If you’re looking for a preacher to learn from, or if you aspire to teach the Word to others, here are five traits of a good Bible teacher that we learn from the legacy of Levi.
I love teaching the Bible because I deeply want people to learn God’s Word.
Ultimately, who does the teaching matters less than what’s being taught. There are many good Bible teachers out there, and we need many more. If you’re looking for a preacher to learn from, or if you aspire to teach the Word to others, here are five traits of a good Bible teacher that we learn from the legacy of Levi, patriarch of God’s priesthood, from Malachi 2:5–7.
God says Levi “feared me” and “he stood in awe of my name” (Mal. 2:5). The man Levi lived coram Deo, or “in the face of God.” A preacher’s actions must speak before his words, because what we do says something about who God is and whether his holiness truly matters.
Who does the teaching matters less than what’s being taught.
A good Bible teacher is faithful to his wife, doesn’t steal money from the church, exercises self-control, and so on. Of course, it is possible to find faults and flaws in any leader, which is why a good Bible teacher also demonstrates character by repenting when needed as well as acknowledging mistakes. The gospel is just as much for the shepherd as it is for the flock.
“True instruction was in his mouth,” God says of Levi, “and no wrong was found on his lips” (Mal. 2:6). The passage goes on to say, “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth” (Mal. 2:7). When a good Bible teacher preaches, you know what he’s talking about.
The gospel is just as much for the shepherd as it is for the flock.
All too often, pastors open the Bible, and nothing but fog comes out. The congregation can’t follow, and the big idea is hazy. A good Bible teacher doesn’t need to be liked, but he needs to be clear. Clarity is more important than funny jokes, clever anecdotes, or popular pronouncements.
Levi “walked with me in peace and uprightness” (Mal. 2:6). When the Bible uses the language of “walk,” it’s referring to a lifestyle. Eugene Peterson calls this “long obedience in the same direction.”
In our day, Billy Graham is a great example of consistency. He’s been preaching about the cross of Jesus Christ his whole life, right up through his perhaps final sermon some weeks ago. A good Bible teacher isn’t enamored with the new and trendy; he doesn’t get bored with the eternal truths of the faith. He is consistent over time.
Clarity is more important than funny jokes, clever anecdotes, or popular pronouncements.
In contrast to Levi, the priesthood in Malachi’s day had “turned aside from the way” (Mal. 2:8). The leaders were leaving their wives and marrying nonbelievers, and thus “profaned the sanctuary of the Lord” (Mal. 2:11).
Even way back in the days of the temple, theological disagreement on the surface was often rooted in a people’s desire to have some form of sex that God had prohibited. Most doctrinal resistance stems from sexual matters. People want to have sex with whomever they want, God says “no,” and so the people and their leaders compromise theology in such a way that undermines the authority of God, starting with sexuality.
Everybody’s got an appetite to go do something sinful. A good Bible teacher has the courage to discourage others from their iniquity.
A good Bible teacher isn’t enamored with the new and trendy; he doesn’t get bored with the eternal truths of the faith.
Every good Bible teacher points you to Jesus Christ. If you forget everything else in this article, remember this: a good Bible teacher understands that the Scripture is for us, but it’s not about us—it’s about Jesus. Any time that the Bible is open and Jesus is not proclaimed, the Bible was not rightly opened.
Preachers of the Word bear a heavy responsibility: to communicate God’s message of salvation to all people. May we do so with character, clarity, consistency, and courage, for the glory of Christ.
Finally, anything you can do to pray for and encourage those who have taught or are teaching you the Bible means a lot, as they tend to get a lot more criticism than you would think.