Lectorate Christian teaching

The lectorate Christian teaching aims to help and support Christian teachers in primary, secondary and higher education to do their work with passion and with devoted craftsmanship. We will carry out research and develop material in order to help teachers and student teachers to link their confession to their profession.

Our vision

In our vision the teacher who works from a Christian perspective senses the responsibility to raise and educate students for a future global world. Christian teachers should view themselves as belonging to the widespread Christian community. Therefore we challenge teachers and student teachers to develop an international mindset.

What’s on?

We are working on a plan in which research and development of material will be combined. Our focus is to build a website that contains a spectrum of practical resources for Christian teachers worldwide. In the process we will carry out a survey. By school visits, questionnaires and interviews we would like to know how teachers perceive their job from the perspective of their Christian faith and what they need to improve the quality of their work. We aim to interview teachers working in public schools as well as teachers working in Christian schools. Following this survey we will collect and depict good practices in order to build a database of examples for initial and post-initial teacher training.


The lectorate will have a role in developing and giving courses. We would like to share knowledge and research-findings with teachers, student teachers and teacher-educators. Driestar University is going to offer courses such as a three month international class (Bachelors Level) and a short course of two weeks (Master level).

More information will be given in the coming months. If you would like to contact us, please e-mail Dr. A. (Bram) de Muynck.  

Bram de Muyck

Bram de Muynck(1961) studied Educational Theory at VU University Amsterdam with a focus on the special educational needs of children and youth. In his MA thesis (Fritz von Bodelschwingh 1877-1946 and his attitude to the handicapped children in Nazi-Reich, Amsterdam 1985) he showed his interest in philosophical and theological aspects of education and pedagogy. From 1985 till 2003 he worked at a Schools Advisory Service, counselling teachers and parents, guiding school development programs and lecturing in post-initial teacher training courses. In 1998 he qualified as a child psychologist and in 2006 as a clinical psychologist. Since 2003 he lectures atDriestar Educatief, a Teacher Training College in Gouda. He has been directing a research project on the Identitity of Christian Schools. In the project-period 2007-2011 research has been done into (1) the sources of inspiration for prospective teachers – together with North West University Potchefstroom South Africa and Gàspàr Kàroly University Budapest; (2) the inspiration of teachers in professional education; (3) the inspiration and professional identity of school-counsellors (4) the promotion of reflecting philosophically in the supervision of prospective teachers. Since January 2012 he holds the new position of Lector Christian Teaching at Driestar University. 

His PhD thesis (2008) was titled A godly vocation. Spirituality of teachers in orthodox-protestant primary schools. He has published several books and articles on subjects such as pedagogical competences of educators, the use of pedagogical concepts in school (constructivism, competency learning, developmental guided education), supervision and coaching, behavioural problems in the family and at school, children’s aggression and children’s fears, bullying and victimization at school, youth culture and education and on shaping Christian principles in everyday education. He edited with Johan Hegeman and Pieter Vos the proceedings of the European IAPCHE conference Bridging the gap (Dordt College Press, 2011).

 At Driestar University he is involved in Bachelor and Master training programs. He is program—leader of the international class (Bachelor) and is preparing courses at Master-level as well.

Since 1995 he specialized in supervision and coaching of professionals, especially of psychologists and teachers. Nowadays he lectures in courses about Supervision and Coaching for GITP-PAO (Eindhoven) and at CHE-Ede and Driestar Educatief Gouda. Surveys into attitude formation in counselling and supervision processes are part of his research program.

He has been invited as a lecturer to several conferences both in the Netherlands and abroad. Together with specialists from Woord en Daad (a Dutch NGO) he is involved in educational development in African countries such asSierra Leone and Ethiopia (Edu4Change).

Publications Bram de Muynck PhD 2006-2013

Muynck, A. de &  Zalm - Grisnich, M. van der (2006). Aardig agressief. Over agressie bij kinderen. Serie: Bijzondere opvoedingsvragen. Heerenveen: Groen. [Agressive Behaviour of Children]
Muynck, de (2006). De praktijk van het onderwijs [The practice of education]. In: Jochemsen, H., Kuiper, R. & De Muynck, A.. Een theorie over praktijken. Normatief praktijkmodel voor zorg, sociaal werk en onderwijs [A theory of Practices. Normative model of practices in care, social work and education]. Dixit International Series I. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn.
Jochemsen, H., Kuiper, R. & De Muynck, A. (2006). Een theorie over praktijken. Normatief praktijkmodel voor zorg, sociaal werk en onderwijs. Dixit, deel 1. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn. [A theory of Practices. Normative model of practices in care, social work and education]
Muynck, A. de & Vos, P.H. (red.) (2006). Leren voor het leven. Vorming en christelijk onderwijs. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn. [Learning for life. Forming and Christian Education]
Vos, P.H. & Muynck, A. de (2006). De vormende taak van het christelijk onderwijs. In: Muynck, A. de & Vos, P.H. (red.). Leren voor het leven. Vorming en christelijk onderwijs. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn. [The Formational task of Christian education]
Muynck, A. de & Van der Walt, J.L. (eds.) (2006). The call to know the world. A view on constructivism and education. Dixit international series, vol I. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn.
Muynck, A. de & Van der Walt, J.L. (eds) (2006). Introduction. In: Muynck, A. de & Van der Walt, J.L. The call to know the world. A view on constructivism and education. Dixit international series, vol I. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn.
Muynck, A. de (2006). Constructivism and education in The Netherlands. In: Muynck, A. de & Van der Walt, J.L. (eds.). The call to know the world. A view on constructivism and education. Dixit international series, vol I. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn.
Muynck, A. de (2006) Homo respondens. Verkenningen rond het mens zijn. Bespreking van het gelijknamige boek van G. Buijs, P. Blokhuis, S. Griffioen & R. Kuiper (red.). Wapenveld, 56/6, 45-47. [Book-review]
Muynck, A. de & Blok – den Hollander, M.J. (2006). Eenzaamheid op school. In: E. Talstra e.a. Ongekend. Over eenzaamheid. [Loniness at School]   Barneveld: De Vuurbaak (reeks Sensor, voor christelijke bezinning).
Muynck, A. de (2007). Een geinspireerde identiteit. [An inspired identity] Intern paper (niet uitgegeven). [Internal paper, not published]. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Muynck, A. de (2007). Over ‘ presentie, exposure en supervisie’. Supervisie en coaching. Tijdschrift voor begeleidingskunde. 24/1, 53 – 55. [Presence, Exposure and Supervision] 
De Muynck, A. & Kalkman, B. Opiniepagina Reformatorisch Dagblad, 7 april 2007: ‘Exemplarisch onderijs stelt kind niet centraal’; reactie op ingezonden brieven van Dr. H. Dijkgraaf, W. van Gent en K. ten Klooster.
De Muynck, A. & Kalkman, B. Opiniepagina Reformatorisch Dagblad, 30 maart 2007. Gebruik de bronnen, maar dan wel goed. [About correct use of sources] Reactie op een opinieartikel van Ds. W. Visscher in RD 28 maart 2007 (‘Nieuwe leren put uit opmerkelijke traditie. Tegenstelling tussen Groen en Van der Brugghen inzake visie op onderwijs actueel’)
Muynck, A. de (2007). Impressies van een bezoek aan het Berliner Methodentreffen 2007. In: Kwalon 36 12/3, 50-51. [Impressions of the Berlin Conference on Qualitative Research]
Muynck, A. de & Roest, M. (2007). Twee handen vol. Opbrengsten van vier jaar lectoraat Onderwijs en Identiteit. Gouda: Driestar educatief. [Results of Four Year Research on Education and Identity]
Muynck, A. de (2007). To enchant a boy. Kanttekeningen bij de nieuwe schoolstrijd. Wapenveld 57/6, 20-26. [Comments on a New School Funding Controversy]
Muynck, A. de (2008). Een goddelijk beroep. Spiritualiteit in de beroepspraktijk van leraren in het orthodox-protestantse basisonderwijs [A Godly vocation. Spirituality in Vocational Practice of Teachers in Orthodox Protestant Primary Education]. Heerenveen: Groen.
Muynck, A. de & Walt, L.J. van der, (2008) Teacher Education for responsible decision-making, Tydskrif vir Christelike Wetenskap 44 (1&2), 121 – 138.
Muynck, A. de (2008), Religious Education in Europe. (Bespreking van het boek van E. Kuyk, R. Jensen, D. Lanksheer, E. Löh Manna & P. Schreiner. Religious Education in Europe. Situation and current trends in schools). Narthex 8/1, 60-62.
Muynck, A. de (2008). Pedagogische spiritualiteit in het onderwijs. Uitgave van de Windesheim Onderwijslezing. Christelijke Hogeschool Windesheim, Zwolle. [Pedagogical spirituality in Education].
Muynck, A. de (2008). Construeren of ontsluiten? Leren in een betekenisvolle wereld. Beweging 72/4, 24–27. [To Construct or to Unlock? Learning in a meaningful World.]
Muynck, A. de (2008). Kerk, geef steun aan leraar. Bijdrage opiniepagina Reformatorisch Dagblad. 3 oktober 2008. [Church: support the teacher].
Muynck, A. de (2008). Opvoeding is juist een taak voor de leraar. Bijdrage opiniepagina Nederlands Dagblad, 8 oktober 2008 [Upbringing is a task for the teacher].
Muynck A. de (2008). Colomns in DRS Magazine
-       De autonomen (januari)
-       Buitenlandse gasten (maart)
-       De SMS-ende leraar (mei)
-       De eerste schooldag (september)
-       Firm and Friendly (december)
Muynck, A. de (2009). Licht en logos. De betekenis van Herman Bavinck voor exemplarisch onderwijs. Artificium. Periodiek voor exemplarisch leren. 2009/2, 20-22. [The Significance of Herman Bavinck for Examplary Learning].
Muynck, A. de (2009). De kracht in het onderwijs. Edith Steinlezing. [Spiritual Power in Education] Oss: Het Hooghuis.
Muynck, A. de (2009). Heading for Transformation. A Christian View on Education in Developing Countries. Gorinchem: Woord en Daad
Muynck, A. de (2009) Onderzoek bij leerkrachten als spiegel voor de praktische theologie. Een reflectie vanuit de sociale wetenschappen. [Research into Teachers Spirituality as a Mirror for Practical Theology. A Reflection from the Social Sciences). Theologia Reformata, 52/4, 369-378
Muynck, A. de & Kock, A. de (2009). Over godsdienspedagogiek en monoreligieuze vorming. Beweging 75/4, 44-45. [Religious Education and mono-religious formation]
Muynck, A. de & Rottier, L.N. (2009). Niet de rokjes maken het verschil. Bijdrage opiniepagina Reformatorisch Dagblad. 5 oktober 2009
Weblogs www.onderwijsenidentiteit.nl
Muynck, A. de (2010). De kerk heeft de school school nodig [The church needs the school]. Bijdrage aan opiniepagina Reformatorisch Dagblad 6 januari 2010.
Muynck, A. de & Ruit, P. (2010). Teacher training in the Netherlands. In: K.G. Karras, G. Mavroides & C.C. Wolhuter (eds). International Handbook of Teachers Training, Athens: Athropos Publishers. pp. 377-398
Muynck, A. de & Knijff, A. v.d. (2010). Theoloog met Asperger: geen probleem. [A theologian with Asperger: no problem]. Opiniepagina Nederlands Dagblad, 25 mei 2010.
Muynck, A. de & Post, S.D. (2010). Drempels slechten. Zorgmijding met betrekking tot jeugdzorg bij bevindelijk gereformeerde ouders in de provincie Zeeland. Middelburg: provincie Zeeland. [Report of a research on counselling of parents in the Zeeland Province]
Muynck, A. (2010).  Autisme en Geloofsopvoeding. Syllabus studiedag. Vereniging Helpende Handen. Woerden: Vereniging Helpende Handen.
Muynck, A. de & Visser-Vogel, E. (2010). Opbrengst gericht werken: instrument van maakbaarheid of hulpmiddel voor inspiratie? Visiedocument Opbrengstgericht werken in het Speciaal Basisonderwijs. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Weglogs www.onderwijsenidentiteit.nl
Muynck, A. de & Sterk, T. (2011). Samen leren niet aan het toeval overlaten? Gids voor personeelsmanagement 7/8, 26-28. [Cooperative learning. Leave it not to incidents.]
Muynck, A. de, Hegeman, J.H. & Vos, P.H. Eds. (2011). Bridging the Gap. Proceedings of the IAPCHE-Europe conference April 2009. Sioux Centre: Dordt Press.
Muynck, A. de (2011). Vocation and inspiration in ecudation. In Muynck, A. de, Hegeman, J.H. & Vos, P.H. Eds. (2011). Bridging the Gap. Proceedings of the IAPCHE-Europe conference April 2009. Sioux Centre: Dordt Press pp. 385-394.
Stolk, J.,  Dijke-Reijnoudt, P.A.J., Muynck, A. de (2011). Handboek Christelijke Opvoeding Deel 2. Heerenveen: Groen.  [Handbook of Christian Family Education] ISBN 97890 58299 895.
Zalm W.M. van der & Muynck, A. (2011). Ons kind is zo druk (ADHD). [Our child is hyper-active] In Stolk, J.,  Dijke-Reijnoudt, P.A.J., Muynck, A. de (2011). Handboek Christelijke Opvoeding Deel 2. Heerenveen: Groen.  [Handbook of Christian Family Education]  pp. 520-549
Muynck, A. de & W.M. van der Zalm. Ons kind is zo agressief Agressief (OCD en MCD). [Our child is aggressive] In Stolk, J.,  Dijke-Reijnoudt, P.A.J., Muynck, A. de (2011). Handboek Christelijke Opvoeding Deel 2. Heerenveen: Groen.  [Handbook of Christian Family Education] pp. 550-583
Muynck. A. de (2011). Anders in het contact (ASS). [Strange in contact]. In Stolk, J.,  Dijke-Reijnoudt, P.A.J., Muynck, A. de (2011). Handboek Christelijke Opvoeding Deel 2. Heerenveen: Groen.  [Handbook of Christian Family Education]  de pp. 584-617
Post, S.D, Muynck, A. de, Smit, A.G. & Kooten, P. van (2011). Drempels slechten: op zoek naar oplossingen. Een inventariserend onderzoek naar kansen voor het wegnemen van drempels voor   op-voedingsondersteuning en jeugdzorg bij bevindelijk gereformeerden. Middelburg: Provincie Zeeland.
Muynck, A. de & Post, S.D. (2011) ‘Ze snappen niet waarover je het hebt’. Hoe stem je in de jeugdzorg af op bevindelijk gereformeerden. Tijdschrift voor Jeugdbeleid, 5/2, 87-94. [‘They to not understand me’. How to adjust youthcare to orthodox reformed families?]
Muynck, A. de, Rottier, L.N., Noteboom, J. & Lindhout, W. (2011). Leren bij de bron. Meditaties voor leraren. Heerenveen: Groen. [Learning near to the source. Meditations for teachers]
Muynck, A. (2011). Is de pedagoog slaaf van het systeem (Column) [Is the educator slave of the system]. NVO-Bulletin, November 2011, 12/5, 9.
Muynck, A. & Visser, L.B. (2011). Onderwijskwaliteit neemt alleen toe als leraren zich ontwikkelen. Opiniebijdrage Reformatorisch Dagblad op de dag van de leraar, 5 oktober 2011. http://www.digibron.nl/search/detail.jsp?sourceid=1011&uid=000000000134b5216051b5cc0ce5ae81&docid=17
Muynck, A. de (2012).  Werkzame bronnen. [Working sources]. Eindrapport lectoraat Onderwijs en Identiteit, deel 1. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Muynck, A. de (ed). (2012).  Inspiration,  Religion and Teacher Training. Report of the lectorate Onderwijs en Identiteit, Volume 2. Gouda: Driestar Educatief. ISBN/EAN 9789077889558
Muynck, A. de (2012). Introduction. Muynck, A. de (ed).  Inspiration,  Religion and Teacher Training Report of the lectorate Onderwijs en Identiteit, part 2. Gouda: Driestar Educatief, pp. 4-13.
Muynck, A. de, Van der Walt, J.L , Györgyiné Koncz, J., Fodorné Nagy, S., Roeleveld, M.E., Visser-Vogel, E., Wolhuter, C.C. & Potgieter, F.J. (2012). What inspires student teachers for their future profession? Report of an empirical study . Muynck, A. de (ed).  Inspiration,  Religion and Teacher Training Report of the lectorate Onderwijs en Identiteit, part 2. Gouda: Driestar Educatief, pp.35-52.
Wolhuter. C.C., Van der Walt, L.J., Muynck, A. de, Visser-Vogel, E., Györgyine Koncz, J., Fodorne Nagy, S., Potgieter. F. (2012). What inspires student teachers for their future profession? Report of a comperative study . Muynck, A. de (ed).  Inspiration,  Religion and Teacher Training Report of the lectorate Onderwijs en Identiteit, part 2. Gouda: Driestar Educatief, pp 53-71.
Muynck, A. de (red.) (2012).  Identiteit is overal. Een bundeling deelonderzoeken [Identity is everywhere. Collected subreports]. Eindrapport lectoraat Onderwijs en Identiteit, deel 3. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Muynck, A. de (ed.) (2012).  Identity and Education from a Dutch perspective. Report of the lectorate Onderwijs en Identiteit, part 4. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Wolhuter. C.C., Van der Walt, L.J., Muynck, A. de, Visser-Vogel, E., Györgyine Koncz, J., Fodorne Nagy, S., Potgieter. F. (2012). What inspires student teachers for their future profession? Report of a comperative study . International Journal of Educational Research and Technology Volume 2, Issue 2, December 2011: 01 – 11. ISSN 0976-4089
Baarda, P.D.. Muynck, A. de (2012).  Wanneer zijn orthopedagogen inspirerende hulpverleners?
Werkzame bronnen. [When are special needs educationalists inspiring counselors]. Eindrapport lectoraat Onderwijs en Identiteit, deel  5. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Muynck, A. de & Visser- Vogel, E. (2012).  Opbrengstgericht werken: instrument van maakbaarheid of hulpmiddel voor inspiratie?  [Data driven Education. Instrument of feasability or inspiring instrument?] Eindrapport lectoraat Onderwijs en Identiteit, deel 6. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Visser, L.B., Vreeswijk-Van Veldhuizen, A. van & Muynck, A. de (2012).  Kunnen lerarenopleiders studenten leren nadenken over levensbeschouwing? [Can teacher trainers students help student teachers to think philosophically about life?] Eindrapport lectoraat Onderwijs en Identiteit, deel 7. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Muynck, A. de (2012). Theologen moeten helpen om mensbeeld en opvoeding te verbinden. Opiniebijdrage Reformatorisch Dagblad. 25-02-2012. [Theologians should help to connetc ideals of man with education.] http://www.refdag.nl/opinie/theologen_moeten_helpen_om_mensbeeld_en_opvoeding_te_verbinden_1_625379
Muynck, A. de & Rottier, L.N. (2012). Een artikel om trots op te zijn. Artikel 23 als waarborg voor pedagogisch vitaliteit [An article to be proud of. Article 23 of the Dutch Constitution as a garantue for pedagogical vitality]. Lessen, maart 2012 (26/32). Speciale uitgave van het Tijdschrift Nederlands Onderwijsmuseum in boekvorm.
Dijk, I. van & Muynck, A. de (2012). Supervisie geven en supervisie krijgen. Samenspel voor beroepsvorming van pedagogen, orthopedagogen en onderwijskundigen. [To give and to receive clinical supervision. The play within professional formation of pedagoges and (special) educationalists]. Utrecht: Nederlandse Vereniging voor Pedagogen en Onderwijskundigen. Voor leden van de NVO te downloaden van de website www.nvo.nl.
Murre, P.M., Muynck, A. de & Vermeulen. H. (2012). Vitale idealen, voorbeeldige praktijken
Grote pedagogen over opvoeding en onderwijs. [Vital ideals, examplary practices. Great pedagoges about education] Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipperheijn. ISBN 9789058817979.
Muynck, A. de (2012). Wees een Gids! Naar een nieuw elan van Christelijk leraarschap. Lectorale rede. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Muynck, A. de (2012). Be a guide! Towards new zeal for Christian teaching. Public lecture. Gouda: Driestar Educatief.
Bram de Muynck, Laura de Bruin, Leunis van Klinken, Marike de Kloe, Ewald Mackay. Willemieke  Reinhoudt, Henk Vermeulen en André Verwijs (2012). De gids in beeld. Een verkennend onderzoek naar percepties, vragen en praktijken van christelijke leraarschap. [A picture of the guide. An explorative inquiry into perceptions, questions and practices of Christian teaching]. Gouda, Lectoraat Christelijk Leraarschap.
Muynck, A. de (2012). Jonah was my religious teacher. The paradoxical character of the gospel challenges transformation and transmission holding hands. In Avest, I. ter (ed.). On the Edge: (Auto) biography and Pedogogical Theories on Religious Education, Rotterdam Boston Taipei, Sense Publishers, pp. 127-136.
Muynck, A. de (2012). Wat doen we nú  met de interpretaties over tóen? [What can we do nòw with previous interpretations?] In: Hoogland, J.. Blokhuis, P. & Broer, N.A. Vorming als gedeeld ideaal. Praktijk van de christelijke vorming van hbo-studenten [Formation as a shared ideal. The practice of Christian formation of college-students]. Zwolle: Gereformeerde Hogeschool.
-       Vertel het de leerkracht als je je zorgen maakt over je kind, 20 Juni 2012 (over relatie leerkrachten en ouders), jaargang 29, nummer 19/20, p. 104-105
-       Leer weer eens iets uit je hoofd, 26 september 2012, p.32-33 (over memoriseren)
-       De schoenen van de Keizer, 12 December 2012, p. 44-45 (over leiderschap)
Muynck, A. de (2013) Hebben wij wel een bijbels mensbeeld? [Do we have a biblical antropology?] Discipel. Contactblad Stichting KIMON
Muynck, A. de (2013). De keerzijde van professionalisering. [The back side of professionalisation]. Resumerend artikel Themanummer Sociale vorming. DRS-Magazine 41/5, 35-37.
Muynck, A. de, Both, D.D & Visser-Vogel, E. (2013). Opbrengstgericht leren, meer dan presteren
Een integrale aanpak van OGW en HGW. [Data driven education: more than achieving. An integral approach of Data Driven and Action Driven education].  Amsterdam: Coutinho.
Stolk, J., Dijke-Reijnoudt, P.A.J., Muynck, A. de (2013). Handboek Christelijke Opvoeding Deel 3. Heerenveen: Groen.  [Handbook of Christian Family Education Volume 3] ISBN 97890 58299 895.
Muynck, A. de & Stolk, J. (2013). Opvoeden in een samenleving zonder God. [Raising children in a world without God] Stolk, J., Dijke-Reijnoudt, P.A.J., Muynck, A. de. Handboek Christelijke Opvoeding Deel 3. Heerenveen: Groen, pp. 36-62. [Handbook of Christian Family Education Volume 3].
Dingemanse, A. & Muynck, A. (2013). De godsdienstige opvoeding van pubers en jongeren. [Religious education of adolescents]. In: Stolk, J., Dijke-Reijnoudt, P.A.J., Muynck, A. de. Handboek Christelijke Opvoeding Deel 3. Heerenveen: Groen, pp. 200-229.  [Handbook of Christian Family Education Volume 3].
Voet, N.C. van der. & Muynck, A. (2013). Problemen op school. [Problems at school]. In: Stolk, J., Dijke-Reijnoudt, P.A.J., Muynck, A. de. Handboek Christelijke Opvoeding Deel 3. Heerenveen: Groen, pp. 200-229.  [Handbook of Christian Family Education Volume 3].
Johannes L. van der Walt, Ferdinand J. Potgieter, Bram de Muynck and Charl C. Wolhuter (2013). Towards A Typology of Sources of Inspiration of Student Teachers. Journal of Social Sciences, 36(1): 41-48 (2013).
Muynck, A. de (2013). Wees een bescheiden en leesbare brief [Be a humble but readable letter]. DRSMagazine, jaargang 41/7, p. 24
Muynck, A. de. Opinieartikel Reformatorisch Dagblad. Onderwijs mag geen instrument zijn voor politiek. [Education should not a an instrument for politicians]. (N.a.v. Wilna Meijer, Onderwijs, weer weten waarom, SWP uitgevers, 2013). RD maandag 24 juni 2013, p. 6-7.
Muynck, A. de (2013). Een christen leerkracht is niet van elastiek [A christian teacher is not of elastic]. Gedenkbundel Veerkracht, 50 jaar Bijbelgetrouw onderwijs in Amsterdam, p.9-10.
Muynck, A. de & Baarda, P.D. (2013). Is goede hulpverlening ook inspirerend? Een verkennend onderzoek naar inspiratie door hulpverleners in de leerlingenzorg. [Is good care inspiriational care? An explorative study into inspiration of student counselors]. Psyche & Geloof 24/4, pp. 224-233.
Muynck, A. de (2013). Het helmpje en de achterbank. Maakbaarheid in opvoeding en onderwijs. [ Feasibility in educaton]. In Worp, B.J.T. van der, Het maakbare leven. Geschapen om te scheppen? Leiden: Panoplia C.S.F.R.-Leiden, pp 67-76.
Muynck, A. de (2013). Effectrapportage International Class. Gouda: Lectoraat Christelijk Leraarschap.
-        ‘Ik weet het net zo goed als jij’ (over gezag) 13 maart 2013, jaargang  30, nummer 12, p. 48-49)
-       ‘Waarom knielen wij niet in de kerk?’ (19 juni 2013, jaargang 30, nummer 19/20; p. 42-43)
-       ‘Een bijzondere school’ (11 september 2013, jaargang 30, nummer 25; p.72-73
-       ‘Kinderen die vragen’ (11 december 2013, jaargang 31, nummer 5/6; p. 176-177.
Muynck, A. de (2014). Timothy for teachers. A series of 20 Bible studies. Gouda: Lectoraat Christelijk Leraarschap.
Muynck, A. de & Bor, E. (2014). Crossing the borders makes sense. Report of a study into the effects of an international class. Gouda: Lectoraat Christelijk Leraarschap.
Bulterman-Bos, J. & Muynck, A. de (2014). Vorming en Toetsing in het (hoger) beroepsonderwijs. Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipperheijn (Dixitreeks, deel 8)
2014 Publications in progress
Muynck, A. de & Vos, P.H. (2014). ‘Inspire the desire to aspire’. In: Keersmaekers, P., van Kerkhoven, M. & Vanspeybroeck, K. Vormend onderwijs. Onderwijs vormen’. Antwerpen: Halewijn. [IN PRESS]
Bram de Muynck, Siebren Miedema & Ina ter Avest (2013). Education and Religion in the Netherlands In: Wolhuter (ed). Religion and Education in Ten Countries. Publisher: The Edwin Mellen Press, USA. (Ten Countries: US, Brasil, Israel, Iran, Azerbaijan, South-Africa, Tanzanië; Malaisia and China) [IN PRESS].

H.L. (Laura) Boele-de Bruin MSc

H.L. (Laura) Boele-de Bruin MSc (1988) completed a degree in educational studies at Utrecht University. As part of her thesis she carried out research into reflection in portfolios, commonly used by teachers to encourage pupils’ or students’ learning. With her research she sought to gain insight into the measure and quality of reflection and into factors which could possibly influence it, such as the students’ motivation. Laura’s current role is that of project and policy worker for the primary teacher training programme and the educational advice centre of Driestar Educatief. With her experience in research and educational development she willingly supports the daily practice of teachers (in training).

Drs. M. (Marike) de Kloe

Marike de Kloe (1980) finished the teacher training program of Driestar Educatief, and worked several years as a primary school teacher. She continued her part-time studies in Educational Science at Utrecht University and obtained a MSc in Development Management from the Open University in the UK.  Since 2005, she has been working with Woord en Daad (www.woordendaad.nl) as education officer and program manager, and from 2012 on the department of Resultmanagement & Learning. This department is involved in systems for planning and monitoring, evaluation studies and research.

For Woord en Daad, Marike is project leader of Edu4change, a project in cooperation with Driestar Educatief, focusing on teacher training and curriculum development in Africa.

Within the research group, Marike has a focus on Christian teaching worldwide and further development of the international aspects.

Dr. E. (Ewald) Mackay

Ewald Mackay (1964) studied history at Leiden University and philosophy at Radboud University Nijmegen. He obtained a doctorate from the Theology Faculty at Utrecht University, with a thesis on the relation between Christian faith and historic reality. For over twenty years he has taught history, cultural and social studies and philosophy in both secondary and higher education, starting work at Driestar Hogeschool in 1999. He was a member of the ‘Education and Identity’ lectorate and has published a number of books and articles about various subjects relating to education.

Drs. W. (Willemieke) Reijnoudt

Willemieke Reijnoudt - Klein (1980) completed the primary teacher training programme at Driestar Hogeschool. She then completed a degree in educational studies at Utrecht University, while working as a teacher in the upper years of primary education. In 2003 she started working as an education policy worker for Driestar Educatief. From 2007 - 2011 she was a member of the knowledge network for the ‘Exemplary Education’ lectorate and arranged courses run by the lectorate. The emphasis of her tasks during those years was the counselling of teachers and students in the field of Exemplary education and having conversations with pupils. Within the lectorate she primarily developed expertise on meaningful education, motivation of pupils and conversations with pupils. She also made several contributions to the development of meaningful education which emphasised issues that give purpose and meaning to the development of children. She currently teaches pedagogics and educational studies to teacher training students and works for the lectorate ‘Christian Teaching’.

Drs. H. (Henk) Vermeulen

Henk Vermeulen (1958) completed degrees in History, Dutch literature and social and behavioural sciences in Amsterdam and Utrecht. He graduated in a social-economical subject. After his studies he started work as a teacher in secondary education. He still teaches, although his main occupation is now with Driestar Educatief, where he works as director of studies for the history teacher training degree and as a curriculum advisor.

As a curriculum advisor he helped develop various textbooks for secondary education. He has been particularly involved with Bronwijzer, a complete History scheme with textbooks, teaching materials and resources for the first few years of Christian secondary education: first as author, later as general editor and finally as project manager. Furthermore he is coordinator of the course Religious and Pedagogical Development for early career teachers. He has published several books on historical subjects, and many articles in DRS Magazine about various subjects relating to education. He has been general editor of the DRS magazine since 2004.

Drs. A.J. (André) Verwijs

André Verwijs (1968) studied Mathematics and Physics in Eindhoven and completed his Teacher training by an essay on ‘Faith in Science’. He started his career on a Canadian High School, the Mount Cheam Christian School of Chilliwack, in the Province of British Columbia. After 6 years he moved back to Holland and became a Maths teacher at the reformed comprehensive Jacobus Fruytier School of Apeldoorn, for another year. In 1996 he was appointed principal of a new division of the school, in the village of Uddel, beautifully situated in a quiet and woody environment (Crown land).

Within his daily work of school leadership he likes reflecting on issues like Christian teaching and Leadership, how to stimulate teachers in exploring these main themes. Currently, he is following the Mastertraining of ‘Educational Leadership’, in which he inquires into how Christian teaching (in reformed comprehensive schools) is done, how confession and profession are connected effectively.

Dr. L.D. (Leunis) van Klinken

Leunis van Klinken (1950) trained to be a teacher at teacher training college De Driestar in Gouda. He started his career in 1972 at Dr. C. Steenblokschool in Veenendaal and in 1975 was appointed head teacher of this school. In 1985 he moved to the Ds. G.H. Kerstencentrum, an educational advice centre in Veenendaal. He completed an academic degree in special education in 1991. In 2009 he obtained a doctorate at the Vrije Universiteit for his thesis Dienstbaar aan het onderwijs, a study into the 19th century Protestant education magazines.
As educational adviser he worked on the development of the teaching schemes Er is geschied (history) and Taalfontein (literacy). He currently works as an adviser on education systems within schools and with interim management.
He regularly gives lectures and has published several articles, particularly in the education magazine Criterium. He is also active as a local politician, being leader of the SGP, the Reformed Political Party, in the town council of Veenendaal.

Mr. A. (Aris) de Pater

Aris de Pater (1956) completed a study at Delft University of Technology, after which he fulfilled executive functions in the international business world for almost 20 years. In 2003 he moved to primary education and became head teacher of Ds. J. Fraanjeschool in Barneveld. In addition he holds several additional functions, including as chair of governors of primary school Het Mosterdzaadje in Gortel.
Since April 2013 he has been a member of the research team of the lectorate for Christian teaching at Driestar Hogeschool in Gouda. He is responsible for one of the studies within the lectorate. He conducts research into teachers’ interpretation of society and of developments of society and to which degree they teach their pupils to interpret. The references for the interpretation are the Bible and the Three Forms of Unity (the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Heidelberg Catechism). The outcome of the research consists of a research report and material to equip both qualified teachers and student teachers to be able to interpret society and its developments. In that interpretation the teacher plays a crucial role in the development of pupils who will take up their place as Christians in our secular society.

Timothy for teachers

On this site you will find meditations on texts, taken from the letters to Timothy. Every two weeks one new meditation will be added. They can be used for personal meditation. In these texts teachers may find some help for discussing core issues during team meetings. The length of the texts will be about 600 words. The texts can be read in five minutes. A team could read the verse(s) from the Bible. After they have read the text aloud, the questions given below the meditation invite them to discuss it. But possibly questions are not needed, because Scripture itself invites us to respond. By stating this, I could conclude the meditations to be superfluous. My experience with some schools and individual teachers however convinced me that a short text with explanations can help them to be guide them to the core message of the text. This is what I aspire, and I humbly hope that teachers may find support in the meditations. I very much welcome any comments on whether the texts are useful. If you would like to suggest corrections or additional comments, they are of course much appreciated!

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1 - A blessing for teachers

1 Tim: 1 A blessing for teachters

‘Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord’ (1 Timothy 1:2, ESV).

Scripture reading: Psalm 121 – 1 Tim 1: 1-2
Suggestion for singing: May the Lord bless you (Mission Praise 464)

A few months ago I received an e-mail from a Russian teacher. The salutation of his mail was simply this: ‘Grace and peace’. These words surprised me. I was not used to such a start of a message. It was immediately clear that this person was a Christian.

Greeting some-one with ‘grace and peace’ is biblical. Every letter of Paul has the words ‘Grace and peace’ in the opening section. Pastors use these words when they start the service. The Russian mailer felt free to copy these bible words to an unknown fellow-Christian. He encourages us to bless each other more freely than we are used to with words from the Scripture. Why shouldn’t we greet each other at the beginning of this new year with ‘grace and peace’? Try to do so when you meet your colleague!

Grace is everywhere in the New Testament connected to forgiveness of sin and the gift of new life. If we greet with ‘grace’ we confess that we are dependent on the Lord for being granted a new life. People are saved by the Lord, by his grace alone. The greeting is praise, an expression of gratitude to the Almighty Lord. From the grace of Christ, we get a lot. Think about everyday school-life. In the new year the principle, staff and students can start the new year by the grace of the Lord. All good things we get in order to continue our work – health, the school building, provisions like textbooks and a whiteboard - are coming from the grace of the Lord.

Peace is a mental state of the heart: the heart is quiet and quickened. One or two weeks off from school might have brought rest and a new courage to teach. On the other hand a lot of schooldays are ahead before the summer holidays, probably some difficulties ahead with students or parents, your heart may be quick filled with the opposite emotions. You might even be anxious about the semester ahead. Now not a wish of a colleague is coming to you, but a word from a more powerful source, the heart of the Lord. He is willing to give you peace! May this blessing impress your mind on this first day of this semester.

There is still more blessing. Except grace and peace we meet the word ‘mercy’. In all Paul’s letters the addressee is greeted with ‘Grace and peace’. Only in the two letters to Timothy, the word ‘mercy’ is added. What can be the reason? Some say (ESV notes, p. 2325) that ‘mercy’ is a subject in the letter (1: 13, 16 ‘God has shown personal mercy to Paul’). One commentator (Henry) has an interpretation that might fit our profession. He says: maybe Paul emphasises this word because ‘servants need more mercy than others to get mercy for their trespasses/sin’.

Why should teachers need more mercy? The reason might be that they bear high responsibility. What they say and do in the classroom has a lot of impact. Positive words are a blessing. A negative climate is a curse. Teaching affects the future life of students. Will they become confessing adults? Will they behave as a responsible Christian? Will they love others, be good examples in society? This all may feel like a burden.

Christian teachers have a distinguishing source to bear this burden with joy. Christian teachers not only know about sin and responsibility, but also about deliverance and hope. They may look upon the Lord Jesus Christ who bore the punishment for sin on the cross, also for sins in the classroom. There is reason to bless each other at the beginning of the course with ‘mercy to you’.


The promise of peace is not coming from an untrustworthy human being, but from the heavenly Father, who takes care of all his believers. The promise of peace means that He knows your sighs, before you have brought them in prayer.


  1. What are your expectations for your classroom work in the semester ahead? Thinking of your class, what joy is filling your heart, what difficulties are worrying you? What does the blessing of 1 Tim 1: 2 mean for you?
  2. What is the best wish for your colleague in this new year?
  3. Do you agree with the interpretation of M. Henry, about the word ‘mercy’ in this verse? (Dutch Edition, NT part III , Kok/Kampen, p.470).
  4. What is the difference between grace and mercy? Look for the character of mercy in Jonah 4:2?
  5. After what moments in daily school-life do you confess being blessed?
  6. Is peace just a mental state, something you feel in your heart or will peace be also expressed in the attitude to colleagues and in the atmosphere during the lessons?

Keywords: blessing, New Year, teachers-sin

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, The Netherlands

2 - The teacher and the parent

‘To Timothy, my true child in the faith’ (1 Timothy 1: 2 ESV)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 1: 1-2; Acts 16: 1-3
Suggestion for singing: Teach me thy way o Lord (Mission Praise 626)

Sometimes (young) pupils call a teacher: ‘Dad or mum…’ and say right afterwards with a big smile: ‘O sorry… !’ This may imply that there is a kind of atmosphere relating to parent-child relationship. But have we ever made the ‘mistake’ the other way around, and thought that one of them was your child for a moment? And you their father or mother? Paul seems to do so. He speaks to Timothy by addressing him: ‘To Timothy my true child in faith’. He calls Timothy his child. I guess this is not a very common way of addressing a student by teachers in your eyes. When teachers today send an email to students they will just address with ‘Dear student’.

Paul says: you are my ‘true child’. Imagine that Timothy is a young adult (e.g. 1 Tim 4: 11). We know from Acts 16: 1-3 that Paul discovered Timothy as a young believer with a good reputation. He chose Timothy to accompany him on his journey. We know from the following chapters in Acts that he continued to be a faithful helper of the Apostle.

Given this context, for what reason can Paul call Timothy his ‘child’?

The first thing is that Paul must have had a very good relationship with Timothy. From Phil 2:19-25 we can conclude Timothy was the closest companion he had. A close relationship may have the sense of a relationship with relatives. Towards Timothy, Paul feels like a father. It is not amazing that Paul also expresses these warm feelings in his letter.

The second reason might refer to Pauls expectations. He expects a lot from Timothy. He has chosen him as a helper because of his brilliant competences. Nevertheless the two letters are full of instructions about what Timothy should do in his service. To call him a child doesn’t just confirm the relationship and show that Paul is content with the present situation. That Paul calls him here his ‘true child’ implies that Paul cares for the future of Timothy’s service. Like a father, he cares for the future of his child. During the first century, it is highly likely the son would continue the job of his father. This is still true nowadays in many rural areas in the world, a farmer’s son will be a farmer, a fisherman’s son will be a fisherman. In that way we should comprehend the addressing of Paul to Timothy. Timothy will have the same vocation as Paul. Therefore he will get proper instructions from Paul

You can imagine that Paul is worrying about two things. Like a father, who has his son as an apprentice in his business, he cares for the future of the message. We will speak about this in the next study. The other thing is that he worries about the learning process of his son. Will he make progress? Will he be good at his job? Will he be prepared to lead the business on his own? Will he stand firm against disappointing experiences? Will he be able to oppose contradictions? About all these things we find expressions in the letters. Paul cares about the well being of his ‘true son’ and about the continuation of the message. In that way he is a follower of the great shepherd Jesus Christ.


