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The importance of Christian education

September 2020 | by Andrew Rowell

The question of how we educate our children is not a matter of indifference or personal taste for Christian disciples. Our God is a literate God! His handwriting is at the centre of his covenant relationship with his people (Exodus 32:15-16, 34:1) This original writing of God is intended to act as a signature for the whole Bible. It is all equally his writing.

An important part of being in a covenant relationship with God is to listen to his covenant being read out. This is carried over as a duty for New Covenant believers. Timothy is to give careful attention to the public reading of the scriptures in his labour as a shepherd of God’s people. Until the invention of the printing press and then modern word processing systems, writing was essential for the preservation of the scriptures.

There are indications in the Old Testament scriptures that the ability to read and write should not be reserved for a select elite. God’s written covenant was to be at the centre of the education of his people. Each generation was to ensure that the following two were thoroughly instructed in the covenant of the Lord.

The Lord insisted upon great care to ensure that no false teachings were allowed in the education of the next generations. Even the popular songs were to remind the people of God of their covenant with the Lord.

Some of the scriptures seem also to indicate that they are suitable for the education of the young. The book of Proverbs is probably in view especially when Paul writes his great education mandate for parents in Ephesians 6:4. Acrostic arrangements are frequently used as if these scriptures should be related to learning or remembering the nature of writing.

Our Saviour is literate and we should seek to be like him! Some of his teaching assumes a basic knowledge of literacy. It is important that we understand what jots and tittles are! One of his great names is the Word.

It is obvious from the gospels that Jesus had learned how to read and understand the Hebrew scriptures even though he spoke Aramaic. By referring to himself as the Alpha and the Omega it is clear that he has learned at least some Greek!

One of the phrases which we hear so frequently from the lips of Jesus is, ‘Have you never read?’ We can imagine a note of incredulity in the tone of Jesus’s voice! Christians are to be readers, and especially Bible readers.

The apostolic mandate for explicitly Christian education in Ephesians 6:4 puts the responsibility for education firmly on the shoulders of the fathers. This is not an optional extra for Christian parents. Fathers are required to take the responsibility for ensuring that their children’s education can be rightly described as the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord’.

Jesus is to be installed as the one in charge of the curriculum and discipline. Our educational reforms are to seek his smile and approval. We are to ask, what would a school that had Jesus as the head teacher look like?

Children of Christian parents are to be raised throughout their formative years the way Jesus educates his church as the model. A Christian teacher is not simply ‘in loco parentis’ but should be seeking to be ‘in loco divinus’.

In the words of Charles Hodge commenting on Ephesians 6:4, ‘This whole process of education is to be religious, and not only religious, but Christian. It is the nurture and admonition of the Lord, which is the appointed and the only effectual means of attaining the end of education. Where this means is neglected or any other substituted in its place, the result must be disastrous failure.

‘The moral and religious element of our nature is just as essential and as universal as the intellectual. Religion therefore is as necessary to the mind as knowledge. And as Christianity is the only true religion, and God in Christ the only true God, the only possible means of profitable education is the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’

Andrew Rowell is Pastor of Grace Evangelical Church, Carlisle, and a director and online editor of ET.