Distinctiveness of Bible Class Teaching

Jimmy Tuten
Indianapolis, Indiana

Justification for group teaching centers itself around the question of expediency. Some arrangement is inherent in teaching (Matt. 28:19). A thing does not have to be specifically mentioned in order to be scriptural. The fact that some arrangement is necessary to teaching, and the type of arrangement is a matter of expediency, it stands to reason that any method that does not violate New Testament principles is authorized. Class arrangement does not violate the New Testament. As a matter of fact, they are a natural process in carrying out the commands to teach.

Distinctiveness of Class Arrangements

Dividing an assembly into group teachings is the natural outcome if effective methods are to be followed. A group assembled for Bible Study will he made up of individuals who are passing through different stages of development. These fall into three categories:

1. Different mental comprehensiveness -- The thinking and reasoning processes of adults, teenagers, and children obviously differ. This is an essential factor in proper communication. The techniques of persuasion, i.e., the art of getting through the mental and emotional barriers that continually obstruct the flow of ideas from one person to another are compounded when these factors are not taken into consideration. One way to encourage responsiveness on the part of the Bible Class student is to respect his feelings (Jesse S. Nirenberg, Getting Through To People, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1963, P. 23.) You cannot over-simplify to an adult without the possibility of making him feel like a three year-old. On the other hand, this simplification can cause a three-year-old to grasp Bible truths. It's simply unnatural to try to teach a Bible Class with different age levels present. Getting down to specifics is so much easier when adults are dealt with in one class and children in another. The New Testament recognizes the differences in mental capacities. "When I was a child, I spake as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (I Cor. 13: 11). "Brethren, be not children in understanding. . ." (I Cor. 14:20).

2. Different physical classifications - Our New Testament speaks of old women and young women (Tit. 2:3-4), old men and young men (Tit., 2: 2, 6), of parent and children (Eph. 6:14). Can anyone possibly deny that activating the thinking processes must take into account these physical classifications? Aged women are to be taught good behavior "as becometh holiness." They in turn are to teach young women "to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children," etc. Younger men are to be taught to be discreet. Aged men are to have other things stressed. The class arrangement takes into account these physical differences. Bible classes are as natural to proper teaching of the Bible as different classes in secular education.

3. Different spiritual capacities - In addition to the mental and physical differences, any group of people will be made up of different spiritual capabilities. There are those who are mature and who can handle strong meat (Heb. 5:14). There are those who are unskillful in the word of righteousness, because they are babes (Heb. 5:13). New converts are babes in Christ (I Pet. 2:2). There are those like some at Corinth of whom Paul-said "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither now are ye yet able" (I Cor. 3:2-3). The diverse stages of growth demand diverse methods and arrangements for teaching.

Dividing brethren into classes becomes the expedient means which recognizes these states of development. The various groups with their spiritual, physical and mental capacities are to be taught different things. It is only natural to observe that God is the author of the various capacities, and classifications and that He has provided the material for the instruction of these groups.

Groups Are Not Taught by the Same Teachers

Young women are taught by older women (Tit. 2:3-5). When it comes to children, God has fitted women to be better prepared for this teaching (2 Tim. 1: 5; 3:14-15). He has forbidden her, however, to teach over the man (I Tim. 2:11-12). Older men are to teach young men (Tit. 2:2, 6).

The point is this: various groups must receive separate attention. There are times when they must be taught separately. There is certainly nothing wrong with various groups being part of a general assembly for this instruction, but neither is it unscriptural to separate the group into different classes for specific attention.

There are many examples of different women and men teaching different groups or individuals, as circumstances may demand (Acts 19:9; 18:24-26; 21:8-9; 1.6:13; 27:9,11, 16:20-26; 28:16-20, 23-29; 2 Tim. 1: 5; 3:14-15). God has not bound the arrangement. It may be: (1) A public discourse (Acts 20:7); (2) A debate (Acts 19:9); (3) An informal discussion (Acts 28:30-31; (4) Group teaching (Gal. 2:2); or (5) The reading of epistles (Col. 4:16). God has not bound the place: Publicly, it may be done in a temple (Acts 3 - 11-26), in Synagogues (Acts 18:4), 1 on Castle stairs (Acts 21:39-22:2 1), etc. Privately, it may be done man to man in a deserted place (Acts 8:28), in a jail (Acts 16:25-31), or on a river bank (Acts 16:13).

The Church Has an Obligation to Teach

The church is to edify itself (Eph. 4:12, 16). It is to teach (Tit. 2: 1 -10). God set some teachers in the church during its infant stage for the specific purpose of teaching different groups (I Cor. 12:28). Some of these who prophesied were women (Acts 21:8-9. Paul told Titus to set in order the church that was on the island of Crete (Tit. 1:5). One of the things needed in the churches was younger women being taught by older women. It cannot be argued that this is a part of the womens responsibility of teaching her children in her home. This was part of the setting of the church in order; a part of the church's teaching arrangement of building itself up.

Clarifying the Issue

Whatever may be said on the question of Bible classes, people should keep clearly before them the real issue. It is: can the church, when it comes together for the purpose of teaching the Word of God (or, studying the Word) be divided into classes for such studies with women t4eachingsome of these classes? We have demonstrated that consistent with Scriptural teaching and principles, it can do so (Heb. 10: 25; Acts, 20:28).

The issue is not: (1) Can individuals teach? (2 Tim. 2:2), (2) whether the church has a responsibility to teach? We know it does (I Tim. 3:15), nor (3) whether women have the responsibility of teaching? We know they have this responsibility (2 Tim. 2:2; Tit. 2:1-3).

If brethren would keep these issues before them and study their Bibles with open minds (I Thess. 5: 2 1) the division over the issue of classes would cease. To this end are these articles dedicated.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 12, pp. 8-10
January 28, 1971