  • Some Bible Versions (like NIV and KJV) translate not ‘Child’ but ‘Son’, which is also possible from the Greek text.
  • The Timothy letters seem especially instructive for teacher educators. They have the same mission, the same vocation as their student teachers.


  1. Do you remember moments while teaching that you acted more like a father or mother than a teacher? Could you summarize the difference in the roles?
  2. To what extent must students feel at home in the classroom?
  3. Do you feel responsible for the well-being of the student? And what about being responsible for the continuation of the Gospel? Should teachers worry about that?
  4. In some countries, like England and the Netherlands, teachers give great value to both a good relationship of teachers with students and to active involvement of students as well. They expect the staff to be very involved in the learning process of the students. But they also expect the students to be involved in the teaching as well. How is this in your country? Could you summarize two biblical principles for the relationships of teachers and students?
  5. Did you have an educational or spiritual father yourselves? Which of your teachers were like a father or a mother?

Keywords: relationship teacher-student, responsibility

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

3 - Demanding

‘As I urged you……’ (1Timothy 1:3)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 1: 3-11; Romans 1: 16.
Suggestion for singing: Thine be the glory (Mission Praise 689)

Paul is very demanding in his letters to his servant. Several times he says: ‘I urge…’ (1:3; 2:1) or ‘I charge..’ (5:21; 6:13).

In this section, the demand is about Timothy’s mission in Ephesus. His task will be to prevent the flock being led in the wrong direction. Some brothers are very busy with matters that are distracting from the message of Christ (see next study).

Can we apply the demanding attitude of Paul to our 21st Century teaching? In a general way we can. Teaching is not possible without instruction and without authority. Teachers should transfer knowledge and give assignments to practice or assignments to apply knowledge. You can do this in a very friendly way, but also when you do so, it remains clear that you are setting the scene. Being a teacher means being a guide. Although you won’t know what will be in the minds of your students, you must be sure of the directions of understanding. ‘To be demanding’ means that you are very clear with that direction. You have to be transparent, trustworthy about your message, your plans, your schedule. Students should be able to identify with your ideas.

Looking at it another way, we cannot apply this demanding attitude to our teaching. Timothy receives the task from the apostle, who is very convinced about his message (1: 1; 2: 7). Paul has to keep and transmit the apostolic tradition to the next generation of believers. As his servant, Timothy’s task is to do the same. Subsequently he is getting a derived, but similar authority. To be an apostle means to be a witness of the resurrection of the Lord (Acts 1: 22; 1 Tim 1: 1 – ‘Christ Jesus our hope’). Timothy receives his instruction from some-one who has seen the Lord, risen from the dead. An apostle to the gentiles (Ephesus 3:7-13), Paul has been worrying a lot about the pureness of the message of grace. In other letters Paul is directing the congregations himself. Here he is instructing Timothy to keep the message pure. He is directing in an indirect way. By the work of Timothy he has to make sure that the apostolic message will be taught without eviation.

As Christian teachers we do not have an official Church role. Nor do we have a preaching role or the responsibility to watch over the pureness of the doctrine. At most we have to bring the message to the hearts of the students and to discipline them in a Christian life-style. As a believer the Christian teacher is very much convinced about the importance of the message of Christ (1 Tim 1:15 and 1 Tim 2:4). That may give him authority in a broader sense. Moreover. The teacher that needs God’s grace every day, lives by that reality and shares this with his students. By this he/she will become an authority in a Biblical sense.

How could we define the relationship of the Christian teacher to the church? This might highly depend on the situation in your country. But at least the following is important. Teachers will worry about the spiritual state of the student. More precisely: it matters whether the message of the gospel is rooted in the minds of the students. It’s not just religious education teachers who have the task of worrying about this, but also those who teach Maths, English or history.


  • Paul desires that people will come to the ‘knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim 2: 4, 2 Tim 2: 25; 3: 7. A teacher should not be demanding in order to keep his authority (as an objective in itself) but in order to assure that the learners will adopt the content. Strictness is not a teaching style but a means to further the learning process.
  • The first demand is actually one to demand others. ‘I urge you… that you may charge certain persons….’. Calvin Commentary p. 188: ‘The word charge means authority, for it was Paul’s purpose to equip Timothy with authority to restrain others’ Leaders often do this. For example: a principal urges a teacher to instruct the class to improve behaviour in the playground. Or the minister of education urges his directors to direct educational policy in a certain way. The directions of Paul are often meant for others. Timothy as an intermediate.
  • ‘I urge’ or ‘I charge’ or ‘I command’ is only used by Paul in 1 Thess. 4:1, 2 and 2 Thess. 3: 6; 3: 10, 12 (in this section charging every brother to work for food); Titus 1: 5 and Philemon: 8.
  • Another reason for being demanding is to prepare the congregation for false teaching (2 Tim 4:3).


  1. Paul’s demand is to prevent teaching ‘in a different way’. According to Calvin (Commentary p. 189) this refers to the form, the method of teaching. There is just one way of teaching, Calvin says, ‘that is free from false pretence and savours more of the majesty of the Spirit than of the outward show of human eloquence. If anyone departs from this, he deforms and vitiates the doctrine itself, and thus ‘to teach differently’ must refer to the form’. Teaching must concentrate not on one’s fluency, performance, or to impress the students, but always refer to God. How can you put this into practice, while it is your task to construct well-ordered and challenging lessons?

  2. Christian teachers mostly do not have an official role in the Church. In some Catholic traditions teachers work under the authority of the Bishop. Do you think working in an official Church role would make you stronger in your task, would it support your authority? (CompareBeing a guide, note 37)

  3. Paul is strongly convinced about his mission to bring the gospel to the gentiles. Compare Ephesus 3: 7-13. Do you think we can compare Paul’s mission with our mission in the classroom? Could you summarize your teaching mission?

  4. Many 21st century educators have developed in a non-directive, non-authoritarian way.
    Should Christian teachers make a difference with reference to authority?

  5. What do you think about this quotation: “Our teaching is an extension of our lives and if we truly wish to represent the Lord with integrity, we must see to it that the priorities in our personal lives become more and more aligned with His priorities. Jesus will not be Lord of your teaching if He is not Lord of your life.” (First Class: The calling and impact of a Christian teacher by Werner Cloete) 

Keywords: Authority, Demanding, Apostle

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

4 - No fairy tales

‘You may charge certain persons not to teach different doctrine’ (1Timothy 1:3, ESV)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 1: 3-11; Titus 3:8-11.
Suggestion for singing: The church’s one foundation (Mission Praise, 640)

In some countries Christian teachers have the opportunity to begin the day with the reading of some verses from the scripture. They can add their own words about the meaning of the text. In classes for young pupils the teachers can tell stories from the Bible. Is it possible to say something about the quality of such devotions and Bible stories?

Let us try to learn from Paul. In this part of 1 Timothy 1 he speaks about bad quality teaching. Certain persons in Ephesus, he explains, are teaching ‘differently’. Paul seems to refer to teachers who add speculative stories to the message of Christ. They weave their knowledge of ancient myths – may be Greek or Jewish - into the message of Christ. They teach from the Bible with a strong emphasis on their own interpretations (Van Houwelingen 44).  

People who compose their teaching by mixing interpretations with the core of the Gospel seem to have been very attractive to members of the congregation. That might be the reason that Paul so quickly starts to warn of them in the beginning of this letter. Bad quality religious teaching has a bad affect. Personal additions result in speculations. The hearers might think that the truth had endless versions: each individual their own truth.

Nowadays teachers often hear that authenticity of the explanation is a sign of good quality. They are advised to speak in personal words: ‘tell the students what the text has meant for you personally, then they will certainly accept your message!’. Applying the warnings of Paul, there might be danger in defining quality mainly as a matter of authenticity. Unintentionally, you are attracting the attention to your own personal version of truth, or to your own intelligence. Attractive persons might easily become authorities, as a substitute for the gospel of Christ.

Not so, when you teach in a proper way. When you have the discipline to leave out fairy tales, your religious teaching will result in ‘stewardship from God’ (verse 4). The Greek oikonomos theous refers to an orderly household, in which all things are well ordered. Proper teaching attracts others to accept the gospel and leads the minds into a balanced look at things. It puts everything in the right place. Not only will the minds of students become filled with feelings of agreement and peace, but they will also be made ready to take their responsibility for stewardship.

The message of Paul is clear. Standing in front of the class, we should not wander in our own nice religious framework, but carefully put a clear insight of the Scripture into our words. Nevertheless we are called to teach with all our heart. Our message must be authentic and involved (compare 2 Corinthians 6:4-12). A good teacher will use examples and add personal insight. A faithful teacher however has the discipline not to add other elements. If you use personal examples, do not dwell in that example, but use it just to direct the audience to what matters according to Christ. A simple test whether we intend to teach the original doctrine of Christ or teach differently might be the question: do our thoughts dwell, while preparing a devotion or a Bible story, in the Word of Christ? (Colossians 3: 16) 


  • In the pastoral letters we can find three characteristics of the opponents of Timothy in Ephesus: they came from within (1 Tim 1: 19), there were Jewish elements in their teaching (e.g. 1 Tim 4: 7) and their speculation and debating belonged to their favorite methods (1 Tim 1: 4, 6:4). From the persons mentioned in 1 Tim 1: 19-20 might be concluded that the opponents were leaders in the young congregation (Van Houwelingen 44). Being an opponent of settled leaders must be a very difficult task.
  • Schlatter in his interpretations (Erläuterungen zum Neuen Testament, Band 8, p. 115-116) says that biblical teaching is not meant to nourish personal imagination, which may result in a diversity in Christian religiosity. Biblical teachers should proclaim facts. The truth must challenge people for agreement. Schlatter: ‘nobody will surrender wholeheartedly to a myth or to fantasy’ (Schlatter, p. 115). Proclaiming truth – how paradoxically this truth will sound to modern ears - will eventually be convincing. However: teachers desire wholehearted believers and not just consenting opportunists. Therefore religious education is a very intensive task. 


  1. Briefly formulate the core message of Biblical teaching. (Compare first note on the letter to Titus, ESV, Studybible p. 2328)
  2. Do you recognize the dangers of re-interpretation and this being attractive to the believer instead of to Christ? How can you make your words engaging, with conviction, without having the desire of being attractive, very personal but without adding speculations? When is something a ‘fairy tale’? When is something useful for the application of the gospel? Try to define two or three criteria.
  3. The gospel seeks agreement. Do we as Christian teachers aim to convince young people of the truth?
  4. In his works C.S. Lewis promotes the power of imagination, by stating that only by imagination one can understand the big truths, the metaphysics of the world. What are your thoughts about stimulating fantasy from a Biblical perspective? When speaking about imagination of children, are we probably talking about different domains that should not be mixed? Is religious development possible without imagination?

Keywords:  doctrine, hermeneutics, imagination

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

5 - The aim of education

‘The aim of our Charge is love’ (1Timothy 1:5)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 15-7; Romans 13:8-10; Deut. 5:4-9.
Suggestion for singing: Immortal Love, forever full (Mission Praise, 328)

Philosophers of education have often discussed the aim of education. Is it to obtain diploma’s, a successful career, good citizenship or just generally adulthood?

Paul seems to have a very clear aim in mind for the teaching of Timothy. He has ordered Timothy to stay in Ephesus with the aim of just one thing. Paul explains in this chapter that speaking about myths will result in speculations (verse 3) and vain discussion (verse 6). The proper message evokes something quite different, namely love.

The concept of Love is very central in the Bible. Christ showed his ultimate love by giving his life on the cross. For this reason believers can live in freedom (Rom. 5: 8, Gal. 2:2). For this reason believers have to love others (Joh.15:12, Rom. 13: 8).

Let us think about our aims in our teaching from this perspective. During the day we strive for many purposes and learning goals. Our sophisticated teacher-manuals give them in detail. Imagine how helpful it is to have just one general aim: love! Behind everything we do, in the background of all our intentions, the aim of love is present. Standing in front of the classroom, you could think: ‘my aim as a Christian teacher is to evoke love’. 

Love is attractive in classroom-culture, when applied to daily interactions. Students can be kind to each other in a way you think: ‘good, that is a sign of love: they consider the interests of each other’. But the text doesn’t allow us to think about love in that way only. Paul mentions three characteristics of love: ‘love that issues from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith.’ Our desire for love ought to be connected to these three things. Let us briefly meditate on these three words, again while thinking about our students.

A pure heart. Our impure hearts can be purified by the word of Christ (John 15:3). This is a wonderful truth for sinful people irrespective of status or age (compare Psalm 51: 12-14).

From a good conscience. Other texts about ‘conscience’ direct our attention again to the work of Christ. The blood of Christ purifies our conscience from dead works (Hebr. 9: 14). The resurrection of the Lord is responsible for the good conscience (1Peter 3:21). What a mighty work the Lord has done!

From a sincere faith. Faith must be honest, whole-hearted, without hypocrisy (literally Greek: anhypokritos). Whether faith is sincere is a test that some people cannot pass (2 Tim 3: 8). Young man Timothy, however, was characterized by his teacher Paul in that way in 2 Tim 1: 3- 5.

These characteristics of ‘love’ show that actually we cannot solidify the aim of love in didactical terms. Love is a spiritual gift that directs behavior from within. We cannot train love from without. Consequently, we cannot pretend to harvest the ultimate aim of education, like mentioned by Paul. Teachers can sow, give water, but it is God who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:5-9).


  • The word ‘the aim of our charge’ can be interpreted in two different ways. In this meditation we have used the interpretation stating that ‘charge’ refers to the command of Paul to Timothy. This view is supported by the fact that the word is very central in the letter. The noun  ‘charge’ (in ‘the aim of our charge’) in Greek (parangelia) is closely related to the verb used for the task Paul gives to Timothy in verses 3 and 18 (parangeilèis) (Van Houwelingen, p. 45). The interpreters of the ESV (see Study-Bible note to verse 5, p.2325) also conclude that this word refers to the command.  Some interpreters like Calvin and Matthew Henry choose the other interpretation. They state that ‘charge’ refers to the law as mentioned in verse 8 (‘The law is good’). This interpretation leads to considerations about the aim of the law in general. KTSV (Kanttekeningen bij de Statenvertaling – Notes on the Dutch Statenvertaling) gives both interpretations. The interpretations come together when we consider that the aim of life is to love God and our neighbor (Deut. 4:4-9). In education we desire to transfer the understanding to students that they should live according to Gods commandments.
  • In Ephesus 3: 17-19 Paul summarizes his desire for the congregation of Ephesus as ’being rooted and grounded in love’
  • According to Augustine the aim of love results in the presence of love in all the acts of the teacher himself. The ideal profile of love is unconditional. To love means to exclude all prejudgments.
  • The word ‘conscience’ is important for moral education. It never occurs in the OT. The greek syneidèsis refers to a knowing with oneself, a self-judging consciousness.
  • Love in the Bible also embodies following the path of loving God and your neighbour, as a consequence of self-denial in the following of Christ and after having received a clean heart and conscience. Teachers can have opportunities to evoke the conciense in accordance with the Love-command (compare J. Douma, Responsible conduct: principles of Christian ethics, chapter 7.Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publications, 2003).
  • In his letters Paul speaks in four ways about conscience: a. his own conscience (like in Romans 9:1 and 2 Tim. 1:3); b. the conscience of fellow Christians (like in Rom. 13:5 in this text and I 1 Tim 1:19 and 2 Cor. 5:11); c. human conscience in general (Rom 2:15 and 2 Cor 4: 2); d. the conscience of the heretics (1 Tim 4: 2) (F.J. Pop, Bijbelse Woorden en hun geheim. ‘s-Gravenhage: Boekencentrum, 1964 p. 248 ff.).


  1. What aims do you actually have in mind when you leave home, heading for school?
  2. Can we view love as the aim of character education? How is that related to the inner heart of the students? Do you observe love as a result of education? Or is ‘love’ an unobservable concept?
  3. Love can also be used as a measure, as a criterion. Schlatter (Erläuterungen zum Neuen Testament, Band 8, p. 118) says that Timothy could conclude the value of every word by assessing whether it results in a pure heart, a good conscience and a reasonable faith’ [‘Als Massstab, an dem Timotheus den Wert jedes Wortes erkennen soll, soll ihm dienen, ob es den reinen Sinn schafft, zum guten Gewissen verhilft und zu redlichem Glauben anleitet’]. Do you agree that we could conclude the value of our words from the results of our words?
  4. The teaching of some persons in Ephesus seem to have been led to discussions about the interpretations of the law (see 1 Tim 1:7). In verse 6 Paul states firmly: ‘The law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient’ (1 Tim 1: 6-7). What is the meaning of this phrase? What is the relation of ‘love’ and ‘law’? Compare with Rom. 7: 7-12, 13:8; Ephesus 3: 17b; Gal 5:13-14 and 23.
  5. In another place (Jochemsen, Kuiper, De Muynck, 2006), I have stated that the telos of education is ‘formation’ (Germen: Bildung; Dutch:vorming). Can the aim of ‘formation’ be connected to the aim of ‘love’?

Keywords: aim of education, love, conscience, faith

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

6 - The thankful teacher

‘I thank him…. Christ Jesus our Lord’ (1Timothy 1: 12)

Scripture reading 1 Tim 1: 12-17; Numbers 15: 24-31.
Suggestion for singing: Amazing Grace (Mission Praise, 31)

Thinking about his spiritual life, ‘mercy’ is a very important word for Paul, especially when he looks back at some of the moments in his life. The contrast is huge. ‘Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent’, he says. After Christ met him in the way, he became a passionate preacher of the gospel.

For this unbelievable change, Paul can give just one ultimate reason: God’s overflowing mercy. Enough reason to exclaim a song of praise (verse 17): ‘…to… the only God be glory forever and ever. Amen’.

Mercy is showed by the patience of God to me as ‘the foremost’ of sinners, Paul says. The change in Paul is so impressive that others might also be convinced of the mercy of Jesus Christ (verse 16).

Strikingly, Paul adds a special reason for the mercy of God: ‘I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief’ (13). This reasoning could sound like an excuse: I didn’t know what I was doing, so I am to blame for nothing.

This phrase should, however, be read against the background of Old Testament commandments. In Lev 4: 1-35 and Num 15:22-31 deliberate and un-deliberate deeds are clearly distinguished. Paul acted fully according to Jewish tradition. He was very much convinced that his deeds accorded to the will of God. This was so strong a conviction that he didn’t hesitate to murder people.  In this passage he refers to his previous state as an unbeliever, very soundly rooted in Jewish tradition. In that stage of his life he was filled with great zeal, like the zeal of his brothers who brought Jesus to the cross.

The amazing thing is that Jesus asked for forgiveness for people who had that strong zeal.  ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34, compare Acts 7: 60). Peter has noticed the importance of these word, as is shown in his speech to the Jews after Pentecost (Acts 3:17): ‘I know that you acted in ignorance’ (Van Houwelingen, p.53).

From a psychological perspective it is quite normal to get familiar with traditions of the group and to build loyalty. Some persons equate defending group loyalty with defending God. It is like they are defending their own property. The drive to defend is so strong that one is blind to other considerations, because the tradition or group loyalty is what they have set their hope on, instead of on the love, beauty and grace of Jesus. From this passage we can learn that God’s grace is so abundant that He is able and willing to rescue people from their psychological loyalties. The loyalties that have a risk of corrupting into cruelty are replaced by the loyalty for the love of Jesus.  

He came in the world not to receive earthly power but to save sinners (verse 15).

Having perceived that grace, Paul is an example for his fellow brothers who can be drawn from the net of Jewish traditions. This experience gives Paul the confidence to preach the gospel especially to the heathens (for whom he is called), who are bound by their own traditions. Against the structural deficiency of the faith of man flourishes the abundant flow of the love of Christ.

Teachers may be openly thankful, when they can point at that mercy. ‘To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen’ (verse 17).


  • Paul has been very open about his life to the audience. His conversion is set out in Acts 9. His own notes about his life can be found amongst other places in Acts 26 and Galatians 1:11 – 2:14. In Acts 9: 15 the Lord called him ‘an instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles’. In Acts 26: 16 Paul tells that the Lord called him ‘a servant and witness’.
  • The personality of believers will not change by conversion. The content and direction of the zeal, however, is going to be changed. Paul worked with zeal after his conversion for the salvation of the heathens, like he worked with zeal to persecute followers of Christ before his conversion (Acts 9).
  • ESV-note on 12-17 and especially 13 denote in this passage that Paul compares himself to the false teachers. Paul had changed from an unbeliever to a believer. The false teachers were changing from being believers to swerving in a false direction.
  • Verse 13: ‘I acted ignorantly in unbelief. ‘Paul uses the word unbeliever (apistia) for Jews that don’t acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God (Rom 3:3; Rom. 11,20,23).
  • This passage can be read as a warning against the arrogance of considering our own tradition as prevailing. That arrogance can easily correlate with despising others. Calvin: ‘Although Paul also had an evil disposition in some measure, with him it was thoughtless zeal that carried him away, so that he thought he was doing what was right’. (Commentary on 1 Timothy, p. 197). God’s grace however is so abundant that this sin can be forgiven.


  1. There is a contrast between the spiritual lives of the teacher (Paul) and the student (Timothy). Paul experienced a big change, Timothy believed like his mother and grandmother (2 Tim 1: 5). How did you become a believer? How do you expect your students to become / or to have become believers? To what extent is the teacher willing to share his spiritual life with the students?
  2. Mercy is connected to patience. To speak carefully, we can say this is the unique pedagogy of God, that is hard to apply to believing teachers. They can never come to that ultimate kind of patience. Let us think, however, about our patience with students. In what way can we be merciful and patient with them?
  3. Paul expresses openly his thankfulness to his student. Can you imagine saying your personal thanks in the presence of students? Why?
  4. Tyranic deeds are not a privilege of fundamentalists. Do you think Christian believers can also strive with zeal for defending their own tradition in a wrong way? How can we prevent each other coming into that pitfall?
  5. Many young believers in Islam are devoted and full of zeal for their tradition. What can we learn from this passage for our perception of them?

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

7 - Think about your initial calling

’… in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you (1Timothy 1:18)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 1:18-20; 1 Tim. 4: 14; Acts 16: 1-3
Suggestion for singing: When we walk with the Lord (Mission Praise, 760)

Most teachers have not experienced that prophecies have been spoken about them, when they applied for teacher training or when they started their teaching profession. Timothy, however, can remember such an experience very well. When Paul speaks about ‘prophecies’, he most likely refers to the moments in Derbe or Lystre (Acts 16:3), when Paul chose him as a companion. This must have been a very existential moment for Timothy, for he was not only selected as a helper at that moment, but he also was circumcised. This was a very painful operation for a young adult and the community was also involved in the event. When someone received a special mission, it was common to be blessed. Elders lay their hands on that particular person (compare Acts 13:3).

When Paul refers to the prophecies, Timothy might have remembered very well his initial calling. By reminding him of that moment Paul tries to encourage his young fellow worker. Keeping the congregation pointing in the right direction was a battle. Much strength and perseverance was needed. And thinking back about the powerful calling of God, given through the prophetic words and blessing hands of elders, could be encouraging.

Let us turn to our difficulties in teaching. Could we also be encouraged by thinking about our initial calling?

Not many Christian teachers have experienced a clear calling by a specific person. Yet they can trace back how they became involved in the teaching profession.

Some remember the initial attraction of teaching very well. When they were young they felt the joy of observing their own teachers, which evoked the desire to teach: ‘What a pleasure would it be to teach myself!’. Maybe Bible study has done the job. You remember reading a bible passage and felt the vocation for teaching. Others simply choose it as teaching offered the best outlook for the future. And many other reasons can be given.

Some remember people who played a role. Probably someone affirmed your choice by saying: ‘Exactly the job for you’! Or: ‘It’s really important to be a teacher. In the Kingdom of God devoted persons are needed’. You could think about your graduation. Someone congratulated you and spoke warm words for your future. Or about someone who invited you to apply for a position at his or her school. Maybe you remember other people who have encouraged you with good words from the scripture.

Though those persons have not blessed you on behalf of God, they have been placed on your way as a signpost. Why shouldn’t we think back about those persons and about the words they have spoken?

The story of Timothy (and especially the moment of his circumcision) could invite you to be reminded about a more simple moment, not of less importance. As a Christian you are being baptized, either as a child, or as an adult. In that moment you became part of the body of Christ. You have become part of his death and also of his resurrection (Romans 6: 1-4). By this you started to become actually part in his suffering (compare 1 Peter. 4: 13). This is true for every Christian. As a Christian teacher, can’t you connect this to the battle of the daily professional life? For example when suddenly a conflict in the class comes up, or hardly any of your students seem to be motivated to hear your good words about the Lord?

The aim of Paul was to strengthen Timothy for the battle of his vocation. In difficult moments every teacher needs to be reminded of what actually matters in professional life.


  • By using the word ‘strength’ in verse 12 Paul seems to refer to his own calling (the Greek word is related to ‘energy’, Van Houwelingen, 51). In the reasoning of 1 Timothy 1 the life history of both Paul and Timothy are important in the background.
  • In the New Testament the word ‘prophecy’ (Gr. Propheteia) can be interpreted with four different meanings (compare, ESVSB, 2209, note on 1 Cor. 12:10). The first is spontaneous speech that God has given in someone’s mind. These are human words and not Gods words, and must be tested (1 Cor 12:29). The second meaning is the word of God, spoken with authority, like the OT prophets. The third meaning is prophecy as the gift of teaching or preaching (e.g. Romans 12: 6). Preaching can be so powerful that it can reveal the secrets in the heart of unbelievers and bring them to honor God (1 Cor. 12:24, 25). Fourth: prophecies were also spoken as a prediction of situations to come (Acts 11: :27-28), or a prediction about a special person, like Agabus in Acts 21:10-11 predicted that Paul would be captured.
  • In the text above it is suggested that choosing a profession is a free choice. In many countries this is not the case. Many teachers like to teach because the income is guaranteed, or because it is the only way to leave agricultural life. 


  1. Summarize your motivation for the choice of becoming a teacher. Did you experience a kind of a calling? Which persons played a role in the decision to apply for teacher training? Was the Lord involved in your choice?
  2. Which people have supported you, encouraged you to become a teacher?
  3. What are the difficult moments in your professional life? How can you be encouraged by thoughts about the moment of calling? If you have no certain moment of calling, how then do you get encouraged?
  4. In some monastery order of the Roman Catholic Church teachers sometimes are especially ordained. Do you think the Church should have to bless teachers and give them, in a way, a mission on behalf of the church (compare, De Muynck, Be a guide, note 37)?
  5. In Timothy’s life his calling was strongly connected with being a Christian believer. How do you connect being a Christian to your profession as a teacher?

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

8 - Limits

‘Hymenaeus and Alexander… whom I have handed over Satan.’ (1Timothy 1: 20).

Scripture reading: 1Timothy 1: 18-20; 2 Timothy. 2: 16-21
Suggestion for singing: Souls of men, why will you scatter  (Mission Praise, 607)

In Greek the passage in verses 18-20 is one long sentence, not easy to translate, yet a text full of tension! Paul instructs Timothy to remain in the faith and in good conscience. It is like Timothy has to stand in a battle. Paul calls him to be prepared: ‘you may wage the good warfare’. Actually there was a spiritual war within Ephesus. Paul makes clear what Timothy’s position should be in this battle. Therefore he compares Timothy with two people with a questionable reputation: two men who have deviated from their original belief.

Why are they mentioned with their names? In other places, Paul mentions also people who have fallen in unbelief like in Corinthians 11:2 and Galatians 2: 4, 2. However, most often he refers to them in general terms. Also in two places in the Timothy-letters (1 Timothy 1:3 and 1 Timothy 1; 19) he just calls them ‘certain persons’. Paul probably warns against these two specific people, Hymenaeus and Alexander, because they had a leading position like Paul and Timothy. Leaders act in public, to influence other people. Therefore their names must also be called openly.

Who were these people? The name Alexander is also mentioned in 2 Timothy 4: 14. Probably he is not the same man, because he bears a very common name. Hymenaeus was also mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17. He was one of the persons ‘saying that the resurrection had already happened’. Whoever they might have been, there was an essential point in their opinion that deviated from the truth. When essential details of the gospel are at stake, it is important to identify the preachers of these deviations.

These two specific persons have overridden the limits. They are a danger for the congregation. Obviously strict measures are necessary. To hand over to Satan seems at least to exclude someone from the community of believers. Paul also mentions this possibility of excommunication in 1 Corinthians 5:5. Being excluded means to come in the realm of Satan, ‘the prince of the power of the air’ (Ephesus 2:2). Giving people into his hands is a very radical measure, because there is a great risk to come in the powers of Satan. Think about the temptations that Jesus experienced. Common people cannot stand that temptation you would say.

However, in both scripture-passages where Satan is mentioned in relationship with apostacy (1 Tim 1:20 as 1 Cor 5:5) the final aim is salvation. Paul speaks like a pedagogue. Pedagogues cherish hope for others.

Paul talks about a problem that teachers may recognize as a general problem. What are you going to do with people who disturb the group process? What will you do with someone you see as a ‘bad germ’? Is there any reason to remove him or her from the group? Teachers know there must be a serious reason before someone will be sent out of the classroom. The motive for exclusion cannot be found in irritation over a minor mistake, about someone’s appearance or personality, nor in a tantrum of the teacher. But there are limits. At a certain point, someone will be excluded. We can learn from Paul: the reason of exclusion is about the bad influence. Not just influence on the atmosphere, but influence concerning ideas.

But if so: exclusion is a temporary measure. The best for the excluded person is intended. In case of Alexander and Hymenaeus the aim is that they should learn not to blaspheme. The reminiscence of his own behavior in the past had probably made Paul hopeful for even those people. The grace of the Lord had been overflowing for Paul (compare verse 13 and 16). Why not also for Alexander and Hymenaeus?


  • The Hebrew word ‘Satan’ means ‘accuser‘ or ‘adversary’. Another (Greek) name is diabolos, which means a (false) accuser. Jesus one time calls Peter ‘satan’, an opponent of his work. Compare for the power of Satan also Luke 4:5-6 and Ephesus 2:2.
  • Sometimes people are personally influenced by the power of Satan, like the crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17) in a physical way, Judas (Luke 22:3/John 13:27) to give away Jesus, and Ananias and Sapphira to deceive the congregation (Acts 5:3). According to 1 Corinthians 7:5 the temptation of Satan is a danger to believers who lack self-control.
  • Paul’s calling was to open the eyes of the gentiles ‘so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God’ (Acts 26:18). He himself, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, had been a slanderer (26: 9-11, 1 Timothy 1:13). Blaming those people as well as the harsh words for unbelievers, in verse 19-20, contrasts with the conclusions about Paul himself: he acted ignorantly.
  • In Matthew 18: 17 Jesus mentions stages of excommunication. The last stage is to let someone be as ‘a Gentile and Tax collector’. According to ESV-notes this expression ‘describes who are deliberately rebellious against God’.
  • In this passage Paul again calls his fellow worker his child (compare 1 Timothy 1:2). The reason might be that exactly in this situation Timothy needs the reassurance of having a spiritual father. It is a hard job to fight against people in high positions. In this encouraging passage, therefore, he speaks with intimacy.
  • The contrast of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Satan can never be transmitted to the limits of the classroom. Therefore in general leaders should be aware of the pitfall of irritation. Leaders might be inclined to exclude troublemakers, though they need critical people around them to correct wrong ideas. Principals should practice justice in judging staff-members.


  1. Teachers have to account with the risk of excluding students because of minor reasons. Opinions of students may be irritating. Sometimes they can direct the others in a wrong way. On the other hand a questioning and even critical attitude must be stimulated. What are the limits for you to exclude a student from the classroom?
  2. Schlatter (p. 131-133) emphasises that the word ‘Shipwreck’ indicates that Alexander and Hymenaeus swerved from the faith unintentionally.[‘So wenig jemand auf die See geht, um Schiffbruch zu leiden, so wenig will jemand das Vertrauen zu Gott verlieren und zum Glauben unfähig werden’]. However, somewhere in the inner life the rebellion against God has been maintained and one has the risk of falling back in mistrust. In countries where people leave the church in great numbers, people often declare that the faith gradually swerved away from their lives. What can be the reasons for that ease of passively leaving the faith? Is there any responsibility in education for preventing young people becoming unbelievers at an older age?
  3. Do schools/teachers in your country have any rights to exclude students from school? What is the policy of your school compared to government regulation?
  4. Could you say that the power of the gospel is so strong that Christian teachers long to maintain troublemakers in their class as long as possible?

Keywords: apostacy, troublemakers, Satan, exclusion

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

9 - A universal mission

‘First of all….’; ‘all people….’; ‘in every place….’(1Timothy 2:1, 4, 8). 

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 1:1-8a; Jeremiah 29:11.
Suggestion for singing: Ye servants of God (Mission Praise, 784)

This passage begins with a strong expression. ‘First of all, then…’ The instructions about prayer that Paul gives are of great importance. Not just for the congregation of Ephesus. The words  ‘in every place’ (verse 8a) indicate that Paul is thinking universally. His instructions are meant for all congregations in Christianity. The headlines of his teaching are about the object (for whom and for what must be prayed) and about the reason for prayer. Because of the universal power of these words, let us look more closely to the text.

In every place a congregation assembles ‘supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings’ must be done. The reasoning about the ins and outs of prayer is given in a few steps. Firstly: each of these types of prayers must be prayed for all people. Secondly: this is important to attain a peaceful and quiet life, ‘godly and dignified in every way’. Thirdly: peace and rest in a holy life  are a good in itself because it pleases God. Fourthly: God desires the salvation of all people: all should come to the knowledge of truth.

In these steps of thought, especially in the first and the fourth, we feel a strong awareness of Gods desire to save all people. Apparently, the intentions of the prayers of Christians must be accordingly: a strong desire that people will discover the truth. This is underlined with a fifth and a sixth step in the reasoning. The fifth step points out that there is only one God and Jesus is mediator between God and all man. There are no specific gods for specific people, like gentiles believed. From the perspective of the God of Israel: there is no restriction in the mediatorship of Christ. In the last step Paul emphasizes his strong convictions about the desire of God with the evidence of his calling: Paul has devoted his life to that gospel. The aim was to make the knowledge of the truth acceptable not just for a few, but for everyone.

What can Christian educators learn from this universal teaching? Let us quite practically think about our prayers. When you have the opportunity to pray together with your pupils, this praying must not only be directed to the affairs, sorrows, desires of the students, the class, the teachers and so on. The challenge of this passage is that we should pray for the people around us. ‘All people’ is very extensive! That means: pray for parents, for people of the community, of the country. You also might think very specifically about the phrase ‘for Kings and all who are in high positions’: the local government, the president of the country and his ministers, including the officials who oppose Christianity (compare 1 Peter 2: 12-17). There are no limits. Why not think about the American, Russian and Chinese president, the UN president, Church-leaders or bishops? And do not forget the leaders in countries at war, or leaders of confronting parties in countries with civil war, or even leaders of neighbor countries who are offending your country. Your classroom prayer might contribute to a quiet and peaceful life of Christians around the world.

But what if you don’t have the opportunity to pray in your classroom, because you work in a public school and religious expressions are strictly forbidden? Than this passage can have great impact on your thinking. The message is: do not think narrow minded about God. God is longing for the best for mankind. He desires that all men are saved. When you are amidst your students, maybe a homogeneous group or a very mixed group, your thoughts may always be filled with that intention. God is looking for the best for everyone, with no exceptions. As a teacher you have the privilege to long for this today. 


  • The universal message is impressive and seems to contrast with the Pauline notion of election as given in Romans 8:29. In particular Calvinist traditions (however, not so Calvin himself in his commentary on this passage; compare with KTSV-notes) it is stressed that these words must be read like ‘only for the elected’. Close reading of the text does not allow this restriction. Reducing the extent of the mercy of God is not the way to get the truth of election in harmony with Gods will. Therefore ESV note on 1 Timothy 2:4 concludes: ‘However one understands the extent of atonement, this passage clearly teaches the free and universal offer of the gospel to every single human being; ‘desires’ shows that this offer is a bona fide expression of God’s good will’ (ESV Study Bible, p. 2327). Compare what is written in the Canons of Dordrecht, Chapter 3/4, article 8: ‘As many as are called by the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God has most earnestly and truly declared in His Word what is acceptable to Him, namely, that those who are called should come unto Him. He also seriously promises rest of soul and eternal life to all who come to Him and believe’ (derived from http://forms.reformed.org.ua/Dordt%20Canons/all/ at 27 April 2013). 


  1. If you have the opportunity to pray daily with your class(es), for what and for whom do you pray?
  2. What image do you have of a ‘peaceful and quiet life’?
  3. What does it mean in your context to pray for ‘Kings, and all who are in high positions’?
  4. Many Christian communities are a minority in their country, and even suffer from disdain or suppression. How is your community dealing with this situation? Do your brothers and sisters pray for the president, the government etc.
  5. How can you get the students involved in the prayer-subjects in the classroom? Share experiences with your colleagues about the impact of sharing prayer issues on classroom climate.
  6. Ask the students to give feedback on your praying. You could also read this passage together with them, and note some subjects on the blackboard.
  7. How do you transfer the message in the minds of the students that God is seeking the good for everyone, all over the world?

Keywords: prayer, internationalization, call

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

10 - Pray without anger

‘…lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling…’ (1Timothy 2: 8)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 2: 8-10; Psalm 141.
Suggestion for singing: Ye servants of God (Mission Praise, 784)

You probably know the situation: one of your pupils has been disrespectful. You have given him a lecturing, you feel very angry. It happened just before you wanted to finish the day with prayer. You are furious within yourself, yet you are still expected to pray?

This passage in Timothy is about prayer in a very different situation, namely prayer in the congregation, with the beginning of the chapter speaking of prayer for all people (the outward prayer, see previous meditation). It seems that both men and women took part in it. Both are urged to take part in prayer in the right manner. The women should not be ostentatious, putting themselves in the forefront. The men should not be short-tempered. You cannot pray when there is quarrel and anger. Clenched fists and lifted hands do not go together (Van Houwelingen, p.71).

Prayer in the Bible is sometimes done with lifted hands. It would have been common in the early church. Together with the lifting of hands there is the remarkable word ‘holy’. Your hands must be clean. You cannot approach God with unclean hands (Van Houwelingen, p.71). You must have a pure heart and clean hands to come to God: Psalm 24: 4; Psalm 141.

It often does not feel that way after a quarrel. It might have been right of you to get angry, but human anger often goes together with unrestrainedness and aggression. You do not have yourself under control when angry and you are more occupied with yourself in your response than with the interest of the other. This is the kind of anger and quarrelling this text is about. Paul urges the men - they are apparently susceptible to it, like women in Paul’s days were apparently susceptible to ostentation - to leave those things behind when praying. It is not right to pray for others (for all) while you are full of self-centred emotions.

Anger can stand in the way of praying. There you are, just after you have given vent to your own anger. In front of your class. All eyes are on you. And then praying?

In Psalm 141 lifting up hands is related to the evening sacrifice. The evening sacrifice is needed for our unclean hands. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross took place at the time of the evening sacrifice, the sixth hour. He suffered for the sin of the world (compare 1 Timothy 2:5-6, particularly verse 6: ‘who gave himself as a ransom for all’). This was also necessary concerning those - at first thought - insignificant moments, that one minute in which your mood erroneously changed from kindness to blind self-centred anger. It was necessary to clean your sinful hands, to pray for others.

