Bible Class (III)
J. R. Pope
Another question that arises concerning the Bible class situation is, Do the Scriptures authorize simultaneous group teaching? In other words is it scriptural to conduct Bible studies among several groups at the same time? Having already established the right to teach a group less than the whole church, at a time other than when the Lord's Supper may be served, the question resolves itself to the right to do the SAME THING, AT THE SAME TIME, with a PLURALITY OF GROUPS!
It has already been established that a group less than the whole church may meet scripturally for study. By the same right, the rest of the church is also authorized to do the same thing! What God has authorized for one group should also apply to any other group, by way of study arrangement. Now does the matter become wrong only because two or more groups are AT THE SAME TIMIE doing what each is authorized to do? It hardly seems reasonable that group study would become wrong ONLY because another group was decently and orderly going about that which it also was authorized to perform;
Numerous passages provide examples of simultaneous group activity that involved teaching. In Acts 2:4 we read, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other torques, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Who did the speaking? Those upon whom the Holy Spirit fel1 -- the apostles. Verse 6 states that "Every man heard them speak in his own language." Verse 7, ". . . are not ALL THESE WHICH SPEAK Galileans ? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? " From numerous nationalities and languages, the people stated in verse 11, "we do hear THEM speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God! " Please note that all the apostles were speaking! Either al1 were speaking at the same time to the same persons, and hence a state of confusion, or each apostle addressed a part of the crowd! Only the latter could be true, for all the apostles spoke, at the same time, each to a group in the language native to the hearers.
It is argued that this is not an example of simultaneous teaching but of consecutive teaching, that is, al1 the apostles spoke, but one after the other, with the entire multitude listening to every apostle. However, such is not the case! As each apostle spoke, he did so in a language understood by some in the multitude, but not by all, for there were different nationalities represented with different languages. A study of the "speaking in tongues" will indicate that the miracle thus performed concerned the ability of the speaker to speak in a language he had previously neither studied, learned nor spoken. It was not a miracle performed upon the ears of the hearers, providing instantaneous translation of whatever language was spoken, for then there would have been no need for an interpreter in any case. The miracle of "tongues" allowed one to speak in an intelligible language, understandable to those who spoke that language. The apostles (plural) spoke in languages (plural) understood by "every man" in the multitude. It is no more likely that every person in the multitude heard every apostle speak than that each apostle spoke to each person in the multitude. Such was not within the scope of the speaking in tongues. Yet al1 the apostles spoke, at the same time, each to a group in the language native to the hearers! Therefore, the very first teaching in the church was in a group or class arrangement, and it occurred on Sunday morning about the same hour we usually have our classes!
Other Scriptural Instances
In Acts 5: 18 we read that the apostles were put in prison, but further we read of their miraculous deliverance from the jail. They were directed by the angel to "Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people al1 the words of this life," and there, in the temple, were they found teaching. Verse 25, "then came one and told them, saying, Behold, he men whom ye put in prison are STANDING in the temple and TEACHING the people." Who was standing in the temple? Those who were delivered from jail. Who was teaching? Those who were delivered from jail. A man? NO! The MEN! (Plural) As many as were standing were teaching! Was it a confused and confusing arrangement, or by an arrangement that allowed them to speak to different groups, yet at the same time? Only the latter could have been "decently and in order."
In Acts 5:42, we read, "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. " With a membership of more than 5,000, this could not DAILY have been accomplished without concurrent, simultaneous activity!
In Acts 12:1-7, we again read of Peter's imprisonment, during which time prayer without ceasing was made BY THE CHURCH for Peter. However, in verse 12, we read that many (Of whom? Of the church?) were gathered together praying at the house of Mary. Yet James and the brethren were somewhere else (verse 17). What was being done by all was NOT being done in an undivided assembly, but simultaneously in different groups.
These passages exemplify the fact that group teaching, both generally and specifically authorized, is no less authorized when a plurality of groups conduct studies simultaneously than when a single group meets.
The "Divided Assembly" Objection
However, this matter often involves the right of a group to retire from a previously assembled meeting of the whole church. Is such in keeping with apostolic precedent? In Acts 15:4-6, we read of brethren coming from Antioch to Jerusalem to confer with the apostles about circumcision. In verse 4, "they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them." Yet in verse 6, "the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter." From a meeting of the church, including the apostles and elders, the apostles and elders retired to consider a spiritual matter! Therefore, the objection to a "divided assembly" is an invalid objection!
The scriptures abundantly authorize the teaching of the word in groups. These groups may meet at the same time for the same purpose. They may retire from a previously assembled meeting of the whole church. Yet this precisely describes the Bible classes! There is no separate institution, but the employment of an arrangement or means authorized by apostolic precedent!
One other point needs to be considered in our study of the Bible question and that is whether women have the right to teach in some of the classes. Let us next give our attention to this aspect of the study.
Truth Magazine VII: 5, pp. 12-13