Preach and Teach

by T. Pierce Brown

The following statements are made in a bulletin by one who claims to be a part of the body of Christ: "There is no biblical evidence that anyone ever preached the Gospel to those who had already received it. Preaching is always associated with evangelism in that it inducts one into the family. On the other hand, teaching is associated with doctrine and nourishes those who have been inducted." He further says, "The Gospel is good and it is news. A message that has already been delivered and accepted may still be good, but it cannot be news. To preach the gospel to believers is impossible."

We believe him to be in error in practically every statement. It is true that the word "preaching" and "teaching" come from different Greek words. Not all preaching is teaching, and certainly not all teaching is preaching, but any person that implies that a person cannot preach and teach at the same time disregards both the Bible and common sense. One of the words that is translated "preach" is euaggelizo, which means to declare good tidings. Whether it is new in the sense that it has not been heard before is not involved in the definition. In both the Septuagint and the New Testament it simply refers to announcing glad tidings. It is difficult to imagine a person claiming that the precious story of the gospel of Christ ceases to be glad tidings just because I have accepted it or heard it before. To claim that it ceases to be "news" because to us "news" is something we have not heard before is almost funny.

Whether it is practical or proper to continue to proclaim the gospel over and over to those who have already accepted it is another question. But the idea that the gospel is not doctrine is absurd. Doctrine simply means "teaching," and includes everything that is being taught, whether one is teaching a person how to become a Christian or how to continue living the Christian life. When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he indicated that someone had been teaching or preaching a perverted gospel. Our erring author says that it is acceptable to remind believers of the gospel when portions of it are being denied, but you can't preach it to them. But Paul indicates that someone may preach to those who are Christians a false gospel or the true gospel.

As far as we know, no one denies that the primary job of the evangelist who spoke and brought the glad tidings of salvation to the lost was to preach to them about how to be saved from their sins. But to imply that when they preached, they were not teaching doctrine indicates a strange degree of blindness. In Acts 5:28 we find, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name: and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, (doctrine, KJV) and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Surely any intelligent examination of the facts would lead one to the conclusion that when they were preaching the gospel they were filling Jerusalem with their doctrine (as the Authorized Version puts it).

If you have a vivid imagination, you might be able to imagine a scene like this: Peter is standing there preaching the gospel to a group of unbelieving Jews. James and John walk in. You ask them, "What is Peter doing?" They reply, "He was preaching the gospel, but now that we are here, it is impossible for him to continue doing that. We have already accepted that gospel, so he can only remind us, for it is impossible for a person to herald glad tidings to anyone who has believed them." How a person ever dreamed up such an idea is hard to comprehend.

In I Thessalonians 3:6, we find, "Timothy came even now unto us from you, and brought us glad tidings of your faith and love, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, longing to see us, even as we also to see you." These glad tidings were not the gospel of Christ, but they were glad tidings, the same word that is translated "gospel" so many times. Timothy proclaimed unto them glad tidings. In such passages as Mark 5:20, we find, "And he went his way, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him- and all men marveled." He was heralding good tidings. Do you suppose he would be able to tell anyone the second time those good tidings, in case they believed him the first time?

When we find Acts 15:21, "For Moses from generations of old hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath," are we to conclude that it was possible to herald publicly information about Moses to those who had accepted him, but impossible to do the same thing with Christ?

When Paul said in Romans 2:21, "Thou that preachest a man should not steal, does thou steal," are we to understand that Paul was not really preaching, for it is doctrine to say that a man should not steal, so he could not preach it, but could teach it?

Our editor says, "Pulpit preaching was unknown during the early stages of the redeemed community delivering sermons was unheard of." Does that mean that when Peter stood up on the first Pentecost and began preaching, it would have been unscriptural or anti-scriptural if he had, like Ezra, stood behind a pulpit (Nehemiah 8:4). Does that mean that it is improper to say that Peter "delivered a sermon" on that occasion? Just because the present English expression "deliver a sermon" is not found in the Bible, does this mean that when the Apostles delivered the message of God in a public discourse, it should not be called a sermon? And if we did make the terrible error of calling it a sermon, we must not say that they delivered it? If this is not "straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel," it would be hard to find something that would be. Yet this little bulletin is being received and approved all over the country by persons who claim to be a part of the body of Christ.