Christian Education in the Book of Acts
Christian education (CE) in the early church took place largely at gatherings in the believers’ house. Food would be served at those gatherings. Very often after the meal, the believers would be taught the teaching of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:42-47, 4:33-37). They will learn Christian doctrines and how to live an obedient lifestyle. There was also a general sentiment that every believer is called to be a missionary, and thus everyone was encouraged to bear witness to unbelievers.
The Book of Acts tells us that the purpose of CE is to continue Jesus’ ministry on earth after his ascension. This includes the preaching of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:14-36), developing community life in the church (Acts 2:41-47), and working out the practical implication of the gospel (Acts 15:1-35). These were the early church’s CE curriculums, to which the believers were devoted to (Acts 2:42).
Christian Education in the Epistles
The Epistles are filled with instructions for CE. These instructions challenge the education philosophy in the world. Unlike many secular philosophies, CE takes its foundation from the gospel. It is not merely the presentation of new ideals and facts, but aim to inspire faith, encourage love, and cultivate obedience. As Apostle Paul, Peter, John, Jude, James, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews have written respectively:
Ø The Goal of CE. 1Timothy 1:15, Galatians 5:22 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 teach us that the goal of CE is to develop the disciples’ spiritual maturity. Disciples’ spiritual maturity is evident if they live according to the manner taught by the Apostles. They would adhere to sound theology, make good moral judgment, build and maintain healthy relationships, and serve sacrificially. Instruction alone can only provide the direction. It is the Holy Spirit who enables disciples to love God, family members, brothers and sisters in Christ, and even their enemies.
Ø The Content of CE. The Epistles make clear distinction between truth and error. Peter urges his readers to resist and correct error (2 Peter 2:1). CE’s content is based on truth. And truth encompasses truthfulness in words and deeds. CE curriculums, ranging from the elementary to sophisticated level, have to be grounded in truth.
Ø The Responsibility of Teachers. Some Christian leaders are called to teach. This is their responsibility. They have to live appropriately as their attitudes and behaviors testify to the validity of what they teach. The teaching office in the church is one of the five that is given by Christ. As it is a crucial office in the church, much attention is given to it (1Timothy 3:2, 2 Timothy 2:2, Titus 2:3, Ephesians 4:11-12, and James 3:1).
Ø Life’s Challenges as Part of CE. The challenges in life put us to test to see how much we have gained from our CE. For disciples who have gain much, they would be able to cope with suffering when it comes. They know that suffering produces character of Christ. Such testing enables us to evaluate the effectiveness of any CE program. It is also through such testing that the disciples can evaluate their own walk with God. Authentic disciples who passed these tests in life would be good witnesses for Jesus Christ and exemplify the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Revelation 3:19).
Christian Education for Today
The primary setting for CE is the church. The church’s CE curriculum is probably the most comprehensive educational syllabus in the world as it covers the youngest child to the oldest adult. The numbers of participants involved in the CE ministry are significant. Besides, CE also happens outside the church at places such as Christian schools, Bible Study groups, camps, para-church organizations and various ministries. It is important to note that CE is not limited to just one kind of organization or ministry. It is found outside the church at many different venues. CE focuses on spiritual development, life transformation, and imparting biblical values.
The Extension of Christian Education
CE is not only for Christians. It can be extended to non-Christians too. There are people who come to faith through CE, and continue to grow as disciples through CE. So, participation in CE is not a one-off activity but a lifetime of dedication to learn more about God and His Word.
The Purpose of Christian Education
The purpose of CE is to fulfill Christ’s commission to make disciples of all nations: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20) People’s lives are transformed when they are taught the Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, which brought them to the saving faith in Jesus Christ, into a life of discipleship, and Christian service in the world today.
The Head and the Heart Belong Together
Theology that has no application to life is void of meaning and purpose. Jesus sought to connect the heart of the disciples with His message. Knowledge of doctrine alone is insufficient to fulfill the Great Commission. What is needed is a careful and deliberate combination of ways on how we can apply biblical doctrines to our life. As James 2:17 states, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead.”
Therefore, wherever God has placed us to serve, let’s affirm together with Paul that our life’s commitment is to educate disciples in godly wisdom: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28) This is our joy!