are told about the action taken by unnamed Christians who had also taught both Jews and Gentiles in other areas. The record says:
They therefore that were scattered abroad upon the tribulation that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to save the Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:19-20)
With a deep love for Christ and the lost, the gospel was spread throughout the world within one century. Individual action played a major role in the effort.
While local churches have a collective responsibility in evangelism, we must not forget that much of the needed evangelism is the responsibility of individual Christians. Efforts by local churches to support evangelists in reaching the lost are scriptural and need to be increased (II Cor.11:8; Phil.1:3-8; 4:14-16). However, let us not forget that we have an individual responsibility (Gal.6:6). When no teaching of the lost gets done unless the local church establishes a “personal work program,” there is something lacking in our love for Christ and the souls of men. The best program in the world to convert the lost is for an individual, motivated by love to sit down with an open Bible and teach the gospel. This is the responsibility each of us has in our personal life as a Christian.
Just as we have a responsibility to share the truth with those outside of Christ, we also have an obligation to edify our fellow saints by sharing the truth with them. As we assemble together in the church, there is a clear instruction, “Let all things be done unto edifying” (I Cor. 14:26). However, the responsibility of edification goes beyond the assembly of the local church. In Romans 15, the same individuals instructed to hear the infirmities of the weak and not please self were also told, “Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, unto edifying (Rom. 15:1-2). Amidst other individual responsibilities required of the saints in Ephesus, Paul reminds them: “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying: (Eph.4:29). This is teaching by example as well as word.
In addition to directly providing edification to their brethren, early Christians also manifest their love for brethren in other places by urging them to receive faithful brethren who might aid in edification. An example can be seen in the Ephesian brethren. After Apollos was more accurately taught in the way of the Lord, the Scripture relates:
And when he was minded to go over into Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him: and when he was come, he helped them much that had believed through grace (Acts 18:27)
It is obvious that the church in Ephesus could not force an action upon the brethren in Achaia. However, Christians who loved their brethren in Achaia knew that Apollos could help edify them. Thus, they wrote the brethren in Achaia urging them to receive Apollos. No local autonomy was violated and no individuals acted in a way to seek a place of preeminence. It was simply a case of brethren loving saints in other areas and seeking to help by urging them to receive a brother who could aid the work of the Lord.
When individual Christians today love fellow saints, they will do the same things. Improving Bible classes and other methods of edifying the saints within local churches are necessary, but the work of edifying cannot stop at the doors of the building. Brethren who love one another will open their Bibles in private homes to edify their brethren on an individual level as well. When we have the proper love for brethren in other places, we will take advantage of opportunities to edify them. True love for our brethren causes us to share the truth and encourage others to receive it.
The book of Jude is a case study in the responsibility of Christians to defend the truth. The letter begins with the exhortation to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The readers were reminded of the devastation brought by teachers of error (Jude 4-16). The writer then reminded all:
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 20-21).
Paul’s love for Timothy and the brethren Timothy could teach caused Paul to warn of the errors and name of the sources of that error (I Tim.1:18-20; II Tim. 2:16-18; 4:10, 14). Paul defended the truth to the brethren in Colossae (Col.2:1-23). What motivated him to do so? His love for them and his desire for progress in the cause of Christ. The same could be noted of John’s warnings to Gaius in III John as well.
Can we be any less faithful to Christ today? Brethren, think on these things.