Essentials of Christian Education - Lesson 5
In this lesson, you will learn about the definition and purpose of Christian education, its theological basis, different philosophies of education and their impact on Christian education, and various approaches to Christian education. You will also understand the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian education and how different philosophies influence it.
I. Introduction to Christian Education
A. Definition of Christian Education
B. Purpose of Christian Education
II. Theology of Christian Education
A. Biblical Basis for Christian Education
B. The Role of the Holy Spirit in Christian Education
III. Philosophies of Education
A. Christian Philosophies of Education
B. Secular Philosophies of Education
IV. Approaches to Christian Education
A. Catechetical Approach
B. Discipleship Approach
C. Cultural Mandate Approach
- The lesson covers all aspects of Christian education.
- This lesson provides insight into the misconceptions about Christian Education and the true nature of it, including its definition, relationship with the Bible, and role of teachers and parents.
- This lesson provides knowledge and insight on the essentials of Christian education, including its biblical basis, characteristics, and challenges.
- This lesson provides an overview of the essentials of Christian education, including its biblical basis, goals, models, and challenges.
- You will gain knowledge and insight into the essence and significance of Christian education, its biblical basis, and different approaches to imparting education in a Christian context.
- The lesson explains the significance of timing in Christian education through a biblical and pedagogical perspective, including the importance of God's perfect timing and student readiness, biblical examples, and personal application.
- This lesson covers the basics of Christian education, including the target audience and what is taught, and the methods used to teach it.
- The lesson teaches about the various ways and places in which education can take place as a Christian, including at home, in the community of faith, and in the world.
- This lesson covers the basics of Christian education, including its biblical basis, theology, philosophy, and practice, and its role in making disciples and renewing the image of God in humanity.
How do you communicate the gospel within the setting of a church? Who are you teaching? What are you teaching? Why? These questions and more are answered in a way that will help you train up people in your local congregation, and especially train up the next generation.
These lectures are a summary of the full course, Educational Ministry of the Church. It is an introductory level course to the ministry of education within the church. These lectures were recorded by Biblical Training during the summer of 2003.
Dr. Gary Parrett
Essentials of Christian Education
The second question that we will look at is the wet question. And just to remind ourselves the what question is, what must we teach? Again, there are all kinds of things that we could teach, maybe all kinds of things we should teach in the church. And if you look at the current teaching ministries in many churches, I think you would find that there are all kinds of things that in fact, we are teaching and many of them are worthwhile. But we want to ask the question, what must we teach? In other words, is there anything that must be taught in Christian education? If we want to achieve those goals that we have spoken up under the why question. And suppose we want to be faithful to the models and mandates that we find in the Scripture. In that case, it seems to me that in a lot of contemporary evangelical circles, again, we've forgotten about this objective idea of the faith once for all delivered. And that's affected the wet question significantly. If you walked into a contemporary Christian bookstore, for example, and looked at the Bible study section or the Sunday school section or curriculum section of that bookstore, if you can find such a section, that is probably you would find row after row after row of Bible study books and materials of things that would that look really nice and really fun to teach or interesting to teach or good to teach. But you might not find a lot of helpful guidance in determining which of these numerous topics should be taught. A lot of churches today, when they discuss the question of what they should teach or they come up against what they should teach in their next section of Sunday school or the next small group cycle or their next discipleship meeting.
Seems like people just are scrambling for whatever looks the most interesting or provocative at the time. Even in my earlier years of teaching ministry as a young youth pastor, when we came up against a deadline and we realized that, oh no, three weeks from now we have to begin a new series of teaching. Sometimes it meant a hurried run to the bookstore and run out with whichever title was the catchiest or whichever cover was the closest. Often we didn't make those decisions based on a very thoughtful, informed vision about the teaching content in our educational ministry. In other words, another way of looking at this is that there's a lot of Christian education content that I think we could label as electives today. All kinds of electives. In fact, some Bible study materials that you can find in the bookstore actually labeled that way. They'll be part of a series called Adult Electives or Youth Electives. The question I'm asking is, are there any requirements? Are there any requirements? And it seems to me that there certainly should be. If we send someone to the local university or a student walked into the registration office, for example, and said, you know, I would love to be a business major at your school. And the university admissions counselor said, Well, great, we have hundreds of courses we offer at our school. Why don't you just sit down and write up your own course program for the next four years? And whenever you're done, whatever you've taken, we'll just stamp graduated as a business major on your diploma. Well, of course, that's nonsensical. And it wouldn't happen because in order to get that business degree at that university, the university leaders and faculty will have to determine that there are certain things that have to be studied.
