There has never been a time in world history when people in developed countries have been so carefully and well fed physically. Nutrition is a subject which fills pages of every homemaker’s magazine and captures the spotlight of many television ads. Careful studies and experiments have been conducted by experts in many professions, and a legion of diets have been scientifically contrived to correct every conceivable deficient or unbalanced situation. Nutritious meals have become a priority on family planning agendas for many homemakers.
But in God’s plan for the family, there is something even more important than physical nutrition, and that is spiritual nutrition. Not only has He provided a family nest in which children are to be fed spiritually, but He has also provided a “people of God,” a communal structure where children of God can be nurtured and can worship. In the Old Testament there was a theocracy with all of its Biblical rites, ceremonies and instruction. In the New Testament Christ established the church and gave to it the task of feeding the lambs.
On a number of occasions Jesus displayed His tender love and concern for children. Once when Jesus sat on a Judean hillside teaching and answering questions, children broke the solemnity of the hour to clamor for a blessing and a prayer. Impatiently the disciples urged them to be gone but Jesus, angry with their lack of vision and insight, laid His hands on the little ones and said, “Suffer the little children to come to Me for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 10: 14, 15).
Later Jesus cleansed the temple to the accompaniment of children's voices who sang, “Hosanna to the son of David!” When the chief priests and scribes displayed anger, Jesus responded, “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”
In both of these situations, Jesus brushed aside apparent inconvenience to expose the true value of these children.
THE DOCTRINE PROGRAM
Lamb-feeding is the church’s task. It must feed them through the indispensable preaching of the Word and also through supplementary organizations within the church, designed for boys and girls. But the primary education task of the church is to teach the lambs the mighty acts of God revealed as sacred history in the Scriptures, and also the basic Christian doctrine demonstrated in these records of God’s dealings with His children and further explained and applied by the prophets and apostles. Historically these two bodies of knowledge (sacred history and doctrine) have been taught as separate programs of the church — Sunday School and catechism. There has been an attempt in recent years to combine these two bodies of knowledge into one church school program. While it is true that sacred history is to an extent an embodiment and demonstration of the various doctrines of the Scripture, yet there is a lot of Biblical truth left undefined, unexplored and unexposed by such a pedagogical blend. Perhaps one of the failures of the church in the past was the tendency to teach doctrine somewhat apart from the context of Scripture. As a result, students who are now adults may have received the impression that doctrine was something other than Scripture. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yet one can understand how students might receive that impression.
Doctrine must be taught within a Biblical context. Memory work answers should contain the direct testimony of Scripture whenever possible.Worksheets should drawstudents directly into Scriptures where they must ferret out these doctrines for themselves. Lesson explanations must reinforce the doctrine being taught with Biblical examples wherever possible. In discussions, questions should solicit not only a feedback of research the students have done, but they should be questions which are structured to discover whether students have the ability to (1) utilize what they have learned, and to determine to what extent students (2) value what they have learned.
THE SACRED HISTORY PROGRAM
In the teaching of sacred history, perspective is of vital importance. It is not enough to teach only dates, names, places, or even events in chronological sequence. The teaching of sacred history must answer basic questions.
It must answer the question—what is the Bible? The Bible is the self-revelation of God.
It must answer the question—why has God chosen to reveal Himself in the Bible? God has chosen to reveal Himself in the Bible so that His children may see God’s sovereignty, grace and design in the working out of the plan of salvation in which all God’s creation and God’s children become united in Jesus Christ for the ultimate purpose of God’s glory.
It must answer the question—how has God revealed Himself in the Bible? God has revealed Himself along three main lines which are distinguishable and yet always intertwined.
The Sovereignty of God
The sovereignty of God is revealed in His working out of redemption. In all the literature of Scripture, students must see how sovereignly God has planned and guided the events of history to fulfill His purpose so that for example, the significance of Joseph lies not only in his triumph over temptation, though that certainly is a lesson we must glean; but Joseph’s significance lies in God’s over-arching purpose of preparing, protecting and providing for a chosen people from whom His Son should one day be born.
The Grace of God
The grace of God is revealed in the history of redemption. Students must see that God in His dealings with His people, was a God with a gracious saving purpose. His mighty acts, despite the rebellion of a stubborn people, were acts which did not destroy but saved. Adam was saved out of Eden; Noah was saved from the flood; Abraham was saved from a surrounding idolatrous people; Isaac was saved from the knife; Jacob was saved from the wrath of brother Esau; Joseph was saved from his plotting brothers; Moses was saved from death in the river; Israel was saved from Pharaoh; the dispersed tribes of Judah and Benjamin were saved fromcertain death throughqueen Esther; Davidwas saved from thespear of Saul and theplotting of his own son; baby Jesus was savedfrom the knife of Herod. And through it all was the sovereign and gracious guiding of our God to fulfill His divine purpose.
The Design of God
The design of God is revealed in His covenantal method of uniting His Church to Jesus Christ. Students must see that God, in achieving the whole purpose of redemption, worked with a people whom He called His own. He guided the events of their lives with such precision and love that He had an answer to their problems all prepared before they even laid their petitions before Him. The scope of His covenantal love was so broad that He elevated those of low degree such as Ruth and Esther and Mary, some of ill repute such as Rahab, and He incorporated them into the ancestry of His Son. Students must also see that God's method is covenantal to this day. Galatians 3:26–29 say, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ. dIen you are Abraham's seed. and heirs according to the promise.” Those who become Christ's by faith. enter into a covenantal relationship with Him and all belong to the family of God. The Church of Jesus Christ is not called a collection of individuals but rather, a body.
These three unifying themes of Scripture run through all of Scripture—history, poetry, prophecy. wisdom literature and epistles. They must be pointed out and stressed and applied in every lesson. This perspective will teach children the (1) progressive development in Scripture, and the (2) unity of Scripture. This perspective will also prevent the “stories” of Scripture from being taught either (1) in isolation from their immediate and overall context or (2) only for their moral lessons, even though those lessons are so very important and must be applied.
Spiritual nutrition must have top priority in the planning for our families. God has provided His revelation and He intends that we and our children assimilate and practice it.