Have you ever noticed that studying Apostle Paul’s letters are like studying math? Yes, math class requires some memorization of math facts—those are the annoying sums, times tables, axioms and theorems—but math’s heart lies in its concepts, which must be learned step-by-step. Miss one concept, and the rest won’t make sense.
To be understood, the church must teach God’s word in the same way. Isaiah, after decrying the tribe of Ephraim’s cavalier attitude toward teaching God’s word in chapter twenty-eight, declares to their shame how they would be taught by their enemies.
Isaiah 28:11-14 For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the LORD will speak to this people, (12) to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear. (13) And the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (14) Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem!
We too, often treat God’s gospel in the same way, harping on John 3:16 til the world vomits it out as too much of a good thing. While they will never give us the opportunity to teach them systematic theology, our example of God’s love toward one another, and toward the unlovable, will win them over before mentioning Jesus’ beloved words.
Once they come to faith in Christ, can we then bomb them with all our Christian rules and regulations?
No way! After they’ve tasted the gospel’s milk and allowed it to bring them new life, we must first love them as advertised. Then we must spoon-feed them “precept upon precept,” until they graduate to God’s red meat.
Thing is, though large Bible study classes familiarize the church with God’s word, nurturing new believers through them is a logistical nightmare. That’s like trying to teach trig to first graders. Instead, we must disciple them individually or in small groups, beginning with God’s most basic truths and working through the hard teachings, til they are ready to disciple others. As that’s the way of both math teachers and Jesus, we’d do well to follow their example.