There are certain requirements of the university, certain requirements that are general to the university and some that are specific to the major business. And then in addition to the requirements, the general and special requirements, there would be space for certain electives or particular areas of emphasis or focus that the student could choose from. But in the church we seem to have little concept of that approach these days in the church. It seems like much of what we teach is strictly electives think, think, particularly at the adult level and how much of what we teach is elective. And maybe the assumption is that by the time someone is an adult, they'll already have gone through the basics of Christianity. Well, there may have been such a day when we could assume things like that, but today is not that day. Most people in evangelical churches in North America today, we cannot assume that they have been securely grounded in the faith once for all delivered. And my argument is that we really need to get back to that approach today, identifying what the Bible means by the faith once delivered. What are some fundamentals of Christian faith? And then making sure that people have been grounded in those things, in those essentials. Are there Christian essentials? Are there Christian basics? Are there some fundamentals that are more critical to our faith then? Interesting, interesting topics. Sometimes the church will will say, Yes, sir. There are some faith fundamentals. Some faith essentials. And in some Sunday school programs for adults or education programs for adults that I've seen. There will be a variety of classes offered and some may even be labeled faith essentials or basics of the faith. And that's a step in the right direction to label things plainly.
But again, in a given class at a given church, you may have well, let's say there's six adult offerings that are going on simultaneously. One of those offerings may be called Foundations of the Faith. Another one might be a study of the gospel of Mark. Another one might be how to have a happy, happy home. Another one might be how to manage your finances. Another one might be a reading class based around a popular Christian book that's in the marketplace today. Another one might be on a certain theological topic, say, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Well, what does a learner in that church context do in terms of their own decision? Does the church have any way of funneling learners first through the Faith Foundations course before they go on to how to manage their finances? Often, in many cases, people in the church see six or seven offerings before them, and they're all presented as electives. Essentially, take your pick whatever pleases you, whatever suits you. And obviously, that makes things fit well into the consumer culture in which we live, where people have lots of choices. And many churches simply say, you know what, that's the way the culture is. That's the way we need to be as well. Well, my suggestion would be that we are out of step with biblical guidance on this. If we take such an approach and we're certainly out of step with church history. The sad reality is that many Christians today have no clue about what must be learned. First and foremost, what things are of greatest import initially in our understanding and therefore many Christians have no clue about what they should be teaching in their churches as a first importance. Beyond in evangelical circles, maybe we know that we should start with the gospel and something about assurance of salvation, but beyond that, it's pretty much up for grabs.
That puts Christianity in a unique place in terms of the pantheon of religions in some ways. Let me tell just a couple of stories to illustrate the point. I was on a plane some years ago flying back from a Christian education conference, actually and was engaged in conversation by the man sitting next to me. And as we got speaking, he learned that I was a professor of Christian education. He was intrigued by that and told me that he had grown up Roman Catholic and had been a nominal Catholic and married someone, a woman who was a nominal Jew. And he said we were fine with our nominal religious experiences, Catholic and Jew until we had children. And then at some point, as our children were growing, we said to each other, You know, we really should pick up, choose one of these religions, and then both agree to raise our children in that religion. And the man sitting next to me said, I told my wife, honey, I could change. And so it was easy to see that his commitment to his Catholicism was not very deep. It was he was rather willing to change and become a Jew for the sake of the children. But then he told me that in order for him to become a Jew, he had to sit for many, many, many weeks of meetings with the local rabbi. He had to be engaged by the rabbi in a conversation about what it means to be Jewish. So it was him, along with others who were wanting to convert to Judaism, who were really schooled in the basics of Judaism. What do Jews believe? And especially in the case of Judaism, how do Jews live? What is distinctive about Judaism, Jewish practice and Jewish religion? And only after weeks and weeks I forget how many, he said.
