‘Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.’ 2 Tim 2:15
The teaching of Scriptures to the next generation is of much importance in the church throughout all ages. The purpose of this article is to further stress the importance of Catechism Instruction (or CI, as we call it) and the dangers to both the individual Christian and the church for not seeing its importance. This article is not only meant for teachers and parents to read and know why Sunday Schools are important, but also for the students themselves to know. If the child does not see the reason to learn, the teaching is in vain. It takes both the student’s and teacher’s effort to have a fruitful class.
What it is
First, we must understand what CI classes are. It is helpful to first understand what Catechism Instruction IS NOT. CI is not just a normal class, where you just learn about the Bible’s teachings and memorize its teachings. CI is also definitely not like one of the classes you attend every day in the public school.
Rather, Catechism is far more important that what we learn in public school. CI is the authoritative instruction of Scripture, in which we must pay close attention to what God has to teach us from His word. ‘Instruction’ in the dictionary means, ‘to furnish with knowledge.’ And that is what CI classes are. They furnish the students with the knowledge of God’s Word. CI classes are also for us to refresh our minds with the Word of God. We need that constant teaching of the Word of God in our hearts and minds.
After knowing what CI classes are, we move on to see its necessity. There are five reasons why CI classes are necessary.
CI classes are important in the church as it brings up the next generation of the church with the Word of God. Right now, the adults are the ones holding on to the Reformed truths of our forefathers. But once this generation of adults pass away, who is to carry on the work of preserving the Reformed doctrines? The answer is simple: the children! Children of the families in church are going to bear the responsibility of preserving the church and its truths; there is no doubt about that. However, for them to do so, they must first be firmly grounded in the truths of Scripture. And this important start goes all the way back to their youth. From learning simple children’s songs like ‘Jesus loves me!’ to learning the fundamental truths taught in TULIP, all these build up their knowledge of Scripture, no matter how minute it may seem.
The second reason is for the church to have discernment between true and false doctrines. As the years go by, many have twisted Scripture to make it sound rather ‘pleasant’ to the sinful nature of man. An example of this twisting of Scripture would be the doctrine of man’s free will advocated by Arminians. This doctrine states that man has the ability to choose salvation or not because man, not God, is sovereign over his own salvation. This false teaching has attacked the church all the way from the 17th century during the Synod of Dordrecht, and it will continue to do so without end. This is one of the ways in which Satan corrupts and tries to destroy the church of Christ. So, to prevent such a thing from happening, the church must be, as above mentioned, firmly grounded in the truth. Paul states, or rather commands the church, in 2 Timothy 2:15, to ‘study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.’ When the church is firmly grounded on the truths of Scripture, the church would not be tossed about by false doctrines coming from every corner (Eph 4:14). With sharp Catechism taught to the next generation, the church is able to withstand strong, widely-accepted false doctrines. The Belgic Confession implies this in Article 29 concerning the marks of the true church. It states, “We believe that we ought diligently and circumspectly (that means, to be watchful or prudent) to discern from the Word of God which is the true Church, since all sects which are in the world assume to themselves the name of the Church.” We ought to ask ourselves in this statement, ‘how do we discern?’ or, ‘what do we base our discernment on?’ Of course, that will be on the Word of God. But, where do our children learn how to be discerning? A big portion of that comes from the Catechism Instruction that we receive. Without the instruction of the Word of God, we as the church are in a very vulnerable position.
The third reason why CI is necessary is because it gives the child an opportunity to start learning the truths of Scripture from a rather early age. Catechism Instruction cannot start any later! We might think at times, ‘Oh, learning this can wait as I still have a long way to go, and so I have no need of studying such topics at my age.’ That is a terribly wrong view! If we have an opportunity to learn any truths revealed to us in Scripture, we must grab that chance to learn something new. Also, it always takes time for man to learn doctrines. Proverbs 22:6 says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.’ Solomon is admonishing, not only for the parent to teach the child the Word of God, but also for the child to learn as much as he can in his youth! Solomon’s words are indeed wise. God has made it such that a child has a mind that can soak up knowledge like a sponge. Should we faithfully heed God’s Word and make the study of God’s Word one of utmost importance, the spiritual maturity and knowledge of a child of God will surely develop rapidly. And, if he has passed this phase of life without learning God’s truth, it is extremely difficult for him to pick it up in his adulthood.
