Volume 11, Number 1, July-August 2007
by Norman Edwards
At first, it might seem that there is no need for an article on this subject. Every believer knows that God teaches us spiritual knowledge through the Bible, His Spirit and messages in Church services. For secular education, we have a great variety of schools and universities. There are more publications, broadcasts and websites available—both religious and secular—than one could possibly ingest in a lifetime. Numerous universities have adult education programs in the evenings. So what more education do we need?
The reality is we have a desperate need for more true education and less truth-mixed-with-error education. This is why it is so important to understand biblical education—and to implement it. Most practicing Christians would recognize that today’s moral and spiritual education is far removed from biblical standards. Few people recognize that today’s secular education is far away from what the Bible teaches—and often far removed from the truth.
Better Secular Education Needed
Much of today’s secular education is funded by grants from corporations and foundations which purposefully promote ideas that will support their business interests. Truth often loses.
One blatant example of this is the medical profession. We may shake our heads about past ignorance when we hear that doctors used to prescribed toxic mercury as a medicine. But how many drugs during our day have surged into rapid use only to be recalled when disastrous side effects are discovered a few years later?
Much of the Continuing Medical Education required for doctors is sponsored by drug companies and is centered around the application of drugs. Simple dietary, herbal or other remedies which can be equally or more effective offer little opportunity for profit—so they are not taught. Indeed the situation can be more grim: medical schools and drug companies sometimes have overlapping boards of directors, and other entangled arrangements where the school gets more money when the drug company profits.
It is beyond the scope of this article to adequately critique today’s educational system, but to help the reader see the need for the biblical methods, three more paragraphs about today’s higher education are in order:
Today, the colleges and universities, including the professors who sit on the boards that accredit them, have a monopoly on education. In order to serve as a doctor, lawyer, counselor, engineer or in many other professions, laws require that one have a degree from these accredited institutions. No amount of capability or proven track record of success can replace the degrees these institutions grant. With many hundreds of universities in existence, one would think that it would be impossible for the same errors to be taught at all of them. But the centralized accrediting process has a great deal of control over what can be taught. For example, there are no universities that will grant a degree in paleontology if the candidate’s thesis refutes evolution—even though a multitude of scientific evidence exists. As another example, there are no law schools today that teach how to organize a church as anything but a non-profit corporation, even though other methods were predominant for years and are still used by thousands of churches.
Today, the higher education system contains legislative, executive and judicial functions all rolled into one. It decides what students must learn (legislative), it teaches them (executive), and it certifies that the students have learned with a degree (judicial). This is in great contrast to some areas of technical education, such as auto mechanics, where one industry group or government agency may write standards for what workers will need to know, where private schools teach the students, and where another agency tests and certifies them.
The rising cost of higher education, which greatly exceeds the rate of inflation, is further evidence of the monopoly it holds. All of the schools together are required to develop more and more elaborate programs, raise faculty salaries and benefits, etc. Students simply have no other choice but to pay if they want a job that requires a degree. After the student pays his money and finishes his course of study, the school has no legal responsibility—either to the student or his employers—that the student is able to do any specific job. The school has moved on to teach a new group of students. While most schools are “non-profit” entities, their administrators certainly control vast amounts of wealth and provide large salaries and numerous benefits for their faculty. Too often, they are “all about money.”
Education from Levites
The Old Testament provided for a system of adult education that is quite different than what we have today. God gave the job of teaching to a certain group of people suited for the task. These people were not permitted to accumulate large estates for themselves. They did not charge the students to learn, but were paid based upon how the people as a whole were prospering. They did not have school and classrooms, but went to the people when they needed to learn. Most were only part-time educators—they also had their own farms and did other work for a living.
This people, of which we speak, are the Levites, one of the tribes of Israel:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine (Num 3:11-12)
Most of Numbers 3 is devoted to explaining the role of the sons of Aaron (a branch of the Levite tribe) as priests and how the other Levites were to help the priests in moving and caring for the Tabernacle. They received tithes of the crops of Israel in exchange for their work , but could not own farmland individually:
“...They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance
the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord. That is why I said concerning them: 'They will have no inheritance among the Israelites'" (Num 18:23-24, also Deut 8:2).
