Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5, 6 and 7, often called the “Sermon on the Mount,” is one of the most amazing sections of teaching in the Bible. In just 106 verses of Scripture, Matthew records what Jesus taught in one day, on various aspects of the Kingdom of God and ways Christians are to honor, serve Him, and interact with others. It includes His 8 Beatitudes and what is called the Lord’s Prayer. Most people agree that it is the greatest sermon ever preached.
Sayings from the Sermon on the Mount have become part of our everyday language. Phrases like, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Judge not,” “You are the salt of the earth,” “A city on a hill cannot be hidden,” “Let your light shine,” “Turn the other cheek,” and many more are found in the Sermon on the Mount.
Immediately following the sermon, Matthew wrote: “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29). The teaching of Jesus compared to the scribes was so remarkably different that the hearers were “amazed.” This word literally means they were knocked out or overwhelmed at His teaching.
Notice what it was that shocked their thinking and distinguished Christ’s teaching—it was His authority! Jesus taught with the authority of God, not as the scribes. When Jesus taught, as the Spokesman of God, people were moved and convinced!
Some of you may remember the television commercials for E. F. Hutton from the 1980’s. Hutton was a financial services company, whose television advertisements gained nationwide notoriety for almost 20 years. In one ad, a planeload of people was in their seats, chatting with each other while some read newspapers and magazines. In the middle of the scene, one man leans across the aisle and says to another: “Well my broker is E. F. Hutton, and E. F. Hutton says….” Immediately all chatter stops and it becomes deathly quiet while everyone, including the pilot and co-pilot, focus on the man speaking. Then the announcer says, “When E. F. Hutton speaks, people listen!”
In a very real way, that is what happened when Jesus spoke. People came from all over Judah, Galilee, the Decapolis and Samaria, just to see, hear, and be touched by Him. As Matthew wrote, His teaching with such authority overwhelmed the people.
Although there is no one who could rival Jesus, when preachers and teachers speak the Word of God today, it can and should be with His authority. Pastors and teachers, standing and speaking with an open Bible before them, should be God’s spokesmen to this generation. Our teaching should be Bible-based, Jesus-centered and Spirit-empowered. That kind of teaching and preaching will be blessed of God and will impact lives of those who listen.
So, how can we teach with God’s authority?
Speaking with God’s authority requires the speaker to know God personally, walk with Him daily, and speak His Word passionately. You cannot speak convincingly for and about a stranger. You cannot reveal to another what you do not know yourself, and you can’t pass on what you don’t possess. To know Christ as your Savior, the Holy Spirit as your guide and His Word as your subject opens the way to speak with authority.
It is for this reason that Paul told Timothy to: “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). To speak, preach and teach with God’s authority requires study, preparation, and time in the Book. Paul wanted Timothy to know that if the Lord was to be pleased, his work had to be done, and God’s Word had to be used. Paul expected of Timothy, as God expects of us—for the Lord to be well pleased—the work to be well done—and the Word to be well used. As you examine yourself, ask:
One: Is the Lord well pleased? “Study to show thyself approved unto God.”
Teaching and preaching the Word of God should always be aimed primarily to gain God’s approval, never man’s applause. To speak, preach and teach well, you must study. The word for study means to give diligence, to labor. Preparing to teach a lesson or to preach the Word of God comes down to hard, tedious, labor-intensive work. But our message should always be for an audience of One. Doing it for God’s approval eliminates pride.
Two: Is the work well done? “A workman that needeth not to be ashamed.”
Handling, teaching and preaching the Word of God is work. Proper preparation and total dependence upon God eliminates shame that otherwise would hamper the message of God and embarrass the man of God. Do the best work possible preparing the message or lesson you are to present.
Three: Is the Word well used? “Rightly dividing the word of truth.”
No matter how appealing the teacher—no matter how entertaining the message—no matter how stimulating the subject—if the message does not rightly divide the Word of truth, nothing eternal will result. The words rightly dividing, means to cut straight or properly handle, the Word of God. Knowledge of your subject and correct understanding of God’s Word builds confidence in the message. Remember, it is the Word of God that is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword;” it is the Bible that brings to light “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Bible teaching that impacts lives is always well prepared. It is always presented for His glory. And it is always true to the whole of Scripture. Stand on the authority of God’s Word, and don’t flinch! Get into His Word and share it truthfully and faithfully and you will see what God can do!