The fourth reason why CI is necessary is because it is one of the fundamental ways the church can be rooted in Christ. The Instruction teaches us the truth of God’s Word. Paul says in Colossians 2: 7 that we are ‘rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith…’ being stablished means deeply and firmly rooted in the faith, or in Christ. And we are stablished in Christ through learning the Word of God. This is done partly by Catechism Instruction.
The fifth and final reason why CI is necessary is because the child today faces an almost unstoppable tide of worldliness and CI stems that tide. Most of our children in Singapore attend public schools, where the ungodly influence of others surround them and try to lure them away from God. Children are certainly in a heated battle with Satan and his host! Thus, it is of great importance for them in every Lord’s Day, to be refreshed with the Word of God, and armoured to face the world once again for another week.
The dangers of not seeing the importance of Catechism Instruction
As we try to understand the importance of Catechism Instruction, we can look at it from a different angle, to see what happens when CI is deemed as ‘unnecessary.’
The danger of not having Catechism Instruction is simple yet utterly harmful to the church. Without CI classes, the church in time to come would be in a vulnerable position where they are likely to fall into the false doctrines of the Devil. If the church does not stress the need of having CI classes, the members and children would see no need for it. They will be, like what the Apostle Paul says, ‘…tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning…’ (Eph. 4:14)
The next danger of not seeing the importance of Catechism Instruction is extremely detrimental towards the child. If the child is not refreshed by the Word of God, and thus is not armoured to face the world, he is in an unstable position once he steps into school. The world shows no mercy to Christians, especially children. They would use means that are cloaked with lies to lure the child to sin. I remember myself being lured by my classmates to the things of the world, as I was not able to defend myself with the truth as a result of not taking CI classes seriously. I was indirectly rejecting the Word of God. Indeed, Hosea’s words in chapter 4, verse 6, ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge…’ are very apt for our doctrinally-apathetic generation.
The other causes of not seeing the importance of Catechism Instruction
This subheading is not to accuse anyone of this mistake. But rather, the reason of having this portion of the article is to warn each other of this sin, and to look into the possible reasons of why children do not see CI as important.
Since the reason concerning children has been covered in the previous section, I shall focus now on parents. Parents at times do not emphasise the need for CI classes. The church may have Sunday Schools, but if the parents do not constantly remind their children why they need to, for example, memorise the verses assigned to them in the classes, the children would see that task as unimportant. Again referring to Proverbs 22:6, when Solomon states that parents are to teach the child, it also includes the responsibility of reminding the child why it is important to have Catechism Instruction or, to be more general, why it is important to learn the Scriptures.
Even if both the church and parents see the need of having Catechism Instruction and are thoroughly convinced of it, it is still of no use unless the child grows in spiritual maturity to see the need of Sunday Schools. I experienced this myself. As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, when I was in primary school, I did not take Sunday Schools seriously. This was because I thought, “what’s the use of it?’ I did enjoy having those classes, but saw no need for it. And now looking back, I realise that I was not mature enough to see the importance of the Instruction. Only when God grants us sufficient maturity are we able to see the importance of Catechism Instruction. As immature youths, we tend to take such classes lightly. Thus, we must pray that we would have ardent desire and ability to squeeze out everything we have learnt from the classes and apply them to our lives.
Ending off, I urge ALL youths and children to study the Word of God with all diligence. Sunday Schools are never like the Math or English classes you go for in school during the weekdays. It is a class where you are able to joyfully learn the truth of God’s Word! So we, including myself, must not take CI classes for granted but cherish each and every Sunday when we come together to feed on God’s truth.
Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 9