They prospered only as the people prospered; they could not use the educational system to channel the wealth of the nation to themselves: Land is the fundamental source from where all food and manufacturing wealth comes. The most the Levites could own is a house:
‘Nevertheless the cities of the Levites, and the houses in the cities of their possession, the Levites may redeem at any time. ‘And if a man purchases a house from the Levites, then the house that was sold in the city of his possession shall be released in the Jubilee; for the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel. ‘But the field of the common-land of their cities may not be sold, for it is their perpetual possession (Lev 25:32-34).
Notice that the Levites were allowed to repurchase houses that they had to sell because that was all they had, whereas the rest of the Israelites could sell houses permanently (Lev 25:29-30). The word translated “common-land” in the NKJV is Strong's’ #4054. migrash. This was land that the Levites shared among themselves for their crops and animals, but did not personally own any part. The KJV says “suburbs” and other translations say other differing things, but the NKJV is consistent in its translation of this word that appears over 100 times, with the exception of Ezk 36:5; 45:2 where migrash is translated “open country” and “open space. (There it refers to the open space around the temple— another kind of “command land” maintained by the Levites and Priests). By living on this common property, the Levites learned to put God and the good of all first, rather than serving themselves and their own families.
After the Israelites settled in the promised land, there was no longer a need to move the Tabernacle. A prophecy from Jacob himself revealed that the Levites would be scattered throughout Israel (Gen 49:5-7). The Levites were given cities to live in that were distributed throughout the other tribes:
"So all the cities you will give to the Levites shall be forty-eight; these you shall give with their common-land. And the cities which you will give shall be from the possession of the children of Israel; from the larger tribe you shall give many, from the smaller you shall give few. Each shall give some of its cities to the Levites, in proportion to the inheritance that each receives" (Num 35:7-8).
This distribution of Levites throughout the land of Israel made local teaching possible. Their mission to teach was pronounced by Moses just before his death.
About Levi he said: "Your Thummim and Urim belong to the man you favored. You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah. He said of his father and mother, 'I have no regard for them.' He did not recognize his brothers or acknowledge his own children, but he watched over your word and guarded your covenant. He teaches your precepts to Jacob and your law to Israel. He offers incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar. Bless all his skills, O Lord, and be pleased with the work of his hands. Smite the loins of those who rise up against him; strike his foes till they rise no more" (Deut 33:8-11, NIV)
The Levites have the tendency to put their service to God ahead of caring for their families. This entire chapter of Deuteronomy 33 has both praise and correction for the twelve tribes. It was good for the Levites to uphold their teaching responsibility and the law of God, but they must also tend to their family responsibilities like everyone else. The scripture shows that the Levites are clearly suited to the job of teaching and pronounces a curse on anyone who would oppose them.
The Levites were not just teachers of theory, but responsible for solving the real problems affecting people. They built their own houses, did their own farming on common lands, made implements, etc. Their expertise extended into the medical and legal areas.
Take heed in an outbreak of leprosy, that you carefully observe and do according to all that the priests, the Levites, shall teach you; just as I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do (Deut 24:8).
Leviticus 14 is an entire chapter dealing with infectious diseases and mold in houses. Some information is contained in the chapter, but the priests and Levites were clearly expected to develop expertise in these areas and teach it to others.
“And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you” (Deut 17:9-11).
Other scriptures (Deut 16:18-20) show that some judges were to be appointed locally, but the Levites and priests were to be involved in difficult cases. People were responsible to go and learn God’s ways if they did not know:
For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts (Mal 2:7).
When King Jehoshaphat made great efforts to restore worship to the true God, appointing Levites and priests to go out and teach the people was an important part of it.
Also in the third year of his reign he sent his leaders, Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah. And with them he sent Levites: Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah — the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests. So they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the Lord with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people (2Chr 17:7-9).
After the nation of Judah returned from captivity in Babylon, the Levites help teach the people from the scriptures at the Feast of Trumpets:
Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.... So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, "Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved".... Now on the second day the heads of the fathers' houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law (Neh 8:7-8,11,13).
