2 Timothy 4:2 Updated American Standard Version (ASV)
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
While many today look to Jesus for the miraculous healings and the feeding of thousands, this is actually, not what he was most noted for in his day. He was largely known as a teacher. (Mark 12:19; 13:1) In fact, just after healing many and casting demons out of many, Jesus went into a synagogue to teach. He said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Lu 4:38-44) This is our priority today as well. It is our obligation to proclaim the good news throughout the entire inhabited earth, in each of our communities, teaching and making disciples. – Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20; Acts 1:8.
If we are going to carry out what has become known as the Great Commission to make disciples, we have to improve our ability as a teacher. In the above Paul highlights this importance when he tells Timothy to “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1 Tim. 4:16) By looking at the previous verse at 1 Timothy 4:1, we find that Paul is counseling Timothy about dealing with the coming apostasy. It reads, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” On this the Holman New Testament Commentary states,
Paul turned from his triumphant hymn of Christ to a stark warning: the Spirit clearly says that in later times troublesome things will happen within the church.
The phrase later times refers not to some coming event but to the sweep of time from Christ’s ascension to his future return. It covers everything in between, from Paul and the early church, to Luther and the Reformation, to Wesley and the Great Awakening, to us. These are the “later times,” the last days. This great epoch of the church is the final stage of human history before the triumphal return of Jesus Christ.
These words from Paul are just as relevant to our churches as they were for those in the first century. They will continue to be valid for believers in the future last days. The troubles which Paul describes have been happening throughout history to the present time, at other times with guerrilla tactics and scattered damage, often with frontal assaults and great devastation to the church.
Paul predicted that some will abandon the faith. Apostasy has been around as long as human history. Paul dealt with it in his own day (1 Tim. 1:19; 2 Tim. 2:17–18), and the casualty list is high in our time. Even so, the church will triumph. (Larson 2000, Page 202)
Secularism: exclusion of religion from public affairs: the belief that religion and religious bodies should have no part in political or civic affairs or in running public institutions, especially schools
Humanism: belief in human-based morality: a system of thought that is based on the values, characteristics, and behavior that are believed to be best in human beings, rather than on any supernatural authority
Relativism: belief in changeable standards: the belief that concepts such as right and wrong, goodness and badness, or truth and falsehood are not absolute but change from culture to culture and situation to situation
Nihilism: total rejection of social mores: the general rejection of established social conventions and beliefs, especially of morality and religion
Apostasy (“stand away from”) in Greek (apostasia) comes from the verb aphistemi, which means, “to rise up in open defiance of authority, with the presumed intention to overthrow it or to act in complete opposition to its demands–‘to rebel against, to revolt, to engage in insurrection, rebellion.’” (Louw, et al. 1988, 1989, Volume 1, Page 495) In other words, the person is not merely leaving Christianity, but rather he is abandoning the faith. An apostate is one who is standing off from the truth in a rebellious spirit and is now turning on the faith he had held at one time. Certainly, this was the case entering the second century of Christianity, shortly after the apostle John died in 98 C.E. This was when Paul had been dead for over 35-years and Timothy was now close to the age of his former friend and apostle. Today, conservative Christianity faces an even greater enemy, who also stands off from the truth, secularism, humanism, relativism, and nihilism. Many so-called “Christian universities” have long gone the way of secularism, humanism, and relativism. Very few conservative Christian universities remain in the United States. William Lane Craig has the following exhortation to parents, which would also apply to pastors and elders as well,
I think the church is really failing these kids. Rather than provide them training in the defense of Christianity’s truth, we focus on emotional worship experiences, felt needs, and entertainment. It’s no wonder they become sitting ducks for that teacher or professor who rationally takes aim at their faith. In high school and college, students are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian philosophy conjoined with an overwhelming relativism and skepticism. We’ve got to train our kids for war. How dare we send them unarmed into an intellectual war zone? Parents must do more than take their children to church and read them Bible stories. Moms and dads need to be trained in apologetics themselves and so be able to explain to their children simply from an early age and then with increasing depth why we believe as we do. Honestly, I find it hard to understand how Christian couples in our day and age can risk bringing children into the world without being trained in apologetics as part of the art of parenting.
