Training for Reigning - 40 - Authority for Sunday Schools

HAVE WE AUTHORITY FOR SUNDAY SCHOOLS?
You WILL NOT find the terms "Gospel Meeting," or "Sunday school," in the Bible. Consequently some of the Lord’s people like to argue that, since God has been pleased to make use of both forms of Gospel testimony, we do not require to look for direction from the Word respecting all our methods of proclaiming the Good News. They feel that, so long as any type of method may appear to be of use in reaching sinners, they should be at liberty to employ it-provided, of course, the Bible does not forbid it. In other words, "Is-there-anything-in-the-Bible- against-it?" is, to them, fully acceptable as a means of deciding for or against.
May I tell you why I so much fear this fast-developing trend? It is because I, myself, indulged in its use in earlier years. And now that my days are numbered, and more sober reflections have come to me, I realize most keenly the truth brought out in one of E. M. Bounds’ books. As I remember it, he wrote: "The Holy Ghost does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not come on methods but on men . . ."
(In the days of my youth sober-minded brethren sought to keep the brakes on "zeal without knowledge." But today we observe that, in some cases, it is the older brethren who are speeding up the pace. For myself, I am certain that large sections of my service will be burnt up at the Judgment Seat because, at those times, brain-waves directed my course . . . that is to say, the flesh was my prompter and guide. So now do you understand? I long with a very great longing that you young people may not make the blunders I have made, and so suffer the eternal losses that must be mine. I pray that, instead, you may learn early in your experience to turn away from self- direction and to rely, utterly, on the direction of the Holy Spirit through His Word. Am I wrong in coveting this for you?).
Authority for the Gospel-preaching meetings does not suffer serious question. We have several well-known examples that can be reckoned as guidance in the Acts. But the "Sunday School" is supposed to be in a different position. Moreover, some even say that the idea of Gospel-teaching classes originated in the movement begun by Robert Raikes in Gloucester, England, in 1780! (By the way, did you know that, "many Sunday schools anti-dated the Gloucester school, among them several in the United States originated as early as 1674, 1676 and 1680"?). But let me assure you that the example of the Raikes-stock school, no matter how estimable it may have been, never has been the authority for the building up of "Sunday school" work in the assemblies of God. Rather did it serve to stimulate the study of the Scriptures respecting the Lord’s mind relative to Gospel witness among the young.
There will be no need at this time to remind our readers of such Old Testament passages as Ex. 2:25-27; Deut. 6:7, 20-25; 11:18-19, etc., these commands were to be carried out, primarily, in the home; but they also serve to underline God’s interest in the children, plus His estimate of what they needed to be taught. We have, also, at least one clear instance of public teaching given to all who were able to understand: "Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding upon the first day of the seventh month"; Neh. 8:2-an Old Testament first-day (our Sunday) "open school," if you will.
In the Gospels we have a number of references to the Lord Jesus when He was teaching, publicly, groups of persons in the outer-temple (Newberry); John 8:12; 10:22-39; Luke 19:47, etc. On these occasions, as Edersheim notes, the people congregated in the shelters called "porches," and sat down on the pavement to listen to Him, or to discuss what He taught, or to ask questions. Luke 19:46-47 with Matt. 21:12-16 shows that children were among those He taught at such times.
After the Assembly had been planted in Jerusalem by the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost there was great activity in spreading the Gospel. In Acts 5:42 we read: "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach (literally: ‘announcing the glad tiding’) Jesus Christ."
Here, then, we have notice of Gospel-teaching classes conducted in the Temple area (as did the Lord Jesus) and in "different houses" (Green’s Greek Grammar) that children as well as adults were present, we cannot doubt. The teaching sessions were every-day-in-the-week activities conducted by men from the local assembly in Jerusalem-the Apostles.
From Acts 3:1, and a knowledge of the requirements of the ritual, we recognize that only the intervals between services could be used for teaching at the Temple. That there would be certain times, only, in "the different houses" when the "announcing of the glad tidings" would be possible is obvious, also. The point here is that these teaching sessions were adjusted to the convenience of the listeners. Thus, in this example of Gospel witnessing, WE HAVE FULL SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY FOR CONDUCTING GOSPEL-TEACHING CLASSES. They
can be held every day of the week. Such public instruction in the Word may serve "all that can hear with understanding." And conditions of convenience can be respected.
This last feature is of some importance because the customs of modern Gentiles make 7-days-a-week Gospel teaching classes difficult to carry on. I have held a few series of them in homes; but speaking generally, the holding of such gatherings is well nigh impossible for most witnesses. An effort in this direction, for them, must be limited to a certain time on Lord’s days. Shall we abandon all effort because we cannot keep at it every day in the week? Or would the Lord have us to refuse to teach children because we cannot induce older people to let us teach them, also? Several principles from the Word might be cited at this point; but the Lord’s commendation of Mary may be sufficient just now. "She hath done what she could," was what He said concerning her; Mark 14:8.
So it is that we insist that authority for conducting Gospel- Teaching classes is found in the Word, and not in Robert Raikes’ example. True enough, the expression "Sunday school" is not found in the Bible. Abandon it if you so desire. But Gospel- teaching classes have Scriptural sanction-and most of the common "Sunday school" usages, I believe, as well. Let us be careful, then, not to acecpt statements to the contrary, especially if they should come from Christians who desire to bolster up their reliance for Authority to act on the question, "Is-there-anything-in-the-Bible-against-it? Everyone is agreed that Judges 21:25 is one of the saddest verses found in the Word of God.