The Reformed School (4) – its unique purpose

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When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking a question about divorce, the Lord Jesus referred the hearers to how things were in the beginning (Mt. 19:3-12). In other words, that’s how things were intended by God and that original purpose still stands. God did not allow Satan’s lie and man’s fall into sin to remove the whole purpose of mankind.

What is that purpose? God said,

“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26).

This is repeated in the next two verses of Genesis 1 with the addition to “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…”

There are two things here which have particular significance for the reformed school: first, that we were created in God’s image; and second, the so-called cultural mandate—having dominion over the earth.

In LD 3 we read that “God created man good, and in His image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify Him.” So there we have the ability—created in God’s image—and the purpose—rightly know God, heartily love Him, live with Him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify Him. If that is the purpose for man’s life then it follows that the school must educate with a view to that purpose.

Admittedly, after God gave this mandate, man fell into sin and this had a catastrophic effect on our being God’s image bearers. Rev Stam, in his speech “Covenantal education” reminds us that “by nature each child is a slave to sin, having lost all his excellent gifts”. However, immediately after the fall into sin God gave the mother promise: Christ would crush the head of the serpent. To those who are in Christ, He gives salvation and sanctification, forgiveness through Christ and renewal by the Holy Spirit. And in that renewal God’s children again begin to reflect the image of God and serve Him as was intended at the beginning. The mandate remains. Christ has paid for our sins and anointed us with the Holy Spirit so that we can again fulfil our mandate in the expectation that faithful obedience has significance for the kingdom of God. In the covenant man is called to be responsible to God, and God does not work in him as in sticks and blocks, but renews his will to serve God.” As Rev Stam says,

“Covenantal education would stress not that the child IS in the image of God, image-bearer by nature, but must again become IMAGE-BEARER, putting off the old nature with its practices, and having put on the new nature WHICH IS BEING RENEWED IN KNOWLEDGE AFTER THE IMAGE OF ITS CREATOR (Col. 3:10) It is IN the Covenant, and by the blood of the Covenant Mediator that we are restored to our original office, that we receive the righteousness and holiness of Christ, may come to KNOW God and love Him, having with Him eternal, blessed communion. That is the ‘covenantal context’ and function of being created in the IMAGE OF GOD. In this education we do not seek what is IN THE CHILD, but what God has said TO the child, and WORKS in the child by His Word and Spirit. I think that this must be the essential difference between Covenantal education and all other education. Our task is to seek the children’s positive response to the promises and the demands of the Covenant and constantly to place the children before both, stressing God’s underserved grace and their ongoing responsibility.”

Moreover, in the covenant each Christian child shares in Christ’s anointing. That is that the child, too, is prophet, priest and king so that in his whole life he may confess Christ, dedicate his life in thankful service to Him, and fight against sin and the devil in this life with a perspective of reigning with Christ eternally over all creatures (LD 12). So reformed schooling aims to promote the functioning of the children as image bearers of God whereby in their daily walk of life they thankfully and boldly confess Christ and fight against sin and the devil. Here we have the purpose of our lives: thankfully confessing Christ; boldly fighting against sin and Satan. And if you think that’s a breeze remember that the enmity manifests itself when you love, thank and publicly confess Christ, and fight sin and Satan.

An awareness of this aim, as confessed in LD 3 and LD 12 will impact, of course, on the subjects at school. It’s why our schools work hard to promote reformed content to the material taught. Rev Stam gives some examples:

“In the sciences we will attempt to show how all the earth is the Lord’s, and was created by Him in wisdom with innumerable resources and possibilities to be developed to his glory and man’s well-being. In the historical subjects, we attempt to show His providential care and sovereign government directing the history of mankind to His goal and glory in Christ, destroying all wicked designs of the Evil one. Language shall be promoted as a God-given means of communication to serve Him and edify one another, while literature shall be examined and discussed in the context of the antithesis God has set between Christ and Satan.”

There is much more that could be said about the characteristics of a reformed school, and more characteristics could be identified. Nevertheless, I consider its ongoing submission to God’s Word, its distinctive covenantal position, its reformed teachers and its unique purpose as being the essential characteristics of the reformed school. We and our children are the children of a wonderful God who has elected us in Jesus Christ. He has made us a royal priesthood, a holy nation, that we should declare the praise of Him who called us out of darkness into His glorious light. May we and our schools function to live and work in faithfulness to the thankful praise of His great and glorious name.

J Numan