So there you are. How do you continue? Perhaps you need to be quiet first, say something about how hard you find it to pray. But then do try and pray, and show in your prayer that you as a teacher also need forgiveness. The children look into your heart. And if you still cannot, you should not pray that one time, or let the children quietly pray themselves. For prayer cannot go together with anger or quarrelling.


  • Important texts related to these passages: 1 Peter 4: 8, Proverbs 10: 18.
  • The question whether you can pray also occurs in other situations. Think of prayer at the end of a meeting with colleagues in which you do not feel heard, or in which decisions are taken that hurt you or disappoint you. Praying can also be difficult from the pupils’ perspective, such as when a pupil feels (s)he is being treated unfairly. That pupil can also struggle to fold his/her hands in prayer at the end of the school day.


  1. Do you recognize a moment of anger, in which you had the task of praying? How did you deal with your anger?
  2. Anger is not always ‘self-centred’ anger. It can also be appropriate. In that case it can still be hard to pray. How do you give anger a place? (See also Romans 12: 19).
  3. How do you manage a situation in which students are quarrelling?
  4. Do you agree that teachers can openly pray for forgiveness for themselves? Read Leviticus 4: 3. Can you apply this text to the situation discussed here? Why/why not?

Key words: prayer, quarrelling, anger, forgiveness, sacrifice

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

11 - Teaching requires submissiveness

1 Tim 2: 8-15 Teaching requires submissiveness

‘Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness’ (1Timothy 2:11)

  • Scripture reading 1 Tim 2: 11-15
  • Suggestion for singing: Hushed was the evening Hymn, Mission Praise 253

The lines we study now are difficult to understand by people in a modern society, where women are treated equal to men. In modern ears it sounds unacceptable that Paul instructs Timothy that women should not teach, but should just listen in the congregation. In many countries nowadays, however, these instructions accord fully with cultural standards. What can we yet deduce from this section for the positions of women? Can we apply this section to teaching?

We cannot conclude that this passage gives evidence for a subordinate position of Christian women in general. Women belonged to the followers of Jesus and were called so with emphasis in several passages (Luke:1-3; Luke 23: 49). Women were the very first to believe in the resurrection (Luke 24:1-12). Jesus gives special attention to women (Matth. 9;22; John 4). In the congregation women were supposed to pray (look at the previous verses: 1 Tim 2:8-10; see below explanation in note). Women were pillars in the congregation; compare the list of greetings in Romans 16. Women could even speak, when the congregation was gathered (1 Cor 11: 5). They should occasionally teach without the congregation (e.g. Acts 18:26 and the remarks of Matthew Henry to 1 Tim 2:11).

The situation about which Paul speaks has to do with a very specific point: he permits women not to teach and not to exercise authority over a manin the gathering of the congregation. Obviously Paul is giving limits to the freedom of women. This might cohere with the upcoming emancipation of the free women in big Roman cities. In Ephesus and its neighborhood some women were well educated. Like other scholars in his days Paul warns that this movement might destabilize society (Van Houwelingen, 73; compare 2 Tim 3: 7). Paul seems to strive for a balance. On the one hand there is freedom from the law (Galatians: 1) that fits with an equal position of women and recognition of their dignity (Galatians 3: 28 ). On the other hand Paul appeals to new Christians to remain in the position they were called (1 Corinthians 7:24). The freedom to break through the cultural standards is limited. Women are not called to authority, as this would be no propaganda for the gospel. In this situation Paul gives his instructions to remain quiet in the congregation.

Paul’s strong desire for Christian congregation is peace (1 Corinthians 7: 15 ‘God has called you to peace’). Peace means that everyone is treated with proper dignity. Peace also means that one should be careful to break down cultural standards. Try to apply this principle to your school organizations. Don’t we need peace as well? Shouldn’t we therefore promote a culture of balance?

There is yet a more general application of these words. A submissive attitude is not meant just to approve the value of obedience. Submissiveness has a function. It is not in the first place directed to the teacher; eventually the submissive hearer is directed to the message that is given by the teacher. Imagine a student who wants to know more about a subject. Then he/she will be ready willing to listen, to hear to what is said.

These few words about teaching and being taught reveal a very important principle. For what is true for women at this point is true in every educative situation, be it a classroom, a gathering of the congregation or in a youth group and so on. The setting of teaching needs an attitude of submissiveness. To be submissive implies that you are prepared to consider what is explained, in order to enrich your understanding of the subject. Everyone who wants to learn needs an attitude of respect. The very first thing students should practice is to be curious about what the message, the guidance of the teacher will be. In that way teaching and authority is going together. Teaching is not possible without submissiveness.


  • The phrase ‘In the congregation women were supposed to pray’ is based on the exegeses of chapter 2 (Van Houwelingen). This chapter discusses how prayer should be practiced in the congregation. In the verses 1-7 general  instructions are given (for whom, in what way). After that special instructions are given for men (verse 8) and for women (verse 8-10), how to behave during the prayer meeting of the congregation.
  • The reasoning of Paul concerning women on several places is twofold. The first is about the order: ‘the head of the wife is her husband, 1 Cor 11: 3, see also 1 Cor 14: 33-35). The order is based upon the original sequence in creation: the woman is created from man (compare 1 Cor 11: 8 and 1 Tim 2: 13). The second is about what was culturally accepted as appositely for women (compare 1 Cor 11: 6 ‘it is disgraceful for a wife to cut her hair off’ with 1 Cor 14: 35 ‘it is shameful for a women to speak in the church’). From this reasoning can be concluded that the subordinate position of a women can be practiced in different cultures in different ways. For further reading about this issue see: Ridderbos, H. (1978). Paulus. Een ontwerp van zijn theologie. Kampen: Kok, pp. 516-517. English edition: Paul. An outline of his theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.
  • There are two explanations about the meaning of ‘I do not permit’. (1) Paul speaks from his own opinion. The ‘I’ could be interpreted as a very personal view, indicating that Timothy should decide himself [Schlatter, p. 145: ‘Er hat auch hier den Grundsatz der Freiheit vollständig gewahrt; vielleicht gibt es lagen und Personen, be denen ein anderer die innere Ermächtigung hat, anders zu handeln.’]. (2) ESV-notes emphasizes the other opinion: ‘Paul consciously writes with authority of an apostle (e.g. 1 Thess. 4:1,2 and 2 Thess. 3: 6), rather than simply offering an opinion’.
  • This passage can also be read in the sense of protection of women. Schlatter (146-147) says that the text reflects the reality about the way women tend to be tempted. They like to misuse freedom into power, like men are tempted by easily becoming angry. Further: having received freedom (Galatians 5: 1) does not mean that one should leave ones calling in name of freedom. There is no need to hide your natural characteristics. Despising the natural condition evokes to behavior to which one is not called. Everyone will be saved in his/her own condition. Women will be saved in the gift of giving birth to children. M. Henry emphasizes that this verse can be read as comfort for bearing women.
  • ’To teach’ in Greek is ‘didaskein’. Teaching is a very important task for the apostles, compare Matth 28:20. One of the main competences of an overseer is being ‘able to teach’. Many activities in the congregation have to do with teaching (Van Houwelingen 75). Think about explaining the Word of God in the preaching, bible study groups and catechism. In Church history the origin of Christian schools is the prolonged teaching of the gospel. In the pastoral letters teaching is not only teaching about the gospel but also teaching against false teaching. F.J. Pop (Bijbelse woorden en hun geheim, p. 369-371) argues that here is the origin of the church doctrine.
  • About teaching and listening in the letters of Paul compare 1 Cor 14: 30:31.


  • How is the position of women in your country, compared to the position of men?
  • How is your attitude to gender-differences in the classroom? Do you speak differently to girls or young women compared to boys or young men?
  • The position of women is understood differently in different traditions that confess the core of the Gospel. How can people from different cultures and traditions read the same Bible in different ways?
  • The Bible is always critical upon our natural inclinations, especially against extremities. Can you give an example? Dependent on circumstances one should strive for peace for all (1 Cor 14: 33). Can we apply this to teams of teachers? Can we apply this to the classroom setting?
  • How can you train students to be submissive and curious about the subjects that are being taught?

Keywords: authority, freedom, emancipation, gender, women, submissiveness, listening

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

12 - A noble task

‘If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.’ (1Timothy 3:1)

Scripture reading 1 Timothy 3: 1-7
Suggestion for singing: Forth in Thy Name o Lord, I go (Mission Praise, 159)

Chapter 3 mainly consists of lists of characteristics for elders and deacons. These come across rather strict, which makes you think, who is actually suitable for this job? This is not strange because an office bearer has a leading position, gives direction to and is an example for the congregation. You are being looked at and you should be able to cope with many different situations. Others depend on your attitude as a leader.

From this perspective teachers are very similar to overseers as mentioned above. Therefore it is not wrong to see them as office bearers. You represent a higher cause – that of preparing the minds of new generations, in order to give them sight of God, themselves and the world.

The fear of taking such a position can be the same as Paul describes here. You have to lead others. That is something to be afraid of. Resistance will turn against you. In the case of Timothy this resistance could be either members of the congregation or other leaders. In the case of teachers, it could be an inspection or local authorities or even parents. If you take inconvenient decisions you will get resistance. You are responsible and in some way always an opponent.

However, Paul says right at the opening of the passage that those who want the post of overseer, want an outstanding job. The words ‘A noble task’ indicate that this church office is a good in itself. There is no need to doubt about the significance of the job at any time, although in many occasions one has reason to doubt.

Teaching is a good in itself as well. This is very important for teachers to realize. The church cannot exist without teaching, because the flock has to grow in faith (Ephesus 4: 11-16). Society cannot exist without teachers, because pupils need to be prepared for future citizenship. This sounds quite obvious, but needs to be considered from time to time, to be convinced about the relevance of the job.

Calvin emphasizes in his commentary the meaning of the word ‘work’: ‘it is not a dignified sinecure, but a work, and, next, that it is not any kind of work but an excellent work and therefore hard and full of difficulty as indeed it is’. A noble task means a hard task. Calvin adds a few lines to explain that this hard task must be seen as discipleship of the great overseer Jesus Christ. ‘For it is no light matter to represent God’s son(sustinere personam Filii Dei) in such a great task as erecting and extending God’s Kingdom, in caring for the salvation of souls whom the Lord Himself has deigned to purchase with His own blood, and in ruling the Church which is God’s heritage’ (p. 222).

Christian teachers should see themselves as walking in the footprints of Jesus Christ. Be convinced that you are practicing a noble task.


  • An overseer in Greek is ‘Episcopus’. According to Titus 1:5-9 the office is the same as ‘elder’. In Acts 20:17-25 (especially verse 28) we find an instruction to the Elders of Ephesus. They have to care for the flock, and keep the right doctrine.
  • To sense the meaning of the words ‘noble task’ compare other translations: ‘treffelijk werk’ (Dutch SV), ‘voortreffelijk werk’ (Dutch HSV), ‘köstlich Werk’ (Luther), ‘Oevre excellence’ (Louis Segond), ‘bonus opus’ (Latin).
  • There is an important overlap between the task of school teachers and elders, because teaching belongs to the core-business of the elder. The overseer should always have the competence to teach (1 Timothy 3: 2 and 2 Timothy 2:2). Teaching is seen by Paul as a gift, a charisma according to Romans 12:7. And having the gift, there is an obligation to use the gift: Romans 12: 6: ‘Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them’.


  1. Does the adjective ‘noble’ match with your view on the teacher profession? Do you agree that a teacher serves interests of a ‘higher order’? Can you prove this from your own practice?
  2. Which resistance or stumble blocks do you experience in your teaching? Is there any threat in your school/institute or persons who oppose teachers, and frustrate the work?
  3. In which moments do you experience your job as a hard task? Can you see the struggle in everyday-life as discipleship? Give examples.
  4. How respectfully are teachers treated in your culture? In Western societies authority for teachers seems to be on the decrease?   
  5. Which characteristics can be assessed when a school wants to obtain Christian teachers?
  6. How can leaders act, when a teacher at their school is not representative of the profile one has established?

Keywords: leadership, competences, calling, fear, suffering,

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

13 - Hospitable

‘Therefore an overseer must be….hospitable’ (1Timothy 3:2)

Scripture reading 1 Tim 3: 2; Deuteronomy 10:12-22.
Suggestion for singing: The God of Abraham Praise (Mission Praise, 645)

Why should an overseer be hospitable? Some say that in ancient times it was dangerous for travelers to enter public inns (Hervey, p. 58*). An overseer should be ready to protect the travelling brother, receive him in his house and provide everything that was necessary. According to Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2 hospitality should be a virtue of all Christians.

Commentators stress that hospitality has much deeper roots than New Testament community practice. Let us look at the character of hospitality in the OT. In the book of Deuteronomy the love for foreigners is clearly stated as a demand (‘Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt’, Deut: 10:19; compare the Word of the Lord in Gen 15:13). Aliens were seen as vulnerable like widows and many laws uphold equity in law to them (read for example Deuteronomy 14:29, 16:11, 14; 24:14, 17, 19-21; 26:11-13; 27: 19). 

In the Mosaic law the people of Israel were continuously reminded of their history of wandering. The people of Israel knew what it meant to wander in a foreign land. To be a stranger implies feeling unsafe and vulnerable. In a foreign context your language and habits are unknown. Your identity is at risk. There is a threat of being not accepted or even neglected. In Hebrews 11:13 the believers of Israel are put as an example to the New Testament believers. They had seen the promises from afar ‘having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth’. Being a stranger and an exile belongs to the identity of the believer.

From that motive Christians should be hospitable, be open and receiving to people that do not belong to their own community. Like Israel Christians can imagine what it means to feel unsafe and potentially threatened, they are aware of that same feeling by strangers, of which we do not know the background. Hospitality is not confined to fellow believers. The strangers that were meant in Deuteronomy adhered to other religions.

Let us turn to school life. Is there any reason to stress hospitality for Christian teachers? Why should a teacher be hospitable? Hospitality is a core-value for Christian teachers for at least three reasons. The first one is very basic. The precondition for learning is to feel safe. A student needs to sense a welcoming attitude in the teacher. He should be treated equal to his classmates. When a student listens to the teacher or when he carries out assignments, or does anything else: he should feel at home. The second is that no categories of students should, in advance, be excluded from participating in education. When students enter the classroom, you don’t know the capacities, personalities, deprivations or strengths, and you should not exclude anyone (let alone for practical reasons, for example if you cannot provide the facilities for learning). The third is that when we teach Christianly, we should teach students to practice hospitality themselves. We should teach them how to accept and welcome people from other traditions. This is hardly possible when the teacher him-/herself is not hospitable. Christian teachers should teach the student to welcome others with other capacities and should teach them to be warm and inviting to yet unknown people. This is especially needed at those schools that mainly have students from Christian families. The students should learn to accept not only those people that adhere to the habits of their community.

Being hospitable is not just a habit but has deep Christian significance. Let us therefore remind ourselves of the deepest motivation for believers to practice hospitality. Believers are not saved for reasons of capacity or predispositions (Ezekiel 36: 22 ff). They are welcomed and received by Christ despite their sin and disobedience.  This was irritating for the Pharisees and scribes: “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15: 2). And indeed: no one is worthy that Jesus comes under his roof (Luke 7:1-7). But , despite this, He is willing to come to sinners. Isn’t that amazing?

*: Hervey, A.C. (1962). 1 Timothy, Exposition and Homilitics. In: Spence, H.D.M. & Exell, J.S., The pulpit commentary, Vol. 21. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.


  • Hospitality as a characteristic for the elder is also mentioned in Titus :1: 8; and for serving women 1 Tim 5: 10.
  • It is a clear command of Jesus to take care of the strangers. The expressions in the gospel are very strong. The Lord Jesus identifies Himself with the alien/stranger Matthew 25:35 (‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’)
  • In the words of Jesus there is also a turn: Matth 10: 40: Whoever receives you, receives me’’. (Compare John 13:20; Genesis 12:2: ‘I will bless those, who bless you’. For educators: think about the text in Mark 9: 37 ‘Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me’.
  • Like said above: in the New Testament, Christians are compared to strangers/ aliens. In 1 Peter 2: 11 this identity is an urge to life according to proper ethical standards (‘Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul’). The text from Hebrews 11:13 makes clear that the acknowledgement of being a stranger is connected to the hope for the future. ‘These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth’.
  • Practicing hospitality means inviting, welcoming, receiving, The word that is used for the attitude of Jesus to receive sinners (‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’, Luke 15: 2) is the same as in Mark 9: 37 (‘ Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me’).


  1. Do you recognize the feeling of being a stranger, or belonging to a minority?
  2. Read Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2. What do you conclude about our obligation to welcome strangers?
  3. The text in 1 Peter 4: 9 suggests that Christians should be hospitable to other Christians: ‘Show hospitality to one another’. Do you think the text is narrowing the perspective?
  4. How do we teach children and young people to be hospitable?
  5. It is not always easy to practice hospitality, when we look at the warning in 1 Peter 4 (‘Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.’)
  6. Why the warning ‘without grumble’?
  7. Hospitality seems to be similar to the gift to serve. Discuss in what different ways hospitality and serving could be practices in school life.

Suggestions for reading

  • Burwell, R & Huyser, M. (2013). Practicing hospitality in the classroom.Journal of Education and Christian Belief, 17/1, 9-24.
  • Smith, D.I. (2009). Learning from the stranger. Christian Faith and Cultural Diversity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Stratman, J. (2013). Toward a pedagogy of hospitality: empathy, literature and community engagement. Journal of Education and Christian Belief, 17/1, 25-59.

Keywords: hospitality, inclusion, exclusion

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

14 - Good reputation for outsiders

‘…he must be well thought of by outsiders’ (1Timothy 3:7)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 3: 7; 1 Tim 5: 11-15; 1 Tim 6:1; Matthew 6:1-4.
Suggestion for singing: There is no name I love to hear (Mission Praise, 672)

On some occasions you might warn your class to behave well using the argument that people from outside would complain about pupil’s behaviour. Teachers in Christian schools probably will say: ‘Behave! Otherwise, what will the people living around us say about this Christian school?’. 

In the list of characteristics of the elder we find also the requirement for a good reputation as considered by outsiders. Overseers must be well esteemed persons. Paul seems to be caring a lot for the good name of the Christian congregation in the world.

There are two passages in the first letter to Timothy where instructions for conduct are explicitly connected to the threat of reputation. In 1 Tim 5: 15 Timothy is warned not to choose young widows for service in the congregation, because of the risk that outsiders would defame the congregation. They should marry and take care of their own family and ‘give the adversary no occasion for slander’ (verse 15). In 1 Timothy 6: 1 the slaves are called to respect their masters ‘so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled’. In both cases the congregation has to be aware of their reputation. There is a subtle but important nuance, coming forth from the last quoted text, why believers should not put the reputation of the congregation at risk. The reason is not so much to prevent that the believers themselves should lose their good name. The motive is that the message of the gospel won’t be harmed.

This is an important difference for the educational context as well.

Parents or educators are inclined to add a message to children or young people, when they warn or correct them, like: ‘Take care, what will the people around us say about us?’. Fathers or mothers could say this, if they don’t like the dress of the son or daughter, or when their children didn’t behave well at school. A parent is very sensible about his or her child and can feel shame when things turn wrong. Your child belongs to you and you belong to the child. The blaming of the child therefore means blaming the parent. In schools we recognize the same pattern. Teachers identify themselves with their school and with their pupils. They feel themselves responsible for the behavior of the group. It all goes together: the reputation of the pupils equals the good name of the teacher and the honor of the school. 

The reflex of teachers keeps the moral standard high. This seems to be a good reason to preserve this motive. There is a disadvantage, however. Young people, straight in their conviction about morals, may say: ‘I am not going to adapt to what people want. This would be hypocrite. Social reputation is not the basis for my behaviour’. In a way they are right. You should direct your conduct to the standards of God and not to the standards of neighbors. According to the message of Jesus in Matthew 6: 1-4, the evaluation of outsiders is not the evidence of acceptable conduct. Yet reputation is important like we have seen.

Understanding is about getting the detail. The nuance in the text in 1 Timothy 6: 1 (‘so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled’) shows that keeping the good reputation is not an aim in itself. In many places in Scripture the social codes are broken in order to seek the honor of God (read for example 2 Sam 6: 14 where David dances for the Lord by breaking the dress codes). Jesus even declares people as blessed, who lack good reputation. ‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account’ (Matthew 5: 11). In this verse we meet the same important detail (see the italics) as Paul mentions when he speaks about reputation. You will be blessed when your reputation suffers on the account of Christ. Consequently, the reputation of a Christian school should not be defended because of the denominational reputation, but because the name of Christ should not be harmed.

When educators care for reputation, they should be much aware of the focus. Do we like to defend the group, the school, the denomination or do we care for the Name of Christ?


  • When we speak about reputation, two central motives appear from the Scriptures. The first is the honor of God. By your exemplary behaviour, God may be honored (1 Peter 2:12). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declares: ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). In 2 Corinthians 9: 13 the aim of the generous donations is said to be that fellow Christians might praise God. The second motive is the salvation of others and their well-being. Mind 1 Cor 10: 31-32 ‘.. I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved’.


  1. How do people, living next to the school, speak about your school? For what reason do they perceive the school as a good or a bad school? If your school is a Christian school, is the reputation of the school connected to the adjective ‘Christian’?
  2. From a pedagogical point of view there is a risk of linking specific behaviour to the honor of God. Children could think that by simply behaving well, they earn honor from God: they can do something for Him. Is it allowed to deconstruct the understanding of children about achievement and reward? And if yes, from what age?
  3. How could you educate your children to distinguish between defending ‘group identity’ and ‘taking care of the Name of Christ’? 
  4. Hypocrisy is sharply judged by Jesus. See for example Matth 5: 5 en 16. Young people are very much sensitive to that and we should appreciate that value. How can we reinforce this and give the sense that the Name of Christ must be in the center?
  5. Nowadays schools have a policy standard for Public Relations, sometimes especially for reasons of funding. If your school has such a policy, discuss whether the guidelines meet Christian values or not.
  6. Refer to a passage in which we find the breaking of group codes where the aim is the honor of God. Discuss the meaning and message of that passage.

Keywords: reputation, Public Relations, moral development, social codes

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

15 - Previously acquired competences

‘…if someone does not know to manage his own household, how will he care for Gods church?’ (1Timothy 3:5)
‘…if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God’ (1 Timothy 3: 14)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 3: 4-5 and 1 Tim. 3: 8 – 16
Suggestion for singing: For the fruits of his creation (Mission Praise, 153)

An often heard statement concerning application procedures is: ‘the best evidence of someone’s competences is the success he had in his previous jobs’. In the listing of qualities of overseers Paul is also referring to the previous tasks of the candidates, namely the competence of managing one’s own household. The similarity of operating in the own family and the household of God (verse 15) is assumed.

We can imagine that in the young congregation of Ephesus there was a need for clear and unambiguous criteria for leaders to be chosen. The connection Paul makes here is not further explained, but the competence of managing the household will have been obvious to all.

The word ‘household’ (Gk Oikos) refers to a house, a place to live or simply to all the persons forming one family. Managing the household in this verse is directly related to the obedience of the children. Good leadership, so to say, results in good behavior. A family is a mix of individual persons, all having their own habits, interests, insights and so on, easily conflicting or even culminating in anarchy. The dynamics of family life need leadership. That will prevent disorder.

Like this occurs in the family, it happens to occur in the congregation. It happens in every place where groups must be managed. So, the connection between managing family life and the leadership of other groups seems to be obvious. Good managers of households will have acquired the attitude to organize family life. They have the experience of managing a group and consequently, they have acquired a talent for leadership.

There is, however, one distinguishing point of leadership in the Church. Therefore let us meditate about the word oikos (house, family) and the people who dwell in the oikos. The amazing thing is that God comes down to dwell within the sinful flesh of man. And by doing so, He makes a newoikos. 2 Corinthians 6:16 says (citing Leviticus 26:12): ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’. Leading the Church is leading a social community where God dwells. This must evoke fear and gratefulness in the heart of the leader. Calvin (p. 226) highlights one specific consequence to this verse. Leadership in the family is the test whether you are able to deal with ordinary life. Leadership is not an abstract task, but is meeting the troubles of everyday life. God is willing to dwell among people and is willing to come close to their troubles. Leaders in a church office consequently should sense the needs of individual persons. Their minds should be practiced to understand what is needed. Their hands should be ready and competent to respond to everyday incidents.

We can apply this thought to teaching because Christian teachers see school classes in a way as extensions of the church (note the questions below). Possibly, however, the reasoning could make a teacher troubled. Apparently Paul seems to require fully competent people, when they start in an office. Should we conclude that there is a simple choice: one is either fully equipped or definitely incompetent? Does Paul account with the need for learning on the job? As we shall see in coming studies about Timothy, Paul is doing so.

At this point, however, I would like to refer to other Biblical examples. Think about Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Paul himself. They were called to an office. But when they started, they often seemed to be incompetent. Not every aspect of their life was a predictor of good leadership for the people of God. Think about the temper of Moses (although he was a patient man) and think about the failures of David before he actually became a King (although he developed skills as a shepherd). Not in every aspect the appointed leader should prove competences from his previous family management to be competent for an office. In his Kingdom the Lord chooses incomplete and sinful people to be His instruments.


  • The image of the Church as a house or a family (The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon Strong's Number 3624), appears also in Gal. 6: 10 (in the context of doing well to the other members of the household) and Ephesus 2: 19 (members of the household are no longer aliens). These texts hold the sense of unity, belonging to one entity and the sense of safety. From verse 15 Calvin derives the idea of the Church as a mother. ‘… is not the church the mother of all believers, because she brings them to new birth by the word of God, educates and nourishes them all their life, strengthens them and finally leads them to complete perfection’ (Calvin, p. 231).
  • The competence to manage one’s household is stated not only for the overseers (1 Tim 3: 5) but also for the deacons (1 Tim 3: 12) and for the widows (1 Tim 5:4-8, 14).


  1. If you work at a Christian School: do you consider Christian teachers and your school classes as an extension of the church? By what reasons?
  2. If you do not work at a Christian school: what conclusions do you draw from these Bible-words?
  3. Is class-management a gift (given by birth) or a set of acquired skills?
  4. How can others see that you can manage your household? Do you think that the reputation of family-management is important for school teachers?
  5. In professions where individuals are going to work with people, experiences from family life will influence the job. Former informalexperiences are automatically transferred to formal tasks. Can you identify a few skills you have learned from your own family life (either in your original family or in your own family)?
  6. As a practitioner you practice yourself as a leader. What role has the Holy Spirit in this learning process?

Keywords: assessments, change of job, application procedure, family, class-management, leadership

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

16 - Acquiring confidence

‘For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.’ (1Timothy 3:13)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 3: 12-13; Acts 4: 23-31
Suggestion for singing: Delight yourself in the Lord (Mission Praise, 112)

Persons holding an office should serve with their qualities! This is Paul’s assumption when he ends the list of requirements for deacons. If they will serve well, they can look forward to a twofold reward. They will receive a good standing and gain great confidence as well. Confidence means here ‘boldness’ or ‘to be free and certain about one’s message’. Related words are used in 2 Cor. 3:12 (‘very bold’); 2 Cor. 7:4 (‘boldness’) and Philemon: 8 (‘bold’).

Gaining confidence is a great gift for Christians, especially for those that serve in a leading or a teaching position. For office-holders the psychological conditions are not automatically steady as a rock. Nor are they for teachers.

When you evaluate your performances, sometimes they seem weak. You may worry about the impact of your instructions. Looking around, you often think that others are more equipped for the task. And consequently you don’t feel very free to proclaim your message, or to affirm your authority. When confidence is not an automatism, what can we yet say about acquiring confidence?

Remarkably gaining confidence is related here to ‘serve well’. The deacons who serve well will become confident. This is the reverse sequence of first having confidence and by feeling bold one can come to action. Most of the time we think so. While preparing lessons or meetings, we try to feel relaxed in order to speak freely. We try to make up our minds to show self-confidence. Paul seems to emphasize the other way round: by practicing the service one will gain confidence.

An important lesson in this process is obedience. God gives us the task to practice. He does not give us the assignment to feel free, but he challenges us to serve. That is exactly the way by which teachers should acquire confidence. They should attempt and work hard to serve and they will gain confidence as a gift.

In this passage ‘confidence’ is mentioned in relationship to witnessing the gospel by action. The work of deacons in the first century might have been very practical. The persons to provide for the needs of the widows in Acts 6 probably were the forerunners of deacons we know in our times. Though the job of teacher is not equal to the job of deacon, the work of Christian teachers is equally very practical. Sometimes they serve with words, maybe clearly witnessing the gospel. Sometimes they preach with their deeds.

When a deacon serves well, he will obtain self-confidence. The same can be concluded for teachers.

Your task is to do your everyday work. ‘In practice’ means, of course, preparing well, and trying to do your best. You should practice also when you hesitate about the quality of your lessons. And you should speak and instruct when you think your words will not be very convincing. Sometimes you are called to stop to reflect and simply start to work. The growth of confidence will follow as a present.


  • Disciples of Christ are not bold by nature. Confronted with the suffering of the Lord and the threat of the enemies, every disciple deserted Him and fled (Mark 14: 50).
  • There are several impressive examples of confidence in the Acts of the Apostles. However the context is quite different from the context in which Paul writes; it might be useful to study the character of confidence in Acts. Peter speaks very bold and freely when proclaiming the gospel to the assembled Jews at Pentecost. This boldness stands in big contrast to the moment in which he (also boldly!) denied that he was a follower of Jesus (Lk 22: 54-62). Again in Acts 4: 8,9 Peter speaks freely (verse 13) in order to explain the relation between the healing of the lame beggar (Acts 3) and the resurrection of the Lord. Mind that he is full of the Holy Ghost (4:8) and that he speaks with the authority of the Name of Christ (4:17-18). Mind also that he is bold in a situation which is very threatening and dangerous. In Acts 4:23-31 the believers pray for boldness. At the end of Acts we find witnesses of the boldness of both Peter and Paul. In Acts 26:26 Paul speaks very freely to the King. Acts 28:31 tells us about Paul preaching the Kingdom of God boldly and without hindrance.
  • John Calvin notes the consequences if one does not serve well: ‘In the same way those who have failed in their duty have a close mouth and tied hands and are incapable of doing anything well, so that no trust can be placed in them and no authority given to them’ (Calvin, p. 230).
  • ‘To serve well’ means hard work! Teachers should strive for high quality in their work. Good preparation is important. And when you hesitate about how to structure lessons, or how to find materials, you should consult colleagues. As all teachers continue to learn, they should ask for help and reversely be ready to help overcome the uncertainties of others.  


  1. Starting with thinking about confidence is presented here as opposite to starting with ‘serving well’. Isn’t gaining confidence and ‘serving well’ or ‘come to action’ in interaction?
  2. What is the relationship between acquiring ‘a good standing’ and ‘acquiring confidence’?
  3. Why is all what is said about deacons so applicable to teachers? Isn’t Paul talking about deacons, and not teachers?
  4. Make a mind map of the word ‘confidence’. With what teaching activities do you connect ‘confidence’?
  5. Read carefully Acts 4, especially verse 20.
  6. What can you conclude about the character of the boldness of Peter?
  7. Read verse 29. How can we pray for confidence?
  8. Boldness in the Bible is related to the Holy Spirit. Look at the words ‘very bold’ in 2 Cor 3: 12 and the words in verse 17 ‘Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’. How can we expect the help of the spirit in the classroom?
  9. What is the similarity and the difference between confidence in standing in front of the classroom and confidence in preaching the gospel?
  10. Teachers are persons of words and deeds. A proverb says: ‘Your life speaks so loud that I do not hear what you are saying’. At what moments do you preach with deeds, and at what moments with words?
  11. Do you recognize the pattern of gaining confidence by practice?

Key words: standing, confidence, boldness, shyness, quality of teaching

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

17 - A public mystery

‘Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of Godliness’ (1Timothy 3:16)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 3: 14-16; Philippians 2
Suggestion for singing: Meekness and Majesty (Mission Praise 465)

There are moments in teaching that you feel the need to emphasize the core of your lesson. Suddenly you might stop your reasoning and say: ‘listen, this is the core of what I mean! Remember this point; beyond all question, you should keep this in mind!’ Such a moment we meet in 1 Tim 3:16. After Paul has given instructions for the selection of elders and deacons, he sums up what the most important message is for the Ephesians. Beyond the topic of requirements for offices, Timothy should keep in mind the core of Christianity, that does not depend of the work of elders and deacons. Paul puts the core in the form of a hymn in which he proclaims that the revelation of Christ in the body is the core issue of the Christian Faith.

Looking carefully to the introduction of this hymn (‘great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness’) we can recognize a kind of a contradiction between the words ‘confess’ and ‘mystery’. The greek wordhomologoumenoos (ESV: ‘we confess’; KJV ‘without controversy’; NIV ‘beyond all question’)* refers to a public proclamation of the truth (Van Houwelingen, p. 97). The content of the claim however is a secret. The paradoxical message here is that a secret, something that is hidden, is claimed to be accessible for everyone. Let us think about this contradiction.

On the one hand the message can be proclaimed publicly, because you are so sure about it. The congregation is so engaged with this conviction that Paul calls them ‘a pillar and buttress of the truth’. The opinion that the appearance of Christ in the flesh is the big surprise of Christian Faith must be deeply rooted in congregational life.

On the other hand the convictions refer to a mystery, something you don’t normally meet in common public. What is meant to be proclaimed in common, is far from self-evident. The reason that the message is called ‘a mystery’ might be that the mystery contradicts the images of God that people often have. God is sometimes presented as an abstract Holy Being, who is far away from everyday reality. God is an idea, a concept, that has nothing to do with earthly affairs, let alone with sinful flesh. The real God, however, Paul proclaims, is a God who sent his Son ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Romans 8: 3). This is not at all a logical message. It is not a message that fits with common sense. It is a mystery, that should be unraveled. And once someone is really touched by that message, a fully new perspective is opened: a perspective of redemption!

Timothy knew other public claims in his current context. One important religious claim was the phrase ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians’ (Acts 19: 28-34). The confession Paul summarizes here is a huge contrast with that statement. A woman, placed on the dado by people, is the complete opposite of the God that reveals himself in the sinful flesh, in the appearance of a man, Jesus Christ. The indignation of the cross is contrary to the need for symbols of power.

It seems to be the perpetual contrast that is apparent nowadays as it was in Ephesus. People strive for what is powerful and mighty. They fight for prestige and authority on earth. The desire for power belongs to the nature of mankind. We like to identify us rather with an impressive hero than with a weak person. The God Paul proclaims bears the character of the latter category: ‘he had no form or majesty’ (Isaia 53: 2), ‘he is appeared in the body’ and ‘he dwelt among us’ John 1:14.

When you meditate about the ‘mystery of godliness’, you realize that transmitting a statement to pupils is not enough to touch a heart. You can stop your reasoning by stating: ‘yes, this is the core’! Students however should discover the public mystery personally (compare Luke 8:10). Again this is not obvious. But maybe teachers can appear as ‘a pillar and buttress’ (see first note below) and be the access to this discovery.

* In Dutch (SV): ‘without doubt’ (‘buiten alle twijfel’);


  • One of the commentators on Timothy (Van Houwelingen, p. 96, following the suggestion of Quinn/Wacker) claims that the words ‘pillar and buttress of the truth’ should not be applied to the church but to Timothy. That should mean that Timothy himself is the bearer of the public message.  Timothy is a person on whose appearance you can observe what the truth is. A conviction is not just something of mental innerness, but something you can see in someone’s performance. In the eyes of Paul, Timothy had an important role in Ephesus. He should know how to behave in the household of God, in order to instruct others (1 Tim 3: 15).
  • The confession of the secret of the Truth influences the mind of people. According to the NIV comments p. 1802 it is ‘the secret that produces piety in people’. In order to evoke correct religious emotions it is important to consider and discuss the amazing appearance of Christ in the flesh. This is not only true for adults, but also for children and young people.
  • By finding ‘the mystery of godliness’ one gets a key to understand the character of the world. Accepting this mystery means that your worldview will change. This will also influence the content of the school-subjects.


  1. According to the ESV note on page 2330, mystery (Gk mysterion) means ‘the entire revealed content of God’s plan to bring salvation through Christ’. Calvin, p. 228, calls it the ‘the sum of Christian teaching’. Study 1 Corintians 2: 7-16, and other places in which Paul speaks about the mystery. Summarize in your own words the content of the mystery.
  2. A mystery sounds like something only a happy few could understand. In the list of characteristics of deacons it says: ‘holding the mystery of faith’ is required (1 Timothy 39). From this we can conclude that every true believer can understand this mystery in a certain way. What does it mean ‘to hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience?’. What about the relevance of this imperative for teachers?
  3. As the Christian Faith does not fit with ‘natural’ or non-Christian images of God, how is it possible to tell about that secret in understandable words and stories to children? What about speaking about the secret with adolescents?
  4. Children easily identify themselves with mighty heroes. This does not correspond with how God reveals himself in Christ. Can we have influence on the images of children and how?
  5. Imagine a discussion of two teachers about religious education, having opposite opinions. One teachers says: ‘The main thing is to help the children recognize their religious feelings and help them to give words to it’. The other says: ‘Even in kindergarten we should teach children about who God is, because they cannot imagine it for themselves. What is your position and why?
  6. Optional question for teachers in Christian Faith schools. Verse 16 actually is a (originally Greek) hymn that also can be put in a song or poem in other languages. Discuss the content of the hymn with your class. Make groups of four. If English is the language of instruction, but not the native language of the students, assign them to write down the song in their mother tongue. Give each group the task of making a song. They can use a well-known tune, but probably some pupils are able to create their own melody.

Keywords: core of faith, confession, religious claim, conviction, images of God

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

18 - Pure christian education?

‘For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.’ (1Timothy 4:4-5)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 4:1-5; Coll: 2: 16-23; 1 Cor 6:12
Suggestion for singing: All Creatures of our God and King. Mission Praise 7

Educators may ask whether Christians should use secular methods or not. Methods in teaching are often constructed on the basis of scientific insights. People who reject certain didactics say: ‘those methods are wrongly infected by humanistic thinking’. How should we value this objection? Can Christian education be pure Christian, or do we have to deal with inescapable influences?

In this passage Paul instructs Timothy about a comparable struggle, though of course in quite another context. When you are a Christian, can you eat the same food and have the same insights as non-Christians? The answer is clear: nothing should be rejected, but must be received with thanksgiving.

To learn from this passage we need to understand the background. Paul is speaking here about people who long for a pure paradise-situation (Van Houwelingen, 105-106). In Genesis 1 God declares everything to be very good. Some Ephesian people promoted a return to the situation before the fall. Men and women should have no sexual intercourse, therefore should not marry, and they should live like vegetarians. Paul is powerfully rejecting this idea. Everything created by God is to be viewed as good. Nothing should be rejected beforehand. Decisive is whether people receive the goods thankfully and by prayer.

Paul is not discussing a minor issue here. He begins with referring to an explicit expression of the Holy Spirit about apostasy (verse 1: ‘the spirit expressly says..’). The idea of pureness is ascribed to ‘deceitful spirits and teaching of demons’ (verse 1). So it is coming from the wrong side.

This passage speaks about food and marriage. But the lesson has a broad scope as the expression is very radical. Paul speaks about everything andnothing (verse 4). Consequently the general statement can be applied to didactics in education. God is the creator and the owner of everything. In Romans 14: 14: Paul radically states: ‘I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean’. In itself creation is not to be perceived as evil, full of disharmony and destructed by mankind. Though those negative characteristics are obvious as well, they should not imprint our first way of looking. Paul sharply warns against the idea that the things we use are bad in themselves. He indicates that the consumer is responsible for the value of things.

