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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

Wake Up Already!

Growing in the Lord
The Object of Education
W. Knowles
The Object of Education

“Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).

Some of us like to go camping, or perhaps we like to cook—or maybe we like to go to the zoo. All of these take some preparation. Almost everything takes some preparation. There was preparation for Christ’s first coming, and there is preparation also for His second coming. During His first coming, Christ spent 3½ years with the disciples to prepare them after He would return to heaven—and character was one of the main issues that He had to address. Likewise, there is a preparation that should now be taking place for Christ’s second coming.

There is much history that we could look at dealing with education. Before 1844 there was an interesting change going on in the educational system. The changes were not sufficient to prepare the various churches of the early 1800’s to accept the three angels’ messages. We are facing today the same challenge; a proper educational system is vitally important to prepare the last generation to accept salvation—and we are told that if we fail to understand the true science of education we shall never have a place in the kingdom of God.

What is the object of education? Let’s look at the definitions of the words “object” and “education.”

There are several definitions for “object,” but the one we will look at is this:

Object: That to which the mind is directed for accomplishment or attainment; end; ultimate purpose.

So what we want to see is the ultimate purpose of education, that is, what is to be attained.

Now we will look at two different definitions for the word “education,” one in a modern dictionary and one in an older dictionary.

The first one is from the online Merriam-Webster dictionary:

“Education: 1 a :  the action or process of educating or of being educated; also:  a stage of such a process

b :  the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process

2 :  the field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in schools.”1

The second one is from the 1828 dictionary prepared by Noah Webster:

“Education, . . . The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”2

What a difference from what education used to be and what it is today! We have lost a lot in our understanding of education. Education is not what it used to be. We need to come back to the true education.

“Now, as never before, we need to understand the true science of education. If we fail to understand this, we shall never have a place in the kingdom of God. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’ (John 17:3). If this is the price of heaven, shall not our education be conducted on these lines?”3

In the beginning we were created in the image of God

“God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26, 27).

Originally, we were created in God’s image. Do we still reflect God’s image? What has happened between then and now? Humanity has grossly defaced the image of God; this is revealed in the history of humankind and it is the result of sin—defacing the image of God. But it has been God’s endeavor to bring back humanity to reflect His image.

What is the object of education? What does the Bible tell us? “Behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted [Jesus], saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:25–28, emphasis supplied).

There are three components that the lawyer alludes to here:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.” Is not this the spiritual part of us?

“And with all thy strength.” Here we see a physical component.

“And with all thy mind.” God is interested in our spiritual, our physical, and our mental aspects of life—our complete being, and we must serve Him with our whole being.

The object of education is to restore men and women to the image of God—spiritually, physically, and mentally.

Let’s look at some character examples in the Bible to help illustrate this point.

In the book of Daniel we find about “children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4).

These were the children before they arrived in Babylon. This was before they were taught in the Babylonian school; these were things they brought with them. They already had wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of science. Where had they acquired this education? At home! From their parents. But they had more than this, because we read that “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (verse 8). There was something else that Daniel brought with him; it was not only his knowledge but his purpose and his dedication to the Lord of our lives the Creator of the universe. This he got from his parents when he was young. This was his education and upbringing.

Where has education failed today? It has failed to instill in the youth that love—that dedication—to follow God through everything. What does it take?


Let us look at another biblical experience which began with the wife of Manoah: “The angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing” (Judges 13:3, 4).

Here we have the story of Samson, mighty in physical strength but weak in character. Instruction was given his parents as to the diet he should have, and they carefully listened to the instruction.

When Samson was a bit older, “he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well” (Judges 14:2, 3).

What does this sound like? This is the same thing that is said today, only in different areas and in different ways.

As conscientious as Samson’s parents were when he was still in the womb, nevertheless in his upbringing there was evidently a lack. Something was missing.

“To restore in man the image of his Maker, to bring him back to the perfection in which he was created, to promote the development of body, mind, and soul, that the divine purpose in his creation might be realized—this was to be the work of redemption. This is the object of education, the great object of life.”4

Education has failed to instill the principles of Christianity into the heart—that the body, mind, and soul might once again reflect the image of God.


Let’s look at another example, when the king of Egypt decreed that the Hebrew midwives were to cast into the river all the male infants born to the Hebrews. When one Levite woman, Jochebed, delivered her son, she managed to hide him from this peril for three months. “And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink” (Exodus 2:3).

This is speaking, of course, of the child Moses, who was only at home for a few years before being forced by royal decree to go into Pharaoh’s court. But what happened in the character of Moses? We can find the answer here: “The instructions which Moses received from his parents were such as to fortify his mind, and shield him from being corrupted with sin, and becoming proud amid the splendor and extravagance of court life. He had a clear mind and an understanding heart, and never lost the pious impressions he received in youth. His mother kept him as long as she could but was obliged to separate from him when he was about twelve years old, and he then became the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”5

The strength of Moses was his connection with the Source of all power, the Lord God of hosts. He rises grandly above every earthly inducement, and trusts himself wholly to God. He considered that he was the Lord’s. While he was connected with the official interests of the king of Egypt, he was constantly studying the laws of God’s government, and thus his faith grew. That faith was of value to him. It was deeply rooted in the soil of his earliest teachings, and the culture of his life was to prepare him for the great work of delivering Israel from bondage. He meditated on these things; he was constantly listening to his commission from God. After slaying the Egyptian, he saw that he had not understood God’s plan, and he fled from Egypt and became a shepherd. He was no longer planning to do a great work, but he became very humble; the mists that were beclouding his mind were expelled, and he disciplined his mind to seek after God as his refuge.”6

It took 40 years in the wilderness to learn the character that was required to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.


