1952 Synod Convention Essay
“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” I Samuel 15,22b
There is a sad picture which came to my attention recently — a girl who was contemplating marriage with a Roman Catholic boy and had determined to have her marriage blessed by a priest. Undoubtedly a marriage contract was involved, a contract which promises to rear children in the Roman faith, a contract which promises to do worse to these children than snatch bread from their hungry mouths, to do worse to these children than to throw them to hungry beasts, to deprive them of the water of life.
The parents, members of a Christian church, feel badly about the situation, as well they might and well we might if such a thing would happen to us. They have double reason to beseech God, for, although this could happen to any child, they were parents who did not see the value of a Christian day school training. They grieve at the lack of opportunity for future youngsters to be fed the bread of life, but they denied their own this constant attendance upon the Word of Life which a Christian school could have given. They need to pray God that the doom of future souls be averted. O how foolish not to give the “one thing needful” in the greatest abundance possible!
Too many such incidents are taking place every day. We need to hearken unto the voice of God! “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” (Pr. 23,26) “… cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?” (Pr. 23,4b,5a) “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” (Pr. 23,23) “Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.” (Pr. 4,13.) “These words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” (Deut. 6,6.7) We need to hearken unto the voice of our God, humbly, heartily, prayerfully, for He encourages us in that path, the only path, when He says; “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at My Word.” (Is. 66,2.)
Objection No. 1
“But do we need so much religion? Isn’t God satisfied just that we believe in Christ? Must we spend so much money and time developing Christian day schools? Isn’t our Sunday school giving us the true Gospel? Why can’t release time education be enough?” In emergencies many ways can be found to teach the Word. We shall not dispute that.
There is a tremendous task confronting the Christian of any day and that is to bring the Gospel to every creature, to bring sinners to the Lord. Christ tells His disciples: “… I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (Jn. 13,15.) His Example was that lowly task of washing his disciples’ feet, an admonition to them and us that we serve others. Christ’s ministry was a bounteous one. He laid on Himself the iniquity of us all, true. More than that, He considered it His duty to spread His health-giving Word. He more than once pointed that up for His disciples’ benefit. When He, the Lord of all, could say this: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” — when He could say and do this, then we can follow Him, and we must be prepared for this task, intensively prepared.
To apply medicine to physical sicknesses needs some training, some skill. To instruct, comfort and help others in need of spiritual medicine needs some training, some God-given skill. You need all the training you can get to fight God’s fight in this world surrounded by His foes. Don’t any of you say that we have pastors and teachers for that work. God has called each of us to work for Him, regardless of our earthly occupation. Not to be able to talk of your God to a stranger is a sterile Christianity; not to be able to comfort a sick brother with the healing message of His grace is a sickly Christianity; not to be able to warn a fellow Christian that his life may lead him to lose the grace of God is poor help for the Kingdom of God.
The engineer who plans the building of a mammoth bridge did not acquire his skill by wishing or avoiding. He had to dive into the countless books and courses that would ultimately lead him to such a mighty work. He was once a boy whose endless delight may have been the throwing of a ball or the climbing of a tree or the skipping of some stones. Now he has been trained. He can build the word’s highest and longest bridge. We need many mighty builders for God’s Kingdom. They must be trained, immersed in God’s will and ever learning. Since our Christian day schools for a specific time of life can immerse better than any other plan, can constantly train better than any other plan, can spend more time with the tools needed to be and live as Christians than any other plan, then our path is clear. Paul told Timothy: “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” (I Tim. 4,15) For the profit of many, that they may be saved, we need to hearken to the voice of our God!
Our future leaders, pastors, teachers, laymen — must be soaking up this Word of God throughout life, if we wish them to be and if they are to be God-pleasingly successful. The future leader of Israel, Joshua, after Moses’ death, was reminded of this by the Lord; “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Josh. 1,8.9.) For God to go with them and to be with them at all times they need to absorb this Word in rich abundance, not just later on, but now, as children!
Objection No. 2
“True, more work is done with the Word of God in a Christian day school than by other means; yet, my child has to be trained well in some other field and needs to enter a school which has the best equipment possible, so that he or she isn’t held back in necessary training.” It has still to be proved that a Christian day school has nullified a child’s chance for success in any occupation!
Plush carpets, expensive manuscript paper, the greatest and most learned teachers, lace-trimmed shirts, a gilt-edged bank account have never made a great composer yet, and never will! Nero found that out! Franz Schubert — a limited education musically, little or no money — wrote some of his finest works on the backs of coffee house menus. Carl Maria von Weber wrote some of his finest music when half-dead. Our own Johann Sebastian Bach had to learn by stealth in the moonlight. Geniuses are not stifled by having less than the best.
Besides, our Christian day school children are not generally denied any opportunity other school children receive. As evidence, ask their record when they face the competition of children schooled elsewhere. Suppose, however, that they would lose a great deal of knowledge by staying in a Christian day school. Parents, you who love Christ and are eternally grateful that He has saved you from hell for heaven and eternal bliss; parents, you who love your children more than earthly life itself and wish them to have every advantage; Christian, selfless parents, I ask you before God, do you want a child of yours to be wealthy, to be admired, to be famous, to be revered, to want nothing in this life for seventy years or so and even to be honored centuries later, and perhaps bum in hell for all eternity? Or do you want a child of yours, no matter how humble the earthly occupation, to share heaven with you for all eternity?
