The Holy Warfare Of Christian Education
September 7, 1997 / No. 2853
Dear Radio Listeners,
Shortly the new school year will be upon us.
The training of children is a vitally important topic in the world today. It is a vitally important matter especially to believing parents and to the broader, covenant, Christian community.
Today I would like to bring to your attention a passage of God’s Word which speaks to the whole issue of how we are to train our Christian children. That passage of God’s Word is found in II Corinthians 10:3-5. There we read: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
Even though the apostle Paul, in this passage, speaks to the spiritual battle that he was facing in the church with regard to those who opposed him as an apostle of Jesus Christ, nevertheless this passage has broader significance for all of us as believers; and has significance particularly for the whole matter of how we train our children.
The Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, brings to our attention the nature of the Christian life as a battle once again. Paul had to do this because he was engaged in that battle in the church. False apostles in the church at Corinth were attacking him and undermining his credibility. And he wanted the believers in Corinth to know that he knew the nature of the battle and how to fight. What he says applies to our lives in every sphere of life.
And it applies particularly now to the realm of educating our covenant children. This passage speaks to the truth that we are involved in holy warfare in the whole matter of Christian education.
The first thing that we need to establish from our text is that we are involved in spiritual conflict in this world. That applies to the education of our children as well. Paul makes this point strongly in his words here to the Corinthian church with regard to the difficulty he was facing. Notice the language of battle that is found in this passage of God’s Word. In verse 3 we have the word “war”; in verse 4, “weapons,” “warfare,” “strongholds”; in verse 5 the terms “casting down” and “captivity.” This shows that Paul did not view this matter of the attack on his apostleship as playful bantering on the part of some silly people in the church. It was not something to laugh about and shrug off lightly. It was serious business. Paul saw it for what it was: an attack of the enemy. And that reminded him of a fundamental truth concerning the nature of the Christian life. It is a life of conflict, of warfare, of battling enemies. This world is not a playground through which a believer hops and skips with careless gaiety. This world is a battlefield in which, day-in and day-out, we confront foes and battle them. The Christian not only walks in this world. He wars in it. You may remember that the apostle Paul carried on this same theme in Ephesians 6 where he stressed that the nature of the Christian life is always that of a battle.
But notice that Paul stresses that this conflict is a spiritual one. “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.” The enemies of Paul had accused him of walking according to the flesh. They charged him with living sinfully, following his own sinful nature. For they said that he was dishonest and cowardly. In that way they sought to undermine his authority and his veracity as an apostle. But notice that Paul does not make this a mere personal, human conflict: some men fighting against others. Paul puts it in the realm of the spiritual. His accusers are the enemies of Christ and they are attacking His office and His gospel. That is why Paul says he will fight spiritually, not after the flesh. He will war with spiritual weapons, not carnal ones.
That surely is a principle that we may not lose sight of; not in the world, not in the church, not in our homes, and not in our Christian schools. Wherever we go and whatever we do, we are involved in the great spiritual conflict of the ages: the cause of God over against the powers of darkness.
When it comes to the education of our children, this is also the battle we are in. It is easy to forget this. Either we lose sight of the battle altogether and think that, because we have our own Christian schools standing over against the public schools of the world, we do not have to do battle. We can think that we are isolated and therefore insulated from the warfare of the Christian life. But let us be reminded from this Word of God that we may not fall into this trap. We are involved in a real battle in the education of our children and young people. And this educational conflict, like the conflict of our whole lives, is a spiritual one. It is a battle for the cause of God over against Satan and his hosts. It is a battle for the covenant and kingdom of God over against sin and evil in the kingdom of unbelieving man. That is why our Christian day schools exist. And that is what they are involved in educationally: to carry out this spiritual warfare.
Paul is even more specific about the spiritual nature of this conflict in out text. He makes it clear in these verses that the spiritual conflict we are engaged in is a conflict of ideas, of thoughts, of reasonings. In verse 4 Paul mentions “strongholds.” He is referring to enemy fortresses. But what are these? He explains this in the next clause: the imaginations of men and all their high ideas which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. Paul is referring to the mental ideas, the supposed logical reasonings and arguments of fallen men under the influence of the devil. He is referring to all their proud theories and teachings as they rise up and attack the knowledge of God and seek to destroy it in the church, in our homes, and in our schools.
