Why do we send our children to distinctly Protestant Reformed schools? Why don’t we send them to the public schools just like everyone else and have extra money in our pockets? What is so important about a Reformed education? The answer to all these questions is simple: to know God. As the adopted children of God, we are called to learn about God and to know him and who he is, with the purpose of glorifying him in everything we do.
The knowledge of God is essential—it is “the most practical, most vital, and most important thing in your life and in mine” (Haak, par. 5). When we know God and all His amazing attributes, we are able to praise him and set him as the center of our lives. Lord’s Day 47 of the Heidelberg Catechism explains this in regards to praying the petition “Hallowed be thy name.” We ask God to “grant us, first, rightly to know Thee, and to sanctify, glorify, and praise Thee in all Thy works, in which Thy power, wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy, and truth are clearly displayed; and further also, that we may so order and direct our whole lives, our thoughts, words, and actions, that Thy name may never be blasphemed, but rather honored and praised on our account.” Studying God’s works causes us to know who he is more and more, so that we live the whole of our lives elevating the Creator, our Father, above all else.
As a future teacher in our Protestant Reformed Schools, I turn to Article 2 of the Belgic Confession for a guide to remind me how I need to teach God’s precious children all about Him. This article sets forth the means by which God is made known unto us, of which there are two: “First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book…Secondly, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word.” God reveals himself to us both in his creation and in his Word. Therefore, by studying that creation and committing the scriptures to heart, we learn about God’s attributes and earnestly desire to praise our God for eternity. This is what I need to teach my students. This is the most important thing for them to learn about. This is what I need the focus of every single lesson to be—to know God.
Using this Belgic Confession article as my guide, one major focus of my classroom will be knowing God through his creation, that most elegant book. God’s creation is known as general revelation: all people can see who God is by observing the wonders of his creation. Romans 1:20 speaks of this truth plainly: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Even the reprobate see God’s creatures, know deep down in their hearts that God is the only powerful one, and are left without an excuse to praise him. Since the creation of the world clearly shows the invisible things of God, my students must be able to see these things and learn to know God through them.
We are able to notice and discuss the Creator in many different subjects in the classroom. The first course that jumps to mind is science, where we study the creation directly. From insects to the human body to volcanoes in the sea, I will have so many opportunities to direct my students’ attention to God’s power, wisdom, and greatness. With this in mind, Psalm 19:1 is a powerful text: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” It reminds me that when I look at the glimmering stars in the night sky, that very sky is shouting, “Look how great your God is! He has set in place these countless stars, more than you could ever count! Praise your Creator!” It is this testament that I must show my students every time we open up the science textbooks, every time we have recess outside. I must ask my students (and myself) continually how each and every part of God’s handiwork shows his majesty and power.
God’s creatures not only include animals and plants, but also time and order. In math class, my students need to understand that God is the one who created time; he is the one who made everything so orderly. In his infinite wisdom, God put everything in order: every time we multiply 5 and 5, it makes 25. All those rules in the math book are not there just because someone figured out how to do this or that—instead, we have been given them by our Father himself to showcase how powerful he truly is. We know some people to be extremely intelligent, but they all look like specks of dust in comparison to the God who planned and designed this whole world that runs according to his will. If my students understand this—that God uses this math class to show them how infinitely great and mighty he is—then they are absolutely finding that precious knowledge of God.
The other main focus of my classroom will be knowing God through his word. Looking back to my high school years of catechism, I remember the very first lesson of the Essentials catechism book we went through.
Lesson 1: The Knowledge of God
- What is above all things precious?
The knowledge of the true God through Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
- Why is this knowledge so important?
To know God through Jesus Christ is to have eternal life.
These two questions and answers highlight once again the importance of knowing God. To know God as the God of salvation gives me so much peace, joy, and hope! Because I know God sent his Son to save me from my sins, I know he loves me as his child and I have eternal life in him. This knowledge is essential for every Christian, and so I must strive to teach it to my students as they grow in that knowledge of their God.
God reveals himself specially to his elect through the scriptures—his divine word to us. Those truths of salvation through Jesus Christ thus need to be present in my classroom as well. It is easy for teachers to focus on the academic learning of their students so much that they push the spiritual to the side. But why are we sending our children to our own Protestant Reformed schools? So they can know their God more and more. Therefore, I have to keep myself prepared always to present the word of God as being first and foremost in everything I teach.
I have been taught by my professors to start with making an objective for every lesson that I plan. They say to go to the state standards, pick out which one you want your students to learn, and then build your lesson around that one statement. For me as a future Protestant Reformed teacher, I have to change that around. I must start with God’s word as the center of my every lesson, so that no matter if I am teaching science, or spelling, or art, I must always be teaching my students about God and the wonders he has done. I will not pick out a statement that the state says the students should learn. Instead, I will go to my Bible and use the scriptures as the center of my classroom. It is only through the word that we come to know God as our savior.
Once we see who God is as he reveals himself in his creation and word, we break forth in a most hearty desire to glorify God in all his works. We see his mercy in that he takes pity on us in Christ, forgiving every single one of our sins—even the ones we aren’t aware of! We see his justice as it was satisfied in the death of his Son on the cross. God is so good! What our Father has done for us in His Son makes even the heavens of Psalm 19 to pale!
The most important job for a Protestant Reformed teacher is to nurture each student’s desire to know God and to praise him. Public schools will not teach children to see God’s works in creation as revealing the glory of God—they will lean as far away from it as they can. Therefore, I am called as a future teacher to connect God’s work in creation to the attributes of God, one by one. I must urge my students on in the work of knowing their heavenly Father. I need to walk a life of glorifying God in everything I do—because that is what is required of me, but also because I am so grateful to him that all I can do is burst forth in praise! As the teacher, I have to set an example so my students understand what a joy it is to live a life of service to our God.
How often don’t we find students complaining with the work that is set before them? In Psalm 73, Asaph learns contentment with his station in life by knowing God. He was envious of the wicked at the beginning of the psalm: “They have more than heart could wish” (v. 7). However, Asaph finally went to the sanctuary of God, and when he did so, he came to a better knowledge of his God. Then he understood where God was bringing those wicked: “Thou castedst them down into destruction” (v. 18). He learned that God is constantly with him, and this is his conclusion: “There is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (v. 25).
The truths Asaph lays out in Psalm 73 are what the knowledge of God means for me and my students. When we truly understand how wise, glorious, powerful, merciful, and just God is, we have peace, contentment, joy, and a desire to praise him for ever and ever. May we press on to know God in the classroom and in every area of life.
*Grace Medema is a member in Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, IL. She is a junior in college studying to be a teacher.