Does that mean that you will accept everything uncritically? Is it possible to apply every upcoming idea in your teaching practice? The clear answer is: no. The condition for calling something acceptable depends on ‘thanksgiving’ (verse 4). Thanksgiving, so to say, challenges us to distinguish between good and bad. You cannot be thankful for something that is against the law of love. On the other hand you should be pleased with useful ideas that help pupils to learn and help them flourish.

We can conclude that both a puristic, ascetic attitude and an uncritical attitude must be avoided. Christian educators are inclined to look for pureness in methods. In their view Christians should construct Christian didactics and reject non-Christian ideas as much as possible. This passage brings us to the understanding that checking for non-Christian or Christian thoughts is not the right contention. It is better to ask whether and how we can use these created things to serve the Lord.


  • Calvin interprets the struggle in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 about pureness as coming forth from the natural religious images of people:  ‘In fact even without a teacher, this is a conviction that nearly everyone has, deep rooted in his heart’ (p. 235).
  • According to Ridderbos (Paul, par. 49, Dutch edition, p. 334-340) the central idea in the thinking of Paul about the current world is that believers are in Christ transmitted from the ‘aeon’ ruling in the present day, into the Kingdom of Christ (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal 1: 4 and Col 1: 13). Ascetism is rather radically rejected not only in 1 Tim 4:1-5 but also in Coll 2:16-23. The background of the reasoning in Collosians is about Jewish laws that, according to some teachers, should be considered. Paul rejects that idea referring to Christ who set aside the legal demands ‘nailing it to the cross’ (verse 14). Preaching considering of laws belongs to the ‘elemental spirits of the world’ (verse 8 and 20).
  • Though in essence nothing is forbidden domain for believers, there are ethical restrictions directed by love and holiness. Therefore Paul says in 1Cor 6:12: “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything”.
  • The perspective for believers is different from the perspective of non-believers. Titus 1: 15 ‘To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled’. An important distinction must be made between the created things ‘as such’ and the perspective one has on the created objects. Believers are in Christ and have by the way a totally changed position than non-believers (mind the quotes in the previous notes and 1 Cor 10:23-26).
  • The expression ‘In later times’ refers not to a future era, but to ‘the time that began with the outpouring of the Spirit after the work of Christ’ (ESV Studybible, note on 1 Tim 4:1, p. 2331). The Spirit warns against a situation occurring now (Van Houwelingen, p. 103).


  1. Why has considering pureness ‘the appearance of wisdom’ (Coll 2:23)?
  2. The radical rejection of ascetism in Coll. 2:16-23 has mainly to do with the body (food) and certain practices (holding festival days). In the reasoning above ‘everything’ and ‘nothing’ is applied to ideas about teaching. Think about (a) reasons supporting the similarity of the argument of Paul in his context with the debate in 21st Christian education and (b) reasons that would place philosophical and pedagogical ideas in another domain.
  3. Assuming pureness to be impossible, how should we critically evaluate methods in teaching? What do you perceive as proper criteria?
  4. Read Deuteronomy 10: 14, Psalm 24:1 and Psalm 33:5-6. What is the consequence of the confession that the Lord is Lord all of creation for your teaching?
  5. How does thankfulness influence your work?
  6. If you work at a Christian school study with your class Psalm 24 and 1 Tim 4: 1-5. Discuss with them the question: ‘who is God’.
  7. If you work at a secular school you can construct a lesson about the quality of objects. The aim is to raise awareness about the character of reality. Discuss with the pupils the question: ‘Is what we see around us good or bad?’. You can probably insert this in a science lesson. The question put in this way is an open philosophical question. You do not know the result. Put it clearly in that way in your introduction like ‘we are now having a short lesson in which we discuss like philosophers do’. Write down the results on a whiteboard/blackboard and summarize the results in a few sentences. Evoke a discussion about the next question: ‘is there anyone who can make things good’? Probably pupils may mention the idea of the Creator. Others might suggest that it is the responsibility of people to call things good or not.

Keywords: Ascetism, Creation, Thankfulness, Worldview, Antithesis

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

19 - Training

‘..while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way’ (1Timothy 4:8)

Scripture reading: 1 Tim 6-8 and Psalm 119: 9-16
Suggestion for singing: Delight yourself in the Lord (Mission Praise, 112)

Students who don’t like sports might joke about the text of this meditation. Paul says that physical training is of little value. So why should we exhaust our body? This is, of course, not the meaning of the text. Paul gives a comparison, not with the aim to discard physical training, but to emphasize the importance of spiritual training (see note).

Physical training was a common phenomenon in the Roman era. Paul refers to sports quite often in his letters. If you want to be successful in sports, you have to train every day. Just like physical training is needed to gain a trophy, godliness is needed to gain happiness.

But what about ‘godliness’ being a kind of training? The passage gives us some indication that can help us understand the character of this training.

The main thing is concentration. When we concentrate on something we focus on one point and leave others. Paul urges Timothy not to pay attention to ‘irrelevant, silly myths’. Some people in Ephesus fantasized about what would be ‘the ideal believer’ (compare 2 Tim 2: 16). This believer should pay no attention to those issues, no matter how attractive they might be. Training in godliness attempts to focus upon on what is really important. You should concentrate on the words of faith and of good doctrine (verse 6). Thinking about God helps you select what is valuable and to get rid of unimportant details.

What exactly should be the focus of our attention? The answer is simple: we should concentrate on God. According to verse 10 we should focus on one quality of God: He is a Savior. Practicing Godliness means that the image of God as a Savior is in the center of our lives. God is a savior in Jesus Christ. Thinking about Him should fill your thoughts and actions. When you keep the work of Christ in mind, you will most probably neglect other speculations about God.

The text also says something about the gain of godliness. The training is paired with promises. The training itself bears promise. The gain is not far away but will already result in happiness in this earthly life (Calvin, commentary, p. 244).

Let me point out that Timothy is called to train himself in godliness. It is not the flock of Ephesus who is called for training, but Timothy in his role of instructor (see verses 4 and 15). A teacher himself is the strongest example of his message. When you have discipline in thinking about God, it will radiate. It will be noticed how and about what you speak. Attractive examples will be followed.

How can a teacher practice this in his hectic life? It is like an exercise in sports (compare 2 Tim. 2: 5). Athletes have their regular exercises at fixed times, with given tasks. Teachers also should choose fixed times and find tasks for thinking about God. Think about daily moments of scripture reading, prayer and meditation. We need to set time apart to read the Word. We should make it possible – so to say - to be reminded of God for the rest of the day. Think about what you can arrange with colleagues: perhaps you could initiate monthly Bible studies or prayer meetings.  Discipline is necessary. You should make these things compulsory for yourself. You will gain pleasure, while doing so. Let the focus on God not depend on the need for religious feelings that may come and go.


  • The Greek text literally says that physical training is of some value (pros oligon estin oophelimos), while godliness is of value in every way (pros panta oophelimos estin) (Van Houwelingen, p.112). The contrast is not to discard physical training, but to emphasize the importance of spiritual training.
  • The NT word ‘godliness’ (and connected words) only appears in the pastoral letters, the second letter of Peter (2 Petr. 1:3,6,7,9 and 2 Peter 3:11) and Acts 3:20. Considering the contexts the word means ‘piety’ or a certain life-style that shows the fear of the Lord. In 1 Tim 6:6 a way of life of godliness is connected with contentment about food and clothing, and not striving for earthly gains.


  1. How can God become the background of all your thinking? What should we concentrate on – considering the given explanation?
  2. Psalm 119: 16 says: ‘I will delight in your statutes’. How can we experience listening to God and His word as ‘delight’?
  3. How can you follow the advice in teaching practice to pay no attention to irrelevant issues?
  4. In what way can godliness be a kind of training and discipline? Give examples
  5. Distractors like paperwork and communication are reasons for heavy workloads in teaching. Are they also reasons for being distracted from godliness?
  6. Godliness is not defined just by thinking about God. It is a lifestyle (see note). Mention at least two characteristics of that lifestyle (compare 1 Peter 4:9-11).

Keywords: physical training, spiritual training, example, workload, godliness

‘Godliness is the beginning, middle and end of Christian living and where it is complete, there is nothing lacking’  Calvin commentary, p. 244

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

20 - The risk of rejection

‘Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity’  (1 Tim 4: 11-12)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 4: 11-16
Suggestion for singing: Christ the Way of life possess me (Mission Praise, 78)

In the previous chapters Paul has given extensive instructions to Timothy to be a good servant (verse 6). Imagine Paul writing from far away and thinking about Timothy and his crucial position in Ephesus. He is worried about his young colleague. Paul comes to the point that he realises what could happen in Ephesus. In the given situation in which he has to command and teach (verse 11) it is not very easy to be a good servant. Timothy has to deal with conflicts. He struggles with the influence of wrong ideas, proclaimed by people who are experienced, and have senior positions. Timothy’s position of a young man might be questioned. People who wouldn’t like the content of his instructions, might disapprove of his position because of his age.

To understand the context we should understand what the cultural standards in those times were like. In ancient cultures you had to be above 50 to give your opinion authority and nowadays many cultures still have that standard. Timothy was a much younger person. However, the gospel breaks cultural laws. Not only senior believers can have good insights. By grace, young believers can even have a clearer understanding of the gospel than older believers (compare Psalm 119:100). And in some situations, like Timothy’s, young persons have the task to lead a group of people varying in age (compare Titus 2:1-10). Paul urges Timothy that he should continue doing his job. Timothy should not allow people to despise him because of his young age.

In a way, young people in a new position are at risk. Colleagues are much more experienced and when you, as one of the younger ones, have to direct others into new ways, people might not listen to you. Young school principals might recognize that. And young teachers joining a team of senior teachers may have experiences similar to being ignored or treated with contempt. When you raise your voice in a work-community, the risk is that your message won’t be acknowledged, just because of your age or lack of experience. Being despised gives bad feelings. It might affect the courage to work and influence your self-esteem. Paul warns that the perception of senior people should not have that impact.

What is the best way to prevent being despised? One strategy might be: ‘Please respect me and respect my authority because of my position’. This is, however, not the way one gets authority in the Kingdom of God.

Paul’s advice is of a different character. He says: ‘Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity’. Those are the characteristics of a servant that make the service of the Lord Jesus Christ attractive to others. The reason why one should be respected instead of being looked down on has nothing to do with age or seniority. People should simply respect you because of being a servant.

However, behaving like a servant is not a guarantee for gaining respect. Mind that a servant of Jesus Christ is not greater than his master (John 15:20). You might be despised, like Jesus was despised (Isaiah 53:3). Young leaders should be ready to meet disdain as well as to resemble the Master in that way.


  • 1 Tim 4: 6 and 7a is the core of the letter (according to Van Houwelingen). ‘If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Jesus Christ’. The ultimate goal of all the writing in this letter is to be a good servant of Jesus Christ. Timothy will only be a good servant if he practices all the instructions given by Paul (verse 6). KTSV emphasizes the negative implication: ‘you should give no reason that persons would despise you’.
  • In this meditation the difficulties of a young teacher and how he/she should counter them is stressed. Because the text is about young Timothy, we are unavoidably speaking to the category of young teachers. In doing so, a certain contrast is created: the young, despised teacher (‘the good guy’) versus the senior ignoring teacher (‘the bad guy’). It is important for a good team-climate to keep the standard of respect and humility for every team member.
  • Young teacher may experience also problems in communication with parents. For example: it might be difficult for a starting teacher of about 20 years to explain something about a pupil to parents of about 40 years old. They might be embarrassed by parents who do not show respect to a young professional. Teachers who raise children themselves know how it feels to be a parent and will be easier seen as partners.


  1. For discussion in a team: how can team members show further respect to each other and avoid disdain?
  2. Question especially for young teachers and young leaders: how can you be respected by senior people? How can you practice Paul’s message in your situation (compare Titus 2:7)? How can you expect to meet with disdain?
  3. Question especially for experienced teachers: how can you practice respect to a younger colleague? Does it make a difference whether he is a leader or not?
  4. Unexperienced people can feel unsafe in a new group. They are very sensitive to the response of others to what they say. It is likely that colleagues are not conscious about their dominance. How could team-members help each other to be hospitable to new team members?
  5. Imagine a dispute in a team. Someone does not agree with the argument of a colleague and rejects his contribution. He does not refer to the content but rejects the contribution for other reasons, for example because the colleague is young, comes from another culture, from a ‘wrong’ university, from a not esteemed family etc. How should we deal with this kind of arguing)
  6. Timothy was strongly supported in his work by Paul. How important are ‘external’ supporters for your work? What supporters do you have and how do they encourage you?
  7. How clear are the differences in age and experience in your team? Is hierarchy in your culture dependent on age?
  8. How can we reflect the humility of Christ in our work?

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ John 15: 20

Keywords: age, experience, self-esteem, team, culture, example, leadership

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

21 - Example

 ‘set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity’  (1 Tim 4)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 4:12, Titus 2: 7-10 and Philippians 3: 14-17
Suggestion for singing: In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful, Mission Praise 865

‘Be an example’! This is advice frequently heard at Christian Teacher conferences. Teachers are urged to be proper identification figures. This is said with the idea in mind that pupils can be impressed by the appearance of the teacher or will copy the behavior of the teacher. Students will remember a teacher later in their lives and say things like: ‘Yes, Mrs Baker was an example because she listened so carefully to the pupils’. Another would say: ’I remember my biology teacher Mr. Smith as such a stimulating person, because he was very much inspired by insects and he awakened in us a love for insects.’
When Paul urges Timothy to be an example, he clearly thinks about behavior that can be copied, like careful listening or loving creatures. Similar texts that address us as being an example in that sense occur in Titus 2:7 and 1 Peter 5:3. If Timothy would excel in ‘his speech, his conduct, his love, his faith, his purity’, people would be so much attracted by what they see, that they would be willing to copy. Therefore the educator has to act very cautiously: his words and deeds will affect others. An exemplary teacher focusses on the wellbeing of his audience (compare verse 16).
The obligation of being a good example can feel like a heavy burden. You might even become a little stressed about your behavior and you could lose all spontaneity. You would think: ‘I have to be an example, so I should behave perfectly in my responses to my pupils’. And immediately you feel that this won’t work, as behavior is only exemplary when it is authentic and not superficial.
But is that ‘being perfect’ what is meant by the call to be an example in the New Testament? When we compare all the passages about imitation and examples one insight appears clearly: when you are an example, you are actually an image of someone else [see note below about ‘Vorbild’ (DE) and ‘Voorbeeld’ NL]. We can see that in 2 Tim 1:13. Paul calls Timothy to act in the same pattern he has seen in himself: ‘follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus’. By following Paul, Timothy is like a mirror, so to say, in which also the observer will discover the characteristics of Paul. Most importantly, Paul in turn is also a mirror. In his appearance you see Christ. When the hearers observe Timothy, they actually look into a row of mirrors, the last one bearing the appearance of Jesus.
Thinking about the characteristics of Jesus, we imagine a powerful teacher, a wonderful healer and an excellent counselor. The most impressive feature one sees, however, is that of suffering. You can distinguish the characteristics of someone who has given Himself as a lamb (Rev 5: 6). In texts where Paul speaks about that suffering, he uses the word ‘sharing’. When you resemble the Lord, you would be part of His suffering (2 Timothy 1:8; Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Filipians 3:17). In sharing this suffering you will be ‘a good soldier of Christ Jesus’ (2 Timothy 2:3).
When we realize whom we should resemble as teachers, the image switches. We do not need to be stressed about being imperfect. The only thing we have to worry about is whether we have a loving, self-giving attitude. In that attitude you direct to Jesus. And doing so you send the message like Paul says to the Corinthians: ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1).


  • Etymology gives a good insight in the meaning of ‘example’. The German word ‘Vorbild’ and the Dutch ‘Voorbeeld’ have the meaning of ‘to be a copy of someone else’. The EALD’s dictionary holds a definition that also directs to that meaning: ‘an item of information that is typical of a class of group’. When you are an example by person you are an illustration of someone or something.
  • The Greek New Testament has three words for ‘example’: ‘Typos’; ‘hypodeigma’; ‘hypogrammos’. ‘Typos’ stands for an object that can be copied. In that way in 1 Thess 1: 17 the Christians of Thessolonika are a model for others. The word is used in a passive way, which in this context means that a Christian cannot make himself an example. By grace, he has become an excellent ‘typos’ of how a Christian could be. ‘Hypodeigma’ is used in John 13: 15, where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. Jesus says that he acted as an example. The meaning is related to ‘to show’ or ‘to prove’. The word refers not so much to something that can be copied, but to behavior that refers to a certain essence. The disciples are called to act in the same spirit as Jesus instead of doing exactly the same things. Hypogrammos means literally a written example. It is used in 1 Peter 2:21. The person who writes the same as in the example has a secret connection to the original writer. When Christians suffer, they are, in a way, connected to the suffering of Christ (Pop, 1984, p. 543 – 547).
  • In Titus 2: 8 we find two other pedagogical motives for being an example. Firstly: Titus is called to be an example because his name should remain blameless. The educator should not cause mistrust. Secondly: the example is a kind of ornament. The doctrine of salvation is made more beautiful when the message is lived out (Titus 2:10).
  • There are several instructive examples in the Bible about leaders who instruct followers: Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha and (at a quite different level) Jesus and his disciples. The scripture give also negative examples: see for example Hebrews 4:11.


  1. Inspiring teachers are those teachers that are remembered. Being inspiring, though, is not the same as exemplary. Pupils appreciate a teacher who can explain and instruct very clearly, but don’t like a teacher who makes a mess of his lesson. The first one would be remembered as inspiring. But that does not mean that his ‘instruction behavior’ will be copied by the students. How would you describe the difference between an inspiring person and an exemplary person?
  2. Explain the three meanings of the different Greek words, for example to a colleague. Try to find a situation in which each of the meanings occur.
  3. Which educator has been an example for yourself? Why was that person an example? Did he refer in one way or another to Jesus? Did you copy his/her behavior or was that person an inspiring person for you?
  4. How will you be remembered by your students, in the sense of ‘this teacher always…..’. Note that you can have some indications other than your ‘self-knowledge’. Think about what students say about you to others. Think about what you are praised for. Think about the messages you might have received from your previous students, when they said good-bye.
Keywords: example, identification
FOOTNOTE: I am grateful to N.T. Wright, who summarized the New Testament’s principles of exemplary learning in his book ‘After you believe’. The whole book is about habit formation, about heading to excellence and about exemplary learning. Wright has written a few notes about Paul and Timothy on pages 267-268.
Pop, F.J. (1984). Bijbelse woorden en hun geheim. ’s Gravenhage: Boekencentrum

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

22 - Your gift

‘Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.’ (1Timothy 4:14)

Scripture reading 1 Timothy 4: 11-16; 2 Timothy 1: 3-7; 1 Peter 4: 7-11
Suggestion for singing: Lord, speak to me (Mission Praise, 444)

The word ‘gift’ is often used in education to express what particular competence a student can develop. Think about a gift for certain subjects like a gift for music or a gift for mathematics. We might also say a student has the gift for gentleness or the gift of leadership. But what does this biblical word actually mean? Does it refer to something at the core of someone’s personality or something that can be acquired by training? Is a gift something from within your genes, a natural predisposition or to the contrary: a supernatural gift? Or is a gift something in the middle: a predisposition that is sanctified?

When we look at the Greek text, it seems to say that a gift indeed is something from within (see note). In the similar text in 2 Timothy 1: 6 Paul writes: ‘I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you’. This expression suggests that a gift is a trait, something from within, something belonging to your identity. You couldn’t imagine to live without that trait.

But arguing more carefully from the context and comparing the text of this bible-study with 1 Timothy 1: 18 and 2 Timothy 1:6, we must at least conclude that a gift is something more than a character trait or personality trait. There is a connection with prophecies (see Timothy for teachers, number 7). In a way the gift is something very special, not growing from within but coming from outside the person, from God. In the messages of Paul, a gift has to do with a promise at a certain moment in your life-time. This promise holds an expectation for the future, a calling as well. Carrying on this certain task is inescapable.

The emphasis in 1 Timothy 4:14, however, lies not on the gift itself but on the imperative not to neglect the gift. Let us concentrate on this message to derive a few lessons for the Christian teacher.

Firstly. The gift is not something of personal effort, but an expression of grace of the Lord. Neglecting the gift would mean to offend the giver. That is true whatever the character of the gift may be. Like it is fair to handle a birthday present with care, you should also very much care for the gift. You should cherish it, use it (Calvin). Imagine your birthday present is a musical instrument: you should use it. If you don’t practice playing it, the instrument will go out of tune.

Secondly. The demand not to neglect the gift also means that there is no room for a low self-image. Bad feelings about whether you are doing well in your job or not, should be set aside. You should be realistic about your gift, but also appreciate it, value your gift, be glad that you are called to express this gift. When we are called not to neglect a gift, one is not allowed to hide it. In an unescapable moment of doubt, mind that your gift is a gift of grace. God asks us to delight ourselves in our gifts more than that he allows us to worry about our gifts.

Thirdly. The apostle urges Timothy in 2 Tim 1 even to inflame his gift. You should not be passive. Don’t trust that your gift will automatically come to expression. You have to work at it, put effort into it. That is a lesson for the teacher, but this message could also be given to the students. At some moments they have to be encouraged to inflame their gift.

These three points indicate that a positive understanding of the word ‘gift’ is important for believers. Does that mean that a Christian is self-centered in a way, always checking whether he or she is acting according to his or her gift? The main line in Scripture directs us in another way. The aim of using your gift is not self-directed but other directed (Other directed!). Peter claims in 1 Peter 4:10 that a Christian should serve: ‘As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace’. The aim of your gift is simply to serve. Your basic attitude is not inner directed but outreaching. Love aims at the best for others. This is how Christ sacrifices himself (Phil 2) and urges believers to do so as well. 


  • KJV translates:  ‘the gift that is in thee’. Other translations put the possessive in another form: ‘the gift you have’ (ESV),  ‘Your gift’ (NIV). Dutch translations SV, HSV use the formulation ‘de gave die in u is’ (‘the gift within you’).
  • Some translations like the Dutch NBV stress that the gift is given by grace. Speaking about ‘a gift’ is closely connected to speaking about ‘grace’. In other places Paul emphasizes that everything he has done in service of the Lord, was by grace: 1 Corinthians 15:10 and Romans 15:17-18. Elsewhere the ‘gift’ is closely connected to the living giving work of Christ. Jesus says to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4: 10). According to John 4 verse 14 the water refers to something which is given within the believer, something that spreads a blessing: ‘The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’. Compare Proverbs 14: 27: ‘The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life’ and the ‘inner being’ in Ephesus 3:16
  • A gift in the letters of Paul can be compared with a talent in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-28. A talent comes from God. Compare the parallel passage in Luke 19:11-26which does not speak of ‘talents’ but of ‘minas’. The core-issue of Luke 19: 27 is whether you are willing to accept Jesus as the King of your life or not.


  1. Is teaching a task or a gift?
  2. How would you name your personal gift? Is a gift equal to a quality? What is the function of giving the gift a name? Are there objections to finding out exactly what your qualities are? It might be helpful to ask colleagues to give your gift a name. As people around you are good observers, they can help you to describe your gift.
  3. How is your gift related to grace?
  4. How does teaching fit with your personality traits? At what moments do you experience conflicts? Can lack of competences question your gift? There may be tensions between the gift, the abilities you have and the demands of certain difficult situations in your teaching practice. What should you do in case of conflict between your competences and continuing problems in the classroom?
  5. Paul urges in 1 Cor 12: 31 to desire earnestly the higher gifts. What does that mean? Compare 1 Cor 14: 1. Is there an order in gifts (compare 1 Cor 12: 28, 1st, 2nd, 3rd). Why can teaching be one of the ‘charismata’? Is teaching meant here only for serving in the congregation, or can it be seen as a general gift?
  6. What is the relationship between a gift, a calling and obedience?
  7. If you work at a Christian school, or if you are a RE teacher, take time to discover with your class the biblical principles of ‘gift’, ‘calling’ and ‘career-choices’. See the lesson Annex 1.
  8. If you work in a secular setting, you could have a Socratic dialogue with a class about two questions (1) ‘what is a gift’ and (2) ‘what is the origin of a gift’? Such an activity could fit in a tutorial setting or during group counseling.


‘To neglect a gift is from sloth and carelessness to fail to make use of it, so that through lack of use it becomes rusty and degenerates. Thus each of us should consider what ability he possesses, in order to make full use of it’
(Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, W.D. Torrance & T.F. Torrance, eds Grand Rapids: Wim B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964, p. 247).

Annex: Suggestion for a lesson about ‘gifts’ 

For age from about 14 years

  1. Start with a 15 minutes Socratic dialogue in which one question is raised: ‘what is a gift?’
  2. Write the words in a kind of a brain map on the whiteboard or blackboard.
  3. Ask one or two pupils to summarize the results (or ask all the student to summarize the results) in five keywords.
  4. Ask the students what insights we should try to find out by bible study.
  5. Collect questions and write them on a sheet.
  6. Give copies of concordance of the word gift (for example from the online NIV or ESV study-bible. You could also project is on the smart-board.
  7. Instruct them to study texts in groups of three and to find answers on the collected questions ad 5.
  8. Discuss the answers plenary. To prepare look at the given notes in the Bible study, the annex 2 (main biblical insights) and the annex 3 (additional notes)
  9. Homework (a): summarize the results of this lesson on a A4 sheet. 
  10. Homework (b): put in about 200 words what you know about your gift.

Backgroundinformation for the teacher, giving a lesson about gifts

Additional notes to the notes given in Timothy for teachers biblestudy 21.

Main biblical insights about gifts (for mentors / tutors).
  1. All gifts come from God (Jac. 1: 17);
  2. Christians have the gift of the Holy Spirit Acts 2: 38 - Romans 5:15-16. See about ‘The grace of gift’ in Ephesus 2: 8 (through faith one is saved; the salvation act is God's gift);
  3. Apart from the general gift of grace meant ad 2, there is a diversity of specific ‘charismata’ (gifts), Rom 12: 75.
  4. Believers should serve with their gifts for the common good: 1 Petrus 4;
  5. The core and utmost significance of every gift is love (agape), see 1 Cor 12: 31, 1 Cor 13 and Phill 2.
  6. One can neglect or cherish / inflame a gift (I Tim 4; 2 Tim 1).

A few remarks about how gifts are mentioned in the Bible:
  • In the Old Testament  a gifted person is sometimes described in terms excellence, see for example Bezaleel and Aholiab (Exodus 31: 1-6), or Daniel (Daniel 1).
  • In 1 Cor 12: 4 1 Cor 7:7  Paul speaks about the gift for choosing not to marry. Here it is seen as an advantage, a privilege.
  • In 1 Cor 16: 3 a gift is meant as a (physical) gift, a present, that literally is carried to other people. In the same sense speaks 2 Cor 1:11. The motive of love that is active in the ‘gift’ as a talent, is also working in this literal giving a present.
  • Jesus had a unique gift of teaching. He taught with authority and not like the scribes (Mark 1:22).
  • Paul doesn’t hide his gift but even exposes them and tells extensively about its results at several places in his letters (Gal 1:11-24;1 Cor. 9). Note that this is done arguing against people who attack the gospel.

Gifts and offices

The gift of teaching is separately mentioned in Rom. 12: 6-8, 1 Cor 12:28, Gal. 6:6. This is done in the context of the circle of believers. They should serve each other to build the body of Christ. Teaching as a special task is very important for the functioning of the church. In reformed tradition (based on 1 Cor 12:28) a distinction is made between two types of overseers: pastors and teachers. The first type is mainly called to guide the flock, the second to teach the believers in the pure doctrine about Christ.

Gift and calling

There is strong connection between a gift, a calling and an aptness, a given natural ability. A calling or a gift, generally speaking, is not far away from ones aptness. Only in very specific cases a person may receive a gift, which is very far away from a natural ability. Most of the time competences are sanctified. Think about the example of Paul, who was called in a particular supernatural way. But he has used his knowledge, studiousness, eagerness, he already had before, for the service of Christ.

Gifts and psychological dispositions

Given the biblical contexts discussed in the bible study (gift is related to the spirit of Grace), we should not try to transmit fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5) to psychological dispositions. Fruits can of course be observed or named in psychological terms, but are not strived for as such. Fruits are gifts. Believers will bear fruit not by fighting for the fruit itself, but by remaining close to Christ (John 15). The fruit will come forth consequently.

The ethics of gifts

Christians cannot speak neutral about gifts, because they like to serve others with everything they have.  According to Bonhoeffer the distinction ‘natural’ and ‘spiritual’ does not make sense because for a believer anything can be seen from the perspective of Christ (Bonhoeffer, Ethics). Consequently for Christians there are no two separate kinds of gifts, a natural one and a spiritual one. The natural gifts will be fully used or understood from a spiritual/theological framework. From scientific perspective, yet, you could try to find words for phenomena that clarify the working of gifts, talents, etc.

Alternative bible studies about gifts and calling for teacher trainers

  • Acts 6: 1-7. How does the congregation chooses the deacons? What criteria are being used? How would it be possible to have seen the gift of those persons?
  • Isaha 6. A calling of the Lord is a hard job.
Keywords: gift, personality, self-esteem, thankfulness

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

23 - Living in, living out

‘Practice these things, immerse yourself in them’ (1 Timothy 4:15)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 4: 11-16 and Psalm 138
Suggestion for singing: In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful, Mission Praise 865

The words we think about here are about devotion, about full dedication to the job. The Greek words, translated here with ‘immerse yourself in them’ are not meant to urge a specific activity. The Greek text simply says ‘be in these things’. ‘To be in things’ is like living in things, being very familiar with what you experience in your home. You eat every day at the same table, you take your breakfast from the same cupboard, you meet the same people every evening, you know where the books are, in which drawer the keys are and so on. Paul urges to be engaged in the things of the gospel (these things refer to verse 13: reading, exhortation, teaching) so that it will become a natural way of living.
Full dedication means you are absorbed by what you love. I think about a musician I once saw playing a solo-violin suite for a little audience. After 5 minutes or so, he seemed to become unaware of the audience. He was completely unified with the music, so to say. He was in the music in a way you could hardly distinguish between the player, the instrument and the sound. It was as if everything was one thing, just music.
‘Being in things’ is an appealing expression to teachers. It is about the style by which you do your job. It refers to the pleasure you have in working when transmitting knowledge to students. It also may refer to the pleasure of students. They like having a teacher who dedicates him/herself fully to the interaction. This seems to be in accordance with what Paul seems to say here: immerse yourself in your work in a way it will become a natural way of living. Your lifestyle, your messages, your liturgical activities, it will all be recognized as wholeheartedly living out the gospel of Jesus.
But while saying this, let me be careful not to portray teachers as saints. Christians are not automatically wholehearted people. They know themselves as troubled people, each with stress, with sin, struggling with giving place to tribulations. Like all other people they are sometimes afflicted by unbelief, daily sorrows, boredom or disappointment by what they come across in their work. These are precisely the things that are taken seriously in the Christian faith. We must not neglect them, because they are God’s concern. Jesus Christ came not only for but in the likeness of our sinful flesh. He was, he even lived so to speak, in our sinful flesh (Romans 8:3).
The text thus wants us not to see ourselves as saints, but as people who are dedicating themselves gratefully to this wonderful gospel. Jesus Christ came as a savior, to make us free. Living out the faith means living in that freedom. It helps to remember that people before us showed that this is possible. Paul stresses that Timothy’s mother and grandmother also lived in the faith (2 Timothy 1:5). It may help us, today’s Christians, to see that we live in a ‘house of faith’ that has been inhabited for generations. You reside among the things many people have become familiar with. Thus let us confidently and wholeheartedly live in that inherited house.


  • Christians have got a home. This is a great privilege. We find the image of dwelling near God for example in Ps. 65: 4, Ps 68: 6 and Ps. 84. Belonging to God means being safe, having protection. Psalm 84 pictures it as living in the courts of the Lord: the place where people of God regularly come. A Christian school can use this image: teachers work as priests in the courts of the Lord. This is a place where children come (in Church schools we can say these are the children of the covenant) and where parents come to talk. The place is also visited by outsiders like school inspectors, representatives of the government and so on.
  •  ‘Living in the teacher profession’ can be connected to a vision of knowledge. The philosopher Polanyi puts knowing in that way (1966). When you know something, you reveal its meaning: that person indwells in that ‘something’.


  1. Do you recognize the image of ‘living in the faith’? Is that something others can observe? How is this visible to your students?
  2. By claiming the need for living in the faith, I referred to the mother and grandmother of Timothy. In the text where they appear however, 2 Tim 1:5, the image of ‘living in’ is given the other way round: the text says that the faith dwelled in them! Obviously both images have their own right. What would you prefer more: ‘the faith dwells in you’ or ‘you dwell in the faith’?
  3. How can teachers help each other to be a fully devoted teachers?
  4. I have said above that we should not portray teachers as saints, and suggest that difficulties within ourselves should not be neglected. But maybe there are hindrances in rules, structures and conditions. Are there stumbling blocks to overcome in the culture of your school? How can you collectively strive for living out the gospel in your school?
  5. A Christian teacher dwells in the goods that are known by believers of all places and all times. Think about the great story of salvation, theological insight discovered in church history, ethical standards and so on. What does it mean to reside daily between the property of generations?
  6. The image of living in the subject can also be applied to the love for the subject. Young people sometimes choose a subject at university because of the passion one of the teachers showed for that subject. Can you describe the pleasure you have in explaining, reading, talking about the subject you teach (math, a foreign language, history, science and so on)? How do you engage the pupils in that love?
 Keywords: passionate, devoted, integrity, subject content, professionality
Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

[1] I am thankful to my colleague Bram Kunz, who meditated on this text in a meeting for the staff of Driestar University Gouda in October 2015 and inspired me to write specifically about the word ‘being in’.

24 - Progress

‘… so that all may see your progress’.
Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 4: 11-16; Luke 2: 52
Suggestion for singing: Take my way (Mission Praise, 624)

Paul has spoken in this passage as the senior to the junior, the master to the apprentice. Timothy should not care about people who judge him to be too young for his position, but rather be an example (verse 12). And Paul urges him not to neglect his gift (verse 14). Now Paul continues with saying that the effort may be followed be a certain outcome. The results of his work may be noticed: ‘…so that all may see your progress’.
‘Progress’ is in Greek a technical term for advance, moving forward. In 2 Tim 2: 16 a related word is used in the context of heretics (‘But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness’). It is possible to grow in erroneous issues. In the text of this bible study Paul speaks positively about the progress of Timothy.
Calvin likes to read this text only in the meaning of ‘results of your work’, namely the building of the congregation. Paul’s desire would not be that Timothy would grow himself, but that the result of his work would grow. Progress would mean: bearing more fruit. Imagine that this address was meant for your work as a teacher: not that you are going to progress, but the students, their results are supposed to improve. It is instructive to look at the text in this way. We are not the center of attention, but the fruit that we bear for the Lord. You might think about practical things like a good class climate or witnesses of faith in the group.
But yet the text says emphatically: your progress. When Paul writes to Timothy, he thinks about his junior colleague, whom he wishes to develop in competence (Van Houwelingen, 117). Paul believes that it is important that others should notice that development. The congregation should see his earnest work in the public reading of Scripture, in the exhortations and in the teaching (verse 13). The believers should enjoy themselves in the flourishing of their pastor. By his functioning they will even be able to see him as an example (‘typos’). When we apply this insight to trainee teachers or to newly qualified teachers, this means that colleagues are called to delight in the growth of others. The atmosphere in the staffroom should be supportive and encouraging.  Colleagues that see the progress in mastery of the job should share their joy about young colleagues, should praise the Lord and could even learn from them.
Mind that progress does not happen unconsciously, without effort. Sometimes people think in that model. When the attitude is good, when there is a little faith, and circumstances are advantageous, then you will grow. This is definitely not the reasoning of Paul. The apostle urges Timothy to persist. Growing is not an easy matter, you should persist in order to save yourselves and others (verse 16). Growing is mainly a matter of devotion. Timothy had to devote himself to his pastoral work. Devoting means practicing, and practicing means making progress. So if you want to grow, take your role with courage! For example: always prepare carefully, seek the timely advice of more experienced colleagues and work together with other juniors.
Until this point, we have seen two meanings of progress: the fruit of the work and the progress of the work itself. There is a third, very significant meaning of ‘growth’ in scripture that we should not forget: the growth in faith. Jesus calls believers to remain in the wine in order to bear fruit. Paul cares much about spiritual growth in his letters (2 Thess 1:3; Coll 1: 10; Coll 2:6-7; Ephesus 4:14). In Phil 1: 25 Paul, considering about the reason of being on earth, says that he wants to remain for the ‘progress and joy in the faith’. This means that Paul judges spiritual growth of believers as very important. Teachers should devote themselves to their work, and seek progress of their pupils, but should also very much care for their own spiritual growth. ‘By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.’ (John 15:8). 


  • The scripture briefly informs us about the growth of Jesus and the perception of that growth by others. Luke 2: 52: ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man’. A similar formula is used in 1 Samuel 2: 26.
  • Spiritual growth is not just an individual matter. According to Ephesus 4:12-16, individual growth has to do with the growth of the body of Christ ‘in the head Christ’. Every individual believer has his own function in that growth.
  • Important texts on spiritual growth are: John 15 (bearing fruit); Rom 7: 4 (bearing fruit as a result of the resurrection – the believer has ‘died for the law’); Ephesus 4:14-15 (not remaining children – growing to the head); Coll 1: 10 (bearing fruit and improving in knowledge); Coll 2:19 (Growth origins in Christ), 1 Cor 3:8 (God gives growth); 2 Thess 1:3 (thanks for growth); 2 Peter 3:18 ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’;


  1. Three types of progress are distinguished (growth in result, personal or professional growth and spiritual growth). In what way can you notice the progress of these in your (professional) life?
  2. Why should it be important in a team to notice that a young colleague is developing?
  3. What criteria do we use for judging mastery in teaching? How do we observe progress in the work of others? How do others notice our progress?
  4. How can flourishing of a young colleague be inspiring for others or even make that person a ‘typos’ (Gr), an identification figure?
  5. If you are a young teacher yourself, what progress with your efforts are you making?
Keywords: development, perseverance, professional experience, growth, proceedings, personal mastery
Use: this text could be used at the end of a semester, at a moment of handing over diplomas.
Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

25 - The other and you

‘Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers’ (1 Timothy 4:16)
Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 4: 11-16; 2 Corinthians 5
Suggestion for singing: Christ is made the sure foundation, Mission Praise, 73

At the end of an intense period of work you might ask: for whose profit have I done all the work?  Was it for the good of my students or did I just please myself? In this text Paul seems to direct Timothy to double the profit of his work: ‘you will save both yourself and your hearers’. What did this message mean for Timothy? Will this double profit be also valid for teachers?
This motive of ‘salvation’ or ‘saving’ for his missionary work in general is also used by Paul in other places like Rom 11:14, 1 Cor 9:22-27, 1 Cor 10:33 and 2 Cor 5. According to 2 Corinthians 5: 14-15, Paul is controlled by the love of Christ in order to persuade others to believe. Paul’s insistence for the salvation of the preacher cannot be explained as a promotion of self-centeredness, but as a realistic sense of shared interest. In 1 Cor 9: 22-27 Paul makes this clear when he explains that he is working for the gospel ‘that I may share with them in its blessing’ (ESV). In that text from Corinthians he compares his zeal to save others with the zeal of an athlete, who is competing for the prize. He controls himself in order not to be disqualified at the end. For Paul, there is a close tie between saving the others and saving yourself. The one is dependent on the other. In the Corinthians text and the words of 1 Tim 4: 16 there is a sense of unity with other people, be it Christians, or non-Christians. If you don’t fight for others, you are not worthy to earn the salvation. The other way round: salvation of others also turns out beneficial for yourself.
How can we apply this to Christian teaching? The pastoral drive of a teacher can be in some circumstances the same as Paul’s drive to save people. A religious educator (RE-teacher) can apply this to his work, like a pastor. But a Christian teacher in primary or secondary education may say: ‘I am not busy with trying to save pupils every lesson; that is not my work, I am a teacher, not a preacher’.
We should not jump to conclusions too quickly. In teaching you are working towards a lot of different objectives, some of a higher, some of a lower order. In Spanish language teaching, for example, you aim for the mastery of the grammar, vocabulary and some knowledge of Spanish culture. As a higher aim you could propose: ‘my students speak Spanish fluently’. You could fancy about still higher aims. For example: ‘with Spanish language skills (being an important global language) my students will be well prepared for international jobs’. You could think about other general higher aims like: students should become good global citizens; with diplomas and a good job someone can take care of his family. These general aims will influence your teaching. When you care about someone’s future, you are caring about the person as a whole. When you care for the person as a whole, you try to be a daily blessing for that student.
Thinking about their higher aims, eventually, Christians cannot but long for salvation of others (1 Timothy 2). This ideal can be cherished even when there is hardly any opportunity to speak. Having the ideal of saving others is not the same as making a program for it. By being a daily blessing, the ideal may have an outcome, without specific missionary goals. In China many students have become attracted by the attitude of their Christian teachers and not by missionary activities. By seeing the life of the teacher, they became interested in Christianity. Throughout their contact they became convinced that Christ is Lord. God guided their way to that confession.
If we, yet, would speak in terms of a program, the text urges us to do one thing: persistence. The profit for others and yourself will only come forth when you keep a close watch on yourself and keep a close watch on the teaching. To persist implies not giving up living disciplined and devoted. Look back in the previous verse in which Timothy is called to ‘practice these things’. As a Christian teacher you should be fully involved in the interest of the Kingdom of Christ. You should practice the Christian life. The way of life might be seen by others, not only in religious education but also when you are teaching Spanish grammar or Spanish culture. 


