The Great Value of Scriptural Instruction for the Church
We cannot easily express how important a scriptural education is for our families also today, in an age of so many errors. Satan also knows that and his subjects are sometimes more aware of the importance of education than we are. In communist countries many students from foreign countries are trained in order to penetrate and change society, the way of life and opinions in churches and government of their home countries, so that the way is prepared for revolution. Universities, colleges and high schools are used to pollute the rising generation to lead them in ways of anarchism or even revolution, and that happens according to a very dangerous and secret strategy.
There is no better strategic place to influence others than a school. The Reformers saw that importance, too. Although the Lord builds His church by the powerful, irresistible work of the Holy Spirit, He uses means, and a very significant means is education. The Reformers tried to educate and to instruct the people, led out of the bondage of Rome, and they did so by their preaching, teaching, and writing.
Luther, for example, as also Calvin, preached very often. Every Sunday three public services were held: one in the early morning from five to six o'clock, usually about the epistles of Paul. There was also a service in the morning from nine to ten o'clock about a portion of one of the gospels. In the afternoon Luther's catechism was usually preached. Beside that there were also house-services in the chapel of his home, a former monastery. What precious opportunities to teach and to instruct the people! Luther's sermons were clear, simple and practical.
He really felt his great responsibility and was afraid that he would teach the people in disagreement with the will of God and the truth of His revelation. Once he said, "You have to die from fear daily, because of the fear that you may lead the congregation in the wrong way."
No, Luther was not so convinced that he was able to give guidance and that he had a lot of wisdom. He knew how necessary it is to be taught by the Spirit and to be led in His ways.
But not only by his preaching, he tried also by his teaching to educate and to instruct in the truth. In the fall of 1515, Dr. Martin Luther, professor of sacred theology at the university of Wittenberg, began to expound to his students the epistle of Paul to the Romans. We see that Luther gradually came to a clear knowledge of the central teaching of scripture, which is the doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Christ, without works. In the preface to it, he says, "The epistle to the Romans is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest gospel.''
We then see how clear and firm his instruction was and that in spite of the fact that he was still an inexperienced young believer. It was only a short time ago that the Lord had revealed unto him that mystery of the gospel, how a sinner can be reconciled with God in a way of righteousness.
We need also today such clear and firm instruction. Our youth need more than ever instruction in the unchangeable truth, scriptural guidance on how to stand in this age, in a clear explanation. We do not have to accommodate to modern views or to change that old message of free grace in order to make it acceptable for our days. The truth of good tidings for poor sinners has always been and will be: "unto the Jew a stumbling block and unto the Greek foolishness."
A few examples of Luther's way of explanation in that preface to the Romans, are: When speaking about the law, he says, "We can keep the law outwardly, for fear of punishment or love of reward, but we do all this without willingness and pleasure and without love for the law, but rather with unwillingness. At the bottom of our heart we hate the law."
He explains how pleasure in and love for the law is put into the heart by the Holy Ghost when we receive faith. And what is that faith? It is important to see what Luther said, especially in a time wherein faith is considered by many, as our answer to God, our acceptance, and that by our free will.
We hope that such a God-dishonoring heresy may be discerned and rejected by us. Luther said this about true faith, that faith is a divine work in us. It changes us to be born anew of God, it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men. "Pray God to work faith in you, else you will remain forever without faith, whatever you think or do."
When speaking about the order in God's sovereign work of salvation, he gives advice unto his students how to preach. He says, "It is right for a preacher of the gospel, first by a revelation of the law and of sin, to rebuke everything and make sin of everything that is not the living fruit of the Spirit and of faith in Christ. In this way men may be led to know themselves and their own wretchedness, to become humble and ask for help."
He then begins to teach the right way by which men must be justified and saved without merit, through faith in Christ. That is a way of dying, for our conscience is bound to the law as long as man is not slain. What a privilege if he may die, when, "he is slain by the Spirit, for then the conscience is free, also to cleave to Christ, the second husband, and bring forth the fruits of life." First a dying to the old man, then we can cleave unto the second man.
That is clear, biblical language; this is firm and sound instruction.
