the importance of instruction in the church
In Acts 2:42 there is a reference to the early church “continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ doctrine.” There is, in the New Testament, a pronounced emphasis on doctrinal truth. Some of the epistles are given to correcting doctrinal errors (i.e. Colossians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, Hebrews). Many of the New Testament letters can be outlined by dividing them between a doctrinal section and a practical section … a presentation of the truth and the implications, in our living, rising from that truth. There are repeated references in Paul’s letters to “the knowledge of God.” “. . . we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:9,10). “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18).
With these Bible passages in mind, the Christian Education activities of a church body which are saturated with a passion for the glory of God will be designed to bring someone from a basic understanding of the living God, revealed in Scripture, to a more advanced and mature understanding of God. “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” (Heb 6:1). This progression should be evident in the design of Biblical presentation in grade school curriculum as the content gradually gets broader and deeper. We should have content goals for each level of a child’s life. For example, by the time a student reaches high school, what, exactly, do we expect our children to know regarding Biblical truth? New learners must be encouraged and grounded in fundamental doctrines and advanced learners must be continually challenged.
There should be an emphasis on the necessity of learning new truths from every part of Scripture. A presentation, to our children and our teens and our adults, of the “whole counsel of God” must be our goal. We must strive not only to understand the stories of the Bible, but to see the timeless doctrinal truths revealed in the stories. The bridge of time between the people of the Bible and us is the living God, who is the same today as He was thousands of years ago. So we must teach about God. It may seem too obvious to mention, but it seems that many times our lessons are not so much about God as they are about the characters in the Bible stories. Paul prayed in Colossians 1:10 that the Colossians would increase in “knowledge of God.” This ‘knowledge’ is not just the ability to memorize facts. The word here is ‘deep knowledge.’ It is not just the memorization of information like memorizing that Columbus came to this land in 1492. It is to experience God. It is to meditate about God so His reality grips the heart. It is to love God … to trust in Him … to delight in Him. It is to live by what God says and to find Him reliable and wonderful. It is to taste and see that God is good. So as we study the Bible we must ask ourselves what a passage reveals to us about the living God. Only with such a perspective can we understand life and our circumstances and God’s providential activity in our world.
We must teach about the mystery of salvation in Christ. Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:18 that the Ephesian Christians might deeply grasp “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” One of the major themes of the Bible is the salvation of the human soul which God planned before the foundation of the world. It is a subject filled with wonder and joy. I have become a ‘partaker of the divine nature’ through Jesus (2 Pet 1:4). My guilt is laid on Christ … imputed to Him. His righteousness is given to me. The Spirit of God wooed me to God so that I would be willing to humble myself before Him because I saw the value of Christ. This great salvation is an ocean of wonder of which we must be students all the days of our lives. We must plumb the depths of the wonder of the work of Christ so we may be joyful and humble and hopeful and at peace.
In our instruction, Bible memory should be stressed, for young and old, as a part of the instructional process in learning and meditating on the eternal Scriptures. Our Bible reading program encourages our people to be faithful in understanding the content of the Scriptures. We must ensure that Bethel continues to maintain a good library as a resource for the people of our congregation. In all our church programs, we must strive for excellence. A passion for God produces diligence and discipline. With such a passion nothing will be done haphazardly or half-heartedly.
In a word, the goal for all our programs and activities in the church is for all of us to be utterly ravished by the person of Christ so that we love Him supremely and value Him above everything and everyone else. If our church activities do not result in greater communion with the Savior, then all we have is empty religion. It is this very hollowness that unbelievers shun with vehemence. But if our church work results in vital intimacy with the Eternal King, this is exactly what the human soul longs for.
Ever learning, with you,