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Bible Study

Gifts to Men
Ephesians 4:

8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men…
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God…

The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us in this passage that Christ on His ascension gave gifts to certain men to support the work of the Great Commission He had just given to His disciples and indirectly to all Christians (Matt. 29:18-20). This work includes perfecting (maturing) the saints, supporting Christian ministry to the world and for the edifying (building up) of the body of Christ in terms of numbers and influence but especially in their knowledge and understanding of Scripture.

In verse 13 we see the purpose for these gifts. It is to unify the body of Christ in their faith and in their knowledge of Scripture. We can see from the great diversity of theologies held by Christians today that we’re not there yet. In many respects we seem to be more diverse than unified. This is especially the case in the doctrines of eschatology (last things), soteriology (salvation) and pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit) but there are significant, although less obvious, differences in other doctrines as well.

We should be asking why, why is this the case, why so much diversity when God requires unity? Where has Christianity missed the boat? How do we get back on track?

Heresies Needed
In another place, Paul, speaking of the divisions in the church at Corinth, gives some direction. He mentions, almost in passing, “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). We see here that differences of opinion (including heresies) are necessary so that everyone may see the God-approved truths. The implication is that false teachings must be examined and their falsehoods exposed and refuted, so that the truth may be made obvious and clear to everyone.

To bypass this step for whatever reason is to allow the false teachings that some will harbor to persist. It is also to fail to obey the instruction God gave the Corinthians and gives us through Paul. This is a major factor behind Christianity’s failure to reach unity two millennia after Christ gave us His Great Commission.

Teachers and Teaching
Bible study is an important aspect of the Christian life. The knowledge of God’s word is essential for Christians to be able to do the work of ministry that Christ requires of them. The gift of teaching relates to bible study. Those having this gift have a special God-given ability to both understand and communicate their understanding to others. Christians should avail themselves of Christ’s gift of good teaching whenever they can. This can be of a personal nature or in the form of books and commentaries. In either case though it is most important to connect what is taught to God’s word. The Bereans did this with respect to the apostle Paul’s teaching and were commended for it (Act 17:10,11).

This kind of ongoing critique of teachers and teaching is essential to the purity of the church. There are many false teachers whose teaching is obviously very wrong but there are many more that harbor error that is not so easily seen. There is much error being taught in today’s seminaries, error that their graduates sincerely believe to be truth and that they faithfully distribute to their flocks. After a period of time, this false teaching becomes dogma that cannot be corrected from within the seminaries or their ordained teachers. The correction can only come from below, from Berean-like believers that study and compare the different teachings with Scripture. Just as eternal vigilance is the price of liberty so is it the price of truth and unity in truth.

Christian, God chose you, adopted you into His family, and made you the essential key to the advancement of His kingdom. Bible study and intelligent critique of teaching is an important aspect of this responsibility. He will reward your faithful diligence as you serve Him in it.