The world has grown unreceptive to even listening to the Gospel let alone accepting it as truth. Thus, we return to the Apostle Paul’s words of our need to “Pay close attention to [ourselves] and to [our] teaching; persevere in these things, for as [we] do this [we] will ensure salvation both for [ourselves] and for those who hear [us].” (1 Tim. 4:16) The kind of teaching that Paul is revealing here is not a simple sharing of the message of Christ, but rather preevangelism, i.e. Christian apologetics. As we stand right now, Christians are viewed by the secular world as superstitious, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals, who have refused to join the era of scientific discovery. We can turn this around if we can train the conservative Christians in the way of preevangelism. This Christian apologetics/preevangelism is laying a foundation for those who have no knowledge of the Gospel, giving them background information, so that they are able to grasp what they are hearing. The Christian evangelist is preparing their mind and heart so that they will be receptive to the biblical truths.
If we become effective Christian apologists, we will reach the heart of those who listen to us and move them to accept Christ. Therefore, the benefits of apologetic studies are that “[we] will ensure salvation both for [ourselves] and for those who hear [us].” Our first goal in Christian apologetics is to know what we believe and why we believe it. If we do this, there will be no fear in facing the secularist. Moreover, if we are an investigative Christian, learning to defend the faith and defend the Word of God, it is highly unlikely that we will stumble into the realms of doubt, and we can assist God in saving those who have. Our Christian children enter into 16-years of education if they go beyond high school into a bachelor degree, 18-years if they achieve a master’s degree. This means that they will face dozens of teachers and professors, who are going to inundate them into the world of secularism, humanism, relativism, and nihilism. There is little wonder why so many young Christians go away for a university education and come home after 4-6-years as an agnostic or atheist. We are at war with Satan, the god of this age, demons, and fallen humanity. Therefore, it is imperative that we train our children to enter into battle with those who are going to rain down on them every non-Christian philosophy: secularism, humanism, relativism, and nihilism. However, how are we as parents to remove biblical illiteracy from our children, if we have not first better educated ourselves about God’s Word, and trained in the area of Christian apologetics? So how can we cultivate our art of teaching when presenting biblical truths to others?
Developing Our Abilities as a Teacher
First, we need to concern ourselves with a personal Bible study and another study where we prepare for our Christian meetings. Second, we need to practice explaining the Scriptures to a friend before we engage the unbeliever, or especially before we share truths with the enemy. We do this by pulling one aside at Christian meetings and sharing points that we learn in our personal studies, as well as commenting at the meetings. Third, we need to observe others who are effective teachers. We should pay special attention to good teachers when they speak. We can take note of how they defend the faith, reasoning from the Scriptures, explaining and proving, instructing in sound doctrine, and overturning false reasoning. Prayerful study,
|Psalm 119:27 (UASV)
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
|Psalm 119:34 (UASV)
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
Observing other teachers,
|Luke 6:40 (UASV)
40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Practice to refine our abilities,
|1 Timothy 4:13-15 (UASV)
13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift within you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the elders. 15 Practice these things, be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.
We have but one Almighty Teacher. He has used his human servants to provide us with an infinite library of study tools. We have been fortunate to have guidance throughout these last days of Satan’s rulership of the world. However, not every study tool is beneficial for the Christian mind. The apostle Paul spoke of “all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:10) Let us just say that not all Christian books contain biblical truths. Therefore, it is highly recommended that the readers find trusted authors and trusted publishing companies, to avoid being misled, as they grow in knowledge and insight, which will enable them to identify what is true from what is false.
Teachings that are Biblical
We are footstep followers of Jesus Christ, and he set the example for grounding the things he taught in the Scriptures. (Matt. 21:13; John 6:45; 8:17) Additionally, even though Jesus was the Son of God, he said, “My teaching is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.” In other words, he taught what the Father taught. (John 7:16-18) We too should be humble and realize that what we teach is not ours, but belongs to the Father, who has sent us out through the Son. Therefore, our teachings should reflect the authority of the Word of God. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) While great apologists like William Lane Craig, Norman L. Geisler, and Ravi Zacharias may be able to reason skillfully with great scientists and philosophers, we need to note that it is always grounded in Scripture. What they know is that “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12.
This is not saying that we are not supposed to use our mind, our power of understanding. The Creator gave us the power of understanding and he expected us to use this ability to reason and to teach others about his will and purposes. We need to determine which Scriptures are needed to make our point. We need to ascertain what the author meant by the words that he used. We then need to do as Jesus did, take some complex and profound texts and explain them in our own words. A Bible student carries out what the scholars call exegesis (out of), taking the meaning out of the text, not eisegesis (into), reading our meaning into the text. Once we have a sense of what the author meant, this is what we share with others.
