Mistakes Bible Teachers Make - Ineffective Questions

Teaching the Bible in a relatively small, somewhat informal setting provides unique advantages and blessing for both students and teachers. The spontaneity and interaction can often turn the class into a collaborative effort to edify and encourage one another, and no matter how high his level of expertise, the teacher is often edified as much as anyone else.

But there are many ways to reduce the effectiveness of this teaching format. Well-intentioned teachers can easily discourage participation, focus, and thoughtful engagement—in some cases to the point that everyone is discouraged and frustrated rather than built-up and refueled.

We’ll consider some common mistakes teachers make with this kind of teaching, focusing for now on question-related problems.

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Q & A with Dr. Warren Vanhetloo

Compiled from Dr. Warren VanHetloo’s “Cogitations,” October, 2010.


Dr. Van, I have a question about the origin of Baptism. I’ve always been taught it pictured the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. But according to Matthew 3, John was baptizing before Jesus died, even before he had even met Jesus. It then appears that believers (Jews?) displayed their faith in God by getting baptized. Any conjecture on why John seemed to come up with this idea at a time when it doesn’t mean what it means today?


No need for conjecture, there is enough in Scripture. There are several answers, and all are important.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight . and all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Luke 3:4-6).

First, God chose John to introduce something entirely new and different from the nation-centered dispensation of the Old Testament era. “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). John was sent to bear advance witness of a once-for-all-time revelation of the Light which lights every man who enters this world (John 1:3-9). Second, his water immersion was intended to prepare for a spiritual immersion to follow shortly (John 1:25-27): “I immerse with water, but…the same is He who immerses with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:26, 33).

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Q & A with Dr. Warren Vanhetloo

Compiled from Dr. Warren VanHetloo’s “Cogitations,” July, 2010.


Is it true that in the Gospels, Jesus rarely gives direct answers to questions?


I recall that His answers were always intended to be helpful but were not always the sort of answers the questioner expected. Consequently, I am setting out to examine several occasions of question-answer confrontations, starting with the Gospel of Mark.

The first one I find was not directed to Jesus, but He knew about it. A man was let down from the roof whom Jesus healed, saying, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” (KJV, Mark 2:4-5). Seeing and hearing this, certain scribes judged Him: “Why does this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” (2:6-7). So far: 1) the healing had shown divine power, 2) forgiving his sins displayed divine power, which we understand to be actual, not just claimed or asserted. Although their thoughts were not expressed publicly, Jesus immediately was aware of what they were thinking—not by some outward facial expression, but as a divine awareness (2:8).

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Q & A with Dr. Warren Vanhetloo

Compiled from Dr. Warren VanHetloo’s “Cogitations,” May, 2010.


Dr. Van, Can you explain to me simply, what constitutes a call to the ministry?


No, I really can’t. I know of no single Bible verse that will help. I have never seen a formula or a list. In fact, when ministers gather to consider the ordination of a new pastor, their first question is, Why do you consider God has called you to His service? I suspect there are a great many ideas of the type of answer they expect. Through the years I have heard a variety of answers. If there is some agreement among a certain group, I’m not aware of it.

To eliminate some ideas: It’s not the touch of an ecclesiastical superior or anything such an authorized agent might say or do. It’s not the decision of any group of men. It’s not the prayers of a grandparent, although that may be one indication among many. It’s not a certain amount of schooling or a degree from any sort of school. It’s not being employed to perform certain religious tasks. It’s certainly not (as often indicated in the secular world) that I am not qualified to do anything else, so that’s a last resort.

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Q & A with Dr. Warren Vanhetloo

Compiled from Dr. Warren VanHetloo’s “Cogitations” April 2010.


I have a question involving church names in light of 1 Corinthians 1:10-13: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

While I agree with you that having a denominational name is certainly expedient in terms of resolving confusion, and to allow outsiders to have some idea of where a congregation is coming from, it would seem to be contrary to the spirit of what Paul is saying in this passage, because having a denominational name obviously sets forth the divisions among us, and that rather than minimize or heal them, we are actually defining them. Hopefully for a good purpose, but defining them nonetheless. Is there a solution? Is there any way that we can edify outsiders (or insiders) without being contrary to the spirit of Paul’s admonition? Or would you say that denominations are not contrary to what Paul has written? And if so, how?

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Q & A With Dr. Warren VanHetloo

Compiled from Dr. Warren VanHetloo’s “Cogitations” October 13-21, 2009.


Dr. Van, In looking at the history of the Bible as we know it today, there seems to have frequently been a distrust of the laity to handle (understand) the Word of God. Obviously, only the more wealthy people were able to provide enough education so they could read or teach their children to read. But beyond that, religious leaders seemed reluctant to open the door to the common person to use the Bible in a way to gain understanding about God’s Ways. We look back and say that there were issues of power, politics, etc. But even today in Bible believing churches, you can hear home study groups described as “shared ignorance.” Not too many decades ago, home Bible study groups were publicly discouraged, often from the pulpit. It is almost as if there is fear among the Bible believing pastors that the dangers far outweigh the benefits (or at least threaten their authority). Small groups have become a bit of fad recently, but to deny their potential in spiritual growth, in spite of some risk, seems to underestimate the ability of the Holy Spirit to work through the Word in the hearts of people. What is your evaluation?

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