After many weeks of instructions, was he permitted to become a Jew? His story reminded me of the story of of a loved one who married, was raised nominally Protestant and married someone who was raised not nominally Catholic. And again, they were they were fine with the situation until children came along. And then they found themselves facing the same kind of decision. And. In this case, the wife said, Well, I can change. So she was to be converted and to become a Catholic. Well, as an adult, convert to Catholicism, guess what? She had to be instructed in the Catholic faith in the Catholic Church, the term that they used was catechesis. It's a term I'll come back to in just a minute. And she went through a an adult form of catechesis that the Catholic Church has a program called the CIA The Rite of Christian Initiation for adults. And in this case, she went through, I believe it was, 30 plus weeks of instruction in the basics of the Catholic faith before she and other others who wanted to become Catholics as adults were received into the Catholic Church. Well, as an evangelical, an American evangelical, to hear these things is very challenging. And in fact, to me, it's actually quite a rebuke. What happens at many of our churches when someone comes up and says to us, Hi, here I am, I'm work, I'm visiting your church. I'm very intrigued. I've been here for two weeks now and and I'm interested, you know, I'd like to become a Christian. Well, a lot of us in our churches wouldn't have a clue about where to direct that person. We might be able to lead that person through a prayer on how to become a Christian.
But beyond that, would we have clear ideas of where they where they should go next? Thankfully, a lot of churches are becoming more thoughtful about this, more deliberate about this with programs like the Alpha Program that introduces seekers into some of the basics of Christianity. Yet at many of our churches, the reality is someone may come to our church two or three times and if they showed up again the third time, some of our folks would be all over them, offering them opportunity to teach Sunday school and grade three or four, offer them a Sunday school manual, and they're ready to enlist them on the spot without very without any perhaps knowledge of where they're at in their own Christian understanding. I've been in churches where Sunday school teachers who were not Christians at all were hired just because they were warm bodies and they seemed like pleasant enough people. And they showed up a few times at the church and then they were promptly recruited into the program. What a program like Alpha is doing is actually reminding us of some historical understanding of these things. And church history would be a great place for us to go to explore a little bit about what must we teach in the history of the church. We are at a strange place in contemporary history when we find ourselves rather clueless about what to teach believers or what to teach new believers or those interested in becoming believers. For most of church history, there was widespread consensus about what should be taught first. There were some things that were the basis of Christian teaching from the earliest days of the Christian church on through the present history of the church. Christian Basics. And one way to look at this would be to go to the Reformation era.
And in the Reformation period, soon after the printing press was developed. One of the first things that the reformers, people like Luther and Calvin wanted to do was to place into the hands of church members cataclysms. A catechism was a printed and summary in book, book form or booklet form, a summary of the basics of the Christian faith, the basics of what it meant to be Christian. And it was of great concern to them that these cataclysms be published and distributed widely. The only thing that was more urgent, of course, was the publishing of the Bible in the language of the people itself, getting the Scriptures in the hands of people, and then getting a simple, clear, concise introduction to the basic ideas of the Scripture in the form of a catechism. These were critical. And Luther believed that all believers needed to be catechist. He wrote a couple of catechisms, himself a larger catechism, a small catechism, and a large catechism, small catechism for children and for simple people, as he might say, and a large catechism for those who are more learn it and for those involved in pastoral ministry and church leadership and other reformers followed suit. Did the same thing. Calvin wrote a catechism for his ministry in Geneva and on throughout the history of the church, including the Puritan era, cataclysms were widely used and widely distributed. If a pastor found that he was not satisfied with some of the cataclysms that were readily available, he would just write his own catechism or. Often more common would take from the established cataclysms and tweak it or adjusted as necessary to suit his particular theological convictions. Richard Baxter, Pastor Par excellence from the Puritan Era. Baxter was a great advocate that pastors needed to distribute cataclysms, make sure that everybody in the flock had a catechism.
