14 May 2022

Apest: Teachers

Bible study by Major Ian Mountford

Major Ian Mountford encourages us to identify those called and gifted by God to teach.

This Bible study series explores Apest, the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4 (Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers). For more information, visit theforgottenways.org

Key text

'We don’t need no education

We don’t need no thought control

No dark sarcasm in the classroom

Teacher, leave them kids alone

All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall’

So goes Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit song ‘Another Brick in the Wall’. The lyrics in part summed up my own childhood experience of school.

Thankfully, learning is a lifelong process and, over the years, gifted teachers have blessed me with their patience and encouragement and have helped me to develop.

My respect for teachers has grown even more during the Covid-19 pandemic. Teachers rapidly adapted to the crisis by teaching remotely, then, upon returning to the classroom, faced yet more daunting challenges. Despite this, so many remain faithful to their vocation. They need our thanks, support and prayers.

When it comes to whole-of-life learning, contexts and subjects will vary, but gifted teachers know and communicate their subject well. Whether it is creating curiosity, developing resources or employing active-learning experiences, teachers seek to develop a systematic and comprehensive understanding in their pupils, suspending any bias while encouraging self-development.

Pause and reflect

  • Whose teaching has inspired and equipped you?
  • What was it about them that enabled learning to take place?

The Gospels refer to Jesus as teacher – ‘rabbi’ – 45 times. Jesus confirmed this assessment: ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am’ (John 13:13).

Stock image of someone reading the Bible

Matthew 5:1-2

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

Read the Sermon on the Mount

Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life – provides light for our path. Beginning with the Beatitudes, his Sermon on the Mount is considered to be the most authoritative moral teaching on record. It is Jesus’ Kingdom manifesto – the shape of things to come.

‘Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountain (as Moses had done before him) and he sat down (as Jewish teachers of his day usually did). His disciples gathered around him. And he began to teach them’ (Matthew 5:1 and 2 The Voice).

As Jesus taught in this open-air classroom near Capernaum, crowds gathered, hearts and minds were captivated and his hearers recognised his authority.

What was authoritative and radical about Jesus’ teaching and approach?

Whether on a mountain, from a boat or during mealtimes, Jesus immersed his pupils in the learning process. He asked questions, gave tangible examples, challenged them to be as ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Matthew 5:13 and 14) and encouraged them to practise what they had learnt.

Many people acknowledge Jesus as a great teacher yet deny that he is the Son of God. His teaching, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount, focuses beyond moral issues of the Law to a revelation of his Kingdom.

Jesus teaches Kingdom life, which Paul reminds us is based on grace, not works, and requires faith in Jesus (see Ephesians 2:8 and 9). Kingdom living can be measured only by his standards.

Along with apostles, prophets, evangelists and shepherds, Jesus gives us teachers in order to ‘equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up ... and become mature’ (Ephesians 4:12 and 13). When it comes to discipleship and growth, called and gifted teachers are crucial and they will be present within your fellowship.

Pause and reflect

  • Who are the teachers in your corps and community?

Teacher or not, each of us – through our words, actions and attitudes – is an example from whom, for good or bad, others learn.

Every area of our life, therefore, ought to point to the lordship of Christ. Only by knowing Jesus – who teaches us how to love, pray and serve – can we make Jesus known to others.

Paul reminds us that: ‘We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is ... teaching, then teach’ (Romans 12:6–8). The calling and function of a teacher is one that the Holy Spirit equips and enables to be used in God’s service.

In his trilogy God’s Energy, author Christian Schwarz considers how our triune God is intricately involved in every aspect of life from the micro to the macro and, by his Spirit, provides energy as dunamis to empower life in all its fullness. Schwarz argues that this energising makes Jesus’ teaching unique.

As Paul points out in Colossians 1:17, Jesus is ‘before all things, and in him all things hold together’. Therefore, whatever our circumstance and in every context, there is always something Jesus wants to teach us.

Pause and reflect

  • What has Jesus taught you today?
  • How might you help immerse others in the teaching of Jesus?

The Bible study was originally published in Salvationist magazine on 26 March 2022.

Let's pray

Good Teacher, who has taught us your ways, help us to teach your wisdom and truth to shape the character of others. Enable us to teach with vision and love to enable a more Christlike world.


Written by

Major Ian Mountford

Major Ian Mountford

Corps Officer, Chelmsford, and Territorial Mission Enabler

Discover the rest of the series

All devotions

Captain Callum McKenna highlights what it means to be ‘sent’ with God’s message.

Major Matt Butler highlights those who bring correction and challenge to God’s people.

Bethany Munn asks whether we walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Major Vikki Burr considers what we can learn from the Shepherd’s Psalm.

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