“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1 (NIV)
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” I Timothy 6:12 (NIV)
Call me old fashioned, but I believe that Biblical literacy goes hand in hand with a strong faith. I believe the Bible writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit when they wrote, and that the Spirit also has a role in assisting us with interpreting the scriptures, so that we have an objective basis for our faith. I believe that the Spirit’s role in inspiration insures that the Bible is absolute, revealed truth, and that, under the illumination of the Spirit, it is possible for us to understand and interpret it in such a way that allows us to live by that truth, and apply it to our lives. As a result, I believe that one of the keys to keeping young people in the church is for them to be grounded in the teachings of the scripture, in such a way that they can not only see the truths of the scripture, but that they actually experience the blessings of living by them.
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
Once again, from personal observation, I have seen this principle illustrated. I taught Bible in various Christian academies for 13 years. Most of my students were in high school, and in spite of the fact that the majority of them came from homes where both parents were practicing Christians, the vast majority of them were Biblically illiterate, and spiritually empty. These are kids who grew up in Sunday school, for the most part, and were active in their church youth group, though I would have to say that for most of them, their primary interest in the youth group was the social aspect of it. Teaching Bible was a slow, sometimes painful process. Many students were convinced that they already had “enough” faith, and enough Bible knowledge, and had boiled the Christian message down to “love Jesus, don’t have sex before you are married, and don’t smoke, drink or do drugs.” It was quite unfortunate that some of them, in spite of using that as a tag line for their own faith experience, often ignored even those few principles when it was convenient for them to do so.
I did notice something during this time. There were some students who were hungry for teaching from the scripture that helped their faith grow. There were some who were experiencing the abundant life that the Bible speaks of, and wanted more. One of the courses we taught in the Bible department was Apologetics, using resources from Josh McDowell’s book, A Ready Defense. We allowed the students to take their book with them when they graduated, and over the years, I continue to receive emails from former students who have had the faith, and the courage, to stand up for the truth in front of their peers and professors in college, and correct misconceptions and untruths about the Bible that were being taught in classes at colleges and universities. These students were the ones who left high school armed with a solid foundation in the scriptures, allowing God’s written word to determine and support their faith. Most of those students are the ones who are now serving in churches as adults and college graduates.
They were also the ones who stepped up to the plate and didn’t just depend on their youth group, or Sunday school class, or even their Christian school Bible class to encourage them and maintain their faith. They placed themselves in relationships that encouraged and supported accountability, and sought out believing friends at college. And most of them came from homes where their parents were their “accountability partners” though their school years.
The Apostle Paul, writing to his young protege Timothy, completely salts his letters with warnings about false teaching, and exhortations to the teaching of “sound doctrine,” as well as the fact that written scripture provides the foundational truth which undergirds and supports sound doctrine. Paul clearly points out that the result of a lack of the knowledge of truth is the reason why people abandon the faith. He also writes with the expectation that Timothy will follow his instruction, in addition to using that which was considered “scripture” at the time, as a result of his status as an apostle. He writes to “instruct” Timothy in his ministry.
“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. ” I Timothy 6:3-4 NIV