He wrote his own, and make sure that people understood the contents of the catechism. Baxter would personally interview all the members of the church throughout the course of the year and make sure they understood the content of the catechism. Have some give and take some question and answer. Help them to come to an understanding of the contents of the catechism. While the catechism in the printed form may have been a new development with the advent of the printing press and only a reformation reality since then. Or, excuse me, a reality. Common practice in reality. Since the Reformation. But in fact, there were pre print forms of the catechism that had existed since the earliest days of the church. That is, there was a curriculum and understanding of what should be taught that dominated the church from its very earliest days. We could reach into church history and find great evidence that the church had been thinking about this Christian question from the very, very beginning. By the time we get to the Reformation catechism, the consensus about what should be taught and what should be contained in a catechism was very broad and very wide and in almost all of the reformation catechism. And by the way, in the Counter-Reformation cataclysms and the Catholic catechism that have come down through the ages since the Reformation against similar content. And one simple way to look at this is if you picked up Luther's catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism or the Geneva Catechism of Calvin, or even most of the Catholic Catechism, through the day, through the days, you would find instruction in several common features. For example, three or four things that almost always appeared in a historic catechism are instruction on the Ten Commandments, instruction on or in, rather, we should say, the Apostles Creed, instruction in the Sacraments, a Baptism in the Lord's Supper.
From a Protestant perspective, those two and instruction in the Lord's Prayer, the Commandments, the Creed, the Sacraments, the Lord's Prayer. Sometimes these would be organized differently. They would be outlined differently. They would. In Luther's case, you would study the commandments first, and then you would go on to the creed and the sacraments, the Lord's Prayer in the Heidelberg Catechism. You would start with the Creed first and then go to the commandments. But widespread consensus that this is where you should begin and no sense in any of the Reformation writers that went that they themselves had just stumbled upon this formula for the first time. Rather, to the contrary. Luther would say that this is the historic pattern of Christian teaching. If you could trace back there the history of the Christian catechesis, that is basic instruction in the faith, you would find that the basis of catechesis had always been and Luther's perspective had always been these things the creed, the commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the sacraments. And Luther would say, if you find it, as he does say in the preface to his cataclysms, if you find anybody in the churches who refuse to receive this instruction in the Creed, the Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, especially these three, he says, if you find anybody who refuses this instruction, tell him he is no Christian at all. He has dishonored and disobeyed Christ and he should not be accepted at the table of the Lord's Supper. If A is unwilling to receive these, he is no Christian at all. Very strong language, very typically Luther, and very much based in historical reality. In fact, the development of creeds for the use of Christian confession and instruction are very ancient in the use of the Lord's Prayer, in basic Christian worship and instruction, very ancient.
The use of the Ten Commandments in Christian instruction not quite as ancient. But the principle underlying the commandments, that is the double commandment of love. The Lord of your God with heart, soul, minus strength. Love your neighbor as yourselves. Walk according to the way of the Lord's commands. Very ancient indeed in church history. We might pause and ask ourselves why? Why would these things have been such constant, enduring features in Christian education in all cataclysms for so long? Why the creed? Why are the Commandments? Why the Lord's Prayer? Why are the sacraments? Well, it's a very lengthy conversation to unpack. But here's here's a simple, simple approach to understanding the logic of these ingredients. First of all, it's critical that we say all four of these things Creed, commandment, laws, prayer, sacraments were deemed to be eminently biblical. Of course, the sack or the commandments of the Lord's Prayer themselves are biblical text. They're right from the Scripture. The Apostles Creed was was believed to be an accurate summary of basic Christian teaching in terms of its theology, not drawn directly directly from the Bible, but to be a faithful summary of biblical teaching on what we believe. And and then the sacraments were thought to be instituted by Jesus himself and fundamental to the life of the Church. Sometimes in the history of cataclysms, sacraments do not receive the same kind of attention that the creed, the Commandments and the Lord's Prayer have received historically. But usually they're there as well. Here's a simpler presentation of the logic Why teach a creed? Creed comes from the Latin credo, I believe, and again in the earliest life of the church. In fact, in the Scriptures themselves, there are examples of early creeds developing. Jesus as Lord is a creedal kind of statement.
