Tommy Thornhill



Check previous issues for continuity. As I closed the last issue, I was dealing with the fact that the church is still the church whether assembled or disassembled. The point is that even when the church is disassembled the members who make up the church remain a part of the church. Let me use an illustration with a herd of cows. When the cows are scattered in the pasture, they still belong to the herd even when they are not all together. Think of a covey of birds. When they are scattered, they still belong to the same covey.

The same is true with the church. Members of the church when disassembled from the body still function as individual members of the body in other areas of activities such as business, home life, social affairs. While performing these activities they are not acting as the collective body of the church but are still members of the body. So, with Bible classes. At such times when the Bible classes are being conducted in separate rooms in the same building at the same time, they are not the church assembled. They are individual groups of Christians meeting in classes, but all happen to be members of the same church, functioning simultaneously, to carry out the command of teaching the word of God to other people in the church building under the same roof. They are not functioning as the collective body since the members are scattered into various Bible classes. Yet they are still members of the church, even though not together in the same place at the same time.

Reading that the word of God was taught “publically and from house to house” Acts 5:42; 20:20 some argue that when it is said the word was taught publically it  meant the  “public assembly” of the church and  when in the public assembly they did not divide into groups. They are emphasizing the place. Therefore, they conclude we cannot divide the “public assembly” and have simultaneous Bible classes at the same time. They miss the point of the NT passages mentioned.  The passages simply mean the word was taught in public and private places. The fact teaching was done both publically and privately does not refer to the local church arrangement as some would like for us to believe. No one has the right to bind the place where the Bible is taught, nor the method used to teach it.

While we are in the habit of talking about the “public assembly” when the congregation assembles together to worship God, this is not “Bible terminology.” The word “public” (demosia) as used in the Bible means that “which belongs to people or state, public, in public places in view of all.” It is never used in the NT to refer to the KIND (method, arrangement) of teaching done, but to the PLACE where it was done. The word “private” (Idia) as opposed to public, is “that which pertains to one’s self, one’s own; severally separate.” According to the definitions of the words “public” and “private” the auditorium where we meet is a private place (not owned by the public, nor in view of all, as in a courthouse yard), yet it is a place where people of all ages are invited. However, some of the Bible classes are even MORE private than that. Our classes are “by oneself apart from others – of several apart from others.” That is what characterizes Bible classes. They are held in a “private place” with only a “private” few expected to be present. By this I mean when we have a class of 3-5 year olds, other age groups are not usually expected to be in that same class. So, to argue that Bible classes are unscriptural because they are private as opposed to the public assembly is to apply the words wrongly. 

As I have tried to show, Bible classes in the church building are a part of the overall teaching program of the church. Bible classes do not constitute a separate organization from the church, but are simply an organized arrangement used by the congregation to teach truth to different age groups by providing added learning techniques as opposed to the lecture/question, answer approach generally utilized in the adult assembly. Because most teaching from the pulpit is presented at adult level, the Bible classes are the primary channel through which the church is able to mold the hearts of the young. The strength of the church of the future greatly depends on how well we use that channel now.

Even when this is understood some still oppose Bible classes because women generally teach the younger children. Some feel it is wrong for women to teach any class even if the class is composed only of women and young children. People need to understand that the Lord’s authority includes not only a variety of arrangements in teaching the Bible, it also includes, in a limited capacity, women being able to teach. We know women are allowed to teach other women.  Tit.2:3-4 tells us that the older women are to “admonish (teach) the young women to love their husbands, to love their children …” Women (grandmother Lois and mother Eunice) taught Timothy as a child 2.Tim.1:5; 3:14-15. Lydia was teaching women by the riverside in Philippi Acts 16:13 f. A woman can sing with the congregation Eph.5:19; Col.3:16. She can confess the Lord when obeying the gospel Rom.10:9-10. In doing these things a woman is doing the will of God. But I also said her right to teach is limited. We find this limitation stated by Paul in 1.Tim.2:12-14.  We will study how and why a woman is limited in teaching in the next issue.


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