Samuel is a child from whom we can learn. We find the summary of his life in Scripture: “And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the Lord, and also with men” (1 Samuel 2:26). What was the key to the life of Samuel as a man of God? We read: “Opportunities of inestimable worth, interests infinitely precious, are committed to every mother. During the first three years of the life of Samuel the prophet, his mother carefully taught him to distinguish between good and evil. By every familiar object surrounding him she sought to lead his thoughts up to the Creator. In fulfillment of her vow to give her son to the Lord, with great self-denial she placed him under the care of Eli the high priest, to be trained for service in the house of God. . . . His early training led him to choose to maintain his Christian integrity. What a reward was Hannah’s! And what an encouragement to faithfulness is her example!”7


The life of David is a different experience, because of the position in which he was placed. He went through many trying circumstances—and as a youth he had not gone to battle with his brothers. Where did he spend much of his time? “David went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem” (1 Samuel 17:15). David spent much time with his father’s sheep. He learned bravery and patience during the years caring for those sheep. “David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him” (verses 34, 35).

These examples didn’t just happen by themselves—they had a cause. The training of the great men of God was such as to give them purpose in life, to give them fortitude and determination.

“The true object of education is to restore the image of God in the soul. In the beginning, God created man in His own likeness. He endowed him with noble qualities. His mind was well-balanced, and all the powers of his being were harmonious. But the Fall and its effects have perverted these gifts. Sin has marred and well-nigh obliterated the image of God in man.”8

How is restoring “the image of God” accomplished?

By some, education is placed next to religion, but true education is religion. We find the key in the following statements:

“God had commanded the Hebrews to teach their children His requirements and to make them acquainted with all His dealings with their fathers. This was one of the special duties of every parent—one that was not to be delegated to another. In the place of stranger lips the loving hearts of the father and mother were to give instruction to their children. Thoughts of God were to be associated with all the events of daily life. The mighty works of God in the deliverance of His people and the promises of the Redeemer to come were to be often recounted in the homes of Israel. . . . The great truths of God’s providence and of the future life were impressed on the young mind. It was trained to see God alike in the scenes of nature and the words of revelation. The stars of heaven, the trees and flowers of the field, the lofty mountains, the rippling brooks—all spoke of the Creator. The solemn service of sacrifice and worship at the sanctuary and the utterances of the prophets were a revelation of God.

“Such was the training of Moses in the lowly cabin home in Goshen; of Samuel, by the faithful Hannah; of David, in the hill dwelling at Bethlehem; of Daniel, before the scenes of the captivity separated him from the home of his fathers. Such, too, was the early life of Christ at Nazareth; such the training by which the child Timothy learned from the lips of his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice, the truths of Holy Writ (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).”9

Then we have the example of Christ. What is said about Him?

“The question asked during the Saviour’s ministry, ‘How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?’ does not indicate that Jesus was unable to read but merely that He had not received a rabbinical education. (John 7:15). Since He gained knowledge as we may do, His intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures shows how diligently His early years were given to the study of God’s word. And spread out before Him was the great library of God’s created works. He who had made all things studied the lessons which His own hand had written in earth and sea and sky. Apart from the unholy ways of the world, He gathered stores of scientific knowledge from nature. He studied the life of plants and animals, and the life of man. From His earliest years He was possessed of one purpose; He lived to bless others. For this He found resources in nature; new ideas of ways and means flashed into His mind as He studied plant life and animal life. Continually He was seeking to draw from things seen illustrations by which to present the living oracles of God. The parables by which, during His ministry, He loved to teach His lessons of truth show how open His spirit was to the influences of nature, and how He had gathered the spiritual teaching from the surroundings of His daily life.”10

Here we can understand how Christ learned. Why didn’t He learn from the typical schools?

“The teachers in the days of Christ did not educate the youth in the correct knowledge of the Scriptures, which lie at the foundation of all education worthy of the name. Christ declared to the Pharisees, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God,’ ‘teaching for doctrines the commandments of men’ (Matthew 22:29; 15:9). And He prayed for His disciples, ‘Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth’ (John 17:17).”11

His disciples

“Christ did not go to the schools of learning and take men of high attainment to do His work, for He could not use them. They had an understanding of forms and ceremonies, but that was about all. Jesus called the unlearned fishermen to His work; but before He sent them forth, He took them into His school, and taught them Himself, that they might be fitted for winning souls for eternal life.”12

What does all this mean for us?

Brothers and sisters, there is coming that night in which no human can work. What are we doing in our own homes?

What is our purpose in life?

Is it to prepare to receive the higher education in the school above, and to obey God so that Christ’s death wasn’t in vain for us? We may learn lessons from these stories, not only for the training of our children and youth but for our own selves as well.

Education is the key to the success of the last generation. I pray that the Lord will help us to come into line on this vital topic.

In conclusion, let us once again keep in mind the importance of this subject: “Now, as never before, we need to understand the true science of education. If we fail to understand this, we shall never have a place in the kingdom of God. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent’ (John 17:3). If this is the price of heaven, shall not our education be conducted on these lines?”

2 Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), p. 16. [Emphasis supplied.]
3 The Christian Educator, August 1, 1897.
4 Education, p. 15. [Emphasis supplied.]
5 The Signs of the Times, February 12, 1880.
6 The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 1, pp. 1098, 1099. [Emphasis supplied.]
7 Child Guidance, p. 197.
8 Christian Education, p. 63. [Emphasis supplied.]
9 Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 592.
10 The Desire of Ages, p. 70. [Emphasis supplied.]
11 Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 448, 449.
12 The Review and Herald, June 11, 1889.