It's a belief that it's a declaration of a belief that Jesus is Lord. Cradle Latin phrase credo simply means, I believe. And the Apostles Creed, of course, begins with I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Nicene Creed begins with We believe so by use of a creed and instruction in a creed. What does a creed mean? The hope was and the goal was. The intention was that Christians would be schooled, trained in the basics, the fundamentals of theology. What do we believe about God? What do we believe about the Scriptures? What do we believe about Jesus? What do we believe about the Holy Spirit? What do we believe about God's actions in histories and a creed provided A simple outline. A simple way to introduction introduced this It's important to know, obviously, if you study the creed, it's a brief. Something like The Apostles Creed is so brief, so very brief. And even as it's unpacked in the catechism, it's usually through question and answer format. This is very brief and basic instruction. In Christian theology. It's important to understand that none of the catechism, none of the simple catechism, the short brief catechism pretended to be purported to be or aimed to be a thorough schooling in the faith. Rather, they aim to be purported to be an introduction to the faith, something simple, something basic foundational foundation laying. This is not a exploration of a creed. What do we mean when we say we? I believe in one God. That kind of catechism question and answer approach certainly is not going to be a thorough school of theology. It's going to be a brief introduction to fundamental features of theology and ideally done in a way that's not overly controversial. In other words, by use of the Apostles Creed, this is really an attempt to say these are things that all Christians have believed.
These are things that all Christians or nearly all Christians at least have purported to believe in incontrovertible truths. The belief in one God, the belief in Jesus Christ as Lord, the belief in the Holy Spirit, the belief in the Church, the belief in the forgiveness of sins, the belief that Jesus suffered, the belief that he rose again, the belief that he'll come again. Those kind of basic fundamental features that Christians have historically united around, in spite of all the other things that may distinguish us. So a first primer in theology provided by the unpacking of a creed. Why study the commandments? This may be even more controversial to some, I suppose. Certainly some will not like the use of the creed, since it's not an explicitly biblical text. But many churches that do use the creed or are familiar with the creed are not as convinced that the commandments, the Ten Commandments, are very relevant for the Christian church. There are a lot of Christians who would say the commandments, That's Old Testament stuff, and we're not under law now. We're. Grace and might therefore dismiss the use of the commandments. Historically, the church has found tremendous usefulness in the Ten Commandments. This biblical text delivered in Exodus 20, repeated in totality in Deuteronomy Chapter five, alluded to numerous other places throughout the Biblical text. Old and New Testament and the Commandments have historically been understood to do a number of things, including be useful in showing us our sin. This was key for Luther. Luther thought that by study of the commandments, we understand our sinfulness and thus our need of a savior. Luther, drawing from Paul's imagery in the book of Galatians, that the law becomes a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ, the law says you shall not covet.
But I find myself full of coveting. I realize I'm a sinner and therefore I flee to Christ for salvation. Or the law says you shall not commit adultery. But I find my my heart in my eyes full of adultery. I realize I'm a sinner, and thus the Lord drives me to the Savior. So for Luther and others in historic understanding of the church, the commandments are eminently useful for showing us our sin and our need of a savior. But many other Christians have believed that the law serves at least one other critical purpose. Once the law has led us to Christ by showing us our sin in need of a Savior, we can return to the law when we have been born again and dwelt by the Spirit and find in the law a guide for ethical behavior. The creed may tell us what it is that we believe, but the Commandments provide guidance in how it is we should behave. How should Christians act? How should Christians live toward their neighbor? What should be our goal? What should be our our approach to believing neighbors and unbelieving neighbors alike? The short answer to that, of course, is love your neighbor as yourself. But the commandments provide us with information on what that means and how to do that. In fact, the commandments tell us how to love the Lord our God and how to love our neighbors. That double commandment of love, love of God, love of neighbor is a summary of the Ten Commandments. Having been born again by the free grace of God in Jesus Christ and having been in dwelt by the Holy Spirit, I can return to the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, and find clear instruction in what it is that God loves and what it is that God hates.
