Reading 3 – Sunday, December 6, 2015

Apt to Teach

By Larry Watts, U.S.A.

At the end of His ministry, as Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, many were hoping that the long-awaited, promised kingdom of heaven would at last be set up. He had to correct the assumption “that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.” Luke 19:11-13.

In the apostle Paul’s writings, he states that “unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto  men.” “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets;  and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children,…” Ephesians 4:7, 8, 11-14.

The nobleman who gives gifts is Jesus, and the servants who await His return are those who live at the end of time, when the wedding and the establishment of the kingdom of glory take place. We pray that we are those servants. Yes, we are sure of this and are confident that the application is correct. But what do the “pounds” represent? They are emblems of the gifts given for the  dification of the body  of Christ, to “build it up” until He returns. These gifts total ten if the three texts mentioning them are taken as a whole, while in the letters of the apostle Paul (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Ephesians 4:11-13) no specific number is given.

The gift

Having this confidence and applying the verses of the apostle Paul, can we also know what gift is ours? Certainly no one has every gift, and just as certainly it can be said that none have none, for the nobleman called his ten servants and gave each of them ten pounds–ten being a numerical symbol of ordinal perfection and completeness. Therefore, each of us not only may but should know what his gift is, for he will be called to give an account of it when the Lord of glory returns.

The apostle Peter was speaking about this when he said that all who “repent” and are “baptized” “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” “shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38. Thus, God promises that those who sincerely come to Christ will receive the gift of the Spirit, including at least one primary gift to be used to advance the cause of Christ. How long does it take for a committed child of God to recognize his or her gift? God knows!

The first words of Jesus recorded in the New Testament, spoken to His Mother and Joseph when they found Him conversing with the rabbis in the temple, give us a clue about this: “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2:49. What did His answer show? His first and foremost interest was to take care of His Father’s business–His mission. When that is also our primary business, we will know in due time what gift has been entrusted to us, and it is very likely that others will see it before we do. From their lips we will hear, for example,  “You’re a teacher!” One of the primary tasks of a teacher is to help his or her students recognize their own special gifts and to challenge them to develop and use them for God’s glory, thus fulfilling the purpose of their existence. Yet even beyond our individual gift(s) is the greatest gift that God has granted to us as a people–our children. When God’s people are faithful, committed teachers play an important part in that faithfulness. In fact, in Scripture, unfaithfulness is defined as a lack of proper commitment to instruct the youth in religious duties! Concerning a difficult time in the history of Israel, it was written: “Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.” 2 Chronicles 15:3.

Schools of the prophets

In the time of Samuel, schools were established for the instruction of the young people. “If a youth desired to search deeper into the truths of the word of God and to seek wisdom from above, that he might become a teacher in Israel, these schools were … to serve as a barrier against the widespread corruption, to provide for the moral and spiritual welfare of the youth, and to promote the future prosperity of the nation by furnishing it with men qualified to act in the fear of God as leaders and counselors.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 593.

“From the earliest times the faithful in Israel had given much care to the education of the youth…. “

In the days of Christ the town or city that did not provide  for the religious instruction of the young was regarded as under the curse of God….But the Jewish teachers gave their attention to … material that was worthless to the learner, and that would not be recognized in the higher school of the courts above. The experience which is obtained through a personal acceptance of God’s word had no place in the educational system…. The great essentials of the service of God were neglected. The principles of the law were obscured. That which was regarded as superior education was the greatest hindrance to real development. Under the training of the rabbis the powers of the youth were repressed. Their minds became cramped and narrow.

“The child Jesus did not receive instruction in the synagogue schools. His mother was His first human teacher.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 69, 70.

Concerning John the Baptist, we read that “in the natural order of things, the son of Zacharias would have been educated for the priesthood. But the training of the rabbinical schools

[of his day] would have unfitted him for his work. God did not send him to the teachers of theology to learn how to interpret the Scriptures. He called him to the desert, that he might learn of nature and nature’s God.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 101.

The persecuted church

Although Christ’s church from its inception has been pursued and persecuted, it has always valued very highly the education of its children, no matter what the circumstances were.

“Pure, simple, and fervent was the piety of these followers of Christ. The principles of truth they  alued above houses and lands, friends, kindred, even life itself. These principles they earnestly sought to impress upon the hearts of the young. From earliest childhood the youth were instructed in the Scriptures and taught to regard sacredly the claims of the law of God. Copies of the Bible were rare; therefore its precious words were committed to memory….

“Parents, tender and affectionate as they were, loved their children too wisely to accustom them to self-indulgence. Before them was a life of trial and hardship, perhaps a martyr’s death. They were educated from childhood to endure hardness, to submit to control, and yet to think and act for themselves….