  • In Rom 9:3, Paul explicitly mentions that his endeavor is so intense that he is willing to change his bond with Christ for the salvation of his Jewish brothers.
  • In developing countries higher aims of education are often very solid like: ‘being able to provide food for today and the next day’ and ‘being able to take care of your family’.
  • Remember (see Timothy for teachers, number 9) that all Christians (including teachers) have to aim for the common good. The wellbeing of every one matters.


  1. Study 1 Corinthians 9: 22-27. According to this text having an ideal and striving for that ideal, means self-control. How can this self-control be characterized?
  2. Is – in your experience - the care about our own salvation, connected to the care for the salvation of others? Is caring for yourself a pre-condition for the well-being of others?
  3. How strongly do you feel connected with your students? Do you feel their success as your success? Is there a relationship between your daily work and the higher aim of saving lives for Christ?
  4. Paul says that Timothy should persist by having (a) a close watch on yourself and having (b) a close watch on the teaching. How can you practice these imperatives as a teacher? Is having a close watch on yourself the same as what we nowadays call ‘self-reflection’?
  5. Pastoral workers or RE teachers often say to each other ‘the first blessing is for yourself’. They say this, for example, when they have prepared a bible-study, a lesson etc. Do you recognize this?
  6. An assignment you can do in a Christian school and in a non-Christian school. Ask your colleagues this question ‘What are the higher aims of your education?’ Reflect and compare your own ideas. What are the similarities and differences?

 Quote (teacher of primary school):

 ‘When telling stories from the Bible is part of your teaching, there is double profit. From personal experience I know that it is very enriching when you try to look at the stories from the children’s perspective. And while you tell the story, you can see it unfold before your eyes and the children see that too! That creates a bond and an atmosphere in which you can share many things and which you can continue in your prayer. Sometimes you feel how beneficial this is for the children, but no less so for yourself. The stories create numerous possibilities to enter into conversation or to relate to at other moments with (social) situations that occur during other lessons.’
Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

26 - Adaptive leadership

 ‘Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity' (1 Tim 5: 1-2).

Note: this bible study is especially written for teachers in a leading or managing position.

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 5: 1.2; Titus 2: 1-9
Suggestion for singing: Lord, speak to me (Mission Praise 444)

How difficult it can be to correct a colleague! Teachers are all adult professionals but nevertheless you might notice undesirable conduct. Your team consists of birds of all kinds: young and old, man and woman, experienced and inexperienced. At moments in which you should warn or comment, it becomes clear how different everyone is. In commenting you should accurately tune to the needs of your colleague, which is not always easy. To correct someone is difficult.

In this verse Paul gives a simple directive: communicate with your colleagues like with relatives. If you start to admonish someone, adjust to an older person like to a father or mother, to a younger like a brother or sister. Your manner of speaking should not primarily express a professional role, in which you show that you are the leader. Contrarily: approach your colleague with trust.

What does that mean exactly: dealing with a colleague as if s/he were a relative? Imagine living in a family. You have learned to take account of each other. You develop loyalty that makes you sustain the relationship; you don’t want to lose the other. That kind of loyalty must constitute the undertone of the pastor communicating with his flock and of the leader speaking with his team. Dealing with relatives sometimes means that you're more generous than average. But perhaps you  might also express yourself sharper, than to someone who is a stranger to you. It matters what exactly the relationship is: a sister, a brother, a father or a mother. The character of the relationship defines the depth of the emotion. To a brother and sister you dare to be more confrontational than against a father. And so you should. If you treat your own father carefully, approach any older man likewise, says Paul.

However, thinking in terms of relationship still doesn’t make it easy to correct someone. Firstly, familiarity with each other means that you know each other well. You know what you can expect. To know that can be a barrier to adjust appropriately. You have learned to take into account the characteristics of the person. It is easier to accept the 'strangeness' than trying to change this. Secondly you might have developed certain sensitivities and vulnerabilities that make you prefer to avoid the confrontation. Maybe you're sensitive to the authority of your father, maybe you're sensitive to the charm of your sister. In leadership, however, you should not rely on your intuitions, your allergies or your preferences, not on your tendency to aggression (verse 1) or your sensitivity to temptation of the other sex (verse 2 - see about this in a separate bible study, Timothy for teachers 25). You must take your role including correction.

Matthew Henry calls the task to admonish the most unpleasant task of leadership. However, the courage to correct defines a follower of Christ. It could be stated that it even belongs to the core of Christian life. The reason for this is that after the admonition forgiveness will follow: This is according to the words of Jesus in Lukas 17:3 ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him (compare Coll 3:13). The act of admonishing and forgiving shows how seriously you take the other as a member of Christ’s household (compare Romans 14:3). The opinion of Paul is not merely pragmatic, but one which is associated with the essence of the Christian life.


  • The comparison of the congregation with the family is also found in 1 Timotheus 3:4 and 5. There the quality of the communication in the private family is an indication whether one is competent for a religious office (see Timothy for teachers, number 15). In Timothy 5:1,2 the family -metaphor is meant to indicate a style of communication. The first word 'to rebuke' is a word with great sharpness, with the meaning of 'to make a scene' (NBV) or 'beating with words' (KTSV).  The word 'parakalein' is more general, and can, next to 'admonish' and 'correct', also mean 'to comfort or to encourage' (like ESV translates). This justifies a broader application of the family metaphor to the communication of leaders.
  • In Titus 2:1-9 also, a clear distinction is made between different groups. In that section, however, the different needs of older men, older women, and slaves are considered. The family metaphor is not used like in 1 Timothy 5.
  • In 1 John 2: 12-13 strikingly John indicates three groups: children, fathers and young men. Usually, the explanation of this text, however, assumes that 'children' refers to all believers, while with 'fathers' and 'young men' indicates a degree of ripeness (NIV study bible, p. 1868; ESV study bible, p. 2431). The entitlement of children as believers seems not to have been unusual in the apostles’ time. Paul also speaks of this in 2 Corinth 6: 13.
  • ‘Admonishing belongs to the core of Christian leadership’, is stated above. According to Romans 15: 7 it is the duty of brothers and sisters in the congregation to accept each other 'as Christ has adopted you'. Compare the call for the acceptance of each other in Rom. 14: 3. The disciples in the gospel admit how difficult it is to admonish and to forgive. Immediately after the words of Jesus they ask for an increase of their faith (Lukas 17:5).


  1. What distinguishes Christianity in 'admonishing'? How difficult is it for you to practice? Why?
  2. Does the above only apply to the director (the overall leader) or also for middle managers? Do teachers have the task of admonishing each other as colleagues?
  3. Timothy is a leader from outside the congregation of Ephesus, a foreigner. The older people that he had to warn, most probably were the elders, for whom he had to care. How do you approach your elder colleagues?
  4. As a leader, you might be more or less familiar with a team. How is this in your case and what does that mean for your management style?
  5. It seems sometimes as if professionalism and behaving like family members is sharply contradictory. What role has personal relationships with colleagues in your leadership?
  6. Each teacher has his/her own personality, unique questions and needs. Tuning to these individual characteristics is a challenge. Many leaders follow courses in which communication skills, like listening, summarising and hearing the question behind the question, are trained. What is the difference between the use of these types of skills and the thinking in terms of the family?


‘Ministers are reprovers by office; it is a part, though the least pleasing part, of their office; they are to preach the word, to reprove and rebuke, 2 Tim. 4:2.’ Matthew Henry. (Source, 12th August 2014).

Author: Bram de Muynck

Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

27 - Purity

‘(...) encourage (...) younger women as sisters, in all purity’ (1 Tim 5).

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 5: 1; 2 Cor 6:1-10.
Suggestion for singing: Create in me a clean heart, o God (Mission Praise, 108)

It happens. Being a married male college teacher, your eyes are drawn to one of the female students. Unintentionally, feelings are moving your heart. She is an attractive woman. At some moments you cannot resist looking at her.

Regarding this situation, the few words 'in all purity' in 1 Timothy 5:1 have something to say. Let's bear the main line of the passage in mind. Timothy is exhorted to approach varying age groups differently. The advice is to deal with others like you communicate with family members: an old man like a father, an old woman like a mother, a young man like a brother. Consequently, you should approach a young woman like a sister. But for this group Paul adds the little note about purity. Timothy must be aware of a particular danger. He is told to behave carefully. The message is this: in working with people, you should start from a trusting relationship, but there are limits of intimacy. Particular emotions should not hinder your task to encourage or to admonish.

The background of this warning has to do with the potential power of ‘eros’. A person can be completely absorbed by his feelings, unsought and unexpected. Just think of the biblical examples of David and Samson. The Bible tells us about moments in which their minds were fully filled with images of a woman. Physical beauty can literally capture you. You can be fascinated by someone's appearance, the charm or one's cordiality.

As a Christian, being so captivated by these kinds of feelings might make you feel perplexed. You feel guilty, unclean for God. And apart from suffering from your feelings, there is also a professional problem. Remember the vocation of Timothy. His task was to nurture proper relationships of brothers and sisters with God. He was called to encourage and to admonish. That does not work well if you're fascinated by someone's charm. Think also about your teaching vocation. You meet the students regularly, usually daily or weekly. You have to explain, instruct, give feedback. Sometimes you need to give a bad evaluation, give a warning. You are not able to do that well when confused by ‘eros’.

The similarity between Timothy and you as a teacher is that your professionalism involves working with people. Even though you might be very task-oriented, professional work happens within a relationship. The work cannot exist without a good relationship. Timothy had a pastoral relationship. Teachers have a pedagogical relationship. The addition 'pedagogical ' qualifies the professional behavior, like the addition 'pastoral' qualifies the job of a preacher. You are there for the other with a particular purpose. Teachers have a relationship with students, so that they learn and develop for the future. That purpose directs the relationship, and in the meantime also keeps the boundaries serious. That purpose should not be disturbed.

And yet it happens. The biblical examples mentioned urge us to be realistic. Men and women are created bodily, sexually. It doesn’t make sense to neglect feelings of affection. What should we do? Paul doesn’t give advice in detail. As we are familiar with in psychological advice, we should first suggest speaking with someone confidentially (see notes and questions). And secondly: feelings of affection should not be nourished, which could easily happen once you are regularly looking for moments of contact with that particular person, or build a world of fantasy around that person.

Paul suffices to say ‘with all purity’. This word is important because the Lord likes to see his believers as part of a pure community (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 1:4-5; Phil 4: 8). Sin should not be neglected but confessed (1 John 1:8-9). And then the believer is being purified by the power of the work of Christ. By his blood, sins are forgiven. You may feel yourself unclean, but Christ is willing to wash these feelings away. Instead of being captivated by undesirable feelings, the promise of the forgiveness of the love of Christ is there for true believers. He, who gave Himself for you by Love, constrains us to devote ourselves to Him.

Apparently the purity does not only concern boundaries (things that should be refrained from), but ultimately has a positive accent (1 Timothy 3:2). Christ asks us to love, that means that we look for the interests of the other. It serves the interests of our students when we do our work with purity.


  • This Bible study begins with the example of a college teacher, because this person deals with young adults. However, this issue is also very much applicable to other educational circumstances, such as the upper years in primary education, secondary education and vocational education. This was written from the perspective of a man, because Timothy was a man. Yet the message just as much applies to female teachers who perhaps feel attracted to a male student or pupil. In case of someone with a homosexual nature, it applies to men who feel attracted to male students and to women who feel attracted to female students. The call for purity naturally applies to all those cases.
  • The text above supposes that being in love just comes over you. There are also instances where someone knowingly looks for incentives. That can happen to compensate for the lack of attention in their private life or to find sexual gratification which they don’t get in their marriage. If this happens, you must try to break away from this pattern. Perhaps you should look for help. In Ephesians 5 Paul urges us to approach your wife or husband in a positive way. That means you should not wait for the other person to pay attention to you, but that you should approach yourself positively. You need to leave behind anything that stands in the way of your devotion to your wife/husband. God calls you to do this, and in keeping with the love commandment it is a viable way to go. Sexuality and eroticism is only right and pure with your husband or wife.
  • Keeping yourself pure does not only concern sexuality. That appears further on in 1 Timothy 5:22, where purity refers to not taking part in the sins of others, not committing yourself to the bad behaviour of others. That is also shown in 2 Corinthians 6:6, where Paul mentions a number of ways in which he makes himself agreeable to others. Purity is just one of them. Other characteristics that similarly display virtuousness are knowledge, patience, kindness and genuine love. So purity must not be constricted to sexuality.


  1. Do you recognize the feelings mentioned at the beginning of this Bible study? How do you deal with them? Do you have a particular strategy you would recommend to others? If you feel attracted to a pupil/student yourself, who do you discuss it with? Is there a colleague who you could speak to about it? Or a friend? If you are married or are in a relationship, would you discuss this with your (future) wife or husband?
  2. We must not deny sin, but confess them (1 John 1:8-9). How do you practise that?
  3. In general, how ‘free’ is the interaction between men and women in your country? Do the cultural norms or traditions differ from Christian norms? Is it possible for Christians to change existing cultural conventions by advocating and setting a good example?
  4. How do you experience the sexual morality of your colleagues? Are there moments when differences become obvious? Does it make a difference to you whether your colleagues have a Biblical frame of reference?
  5. In some countries abuse of female students by male teachers is a big problem. What is this like in your country? Do you know any examples? How do people deal with it?
  6. What rules apply at your school with respect to being alone with pupils? If there are no rules, do you think there should be any?
  7. What does the word ‘purity’ mean to you with respect to interacting with pupils and colleagues? Are there any other aspects relevant other than sexual attraction?
Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

Extended notes

‘Normal’ relationships
The words ‘as sisters’ shows that it is possible to have a normal intimate relationship. When you supervise someone closely (e.g. when writing a thesis) or work closely together as man and woman, there does not need to be sexual attraction. As we found in the previous Bible study, it is right to work in a leadership position that is based on a good relationship. So establishing a good relationship with pupils (and with colleagues) is important and even professional. However, Paul’s warning is very relevant to any situation in which people work closely together. Intimate relationships always occur when people are accessible to each other. And school is such a situation. You spend long periods of time together with groups of pupils. Relationships with colleagues also often result from long-lasting contact between a man and a woman. That can be great, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, not only the margin of purity should be observed. You must also avoid the appearance of impurity, so that other colleagues will not say: ‘Those two get on rather too well with each other…’

28 - Family first

‘But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1 Tim 5:8).

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 5: 3-16
Suggestion for singing: Come down of love divine, Mission Praise 89

Some people exert themselves following great ambitions, but neglect their families. This can also occur in schools, when principals or teachers pursue good outcomes for their school. Reasons for that are numerous. There may be an intense frequency of special needs within the school population. There can also be substantial pressure from the government to achieve targets. These urgencies can press teachers and school leaders to work very hard. Work tends to become more important than the care for the family. This section in 1 Timothy holds an intrusive command: neglect of family life doesn’t harmonize with Christian life style. Irrespective of circumstances: a Christian needs to care for his family, otherwise he behaves worse than an unbeliever.

Let us consider the background of this sharp message. This passage in the bible mentions a number of criteria for enrolling, or accepting, widows. Experts are not in agreement with the meaning of this ‘enrolment’ and the purpose of these criteria. Some (Van Houwelingen, Wright, ESV) believe that this whole section (1 Tim. 5: 3-16) is about whether or not needy widows qualify for financial support from the church. The criteria are strict. A widow must have no family caring for her, she must not lead a loose life, she must take care of her own family and be above the age of 60. Others believe that at least part of the criteria were laid down as conditions for a kind of diaconal office by widows in the church (see Calvin, Matthew Henry, Dutch AV). In any case, giving priority to the family is a characteristic of irreproachable behaviour, a distinguishing characteristic of a true Christian (compare 1 Tim. 3:2).

Why was such great importance attached to it? There were many social misunderstandings in the Roman society. Woman and slaves were treated in an inferior way. If you didn’t like them, you would simply dispose of them. Paul’s appeal to the young Christian churches is that Christians should act differently. They should foster family life according to the love command of Christ.

Our context differs from the days of Timothy. But the neglect of a wife, a husband or of children also lies in wait in our present society. Even people with a high standard of morality, who do their work with full devotion to the church and society can come into a situation in which they pay inadequate attention to their own family. The message we can read in this text is that the devotion to work and activity outside the family should be limited, both for women and men. If you belong to Christ, you must first devote yourself to the most precious you receive from God (compare Ephesians 5). In education people can have all sorts of reasons to ignore the boundaries. There is pressure in the school and pressure from outside the school. School leaders have many different demands on their time at school which often leads to them being away in the evenings. Teachers are often urged to take on extra tasks.

The message concerning widows in the early Christian church also applies to education. The care for the family should take priority. You, as a professional educator, not being able to prove that you take good care of your family first of all, is tantamount to neglecting faith. Then you behave worse than an unbeliever. God asks of us to let our first calling take precedence.


  • Verse 4 can be easily misunderstood. At first glance it seems as if the widow should learn to care for her children herself as a kind of repayment to her parents. However, that is not what it says. The precise meaning is that the widow’s children should learn to take care of their own mother, just like the mother took care of them. According to the margin reading in the Dutch Authorised Version this concerns older children who should already be able to care for their mother, so that she will not need to be cared for by the church. So it needs to be explained to the children that they have this duty. Making some return to the parents can be read as follows: the parents and grandparents made it possible for the children to live. You honour them by doing the same. The message for children is: the effort your own parents made was great. Now you need to honour them by seeking the good for your own children. (Compare Exodus 20:12, Deut. 5:16, Ephesians 6:2.) This motive of ‘doing something as a tribute to your parents’ does not often occur to western people or even western Christians (see last question below).
  • There is yet another Biblical line that shows the importance of caring for the family. The origin of family lies in the Creation. According to Genesis 1:27-28 God created man as male and female. In Genesis 2:22-25 Adam receives his wife as a gift and it says that he shall be one flesh with her. That means that he will devote himself to her (compare Ephesians 5). He receives the gift of the woman straight after receiving the command to work the land and keep it (Gen. 2:15). The devotion to family goes together with this demand to cultivate. We can follow this same line when a man or woman is lost (such as with the widows in Ephesus). We can also continue this line in a general sense. Family life reveals how Christian you are. It is in the everyday things where we can see whether the Christian ethos is practised, whether you are able, with Christ, to dedicate yourself, to sacrifice yourself to that one specific person (your husband, your wife) or to the children you received as a gift from God. This shows whether you are prepared to put your own needs and desires to one side and make an effort for the wellbeing of others.
  • In caring for your family you truly reveal who you are. You could still feign in a professional or official situation (e.g. a pastor or teacher), but that is impossible in family life, where you can be corrected by your husband, wife or children. It is harder to keep your patience in your family than it is in your class. For Christians it comes down to fulfilling your first obligation. That is always the natural context you are in: the family.
  • This bible study mentions external pressures at school (the government) and internal pressures at school (the children’s needs, the school’s ambitions) as causes for neglecting the family. There can also be personal causes that neglect a family. When there is no pressure from within or outside the school, people could take such great interest in their work, it keeps them occupied day and night. They enjoy it so much, they say: ‘My work is my life.’


  1. Why is the care for your family of utmost importance for a Christian?
  2. Families first’ is a strong demand. In cases of troubles in your family, you could feel barely able to do your job in school. What measures can be taken to assure you do your job satisfactorily while there is serious trouble in your private life? Imagine a female colleague whose husband died and who bears full responsibility for both her family and her class? How could you help such a colleague? What could be done according to the cultural standards in your town, community or country?
  3. How do you view the relationship between professional duties and duties in your home?
  4. Before answering this question read the note above. Do you consider bringing up your children as a tribute to your parents and grandparents? What is that like in your culture? How is your way of bringing up children related to the upbringing you received? Can education for children be considered a tribute to previous generations?

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

29 - Idleness

‘Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not’ (1 Tim 5:13)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 5: 9-16; Proverbs 31:27
Suggestion for singing: Cleanse me from my sin, Mission Praise 82

In his argument that young widows should remarry, Paul mentions an observation. He notices that some young widows are no longer as seriously directed by faith as they were before. They chat a lot and when they meet, they are very much stimulated by the discussion of senseless subjects. Paul has not got a good word to say about that and uses strong language. They are gossips and busybodies.

It is likely that Paul means young girls here, we would say teenagers, early secondary school age in our times. There appears to have been a high percentage of widows in the Roman world, possibly due to men losing their lives in the army. You can image that young Christian widows with no meaningful occupations, such as caring for children, would meet up to find distraction.

Paul’s message concerning the behavioural pattern he observes has a broader sense also relevant to this day and age, particularly for teachers in secondary education. Lack of occupation leads to idleness and the need to find distraction. When you have not got anything useful to do, you just chat to each other and before you know it you chat about inappropriate things. When you meet each other often, you get used to pointless chatter (the text says you ‘learn’ it) and it becomes a way of life.

When we see teenagers around us, we notice they have a need for mutual contact. At school you always see them in groups. Girls group together giggling, boys boasting to each other with their stories. Social contact is strongly supported by social media. This day and age we explain the craving for group behaviour as a normal phenomenon, part of the stage in their development. Youngsters see each other every day and it makes sense that they also find each other online.

There are also many adults these days who have a social life in which exchanging bits of news has become an aim in itself. They too make a lot of use of social media. Finding distraction on facebook, news sites and YouTube videos is not only done by youngsters or people who have little meaningful to do.

Paul proves himself a disapproving observer of idleness. He takes it seriously: meaningless chitchat can lead to slander. Non-Christians scoff at this. He also sees that it leads to weakening of faith. Some widows have gone to serve Satan, it says, which possible means that they married an unbeliever.

Applying these warnings to today’s education does not mean that young people should avoid social contacts and that they should abandon the use of social media. The main message in this passage is about the contrast of meaningless activities and idle activities. The young widows looked for alternatives because they did not have business that made sense for them. What meaningful activities are, is shown in the next verse of the bible passage and verses 5-10: showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, taking care of the afflicted, devoting oneself to every good work. From these examples we can understand that the core of acting meaningfully is ‘serving’. When you serve others, your acts turn out to be a blessing to others. You are not self-centred, but selfless.

The message for teachers is that they can reduce idleness by offering meaningful alternatives in that direction. Idleness will come without effort. Meaningful activities have to be arranged and they have to be practised. People can easily become accustomed to idle things. Meaningfulness has to be learned.


  • The Greek word for ‘idle’ is ‘argai’, literally ‘without work’ (Van Houwelingen, p.126-127). This word is also used in Titus 1:12b in the expression ‘gasteres argai’ (‘lazy gluttons’), which literally means ‘bellies without work’ (Van Houwelingen, p.267).
  • To understand this passage you must look at it in the context of the days of Timothy and Paul. Without the understanding of the historical context this passage can be read as very unfriendly to women. In Roman times the relationships were definitely more hierarchical than in our time. Calvin generalises Paul’s observations and counted the tendency to gossip as a bad characteristic of women (Calvin’s Commentary). However, in the days of Timothy the care for widows was actually a token of kindliness to women. The Christians followed the path of the Lord Jesus by not approaching widows as second-class citizens. This is especially apparent in the Gospel of Luke. When applying this passage to ourselves we must also take into account specific aspects of our time. Today’s boundary between ‘distraction for fun’ on the one hand and our daily work and other meaningful things on the other hand has blurred. A lot of work is done through social media.
  • The most basic meaning of work in the New Testament is related to taking responsibility for income and food. This is clearly shown in 2 Thess 3:11, where idleness is put into contrast with work. We can apply this to education when we connect meaningfulness closely to the notion of ‘taking responsibility’. Making things meaningful for young people implies giving them responsibility. When students have to arrange things themselves, the sense of responsibility is triggered. We can observe that when we hear students in vocational training talking about the difference between lessons in school and working with practical assignments in apprenticeships. The latter are felt to be much more meaningful.
  • There is another valuable connotation of meaningful activities in education, not from this Bible reading, but worth mentioning. With reference to brain research, it is said that meaningful refers to information that gets significance within a given context; these contexts being the frameworks of understanding students already possess. Instructions and assignments should be connected to these contexts. Instruction is meaningless when information is given in loose or fragmented parts. Meaningful instruction connects to the existing frameworks of students. Students learn meaningfully when they know how to make valuable connections in their own lives.


  1. Where is the difference between meaningful occupation/work and idleness for Christians today? How do you see the relationship between work and recreation?
  2. How do you view group behaviour of youngsters? Is it right to rank idleness with what has become a developmental psychological need in modern culture? How can we make young people get used to occupying their free time meaningfully? How can you practise that in school?
  3. Thess 3:11 shows a connection between idleness and not taking your personal responsibility to support yourself. How is that with the sense of responsibility of young people in secondary education in your country?
  4. This bible study states that when you do not learn to behave meaningfully you easily descend into idleness. That almost sounds like a statement of a natural law. Do you agree with this connection?
  5. Give no occasion to slander’. The fear of educators of reactions from the outside world is sometimes used by them as an argument in warning youngsters: ‘Take care that the outside world won’t say anything about it.’ Is this appropriate and why or why not?

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

30 - Ample Salary

The laborer deserves his wages’ (1 Tim 5: 25)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 5: 17-25; 1 Cor. 9: 1-12
Suggestion for singing: God of Bethel (Mission Praise 907)

Regular payment of a salary is a characteristic of a well ordered society. It is a symbol that work is given its value. Not only business companies but also many church-organisations have a well-structured salary system. However, when people are pioneering, most often there is not such a system. Pioneers lack secure income. Paul speaks in these verses about the missionary situation in which the service for the gospel is voluntary. Servants work hard (the Greek word for work ‘kapiao’ expresses a very intense effort). They give themselves totally to the gospel. Paul reminds Timothy that voluntary work has to be rewarded.

Pioneering also occurs in Christian education. Christians occasionally start a school with great passion for several reasons. Some initiate education because there is not yet any kind of school education in their community. Others start a school to prevent their children becoming a victim of state-indoctrination at the public school. Their desire is that children from their community will hear the gospel at school. They want their children to be taught from a biblical perspective. Many of those teachers have very small jobs in other trades and do their educational work for free. I have met people in West-African countries and China who started teaching from a calling, without any income.

The words of Paul to Timothy are relevant for these education pioneers. Supporting communities should care for a satisfying income for teachers. Paul apparently seems to reject scantiness. The word ‘double’ (in the expression ‘they are considered worthy of double honour’) has to do with abundancy. Some interpreters say ‘double honour’ means material as well as immaterial reward. The word, however, may indicate that Paul seems to think about the great effort that is asked from elders, like being present for the flock day and night and to be alert to heresy. Sometimes elders have to take unpopular measures. All this makes it a hard job and therefore this kind of voluntary work has to be rewarded double.

Teachers resemble elders regarding the great effort that is required to do the job properly. International research indicates that, in general, teachers work many more hours than they are paid for. This has to do with preparation or correction work. Devoted teachers also care for the family lives of their students. They visit families in the case of behavioural problems of the child. In developmental countries, teachers often have a general advising role to parents (for example: how to find a job, how to deal with conflict in families). In pioneering situations, it can be difficult to provide ample salaries. In poor communities everyone has to fight for his livelihood. Yet the community should think about sharing their income with the teacher, at least by collecting monthly to provide a minimum. It is also possible to organise a simple school fees system or a fund to pay the salary.

Paul compares the servant with an ox, the animal that according to Old Testament standards should not be muzzled, but is allowed to eat from the harvest, while thrashing the grain. In 1 Cor. 9:9 Paul uses this text to challenge the congregation to take care of the servants. He adds to this challenge that he himself did not claim salary as a right. Followers of Christ prefer to speak in terms of services than in terms of rights. Consequently the text holds a message in two directions. To the teachers it says: do your work well, wholeheartedly, like the elders in the congregation of Ephesus. For the founders and funders of schools it says: remunerate the teachers amply. Try to reflect what the Lord desires for His children in John 10:10: abundant life.


  • The first quote is taken from Deut. 25. The text is also cited by Paul in 1 Cor. 9:9, where he claims the right to get food and drink (verse 4) but adds that he doesn’t use that right (verse 9) in order to be ‘free from all’ (verse 19). Nevertheless he has a great zeal to preach the gospel. It is like a burden, a necessity for him, something that cannot be stopped (verse 16). (Dean Anderson (2008). 1 Korintiërs, Orde op zaken in een jonge stadskerk. Kampen: Kok, p. 123-125)
  • The second quote is taken from Jesus’ words in Matt 10:10 and Luke 10:7 (early Christian reader p. 203 notes). According to Calvin the words are not necessarily a quote but an expression of common sense that is never opposed.
  • Reward differs much per country. In some countries the social recognition is very high (Finland) and goes hand in hand with a large financial reward. In western countries where the social recognition is not quite so high (such as the Netherlands), the rewards are also relatively good.
  • When in the 19th century Dutch churches started their own schools, it transpired that a school principal was appointed who didn’t get anything in the first three years of his career (Story told by my colleague Ewald Mackay, who found this in the archives of the school).


  1. Read 1 Cor. 9, verses 15-23. Underline the words that show the zeal of Paul. Do you recognize that zeal in your calling for education?
  2. How important is salary for you? Are you content with your salary? Would you be willing to work for free, like people in Africa and China do?
  3. Can you be a Christian teacher simply to earn money, in the same way as other people have jobs in industrial companies or in business?
  4. In the Netherlands there has been a great change in school law since 1917. Since that time all teachers at Christian school have been equally paid like teachers in public schools. The great educator professor Herman Bavinck (Free University Amsterdam) noticed that the side-effect of that was that the commitment of parents decreased. Discuss how the good arrangements for paying salaries to teachers are related to (a) the involvement of parents in Christian teaching and (b) the passion of teachers.
  5. - Think about the words ‘Who rule well’. Does that mean that there is a high standard of quality for getting salary? How is the quality of teaching in your country measured? Do you think it is possible to measure the quality of Christian teaching? Do you think schools should set standards for the quality of their Christian teachers?  Should the quality be related to the level of the salary?
Quote of a young primary education teacher in the Netherlands (26 years old), grade 6:
’Many teachers, like me, work long days. I have been told I need to set boundaries for myself or else I won’t cope. So much is expected of you as a teacher. In addition to teaching you are also expected to be part of committees, and that often goes at the expense of my lesson planning. But also talking to parents; parents expect you to be some kind of educational expert who has an answer to everything. If the parents are not satisfied, they’ll simply take it higher up, hoping they’ll be ‘heard’ there.’

Author: Bram de Muynck

Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

31 - Equitable

‘I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality’ (1 Tim 5: 21).

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 5: 17-25; Deut. 19: 15-21.
Suggestion for singing: Facing a task unfinished, Mission Praise 126

People sometimes find other people’s behaviour unacceptable. As brothers and sisters, Christians are called to rebuke each other in those cases. What do we do when someone has a complaint about a leader? A member of the congregation for instance doesn’t think an elder is serving rightly and makes a complaint about it to the minister. In these verses Paul provides us with some directions. He goes back to the Old Testament rule. A complaint about someone is only valid when it is confirmed by two or three witnesses.

All Christian leaders, regardless of their situation (church congregation or social enterprise, education or care), do well to keep this rule in mind when someone complains to them about a person. In education we can think of a teacher who doesn’t agree with decisions made by his or her immediate supervisor. The principal hears about it from the teacher and wonders what would be the best way to deal with it. The principal then needs to establish the truth. He can’t simply accept something for truth, but must hear from others about it first. In his position he is called to be impartial. Impartiality means not simply believing what someone says and following them in their views.

That is not easy. When you have been the head of a school for a while, you form an opinion about teachers. You have placed them into your own categories: one is educationally minded, another is not. Another person’s teaching skills are stronger than his colleague’s. Another person is difficult to get along with. You have your own opinions as a leader. So when someone comes to complain, you naturally place the complaints in the framework of your own opinions. You try to make the complaint correspond to your own opinion, so that you can give a consistent verdict.

You mustn’t do that, says Paul. Don’t act on your intuition or your own convictions. You first need to put your opinions about that person aside. That is difficult. We often only want to see our opinions confirmed. As a leader you need to show more than ever that you are independent. You need to be able to respond to this individual without thinking of previous incidents.

An unbiased judgement carries a lot of weight in God’s eyes. Act this way, Paul says in verse 21, as if God, Christ Jesus and the angels are present. By mentioning the angels he directs our thoughts to the Final Judgement, because they will be there according to Matthew 25:31. Your judgement carries a lot of weight because it is a forerunner of the coming judgement. Every time someone comes to you to complain, the angels are looking over your shoulder.


  • This passage can be applied to any situation in which a subordinate has a complaint about someone superior. Think also of pupils complaining about a teacher. The Greek word for impartiality relates to balance. You can think of old-fashioned scales with weights on both sides. Scales are ‘partial’ when they are inclined to tip to one side.
  • The verses quoted from Deut. 19 also show how much care is required to judge impartially. If a witness accuses someone wrongly, that shall be done to him which he meant to do to the accused: ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’. So an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is in this case not just a general rule saying violence should be avenged, but a specific statement that shows how serious it is to give false testimony. God won’t have that!


  1. Which school situation do you think of when you think of the word ‘righteousness’? In which situation are you called to make a judgement? How do you do that? How can you ensure impartiality?
  2. The way something is judged when someone in an organisation or community complains about someone else, differs per culture. How does that happen in your culture? Give an example of a complaint dealt with by the head of your school. How did it happen? How independent can a leader be in your culture? Is he expected to hear both sides of the argument?
  3. In the preceding verses Paul tells Timothy to rebuke people in the presence of others. Why would Paul advise that? Should you do that in the classroom too when pupils misbehave? Why or why not, and on which conditions?


‘Only by closing your eyes to personal considerations can we reach an equitable judgement’ (John Calvin, commentary on 1 Timothy, p.264).

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

32 - Respect

‘Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers’ (1 Tim 6:2a)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 6: 1-2; Proverbs 15:33
Suggestion for singing: Open our eyes, O Lord (Mission Praise 915)

One of our sins that is difficult to exterminate is our inclination to despise other people. This inclination can be seen in subtleties. A new colleague starts at work, but is not very quick in his progression. You become tired of seeing him working. Another colleague lacks a proper attitude to children, and you become irritated by his way of speaking to students. Despise may also be directed to people not belonging to our denomination. You distrust them because they do – in your eyes - not adhere to the right beliefs.

Paul indicates in this verse to a subtle threat among Christians that comes up, paradoxically, from a wrong interpretation of the central Christian value of equality. Christians are equal because they all belong to the Lord Jesus and have to perceive themselves as brothers and sisters, no more, no less. This is a rule that must be applied to all relationships. They contrast with the rule outside the church where relationships often are hierarchical, for example the relationships between a boss and an employee. In the congregations there is no lower or higher.

Paul observes that the practice of that central value within the church can lead to  disrespectfulness among Christians in civil relationships. Christian slaves look at their Christian masters and think: ‘we have become equal as brothers and sisters. Who is s/he, that s/he is commanding me? Why should I listen to someone who has the same right and has an equal position?’ Paul warns such a person not to be disrespectful. Contrarily that servant has to honour his master. When he wouldn’t do so, there will come a sense of revolt that will hinder the honour of God’s name (verse 6). Moreover the brother has to realise that his master is also supposed to serve for the benefit of others (verse 7). Compare the same reasoning in 1 Peter 2: 18 and the following verses.

The situation is comparable with situations in which Christian employees – e.g. Christian teachers -  have to relate to their principals. Both professionals are Christians but nonetheless the teacher has to be respectful to the leadership of his brother or sister. Probably the teacher may find this hard, because the school leader is of the same age (or even younger), has the same level of experience (or even less), or has the same grade of education (or even lower). All these comparisons might be used as reasons to be disrespectful to the leader. And also when it is not openly said, the teacher may think to himself: who are you that you are going to supervise me?

The message of Paul is also valid in those situations in schools: don’t be disrespectful but honour your leader. Interpreters (Calvin, Van Houwelingen) indicate that the use of ‘all honour’ is a strong expression. There are three places where ‘honour’ is used, the following becoming more serious than the previous one. The widows must be honoured (1 Tim 5:3), the elders who rule well must receive double honour (1 Tim 5:17) and the masters (1 Tim 6:1) must receive all honour. The last command is the strongest, and most probably the most difficult, because it fights with our desire not to obey normal people like us.


  1. In what situations are you inclined to despise other persons?
  2. What are the differences in age, experience and education between your school leader and the staff? When there are no or few differences, do you recognize disrespect to the leader?
  3. How can you honour your principal? Formulate a suggestion how to honour someone who – in your eyes – is not equipped for the job?
  4. In some cultures only the oldest, the most experienced or the most educated person can become a leader. In other cultures a leader will be only appointed because of his personality and assumed leadership competences. How is that in your culture? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these positions. Could you formulate a standard from a Christian perspective?

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

33 - Godliness with contentment is great gain.

‘Godliness with contentment is great gain’ (1 Tim 6: 6)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 6: 3-19
Suggestion for singing: O worship the King (Mission Praise 528)

In this passage Paul provides Timothy with a key with which he can recognise people who do not truly understand the gospel of the Lord Jesus. These are people who can speak about words and affairs with passion, but put an emphasis on pointless details (‘quarrels about words’). This leads to nothing but dissension (3-5). They do not understand the real meaning of the gospel. This kind of wrong passion apparently goes together with the imagination that godliness is a means of gain (5).

This text holds a mirror up to us. What is the use of religiousness? In a secular age, spending time on god and religion is seen as rather pointless. Believers are not a whit better than anyone else. There is evidence that religion only leaves a loss. Look at sexual abuse in the church and oppression by church leaders. Look at Christians even taking part in the spiral of violence in conflict zones. So, the image of our religion being of use to us, in the sense of more virtuous people who through hard work have it all going for them, is a dangerous representation of things. That, says Paul, is exactly what it is not about.

