In Bible times, it was a Jewish custom for parents to begin instructing their children in Scriptures in early childhood. In the case of Timothy, we are told that his mother and grandmother were instrumental in that instruction (2 Timothy 1:5). As the Apostle Paul reminded Timothy,
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
These timeless words serve to remind every believer of the great responsibility we have to acquaint the next generation with God’s Word so that, by God’s grace, they would become men and women of faith, being firmly established in Christ and living as His faithful disciples. In other words, they were pursuing “biblical literacy.” But practically speaking, what would a serious commitment to biblical literacy look like in our homes and churches? The following are 10 foundational priorities to consider.
1. Impress upon children a reverence for the holy nature of the Bible and its authority.
As we teach the Bible to our children and students, will they see it as “sacred” and “God-breathed” by our demeanor and how we interact with it? Both in the classroom and at home, our engagement with the Bible should reflect a holy reverence. God’s Word speaks with absolute authority. (See “Be Ready to Answer Your Kids’ Questions About the Bible.”)
2. Demonstrate a genuine delight in God’s Word.
Our children notice when we genuinely delight in something. And, when we delight in it, it is more likely that they will be drawn to it, too. When you read the Bible with your children or students, will they sense in you a heartfelt delight? A holy reverence, mingled with sweet enjoyment? Here are a few examples from Psalm 119:
Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. (v. 24)
for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. (v. 47)
I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. (v. 174)
3. Have a long-term strategy for acquainting children and youth with the entire Bible.
By the time our children reach adulthood, how much of the Bible will they have been exposed to? A partnership between the church and home is crucial here. But here are simple ways you can get started in the home:
- Spend 10 minutes a day to gradually read through a book of the Bible together. When finished, add a new book.
- Use a child-friendly Bible reading plan (like this one).
4. Emphasize the whole counsel of God by studying the Bible from these key perspectives.
Reading the entire Bible, while important, will not automatically give children and students categories for understanding the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Therefore, it’s important to see the Bible from these theological perspectives: Bible Survey, biblical theology, systematic theology, moral instruction, and gospel presentation. How is your church doing in this regard? (See this link.) A great resource for your family is More Than a Story.
5. Teach children to rightly read and interpret Scripture by equipping them with age-appropriate Bible study skills.
Will our children and youth become adults who are able to rightly handle the “word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)? They will need to be taught how to use proper Bible study skills, introduced in a step-by-step manner as they grow and mature. Here are some age-based goals: ages 6-8 for this one and ages 9-11 for this one.
6. Guide and implore children to rightly respond to and apply God’s Word.
Knowledge of the Bible is meant to lead to transformation of the heart and will. While only God can bring about this transformation, it’s our responsibility to guide and implore children to rightly respond to God’s Word. We don’t want to raise up children who come in first place in the Bible quiz contest or can recite a winning number of verses—but who have hearts that are cold toward Jesus. (See this link.)
7. Instill in children the need for humble dependence on the Holy Spirit as they read and study the Bible.
For children and youth to truly understand, embrace, and apply God’s Word, they need the Holy Spirit to awaken the soul and illuminate the truth (John 14:26). Even as believers, we need the ongoing help of the Spirit. One easy way to remind our children of this dependence on the Spirit is to teach them to pray before and after reading Scripture. Even a simple prayer, echoing the psalmist in Psalm 119:18, can be helpful: “Open my eyes that I might see wondrous things from your law.”
8. Integrate and connect biblical truth to all of life.
The Bible applies to EVERYTHING is life! We must show our children and students how biblical truth is like a lens for seeing and interpreting all of life. When reading Scripture, guide children in discovering how the Bible applies to friends, homework, sports, emotions, world events, and everything else. The more we help children do this, the more they will see the amazing sufficiency of the Bible. It provides a sure, unshakable foundation on which to stand firm with joyful confidence. (See this link.)
9. Foster a parent-church partnership that promotes biblical literacy in both home and church.
Pursuing robust biblical literacy for our children and students is an ongoing endeavor. God has designed that this responsibility be shared by the church and the home. The church can assist parents by encouraging them and equipping them with resources and ongoing training. The church should also carefully consider the content/curricula used in Sunday school, midweek classes, etc. Parents serve a vital role in encouraging and helping the church pursue a more rigorous biblical education for children.
10. Devote and prioritize the necessary time required to do points 1-9.
As life gets busier and busier, the time devoted to reading and studying the Bible can easily become crowded out. How much family time is devoted to the Scriptures? How much Sunday school time is spent interacting with the Scriptures? What does this say about the urgency of acquainting our children and students with the “sacred writings”? Do we need to readjust our priorities and give more time to what is most important?
Christian faithfulness requires the development of the believer’s intellectual capacities in order that we may understand the Christian faith, develop habits of Christian thought, form intuitions that are based upon biblical truth, and live in faithfulness to all that Christ teaches. This is no easy task, to be sure. Just as Christian discipleship requires growth and development, intellectual faithfulness requires a lifetime of devoted study, consecrated thinking, and analytical reflection. (Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “The Glory of God in the Life of the Mind”)