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How to Work for Christ: Book 3: Preaching and Teaching the Word of God, Chapter 4

By Reuben Archer Torrey



      1. THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD. The man who is really teaching the Bible may be confident that he is doing a good work, for beyond a doubt he is teaching the truth of God.

      2. THERE IS A GREAT DEMAND IN OUR DAY FOR BIBLE TEACHERS. The man who takes up the teaching of the Bible, and does it in an interesting way and in the power of the Spirit, is bound to get a hearing and to do great good. In the city of Chicago popular evening Bible classes have been in operation for four years. The first year there was one class, the second year four classes, the third year five classes, and the fourth year it was necessary to reduce the number of classes in order that the teacher might go two evenings in the week to Detroit and St. Louis. In the five classes there was a weekly average attendance of about six thousand. The great interest people have today in studying the Bible is illustrated by the Saturday evening class at the Chicago Avenue Church. People come out at five o'clock and remain until nine. From five until six there are about seven hundred in attendance, from seven until nine between twenty and twenty-five hundred. Similar interest in Bible study has been shown in other cities. In every city and village there should be systematic Bible teaching; nothing else will draw and hold such large and interested audiences.



      This consists in the simple reading of a passage of Scripture with such comments as illuminate its meaning and enforce its teaching. Mr. Spurgeon had a great gift in this direction. Mr. Moody used to say, "I would rather hear Mr. Spurgeon expound the Scripture than preach, I get more out of it." The following suggestions are offered to aid in expounding the Scripture to edification:


      There are those who think that it takes no preparation to expound the Scripture, that all that is necessary is to go into the pulpit and read a chapter and make such desultory comments as come to mind. There may be some profit even in that slipshod way of expounding the Scripture, but it has done much to bring Bible exposition into disrepute.


      There is a great temptation to the expositor, when he has started out upon one line of thought, to branch from that on to another and from that still on to another, until it is almost impossible to get back to the chapter.



      Suppose, for example, you are expounding the fourth chapter of Philippians; instead of reading through with disconnected comments, go through the chapter with this line of thought: Seven Present Privileges of the Believer:

      (a) Constant joy (v.4). (b) Absolute freedom from care (v.6). (c) Abounding peace (v.7). (d) An ever-present friend (v.9). (e) Never-failing contentment (v.11). (f) All-prevailing strength (v.13). (g) Inexhaustible supplies for every need (v.19).

      Or take for example the 23rd Psalm; it can be divided as follows:

      (a) Every need met (vs.1-3). (b) Every fear banished (v.4). (c) Every longing satisfied (vs.5-6).

      Or take Psalm 1:1-3. Entitle your exposition, "God's Picture of a Happy Man." Three leading features of this picture will be, in the first verse, the happy man's separation from the world, the second verse, the happy man's occupation in the world, and the third verse, the happy man's fruitfulness before the world. A still different division would be, the first verse, the happy man's separation unto God; the second verse, the happy man's communion with God, and the third verse, the happy man's fruitfulness in God.

      Or suppose you are expounding the second chapter of 1 John. Your exposition might begin with the introduction, "This chapter presents to us seven comforting views of Jesus":

      (a) Jesus as an advocate with the Father (v.1).

      (b) Jesus as a propitiation for our sins (v.2).

      (c) Jesus as our light (v.8).

      (d) Jesus as the anointer with the Holy Ghost (vs.20-27).

      (e) Jesus as the Christ and Son of God (vs.22-23).

      (f) Jesus as the great promiser (v.25).

      (g) Jesus as the Coming One (v.28).

      If you are using 1 John 3, you could begin with an introduction like this, "This chapter brings to us seven great facts about believers":

      (a) Believers in Jesus are now children of God (vs. 1-2 RV).

      (b) Believers shall be like Jesus when He comes (second part v.2).

      (c) The believer does not make a practice of sin (vs. 5-6, 9-10).

      (d) The believer knows that he has passed out of death into life (v.14).

      (e) The believer has boldness before God (vs. 19-21).

      (f) The believer may have power to obtain from God by prayer whatsoever he asks (v.22).

      (g) Believers is Jesus have the gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 24).

      Of course these are only outlines, and the points made are the headings for different divisions of our exposition.