Using Questions Effectively
Many times, if we just give our listeners the answer, it does not stimulate their thinking. The readers of this book have likely noticed that many questions have been asked throughout. Using rhetorical questions before, with a slight pause, then giving the answer, will allow the listener to ponder what is coming. In addition, asking a question; then, permitting the listener to offer a reply will help us to see how we might better get into his or her heart, i.e., the seat of understanding. We could share a Scripture, by having the listener read it or we read it ourselves, pause, and then ask him or her to offer what they understand the author to be saying. They may not have the right answer, so, we may need to ask more leading questions that will enable them to arrive at the correct understanding. By involving the listener, we are helping him to reason on the Scriptures, to see how one arrives at the right conclusion, and to make the conclusion his or her own. For example, read 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Now, ask some tactful open-ended questions. Why do you think God condemns sexual immorality, like sex outside of marriage?” “What do you think of God giving this restriction?” What do you think of God’s setting our moral standards?” The person’s response will reveal what they truly believe, let us know how better to approach the conversation. Jesus did the same. – Matthew 16:13-17.
Almost everyone loves expressing what their viewpoint is on things. However, people hate being lectured to or argued with. Just how true this is, we need to look no further than a website called Quora, which is a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users, which was founded in 2009. Many have projected that it will be bigger than Twitter. As of 2014, it was worth about a billion dollars. Proverbs 20:5 states, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” What did Solomon mean? “People can conceal their real purposes just as deep waters hide objects. But the person who has the understanding offered in Proverbs [or the Bible as a whole] is able to bring even those hidden thoughts to the surface.”
When we ask others a question it needs to be inviting, not as though we are intimidating them. A great example is an open-ended question, such as, “what do you think needs to be done so that the world is full of peace and security, as opposed to war, insecurity, and despair?” After they offer their thoughts, ask, “What in life has made you arrive at that conclusion?” We could then ask about concerns over our children’s future. The questions merely need to be asked in such a way that they do not make the listener feel uncomfortable. Each person that we speak with will be different so we may have to adjust our questions accordingly.
In the above, Proverbs 20:5 helped us to appreciate that we need to draw people out. We need to allow those who are willing to listen to us, to speak themselves, sharing their thoughts, while we listen patiently without unnecessarily interrupting. (Jam. 1:19) Once they have shared what is on their mind, we can evidence that we were listening, by reiterating what they said in our responses. We might say, “Your point about ________ is interesting, I would agree with some aspects of it, such as ________. However, let me share a couple Scriptures that might shed some light on it.” If they have been ambiguous in their sharing of thoughts, we might ask some clarifying question, as opposed to summing we understood. We might say, “When you use the term _________, what exactly do you mean by that?” Once we understand, we can ask more questions to see why they think, feel, or believe the way they do. Some of what they share may be mostly at odds with the Scriptures, but there may be one part where we find common ground. After we agree with the one aspect; then, gently and respectfully explain why we would disagree with the other points made. We can ask if they have ever considered the Scripture _________ and ask how that affects their position. The one thing we never want to be is dogmatic or argumentative. – 2 Timothy 2:24-25.
The truth is the way people respond to our questions will be based on how well we evidence that we have listened to them. They will know if we are listening with our heart, really seeking to understand what they mean and why they feel the way, they do. If we unnecessarily interrupt, this will close them down. If we are merely waiting for the moment they stop talking so we can start talking to share what we want to share, this will be very clear to them. On the other hand, if we do not interrupt, but actively listen, and then acknowledge their comments in our remarks, we will be evidencing a willingness to listen patiently, which will attract the listener to us because they will see that we had warm, personal interest in them. When we actively listen to others, we are showing them honor, which may move them to listen to us in return. – Romans 12:10.
Whether we are going to be successful in helping a critical unbeliever to accept the Bible as the Word of God will depend on the effectiveness of our questions. Whether we are going to be successful in helping the skeptical unbeliever to accept a divine Creator will depend on the effectiveness of our questions. Whether we are going to be successful in helping the unbeliever to accept the faith will depend on the effectiveness of our questions. Whether we are successful in teaching someone in a Bible study to grow in knowledge of God’s Word, will depend on the effectiveness of our questions. Questions can help us to lead the listener’s mind from one point to the next. Questions can help the listener to see how the parts or aspects of something relate to one another, and in the end, arrive at the correct conclusions.