Then what is it about? Surprisingly, it is about a profitable attitude to life, but then in a completely different sense to what we view as profit. Profit, or gain, sounds to us as the difference between earned income and costs. Profit is economic benefit. But here, it means something different. There is gain when your religious attitude is marked by contentment. You can be content with what you have got. Food and shelter is enough to be able to live. When these basic needs are met, there is every reason to be thankful. Anything in addition to that is extra.

Religious people who put God’s interests first, live with gratitude. That is the one Christian attitude adults should practise. It is also the attitude we should teach children. It therefore shows a wise pedagogical understanding when educators teach children at a very young age the hymn: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you, Alleluia’. The main desire for Christian educators is not for their children to have a successful life, but a dependent life.

In education we often give the impression we do the opposite. In particular we encourage children to learn to assume responsibility. Children need to be prepared for the future. So, in that sense, gain does need to be pursued. You teach children all sorts of things and expect a high return: that children learn lots of things they can do something with. In poor countries they are well aware that good education is an essential requirement for a healthy economy.

Putting these next to one another shows a contrast between contentment and gratitude on the one hand and responsibility on the other. That feels wrong. As if a government should not strive for a good economy. As if children should not be prepared for earning to make a living. Paul would not account for that contrast. There is no problem with being rich, he says in verses 17-19. So it does not mean that you should not take the basic needs seriously. It depends on your attitude to life. If you only have little, you should be content and not jealous of earthly wealth. If you are rich, you should not set your heart on it, but use it in the Kingdom of God.


  • 1 Tim. 6: 18 says the Christian way of becoming rich is to be rich in good works. The ‘good works’ as a distinguishing factor of Christian life is particularly clear in Titus 3: 8. Compare 1 Peter 2: 20-21 and 1 Peter 3: 16-17.
  • In verses 3-10 the warning against financial gain relates to the exploitation of faith. You use the spreading of the gospel for personal benefit. So it does not mean a condemnation of money as such, neither of dealing with money.
  • Cultures differ greatly in their degree of risk-aversion (Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkow, 2010). In risk-averse cultures future prosperity is safeguarded by long term thinking. Students sometimes plan their education in detail and work out in advance how much money they can earn in their future job. In cultures that are not risk-averse, they hope to cope as things transpire. Both attitudes lead to disadvantages in groups where Dutch students study together with African students. Dutch students generally have a monthly income from their parents or government, are immunised against diseases, have health insurance and are insured against many other things. A Dutch student says: ‘Sometimes it seems as if I don’t need God at all.’ African students have very little to be sure of and are used to this from their own culture. An African student who took a course with us here in the Netherlands, said: ‘I live daily with God.’ He interpreted life with God in a way that Dutch students could not comprehend, and it clashed. In his apartment he had enough food and drink for the whole day. Yet he did not bring lunch into school, on the principle that God will provide. To begin with he received things from his fellow students. But after a few weeks the Dutch students were fed up with this and stopped giving him food, because they believed it was his own responsibility.


  1. Try to explain the connection between quarrels and financial gain (verses 3-5). Are there examples in your circumstances of Christians who use the spreading of the gospel to get rich?
  2. The quality of Christian life is different from the quality derived from the laws of income and expenditure. What is the difference? What is the right balance in your circumstances between dependence and responsibility? Compare the example of the two students above.
  3. In some countries people (even non-Christians) perceive there to be a connection between being a Christian and prosperity. This is usually explained as seeing more virtuous behaviour in Christians. How is this in your situation? Do you see a connection?
  4. There are many kinds of sin. How can love of money be a root of all kinds of evils? (Compare Exodus 23:8)
  5. Western societies seem completely dominated by economic interests. In such a way that in education the message is put across that we live to make a profit. How do people value property in your culture? How is that evident in education? Is it acceptable for Christians to seek to become rich, by running a business for example? What should concern us about the warning that people who desire to be rich fall into temptation and bring troubles upon themselves (verses 9-10)? Is it possible to set up a Christian training programme for ‘business’? If so, what ethics should be taught in that training?
  6. In some countries it is only possible to start a Christian school through private funding. Sometimes parents fund it, sometimes a charity is founded which more affluent people can donate money. It also happens that people start a Christian school as a private initiative, as if they were starting up a business. If we do well, they argue, Christian parents will send their children to our school and be willing to pay money for it. If you let the line of thought in these verses sink in, is it possible to start a Christian school with a profit motive?
  7. There are instances where teachers will only teach if the children give them extra money. They ask for money on top of the money they receive from the government. How do you judge this situation after reading 1 Timothy 6?

Practical assignments

  1. An assignment for teachers who do not work at a Christian school. Discuss with your pupils the difference and/or connection between contentment and pursuing profits. Where do the pupils see the boundary? If possible, mention Paul’s words in the discussion (with reference to the Bible): ‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.’ What is the pupils’ reaction to this text?
  2. A lesson idea for teachers in Christian primary and secondary education (music lessons). The text in verses 15b-16 is a song of praise. In groups, let the children write a song based on these words. They can use existing tunes or make up their own tunes.
  3. Assignment for teachers in Christian primary and secondary education in a prosperous country. Together, think of a project for one week which pays specific attention to the instructions for rich people in verses 17-19. Set it up in such a way that the project also includes maths, spelling and reading.
  4. Assignment for a class of teacher training students, suitable for a lesson about character education. In contrast to the previous verses, the attributes of a Christian life are summarised in the characteristics in verse 11. To discuss: how can you translate these characteristics into character education? Variation: Divide the class into pairs and let each pair design a lesson about one of these six characteristics. Let the students present their lesson to the class.
Key words: profit , gratitude, responsibility

34 - Fight the good fight

Fight the good fight (1 Tim 6:12)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 6: 12-16; John 18: 33-38
Suggestion for singing: Fight the good fight, Mission Praise, 143

Teaching is sometimes like fighting in a battle. You have to prepare your lessons every day thoroughly, you have to handle difficult and unexpected situations in the classroom and you have to meet the requirements of the principal, the coordinator or whoever. Teaching is a hard job.

The battle to which Paul refers in this section is another kind of fight, it is the battle of faith. Paul uses this metaphor in several places in his letters, for example in 1 Tim 1: 19, 2 Tim. 2:3-5 and in Ephesus 6:10-20. Paul seems to formulate these texts with war-jargon. The somewhat complicated phrase that covers the verses 13 to 16 sounds as a demand given by an officer. It starts with saying that Timothy should fight for something. The remarkable thing is that the result of the fight is already promised. The result of the fight is, so says Paul, eternal life. But having a promise, does not mean that Timothy does not have to fight. The fight to get this promise depends on the concentration on his confession. That confession was very concrete. Paul reminds Timothy of his confession that was professed in the presence of several witnesses, most probably thinking about what happened in Derbe and Lystre (Acts 16:1-3).

In Timothy’s case, the battle of faith is strongly connected with his professional fight. In his task of guiding the congregation, he has to be prepared to deal with challenges. He needs his full equipment. He must have the words of God ready to comfort people or to admonish people. And his intellectual arguments must be sharp for the debate with other authorities. Being a messenger of Christ was a hard job for Timothy. The message for the ‘professional fighter’, however, is full of trust. Paul appeals to Timothy’s awareness of his calling as ‘a man of God’ (verse 11), which in the Old Testament means being a prophet. What Pauls seems to say is: ‘YOU have to do it. In this place, in this time, there is no other person who can do it. You are equipped for it and you have to do your task.’ Nowadays psychologists would say that Paul is affirming the ‘self-efficacy’ of Timothy.

The teaching job has a similar intertwined battle of faith and profession, in which you need to be ready with full equipment. To mention just a few examples: how to respond wisely to a student who comes to you and tells about parents who are going to divorce? How to respond to students that ask you about the relevance of your faith. Probably you are not quite unsure about how to respond, yet you know how the quality of your response matters. A good response needs high quality reflection-in-action. Being called for a job, does not mean that you will get the result without effort. You have to exert yourself for it.

To be a Christian professional goes hand in hand with fighting the battle of faith. That is what we can conclude from these verses. You should not only prepare your lessons carefully, but you should also take care of your personal faith. The wonderful thing is that you are never alone in this battle. The confession you have to stand for is actually the same as the confession of Jesus (see verse 13). Timothy is reminded what the Saviour said to Pilate, during the trial: ‘My kingdom is not of this world’. Jesus confessed that, though he was surely the true son of God, his Kingdom was not won by an earthly battle, with soldiers, weapons and aspirations for power (see John 18: 33-38). The battle you are fighting is consequently not one of showing how outstanding Christian schools are. And is not a battle in which you have to show you are an excellent teacher. It rather is to be someone who trusts in the promises of Christ.

Therefore you should not rely on your own strength. It doesn’t make sense to bring the best out of yourself, to exploit your talents. The battle of faith is the battle of imitation. In fighting the battle, be encouraged by the love of Christ, His deeds of salvation, wonder that He has done such a great thing to give Himself with love, that He is the expression of the benevolence of the Father. Enjoy yourself in this. This entails the promise of eternal life.


  1. How are the battle of faith and the battle of profession connected in your everyday practice?
  2. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 Paul speaks about the weapons that are used in the battle: ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds’. Can you apply the metaphor of the weapons to your teaching profession? What do you perceive as weapons of the world, and what of weapons of divine power?
  3. Ephesians 6 lists the weapons of the spiritual warfare. What about the weapon of prayer, as mentioned in Ephesians 6: 18?
  4. Fighting a battle most of the time is a collective matter. If you work at a Christian school: who would you like to be involved in prayer for your school and how and when? Think about the board, principal, students, parents, colleagues for each other, the church? When you work at a non-Christian school, who might be invited to pray for your work?
  5. How and where did you confess your faith? Which persons witnessed that confession? How can you connect your confession to the confession of Jesus?
  6. The urge to fight the battle of faith goes hand in hand with the demand of keeping life pure, living the virtues, mentioned in verse 11. How can teachers live those virtues?
Key words: self-efficacy, calling, struggle

Author: Bram de Muynck

Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

35 - Life

‘Who gives life to all things’ (1 Tim 6: 13)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 6: 13, 2 Tim 1:2: Proverbs 8: 34-36.
Suggestion for singing: Come down, o love divine, Mission Praise, 89

You could easily overlook the words this Bible study draws attention to. In 1 Tim 6: 13-14 Paul says in a cautionary phrase: “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things (..) to keep the commandment”. Some commentators don’t give much attention to this phrase. Calvin says nothing about it. Van Houwelingen sees it as a general statement: God gives all life, so he also gives eternal life. You cannot conclude anything from such words. Matthew Henry says something similar but just goes one step further: “….. God, who quickens all things, who has life in himself and is the fountain of life. This should quicken us to serve God that we serve a God who quickens all things”. In other words, the notion of a living God inspires us to serve God.

For educators the statement 'God gives life' is of particular importance. On the main building of the teacher education institute in Potchefstroom (North West University) you will find the words: 'education is life-awakening' [in Afrikaans: ‘Onderwys is lewe wek’]. When you teach, you find yourself doing something similar to what God is doing, namely ‘giving life’. Teachers can identify with that. In your lessons you like your students to flourish. You are blessed to be a witness of the developing of intellect and character. You nurture pupils’ gifts to promote growth. You are, however, not a creator, but you are like someone who calls others to be awakened. You can awake the potential to effect.

Also this pedagogical ‘awakening’ comes from God, as God – according to the text – gives life to all things. Behind your teaching, the creator himself is at work. Beyond your educational activities is a power, higher and more effective than you can imagine. This is a wonderful thing. Teachers don’t need to trust on their own inspiration, they need to trust on the inspiration of the Creator. We need to trust on God, like Henry says, in order to be inspired to serve in Gods Kingdom.

There is still another point we should notice. When we carefully sift the New Testament for the word ‘life’ we discover that the word is mainly used in the sense of reconciliation. God gives new life by sending His only begotten son to die and to raise from the dead. Believers receive the new life freely (John 11:25). When Paul generally phrases ‘who gives life to all things’, the rebirth giving spirit of the Lord resonates in the words. This means that the hope of the Christian educator goes beyond the ‘here and now’ perspective. Teachers cannot, in other words, only think in terms of creation, but are called to grasp further to recreation.

Reflect for a moment on the work of Timothy. He is working hard in the congregation. He, however, is not the owner of the results. His efforts are just to create conditions. The Holy Spirit acts through these efforts. The phrase– ‘who gives life to all things’ – appears in a sentence in which Paul appeals to Timothy to act steadfastly and persistently. Timothy is in charge of his vocation and has to insist on doing this job, against opposition. He has to do it for God and Christ.

He reminds, incidentally, of the suffering of Jesus under Pontius Pilate. Doing your job persistently is doing the work of a disciple who likes to follow his master in all His ways (see the previous Bible Study, number 32). The words ‘who gives life to all things’ are of little importance at a first glance. They obviously are a powerful underlining of Pauls message. Your work is not meaningless and will not be without result. Carry on! For God gives new life.


  • The book of Genesis tells us that God creates life, especially the life of man. He breathes on Adam with the result that he can breathe himself (Genesis 2: 7). God’s plan in creation is that creation itself can produce new life (Genesis 2: 9; Genesis 1: 22). As punishment on sin God radically destroys His own work (Gen 7: 22, 'all who had the breath of life'). Only a few, Noah and his family, are saved. After those events the chain of created human life, the sin of man, the penalty on it and the mercy of Gods act to promote new life time and time again, seems to be a common thread in the Old Testament.
  • In the Old Testament, Israel is being called to pursue the righteousness with the aim: 'that you may live ' (Deuteronomy 16: 20). In the wisdom literature of Israel, especially the book of proverbs the promise of life is a very basic motive. You should do good deeds and develop wisdom, with the aim to live. Actions that are not according to the law, lead to death (compare proverbs 2:19; 3:2; 4:10; 8:35; 10:17; 11:19; 16:22).
  • The life giving and life restoring power of God is also reflected in Isaiah 57: 15, which says: ‘For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite”.
  • The words ‘The living God’ appear three times in the first Timothy letters: 3: 15 (the Church of Ephesus is the Church of the living God), 4: 10 ('hope in the living God'), 6: 17 (‘hope set on the living God’). In 2 Timothy 1: 2 Paul speaks about the promise of life. The reference to life appears also several times in Hebrews (3: 12, 9: 14, 11: 31 and 12: 22). The expression is also found in Rom 9: 26 and 2 Corinthians 3: 3 (‘by the spirit of the living God’) and 2 Corinthians 6: 16 (‘the Corinthians are a temple of the living God’).
  • Jesus is called ‘the Prince of life’ in Acts 3: 15. This section in Acts tells us that the restored life of the cripple (he can walk again!) is owed to the resurrected King of Life. That Christ lives forever after He went through the death is also highlighted in the revelation to John in Revelation 1: 18. This text is based on Old Testament statements like Joshua 3: 10 (‘the living God is in the midst of you’), Psalm 42: 2 (‘my soul thirsts for the living God’), Psalm 84: 2 (‘my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God’).
  • You can find texts about the new life through the Spirit asused by Paul in places including: Rom: 4: 7 (the death are given new life); Rom 8:11 (‘who will give life to immortal bodies’); 1 Cor 15: 22-45 (the resurrection); 1Cor 3: 6 (God gives growth); 2 Cor 5:4-5, 11 (life and death); Gal. 3: 21 (the law cannot revive).


  1. Put in your own words the meaning of the phrase ‘God gives life to all things’.
  2. Share with your colleague an experience in which you observed wonderful progress of one of your students.
  3. How can we understand teaching within the overarching plan of the life-giving God?
  4. From where do you expect to derive the fruits of your teaching?
Keywords: life, awakening, development, regeneration

Author: Bram de Muynck

Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

36 - Guard

‘Guard the deposit entrusted to you’ (1 Tim 6: 20-21)

Scripture reading: 1 Timothy 6: 13-21
Suggestion for singing: Awake my soul and with the sun, Mission Praise 804

‘Guard the deposit what has been entrusted to you’ is an appeal that comes to Timothy nearly at the end of the first letter. The same phrase is used in the second letter (2 Tim 1:14): ‘By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you’. What does that mean: ‘guard the deposit’?

According to NIV and ESV footnotes this expression simply refers to the gospel. Initially the gospel was given to Paul (see 2 Tim 1:12), and in in turn it has been transferred from Paul to Timothy. Timothy has to take care of it like a guard. Think about a guard who has to keep a set of precious jewels, which he has to bring from one place to another. The guard has to protect the jewels, to prevent them being stolen or damaged. Timothy should take care of the gospel in that way. People around him should not steal the core meaning of the gospel. Nor should they misinterpret the message. Timothy has to keep the gospel pure and safe. This is the most valid exposition of these words. There are however a few more lessons to learn from this text. I am going to apply them especially to educators who received their training in a Christian institution.

The first is about ‘guarding’ the deposit. Paul in this letter has given many instructions on how to act with the gospel, how to explain the gospel and how to serve the congregation of Ephesus (like the task given in I Tim 1:1-3). In order to guard properly you need to know very practically what to do. We can adjust this to teacher training. Before you enrolled on the training you probably already knew the gospel (‘the deposit’!) from your family, church and educators. During the training you have received a lot more information and a lot of instruction about how to tell pupils about the gospel. You have also learned about the influence that deposit can have on the way you practice education. When you started practicing teaching in a school you took with you everything you learned like pages from a manual on how to preserve the deposit. The Christian teacher educators hoped eagerly that you should use the instruction to keep the precious gift, and their hope was not idle! The instructions showed themselves very practical. Praise the Lord for the blessings you received during the training.

A second thought is about ‘the deposit’ itself, that we owe to an explanation given by John Calvin. He says that Paul speaks about a gift, a talent that is given to Timothy. The deposit is a personal quality, like is mentioned in 1 Tim 4:14. The lesson to Timothy is: you are highly responsible for dealing with your personal quality, to make it useful for carrying out your task. For you will also be accountable for it to God. Let me apply this message to you as a teacher. From God you have received personal qualities to serve in the ‘the education department’ of the Kingdom. During teacher training you have been able to develop these qualities a lot more. This Bible word is meant to encourage you: you should cherish the developed qualities. Be not afraid to use them, for they are especially given to you and you have to make them useful for children, for young people and for fellow teachers in your organisation.  


  • 2 Tim 1:14 has a few consoling words about guarding the deposit. It says that it happens by ‘the spirit that dwells in you’. Guarding the deposit doesn’t depend on our effort. A believing teacher may trust on the work of the Spirit.
  • The warning to avoid irreverent babble that accompanies the words ‘guard the deposit’ will be discussed in TfT number 44, together with the texts in 2 Tim. 2:16 and 2 Tim 2; 24).


  1. How can you define the deposit that is entrusted to you as a Christian teacher? How can you guard that deposit? Try to apply the two lessons to your own situation (being equipped in teacher training, and cherishing your personal talent).
  2. What lessons, instructions or learning moments in teacher training do you still remember as useful in your current practice?
  3. A keyword in Proverbs is to keep wisdom (for example wisdom and commandments in Proverbs 3:21 and 6:20). What is the relationship between that keeping and ‘guarding the deposit’?
  4. Assignment: share with your colleagues (or fellow prospective teachers) what has been a blessing for you in teacher training. Thank and praise the Lord together with them for His blessings.
Keywords: teacher training, talent, distraction

Author: Bram de Muynck

Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

37 - The loving educator

‘To Timothy, my beloved son’ (2 Tim 1: 2)

Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 1: 1-14
Suggestion for singing: There is no love like the love of Jesus. Mission Praise 676

The address of the second letter again expresses the close relationship between Paul and Timothy. In the first letter, the address was ‘my true son’, here the words are yet more intimate: ‘my beloved son’. Paul loved his student and didn’t hide that feeling. He rather let it be known to the congregations he corresponded with, like we see in 1 Corinthians 4:17, where Paul announced Timothy as his beloved and faithful child (1 Cor 4: 17). With saying this to the Corinthians, he underlines the significance of Timothy in the fulfilling of his mission (compare for this insight the second Bible study in this series).

What can we as teachers learn from this loving relationship between Paul and Timothy? Reading the verses 1-9 carefully and thinking about ‘love’, we can accentuate four verbs, which can be seen as reminders for every one of us.

Call. Paul calls Timothy his son. He can do this because the individual relationship he has with his companion. From Titus 1:3 we know that Paul also observed Titus, another student servant, as his ‘child’ or ‘son’. Love in a pedagogical relationship is an individual occurrence, but love for one pupil doesn’t reduce the love for the other. A good teacher loves all his students. And like Paul does both to Timothy and Titus, the teacher is ready to let this be known by each individual student.

Desire. Paul desires to meet Timothy. ‘I long to see you’, he says (verse 4), and he immediately emphasises his expectation that the meeting will bring him joy. I imagine Timothy reading this and assume that Paul’s words appeal to his own desire to meet his master. The explicit expression of desire affirms the relationship. Try to apply this to your own behaviour to your students. What about simply closing an e-mail to your student: ‘looking forward to meeting you’?

Know. Someone would comment, I do not know every child like Paul knew Timothy. That is absolutely true. But probably you can search for opportunities to know your students in ways that you have not explored yet. We see the importance of ‘knowing’ in this section. Paul has sympathy with his student. ‘I remember your tears’ he says (verse 4). He is able to imagine Timothy’s situation, because he knows details of his background. He knows about his mother, his grandmother and also about the difficulties Timothy meets in Ephesus. Knowing helps to empathize with the feelings of a student. Knowing in a pedagogical relationship is not ‘knowing as such’. Knowing the person and his situations helps you as a teacher to estimate what instruction or what kind of help your student needs.

Encourage. It strikes me that Paul in this section is very much encouraging Timothy. Paul reminds Timothy of his gift (verse 6, compare ‘Timothy for teachers’, number 21). He reminds him that God is not giving a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-control (verse 7, discussed in ‘Timothy for teachers’, number 37). Though he warns of suffering, he stresses that there is no need for being ashamed. What Paul is doing here, can be taken as a general rule: your students need encouragement. Whatever kind of help in learning you will give students, often they also need to get supportive, encouraging messages. When you know your student, you know to practice that in the individual case.

Note that the four expressions of love and encouragement is beyond the aim of psychological well-being. Paul longs Timothy to be a strong and steadfast believer, and this has to do with discipleship. Timothy should be prepared for suffering. Love and encouragement is important because Christians need to stand firm when difficulties come. This is also true for young Christians in the 21st Century. With that purpose in mind, let your students know that you love them. 


  • Being informed about the background of your student (biography and current situation) is important. You need, however, to be careful in the way you are being informed about the background. The way of knowing is not to show that you have control of the student but the aim is to strengthen the relationship. A student must never feel forced to tell about his private life, but rather should have the opportunity to share his experiences.
  • I add a general remark about love of teachers. To love things can be put generally. You can love roses. You can love a special variety of roses, say yellow ones with a sweet fragrance. In the same way you can love children in general, and at the same time love certain kinds of students, say the little ones, the shy characters or rather the active and social types. In the pedagogical relationship, however, it is yet more specific: you love this individual, unique character. You love this child because he/she is put into a relationship with you. Since this individual student attends daily your lessons, you are responsible for his learning. And therefore contact is needed.


  1. What does ‘loving the student’ mean for you practically? Imagine yourself saying this to your individual students: ‘I would like to meet you, and it will make me happy’. What will be the result? 
  2. The meditation says: ‘A good teacher loves all his students’. Though most teachers will admit this assumption, teachers are open to prejudices. How can teachers prevent restricting the loving relationship to just one pupil or a few pupils?
  3. You don’t know the background of every individual student in detail. How can you be open for information, without forcing students to tell you about their background? Think of a student you do not know very well yet. Conceive two opportunities to get to know that student better.
  4. Give a writing assignment to your students in which they have to write down how a teacher should love the children in the classroom. From the results you will get advice for your own teaching practice. Alternative: ask one of your colleagues (or the whole team) to do the same. Discuss the results in a team meeting (or if possible in a meeting with the parents’ committee). Try to formulate with each other three basic statements for a loving climate in your school.
  5. Love refers to interaction with students. Paul practices distant education, and can look forward to meeting Timothy. How can love to students be practiced in situations when there is only interaction at a distance, without prospective meetings (nowadays occurring very often in higher education)? Can there be love when you are not able to look in someone’s eyes, and just knowing someone through your imagination?
Keywords: love, encouragement, empathy, relationship

Author: Bram de Muynck

Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

38 - Believing ancestors

‘…a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice.’ (2 Tim 1:5)

Scripture reading: 2 Tim 1: 3-7; Psalm 22: 3
Suggestion for singing: Thy hand O God has guided, Mission Praise 705

When Paul expresses his close connection with Timothy and his thankfulness for Timothy’s gifts, he combines this with referring to his ancestors. Paul himself served the Lord like his forefathers and Timothy practiced faith like his mother and grandmother. Apparently the connection to previous generations was important for Paul. In his speeches in Acts he uses this to prove that he was a real Jew (Acts 22: 3-5 and 24: 14), deeply rooted in the Israelite faith, in order to defend himself against accusations of bringing foreign influences in the temple (Acts 21:28). The context here is slightly different, because he uses the reminder as a tool for encouragement.

Calvin emphasizes in his commentary (p. 291-292) that it makes no sense to follow the rituals of your ancestors because they can be idle and even idolatrous. There is no reason to praise precise reproduction of how your ancestors behaved. The essence is that they believed in the revealed Creator God, the Lord of Israel, and within this basis Jesus Christ, incarnated, crucified and resurrected was revealed as the Lord of all (1 Timothy 3:16).

There is a striking difference between Paul and Timothy in the way they developed within this basis. Paul experienced a radical break in his religious development. His identity, so to say, changed completely when the Lord revealed Himself on his way to Damascus. Timothy seems to be brought up in the Jewish faith by his mother and grandmother and when the Gospel came to them, he believed that this new message about Christ was the truth, completely in line with everything he has learned already from the scriptures.

Such differences occur. Some children or young people believe faithfully like their parents and were convinced gradually about the salvation by Christ. Some learned also a lot from the Scriptures but are caught in a clear moment, for example after a speech during a youth meeting, or after the death of someone.

Looking at the similarity of Paul and Timothy we can conclude about what counts: the blessing of being raised in a context where the Lord is feared. But yet, every individual has to grow by grace to a personal decision to confess the Lord. Every individual Christian is called to become a conscious believer. You need to be able to explicitly explain why Christ makes the difference. This is the more important because of the number of different convictions in society. There is a similarity in this between us and believers in the first century. We can imagine that in the context of Tarsis and Lystre. Paul and Timothy, belonging to the minority of Jews, grew up amongst Pagans, Greek and Roman people. In the case of Timothy the complicated fact was that he had a Jewish mother, but a Greek father, what might have made a public adherence to the Gospel difficult.

There is great value in the tradition in which one grows up. Teachers working with children of non-Christian families are very much aware of this. They should think about what children lack and how they can contribute to their development. Maybe they can become attracted to Christ by your explicit and implicit messages. Teachers working with children from Christian families have to be thankful for the blessing of what the children heard from their parents. What they heard about the Lord has become fruitful soil on which personal faith can develop.  This is one of the reasons that Christian teachers should be partners of the families. But it is not self-evident that young people will start to confess Jesus as Lord. The grace of God by means of the Holy Spirit leads the individual to personal confession. Therefore let us not stop with praying that the upbringing in the Christian faith may be blessed.  


  • The defence of being a real Jew was also given in Gal 1:15. In that place Paul emphasises that he was set apart before he was born. Compare this with Jes. 49:1.
  • For some people the connection with forefathers can cause painful thoughts about the past, in contrast to the warm words in 1 Tim. 1:5. Maybe you cannot tell about believing mothers or grandmothers, fathers or grandfathers. Maybe you have been troubled because you didn’t experience much love in your family, let alone that your parents did not live out their faith. Probably you have noticed hypocrisy: their life did not accord with being named a Christian or because you noticed wrong ideas that were not according to the Bible. This can also be the case in the lives of your students. Teachers should speak of themselves as grateful about parents, but always with being careful not to take it self-evident.
  • I wrote above: ‘Every individual is called to become a conscious believer.’ This is true in general. However, it is important to respect the exceptions, for example severe retarded persons, or children that die at an early age. Those are supposed to be in the salvation of the believing parents (compare Canons of Dordt, article I/17).


  1. Have you been brought up in the tradition of the Christian faith? If so: what made you personally affirm the truth of the gospel? If you have not been raised in a Christian family: how did the Holy Spirit lead you to confess Christ as Lord?
  2. The mother and grandmother of Timothy contributed to his religious development. Try to describe the value of women in nurturing a Christian family life. What about the fathers and grandfathers?
  3. If you work in a Christian school, what options do you have to support parents in their Christian education? Think about facilitating meetings of mothers, or meetings of fathers.
  4. If you work as a believing Christian at a non-Christian school, what is for you the relevance of standing in a tradition of generations?
  5. Paul expresses his thankfulness about his ancestors and about the ancestors of Timothy. How can you express this thankfulness?
  6. Suggestion for teachers working with Christian children. Tell the story of Paul, writing to Timothy, and tell about his thankfulness. Ask the children to tell about the faith of their forefathers/mothers. Conclude with bringing thanks to the Lord about the blessings that are shared.
  7. Suggestion for teachers working at non-Christian schools. Ask the pupils about any faith practices they know: their own families, relatives or neighbours. Ask them how faith did come there from the previous generations. You can do this in a situation with mixed faith traditions and in a situation where pupils at first glance have not any relationship with believing relatives. In some case there might be stories, worth to hear. If not, you can ask for stories they know from friends or from others, or from stories they have read. The discussion may come on to the relevance of faith as such.
Keywords: religious development, ancestors, tradition

Author: Bram de Muynck

Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

39 - No fear

‘for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control’ (2 Tim 1:7)

Scripture reading: 2 Timotheus 1: 3-10; Deuteronomy 31:1-8
Suggestion for singing: We rest on Thee, Mission Praise 735

An experienced primary schoolteacher told me his opinion about young colleagues. ‘They are so negative about themselves’, he said. ‘When something doesn’t work smoothly, they immediately think it is their fault. Why shouldn’t they think about the mistakes and the unwillingness of the students?’

I think, this teacher made a point. Teachers, generally speaking, are sensitive people. They are professionals, and when something doesn’t work well, they think about how the work can be improved. In itself this shows a good attitude, because when the performance of students is not satisfying or the behaviour is bad, you are pedagogically in charge of what to do. Also when you see the inclinations of students to behave badly, you are the one who has to lead them into the right path.

The problem is that sensitiveness easily might lead to feelings of worthlessness or fear. And these are feelings Paul in this text loudly is protesting against: ‘for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control’. Paul is like Moses who encouraged his successor Joshua with the words. ‘Be strong and courageous (..) It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you and not forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’ (Deut. 31: 7-8). What Paul does here is not a psychological intervention, helpful for scared people, but a reminder that Timothy has been given the spirit to do this work. The amazing thing is that precisely that spirit is connected to core elements of Timothy’s work and also to your work as a teacher. The words ‘power’, ‘love’ and ‘self-control’ clarify what is at stake. Let us think about the three words. How are they connected to your teaching and how are they related to the given spirit?

Calvin links power directly to leadership. As a leader you need to direct and be in control. There is a difficulty in it for sensitive teachers. They don’t like to be authorities. But here there is not a demand to be a tough person. What is emphasized is that God has given you the spirit of authority. It is something you have already. And now it belongs to your calling to practice the leadership. Do not be afraid to do that!

There is a second gift the leader has received: love. There seems to be a contradiction between the words ‘power’ and ‘love’, but that is a deception. You can be a loving teacher, while yet practicing authority. Mind that a loving attitude must not be confused by permissiveness. Love is an outgoing process. You concentrate on what is important for your audience. That makes clear why love is the medicine against fear. You should concentrate on the interests of the students. They need to be structured, they need to be directed, they need to be controlled.

Calvin notices that the words love and self-control are added to temper the powerful energy of the spirit. Thinking that you have the spirit could make you a fanatic: ‘it is to distinguish the power of the spirit from the intemperate zeal of fanatics, who rush on in reckless haste and boast that they have the spirit of God’ (p. 295). But you might think: what about fearful teachers? Can teachers with fear be fanatic? Yes, they can! Fearing teachers can be fanatic in the sense of restlessness. They work intensely because they know that the work is important. They know how very much they are in charge of the result. Self-control therefore is needed to temper the intensiveness of the work. Self-control has the connotation of being moderate, not being too emotional, too restless, not being directed by brain-waves. It implies simply that you use your brains.

There is an important point in this text, with regard to self-evaluation. To be sober means that you need not to be distracted by the judgements of parents and students. Of course: you have to take critical remarks seriously. But at the end it is not the persons you have to fear. The only one you have to fear is the Lord. And that fear has quite another character than ‘being afraid’. The fear of God has to do with a very specific kind of obedience. Fear of God is submitting yourself to His love. The mystery of self-control has to do with that fear. The Lord Himself has done the work already (Ephesus 2:1) and you need not exert yourself excessively. You are allowed to do your work with a quiet temper.

By the three words Timothy is urged not to be worried about himself. Similarly teachers should not be worried about who they are. They have to realize that they have already received the spirit of power, love and self-control.


  • The way we, in our times, are inclined to deal with emotions is deeply influenced by psychology. According to the great psychologist Rogers (1902-1987), you should encourage someone by careful listening and by showing empathy. And by doing so, the other person will get a stronger ego. He taught us that you cannot influence feelings by just instructing someone: ‘be glad’, ‘do not fear’, or ‘don’t be angry’. However, Moses and Paul encourage their companions straight and without hesitation. Mind that a spiritual mentor, having listened carefully, sometimes ought to admonish strongly. A mentor’s task is to respect the feelings, but not to let the fearful feelings flourish. He needs to communicate that fear is distracting from the core business. Therefore he has to direct to proper action, as God likes to see His disciples to be in His spirit of power.
  • It is amazing how translations in different languages emphasize different aspects of the Greek word soophronismos. In a German translation I found the words ‘Besonnenheit’ (NGU) ‘Verstandigkeit’ (Schlatter), words that express the importance of thinking, using your brains. Some Dutch translations emphasizes being moderate or considerate (‘gematigd’ in SV and HSV while also ‘bezonnen’ is used in Willebrord and NBG). English translations I checked have ‘sound’ (KJV and NKJV), ‘self-control’ (ESV) or ‘self-discipline’ (NIV).

‘The spirit of love to God will set us above the fear of man, and all the hurt that a man can do us’ ‘…….and [this is]  the spirit of a sound mind, or quietness of mind, a peaceable enjoyment of ourselves, for we are oftentimes discouraged in our way and work by the creatures of our own fancy and imagination, which a sober, solid, thinking mind would obviate, and would easily answer’.

Matthew Henri on 2 Timothy 1:7


  1. Compare 2 Tim. 1:7 with Romans 8: 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  What does it mean ‘to fall back into fear’?
  2. Do you have experiences with feelings of worthlessness? How do you deal with those feelings?
  3. The assurance that you have been given the spirit of power, love and self-control has the consequence that you have to act accordingly. Give examples how you can practice power, love and self-control.
  4. How do you wisely hear the opinions and evaluations of parents and students without fear? How do you succeed in not getting distracted by feelings about the judgements of others? Can self-control help?
  5. In staff management, nowadays, all kinds of ideas are used. For example the 360 degrees feedback, which means that you are being evaluated by parents, colleagues, students and other people you serve or work with. What can be the value of such an instrument in schools? Are there disadvantages or risks?
  6. Feelings of insufficiency need not always be put away by psychological intervention. The message is that you simply have to practice what you have been given. Concentrate on your task instead of on yourself. That is the character of having no fear and having love. How can you encourage a colleague today with this idea in mind?
Keywords: self-efficacy, encouragement, fear, authority, self-control

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

40 - The good deposit

‘…guard the good deposit entrusted to you.’ (1 Tim 1:14)

Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 1: 8-14
Suggestion for singing: With joy we meditate the grace. Mission Praise 774

In this verse Timothy again is called to guard the good deposit (like in 1 Tim 6:20-21). Paul relates that to what he has entrusted to Timothy. “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me’’ (verse 13). “To guard something” may sound as to conserve something, to keep it in the same way, like we have emphasized in TfT 34, by using the image of precious jewels. There is another aspect now we need to clear up and that is about the core of the gospel and its interpretation. Guarding the deposit means that you are able to clean the core from misunderstandings.

We can explain this by imagining the cultural situation of Ephesus in which Paul had brought Timothy. The Roman city had a very developed culture, but was nonetheless plagued by pagan thoughts. Furthermore we know from the letters that Timothy was confronted with upcoming heresies that seem to have been very attractive to the new believers. In this environment Timothy has to make clear what exactly the core of the gospel is. In that context he has to discern what to say, how to dispute with non-believers and how to encourage or to correct new-believers.

This is the twofold dynamic that can be recognized throughout church history. Firstly the core of the gospel gets viewed within a certain cultural context. It must be explained with regard to the non-Christian backgrounds people have. And secondly misunderstandings by new believers must be corrected.

Let’s turn to teachers who are trained in a modern teacher training institute. How is that twofold dynamic recognizable for them? They are not evangelists and just a few of them are called to work in an intercultural situation like Timothy. Yet, I think the message is important for them. Think only about globalisation. I observe that most student teachers do a compulsory internship abroad. Let me try to apply the insights about ‘guarding the deposit’ to this situation. Like Timothy, student teachers find themselves placed in a situation with that two sided problem. On the one hand they see a lot of other worldviews coming along. On the other hand they have probably also seen a lot of expressions of the Christian faith itself.  Like Timothy they find themselves thinking about what is right and what is wrong.

Maybe you can quite easily distinguish what is pagan and what are the expressions of Islam or the other world religions. You might easily decide what habits you cannot agree with as not belonging to the Christian faith. So, you are not in trouble so much about the first issue. But what about the second? Let us also think about meeting other Christians that behave very strangely in your eyes. I think about student teachers from Ghana, raised in a charismatic denomination. They come to a reformed Church in the Netherlands and are shocked about the sad, backward expressions on the faces of the church visitors. ‘Those people are not spiritual at all!’, they think, with remembrances on their own congregations in mind (with drums, much hand raising, free prayer and so on). How can this be a Christian Church? And the other way round the Dutch student teachers, coming to a charismatic church in Ghana are overwhelmed by the vivid, noisy happening they find themselves in. Is this a real Christian Church?

Maybe encounters like this are confusing. What is the right way to practice the faith? When Paul says: ‘guard the good deposit entrusted to you’, does that mean that you have to cherish exactly the habits you learned from your parents or what you have seen for years in your own congregation?

That is exactly not what Paul means. Let us think about what Paul entrusted to Timothy. We know that from various places in the Timothy letters, like 1 Tim 3: 16 ‘He was manifested in the flesh’ and 2 Tim 2: 8 ‘Remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead’. The only issue at stake was the message that God, the creator of heaven and earth, loved mankind so much that he sent his Son for salvation (John 3:16). Modern Christians can fight about questions like which songs to sing, or from which Bible translations to read. These were absolutely no issues for Paul. These should not be the core issues for us. We are called to guard the deposit and not to guard the package of the deposit. Like Timothy you have to pray for and to work for what really matters, that the message of this gospel will continue to be spread to the next generation. That is the concern of Christian teaching.


  • The message of this Bible study is that every believer is challenged to formulate in his/her context, what is the core of the Christian faith. This might suggest that the gospel is a static or even just a dogmatic truth. And indeed, we have to see the core of our confession as static. And there is nothing wrong with dogmatics. But we have to stress, that another truth should be added. Jesus clearly says that the gospel must be compared with seed that has to do its work. Sowing the seed of the gospel means that you expect that the precious deposit will work out something new. Guarding the deposit therefore can only be practiced when it is combined with an outreaching attitude.