And I can learn there what it means to love God and love neighbor. And I can begin to obey these things because I'm into it by the spirit and obey them not in order to be saved, but obey them because God has graciously saved me. So we can see the commandments not only as a mirror to show us our sinfulness, but as a guide to reveal to us a code for ethical conduct, a code for guidance on the moral and moral dimensions of life. So I know I'm supposed to love my neighbor, but what does that mean? Well, it means that I will respect my neighbor's marriage vows. I will never violate another person in terms of sexual immorality or adulterous longings. What does it mean to love my neighbor? I will not murder or harm a neighbor's life. I'll never do anything to harm my neighbor, but rather would respect and protect and defend my neighbor. I'll not take from a neighbor. I'll not lie to a neighbor. The Commandments help us to understand what love of neighbor actually means, what it looks like when you put some flesh on the bones. So these two together are very powerful, a creed to provide some basic instruction on what we believe the commandments, to provide some basic moral compass for us, ethical guidance for us, and then the Lord's Prayer and the sacraments, especially, I think in combination provide us with guidance in the devotional life, the lives of the life of prayer and the life of worship. The sacraments are fundamental to our worship, the sacrament of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. But I like to put them together in conjunction with the Lord's Prayer, to say, Here is guidance in the spiritual dimension of devotional life, prayer, life, the life of community worship and community prayer.
By looking at the Lord's Prayer, many Christians have found in the Lord's Prayer a beautiful outline of prayer, beginning with praise to God, involving supplication for basic needs, involving confession of sin, involving the petitions that the Kingdom of God should be established in all Earth, asking for protection from the Evil one. The Lord's Prayer is a. Beautiful outline for prayer beginning and ending with praise as it does. There have been many Christians who believe that it's not just an outline of prayer, but it actually was intended to be prayed and intended to be prayed by individual Christians and by the believing community. But in either case, however we approach that, we could certainly agree that the Lord's Prayer is instructive on the subject of prayer. And like the Apostles Creed, much like the Apostles Creed, can serve as a basic primer. So the creed, a primer in Theology, the Commandments, a primer in ethics, the Lord's Prayer, a Primer in prayer, and in the personal devotional life of the Christian and of the Christian community. One of the things that should jump out at us then is the comprehensiveness of concern here in teaching the basics of faith. We follow this comprehensive idea that we will teach not only what is it that Christians believe, but also how should Christians live and how should Christians approach God and praying, develop personal intimacy with the living God. So we have this three fold concern, this comprehensive concern built into this three fold historic pattern, three Commandments, Lord's Prayer. At this point, I would like to say a couple of things. First of all, I, I really believe that there is great wisdom in the historic pattern, not only because it's great for us to join ourselves to the history of the church, realize that we're not the first persons in the in the ages to ask what it is we must teach or what it means to be Christian.
And we can identify ourselves and partner with the historic Christian movement in this way. That's a beautiful thing for us to do. But I I'm actually a believer in this approach because I believe it is biblical. I think we have a great historic model of biblical concerns. And I'll make that case in just a minute. But what I would say for now is even if you don't feel that the creed is the right way to do it, I think it'd be hard for a Christian to disagree that some kind of basic instruction on what we believe is absolutely essential. We have to teach theology in one form or another. You might not want to have a class in your church called the Creed. Maybe your church is non creedal, as many churches tend to be, but you should certainly have a class on what it is we believe. Maybe you call it just that. What? What do we believe? Or Christian beliefs or Christian theology? One on one or however you want to say it. Somehow we have to train our our believers in what we believe, especially in an age when truth is perceived as relative. We need to we need to give great emphasis in this area. We made the group may disagree that the commandments are the best way to get at Christian ethics, but regardless of how we get there, we have to get there. We have to teach Christian ethics. There must be an introduction in that form of Christian teaching or that aspect of Christian living. How how should Christians live? Is our lifestyle to be distinctive in any way from that of others around us? And as truth is perceived as relative today, certainly we would also agree that morality is widely perceived as relative today.
