“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ear they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:4
Most Saturday mornings I try to steal away for a few hours and go on a long walk by myself. Sometimes I’ll just talk to the King, and sometimes I’ll enjoy a virtual companion or two, usually some of my favorite Bible teachers. On one particular long-walk morning last fall, I found myself wrestling with some tough questions. I’d immersed myself in the Word, studied it prayerfully, and the Spirit began to resolve some of my issues. But I found myself needing some extra help sorting through the weeds to get to the good fruit. I knew it was time to seek out some solid counsel.
I have learned over the years to be exponentially cautious when it comes to reliable sources on the Bible. I’ve dubbed my “go to” pastors/teachers the Fab Five. They are people I have put to the “truth test” and have found, though, and probably most importantly, because they aren’t perfect and don’t claim to be, they truly do ask hard questions and see the Word as the infallible, inerrant TRUTH. I started pondering what made these particular men and women stand above the rest, and I discovered they all have these characteristics in common:
1) They are humble. They recognize they don’t have all the answers and they still have much to learn. They even go so far as to course correct teaching they believe they were mistaken on in the past. This is typically on a nonessential (not pertinent to the truth that Christ is the only WAY to salvation), possibly something that has shifted in them as they have grown in their understanding of the Word, or they’ve simply matured as a follower of Christ. But it’s their desire to live in integrity, in the way they teach, and in the way they rightly handle the Word of truth, that I believe is a vital quality for a Bible teacher.
2) They consider the Bible as the most valuable commentary on the Bible. Every point, every idea, is supported with scripture, and seeking the whole counsel of God’s Word is preeminent in their ministry.
3) They focus on the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Not on a church or on a ministry or a denomination, but on the absolute beauty and power and grace and profoundness of Jesus Christ crucified, died, and risen again for our salvation and sanctification.
4) They encourage their listeners to examine the truth for themselves. They never teach that their way is the only way to interpret the scriptures, they encourage their listeners to keep them accountable and reassure them that if they have the Holy Spirit as their guide, they have all they need to examine the scriptures.
5) They don’t try to make the scriptures fit what seems “right in their own eyes” but let the scriptures speak—in context and in power and sometimes in mystery (Deuteronomy 29:29).
If you are seeking to walk in the truth, be discerning and prayerful about who you go to when you are wrestling with the Word. Go to teachers you know you can trust to equip you and point you directly back to the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Seek out men and women who will pass the litmus test of 2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” And remember the truth that follows directly after it in 2 Timothy 2:16 “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” (Gross!). Don’t be afraid to stand firm on truth and put Biblical teachers to the test. Because you too, want to be counted among those who are not ashamed, but are seeking to rightly handle the Word and think on what is true.