You see the same in his lectures about the epistle to the Romans. It is remarkable how clear Luther wrote already in 1515-1516 about God's sovereign grace for lost sinners. May that be our experience and our teaching too, educators and parents. Then our children would be impressed and would feel it is reality for them, and would say, "How happy are my parents; how privileged is my teacher.''
Examples of Luther's lectures: About the works of the law, Romans 3, "we may boast of our works for men, but have no glory for God. The real glory before God is righteousness, wisdom and spiritual strength, and all these come from God and are given to us freely by Him.''
About election, Romans 8:28b: "This doctrine, of predestination and election, is not so incomprehensible as many think, but it is rather full of sweet comfort for the elect and for all who have the Holy Spirit. But it is most bitter and hard for the wisdom of the flesh. If there would not be this divine purpose, our salvation would rest upon our will or work; it would be based upon chance. But our salvation altogether lies in His hands."
That is sound, comforting education. Do we know that comfort already? Did election already become a cause of admiration unto us?
When he speaks about what man does as a fruit of God's grace, he says under Romans 9:16, "This does not mean that God's mercy altogether excludes our willing or running. But if he wills or runs, he owes it not to his own strength, but to the mercy of God. For it is He who gives us the power to will and to do. It is God that showeth mercy, who grants to man the gift of His grace.'' About the work of salvation he says, "He saves only sinners, makes wise only the foolish and the weak, enriches only the poor and makes alive only the dead. And indeed not those who merely regard themselves as such, but those who really are such and acknowledge this."
It is good that we listen, especially today with so many wrong interpretations of faith, unto Luther's instruction, when he speaks of faith and the way wherein the soul is brought back unto God: "Faith in Christ takes from you all confidence in your own wisdom, in your own righteousness, in your own strength. It teaches you that if Christ had not died for you and had not saved you, neither you, nor any creature, could have benefitted you. You then learn to despise all these things, for to you they remain useless. There remains nothing for you but Jesus, none but Jesus, as Jesus alone fully suffices your soul. No longer hoping for anything from all creatures, you have nothing but Christ, from whom is all your hope and whom you love above all."
What blessed instruction had evidently been given unto Luther, so that he could teach that way of losing everything outside of Christ, but also of finding everything in Him. In a way of trials and afflictions, led by the Spirit into this truth, Luther came to this knowledge. He could truly say what he wrote to an old brother monk, "O, my dear brother, learn to know Christ, and Christ crucified. Learn to sing to Him a new song. Say to Him, 'Thou, Lord Jesus, Thou art my righteousness and I, I am Thy sin; Thou hast taken what was mine and Thou hast given me what is Thine'."
What an influence this clear, practical teaching obtained in that dark age, and how it was used to lead people out of the darkness of ignorance, of superstition, to the knowledge of the only Name, given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved.
The devil knows how important education is. He also used gifted men to lead away from the truth, to promote opinions that dishonored Christ and pleased corrupt, selfish, fallen men.
We see that in the life and labors of Arminius. He used his strategic place, the university of Leyden, to teach his views unto the theological students. He did so, while covering up his errors, by insisting that he was really Reformed. He used all opportunities to spread the leaven of heresy throughout the church and his disciples went forth thoroughly imbibed with his views to preach and teach them over the whole country. If he could not with safety teach his views in the university, he did it in the seclusion of his home. Here he gathered select groups of his students to discuss with them what he believed. Here he used his charming ways to make his young followers into ardent defenders and preachers of his teachings.
Education ... a mighty weapon for good or bad, used to the coming of God's kingdom and also to the ruin of the church.
How responsible is our position when we have to bring up, to train, to educate children, to instruct catechism classes or to teach the congregation.
How blind and foolish we are in ourselves, and utterly unable to be instructors. How easy we believe the lie and accept the error and how necessary it is that the truth is revealed unto us, and that our hearts are inclined to believe it. But what a blessing is it, that we may have our own schools, that we have in various ways so many opportunities to freely instruct and to educate in the truth.
May the Lord give us as educators the Spirit of grace and true wisdom to be used to the coming of His kingdom and that His Name may be glorified.