  1. Above I stated: ‘We are called to guard the deposit and not to guard the package of the deposit’. This remains to be strange and difficult because people are very familiar with their own traditions, which feel very safe and there is no need for change. Furthermore people may be afraid of getting rid of valuable things or are afraid of relativism. What is the good way to keep the path safely?
  2. Why do your congregation call itself Reformed, Baptist, Charismatic, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Apostolic etc. Do you know something about the historical background of your congregation? If you cannot formulate it yourself, ask an elder or someone else who knows the history of your church.
  3. Formulate in your own words what is entrusted to you as a Christian teacher. Discuss with your colleagues how you can discern about what is important in the ‘deposit’ you have to guard within Christian teaching?
  4. Many Christian teachers are also doing (voluntary) work in their Church. For that reason  they are familiar with discussions about concerns with rules and conventions in the church (what to sing, which translation to read, what clothing to wear during services and so on). What position do you choose in discussions like this? Do debates about minor issues in the church influence the policies in your school?
  5. People need examples for discerning what the core of the gospel is. Timothy had heard it from Paul (the sound words, 2 Tim. 1:2) and had seen it in his life (suffering for the Lord, 1 Tim. 2:8). Imagine that you would come into a difficult situation in which you would have to decide about the core of the gospel, what persons could you bring into your mind? From whom did you hear the sound words and who led by example in living out the gospel?
Suggested reading: David Smith (2009). Learning from the stranger. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. (The best Christian book about intercultural learning I know).

Keywords: Conservatism, discernment, intercultural learning

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

41 - To educate the educators

‘Entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also’ (2 Tim 2:1-2)

Scripture reading: 2 Tim 2:1-2 and Acts 1: 8.
Suggestion for singing: True-hearted, whole-hearted, faithful and loyal, Mission Praise 711

A teacher may feel him/herself as an individual, day by day interacting with his/her class, and though now and then meeting colleagues, the job seems to be similar to that of a shopkeeper running his own business. Not so Timothy! The text we read here explains that Timothy is placed in a chain, closely connected to others. One of the first links in the chain is Paul. Paul has received the truth of the gospel from Jesus Christ himself according to his testimonies in Acts 22:6-11 and 1 Corinthians 11:13. Paul is instructing now in these letters to Timothy how to preserve the truth of the gospel in Ephesus. And the chain goes further. He instructs Timothy to teach others who are in turn going to teach others. The chain is part of Gods plan to spread the gospel to the end of the world, as mentioned in Acts 1:8.

We can learn from this chain when we think about preparing teachers for their job. Probably some of the readers of this bible study are principal of a school, some are teacher educators and some are preparing to build or to improve a teacher training institution. You are all in a kind of ‘Timothy-position’. Your task is to lead or to instruct persons in order to equip them for instructing others. You are in a chain like Paul and Timothy. Not in every respect your situation can be compared of course to that of Paul and Timothy, for example because your cultural circumstances are quite different than that of the 1st century Roman Empire. Furthermore we are speaking in these bible studies about Christian education in general and not only about theological education, a context that comes closest to this verse. However, like I have already emphasized several times in these bible studies, there is a significant overlap in the tasks of the church and that of Christian education. The church has to proclaim the gospel. Christian education has to equip people to walk in the commandments of the Lord (Matthew 28:18).

What draws our attention to this passage is that Paul speaks about witnesses. He says: what you have heard from me in “the presence of many witnesses”….. The words refer to the apostolic witness about Jesus. When someone gives ‘witness’ means that he is telling an undebatable truth. In this chapter that truth is explicitly mentioned in verse 8: ‘Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’. This is a fact because true witnesses have told this message to everyone. The core of everything we are speaking about in Christian teacher education is Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead. He has died on the cross and believers actually with all their sin have died with Him, and now they are risen with Him! Thanks to Christ there is new life, there is hope for the future. There is hope for education. Our desire is that new generations will believe in Him and obtain hope for eternal life. Against this background we can say we intend to do everything ‘Christ centered’.

Teacher educators - and basically all leaders in Christian education - are an indispensable part in the chain of witnesses. They do their work within Gods salvation plan with the world. Part of their work is to choose competent persons to be the next links in the chain. Interestingly Paul mentions two characteristics of the proposed witnesses. The first is about personality or character, the second is a more technical one, about competences. In the first place: witnesses ought to be faithful. Faithfulness is a very important characteristic of teachers. They must be sound, able to be structured and able to teach what they preach. Not everyone can have access to teacher training. The moral quality of the person is one of the criteria.

The second is that they must be able to teach others. Commentators say that Paul stresses this, because Timothy should come to Rome, to join Paul. So Timothy should prepare his students for working independently. This is also what we will have in mind when assessing new teachers: can we see the applicants as persons who could take our place? It covers also a principle for guiding or instructing teachers. We prepare them to do their work independently. This is what Christian teachers should aim for. We educate teachers not to honor ourselves, but to serve the Kingdom of God and to preserve the continuation of the message. Consciousness of this sets the scene for Christian education as a whole. We aim for teaching that equips students for a place in the chain of witnesses.


  • In Christian education content and form cannot easily be distinguished. Educating (student) teachers about Christian education consequently means teaching about transferring the gospel and about how we can do that. We are not instructing only through our words, but also by giving good examples, being good shepherds for the people who we are going to instruct.
  • The circle of witnesses in the first century has been very important for the determination of the canon. What the first witnesses had seen with their eyes was written in the gospel and epistles. An important task for synods in the first centuries was to guard that witness and to preserve the truth for the next generations. See Abraham van de Beek, Lichaam en Geest van Christus, Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 2012, chapter 2.


  1. What does the New Testament say about witnesses? Try to find a few core texts with help of a concordance and summarize in one sentence the task of a ‘witness’.
  2. Many teacher training colleges are rooted in theological seminaries. What is the place of Biblical doctrine (Biblical or theological content) in teacher education?
  3. In this Bible study both teacher educators and leaders are placed in the chain of witnesses. What can they specifically do to let the chain become longer? Can we say that teachers (in general) are striving for the independence of their pupils? What are the consequences for your teaching?
  4. Which selection criteria do you have in your school, training institution or other institution, both for personality and for competences of teachers?
Key words: teacher education, leadership, assessment, witness

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

42 - Core business

‘No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs’ (2 Tim 2: 3-4)
Scripture reading: 2 Tim 2: 3-7
Suggestion for singing: Great is thy faithfulness, Mission Praise 200     

Through his letters Paul doesn’t stop to encourage Timothy to carry on. In these verses he underlines the task to endure by referring to three vocations: the soldier, the athlete and the farmer. The soldier, who acts on behalf of a commander, has to fulfil his task, the athlete has to follow the rules with discipline and the farmer works to take care of the crop. All three images have to do with concentration on the task, instead of on the result of the work. The worker should not think about the reward for his task but should just carry out his job: stay firm and carry on!
Not an easy message, not for Timothy and not for a teacher, for whom we apply these words from Scripture. Every worker likes to see some kind of reward. Simply he has to eat, to drink, to take care of his family. These concerns are civilian affairs, so says Paul, others have to take care of. Other people have to take care of the provisions for the soldier, to make the fighting possible. In the same way others have to provide for the needs of teachers, like I have emphasised in TfT 28. That does not mean, of course, that those affairs are of a lower order. Contrarily: they are of high importance. Therefore financial workers, reception desk officers, class assistants and so on in schools must be highly respected. They make the core business possible. So, the soldier in the army must have the trust that they will be taken care of. Likewise, the teacher in a school can trust that he needs not to worry about those things. The tone of Paul’s words are like Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:34 ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble’. Like soldiers, athletes and farmers, teachers are urged to trust.
Being clear so far, let us now look at a nuance in the text. Paul seems to speak in the images of the athlete and the farmer in a slightly different way. Compared to what is said about soldiers, here it is not spoken of trust about provisions but trust about the result of the work. When the athlete does his utmost, at the end he can expect the crown. And when a farmer carefully does his work he can expect to enjoy the fruit of his work. You have to work hard, and the reward will come.
This is a consoling message. What we are striving for in education is result. We want to see that students learn. When a class has been practicing additions, you expect that at the end of 30 minutes or so, the pupils are quicker in their counting strategies than before the lesson. We like to see  a lonely pupil, who you have been encouraging to interact with others many times, flourish after some time. That’s the pattern we have to do with. We teach, we motivate the learners and we like to see the outcome. This pattern even is true in religious education. We like to see the children motivated to hear the bible stories, but we also like to see that they full-heartedly become believers of Christ.
The regular pattern of our expectations does not always turn out in visible results. Sometimes we are disappointed. The message of the athlete and the farmer is that we not only have to trust that God will provide in our practical concerns, but also may trust about the results. Sometimes we can be glad about the results we see, like the farmer is the first eater of his harvest, you are the first witness of growing insight in the students. Those results are gifts. But even if you don’t see the results directly, you ‘ought to have the first share of the crops’, so says the text literally. Don’t be afraid that the results remain unseen. Here we have a message about Gods character: he will not withhold His children from the fruit of their work. Yet they have to concentrate on their core business, obediently and heartily, knowing that they do it for the Lord (Coll.3:23). 


  • In the Kingdom of God we have to think in other patterns than we do in the domain of our earthly job. Under Christ’s realm, for example, there is no counting in terms of your monthly salary, of good reports of pupils before summer term and so on. In his realm, we have to rethink in terms of grace, receptiveness, honouring the Father and so on. The task for Christian educators is to bring in the Kingdom things into the earthly job.
  • The message in this text is relieving. It is also a necessary medicine against stress in the much-requiring teaching job. There will be taken care of you and you may also expect results of your work, also when you do not see it immediately. In the everyday struggle we may think about the resurrection of the Lord: all suffering, struggles and death are conquered. 


  1. What do you perceive as your core-business and what as belonging to the ‘civilian affairs’?
  2. What kind of results do you long for? Good reports for the student or other types of output? At what moments do you enjoy the fruit (‘the first share of the crop’)? Share one moment with your colleague today and ask the colleague about what he has experienced as the fruit last week?
  3. Often we have reasons to be troubled about the outcome. For whom have we to be worried? For the learners, for the principal, the school administrator, the board, the inspectors?
  4. In poor countries teachers often have not enough income, though they have to do a lot of extra tasks. How is that in your country? How do you evaluate that? What is in your context a desirable situation to be strived for?
Option for discussion with colleagues:
  • Every colleague writes down three ‘top aims’ of his teaching.
  • In pairs the colleagues decide about one top item between them.
  • The tops are shared on a sheet or on the black-board / white board.
  • After that you could have a group discussion about: 1) What belongs to the core? 2) What have we to see as belonging to the civilian affairs? 3) What results (or the lack of seeing them) troubles us?
  • Turn back to the top of the black/white board and decide on which of the aims the team is going to strive for over the next three weeks. 
Keywords: salary, school administration, results/outcome, trust

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

43 - Understanding

‘Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything' (2 Tim 2:7)

Scripture reading: 2 Tim 2: 7 and Ephesus 3: 14 - 20
Suggestion for singing: Amazing Grace, Mission Praise 1151

Sometimes there is a point in your lesson you suddenly realize that you have been speaking about a very crucial thing. You might say something like ‘try to take it on board’ or ‘this is essential, take your time to grasp it’. You stand still for a moment in order to evoke the understanding about that point in your pupils. Something like this happens here in the writing of Paul to Timothy. He has spoken about suffering. With the examples of the soldier, the athlete and the farmer he has urged Timothy to carry on. These are uneasy messages, for which Timothy surely needs some reflection time.

There is reason for us to meditate on these words, ‘think over what I say’ (which obviously has to do with learning) and ‘understanding’ (which has to do with what teachers long for). These words relate to our daily work of teaching.

Paul’s expression holds a significant principle that is important for teaching in general. Paul has given instructions, a bit of information and explication, like teachers often do, and after that he asks Timothy to reflect. He does not expect that Timothy can immediately grasp the message and ‘copy and paste’ it into his mind. No, he expects that Timothy needs to consider the conveyed content. After that he would have to give it meaning ‘for his own agenda’ (Van Houwelingen, p. 186). Paul trusts that Timothy will come to his own insight. He is confident that his pupil will apply the offered content to his own situation.

An important detail here is that the Greek word for understanding (sunthesis) means: having practical understanding how to judge, how to act or how to react. All ancient thinkers were convinced that this insight was a God given insight. Wisdom is not rooted in our brains, but has godly origins. Thus we could also read the phrase ‘the Lord will give you understanding’ as a prayer (so M. Henry, Dutch version, p. 505, compare in other letters of Paul: 1 Cor. 1: 18-19; Eph. 3:4, Coll. 1:9; Coll 2:2).

According to N.T. Wright* Christians nowadays tend to neglect the importance of thinking. The Christian life is either taken as a matter of following rules, or something of authentic passion, in which one is invited to follow impulses and emotions. In the Paulinian conception of the Christian life the renewal of the mind goes ahead, before all other things. Understanding is required, once a Christian is seeking to make good choices.
Understanding, however, is never an abstract thing. Understanding has to do with a subject: you understand some-thing. You understand the meaning of a difficult Latin word, you understand the main message of a text, you understand the difference between two mathematical formulae and so on. Normally we speak about understanding a particular item. In this text Paul speaks about understanding of everything. Probably he is just referring to the previous passage, considering the reward like the fruit of the farmer. More likely Paul is referring ahead to the very important phrase about the resurrection and suffering (verse 8) followed by a phrase (beginning from verse 11b) written in the form of a poem.

When you read this, you would feel the desire of Paul for full Christian understanding. That means that everything has to be understood from the perspective of the love of Christ and the Kingdom Christ has introduced. Reflect a moment on Ephesus 3: 18-19 in which Paul prays that the believers ‘may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God’.


  1. Formulate in your own words the meaning of ‘understanding’. At what moment do you say ‘now I have understood it!’, what is the criterion for that?
  2. In the interpretation above the teacher must be able to leave hold of the learning process of the students. After he has been instructing and explaining, the learner has to do his own task. Do you agree with this? If so, why? Why not? How easy is it for you to give the learner his/her own responsibility? How easy is it to ‘unchain’ your intentions for the results of teaching from the learning process of the student?
  3. What is Christian understanding? In what respect or in what degree is this different from the understanding of non-believers? (compare Ephesus 3: 18-19).
  4. How can a Christian teacher promote the understanding from the perspective of love? At what moments? In what subjects?
Keywords: understanding, wisdom, reflection, teacher training

* Note: N.T. Wright, After You believe, Chapter 5.

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

44 - A criminal

‘…..bound with chains as a criminal’ (2 Tim 2: 9). 

Scripture reading: 2 Tim. 2: 8-10 and 2 Tim. 1: 8-12
Suggestion for singing: Through the night of doubt and sorrow, Mission Praise 948

The metaphors of the soldiers, the athlete and the farmer in the previous verses (2 Timothy 2:1-7_ appeals to our imagination positively. The image of the criminal sounds less attractive. No believer seeks to become a criminal. And if you would be identified with a murderer or a violator, you would be ashamed. Paul, however, calls Timothy in 2 Tim 1: 8 not to be ashamed for that identification.
It would be understandable that Paul himself would be ashamed. He is in the same position as thieves, swindlers and murderers. He belongs to those people who are put aside, to the outcast. The image of Paul as a political prisoner, who gets international attention, like Mandela in South Africa, is not correct. You could get that idea reading Acts 28: Paul has his own house and receives guests. But writing the second Timothy letter Paul’s situation is not like that. Onesiphorus, searching for him in Rome, can hardly find a trace (2 Tim. 1:16,17). He didn’t have a house but was hidden in a dungeon. From 2 Tim 4:9 we understand that Paul was lonesome, because he only had Luke as a companion. But Demas, who was called in Colossians 4:14 a fellow, was ashamed and had lost his master.
Usually no one wants to belong to the friends of a criminal. It is not commonplace that people are without reason locked up in prison. Being linked to those kinds of people is dangerous, because you run the risk of being despised as well. It is nice to be friends of famous people, not that of assumed criminals. Therefore people, worried about their own reputation, tend to keep well away from those kinds of people even if they were friends formerly. You will be ashamed. Think about Peter when sitting in the court with Jesus (John 19). Imagine that such feelings could have been a temptation for Timothy. Therefore Paul warns Timothy in 1 Tim 1:8 not to be ashamed.

The subject is not in the margin, but has to do with the identity of Jesus. Believers identify themselves with someone who was seen as a criminal (Isaiah 53:12). Jesus foresaid that his disciples would experience the same suffering: ’But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake’ (Luke 21:12). Pauls reminds Timothy about what he can expect: ‘Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Tim 3:12). It became reality for Timothy: according to Hebrews 13:23 Timothy was kept in prison for some time. Like a criminal.
If we claim that every word of Jesus is true, why should teachers these days be free of that threat? Apparently, no one would challenge authorities with the purpose of being persecuted. Suffering has no aim in itself. But if it does happen, and you would meet difficulties (however far it may be from your current situation), what then would be the ultimate reason not to avoid them? For Paul it is clear: ‘I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Jesus Christ with eternal glory’. He would endure because of the future of others. Applied to teachers: wouldn’t they endure suffering for the sake of their students? Perhaps also for the sake of colleagues or people they don’t know yet but could come across in the future?  
Paul shows how it is to be approached as a criminal. His master Jesus had experienced the same. If you would meet persecution you are in good company. Knowing that the son of God was seen as a criminal is a freeing thought. Also if you would suffer you can look to something outside of yourself, namely the liberating message of the gospel: ‘Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 ESV). He has made space for sinful people. This good news is not bound (verse 9). How good is it to live in the space the Lord has prepared!  


  • In Acts 28:14 Paul was suspect of being a criminal by residents of Malta. He was bitten by a snake and people thought that it was a punishment for a crime. In other places in his letters, Paul gives examples of his suffering like in 2 Corinthians 6: 5 and 2 Corinthians 11:23. In the Timothy Letters the suffering for Christ's sake returns repeatedly, as we also have seen in 2 Timothy 1: 12, 16 and 2 Timothy 3: 10-11. Paul experienced what happened to Jesus. Timothy could imagine because he had seen it, according to 2 Timothy 3: 10 and 11 where Paul recalls the suffering in Lystra and Iconium (found in Acts 13:14 to 14:20). Timothy is asked to look at Paul and see how he endured it. 


  1. Could you imagine being treated as a criminal in your position? For what reasons could that happen?
  2. Could you imagine that your students in the future would be guiltless, but treated as criminals? How could you prepare them for that? Should they be made conscious about what might happen? Should they be made defensible? To think about these questions the study of 1 Peter 4:12-19 can be helpful.
  3. Read Luke 21:10-18 and Acts 5:33-42. Both passages speak positively about suffering. In verse Luke 21:13 suffering is framed as follows: ‘This will be your opportunity to bear witness’. In Acts 5: 41 the disciples saw it as a privilege to suffer. Discuss how suffering can be understood in this way.
  4. When you are a church member, there is much you can be ashamed of. Think about the many schisms in reformed and in evangelical denominations. Think about abuse of children in the roman catholic church. What is the difference between shame for those kinds of things and the shame for Jesus? How can we train our students to distinguish the message from the bad behavior of Christians? 

Suggestions for lessons or for teacher training

  • Assignment for teacher training. Search in the gospel of Luke the places where Jesus is treated as a criminal and in Acts the texts where the apostles are treated as criminals. If you can search digitally, search with words like: prison, captured, criminal. Discuss and formulate two or three conclusions.
  • Suggestion for lesson: both for teachers that work in Christian schools and teachers that work with non-Christians or in a school where it is not allowed to speak about religion. Arrange a visit to a prison. Discuss with the students their experiences. Questions like this might be helpful: (a). What does it mean for someone to be imprisoned? (b). Does it matter if you are guilty or guiltless? (c). Do you know examples of people who have been in prison guiltless? (d) If possible in your context: discuss Hebrews 13:2 with your class. The principle is: Christians have compassion with prisoners because they are aware from the gospel of what it means to be treated as a criminal while guiltless.
  • Suggestion for discussion in teacher training in a lesson about ‘moral education’. Discuss the statement of Tom Wright (2010, p. 177): ‘In order to develop Christian character, the first step is suffering’. I recommend teacher trainers to read the whole chapter in Wright’s book before class (p. 172-179). Those lecturing about moral education are advised to read the whole book!
  • Suggestion for discussion in a class about telling Bible stories. How could you show in your story telling that the story of Jesus is not that of a glorious hero (something children like very much) but paradoxically a story of someone who is seen as a criminal. It is normal that people are ashamed to belong to criminals. Is it possible to nurture thoughts and feelings in children that are so contrary to the normal human desires for success? 
N.T. Wright (2010). After you believe. Why Christian Character Matters. New York: HarperCollins, . 
Keywords: suffering, identification, conscience, shame
Related Bible studies:
  • Number 43 – 2 Tim 2: 11-13 (An encouraging song)
  • Number 54 – 2 Tim 4:5 (Endurance)
  • Number 56 – 2 Tim 4:16 (Unpredictable helpers)
  • Number 57 – 2 Tim 4:18 (Rescued from evil). 
Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

45 - An encouraging song (for teacher educators)

The saying is trustworthy, for:

            If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
            if we endure, we will also reign with him;
            if we deny him, he also will deny us;
            if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
            for he cannot deny himself.
(2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Scripture reading: 2 Tim 2:11-13
Suggestion for singing: Come let us worship Christ, Mission Praise, 96

Paul writes his letter as a lonesome man. He is in Rome without his loyal helpers Titus and Timothy. Some of his followers have abandoned him. Only Luke is still with him (2 Tim. 4:9-11). The progress of the gospel does not seem as rosy at that moment as we might think when we look back at the early days of Christianity. Paul doesn’t find himself part of a success story. He is convinced of the gospel, but has no empirical evidence about the sustainability of his missionary work.
This can also be the experience of founders of Christian schools. You have felt a calling for education. You have seen the importance of children hearing the gospel when being taught. You feel the necessity that the young generation will become a blessing for your country. On that basis you have developed ambitious plans for your school. But you have become disappointed. Fellow workers leave for other jobs because they can earn more money elsewhere, colleagues die from diseases, there is a conflict within the team, your financial resources are running out, the government doesn’t support the school. There might be several reasons to become disappointed.
In his lonesome and difficult situation Paul sings a song for Timothy, who, he assumes, also meets tribulations. The text of his song is encouraging for his brother and for himself. It starts like this:
            If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
            if we endure, we will also reign with him…
By these first phrases the listener is being assured that his old identity has died with Christ and that he should not worry about eternal life. After this courageous start, however, it seems that Paul realizes that believers are not steadfast. He reminds of ‘denying’ and ‘being faithless’. Did he earlier optimistically call trainees ‘faithful men’ (1 Tim 2:1-2), here the general picture is that of believers that tend to be weak in their faith. Paul could have had plenty of Biblical examples in mind. Think about Abraham who lied about Sara (being his wife, but calling her sister); think about David who murdered Uriah (in order to get Bathsheba as his wife). Think about Peter, who literally denied Jesus (when confronted with the severe suffering of his Lord).
21st century believers are of the same nature as the biblical saints. Faithful teachers can fall short in minor things. You should have blessed a parent who was angry about the school rules. You should have paid attention to a stubborn child in your class. You should have tried to solve a problem with a colleague. You should not have denied a serious question from a young boy and so on. ‘We all stumble in many ways’ says James (3:2), and we have to affirm this regarding our daily teaching job.
The examples show that it isn’t only circumstances from the outside which hinder our work in Christian education (which is stressed in the previous section) but that our personal stumbling also hinders the blessing. It isn’t only tribulations that we meet but also temptations. This is a serious problem when we think about the words of Jesus: ‘So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my father who is in heaven’. Paul seems to paraphrase these words:
            if we deny him, he also will deny us;
This realism should, however, not turn into pessimism. Paul immediately draws our attention to another perspective. We are called to think about God, who is Faithful to Himself. From the earliest Old Testament testimonies, we know that ‘faithfulness’ is His ultimate ‘character trait’. We find this very clear in the voice that came out of the burning bush in Exodus 3:14: ‘I AM, WHO I AM’. God reveals Himself as being steadfast without end. Faithfulness is not a trait of believers, but a trait of God.
            if we are faithless, He remains faithful—
            for He cannot deny himself.
Christ has shown that He is Faithful to the end in His suffering, crucifixion and resurrection. ‘He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.’ This should be our strength, when we meet tribulations and temptations. 


  • Many Old Testament texts and stories about the character of God resonate in this song: like Deuteronomy 7:9, Isaiah 49:7 and 2 Chronicles. 15:2. In the New Testament we find places like 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Hebrews 10:23 and Revelations. 19:11. We find the contrast in the lack of faithfulness of believers on the one hand and the faithfulness of the Lord on the other hand also very clear in in 1 Corinthians 10:13. ‘No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it’. We find a text related to this issue in 1 Joh 3:19,20 ‘By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything’.
  • ‘To deny’ literally means ‘to disclaim’ (to negate that you have a connection with someone or something), and you can easily connect this with situations like the denial of Peter. Following the texts mentioned in the previous note, in this Bible study ‘denial’ is also seen as ‘doing things that are not in accordance with the will of God’ and ‘behavior that doesn’t match with how you would follow Christ’.
  • Christian teachers should not equal ‘denial’ with ‘delimit’ or ‘set yourself restrictions’. I mention this because passionate Christians would easily feel guilty when they do not immediately respond to a call for help, or when they refuse to do a job. Teachers sometimes fall short in doing their job unrestricted and risk a burn out. That is not what the Lord asks from us. We should find the right balance between self-giving love and our limited capacities. 


  1. Do you recognize situations of disappointment in your context?
  2. Read Revelations 2: 10-11: ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ How can we be prepared for enduring disappointments? Think also about Romans 8 and the Catechism of Heidelberg Q/A 27 and 28.
  3. What does the word ‘faithful’ mean? Study the texts about faithful servants: Matthew 25:21 and Luke 16:10. What can you conclude about what God expects from our behavior?
  4. At what moments do you experience yourself as an unfaithful believer? Reflect on such moments and pray the Lord to be directed in the right way.
  5. 2 Tim 2:8 contains encouraging phrases. Choose a phrase and write the text on a postcard. Think about which colleague you could give the card in one of the coming weeks. To whom could you send the text by e-mail? 
Keywords: encouragement, tribulation, temptation, faithfull
Related Bible studies:
  • Number 42 – 2 Tim 2: 9 (A Criminal)
  • Number 54 – 2 Tim 4:5 (Endurance)
  • Number 56 – 2 Tim 4:16 (Unpredictable helpers)
  • Number 57 – 2 Tim 4:18 (Rescued from evil). 
Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

46 - Remind

‘Remind these things’ (2 Tim 2: 14)

Scripture reading: 2 Tim 2: 7-14 and Exodus 12: 21-27
Suggestion for singing: We come unto our fathers’ God, Mission Praise, 724.     
While you are teaching, you might often refer to something you have explained in an earlier lesson. For example a music lesson. ‘Remind me what I told you yesterday about the background of the song. Keep this in mind when we are going to sing the song again’. Teachers often remind their pupils of previous content because it helps to connect memories to what is offered in the current lesson. It helps to refresh earlier content, to keep the mind structured and to keep on track.
Paul urges Timothy to act in that way when he says ‘Remind them of these things…’. He refers to the words in the earlier verses, which we have been thinking about in the previous bible study. Timothy should remind the congregation of the promises given to the believers when they persevere: they will live with Christ and reign with Him. Paul has noticed a necessity to encourage the believer. When you are stressed or in difficult circumstances, you don’t automatically look in a hopeful direction. Someone has to remind you of the existence of such a direction. This is a general principle. To remind others about something is the more important when your listeners would not automatically think about the topic you have in mind. Imagine an officer in the army, stuck in an ambush with his men. He might encourage the soldiers with ‘Remember that our fellows are just half a kilometer away. Remember what they promised us. We should keep quiet, until they free us’. When you are in trouble it can be helpful to be reminded of words of someone, an example, a story in order to keep courageous.
Overseeing the whole scripture carefully, the connotation of the ‘teaching verb’ to remind indicates an essential line in Christian thinking. When Paul uses this word, Old Testament texts resonate in the background. To remind appears in the books of Moses a few times to admonish the people of Israel to keep the commandments, for example in Numbers 15:39, 40. The Lord commands His people to make tassels on the corners of their garments and says ‘It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them’. More often the people of Israel is urged not to forget that they were led through the desert by his hand and were liberated from the oppression of Egypt and led through the red sea to the promised land. The remembrance of the Exodus was so important that it belonged to the central liturgical moments of Israel. Every-year a lamb must be slaughtered and during the Passover meal the children had to ask ‘What do you mean by this service?’. And the parents had to reply: ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ (Exodus 12: 26-27)
To remind believers is directing to something they knew already very well. They have heard it a lot of times. It remains, however, necessary to be reminded of the great story they have found themselves engaged in. Especially when they are suffering from internal or external difficulties the teacher has to bring them back to what gives meaning to the Christian life. The Christian teacher is like the music teacher who reminds the pupils of the meaning of the words of a song.
Could you also remind people around you in that way? I think you can. Many times you will meet other believers around you, pupils and colleagues, who suffer troubles. Think about divorce, abuse, severe illnesses and death in the family. How often do they suffer from tribulations? Why not encourage them with a reminder to think about what the Lord has done?


  • Most remarkably the word ‘remember’ in the OT is not often used with regard to men, but with regard to God. The Lord remembers several times his covenant with men. Many times, when men have sinned and judgement has come, the Lord reminds the people of his covenant and is about to relieve and to start a new beginning: Gen. 9: 15,16 (Noah); Gen 19:29 (Abraham and Lot from Sodom); Exodus 2: 24, 6:5 (Israel in Egypt). The word is also used with regard to individuals: God remembers Rachel (Gen 30:22) and remembers Hannah (1 Sam 1:19) after a long period of infertility. In the contrary there is an awareness that most often people will be forgotten after their dead: ‘…in the days to come all will have been long forgotten’ (Eccl. 2:16, compare Eccl. 1:11).
  • There are several calls to keep the remembrance from generation to generation in scripture. The Passover, as told in Exodus 12, is already mentioned. More generally Deuteronomy 32: 7, conveys the call to remember the days of old, to consider the years of many generations: ‘ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you’. In Joel 1 the parents are called to tell the next generations about the glorious salvation from famine. And last but not least Jesus Christ calls the believers to remember his death by celebrating the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22: 19).  
  • There is a striking order in the use of ‘to remind’/’to remember’ in the second letter to Timothy. In 2 Tim 1:3 and 5 Paul reminds himself about Timothy. He forces himself to think carefully about Timothy’s situation. In 2 Tim 2: 8 Timothy is urged to remember the resurrection of Christ and in 2 Tim 2: 14 Timothy is instructed to remind others of the consequences of that resurrection. This order can be seen as a general pattern in teaching: you concentrate on the students (what are their needs), you remind yourself of the content that is at stake for the lessons and thereafter you help the learners to concentrate on the content. Maybe we easily forget the second step. Let’s admonish ourselves to remain in a listening and meditating attitude ourselves. To remind ourselves of the essentials is a good starting point for reminding others.


  1. How do you practice reminding your students of content that already passed? What is the value of it? How can the habit of ‘reminding’ be improved to help the students in their learning process?
  2. The prescribed dialogue between children and parents in Exodus 12:21-27 is often used as an example of interactive teaching. Study this section carefully with a few colleagues. Try to derive two or three suggestions from it for the practice of religious education.
  3. You can only remind a person of something when he has learned it already. What are the most essential chapters of religious education children have to be taught, those to which pastors and future educators could refer to?
  4. How can you comfort a student when s/he is in sorrow? Give an example and explain how it worked out. Is it possible to remind her/him of a biblical truth? What is the difference between comforting adults and comforting children or young people?

Key words: remind, religious education


‘The sole aim of a good teacher must be edification and he should give it his whole attention’ (John Calvin on 2 Tim. 2: 14, Commentary, p. 312).

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

47 - Youthful passions

‘…flee youthful passions…’ (2 Tim 2: 22)

Scripture reading: 2 Tim 2: 20-26 and Ecclesiastes 12
Suggestion for singing: Thou art the Way, Mission Praise 695

Paul warns Timothy of  ‘youthful passions’. You would perhaps relate ‘youthful passions’ to young people of, let’s say, 15 to 20 years. Timothy must have been at least in his thirties when he received Paul’s second epistle. These words therefore do not refer to passions of an adolescent. So, you cannot apply the words ‘flee youthful passions’ to young people in your secondary school classes. Rather, the text is done more justice when applied to teachers in the first stage of their career.
The age in which you start your professional life (for example the first five to ten years) is the phase in which you are vital. You have many ideals, much zeal. Young teachers are therefore enormously important to keep school life fresh and lively. Principals should appreciate the presence of juniors in their schools and give them a voice.
This phase in your career can also have risks. You could think about the desire to earn more money (the temptation to desire richness is mentioned in 1 Tim 6:9-10). Businessmen of your age generally earn much more than you. This could make you jealous. The same may occur concerning positions. You may see older colleagues do their work and you would think you have better competences for the same task. You also might be impatient with others’ conservatism. The old-fashioned manners that are set as rules for the whole school can irritate you. When you read the passage starting from verse 14 you can think about the tendency to quarrel or to be hotheaded in discussions. You would feel to have a better argument than your colleagues when choices have to be made. Your enthusiasm, impulses and lack of control may irritate others and cause unnecessary quarrels (we will speak about this in the Bible study (number 48 on 2 Tim 2:14)
I hope you have not yet given up reading this list of vices, for there is still a difficult one: sexual desires. Although commentators like Calvin and Schlatter claim that the reader should not firstly think of those desires, there is reason to mention temptations in that domain of life. Young teachers may be commencing relationships or young families. They are called to a huge responsibility. Such responsibility and confidence for a partner and/or young children can feel like a burden. Sometimes this feels heavy and you would like to get rid of it. You feel inclined to hide with someone else. Other men or women may appear much more attractive than your own partner. It might lead you to the temptation of avoiding your responsibility.
Are there any useful measures to protect yourselves? Paul suggests two paths to follow: fleeing and pursuing (compare 1 Timothy 6: 11). You should simply but actively go away from the temptations (compare the words in verse 19: depart from iniquity), sometimes by literally fleeing, for example not sending an angry email to someone you don’t agree with, or not taking part in a discussion or cancelling a meeting with an attractive colleague. Rather, you should pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace. The energy should be utilized in a positive way. There are important things to strive for. You could remember the basis of your faith, when you would become angry, you could try to know an older colleague better you didn’t like until now, you could strive for good agreements in a discussion.
Fortunately, you are not alone in practicing ‘fleeing’ and ‘pursuing’. The text clearly adds ‘with those who call for the Lord with a clean heart’. You have a community around you with people in the same battle. They call for the Lord and are called to support you. You similarly are called to support others.


  • The New Testament word for ‘passion’ (Greek: ‘epithymia’) refers most of the time to temptations. In our culture, the English word ‘passion’, is not heard negatively. We can use ‘passions’ in the positive way as referring, for example, to someone who does his work wholeheartedly. In that case we say: ‘he has a passion for teaching’. We could also use it in a more general meaning as ‘desire’. Psychologists of the 19th century used it to indicate the desire as an ability. They said: you can desire something and you can think something. ‘Passion’ (Dutch: ‘begeerte’) is used as a way to distinguish the emotional ability from the cognitive ability.
  • Calvin claims that the meaning of ‘together with those’ is not clear. It might mean acting like other believers that call on the Lord. Another option is to stay in peace with everyone that calls on the Lord. English translations KJV, NIV and ESV suggest that the text refers to acting together with the community. ‘Connection with the community is essential for both progress and perseverance in faith’ (ESV note, p. 2340).
  • The admonishment of Paul ‘to flee’ may also refer to avoid the youthful passions of other people in the congregation (see Van Houwelingen, p. 205). Timothy had to deal with zeal, with passion of a young congregation and will have met the risks of it.
  • It is important to mention that every stage of life has its own temptations. The few I have mentioned can also occur to senior teachers. The meaning of the words ‘youthful passions’ can also be read like ‘passions that often appear to young people’, but older people can also be prone to these kinds of passions. 


  1. What temptation can you identify in your own professional life?
  2. How do you interact with colleagues of other ages in your team? Can you learn from them with regard to temptations? What can they learn from you?
  3. Who, in your situation, are ‘those that call on the Lord from a pure heart’? How can they support you? How can you support them?
  4. The perception of life stage can differ between cultures. In Western societies ‘being young ‘ is very much desired, whereas in other societies ‘being old’ is something you should respect very much. How is ‘youthful’ perceived in your culture? What images do you transmit in your lessons about stages of life?  

Keywords: sin, temptation, passion, career, young teachers
Quote: ‘Desire without knowledge is not good’ (Proverbs 19:2)

Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar University for Teacher Training
Gouda, The Netherlands

48- Quarrels

‘…avoid irreverent babble….’ (2 Tim 2:16 and 1 Tim 6:20).
‘The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome’ (2 Tim. 2: 24)  

Scripture reading: 2 Tim 2: 16-26
Suggestion for singing: These are the facts as we have received them, Mission Praise 687

In several places Paul calls Christians not to quarrel and not let themselves be drawn into useless debates. In Romans 14:1, 1 Corinthians 3 and Titus 3:2 avoiding quarrel is a call to every Christian. In 1 Timothy 3:3 and 2 Tim. 2:24 it is mentioned as a trait of a leader in the congregation. Quarrelling is a dangerous temptation that can easily crop up. Therefore Paul puts this as an urgent issue: ‘charge… not to quarrel about words, which does not good’ (verse 14). In Titus 3:2, 1 Tim 3:3 and 2 Tim. 2: 24,25 ‘quarrelsome’ is put opposite to ‘gentle’. The right attitude of a Christian is not to be quarrelsome but to be gentle.
To act gently is not a natural gift. In public debates people apparently like the quarrel more than the gentleness. The sharper the contradictions between opinions, the more the attraction of the audience is drawn. A quarrel, rather than a peaceful discussion, is seen as sensational. Check it yourself. Sometimes you are drawn into the battle when you are watching a debate and someone defends your position very sharply, you are inclined to applaud. When the interest of your group is defended you feel happy and you will think: ‘he has spoken well!’. Paul’s words criticize this inclination. Christians should not seek the sharpness but they should look for the right way between harshness and indulgency. Being gentle is an expression of self-control.
What has this to do with teaching? Among the sequence of admonitions in 2 Tim 2: 24 and 25 such as ‘the Lords servants must not be quarrelsome’, ‘kind to everyone’, ‘patiently enduring evil’ and ‘correcting opponents with gentleness’, the words ‘able to teach’ come up. Teaching has the meaning of a positive directed task. Being able to teach (‘didactikos’) implies that you should exercise to aim for peace. That is not always easy for teachers. They have a very verbal job. They are often arguing with pupils, trying to stimulate good dialogues, trying also to bring debatable issues to the floor. How than to avoid quarrels?
We can derive a practical guideline when we look at the context. In 1 Tim 6: 20 the warning accompanies the instruction to guard the deposit (see TfT number 36). The teacher Timothy is taught to turn away from godless chatter. Paul warns not to be distracted by useless topics. In Rhetoric in Old times debating distracting contradictions was very common. Roman orators already warned not to use too much contrasting arguments because that would distract you from what is essential (Van Houwelingen, p. 156). ‘Guarding the deposit’ means that you have the task not to let your students be distracted. While teaching, there is an ongoing risk of distraction, because many questions and many troubles will draw your attention and the attention of the students. The teaching professional should keep to essential issues.
How to discern those essential issues? The quarrels Timothy came across had to do with the core of the gospel. False teachers distracted the believers with the idea that the bodily resurrection was not very important, because the new life was just a spiritual thing (2 Tim 2:18; 1 Tim 4:1-4). Paul reminds that precisely this distractive point impairs the message of the gospel. The Christian life doesn’t aim to reject the earthly life, but aims for sanctifying the body and for the proper use of material.
Teachers have to discern the distractive issues in their situation. I am thinking especially about teachers in secondary and higher education. Maybe you recognize the point just mentioned: the inclination to be too spiritual, neglecting regular, earthly life and neglecting sober reasoning. There can also be a tendency to the other way round: the trust in intellectual reasoning, neglecting the presence of an almighty God who works out his own plan. And intellectualism also, that neglects the paradoxical truth that the Gospel is meant for the simple. And, in addition, it can also be the inclination to hedonism, that we meet in 2 Timothy 3. What is distractive cannot be said in general. The Christian teacher is called to be discerning.