Our use of questions will force our listener or student to think for themselves and to answer in their words. If they are explaining things, as they understand them, this will help us discover if they fully grasp what is being said. Note in this book that at the end of each chapter, there are review questions, which are designed to help the reader get the overall point. These questions make sure the reader understands the material and sees how to make practical application of it. Below are different types of questions that we can use in our teaching.
- Closed Ended Questions: These are designed for a one word or a short phrase answer. They can be used to begin conversations, which allow the listeners to be involved without contributing too much. However, closed questions that require simple short answers, yes or no answers can also be used to control the conversation and to lead.
- Do you think the Bible is actually the Word of God?
- Have you always felt that way about the Bible?
- Do you believe that this is all there is to life?
- Open Ended Questions: These are designed for longer answers. They require our listener to think and ponder. We will better understand their beliefs and feelings, their wants, needs, and problems. They allow the listener to have some control in the conversation. We can use an open ended question after we have a few brief answers from our closed ended questions.
- What is it that leads you to believe the Bible is not the Word of God?
- What about the world today that troubles you the most?
- Leading Questions: These infer that there is but one correct answer and it guides the listener to that answer.
- Q: After reading Matthew 7:13-14, does this not suggest there are two courses in life, one that leads to destruction, which many are on and on that leads to life, which few are finding?
- A: Yes
- Q: After reading Matthew 7:15, does this not suggest there will be some who appear as innocent as sheep, but really are false prophets to the point of being ravenous wolves?
- A: Yes
- Q: After reading Matthew 7:16-20, what is it that will help us identify these false prophets?
- A: Their fruit
- Q: After reading Matthew 7:21, who does Jesus say are the only ones who will enter into the kingdom.
- A: Jesus said only those doing the will of the Father.
- Q: After reading Matthew 7:22, will there be those who believe that are doing the will of the Father?
- A: Yes
- Q: After reading Matthew 7:23, will Jesus accept their excuses for failing to do the will of the Father?
- A: No
- Clarifying Questions: These questions can be used in one of two ways. First, they can be used to clear up something that the listener Second, they can be used to clarify that the listener fully understands what something means.
- NOTE/Q: The term prophet has two basic meanings. First, it means one who proclaims a message. Second, it means one who foretells the future. What does the term “prophet” mean here?
- A: It means one who proclaims a message.
- Q: What did Jesus mean by many being on the path of destruction? Was Jesus referring to his disciples (i.e., Christians) and those of religions other than Christianity, or was he referring to his disciples?
- A: The many Jesus referred to was his disciples, coming Christians.
- Q: How do you know that the many who are on the path to destruction are the disciples of Jesus Christ?
- A: Just after Jesus talks about the two paths, Jesus said ‘be careful of false prophets.’ Then, a few verses later he says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven …”
- Q: Are these false teachers found within Christianity and why are they so hard to recognize?
- A: If it is the many Christian disciples, who are on the path to destruction; then, the teachers who taught them must have been Christian teachers. They are hard to recognize because Jesus compared them to sheep. In other words, they come across as innocent appearing.
- Q: What did Jesus mean by the term “fruit”?
- A: In other words, we would recognize them by their words and deeds.
- Q: Based on who you said could enter into the kingdom, ‘those doing the will of the Father,’ what should we know?
- A: What the will of the Father is?
- Q: Did the many on the path to destruction believe they were doing the will of the Father?
- A: Yes
- Q: Jesus started out by talking about two paths and false teachers, correct.
- A: Yes
- Q: False teachers imply false teachings, correct.
- A: Yes
- Q: What did Jesus say he would say to those who thought they were doing the right thing or thought they were teaching the right thing but were not?
- A: ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
- Q: We have false teachers, who are difficult to recognize, as they appear as innocent as sheep. Recognizing them can only be accomplished by recognizing their fruit (words and deeds), as well as knowing the true will of the Father. Does it not then seem prudent on our behalf that we should apply 2 Thessalonians 2:10 and 2 Corinthians 13:5?
