Isaiah 28:9-13, “Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, To whom He said, “This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest,” And, “This is the refreshing”; Yet they would not hear. But the word of the LORD was to them, “Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little,” That they might go and fall backward, and be broken And snared and caught.”
Isaiah 28:10 — “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.”
Many of my Calvary Chapel peers and friends will recognize these verses for they are the foundation of the teaching style of many Pastors within the Calvary Chapel churches. AND, before you think I might be critical or criticizing, I am NOT criticizing this style of teaching/preaching! This actually encompasses some of my favorite teaching style and led me to truly recognize and understand the importance of keeping the Scriptures in context. My years in ministry within the Calvary Chapel *“organization” helped me to develop my own style of teaching.
If you think about it, the Scriptures were written in an orderly fashion (as inspired by the Holy Spirit) to portray a specific line of thought. It only stands to reason that to “expose” or analyze that line of thought, you read it, study it in the way and order that it was written.
I have many peers in the blogosphere who teach by exposition in their writing and posts and their teaching and writing is excellent AND inspiring. When I was actively preaching, I tended to use expository teaching more actively from the pulpit and even when I resorted to thematic teaching, it was the expository study of the Scriptures that allowed me to teach the theme I was covering within the context of the written Word.
The one thing about the above Scripture though and the context with which it is given, is that rather than “dictating” an inspired style of teaching “approved” by God, it is actually a treatise of the Lord mocking a grumbling and disobedient people at a particular time in Israel’s history. You can read most of Isaiah 28 and see that the Lord is criticizing His people who are criticizing the teaching and the way it is done. In today’s parlance, you might say the people are reacting the way of teaching by repeating, “blah, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah!” More or less snubbing the teachers of the time.
Still, because this WAS the way the Scriptures to that time had been taught, it was a very reasonable and practical way of teaching. This is not to say that thematic preaching/teaching (expounding on a theme, such as sin, or love, for instance) is not an effective way to preach or teach, it is just that thematic teaching or even studying a theme has its pitfalls if the student is not careful.
Today, we have many religious fads and false teachings that have crept into the church due to preachers and teachers taking OUT of context, Scriptures that fit a theory or idea, and once that germ of a thought has taken root, a preacher or teacher will do all within their power to make the Scriptures fit their theory! Whatever the motive, no matter how it makes the listener feel, it is still false teaching because it is TWISTING the Scriptures to fit a person’s theory, rather than making a person’s theory fit the contextual Scriptures!
This is one of the reasons why I hold so dearly (and yes, use it quite often) the Scripture that the Apostle Paul wrote, stating, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” – 2 Corinthians 3:5-6. It is the Spirit of the Word, the Bible, that gives it life, the inspired meaning behind the words and not the words themselves. I have said it many times before and written in my articles that the Scriptures can be made to say just about anything a person wants them to say. This is one of the reasons we have so many cults cropping up from time to time and the false teachings that have infiltrated the church. Does that make the Scriptures flawed? Undoubtedly, it is the user and his ideas that are flawed. The Scriptures will remarkably confirm themselves when dealt with in the right spirit and context!
Plus, we need to be reminded that it is not just the preacher or teachers faults wholly, for individually we are responsible on what we accept as “gospel” and truth. When we stand before our Redeemer at the final judgment, He is NOT going to accept the excuse, “well, that is what my preacher/teacher taught or told me!”
Another of my favorite Scriptures was written by the Author of Acts when describing the exploits of Paul and Silas, “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” – Acts 17:10-12.
I want you to focus on verse 11 where it says, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica,” some translations use the word “noble” in place of fair-minded. WHY were they this way? Because, “they received the word with all readiness,” first and foremost, their hearts were open, then, and here is the main reason, “and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” They didn’t search the Scriptures to find fault with Paul and Silas, because their hearts where already open to the Word, BUT, and it is a big BUT, they wanted to make sure that what they received was the TRUTH!!! They held themselves, individually accountable for what they received in their hearts and minds!!!
If we, almost two thousand years later, would do the same thing when it comes to the Scriptures and the Living Word of God, our churches and most likely our societies wouldn’t be in the mess that it is today. But rather than be like the noble Bereans, we have become more like the grumbling and complaining Israelites in the days of Isaiah! This goes to prove a point I have stated time and time again; human nature just does not change despite our knowledge of history! There is only ONE way for which our natures can change from the grumbling, complaining and deceitful to the fair-minded and noble and that is by the very BLOOD of Christ Jesus and our willingness to be spiritually bathed or washed in it!
When we surrender our very nature, our very willfulness to the Holy Spirit who leads us directly to the Cross of Christ and we accept that sacrifice for the penalty of our sinfulness, then and only then does the Holy Spirit take up residence with our spirit to guide, to teach and to convict (convince) us of spiritual truth. Then and only then can our minds and spirit be reawakened as children and heirs of God Almighty, our Heavenly Father and it is then that the spiritual gift of discernment becomes active and allows us to see the spirit of the Word of God and not just the letter. We then step into the realm that the Apostle Paul wrote about to the Corinthians, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:12-14.
Anyway, I wanted to give you this introduction, so to speak, because I want to start some expository teaching on one of my favorite Books of the Bible, the Epistle of 1 John. It will be predominantly, verse by verse, line upon line teaching; thus the explanation given to this point.
Ever since I became born-again, just before my seventeenth birthday and started reading a Bible gifted to me, I quickly found that 1 John was to become an exceedingly favorite portion of the Bible. I think, for me, it was because of what I presumed to be the “grandfatherly” way in which John, the Apostle wrote it. It quickly touched my heart and spirit as a youth and was a big step to encouraging me to truly get in and read the Bible as a whole! I have been in love with the Bible ever since.
I hope and pray that 1 John will awaken/reawaken the love for God’s Word in you as it has me.
In closing, however you teach, or if you are a preacher, a minister (servant) of the Word, I hope and pray that you take to heart the importance of precept upon precept, line upon line in your study of the Word and especially as a guide for keeping the Scriptures in context. We WILL be accountable and answerable to Christ Jesus our Lord AND Master, for the words we speak towards the goal of instructing others; so, let not our words of instruction be in vain.
God bless and may the Spirit of the Living Word encompass your hearts, minds and spirits, always!