“The Waldenses had sacrificed their worldly prosperity for the truth’s sake, and with persevering patience they toiled for their bread…. Economy and severe self-denial formed a part of the education which the children received as their only legacy. They were taught that God designs life to be a discipline, and that their wants could be supplied only by personal labor, by forethought, care, and faith. The process was laborious and wearisome, but it was wholesome, just what man needs in his fallen state, the school which God has provided for his training and  development. While the youth were inured to toil and hardship, the culture of the intellect was not neglected. They were taught that all their powers belonged to God, and that all were to be improved and developed for His service.” –The Great Controversy, pp. 67, 68.

An emphasis on Christian education

The Reformation of the sixteenth century brought far-reaching changes in education. Before the Protestant Reformation, education was generally geared to the preparation of the clergy. However, the thorough education of the believers naturally followed the Reformation’s emphasis on doctrines such as the priesthood of all the believers, justification by faith, and the  responsibility of each person to know the Scriptures for himself. Every Christian was encouraged to read, know, memorize, learn, understand, and apply the word in every area of life so God would truly be honored in society.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) emphasized the necessity of reformed, Biblical education; and much of what he said is still fresh and pertinent today. Likewise, John Calvin (1509-1564) put a great deal of effort into the establishment of Christian schools. And Charles Wesley (1707-1788), founder of the Methodist Church, for more than fifty years placed great emphasis on developing educational enterprises.

In the United States, universities that were originally established primarily to train men for the ministry are today considered some of the best in the world. Harvard was founded in 1636 to fill the need for clergy for the “church in the wilderness.” In 1701. Congregationalist ministers who were unhappy  with the growing liberalism at Harvard founded Yale University, originally called Collegiate School. In 1746, the Presbyterian Synod started Princeton University, which was originally called the College of New Jersey. Duke University was started in 1835 in Durham, North Carolina, when Methodist and Quaker families employed a permanent teacher for their subscription school.

While the above educational institutions especially in the past century strayed far from their originally stated purpose, they and others, such as Oberlin College, were a major influence in American society and the world two hundred years ago, just as God was preparing people to proclaim the three angels’ messages. Charles G. Finney (1792–1875), the second president of Oberlin College, was a Presbyterian minister and leader in the Second Great Awakening in the United States, 1825- 35. Finney was an advocate of Christian perfectionism, abolition of slavery, and equal education for women and African Americans.

The true foundation of education

“The Bible … is the foundation of all true education. The fear of the Lord– the very first lesson to be taught–is the beginning of wisdom.” –Child Guidance, p. 316.

The emphasis on the Bible as the true foundation of education for all people, no matter what their race or gender, was a factor that played a very important part in the advancement of the Advent Movement. The blueprint for early Adventist schools was created out of the desire to pattern all things after the Scriptures. Unfortunately, the same thing that happened to universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Prince-ton happened in Adventism. Practical training was replaced by human methods and priorities, described as “the popular method of filling the student’s mind with that which is not practical and hurrying him through a certain course.” –G.H. Bell, Review and Herald, December 26, 1882.

“In true education the selfish ambition, the greed for power, the disregard for the rights and needs of humanity, that are the curse of our world, find a counter influence. God’s plan of life has a place for every human being. Each is to improve his talents to the utmost; and faithfulness in doing this, be the gifts few or many, entitles one to honor.” –Child Guidance, pp. 293, 294.

“True education is religion.” –Child Guidance, p. 493.

“True education is the preparation of the physical, mental, and moral powers for the performance of every duty; it is the training of body, mind, and soul for divine service. This is the education that will endure unto eternal life.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 330.

The word for “teacher” in the Old Testament Hebrew is Yarah, which also means to “flow as water” or “to rain.” A striking example of this occurred in the life of one of history’s most famous teachers, Anne Sullivan. She is the young teacher who broke into the entombed mind of the deaf and blind Helen Keller in 1887, when, at the pump gushing water on one of Helen’s hands, she took the girl’s other hand and spelled out w-a-t-e-r. Without that breakthrough, Helen would have lived her entire life in a dark, silent world. For Anne to communicate with that mind required enormous love and patience, as well as a divinely inspired stroke of genius.

Helen Keller eventually learned to speak and became a sought-after lecturer and author of twelve books. She once said, “Everyone of us is blind and deaf until our eyes are opened to our fellowmen, until our ears hear the voice of humanity.” She also presented a correct view of education when she said, “Unless we form the habit of going to the Bible in the bright moments as well as in trouble, we cannot fully respond to its consolations….”

Anne Sullivan learned by practical experience that “it is the nicest work [the most important, most noble work that God calls people to do for Him] ever assumed by men and women to deal with youthful minds.” –Christian Education, p. 5.

Undoubtedly there are individuals in God’s cause who have the talent of teaching. God has called you for such a time as this. Consider your gift, and joyfully take up the “nicest work ever assumed by men and women.”

God and His cause need godly teachers along with those who support the work of education with their prayers and contributions. And no matter what our talent is, we all have an influence upon others, especially the young. “Just as you treat your children, so will you treat Christ.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1131.

Let us support our teachers and schools and value our own gift(s). Let all who are apt to teach, teach! “Educate, educate, educate.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 330.