The objection continues: “But he doesn’t have to make that choice. It doesn’t have to be ‘either’ — ‘or.’ I’ll bring him to church and Sunday school and teach him at home and, in addition, I’ll let him go to the school where he may have the greater material advantage and convenience.”
This Christianity is not such an easy thing to maintain and cultivate as some people imagine. There is a devil! Because I accept the revelation of the Word of God, therefore I believe that there is a devil who is a very real and personal being. Moreover, I believe that the devil is interested in me and in my children, that is, in my destruction and my children’s destruction. He goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He is my adversary and my children’s adversary, and I must arm myself and I must help my children arm themselves with the armor of God to stand against the wiles of the devil. He works unceasingly to destroy the Christian Church, to destroy me, to destroy my children, to destroy everything and everyone. He is supported by my sinful flesh, by my children’s sinful flesh, and he is aided and abetted by worldly allurements and considerations. I must face the devil constantly. My children must face him constantly. We must face him with more than pop-guns and firecrackers.
Be assured of this: you can triumph over the devil but you cannot fight him with human weapons. “With might of ours can nought be done. Soon were our loss effected.” There is only one effective weapon against Satan — “It is written.” The sword of the spirit, the armor of God, the Word of Life — that is the God-given spiritual weapon against a deadly, spiritual foe. We must arm our children to the teeth.
We cannot leave the pointing out of truth, the disclosure of spiritual weapons to a future pasture some forty or fifty years from now and be content with a vague, general piety which will at least keep the traditional Christmas tree and Easter parade from dying out. My children — and yours — will have to face a relentless, horrible, real foe, not a dummy scarecrow. It will not be a mock battle. Cream puffs and custard pies will not suffice. Deadly weapons are needed to conquer a deadly foe. If you think that perhaps Satan will not bother your children —; the devil dares to tempt the sinless Christ, and we can be certain that it is Christ’s dearest children — yes, the “little ones which believe in Him” together with the strongest of Christian adults whom he most seeks to destroy!
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt. 6,33) Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness for your children and they shall not want. Your children can never get too much spiritual food. Feed them to the full while God gives the strength, life, and grace to do so. More parents need the selflessness of a Moses who pleaded with God; “Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin —; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” That was true unselfishness. Commendable as it was, let us not forget God’s answer: “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” (Ex. 32,31–33.)
A parent cannot say on judgment day: “Please, God, send me to hell in place of my children.” Christ died to save them. No other atonement can be made. Our work is now! We must give our children the rich feasts now and not scatter crumbs before them. Before our privilege to do this passes from us through time or force, let us hearken unto the voice of our God! Sacrifice material things, if you must! Yea, let your children sacrifice material benefits, for eternal life is worth more than a sideways glance or a puny gesture.
“My children have made many friends in other schools. They will be unhappy, if they cannot keep close contact with these friends.” O, shallow thought! How many have not cursed the day they thought it! If there is anyone in this world who makes Christ’s image fade for you or causes you to love other things more than Christ or causes you to think less of your Savior or causes you to choose the tents of wickedness-which tents may be very respectable outwardly, but are void of Him — then lose that friend! At least, do not pay him homage to the exclusion of Christ.
There is a “friend of sinners” to be valued above all. He says: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (Jn. 15,13.14.) If ye do whatsoever I command you. He says: “Learn of Me!” Our children need to be well acquainted with this friend. With Him they stand! Without Him they shall fall!
All human friends who contribute to the learning about this friend are friends indeed. Friendship with those who love the Lord needs to be cultivated. God wants His children to talk about Him to one another. In Malachi we read: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrances was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” (Mal. 3,16)
As for those who do not love the Lord Jesus, the greatest service to them will be our friendship with Jesus. That friendship with Jesus will be noted, make no mistake about that! After Peter — who had been imprisoned with John — testified to the rulers of the Jews that Jesus alone saves, these outsiders were forced to admit that Peter and John “had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4,13b) We need to help our children make fast friends with the Lord. “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.” (James 4,8) Cause your children to draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to them.
Objection No. 4
“You talk as if only Christian day school products turn out well. I know of some who have left the church and some who even have criminal records. You are making a claim that isn’t so!” The Bible tells all parents to teach their children diligently, to bring them up in nurture and admonition of the Lord, to beseech God for their wellbeing. The Bible does not tell parents to believe for their children. God’s Holy Spirit, not the Christian day school, brings men to faith. In the Christian day school our children are constantly given the Word of God through which this Holy Spirit works faith. We can’t believe for them, nor are we required to do that. We can only see to it that they are taught and pray God’s blessing upon them. God promises me and all parents: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Pr. 22,6.) That is a blessed assurance!