Levite Principles Today
It exceeds the scope of this article to consider the issues of whether their are flesh and blood Levites today who should be teaching. As we can see above, Jehoshaphat and Ezra appointed some leaders as well as Levites to teach. They tried to do the job as close to the biblical method as possible with the available resources. Today, if we cannot identify capable Levites, we can work using the same principles used by the Levites:
• The Bible is the foundation of teaching. Teachers of physical knowledge should be knowledgeable of the Bible as well. (Early in this nation’s history some political offices and teaching positions required their occupant to profess Christianity.)
• Teaching is a lifetime commitment for people who are naturally gifted to do it. In most learning situations, students generally seek to “pass”, but a few usually ask questions and seek to master the subject beyond what was intended to be taught. Some of these people are natural teachers that should be doing that job.
• The teachers are funded by the overall prosperity of the people rather than charging each person for teaching. Their wages are not appreciably more than those whom they teach.
• The teachers are not permitted to collect a lot of personal wealth, but share common facilities—they are serving God.
• The teachers work themselves as well as teach.
• The teachers solve real-world problems—they do not just teach theory.
• The teachers live in a community with shared resources where people can go to them, but they also go to the people.
Music Teaches The People
While nearly everyone likes certain kinds of music and probably possesses some kind of collection of records, tapes or digital music, how many of us think of music as a vital teacher? Do we collect music that teaches lessons that we want ingrained into us? Do we seek out music that our children or our friends will like and also has a biblical message?
At least six times, when God had something for His people to remember, he taught them a song about it (Ex 15:1; Deut 31:19-22; 32:44; Jdgs 5:1; 2Sam 1:18; 22:1; Isa 23:15-17). Most people realize that they have long forgotten many things that they once committed to memory, but they can still sing the words to popular songs after many years. Unfortunately, this teaching tool that God intended for good has put a lot of bad advice and evil into people’s heads.
It is not enough to learn some religious songs when we are young, and then sing them for the rest of our life. We are commanded to continually sing new songs:
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy (Pslm 33:3).
Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth (Pslm 96:1).
Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory (Pslm 98:1).
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise in the assembly of saints (Pslm 149:1).
Sing to the Lord a new song, And His praise from the ends of the earth,… (Isa 42:10).
But what do we do if we struggle just to sing new songs and certainly cannot write them? God said that he would provide Levites to write the songs and lead music (1Chr 25:19-22). The responsibilities for music at the temple were significant enough that they take up an entire chapter of the Bible (1Chr 15:1-31).
When Jehoiada established the true worship of God again, he re-established the temple music (2Chr 23:18). Similarly, when Hezekiah turned the people to worship God, he also made sure that there were musicians (2Chr 29:27-31). Even much later, when the foundation was being laid for the second temple, the descendants of the Levites were again leading the music (Ezra 3:10-11).
Centuries ago, the best musicians were sponsored or employed by kings and other wealthy individuals. They composed music to support the popular preaching and teaching of their day. Even today, influential people who profit from an immoral society do what they can to make sure that their ideas are “pushed” in popular music.
Just because Satan has gained so much ground in popular music is no reason for Christians to give up in that area. Any major effort to turn people to godliness and righteousness should include music with a similar message.
Leaders to teach
While it may seem obvious that leaders should teach the people they lead, this concept is fading from our society. Today, politicians are often considered politically savvy people who avoid offending anyone and get lots of votes. We do not expect them to know much, or to even tell the truth. We have become too comfortable with the idea that it may be necessary to tell some lies in order to “get elected”. Indeed, the last couple of presidents of the USA have frequently been portrayed by the mass media as not very intelligent. Today, people who want to learn usually seek out professors, authors or scientists—not politicians.
God’s view is quite different. He wants leaders that know His word, live it and teach it.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them” (Ex 24:12).
“‘But as for you [Moses], stand here by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess’” (Deut 5:31).
Moses was also commanded to teach in Deut 4:14 and 6:1. His role is no exception. Many other leaders were commanded to teach, also:
And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 “and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, 32 to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship. 34 And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. (Ex 25:30-34)
Lev 10:8 Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meet ing...that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses” (Lev 10:8-10).
Moreover, as for me [Samuel], far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way (1Sam 12:23).
King David was a great teacher of the people. His Psalms were a big teaching tool (Pslm 34:11; 60:1). When he had sinned and felt like he was near spiritual death, he uses his teaching as a reason for God to preserve his life:
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You (Pslm 51:12-13).