- A: Yes, the ones, who are deceived by these false teachers, will perish because refused to be receptive to the truth. Therefore, we need to be in a constant mode of examining ourselves, as well as our beliefs, to see whether we are really in the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
- Refocusing Questions: These questions can be used to get back on track. In talking to people about the Bible, they tend to jump from topic to topic. It is best to stay on one topic, resolve those issues and then move on to the next topic. We can use questions to refocus people back on the topic.
- Yes, but how does Jesus’ words relate to __________?
- Viewpoint Questions: These questions can be used to find out how our listener feels about a particular biblical truth.
- Does this sound reasonable?
- Would it not be helpful if you applied these things in your life?
- Do you think God wanted the world to be like this?
The questions that we use can help the listener to better reason on the information before him. For example, what is a ransom? What ransom price did Jesus pay? Why was Jesus’ ransom price needed? It was Adam who sinned, so how is it just that his descendants must also pay the price of death? Why did it have to be Jesus, who paid the ransom with his life? What has the ransom made possible for every human?
Our questions as a teacher are asking who, what, when, where, why and how. It is our goal that our listener grows in Bible knowledge and gains a correct understanding of God’s Word. This is the case whether it is the first time we have talked with him, or we are doing a regular Bible study. What he says in response to our questions will help us to gauge how well we are accomplishing our goals. Many in the world have a callused unfeeling conscience because they have regularly violated it. Our questions can be used to sensitize the listener’s conscience, enabling him to sense the difference between good and bad. (Gal. 3:1-6; 1 Cor. 9:1-14.) In addition, our questions can get into the heart attitude of the listener so that he sees the practical benefits of God’s Word. – Isaiah 25:9.
Keeping it Simple
Much of God’s Word is deep and quite complex, as it is filled with poetry, idioms, hyperbole, and apocalyptic language, figurative and symbolic language, religious terms, many different genres, and so much more. Therefore, as a teacher, an evangelist, we need to simplify it, so that it is easy to understand. Once we explain a meaning behind a complex text and walk through how we got there, the truth is relatively simple. What we face in talking with people, are those who have read literature that misrepresents the biblical truth. Therefore, it is our goal as a teacher, to make the Bible easy to understand. If we are skillful at our task, we can take that complex and deep information and convey it simply, clearly, and accurately. Our goal as a teacher is never to make the information more complicated than it has to be. We need not add any more details than is necessary to convey the intended meaning. When we read a Scripture, we should ignore the urge to comment on every aspect of the text. For example, Matthew 24:14 reads, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Are we using the verse because we are focusing on the gospel being proclaimed, or the fact that it is to be proclaimed in all the inhabited earth, or that it needs to be proclaimed before the end will come?
If we listen carefully, we can identify what our listener already believes about different things. For example, if they say, “I do not believe the Bible is the Word of God.” If we just jump into a conversation of why the Bible is the Word of God, we have ignored the “why” does he not believe the Bible is the Word of God. It could be certain things, which may have pushed him into that belief. What if it all stems from his childhood of having Christian parents, who abused the Bible as they abused him? What if his disbelief in the Bible is a result of the hypocrisy he has seen in organized religion? What if it is because he has read some books by Bible critics? Lastly, what if his disbelief in the Bible is because he does not believe there is a God. Thus, we should never make assumptions as to why someone believes as he does. – Proverbs 18:13.
Therefore, it is important that we ask questions so that we can determine the why of his beliefs. The first question if based on the above declaration that he does not believe the Bible is the Word of God, might be, “Do you believe there is a God?” If he answers “no,” we still need to press on, by asking, “What has led you to this belief?” Once we have the why he does not believe in the Bible, we can ask yet another question, such as, “Have you had the time to investigate the Bible thoroughly for yourself?” If he says “no,” we press on with, “Since the Bible says of itself that it is the Word of God, and its author offers its readers eternal life if we believe and obey, does it not seem prudent that we investigate it ourselves, to see whether its claims are true.” If he agrees that this would be a wise course, we could offer to aid him in his investigation.
