The Question was recently posed to me asking what the difference is between bible classes and a television program or tracts. How is one any more scriptural than the other? In the Early Church their were two basic methods of teaching the Word of God according to Acts 20:20 where Paul said, “I taught you publicly and from house to house,” meaning publicly and privately.In subgroups we have three examples of how God’s Word was taught.
1. Public Worship Service (Assembly)
2. Public Evangelism
3. Private Bible Study
In order for a method of teaching the Bible to be authorized by the Scripture it has to fall under one of these categories. When examining the three modern modes of teaching that are listed in the title we immediately can come to realization. A Bible tract or religious paper is not a worship service or a private Bible study, but it is a mode of public evangelism. The same could be said of the TV preaching program, but what of the Public Bible Class? Can it be classified under any of the three authorized sub-groups? Let us see:
Is a Public Bible Class a worship service? A worship service is composed of an assembly of the saints: praying, praising god in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and hearing the Word of God taught to them, and on the Lord’s Day, the observance of the Lord’s Supper and the giving of means is also part of the public service (Acts 20:7). It is important to point out that in the worship service it is: a shame for a woman to speak (1 Cor. 13:34-35), it is not to be divided (1 Cor. 11:20, 14:23), it is to be carried out with order and reverence, with one man speaking at a time (1 Cor. 14:31), and it is forbidden for a woman to teach or take an authoritative role (2 Tim. 2:11-12). Even supporters of Bible Classes will say that they are separate and different from the worship service, if this is the case then the first of the three sub groups can be checked off.
Is a Public Bible Class Public Evangelism? Aside from the Worship service, the Bible tells us that the Apostles practiced another form of public teaching that was separate and different. In Acts 14:1 the Bible tells us that Paul and Barnabas were at Iconium and went into “a synagogue of the Jews” where they preached the word to a multitude. This was not a worship service but rather Paul and Barnabas had gone into the realm of unbelievers to teach them the Word in order to convert them. This is what such things as TV Preachers and Bible Tracts can be classified as, not a worship service, not an assembly of the Saints, not a private Bible Study, but a method of Public Evangelism. A Public Bible Class cannot be called Public Evangelism because it is not an outreach to the world intended to convert, but rather a public Bible study of the Saints.
Is a Public Bible Class a Private Bible Study? This seems like a rather silly question, the two titles show the distinctive difference: Public and Private. Supporters of Bible Classes often use the story of Priscilla and Aquila to support their claim that the New Testament gives an example of Early Church members studying the Bible outside of the Worship service. Well that is very true, the Early Church would study the Bible publicly (worship service, public evangelism) and from house to house (private bible study). But in order for the story of Priscilla and Aquila to exemplify and authorize public bible classes, it would have to demonstrate a public bible class taking place. In Acts 18:24-28 the Bible tells of Priscilla and Aquila. In verses 24 and 25 the Bible says that there was a preacher named Apollos who was “an eloquent man and mighty in the scripture.” It says that he “taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.” So after he was finished preaching, the Bible says in verse26, “They took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Notice the words there, “they took him aside,” this indicates to me that it was a private discussion, or study, on the scriptures separate from the worship service. The key word there however is private.With that in mind we cannot justifiably classify Public Bible Classes under this category. What are we to do now? The only three scripturally authorized methods of teaching the Bible have been taken out of the picture and still the Public Bible Class has no home; this is because it cannot be found within God’s Word, and thus has no place within His Church. – CED