TEACHING THE WORD
July 1, 1991 Issue
by Paul O. Nichols
People who accept the Bible as God's infallible word agree that His ways are always right and cannot be improved upon. We do not always understand why the Lord commands something, but that does not lessen our responsibility to accept it as truth. Remember, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord" (Isa 55:8). And the apostle Paul said, "O the depth and the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out" (Rom 11:33). Reason as we may, there are some things in the scriptures that we, as human beings, cannot reason out or rationalize to our own satisfaction. Such things must be accepted by faith. "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor 5:7). Some things in the Bible may seem foolish to the carnal mind, but even "the foolishness of God is wiser than men" (1 Cor 1:25). I am sure the children of Israel could not see, by human reason, how that looking at a brazen serpent on a pole would cure snake bites, but those who wasted no precious time rationalizing, but quickly obeyed, were the ones who were cured and lived. And what about Naaman? While he reasoned that the rivers close to home were just as good and more desirable than the river of Jordan he almost made a fatal decision. If he had failed to obey the voice of the prophet of God, he would have died from the ravaging disease of leprosy. And, again, was there any reason why the blind man should think there was a cure for his congenital malady. in the water of Siloam? His desire to see was greater than his desire to know why the command. His obedience to Jesus gave him sight. He obeyed even though it was not "reasonable." And when we want to please the Lord more than we desire to know why, and try to rationalize his commandments by human reason before we will accept them, then we will respond in obedience. We will "walk by faith, not by sight."
Teaching the word is the subject under consideration. In order to understand any subject in the Bible, one of the first things necessary is to have the right attitude. Be honest. Have a sincere desire to know the truth. Jesus said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matt 5:6). Study the scriptures for the commandments and the examples God has given in His Word. Try to determine what is applicable to us today. Remember God's ways are always best, regardless of what we think.
The main responsibility for teaching children has always been that of the parents. Children are wards of the home, and those who bring them into the world are responsible to God to teach them. The Jews in the Old Testament were told, "And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children...,, (Deut 6:6,7). "Therefore shall ye lay up these words in your heart and in your soul.. And ye shall teach them your children" (Deut 11:18,19). Where was this to be done and how often? "And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (Deut 11:19). Solomon said, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov 22:6).
In the New Testament, as well, the parents are given the responsibility of teaching their children. Paul says, "And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). The church as an institution was never given the commandment to teach children. If so, where is it? The commandment of Jesus to the apostles was to preach the gospel to those who could obey it and become Christians (Mk 16:15,16; Matt 28:19,20), and to further instruct them to keep the commandments of the Lord. After the converts were taught the will and the ways of the Lord, it became their responsibility to train their children in the way they should go.
THE DIVINE ARRANGEMENT
In the Old Testament children were allowed to be present when the scriptures were read and explained. We are told in Neh 8:1-3, "All the people gathered themselves together as one man.. "And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with under standing...And he read therein.. before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law." In Joshua Chapter 8 we are told that Joshua "read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women and the little ones, and the strangers, that were conversant among them" (Josh 8:34,35). These are classic examples of all being taught and learning in one undivided assembly. And everyone present got the teaching needed and was able to comprehend -- men, women, and the children. In Nehemiah 8:7,8 we are told certain men explained the reading and "caused the people to understand the law" and "gave the sense."
Here is another example in the Old Testament. Moses said, "When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: And that their children, which have not known anything, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in this land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it" (Deut 31:11,12).
The three preceding examples of God's word being read and taught to men, women, and children in the same assembly proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is not necessary to classify people in order to teach them the word of God. The Lord knew best and gave divine instructions how it was to be done.
In all those years preceding the coming of Christ this was the arrangement that was authorized; just one undivided assembly. And in such an arrangement all could learn.
THE PRACTICE OF CHRIST AND THE APOSTLES
In the New Testament we are informed that the same arrangement was used by Jesus and the apostles. In Luke chapter four we are told concerning Jesus, "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. ..And the eyes of all them were in the synagogue were fastened on him.. .And all bare him witness ..And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath" (Lk 4:16, 20, 22, 28). All the people were together when Jesus read the scriptures and taught them "as his custom was." Other scriptures could be cited to prove that this same arrangement was used to teach multitudes on other occasions.
This arrangement was used by the apostles when they taught the multitude on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and upon many occasions after that. In fact, this the only way they taught the crowds who came to hear. And not one time can we read where they divided up the people into classes to teach them.
HUMAN vs. THE DIVINE
Dividing into classes for teaching the scriptures is an invention of man. The arrangement has absolutely no Bible authority. It is true that it has been widely adopted, but so has instrumental music and other religious innovations and inventions of men. How popular a thing is makes it neither right nor wrong in itself. Something is right if it is authorized by God and can be found in His word.
There are several ways that people may be classified, but none of these can be found in the Bible. Students may be classified by physical age. Or they can be classified according to spiritual age. But, of course, they cannot be classified by both at the same time. It is either by one or the other. Also students could be tested and classified by I.Q. One other method could be used to classify, and that is by knowledge. Of course, this method would require a test to determine how much each one knows about the scriptures. Whichever method is used, it is to the neglect of the other three. When several obey the gospel at the same time they are all the same spiritual age, but they may not all be of the same physical age. Should they be classified by physical or spiritual age in order to have their needs met? And what about their knowledge of the scriptures? If they are classified by knowledge they surely cannot be classified by either physical or spiritual age. Also some of the same physical age or spiritual age are not of the same I.Q. And if a group is classified by I.Q. they would not be classified by knowledge or by age, either physical or spiritual. In fact, there is no way people can be classified by all of these methods at the same time.
The Lord's arrangement for teaching people the scriptures is an undivided unclassified assembly is the best in the world. It always has been an and always will be. God says, "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass" (Deut 332:2). This same type of figure is used by Isaiah the prophet. "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isa 55:10, 11).
When an assembly of people is taught the word of God, each person, young or old, babe in Christ or mature Christian, high I.Q. or low, knowledgeable or not, gets what he needs and can absorb, if the preacher or teacher does his job as he ought. This is God's way, and no one can improve on it. The apostle Paul says, "Ye may all prophesy (teach) one by one that all may learn and all may all be comforted" (1 Cor. 14:31).
Other OPA Article Links:
Innovations - "Sunday School"/Bible Classes
Paul O. Nichols 1991 OPA Main Page HOME