If we are going to reach the person’s heart, who does not believe in the Bible, we will have to use sound reasoning. We could wet his appetite by suggesting that we share a few pieces of evidence of inspiration now and that we might study through a book with him one on one. If he agrees, we could talk to him about fulfilled prophecies, which are evidence of foreknowledge, something humans do not possess. (2 Peter 1:20-21) We could take him to the detailed prophecy found in Isaiah 44:24, 27, 28; 45:1-4. We could explain that this prophecy was written between 778 and 732 B.C.E., and the person who carried it out was the Cyrus the Great, who lived some 200 years later. We could walk him through how Cyrus conquered the Babylonian empire. It is mind boggling that when Isaiah uttered that prophecy, Babylon was nothing; Assyria was the world power of that period. After that prophecy, we could touch on Jeremiah’s prophecy, which had been penned by 590 B.C.E. that told of the destruction of Edom. Then, we share the historical fact that it was the Maccabean leaders Judas Maccabeus and John Hyrcanus, along with the Roman Empire that fulfilled this prophecy in the second and first centuries B.C.E. We could then share Jesus prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. (Luke 19:41-44; 21:20, 21) We can look at the places where the Bible touches on science, saying things long before science ever knew. (Isa. 40:22; Lev. 11:6) We could close this initial evidence out with the fact that the Bible was written throughout a 1,600-year period, with over forty writers, and it is in complete harmony from Genesis to Revelation.
Discernment is keenly selective judgment. In other words, we have the ability to judge well, and our ability to determine is finely tuned and able to sense minor differences, distinctions, or details, to obtain spiritual direction and understanding. A Christian who has both knowledge and discernment is able to make decisions that if Jesus were in our place, and in our imperfect human condition, he would have made the exact same decision. One way that we can use discernment is in our sharing of the biblical truths with others who possess different worldviews and backgrounds, so as to save some. The apostle Paul said,
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may gain more. 20 And so to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to those under the law I became as under the law, though I myself am not under the law, that I might gain those under the law. 21 To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under the law toward Christ, that I might gain those without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 But I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
The appropriate, sensible, and efficient use of discernment in our witnessing to others encompasses the ability to adjust our part of the conversation with the listener, to involve his or her interests. This means that we must be prepared to discuss anything. If we are new to the Christian faith, we will have a limited number Bible subjects that we can discuss. However, if we study well over time that will quickly improve, but in the meantime, this should not dissuade us from engaging ones at every opportunity. How do we prepare to the point where we are deeply familiar with the Bible in an apologetic sense, which will enable us to engage almost any topic that may come up? First, we have a personal Bible study, where we are studying through the Bible chapter-by-chapter with the Holman Old and New Testament Volumes, combined with Norman L. Geisler’s Big Book of Bible Difficulties. Second, we prepare well for each Christian meeting, so that we may participate when opportunity affords itself. Third, we share what we learn with fellow Christians, family, and friends. Fourth, we take opportunities to share biblical truths with others outside of our circle when an opportunity presents itself. Fifth, we must discern what to share, how much to share, with whom, and consider the circumstances and setting of our conversation. Certainly, if in line at Wal-Mart, we would not share as much as we would with a person in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. We would not talk about the inappropriateness of Christian metal bands with a senior citizen, nor would we discuss world affairs with a young adult unless they bring it up. Are we talking to a “Christian” from a denomination that is not true Christianity? We would certainly not approach this person, in the same way, we would an unbeliever. With an unbeliever, we have many foundational matters to establish first. If we kept dealing with foundational issues, defining and explaining to a person of another denomination, false or not, they may get offended out our regularly treating them as though they know nothing. Again, we need to take into account their personal circumstances and use discernment.
Helping Those Who Evade Bible Conversations
Proverbs 19:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Proverbs 19:8 offers us wise words when it comes to our sharing biblical truths with others. There is a greater likelihood of success if we come to a person who generally evades Bible conversations with tact and discernment. If not that time, our approach will have laid a fine foundation for another occasion by either another or ourselves.
At times, when we attempt to engage a person in a conversation about the Bible, all of a sudden, they do not have time and must go. In all likelihood, it is not that they do not have time, it is that they do not have time for a long drawn out conversation. If we discern that this is the case, we can try to get around this excuse. We say, “I certainly understand and respect a busy schedule so I will be brief.” If we wanted to delve into a particularly profound point with this person, we can now hit the high points and stick to our word about being brief, and then close out the conversation. This will leave the person with a newfound respect that some need not have drawn out conversations. Moreover, there may even be a couple cases where this moved them to want to hear more, so they offer to go on in the conversation.
What if we discern that the person is short on time? If we misread and try to go on, he may see us as being pushy, which results in a negative impression. If we are visiting people’s homes to share the gospel, what might be indicators that they are not prepared to have a discussion? What if they come to the door with a cooking utensil in hand? What if we can smell food that has or is being cooked? What if the moment we introduce ourselves, they look at their watch? If these or any others indicate they are busy, we can simply hand them a Bible tract, apologize for interrupting and say we will stop back another time. This will impress on them that we have respected the fact that they were too busy to talk, making them more receptive the next time.
