Teaching and Preaching: What’s the Difference?

The Scriptures say that both preaching and teaching are good and right. I don’t believe one is more important than the other. Both have a place and a purpose in the church and in this lost world.

The Place of Preaching In General

“When a man has been in the fire, and has the smell of it still upon him, he is the one to warn others not to meddle with fire.”

Spurgeon

Spurgeon helps us see what is one functional difference between preaching and teaching in a general sense. Spurgeon likely had the pulpit in mind here, so he mentions men only, but we can broaden that out into a larger Christian context too. We, both men and women who bear the name of Christ have been called to preach the gospel of Jesus. Preaching, historically, has carried a sense of fire with it. The fire and brimstone preaching that is void of grace and gives Christianity a bad name is not what we need. But speaking forth truth in a manner that causes one to listen up, sit up, wake up and straighten up, because the person speaking has a passion and pain in his or her voice that cannot be ignored; now that, we need. Preaching is a heralding the good news.

Jesus did it. Paul did it. Peter did it. Even Mary Magdalene did it when she brought the news to the disciples that “Jesus is alive!” In that moment, she did not teach, but preached. Brothers and sisters, preach the gospel as though you’ve been in the fires yourself. Preach truth to your own heart, your neighbors, your church, your co-workers and your family. Be a herald of the grace you received, through which God declared you righteous by faith in His Son, Jesus.

The Place of Teaching in General

The Spirit graces both men and women with the gift to teach. I’m not advocating a position that places a woman in teaching authority over a local body. The church I have the privilege of helping lead sees this position reserved in Scripture for qualified and called men. I’m making the case, here, that teaching the Scriptures in general is necessary, and that both men and women of God should take up this torch, and the local church should see that this happens.

The best picture of teaching comes from Jesus. Consider this scene.

“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:.. ” Matthew 5:1-2

What was Jesus doing at this famous scene that began with the beatitudes? Was he teaching or preaching? He was teaching. It was slow, methodical, clear, rich with examples and metaphors to help His hearers learn and apply the principles of the Kingdom that had come, and the way of the King that sat before them. He wasn’t heralding, but explaining.

All Christians are called to preach the gospel. All Christians are called to teach, in the sense that we’re all called to make disciples. This is not a vocational calling I speak of, but a universal calling to the entire body of Christ to carry on the work of teaching that Jesus began. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Teaching and Preaching in the Local Church

When it comes to the gathering of the local church, under local leaders, and the function of preaching and teaching, we are not left to wonder. The Scriptures give us guidance here too.

In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul tells Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” His instruction to this young pastor seems to combine preaching and teaching into one necessary and cooperative function for the shaping of a people into Christ-likeness and maturity. Preaching generally aims to awaken the sleeping and apathetic heart and calls believers to gospel attention, while teaching generally seeks to explain truth in such a way as to form and mold that very same heart. Preaching calls sinners and saints to repentance and faith, while teaching explains the details and implications of such a faith. And if expository preaching is the primary diet of a churches intake of God’s Word, as I believe it should be, the Holy Spirit will take a congregation through a healthy balance of both.

The blog scene has exploded in recent months with the topic of women preaching from the pulpit, and women’s role in teaching in general. I will not address that here, but instead share a few links for those interested.

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/pastors-need-women-teachers-and-vice-versa/

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/where-can-women-teach

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