That certainly makes the battle relevant when it comes to the education of our children. It is precisely these imaginations and high things of the enemy which we as parents, teachers, and students face. For example, the unbelieving world has its imagination of evolutionism, its high thing of what life is and how it came to be, and how man is to live his life. And it makes this view its stronghold with bold arguments and reasonings. But, you see, in this way it exalts itself against the knowledge of God as Creator, which is what we stand for. This is the battle. It is a battle for the mind, for right ideas as these form the basis for the way we live. It is nothing less than the battle for the truth of God against the lie of man under Satan. This is the holy warfare of Christian education.
In the midst of this spiritual conflict we must carry on a mighty campaign. You see, dear listener, we cannot and may not sit back and observe the battle from a distance and refuse to get involved, not in any part of this holy warfare. Not in the training of our children, either. We must carry on a war campaign. We must get out and fight.
Paul uses this kind of language in our text. The word he uses in verse 3, to “war,” means to make a military expedition, to lead soldiers to war, to do military duty, to be a soldier. And the meaning of the word “warfare” in verse 4 is expedition, campaign. Paul would not just sit back and let the enemy attack him in God’s cause and Christ’s gospel. Paul would not shrink back in spiritual fright and run. No, as a brave soldier and captain, he would fight. He would carry out a campaign against the foe.
The same must be true of us in our educational battle. We know the enemies are great and powerful. We know they have their strongholds, their high things and influential teachings, their powerful arguments and popular imaginations. The public school system is a mighty force in the world. And that can make us afraid to go after the enemy. It can make us want to sit back and do nothing. But this must not be, especially when it comes to the education of our covenant children. We must play the soldier and carry on a mighty campaign against the dangerous foes that we face as parents and teachers and that our covenant young people and children face. If we do not carry on this battle the enemy will capture our children and ourselves and destroy our souls and lives. That is how serious the matter of education is.
Our text gives us clear military direction as we go out on this campaign against our spiritual foe. First, you will notice, it tells us that we have powerful weapons which we must use. They are not carnal, but they are mighty through God. They are not the weapons the world uses, the fleshly instruments of war which are controlled by man’s sinful nature under the dominion of Satan. They are not the weapons of our own sinful nature that we would like to use: human wisdom and lies and deceit. No, these are the weapons of God’s spiritual arsenal, the instruments of war which God has given us to use and which alone are strong to fight our deadly spiritual foe.
Paul does not lay out all these weapons here. But we know what they are from Ephesians 6. They are the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; the breastplate of righteousness; the preparation of the gospel of peace; the shield of faith; and the helmet of salvation. These are our weapons-our weapons also in the Christian school and home as we fight against the enemy and equip our children to fight. Every parent and every teacher must be armed with these tools and use them in the campaign against the devil and his spiritual wickedness, against the imaginations of depraved men while they teach the youth of God’s covenant.
These are the weapons you children must use, you young people, you college students listening today. The Word of God and His truth, the faith of the church, the gospel of sovereign grace must be the basis of all the instruction in our homes and schools. For these are the only weapons to fight the lies of Satan, the errors of men, and the heresies of false teachers. Only through these do we impart the knowledge of God, the truth which is our only defense and our only offense in our campaign against the enemy.
Armed with these weapons we are also given in our text our fighting orders. We are told what we are strong to do. These weapons, the apostle says, are mighty to pulling down of strongholds. Remember that these strongholds are the supposed invincible fortresses of our enemies. The picture is that of an unbelieving man apparently safe and secure in his ideas and teachings, the world with its life-style. They are, of course, caught up in the lie that they think they are invincible in the fortresses of their own reasonings and arguments. And Paul says that with our weapons we are strong to pull down these strongholds of our enemies. By the truth of God’s Word we can topple unbelievers’ castles and fortresses. We can destroy their theories and falsehoods, exposing them as mere houses of sand. That is the picture.