Proverbs 17:27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
27 He who restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of discernment.
Proverbs 17:27 offers us wise words when it comes to our sharing biblical truths with those who are short, brusque, terse, rude, snappy even sharp with us. If our voice is soothing, showing that we are concerned about the person, it can ease any tension he may be feeling toward us. Also, if we can get him on a topic that he is interested in so that he is sharing his thoughts, he may not be so defensive. If not, our tone and our willingness to respect his time and circumstances will leave him appreciating Christians far more than when we engaged him. A warning is offered here as well. If someone appears to be angry, we should just beg off from the conversation and move on, as he might be in a different state of mind later. Furthermore, a female should never witness outside of the public with any male, unless they have another female with them.
Some may appear to be argumentative. Here again, we must discern if he is closed-minded or simple sincere in what he believes to be true. If we decide that he is sincere, it will be a real test of our long-suffering because we should not elevate our tone in the conversation. We should never immediately discern that a person is insincere simply because they have a different view. We may want to use our questions, to draw out exactly what he believes and then use the authority of Scripture instead of our reasoning. (Prov. 20:5) When one hears a Bible verse, he can be more receptive than if we were to say the same thing in our own words. If I say that we are imperfect humans, and we cannot go without sinning, it is my words saying this. If I let him read 1 John 1:8, it is God saying this, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” How he reacts to the text, will determine if we continue the conversation, is it beneficial for him, or are we trying to win a discussion? We should leave with an air of mutual respect, and come back another time because he may respond differently. It is no easy task in deciding how much to converse, or should we continue or wait for another occasion. However, over time we will better discern these things, but only if we are out there sharing God’s Word in the first place. – 1 Corinthians 3:6; Titus 1:9.
Choose about four different Bible topics. For each subject, pick at least four verses that establish this doctrinal position, selecting and adjusting the verses as though you were building a court case. Now, determine how to use leading questions or rhetorical questions to walk someone through these verses. Go out and share one topic with fellow Christians before or after meetings, family and friends, which will give you the practice of sharing God’s Word. Do one subject at a time. Do each subject enough times, so that you move through the texts with easy. If you seem to lose focus or stammer, try it another day with someone else. In addition, participate more at the Christian meetings that allow comments.
- How might we develop our abilities as a teacher?
- How can we use questions effectively?
- Why are questions significant to our sharing of the gospel?
- What is persuasion and why is it important?
- What is discernment and how might we use it?
- How can we use discernment in our approach of ones who seem to be evading Bible conversations?
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 Craig, William Lane (2010-03-01). On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Kindle Locations 267-274). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
 Anders, Max (2005-07-01). Holman Old Testament Commentary – Proverbs (p. 107). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.
 IS THE BIBLE REALLY THE WORD OF GOD? Myths? Errors? Contradictions? Scientifically Inaccurate? [Second Edition]
 A worldview is the sum total of our beliefs about the most important things in life.
 Keep in mind that, even though Paul said, “I became as,” so that he might become all things to all men, so as to save them, he never became anything that would be contrary to God’s will and purposes. A bad example of this would be the modern day Christian heavy metal bands, who by all appearances, are just like the worldly ones. Such bands are nine parts world to one part, Christian. Can we imagine young Timothy, Paul’s student and traveling companion, being a member of Stryper, Vengeance Rising, Deliverance, Believer, Tourniquet and P.O.D? Much of modern day Christianity, has become like the world in their misguided attempt to evangelize the world. They are nine parts world to one part, Christian. This so-called evangelism is an excuse for loose conduct, i.e., an and excuse to be worldly under the guise of ‘saving some.’ While we are using a hyperbolic extreme example here of being like the world, to save some out of the world, which is complete foolishness, there are many other minor to major examples within modern day Christianity. Jesus used hyperbole, which is to over exaggerate to emphasize a point, but sadly, in our day, we do not need to over exaggerate because our example found in these so-called Christian metal bands is a reality.
 Or aquires good sense or aquires wisdom
 The Hebrew word rendered here as “discernment” (tevunah) is related to the word binah, translated “understanding.” Both appear at Proverbs 2:3.
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