When a pianist practices six or eight hours a day for years and then makes a glaring mistake in performance, you would be a fool to say that practice does not pay and that you will never practice to play the piano. If you were wise, you would say that more practice is needed. With the teaching of the Word of God, when a person forsakes God, it is not because of too much religion or because the learning of religion cannot help him. Don’t forget to reckon with the devil, the world, and, above all, that sinful flesh! Parents need to do their work just as a pastor does his. They need to say: “We have planted, our children’s Christian teachers and we have watered these plants. God giveth the increase. In His hands rests the success for which we pray. Trust Him to fulfill His promise that His Word shall not return to Him void. More than that we cannot do.”
A Christian parent knows that it is impossible to force a child to be a Christian. What a Christian needs to say is this:
“I want my child to have every opportunity to be a Christian. I want my child to know exactly what true Christianity is. I do not want my child to be confused concerning the issues of Christianity. God supplies the faith. I must teach the knowledge.
“When my child is confronted by a severe temptation, I want him to know that God can make him strong enough to resist that temptation and that prayer and the Word of God will help him overcome it.
“If others are making false and superstitious uses of the Word of God, I want him to know in advance that you cannot use the Bible as you would a lottery wheel. I want him to know in advance that when you flip the pages of a Bible and place your finger at random on a passage, you will not always find your thought to live by for the day. Otherwise he might run into the kind of situation one poor duffer suffered as he paged for his thought to live by one day. The passage which first confronted him was this: ‘And Judas went out and hanged himself.’ Being terrified at the prospect, he tried again and came up with this: ‘Go and do thou likewise.’ Trembling like a leaf he tried once more (For, after all, the third time is the charm,) and crawled back into bed after he read: ‘That thou doest, do quickly.’ His day was shot! I want my child to know what to live by from the entire Bible and to seek daily that important knowledge for his growth in the faith.
“I do not want my child to be confused when taking a Scriptural stand on some issue of the day by some modern Ahab who will sneer at him: ‘Art thou he that troubleth Israel?’ I want him to know that Elijah replied: ‘I have not troubled Israel, but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord.’ (I Kings 18,17) I want him to know that Jesus warned the apostles that they would be called troublemakers. (John 16,2) If he should be a leader of the church, I want my child to know that it is wrong to cry: ‘Peace, peace, when there is no peace.’ (Jer. 6,14)
“When someone approaches him to send his boys to an organization which tends to confuse the minds with the talk of many similar religions — the main difference being of personal opinion — I want my child to know that the choice of a religion is a matter of life or death, and I want him to be able to say: ‘Man, I cannot risk my child’s eternal safety by letting him absorb a philosophy which makes unmomentous the choice between Baal and God. My conscience would not allow it. Even if the church says it is alright, a plague take your synodical resolutions. My child’s soul is at stake! I’ll teach him to tie knots, I’ll camp out with him, but cause him to be confused? — Never. He’ll have enough confusion to battle later on when I’m gone. I must strengthen, and not weaken him.’
“When my child becomes discouraged with life and its problems and the problems of the church, I want him to know that there was once a man, a prophet of the Lord, who was also discouraged, not knowing that there were 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal, when he thought he alone was faithful. When my child is distressed over the huge number of the opposition forces and wonders where to turn next, I want him to know in advance, before someone else has to push the sixth chapter of the Second Book of Kings under his nose, that the Word of God is all-sufficient, no matter who or how many the foe. I want him to be able to say with all courage and confidence with Elisha: ‘Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.’ (2 Kings 6,16), and I want him to know how the Lord opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant and. how he then saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. (cf. 2 Kings 6,17)
“If my child should ever have the privilege of pushing forward in the work of the church and of passing through the doors of opportunity to continue and to expand God’s work here on earth, I want him to know that he can say: ‘The Lord has given us this opportunity to serve Him better. Let not the lack of money hold us back. The Lord’s work it is. He’ll see to it that we can carry on for Him. Christ did not first say, ‘Preach the Gospel to every creature’ and then add if you have enough money.’
“In all probability my child later on will have to suffer the loss of parents through death. When that time comes, I do not want him to go around gibbering like a spiritual idiot: ‘My father (or mother) should not have died at this time. If that’s what the God of the Bible does, I just won’t go to church anymore.’ I want him to know that he can say with all confidence: ‘God’s own time is the best. In Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17,28), as long as we live. And in Him we die, at His good time, when He wills.’ (cf. text of Cantata No. 106, J.S. Bach)
“When my child is on his deathbed and the devil comes to him tempting him, ‘Are you sure? Will you truly rise from the dead? Will God give you salvation?’, I want him to know that he can say with all confidence: ‘Christ died for all!’ (2 Cor. 5,15a) and ‘I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day.’ (2 Tim. 1,12) ‘Oh, that my words were now written! Oh, that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever! For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.’ (Job 19,23–27a) Listen to me, devil: I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me (us) from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, my (our) Lord.’ (Rom. 8,38.39.)”
If there be some in the world today who consider this brand of thinking too straitlaced, too naive, too literal, too simpleminded, let them so consider it. We need to hearken unto the voice of the Lord our God, so that the Lord will continue to rejoice over us for good, as he rejoiced over our fathers. (Deut. 30,10.9.)