Ezra both taught the law to the people (Ezra 7:6,10) and set up leaders to teach the people who did not know (Ezra 7:25).
Elijah and Elisha taught a group of young people in a group known as the “sons of the prophets” (2Kngs chapts. 2-9). The Apostle Peter indicates that this responsibility has passed on to New Testament believers:
"Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed'’ (Acts 3:24-25).
New Testament Commands to Teach: Jesus Sets the Example
The commands for leaders to teach are even more frequent in the New Testament. Jesus Christ set the example as his continual passion:
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people (Matt 9:35).
Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities (Matt 11:1).
… I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple... (Matt 26:55).
And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea (Mark 4:1).
And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue (Mark 6:2).
… Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching (Mark 6:6).
Even after a very busy three year ministry, Jesus still reached only a small fraction of the world’s people at that time. He commanded his followers to take his message and teach it to the rest of the world:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matt 28:19-20).
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
The Apostles Follow Jesus
In general, Jesus’ apostles and disciples followed his commands to teach:
Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it (Mark 16:20).
There are many other specific verses that show that the apostles were very diligent to carry out Jesus’ command. Here are a few
Acts 5:42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
Acts 15:35 Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
Acts 18:11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
Acts 28:31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.
Teach—Even When Civil Authorities Oppose
Unfortunately, the teachings of Jesus Christ are perceived as a danger to many civil and religious authorities. The Bible teaches the authority of family units, with each adult responsible to Jesus Christ (Gal 3:28; 1Cor 11:3; Col 3:17-21). Civil and religious leaders frequently overstep their authority and begin to think that the people belong to them. These leaders want the people to see themselves as righteous and want to suppress the truth. So they usually make up false accusations against Christians and prosecute them in their legal systems as if they were criminals.
But the Bible is clear on this subject: The truth must be taught even when it brings persecution upon Christians. This, of course, resulted in the death of Jesus and many of his followers, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Heb 11:16).
Therefore, here are some of the many verses encouraging Christians to teach the truth, even when the government and religious leaders oppose it.
But they were the more fierce, saying, “He [Jesus] stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place” (Luke 23:5).
And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:18-20).
So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”... [the leaders] saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:25, 28-29).
“and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely (Acts 16:21-23).
Crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)... Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done (Acts 21:28-29,33)
When Jesus walked the earth, the only Scriptures from God were the Old Testament. They were well accepted by Jesus, most of the people, and the Jewish religious leaders of that day. Jesus told those leaders: "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). The leaders did not object to Jesus using scripture, but they wanted him to explain it “their way”. The secular Roman government did not accept the scriptures, but was willing to punish anyone that appeared to make trouble for it.
It is a little more confusing today, but we still have both religious leaders who accept all of the Bible—but want it explained their way—and secular leaders who are seeking power and will punish anyone who gets in their way. As in Jesus day, the secular leaders and religious leaders will cooperate with each other when it is convenient, and will oppose each other at times as well.
This article cannot go into all of the persecution that is here and is coming on Christian teachers—both in the USA and around the world, but it is certainly increasing. The main thing that the reader must know is that deception is the name of the game. Civil and religious leaders do not say “this Christian is telling the truth so we must get rid of him”, but say “he is stirring up the people”, “endangering national security”, “committing hate crimes”, “violating the tax code” or some other false accusation. As Jesus said:
But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God... (John 8:40).
All Brethren to Teach
All brethren, especially those who are mature, should become teachers to some degree. Certainly, God has given the gift of teaching to some:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers (Eph 4:11).
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them… he who teaches, in teaching (Rom 12:6-7).
Ability to teach is required for Christian leaders:
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach (1Tim 3:2, NIV).
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient (2Tim 2:24).
[to Timothy] These things command and teach... Teach and exhort these things (1Tim 4:11; 6:2).
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2Tim 2:2) .
Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches (Gal 6:6).
Finally, the Scripture tells experienced Christians that they should be able to teach others:
The older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things — that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children (Titus 2:3-4).
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food (Heb 5:12).
May God give us the wisdom to apply His teachings on biblical education in our homes, congregations and educational systems! &
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