It's a bold thing for Christians to rise up in their churches and say, no, there are some things that are absolutely right and some that are absolutely wrong. And even in those cases of moral ambiguity, of which there are many, there is guidance for us. We're not just moral free agents out there just choosing what feels right to us at the moment. There is ethical guidance that can be provided for ethical dilemmas when we are serious about the teaching of the Scripture. So you may not teach the creed, but you must teach theology, or you may not teach the commandments, but you must teach Christian ethics and you may not use the Lord's Prayer as your introduction to Christian devotional life. But you must teach people to pray and you must teach people how to worship. Again, I'm an I'm an advocate of following the historic pattern because I think there's great wisdom in using the creed. I think there's no excuse for not teaching the commandments. God forgive us that people are growing up in our churches today for the first time in centuries, not knowing the commandments. We have no excuse for that. And there certainly is nothing meritorious about a doubt raising levels of biblical illiteracy by not teaching the Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, of course, biblical. And we ought to be teaching not only the form of the prayer, but the meaning of the prayer. But that comprehensive concern for what do we believe? How shall we live, how shall we pray, provides great wisdom for us. I sometimes will use the phraseology to get at that comprehensiveness. Taken from John chapter 14, verse six The way the truth and the lie Jesus was asked, What is the way to God? And He answered, I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the father but through me. And Jesus purported that to be in his own person. The way of God unveiled the truth of God, unveiled the life of God unveiled. And he goes on to say, just a few verses later in John 14, verse nine, If anyone has seen me, he has seen the father. Those three terms, the way the truth and the life I do not believe were just pulled out of the air by Jesus, but rather represent three important biblical concepts that correspond to that historic pattern we've just been looking at. The way is an important biblical concept that really deals specifically with issues of ethics and morality lifestyle. For example, in the Old Testament Psalter, the Book of Psalms, you remember Psalm one concludes with this phrase The Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked shall perish. And that phraseology is used throughout the Psalms. Teach me your way or Lord, show me your paths, teach me your way that I may walk in your way, which has to do with the manner of life, ethics, morality. And it's a huge concept in the Scriptures. The early church, as you know, picks up on this terminology of the way and is described as followers of the way. One of the first names of the church indeed were the followers of the way, because their lifestyle was distinctive. They were marked off by a different ethic in their following the pattern that Jesus laid out for them. So I believe the way corresponds to this concern for ethical dimensions of our life and our way should be different from the way of the wicked or the way of the ungodly or the way of those who are ignorant of God.
So followers of the way will live a certain kind of life and have a certain pattern of behavior dominated by love. In short, shortest terms. I would say that the Bible presents the way of the Lord as the way of love, love of God, love of neighbor. What does it mean to walk in his ways? It means to walk and love of God and love of neighbor. That second term, the term the truth, I think, corresponds well to that whole unpacking of theology that the creed introduced. What is the truth? What is the truth about God? What is the truth about His is person. The truth about His work? The truth about his his actions in history. The Bible tells us that that the truth about the invisible God has been declared in the person of Jesus. The Old Testament lays the foundation for this concept of the truth. In a passage like Deuteronomy six four, the most fundamental truth in Hebrew religion hero Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one. The whole doctrine of monotheism, a belief in one God and a certain kind of God, a God who is transcendent yet imminent, who is holy, yet loving a God who is high and lofty and yet utterly engaged with His human creation and all of creation. That truth about God is laid in foundational ways in the Old Testament, and then the truth about God is unfolded even more clearly in the New Testament, as the God who reveals Himself ultimately reveals himself not only through prophets, but in the person of his own son. As the author, two Hebrews says in Hebrews Chapter one The sun is far greater than the prophets, for he is the exact representation of the invisible God.
Or, as Colossians two nine says, all the fullness of the deity dwells in Jesus in bodily form. So if we want to know the truth about who God is, about what God has done, we see the truth unveiled in Jesus. Paul says in Second Thessalonians two that people must embrace that truth, must love the truth. But tragically, many refuse to love the truth and thus miss salvation. And when we believe, when we refuse to believe the truth, we swallow a lie. Paul says in Second Thessalonians Chapter two. And indeed, many have swallowed the lie today by rejecting the truth that God has revealed about himself in Jesus. So the truth is a great phrase to summarize what we mean by. The basics of Christian theology. And then the third term, the life. And Jesus says, I'm the life. This is an especially important term in the gospel of John, in all the Johannine literature. Think through a number of text about that word Life in Greek, The Word of Zoe John, Chapter one, verse four in him, that is, in Jesus was Life and the life was the light of Men. John Chapter three, verse 16. Of course, whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John, Chapter four. Jesus Promises to the Woman at the Well Living Water. John Chapter seven. Same promise. Whoever believes in me, out of his innermost being shall flow. Rivers of living Water. John, Chapter ten, verse ten. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. John 1125 and 26. And the resurrection and the life. John 14 six As we've seen, and the way the truth and the life. John 17 three Maybe most helpful for us. What does it mean when the Bible says life in John's gospel? This is life eternal that they may know you.
