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The Covenant Context of Christian Education

Written By
William O. Einwechter

The concept of covenant is central in the life of the Christian. The believer understands that his relationship with God is based on “the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb. 13:20). He knows that by faith in Jesus Christ the promises of the New Covenant are his, and he rejoices in the blessings of God’s grace. The fact that his salvation is based on God’s covenant of grace brings great assurance to him because in this covenant, God binds Himself to fulfill His promises. The Christian lives in the peace that God cannot violate His own covenant.

There is another way in which the truth of the covenant basis of his relationship with God affects the believer's life. God, the originator of the covenant, has established the terms of the covenant. Entrance into the covenant is predicated on repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

For those who meet these terms of entrance (due solely to God’s electing love and sovereign grace), the terms of life in the covenant are obedience to God’s law. The Bible is a covenant document, and it contains the stipulations (commandments) that God’s people are to follow. Believers are bound by a solemn oath (for what else is true repentance and faith sealed by baptism, but a commitment to turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God,” 1 Thess. 1:9) to submit to the Lordship of Christ and obey His Word.

This concept of the covenant and the believer’s responsibility in the covenant to obey the commandments of God is critical for a proper understanding of Christian education. The issues and questions surrounding education can only be properly addressed by Christians if the covenant context of education is grasped.

If parents are in covenant with God through Christ, then their first duty is to discern what God’s covenant law requires of them regarding the education of their children (i.e., the children that God has graciously given to them). Their second duty is to obey that law! Christian parents must place the issue of the education of their children in the context of their covenant with God!

Being in covenant with God, they have no freedom to educate their children as they please, because they are bound to educate them in the way that God has commanded. The law of the covenant is very explicit concerning the responsibility of parents in regards to the education of their own children:

All 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).

. . . the Lord said unto me, Gather the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children (Deut. 4:10).

For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments (Ps. 78:5-7).

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Prov. 22:6).

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

These texts make it very plain that parents are responsible to teach their own children the law of God. Their duty is to disciple their children in the truth of God's Word in every way they “should go,” i.e., in every aspect of life.

Those who are in covenant with God through faith in Jesus Christ must see that the goal of education is the glory of God and the advance of His kingdom on earth. This goal is achieved when parents, 1) lead their children to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and, 2) give to their children a comprehensive biblical worldview that will guide them in all that they do and say throughout their entire lives!

Therefore, the covenant context of education establishes that Christian parents are personally responsible to provide a biblically based education for their children. The education of Christian children is not the responsibility of the church, and it is certainly not the duty of the state! It is the duty of parents.

God’s law is very clear on this point. Consequently, if a Christian parent abdicates his charge and gives the responsibility of educating his children to someone else, or if he fails to give his sons and daughters an explicitly Christian education, he has committed a serious offense against God and has broken the law of the covenant.

These principles derived from the covenant context of Christian education also need to be applied to the current situation in our nation of state controlled education. For the state to claim the authority to control (in any form) or dictate the education of children who belong to parents who are in covenant with God is a violation of the law of God. Nowhere in Scripture is the state given the authority to control the education of anyone’s child, let alone the children of Christian parents; education of children is clearly outside the jurisdiction of the state. The state has no right to intrude into the covenant relationship between God and His people in regards to education.

If the state does intrude and claims authority over the education of the children of believers, then the state has committed a most serious offense against God and His people, for the state has thereby denied the covenant context of Christian education. The state then substitutes its own covenant (constitution) and says that Christian parents are bound to the state’s law concerning education, not God’s law; they claim that their constitution supersedes God’s covenant. This action by the state is an affront to God’s holy covenant.

Therefore, Christians must make it their goal to end state control of education, for not only is such power an overstepping of the state’s authority and an intrusion into the God-given authority of parents to control all aspects of their children’s education, it is also a violation of the sacred covenant between God and His people.

Christians are bound by an oath of obedience to train and teach their sons and daughters to love and serve God, and to interpret all of life according to the teaching of Scripture. The state has no right or authority to put any Christian parents in the unfair position wherein they are faced with rival covenants and where they may be required to violate their oath to obey God.

The covenant context of Christian education supersedes any state claim to a have a compelling interest in the education of Christian children. The highest possible compelling interest is the one created by the covenant bond between God and His people.

On the basis of sphere sovereignty and the roles of the state and family as established in Scripture, we ought to call upon our magistrates to recognize and respect our covenant with God and His command to us to educate our children under His authority, for the glory of His name, and for the sake of His kingdom.

 

This is a slightly revised version of an article that was originally published in The Christian Statesman, September - October, 1995.