      (5) A Bible with a wide margin, or an interleaved Bible is very useful in expository work.

      (6) The Synthetic Bible Study Course (from Genesis to Revelation), by James M. Gray, D.D., LL.D., is replete with sermonic suggestion for one who would know how to expound the Scriptures interestingly and profitably. (Send for literature.)

      (7) The Book of Psalms is a good book with which to begin your expository work.

      Of course we do not intend by this that every Psalm should be expounded.


      This is a very interesting method of teaching the Bible.

      (1) Have the class meet in a very informal way, if possible around a long table.

      (2) Take some book in the Bible and assign a portion for careful study.

      (3) Read verse by verse and give each one an opportunity to state what he has gotten out of the verse, or ask questions upon the verse.

      (4) Hold your class to the passage and subject in hand.

      (5) Avoid trifles.

      In almost every class there is likely to be some empty-headed member who will want to spend all the time in discussing some trifle.

      (6) It is often well to assign questions before hand to be looked up by individual members of the class.


      Such a class is of immense importance in a church. Very few people in our day are being carefully indoctrinated in the great fundamental truths of the Bible. In consequence of this they are likely to be led off by any errorist that comes along, provided he is a bright talker, or skillful in producing the impression that he has an unusual amount of Bible knowledge. The following are suggestions as to how to conduct these classes:

      (1) Make a careful list beforehand of the great doctrines that you wish to teach.

      Take these doctrines up in systematic order.

      (2) Arrange all the Scriptures that bear upon these doctrines in an orderly and logical way.

      (3) In the class you can either read from the Bible and expound what the Scripture says on these doctrines, or you can have the different passages of Scripture read by members of the class, and let the class put the contents of the Scripture into systematic form for themselves.

      The latter is the better way provided your class is of sufficient intelligence to do the work well. Sometimes it is better yet to give out the Scripture beforehand, and have the class bring in the results of their own study and thought in systematic shape. Three important points must be borne in mind in all this work:

      (1) Be systematic. (2) Be thorough. (3) Be exact.

      The book, "What the Bible Teaches" is the outcome of a topical doctrinal Bible class conducted through two years, and may be suggestive to others as to how to do this work.


      This is the best and most important of all methods for continuous work. By this method of study a class can be continued from five to ten years, or indefinitely.


      Assign the lessons to the class beforehand; have them find and bring in answers to the following questions:

      (a) Who wrote the book?

      (b) To whom was it written?

      (c) Where written?

      (d) When written?

      (e) Occasion of writing?

      (f) Purpose for which written?

      (g) Circumstances of the author when he wrote?

      (h) What were the circumstances of those to whom he wrote?

      (i) What glimpses does the book give us of the life and character of the author?

      (j) What are the leading ideas of the book?

      (k) What is the central truth of the book?

      (l) What are the characteristics of the book?

      (2) Have the class divide the book into its principal sections.

      (3) Take it up verse by verse and study.

      At each lesson have the class bring in an analysis of a certain number of verses. Insist:

      (a) That nothing shall be in the analysis that is not in the verse.

      (b) That as far as possible everything that is in the verse shall be in the analysis.

      To accomplish this, when any member of the class gives an inadequate analysis, ask him if that is all there is in the verse, and keep on asking him questions until he has brought out all that you see in the verse.

      (c) Let what is found be stated as accurately and concisely as possible.

      Do not be content when a member of the class puts something into his analysis somewhat like what is in the verse, but demand that it be a precise statement of what is in the verse.

      (4) Have the class bring together all the teachings on the various subjects scattered through the book.

      (a) To this end, have them first make a list of subjects treated in the book.

      (b) Arrange these subjects in their principal subdivisions.

      (c) Go through the analysis already made, and bring the points in the analysis under the proper headings in the classification of teaching.


      This is sometimes called "the Synthetic Method of Bible Study." Assign the class a certain number of chapters, wherever possible an entire book, to read over and over again, and then when they come together, go over the book rapidly, bringing out the salient points about it and its teaching. Dr. James M. Gray's book, "The Synthetic Study of the Bible," will be suggestive for this work.


      (1) These classes can be conducted in a variety of ways. Perhaps the simplest method is to give out four questions for the class to be prepared upon, writing answers to these questions for each chapter. The Bible can be covered in about two years in this way if two chapters are prepared each day. The questions are:

      (a) The subject of the chapter. (State principal contents of the chapter in a single phrase or sentence.)