The next two clauses in verse 5 tell us exactly how we pull down these strongholds of our enemies. We pull them down by casting down his imaginations, casting down his reasonings and argumentations and all his proud theories and teachings which oppose the knowledge of God. You understand that that means the Christian faith has the ability to demolish the unbelievers’ arguments. The Bible is our battering ram not only because it answers the enemy but because it refutes them. It exposes their teachings as lies. That is because the truth of God is the only logical system that there is. Out of the Word of God we can reason and argue irrefutably.
That is exactly what must go on in our homes and in our classrooms in the training of our children. With our weapons we must consciously cast down these vain imaginations of men and the world about us, these proud heresies in the church world that assault us and our children.
But, you see, our mighty campaign must also involve every thought being brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. What a beautiful description of the nature of Christian education. Every thought. Every thought, of ourselves as parents and teachers, every thought of our covenant children and young people must be brought into obedience to Christ. You see, it is not enough that we simply fight against the enemy and refute their high thoughts and imaginations. That is only half of the campaign. It is not enough that we cast down falsehood and lies in the world about us. We must also fill the void that is left with the truth as it is in Christ, with the gospel of salvation and hope and life.
That means that our teachers must use their weapons to bring every thought of their students into captivity to the obedience of Christ. As you take God’s Word of truth and apply it to every subject that you will teach, whether it be Bible, history, science, math, or English, you must seek to make every child’s mind submit to Christ, to His truth, to His Word, to His commandments so that the child obeys Christ as his sovereign Lord.
Is that not the sum and substance of Christian education? Then our children are truly free, open-minded, liberated from the falsehood that is about them in the world and in the church world.
Finally, I ask you to notice in the text the assurance of victory in the midst of this battle. The entire thrust of what the apostle has to say is to show us what believers and ministers and, therefore, teachers and students too, are able to do with the armor of God. What they are able to do, says the apostle, is completely defeat their enemy. Paul is talking about the conquest of the gospel here in the face of and over against the foes of the church and the people of God. The language is clearly that of victory: pulling down, casting down, taking captive. Paul leaves no doubt as to the reason for this. It is not because of him, it is not because of Paul’s strength, Paul’s skill in fighting, Paul’s abilities as an orator and refuter of arguments. Not even the weapons of the gospel-the Word, faith, etc.-are able to defeat the enemy. No, the only reason for this conquest is the power of God. Paul says in verse 4 that our weapons are mighty through God. God’s is the might to defeat and capture the enemy and make His cause triumph.
We must have this assurance as believers and as teachers and students. Sometimes the battle seems hopeless, does it not? The battle of Christian education, too. The enemies seem so great and powerful. They seem to have incredible conquests themselves. They encroach more and more upon our lives and seemingly overcome us. We almost think it is impossible to overcome them. We think to ourselves, “How can we possibly stand up to them in our little Christian schools? What are we accomplishing?” But, you see, God will not have us think this way. Here God Himself tells us what He does through His people when they fight His battle and use His weapons. They overcome. They do that here and now, in this life. And, of course, ultimately they will do that fully and finally in the end of the world.
Let that encourage you, dear listener, to be faithful in the task of teaching and learning in this way of our text: the holy warfare of Christian education.
Let us bow together in prayer.
Our Father who art in heaven, great art Thou and greatly to be praised. We thank Thee, Lord, for Thy covenant with us and our children after us. We realize this comes with the awesome responsibility to train them for Thee and in Thy way. Wilt Thou give us much grace to do this, especially because, as we have learned today, the nature of that training is that of a battle. It is holy warfare against the vain imaginations of men in the world about us and among false teachers in the church. Keep us faithful to our calling. Grant us strength to be diligent in the task of nurturing children for Thee. Lord, bless that training they will receive in this coming year for their spiritual profit, so that they may, more and more, become men and women of God who stand for Thee in Thy truth and cause in the midst of the earth. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.