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Theology > Church > History of the Church > Sustaining the Church

The Word which creates the Church (see: Creation of the Church) also sustains the Church—that which imparts life maintains life and matures the life. This life is spiritual life, creating the spiritual entity, which is the Church; and as the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the Church is spiritual. For this life to be vibrant it must have spiritual food, that is, the living Word of the living God. Jesus says: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jo. 6:63).

This give emphasis, not only to the Word itself, but also to the teaching ministry of the Church, and to those who have been entrusted with the responsibility of imparting God’s Word to the people. To Timothy, Paul gives instruction: “Preach the word” (II Tim. 4:2), because the Word is needed for there to be “sound doctrine” and because of the inclination of people to “turn their ears away from the truth” (II Tim. 4:3-4).

The teaching ministry is one of God’s gifts to the Church: “And He Himself gave . . . pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). These are not two separate individuals, but one and the same; the pastor is the teacher, and the teacher is the pastor. These words of Scripture ascribe importance to the teaching ministry.

In order to hold the office of bishop—the office of elder, pastor, or teacher—the believer must be “able to teach” (I Tim. 3:2); to Titus Paul added that the elder must “hold fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (1:9).

The following verses present the comprehensiveness of this ministry of teaching and of its significance for the Church:

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:28);

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord  (Col. 3:16);

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine (I Tim. 5:17);

Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow . . . do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines (Heb. 13:7, 9).

The Bible affirms that Jesus came preaching and teaching:

Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God (Mk. 1:14);

Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Mk. 1:21-22);

But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee (Mk. 1:38-39).

Note that the Text says that in Capernaum “He entered the synagogue and taught,” yet when He went to “the next towns” the Text says that “He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee.” Did He do one thing in the synagogue in Capernaum (“teaching”) and something different in the rest of the synagogues throughout Galilee (“preaching”)? Or was His conduct the same in each location, with the different terminology expressing various aspects of the same event? Were there two different strategies or methodologies utilized by Christ, or was His conduct in both places essentially the same?

It is obvious that the Text is not describing two different methods or contrasting events, but that only one act is indicated. Preaching/teaching are essentially the same with the different words conveying different nuances of the same event. To preach is to teach, and to teach is to preach.

This position is in contrast to the popular mind which distinguishes between preaching and teaching, with preaching being the act on a Sunday in a church building, while teaching is something that is done by a highly trained individual in a classroom, such as a college or seminary. The terms have come to be specialized terms with a precise and definite distinction. Some believers even state a preference for one or the other; some have been so profane as to express a penchant for a teaching-preacher rather than a preaching-preacher, while others in a more trendy vein claim they had rather be taught the Bible than preached at with the Bible. But can such speculation be justified?

To preach is to teach,
and to teach is to preach.

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