      (b) The principal persons of the chapter.

      (c) The truth most emphasized in the chapter.

      (d) The best lesson in the chapter.

      (e) The best verse of the chapter (memorized).

      (2) A somewhat more elaborate, and much more valuable method is to give out eight questions:

      (a) The leading facts of the chapter and the lessons they teach. These facts with the corresponding lessons should be given one by one and written out.

      (b) Wrong things done and mistakes made. That does not mean mistakes made by the author of the Bible, for there are none, but the mistakes which are recorded in the chapter as made by various persons.

      (c) Things to be imitated. That is, things different persons have done as recorded in the chapter that are worthy of our imitation.

      (d) Most important lessons in the chapter. It is best to restrict the number of lessons to not more than five (or not more than ten) or such number as you deem best.

      (e) The most important lesson in the chapter.

      (f) The great texts in the chapter (written out in full).

      (g) The truth most emphasized in the chapter.

      (h) The personal blessing received from the study of the chapter.

      This is an especially helpful way to study the Acts of the Apostles. The author has obtained one of the greatest blessings that he has ever received from Bible study in the study of the Acts of the Apostles in this way.

      (3) A still more elaborate method for the study of the Bible by chapters is to give the class the following twenty questions and suggestions:

      (a) Read chapter five times.

      (b) Note any important changes in RV from AV.

      (c) Discover and study parallel passages and note variations.

      (d) Date of events in chapter?

      (e) Name of chapter?

      (f) Outline of chapter?

      (g) Best verse? Mark and commit to memory.

      (h) Verses for meditation; note and mark.

      (i) Verses for thorough study; note and mark.

      (j) Texts for sermons; note, mark and outline the sermons.

      (k) Characteristic, striking and suggestive words and phrases; mark and study.

      (l) Leading incidents?

      (m) Persons; what light upon their character and lessons from their lives?

      (n) The most important lessons in chapter?

      (o) The most important lesson in chapter?

      (p) Central truth?

      (q) Places; locate and look up their character and history.

      (r) Subjects for further study suggested?

      (s) Difficulties an chapter?

      (t) Personal blessings received from the study of the chapter.

      First. What new truth learned?

      Second. What old truth brought home with new power?

      Third. What new course of action decided upon?

      Fourth. Any other blessing received from the study of the chapter?

      Of course these suggestions and questions can be varied to suit the class and the judgment of the teacher.


      Such a class should exist in every church and mission. Book I of this volume will give hints for the conduct of such a class.


      Whatever other lines of Bible teaching we may take up, we cannot afford to exclude the International Lessons. Whatever imperfection there may be in the lessons assigned by the international committee, they have one advantage which cannot be overlooked; they are studied by the great mass of evangelical church members throughout this country and Great Britain. The minister or Christian worker who is not studying these lessons and teaching them will be out of line with the Bible thinking of the great mass of the church of Jesus Christ. Helps for the study and teaching of these lessons are so abundant and so excellent that there is no need that anything be added in this book. The author's own method of teaching the lessons is sufficiently indicated in his book, The Gist of the Lesson. * {Now edited by Ralph G. Turnbull. Fleming H. Revell Company, publishers.} It might be added, however, that he teaches the lessons, not by lecturing to his class, but by asking them questions. It is far better to get people to see the truth by asking them questions, than it is to tell them the truth. We give for illustration his questions as prepared beforehand on the following lesson:

      JESUS AND CAIAPHAS (Matthew 26:57-68)


      57. What did they do with Jesus when they had arrested Him? Did they lead him first to Caiaphas? To whom? Why not to Caiaphas first?

      Who were assembled with Caiaphas? What was the name of this body? What was there illegal about their assembling?

      58. What are we told about Peter that sounds well? What two words are added that make it sound badly?

      If we follow Jesus, how should we follow Him? How are many professed Christians today following Jesus? Did Peter really follow Jesus at all? What followed Him? What did not follow Him? (cf. Matthew 16:24). How far did Peter follow? What led Peter to follow Him? What foolish thing did Peter do? (cf. Ps.1:1; Ps.26:4-10; 2 Cor. 6:14-17). Into what trouble did Peter's following Jesus get him? What will be the usual result of following Jesus without following Him with the whole heart? What ought to have kept Peter from following at this time? (John 13:38; John 18;8; John 13:36).

