Acts 2:42 describes four key activities of the early Christian church. The first that is mentioned is: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching …” From this, we draw two simple conclusions: first, that teaching is an important activity in the church; and second, that it is focused on the message of Jesus’ apostles, that is, the Biblical gospel about who Jesus is, what he said, and what he did.
It is important to be involved in this teaching ministry of the church. As a church member, you are never done learning. Bible stories in school and catechism classes are only the beginning. There is always a need to be reminded. There is always room for deeper understanding. And we must help each other in applying the gospel to our ever-changing life situations.
In our churches, there are two main activities geared toward the teaching of adult church members: the preaching, and the Bible studies.
How does the Bible characterize the work of (a) John the Baptist (Mark 1:4); (b) Jesus (Mark 1:14); (c) Jesus’ apostles (Mark 3:14); (d) Paul and his helpers (1 Cor 1:23)?
The word “preaching” means “proclaiming”, “announcing”– the basic idea is that of an official messenger from an emperor or king who visits a town and declares a new decree of the king. In the same way, the gospel of salvation is proclaimed and announced in the church and by the church.
Some people think that the sermon is at the heart of a Reformed worship service. Rather, the proclamation of God’s Word is at the centre. That “preaching” is not just the sermon. The reading of God’s Word in the Bible is at least as important. The sermon should always be an explanation of God’s Word, based on the rest of the Bible. It should not become a lecture in which the minister presents his views on a topic. It is about the apostles’ teaching, not our own teaching.
An old Reformed confession from Switzerland states: “The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.” Would you agree?
According to LD 31, q&a 84, what happens during the preaching of the gospel?
It is easy to be passive during the sermon, to just sit and let the words wash over you. It is easy to zone out, especially when the sermon goes a bit longer or when it is a bit boring. If you want to profit from the sermon, you should become a more active participant.
What could you do to profit more from the sermon?
It is a wonderful thing that we have easy access to a printed or online Bible, and that we know how to read. Through the pages of the Bible the Lord speaks to you. It is important to study the Bible personally or in your family. But there is also an important place for Bible study together with other Christians.
In some churches, Bible studies are organized by the church council and taught by the minister or an elder. In the Canadian Reformed Churches, the organization of Bible studies is left up to individual church members. But this does not make them any less important. The Bible says: “Blessed it the man … whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on it he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1) That includes meeting with others to help each other study the Word of God.
In the yearly home visits, elders often ask whether you are attending a Bible study, and if not, they will strongly encourage you to do so. Do you agree, or is that none of their business?
It is not always easy to have a fruitful Bible study. You can easily get distracted by talking about all kinds of things. Often Bible study participants share personal opinions rather than studying the Bible to get God’s answers. A good Bible study requires hard work and good preparation. But it is worth it: it is a good opportunity to grow in knowledge, but also to help each other understand and apply the gospel.
Journal item: Report on a sermon in about 500 words. Talk about:
- What the sermon teaches you about God.
- What the sermon teaches you about salvation in Jesus’ name.
- What the sermon teaches you about your every-day life, as an individual and/or as a member of the church.