The only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 2031 These things have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and believing may have life in His name. And then in the first letter of John, chapter five, verse 11 through 13, the same word is used and unpacked for us. This is the testimony God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His son. He who has the son has the life he does not have. The Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. Well, in all these Johannine uses of the term life, it becomes evident, especially in John 17 three, that it's not talking about quantity of days when the Bible speaks about eternal life, but is talking about being in vital relationship with the living God. So in John's gospel, life means communion with the living God, living relationship with a God who is living and beautiful corresponding term. Then to that whole idea of Christian spirituality, the devotional life, the life of prayer, and the historic use of the Lord's Prayer in the basic Christian instruction. So again, regardless of what we call it, whether we call it way truth in life or whether we use the creed, the commandments, the Lord's Prayer, those things are not so important to me. When we ask the what's what question as the issue, that we are comprehensive in our teaching and we provide some basic instruction in what we believe, how we should live, and how we approach God in terms of personal intimacy through prayer and worship. If I were to take those biblical insights and combine them with other biblical teaching and historic examples, I would propose that in answer to the wet question, these are the things that we must teach first, Not this.
This is all that we must teach or all that we can teach or should teach over the life of the church or in the life span of the Christian. But the things that we would teach as most foundational, we would begin with clear instruction in the Gospel. As Paul says in First Corinthians 15, I taught to you what I also received as a first importance. And then he outlines his gospel first Corinthians 15, verses one through 11. We should never assume that just because people have been in the church for years, perhaps that they have a clear grasp of the gospel. But we must be constantly teaching and reminding people of the gospel as Paul did. So a clear, simple understanding of the gospel. Second step. And in our basic instruction, the faith would probably be an expanded version of the Gospel. I like to call it the story, the story of God's redemptive history, his redemptive dealings with mankind, from Genesis one, all the way to Revelation 22, from creation to the culmination of of history. And we tell the story in a way that allows people to see what their place in the story is. In many respects, the story is a larger version of the gospel, or we can say it otherwise and say the gospel is the story in brief. So we teach the gospel as a first importance. We teach the broad story, much like Jesus did in Luke 24 when he leads, His got his disciples on a Bible survey from the beginning of Scriptures through the prophets, showing them all that the Scriptures say about himself. And then as a third level, I would return to this three fold pattern of the catechism teaching in Christian theology. Teaching and Christian ethics teaching and Christian devotional life, as I would call it, the way the truth and the life.
And personally, I would follow the church's wisdom of teaching through the commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the sacraments as a way of getting at these things. And then beyond that, there's room for lots of further teaching, ongoing instruction in the Scriptures that never stops. As Paul writes to Timothy in Second Corinthians 215, we help the flock become able to properly handle the word of truth. Rightly, handle, rightly, divide or rightly handle the word of truth. Second, Timothy 215. Handle it very well. And then ongoing training also in vocation. If we're creating in Christ Jesus to do good work. So what does that mean and how can we do that? So there certainly is no limit to the things that we can teach and should teach. And I would recommend we go on and on in that kind of instruction in the faith. But in addition to teaching interesting topics or interesting electives, let's lay a firm foundation following the pattern of the church that there are certain things that all Christians really must know. And begin with such instruction. Gospel story, way, truth in life. Those kind of basic training in Christianity, that would be a great place for us to begin. Thank you for listening to this lecture. Brought to you by biblical training, dawg. Feel free to make copies of this lecture to give to others, but please do not charge for these copies or alter the content in any way without permission. We invite you to visit our web site at WW W dot Biblical training, dawg. There you will find the finest in evangelical teaching for use in the home and the church. And it is absolutely free. Our curriculum includes classes for new believers, lay education classes, and seminary level classes taught by some of the finest seminary teachers drawn from a wide range of evangelical traditions.