      What had Peter done with all the warnings of Christ? What question had he asked of Christ when He said, "Thou canst not follow me now"? (John 13:37). What boast had Peter made? What is he now undertaking to do? Which knew Peter better, the Lord or Peter himself? Why did not Peter sit by himself instead of with the enemies of the Lord? What arguments are produced today for conformity to the world? How much value is there in them? How much of the peril that he feared did Peter escape? How alone did he escape finally? What is the only way that any one can escape who seeks to make friends with the world? (James 4:4; 1 Cor. 15:33 RV; Prov. 13:20; Eph. 5:11-12). When, alone, should we associate with bad company? If we do not go with them for the definite purpose of leading them to Christ, how will our association with them result? Did Peter have such a purpose in associating with these servants? (John 18:18). When a follower of the Lord Jesus seeks to warm himself by the enemies' fire, what will you soon hear about his doing?


      59. What was the one fixed purpose of Jesus' judges? In order to carry out this purpose, what did they not hesitate to do? Were these judges respectable men as the world goes? Were they religious men? Of what have we an example here? (Jeremiah 17:8; Romans 8:7).

      60. With what success did they meet in their attempt to find false witnesses against Jesus? Were there any who were willing to curry favor with the authorities by swearing falsely? What was the trouble with their testimony? (Mark 14:56). What conclusive proof have we here of the spotlessness of Jesus' character and life? How did Jesus feel about these false testimonies against Himself? (Psalm 35:11-12 RV). What is there today that parallels the utter unfairness of these judges? When all the other false witnesses failed, who came?

      61. To what did they swear? Was there any truth in that to which they took oath? (v.61, cf. John 2:19). What is the most dangerous of all lies?

      62-63a. What reply did Jesus make to these false charges? Why did not Jesus reply? What prophecy did He fulfill? (Isaiah 53:7). To whom did He commit His case? (1 Peter 2:23). What example is there in all this for us? (1 Peter 2:21; Psalm 37:5-6). How was the high priest affected by Jesus' silence?


      63b. What did the high priest finally say to Jesus? What was the intention of the question? Did it result in entrapping Jesus?

      64. In what did it result? What was Jesus' answer? If Jesus is not divine, what is He?

      How did Caiaphas feel when he heard Jesus' unequivocal assertion of His Deity? Why was Caiaphas glad? What did Jesus add that changed the gladness of Caiaphas into fear? In that coming judgment day, who will be the judge, Caiaphas or Jesus? What position will Caiaphas occupy? What should all who are now sitting in judgment on Christ remember? (Acts 17:31; John 5:22-23). What is meant by saying that He is coming "on the clouds of Heaven"?

      65. How did the High Priest treat this claim of Jesus? Upon what charge was Jesus sentenced to death? Who today practically assent to the justice of this charge?

      66. What was the sentence pronounced?

      67-68. What did they do with Jesus after pronouncing this sentence? (cf. Luke 23:11; Mark 15:16-20). For whom was it He suffered so? (Isaiah 53:6). What was fulfilled in all this? (Isaiah 50:6; 53:3). What is revealed about the human heart in its treatment of the Son of God?


      What lessons do we learn from Peter's action? What proofs have we in the lesson of the Deity of Christ? What proofs of the desperate wickedness of the human heart? In what points does Jesus set us an example in this lesson? In what points did the Jewish rulers do wrong? What is the most important lesson of the passage?

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See Also:
   How to Work for Christ: Book 3: Preaching and Teaching the Word of God, Chapter 1
   How to Work for Christ: Book 3: Preaching and Teaching the Word of God, Chapter 2
   How to Work for Christ: Book 3: Preaching and Teaching the Word of God, Chapter 3
   How to Work for Christ: Book 3: Preaching and Teaching the Word of God, Chapter 4
   How to Work for Christ: Book 3: Preaching and Teaching the Word of God, Chapter 5
   How to Work for Christ: Book 3: Preaching and Teaching the Word of God, Chapter 6
   How to Work for Christ: Book 3: Preaching and Teaching the Word of God, Chapter 7


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