  • An important criterion for distinguishing between relevant and useless knowledge is given in 1 Cor 8: 1b-3: you flow into knowledge (gnosis) that actually is no knowledge, when there is no love in it (1 Cor 8:1b-3).
  • Isaiah warns that blessings of religious duties are taken away by quarrelling: ‘Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high’ (Isaiah 58:4). Quarrelling impairs spiritual life, like we can also learn from Proverbs 17:14 and 26:17. The story of the spread of the gospel shows however that quarrel cannot always be avoided. The great saints Peter and Paul choose opposite positions (Galatians 2:11) in which Paul admonishes his brother. At another moment Paul and Barnabas separated after a sharp disagreement (Acts 15:39). Quarrels can occur about minor or major issues. Paul gives some rules for acting in conflicts about minor issues in Romans 14 concerning a dispute about food. He states that the reason for acting respectfully and humbly to others is that ‘God has welcomed’ the other (Romans 14:3). If God welcomes someone, what then gives you the right to judge?
  • A Dutch report about how teachers deal with religious differences in their classrooms, reveals that teachers often avoid issues in order to remain in a safe zone (Speelman, 2015). They don’t like to make firm statements about for example radicalism in Islam or whether or not to accept refugees (a huge debate while I am writing), because they are at risk of their own safety. Students could complain about them to the principal, you could get into trouble with parents and so on. There is a difficult tension here. On the one hand you have the task to give the students deeper insight into backgrounds of political issues etc. And as a Christian you may feel the call to draw students to the importance of justice and peace. On the other hand you have to guard for a peaceful environment in your classroom.


  1. Do you think that ‘being quarrelsome’ is a dangerous character trait for teaching? Are some characters more prone to quarrel than others? What does this mean for assessing teachers, when they apply for teacher training or for a teaching job?
  2. Can you give examples of quarrelling about topics that distract you and your colleagues from the core business of Christian teaching? Can you give examples of quarrels that do no good and cause rifts between people instead of peace? In my Dutch Christian education context I hear disputes about creation and evolution, about adult baptism and infant baptism, about homosexuality, about child centred versus content centred education. What are issues in your context? How do you take your position?
  3. There seems to be a tension between a gentle open approach in teaching, by which students get the opportunity for giving their opinions (with the risk of quarrels in the classroom) and a more authoritative, direct approach by which the teacher only gives the proper message he wants to transmit (with the risk that students will quarrel in the playground). What style do you prefer? Is there a position in the middle?
  4. A teacher who retired at her 60th birthday said to me: ‘I love teaching but I am glad that I had the opportunity to retire There are so many distracting things coming along with teaching, which I do not like.’ Are there activities we give energy to that we can give up?
  5. Assignment: formulate an advice for an (imaginary) apprentice about how to keep to the essential issues.
  6. Which debatable issues have you discussed with your class? How did you manage the tension between arguing and keeping peace, mentioned in the note above?
  7. How can you teach your students to correct their opponents with gentleness (2 Tim 2:25)?


‘Disputation as such has no meaning when there is no love for the subject’ (author).
 ‘A godly teacher ought to try to bring back the obstinate and rebellious to the right path, and that can be done only by restrained gentleness’ (Calvin, Commentary on Timothy, p. 320).

Keywords: debate, teaching style, verbalism, distraction
Reference: Speelman C (2015). Ontdekkend levensbeschouwelijk leren. Naar vernieuwde levensbeschouwelijke vorming in het basisonderwijs. Dissertatie, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum.
Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands 

49 - The last days

‘But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty’ (2 Tim. 3: 1)

Scripture reading: 2 Tim 3: 1-9; Matthew 24:6-8,10,12.
Suggestion for singing: Let the song go around, Mission Praise 876

At the moment I am writing (December 2015), the world suffers from severe problems. You certainly – when in practice at that time –will have spoken about those problems with your classes. A terrible war in Syria influences the whole middle east, a huge refugee problem in Turkey, Lebanon, Greek and Italy impacts European politics, climate change threatens the life circumstances of millions of people around the globe. Nearly every day, I hear students speak about one of these topics. Looking back over the year, we heard of other wars, of earthquakes, thunderstorms and famines. Christians ask themselves whether these are the times Jesus speaks about: ‘And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains’ (Matthew 24:6-8). Has the last period of time begun? And will it become even more severe? What do we have to worry about for the coming generation? How do we speak with our students about the future? These are serious questions for educators, because they are called to prepare young people for the future.
Summarizing the use of ‘the last days’ in the Bible, briefly, we must conclude that the last days began at Pentecost (Acts 2:17). In his sermon, held directly after the appearance of the Holy Spirit, Peter refers to the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 in which new times were promised. The last days are not specifically the days of the 21st century, but are the days believers have lived in from Pentecost until Jesus second coming. The words of Paul to Timothy are of a prophetic pattern, that look like the words of Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25. While Jesus, in that chapters, stresses that in the last times we will see serious problems in the world-news, Paul emphasizes that believers will become aware of a life-style around them that conflicts with the values of the Kingdom.
According to Revelations, we should view the course of history as a battle between good and evil. In the last days, at the end of the battle, the aggressiveness of evil will intensify (Wright, 2003, p. 113). The devil knows that it is the end of the battle and nevertheless he moves his tail very intensely. For the congregation the time becomes heavy, especially because the evil comes in people who claim another doctrine (verse 8). They have an appearance of godliness, but their behavior is not in accordance with the preaching of Jesus. There is a painful contradiction in their message, like Tom Wright puts it: ‘constantly saying one thing while believing something else is like having continual sharp indigestion, when your bodily system rejects what you’re feeding it on’ (Wright, 2003, p. 116-117).
When this bitterness happens in the church, why couldn’t it occur in Christian schools? How can this evil be discerned? From the row of vices, given in 2 Tim 3:1-9, we can easily see the attitude of selfishness, no readiness to listen to colleagues, always putting one’s own interests to the top during the break. Some people do not live out the love of Christ. But other vices may not easily be discerned, especially when visions on the Christian doctrine and lifestyle are at stake.
When discernment is already so difficult for adults, how can we teach young people to discern good and evil? And how do we speak to them about the time to come, about the end of times? Sometimes they have to be protected against evil voices. Paul warns Timothy to avoid certain people. ‘… a young man like Timothy, his character still in formation, is well advised not to associate with those whose behavior ought not to be copied’ (Wright, 2003, p. 117). But in one way or another, young Christians should be prepared for the confrontation with evil influences. Like adults now, in future their generation will live in the last days, where evil is intense. They should be equipped to view critically themselves and the world.
What can teachers do? Sometimes stories about what could happen are instructive, experiences of students themselves might be discussed, but occasionally realistic confrontations with non-Christians must be arranged. However he or she would do it, the teacher’s role should not be underestimated. S/he is an important guide to help young people to discern about what they would meet in their environment. S/he is the first one to understand that and how the last times are times of difficulty.


  • The words in Matthew 24: 3-14 suggest an intensification of evil in the last days. The second coming of Jesus, however, will happen when everything on earth seems to be quite normal (Matthew 24 :38-39 and 1 Thess. 5:2-3).
  • Places in the Old Testament where the prophets speak about ‘the last days’ are: Is. 2:2; Jer. 23:20; 49:39; Hos. 3:5; Micah 4:1. In the New Testament we find the words in Hebrews 1:1-2 and 1 Peter 1:20. In 1 Corinthians 10:11 Paul speaks about ‘the end of ages’.
  • How can bad visions be discerned? Note that evil visions are not synonymous with critical voices. It is not wise for leaders to consider critical voices immediately as ‘evil spirits’ that must be put away. The words of Paul are not meant to push aside every diversity of opinion. Leaders have the difficult but important task to give most space to voices of wisdom, that perhaps come from persons that not easily come to the foreground. One single wise opinion can eliminate evil influences.
  • The difficulty in discerning evil spirits is that they cannot be located in one wing of the Church. False doctrine can appear in liberal circles, when the deity of Jesus is denied. False doctrine can also pop up in conservative communities. ‘The appearance of godliness’ is there when right orthodox doctrine is preached in such a way that people become acquainted to the state of being indifferent. The ultimate serious preaching contrasts with the legitimized unconverted state of unbelievers.
  • Paul warns Timothy to avoid a certain type of people. The idea of avoiding contrasts with what educators often promote for young Christians. Instead of not knowing people with other ideas they should learn to encounter them. Several reasons may be given for that: students should learn not to be isolated beings (in adult life they will automatically be confronted with other ideas); students should learn to debate or to act humbly with non-believers. 


  1. Describe in your own words the meaning of ‘the last days’. See the second paragraph in this bible study.
  2. What are your expectations for the future of your country, especially with regard to the moral attitude of the people?
  3. How can teachers teach young people to discern patterns of evil?
  4. What images of the future do you bring into the classroom? Is the future an issue for your students? In what way? Where do they worry about? When you work with Christian students, how do you portray the second coming of Jesus? When you work with non-Christian students: is there any opportunity to give them hope?
  5. Discuss with colleagues the tension between the need for protection on the one hand and the need for equipping the encounter with non-Christians on the other hand (see above).          

Assignments for students in teacher education

  • Formulate an opinion about ‘avoidance or encounter’ in two or three statements, and try to find a practical example how to put the statement into practice. Which people should be avoided and for what reason?
  • Assignments for working about ‘future / the last days’ in the classroom.
  • Collect three texts about what could happen in the future (think about stories on the news, fragments from stories in a book and so on). Write for each of these texts a suggestion how it can be used (in your situation, taking account of the age of the students and so on).
  • How can you ask for experiences of students themselves? Formulate an assignment and prepare a way for discussion.
  • What realistic confrontations with non-Christians can be arranged? Describe one option. How do you manage the confrontation?
  • Write an essay about the following statement: ‘The task of a teacher is to promote discernment. How can a teacher be careful not to suggest that all non-Christians are bearers of evil?’


‘Under the last days he includes the universal condition of the Christian Church. He is not comparing his own age with ours, but rather teaching what the future condition of Christ Kingdom will be’. (Calvin’s commentary on Timothy, p. 322).
Keywords: future, eschatology, conflict, moral attitude, citizenship education
Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

50 - Hedonism

‘For people will be lovers of self (…)  lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power’ (2 Timothy 3:2,4)

Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 3: 1-9
Suggestion for singing: Ye servants of the Lord, Mission Praise 784

The words of Paul (‘people will be lovers of self’) remind us of a similarity between our times and the of-all-times phenomenon that the love of lusts (‘filodenos’) stands against the love of God (‘filodeos’). Calvin says that ‘self-love’ (‘filautos’), the first word in this passage is the root of all mentioned vices. God demands us to love God above all other things (Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 10:27).
The culture we live in promotes the opposite, it conditions self-directedness. Students in your classes nowadays, perhaps in wealthy areas, are socialized to get immediate kicks from their smartphones. They can listen to music they like, they can watch movies they appreciate, and they can get a lot of ‘likes’ on social media for how nicely they present themselves. It is suggested that you can feel happy at any moment. It is not overstated to say that our culture promotes hedonism. Education in general tends to come along with the trend to fulfill immediate desires. Teachers are, for example, trained to always look for good connections to what motivates people. Most of the time I think that there is nothing wrong with that, because teachers have the task to motivate students.
But when we reflect a little longer, I realize that there is an intrinsic tension in this tendency. Simply because education is not primarily meant to satisfy immediate desires but to impart knowledge, skills and attitudes that are seen as important by others (namely the leading generation). How can teachers, who like to see their students happy and motivated, deal with this tension?
Christian teachers can experience that tension in a specific way, because Paul does not seem to write here about an observation of society in general, but about Christians. He speaks about believers (‘…having the appearance of godliness…’, verse 4) or even about preachers (‘…always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth…’, verse 7). We should therefore apply these words mostly to the Christian community and not to culture in general, however it may highly reflect current culture. The question then comes up: when we ourselves and our students are potentially influenced by self-directedness, how can we promote the love of God? eachers in Christian schools should bring about knowledge of the ‘greater project’ – the Kingdom of God – and should try to direct the attention to the values of that Kingdom. They ought to know how to find their happiness in being God directed. How can we further that?
We find the key in the word ‘power’ (‘dynamis’). The power of the fear of God is neglected by self-directed people, so says Paul in verse 4. The ‘power of the godliness’ Paul refers to, obviously has a strangeness, something that is not naturally in our senses. It concerns the specific way God acts in history. ‘God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’ (1 Cor 1:27). The gospel has a controversial power. A power that has ultimately been revealed in the cross of Christ. Paul warns of those people who deny this particular power. They speak lovely words but in daily practice the power of God apparently is not effective. When people are busy with themselves, seeking to fulfill their own project, they don’t see the power of the love of God. The ‘dynamis’ of godliness is the power of knowing yourself dependent, knowing yourself connected to Someone who aims for greater purposes. The power lives in you (2 Cor 4:7). You count with a power that is greater and more important than the ‘here-and-now’. You will be able to think not only in the short term but also in the longer term. You will be able to say like Paul in 2 Cor. 12: 9: ‘when I am weak than I am strong’.
What can we conclude for Christian teaching? Christian teachers have to awaken imaginations of that strange power. They have to attract students to the power that seeks the weak and not the strong (1 Cor 1), that is self-giving instead of asking for itself. Christian teachers should promote the surrender to someone else, to Someone who will stand in your place. That is real happiness.  


  • The tone of this Bible study may appear a little bit negative. You might say: ‘Christians have to think and act positively; they are called to be happy’ (maybe with a reference to Philippians 4). I think you are right, at least for one part of the problem. Indeed, when we think about happiness in the context of a culture of hedonism, we have to say first of all that the life of believers is being characterized by freedom and joy. Being free from the reign of sin brings about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5), in which joy has an important place. When in Scripture texts about desire and joy are put negatively, they relate to selfishness. Joy, then, becomes something that is exploited for its own sake, only to please oneself, often with the risk of harming other people. The atmosphere of hedonism we find in 2 Tim 3, is also pictured in other places, for example Phill 3: 19 (‘Minds set on earthly things’). Christian teachers have the task to evoke awareness for hedonism as a threat to our culture, because hedonism is a threat for every believer.
  • The word ‘dynamis’ appears 120 times in the letters of Paul, many times referring to a contrast with something else. In 1 Cor 2: 5, for example, the power of God contrasts with the wisdom of men and in 1 Cor 4:19,20 and 1 Thess 1: 5 it is confronted with the power of human words.
  • Some words in this section in the Timothy letter refer not so much to desire, but to the mind. Verse 8 speaks about people that oppose the truth as ‘men corrupted by mind’. Faith is not just a matter of good feeling but also of proper thinking. Having right convictions and beliefs is in the center of the Christian faith. Teachers should be aware of this because they contribute to how students think about the world. Teachers are at least those who direct convictions.
  • Schlatter (p. 224) explains the words about ‘neglect the power of God’ by distinguishing between external habits and the inner, actual meaning of the Gospel. 'It are not the pagan or Jewish sins, that are described in this prophetic Word, but the special form of Christian sin, in which an outwardly religious discipline of life is highly valued, and therefore pagan things and serious crimes and being avoided, but the inner life remains the stomping ground of selfish desires and insists in remaining separated from God' (‘Es sind nicht die heidnischen oder jüdischen Sünden, die dieses weissagende Wort beschreibt, sondern die besondere Form christlicher sündhaftigkeit, bei der eine äusserlich religiöse Disziplinierung des Lebens in Geltung steht, darum auch heidnische Dinge und grobe Verbrechen gemieden werden, aber das innere Leben der Tummelplatz eigensüchtiger Begehrungen bleibt und in der Geschiedenheit von Gott beharrt’)    


  • The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor calls our times ‘the age of authenticity’. The personal life and its interests are the starting point of our thinking and behaving. People are appealed to self-realization, to work on the project of their own life, much more than they are committed to a greater project, like the Kingdom of Christ. Do you recognize in your context the dominance of authenticity-seeking and the strive for individual happiness? How does this appear generally in your culture and how in the Christian community?
  • Put in your own words the meaning of ‘the power of godliness’ (2 Tim. 3:4). Compare your words with how ‘power’ is used by Paul in other letters. The power of God, for example, is contrasted with our own power (2 Cor 4:7 ‘power is not from us’), with weapons of the flesh (2 Cor 10:4) and with the weakness of the believer (2 Cor 12:9, 2 Cor 13:4).
  • What is the difference of self-directness and acceptable happiness? Do you meet self-directedness as a problem in classes? How do you deal with this? Do we have the task to explain students about how we are unintendedly influenced by our culture? If so, how?
  • Sometimes Christians have a puritan inclination to reject pleasure. Do we have to be careful with pleasure? Can you mention places in scripture that give us indications about how to evaluate laughing, fun, pleasure and happiness?
  • In general having fun is important for children and young people. Can we have fun in a Christian way, or doesn’t it make sense to distinguish between different kinds of fun?
  • Do you promote happiness for students? What do you aim for (laughing, shining eyes, positive atmosphere etc)? In what way are you successful in bringing happiness?  

Keywords: hedonism, authenticity, social media, pleasure, joy, fun
Author: Bram de Muynck
Driestar Christian University for Teacher Training
Gouda, the Netherlands

51- An early start

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 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’ (2 Timothy 3: 14-15)
Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 3: 12-17,
Suggestion for singing: They that wait upon the Lord, Mission Praise 688

In some regions many children are educated with the Bible ‘from childhood’. They know the sacred writings from their mother and grandmother like Timothy, hear bible stories in primary school, learn about biblical thinking in secondary school and after that attend a Christian college. A student said to me that he felt that a disadvantage because he knew little more of the world than he learned in the Christian bubble. He would not be able to talk properly with non-Christians.
This certainly was not the way in which Timothy’s learning career went. We have seen in previous bible studies that he learned the sacred writings in a pagan context. Paul points at the privilege of an early acquaintance with the scriptures: ‘they are able to make you wise for salvation’. The word of God has a strong power in itself, be it in the Christian bubble or in a pagan context. ‘Sacred writings’ here are the books of the Old Testament, covering the Thora, the history of Israel and the poetic and prophetic writings. These writings have the potential to make wise, even so that the direction of your mind will be changed. Scripture reveals who God is in Jesus Christ (John 5:39, 46). You may become overwhelmed by the saving power in Christ. Because scripture itself is so clear about that potential, Christian fathers and mothers start telling bible stories from a very young age. We find messages about religious learning at an early age in Psalm 71:6, Ps 22:9-10 and Ps. 139.Teachers at Sunday schools or Christian Kindergarten classes continue to do so. But let us try to explore more carefully why this is so important.
We can perhaps compare religious education with learning a language. Before reaching the age of five, most children have mastered the basic sounds and grammar rules of their mother tongue and know about 1000 words. Hearing and practicing the rules of the language structures thinking and perceiving. Similarly young children become familiar with basic elements of the Christian faith: they hear about God the Creator, about the power of the Lord Jesus, they learn how to use the words of scriptures in songs and prayers. The minds of the young children are shaped by Biblical wisdom. Important to point out is that the Lord revealed himself through words and not through pictures. Though, sometimes, concrete objects or metaphors are used to clear up an aspect of God’s salvation plan (like the brass snake in the desert, the Pesach meal before the Exodus, the heaps of stone erected in the river Jordan and so on), God didn’t reveal himself in an image. God, so to say, doesn’t want us to have ‘copy & paste’ pictures in our mind. Men was not even allowed to make pictures of Him. The words of God have the power to evoke the imagination of who God is and how. This process of imagination must happen in every individual life. By hearing the old Testament stories of how God dealt with His own chosen people, the warnings, the savings, the promise to keep them, even if they would sin severely, the imagination of who God is, is shaped.
The imagination of God’s character paves the way for the affirmation of the child that Jesus is Lord, not only in general, but the Saviour of that particular life. When children or young people become conscious believers, we theologically call that the process of ‘conversion’ or ‘rebirth’. Christian parents and educators have to trust that this process happens in secret, beyond their control (compare Mark 4:26-29), and that nevertheless it will happen, like in the life of Timothy.
For Timothy God’s word had been immensely powerful. Paul’s words ‘But as for you….’ are directed to him. He is an icon of a believer from a young age. Thus the message of this text might be wrongly understood as only addressed to everyone in whose life faith grows gradually and stable from early childhood. The power of scriptures, however, is not restricted to the life stage in which educators influence their pupils. When the ungodly King Manasseh was led into captivity by the Assyrians ‘he humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers’ (2 Chronicles 33:12). The only way that he could humble himself was the knowledge of the scriptures that he became familiar with in his youth, most probably by the teachers of his father Hezekiah, who was a God-fearing king. Because he learned of the Lord’s deeds and character from scriptures in his youth, he was reminded by that in distress and was able to humble himself.


  • The Greek original of the phrase ‘…knowing from whom you learned it…’ is an expression in plural. We can think about the mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5) but also about other educators for young ages.
  • When Scriptures are so important for the religious development of young children, we not only need to tell stories and teach about key sections of the Bible, but also have to train them in listening. Like the teacher of Samuel, the old Eli, we should teach them to say ‘Speak Lord for your servant hears’. We should teach an attitude of receptivity. This implies the transmission of trust: when we listen carefully and humbly, the Lord will certainly speak. 
  • While listening is a precondition, there are, as well as telling Bible stories, a number of other useful means in religious education that help to know the words of God like memorizing Bible verses or sections (sometimes in tunes), puzzles and quizzes.
  • From church history we know persons for whom one word from the Bible was decisive for becoming a believer (Augustin, Luther). We might mistakenly think that such conversions are models for children we educate. Adhering to such an image of conversion may make us think that real faith will begin in adult life. This is a conviction of mistrust.


  • Put into your own words: ‘The power of a scripture word is………’ Sum three reasons why the Bible is an important source for the religious development of a young child.
  • In some parts of the world where Christian educators live, the literacy rate is very low. Parents cannot teach their children from the scriptures. Is religious education restricted to readers? How can those people be helped to teach their children from the Bible?
  • Related to the previous question: when you work with children that cannot yet read, what means do you have to get them acquainted with the sacred writings?
  • A pastor who had worked in rural areas in South Africa told me about his concern of proper Bible reading. He acknowledged that pastors tend to use the Bible in a very fragmented way and can fall short in understanding the message of the Bible. How can we assure that the upcoming generation will have a good understanding of the baseline of the Bible? This is also an important question for European Bible readers, because the knowledge of the Bible is decreasing. Can you give yourself a few guidelines for proper Bible reading? How can we teach young people good hermeneutics of Bible reading?
  • Question for teachers working in non-Christian schools. Few of your students (perhaps none of them) have become familiar with ‘the sacred writings’. Do you have opportunities in your subject (for example a language or history) to give them an impression of the character of sacred writings? Would that be valuable for them?
Related Bible studies
Related themes are discussed in ‘Timothy for teachers’ numbers 36 and 40 (about the ‘deposit entrusted to you’) and number 38 (‘believing ancestors’). In the latter we paid attention to the thankfulness for being raised in a Christian family. In this Bible study the emphasis is on the power of the written word of God.
Keywords: RE, Bible, hermeneutics, early childhood, kindergarten

52- Equipped

‘’….that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).
Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 3:10-17; Romans 15:1-5
Suggestion for singing: Thou art the way: to Thee alone, Mission Praise 695

The text of 2 Tim. 3:17 contains the objective of Christian education as proposed by the Dutch Calvinist Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). He claimed the words ‘complete, equipped for every good work’ to be the primary perspective for educators. The words were used as a foundation for a broad conception of ‘formation’. Professor Jan Waterink, one of the successors of Bavinck at the Free University of Amsterdam, criticized this claim, by stating that ‘formation’ is not the central issue of the text (see notes below). I think he was right. The context of Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3: 17 shows thankfulness about Timothy’s youth (verses 14-15). Paul had observed that the knowledge of Scripture had deeply influenced Timothy’s development, and from this observation he reasons to a general statement about the origin and the power of Scripture (verse 16). He seems to stress this because Timothy ‘the man of God’ (called so in 1 Tim. 6:11) is alone and cannot lean on the personal presence of Paul. Scripture is present and that would be enough.
Bavinck’s claim, however, still has its own merit regarding the words ‘formation’ and ‘equipped’. Let us explore how. As we have concluded in the previous study, Paul referred only to what we now call the Old Testament. The authority of that Scripture is from God (verse 16) and through that authority, the ancient books had a deep impact on Timothy. Timothy, however, had other important sources, and those were the testimonies about Jesus. We can derive from the letter that the images of Christ imposed his whole thinking (look for example in 2 Tim. 1: 10; 2 Tim. 2: 8; 2 Tim 4:1). Nevertheless, the books of law and prophets are seen here as having a great power for the formation process. How has this authority been so effective?
There is something mysterious in what words of Scripture can do in the life of believers. We can sometimes experience words just as pieces of language that have the function to inform us about something. But the words of God can have the power of seed that can steadily grow and even the power of a sword that goes deep into our hearts and lives (compare Mark 4:1-20, Hebrews 10:12; Ephesus 6;17). Words transform life. With regard to the text transformation it is not so much the change which occurs in the moment of conversion, but a change in thinking and behaving. N.T. Wright mentions the reading of Scripture is the first step in the ‘virtuous circle’ (After you believe, page 161). The words of Scripture give us new insight (‘teach’), correct mistakes in our thoughts (‘reproof’), correct behavior (‘correction’) and even is a kind of training (‘training in righteousness’). By this process a believer grows to become ‘complete and equipped for every good work’. According to John Calvin ‘complete’ means ‘perfect’. True believers grow in the direction of the excellency of Christ. Paul aims for no less than this (compare 2 Cor. 11:2 and 1 Timothy 6:14).
To make this more concrete we can look at the words ‘every good’ in 2 Timothy 2:21. The text there is: ‘If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use (..) ready for every good work.’ A pan must be cleansed in order to be used for every good work. So: being equipped is similar to being cleansed and to being made ready for someone to use it. An equipped person, so to say, is ready to serve others. We cannot imagine that sinful believers will become perfect in their attitude. We must interpret this by thinking about the words that sinful believers are being cleansed by the blood of Christ. They will be transformed by daily redirecting themselves to God.
Let us now think about how we use the words of God in our classes. Of course, we have to practice trustworthiness and discipline in teaching the Word. Apart from this, we have to realize how carefully we should use the words of scripture! In the previous study we concluded that God’s words have power in themselves. Therefore we should be sober in explanations. I mean: let us be disciplined in the search for the precise meaning of words in their context. Let us not throw dust on the word by our subjective associations, when we try to clarify passages. Let us carefully choose brief and adequate verses to read for a day opening. And last but not least let us pray for and have trust in the effect of God’s own words: they have power in themselves to make young believers complete and equipped for all good work.


  • When we read the words here that describe the process (teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness) the influence on the one hand has to do with a right insight in religious truth (teaching, reproof) and on the other hand with the formation of character. When we compare 2 Tim 3:14-17 with Romans 15: 1-5 (a related text), we can conclude that Paul in his texts regarding the authority of Scripture especially seeks the development of the proper spiritual attitude of the believer. In order to grasp the meaning even better, let us look at this text in more detail. Romans 15:4 follows after the warning: ‘Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself’ followed by a quote from Psalm 69:9. The Old Testament quote is then followed by the phrase: ‘For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.’ (Rom 15:4). Paul shows by this reasoning how we should read the presence of Christ in the Old Testament scriptures. This is not clear in 2 Timothy 3 itself, but this notion can help to frame the authority of Scripture in a broader context.

Theoretical reflections 

  • The motto of Herman Bavinck, one of the great Dutch thinkers about education, is found in his book ‘Peadagogische beginselen’ (Educational principals. Kok, Kampen, 1904, page 28 and 89). In his comments Jan Waterink mentions three objections against the use of 2 Tim 3:17 as the purpose of education. Firstly: education is not a central but a secondary issue in this section (this argument is mentioned in the bible study above). Secondly: the words in 2 Timothy are not only directed to young learners but also to educators (like Timothy), and more specifically to persons that hold an office in the church (this can be understood from 2 Tim 4:1, the text directly following 2 Tim 3:17). Thirdly: a Bible text is not suitable for a definition of education, because the context will give the Bible text its color. Waterink concludes that we cannot find any definition for education in all aspects (italics in Dutch original) in the Bible. Waterink, J. (1958). Theorie der opvoeding. Kampen: J.H. Kok N.V. (derde druk). Waterink himself chooses to give a definition of the purpose of Christian education with the following words: ‘contributing towards shaping the pupil into an independent individual, who serves God according to His Word, and is suited and prepared to employ the received gifts in His honour, for the creature’s salvation, and for the benefit of the church, family and all social relations in which God places him or her’ (Theorie der opvoeding, p. 121; English based on The essence of Christian teaching. A portrait of the Christian Teachers, Gouda: Driestar Christian University 2009, p. 20-21, that provides the somewhat extended version of Ds. Golverdingen. Golverdingen’s phrase is found in his work Inspirerend onderwijs: de pedagogische opdracht van de reformatorische school, Heerenveen, Groen, 2003, 46).
  • I found an interesting essay on the words of 2 Tim 3:17 written by Henry Schultz (1942, in a volume edited in 1953). H. Schultz. The man of God Thoroughly Furnished. In: Jaarsma, C. Fundamentals in Christian Education. Theory and practice. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co, pp. 172-184. He emphasizes that the aim of being complete and equipped has to do with integration. Young learners have to be viewed as basically disintegrated people and education has the aim that they will develop into integrated persons.


  • Put into your own words the ideal formed and equipped person. What is the profile of the student when s/he leaves your school?
  • What in your opinion is the most important effect of Scripture on the spiritual formation of a person?
  • Can you give an example of how you have profited in your personal and professional life from the Scriptures in the way Paul formulates here: ‘for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’?
  • When we realize that Paul refers to the authority of the Old estament, what has this to say about our use of the Bible? What is the balance in your Bible reading between the NT or the OT?
  • How can we teach students to become proper explainers of God’s Word?
Suggestion for use in a graduation ceremony.
I have used this text once for an address at the end of a graduation ceremony. Some thoughts that might be helpful for preparing:
  • With regard to ‘All Scripture is profitable for teaching etc.’: The Scripture has shown its value for the formation process of the people now getting a diploma. In a Christian institution there have been many moments in which you might have experienced the power of the Word.
  • With regard to ‘Equipped’: you are certainly more equipped than when you entered this building for the first time. As a student teacher you have seen and heard a lot in observations, interviews, lessons, lectures, discussions. Much has been done to equip you for your task, for your vocation in the place you will be called. We are very glad to be looking forward to the fruits of your time at college.
  • With regard to ‘For every good work’: the power of the word has great promise. By thinking about ‘every good work’ we can imagine the future. You will be called in many situations, you will use your toolkit to do a lot of good work. But the most essential for you as a believer is to expect the power of God’s words and His spirit working through you in these good deeds.
Keywords: authority of scripture, spiritual development, formation, aim of education

53- Leadership

‘reprove, rebuke and exhort… with complete patience and teaching’ (2 Timothy 4: 2)
Scripture reading: 2 Tim 4: 1-2; 2 Tim 2: 23-26, 2 Cor 10: 1-3
Suggestion for singing: There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, Mission Praise 683

Reading the Timothy letters something makes us puzzlers. Paul’s lists of exhortations like in 2 Tim 4: 2-3 and in 1 Tim 2:24-25, for example, hold a two-sided approach. On the one hand Timothy is urged ‘to reprove, rebuke and exhort’ and on the other hand he must have ‘complete patience’. Paul combines a strict and sharp attitude with a gentle and patient approach. How is it possible to integrate these opposites?
Let us consider two answers. The first is that Paul wants to communicate the opinion that you should not convince people by fighting but with patient reasoning (see verse 24 and 25, see also TfT number 48). It is necessary to persuade people, but you should do this with a considered spirit. The other answer is that he tries to adjust the tone to the address. Needs of people are different. A flexible pedagogy is in accordance with Paul’s message. From what we know about his style and character, we can conclude that he could be very robust in his accusations to believers, like in Galatians 3:1,1 Cor 11:17 and Titus 1:13. But at the same time he addressed his love, engagement and loyalty with his readers, like in 1 Cor 1:4-9.
But maybe these answers are not the solution to the puzzle. Let us look a bit further at a passage in which Paul speaks explicitly about the opposites. In 2 Cor. 10:1-2 Paul says that he can be humble in personal contact, but also can be very bold from a distance. In this text he refers to the style of Christ, who was meek and gentle (2 Cor 10:1). Obviously, his Master is the model for Paul’s pedagogy. Jesus’ preaching could also be very sharp, for example when he explained the depth of the law in Matthew 5:17-48. But at the same time he was very mild and comforting, like in his warnings not to be anxious in Matthew 6:25-34.
There is reason to puzzle further, because we can discern another interest in the approach. Paul’s mission was to bring the gospel further and further. He had to apply the model of Christ in new situations. Together with Timothy and others he founded congregations. When Paul instructs Timothy this two-sided approach, he seems to promote a certain style of leadership for new developing groups. Paul’s leadership, so to say, matters not only in adjusting to individual people but also in adjusting to groups. Imagine from your own experience what a group needs. Sometimes you will find a group in which everyone is engaged. You have nothing else to do than friendly stimulating them to carry on. Another group, however, may need a strict hand. The students must be directed and corrected. Maybe both can occur in one group. A sudden disturbance of the group process can call for a quick and stern response. When the leader wishes to make a group a place where God is served, he has to take this dynamic into account.
When we connect the two-sided approach to leadership, we can think of both school leaders and classroom teachers. Much is required of a leader. He/she has to deal with individuals and with groups. Some things must be promoted, others must be neglected or rebuked. A good leader is able to direct, to instruct and to shape in the right way. At the same time, he is able to keep his people attracted to the subject. He aims that his people will come to a deep understanding of what is taught. Verse 4 leads us, puzzlers, to connect the approach to the Christian image of the Shepherd. We could even call the two-sided approach ‘the style of the shepherd’. Leadership can be supportive and can be restrictive, but it always has a positive aim: to attract the flock in the right direction. A good Christian leader practices the advice of 1 Peter 5:2-3 ‘shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly (..) not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.’


  • A teacher’s competency is to adjust to what is needed in a certain situation and for a certain person or a certain group. Study 1 Tim. 5:1, Gale. 1:10, Gal. 5:16-24 and 1 Thess. 5:14. Discuss the motives you can have for adjusting your approach to your students.
  • How do you discern whether a student is in need of encouragement or is asking for sharp correction?
  • Make a list of three specific ways of how to approach your students strictly and how to act gently. Come up with three actions for each and discuss the motives for using one approach or the other.
  • How is strictness and gentleness balanced in your teaching? If there is an unbalance, how can you practice a more balanced approach?
  • Try to formulate the criterion for a good attitude in your teaching. In what situations are you inclined to be strict and when more gentle? How can the criterion be applied?
  • Assignment for students who follow a module about leadership. Write an essay about the question why leaders have to be dependent on Christ as the great Shepherd. Also pay attention to the idea that for those who lead the flock in the proper way, verse 4 gives an impressive promise: ‘And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory’
 Keywords: leadership, correction, authority, humble
Related Bible studies: number 48 (Quarrels) and number 54 (The urgency of teaching).

54 - Urgency

‘… reprove, rebuke and exhort…. be ready in season and out of season’’ 2 Timothy 2:2
Scripture reading: 2 Tim 4:1-5; Deut 6: 13-25
Suggestion for singing: The church’s one foundation, Mission Praise, 640

In some places in the Timothy letters we find a concentration of words that have to do with teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 is one of them. We find others in 1 Tim 4: 11-13 and in 1 Tim 6: 2. All the different words that are related to teaching are listed in the appendix.
In many of those words we feel a sense of urgency. We should understand this against the background of the young congregation of Ephesus. The believers have become fascinated by the gospel and are trying to understand how their life with Christ should be shaped. In a new situation like this there is a big need for being taught. Perhaps some new believers have been eager to hear explanations, others had to be stimulated to listen and to understand. Anyway, we notice a great urgency in these words. Paul promotes a strong drive to teach, to reprove, to rebuke and to exhort.
We can explain the urgency of teaching also at a more general level. Teaching, we can say, is always necessary because of the gap between not knowing and knowing, between ignorance and understanding, between being unaware and being informed. Teaching is bridging those gaps. The energy of teaching therefore is fighting against the resistance to the bridging. Perhaps you recognize this in your classroom practice. Somehow you may meet disinterest, sometimes you will meet misunderstanding or denial, sometimes students hold their own interpretations. The urgency of teaching, which Timothy is appealed to, is about conquering this resistance. That means that you keep on instructing and explaining the same things again and again, until it is absolutely clear that the subject is grasped. And yet it may be necessary to repeat (see the Bible study about the word ‘remind’).
But, someone will comment, not everything you teach has to be repeated. When children know the alphabet, you don’t have to teach it anymore. And young children do also find out a lot of things themselves. Children of two years old, for example, can work out how to use an iPad. Why then, so much stress on the urgency of teaching?
You are right, I would say, for much knowledge and for many skills there is not an urgency of teaching. It depends a lot on the subject we are teaching. The more the subject is related to insight into the meaning of life, the less obvious it is that it develops just by growing older. Generally speaking, we can say that wisdom, doesn’t take root in one’s mind automatically. There is always an interaction needed with other people, who have already acquired a body of knowledge and wisdom.  
The point that comes along with the urgent words, however, is far from general wisdom. Paul accounts a message that is far beyond common understanding. In 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul frames the gospel as: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (a quotation from Isaiah 64: 4). Gods revelation about the world, about the purpose of life, is something strange, and consequently is something many questions can be raised about. We can see this very much in the secularized Western Europe, where many people think that there cannot be intellectual support for the Christian religion. That, however, precisely is the point here. Paul holds that the love of God has such an outstanding quality that it is beyond all intellectual reasoning.
Maybe you would not affirm this for primary education. You observe that children become familiar with the main thoughts of the Bible, and they do not object. But when you work in secondary education or in higher education, you will certainly meet objections. Students growing older won’t automatically take for granted what has been told to them in an earlier stage. Even when people become convinced about the power of salvation as an adult, the content remains not self-evident. It has to be explained again and again. People continue asking, for example, how God’s love for mankind can be showed to other people. And people continue to have questions about how the love of God can be practiced in family life, in politics, in education and so on. The breaking news of God’s love keeps the teaching of the gospel urgent in all stages.


  • The main idea of this bible study is that the core of the Christian religion doesn’t take root in religious intuition. It also cannot be the result of cognitive reasoning. Important insights, so to say, come from without (see 1 Peter 1:10-13). We cannot trust on natural images of God. The great line in the Old Testament, starting with Genesis, is that JHWH, unlike the pagan gods, is a unique God, who cannot be manipulated, but has his own program of salvation. The service of that Lord is not self-evident. Therefore the commandments are given in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 6 Moses warns not to follow the gods of the people around you (verse 14), ‘so that it may go well with you’ (verse 18). Later on in the Old Testament, we find the pattern that the children of God forget what they learned about God. Every time they needed a new leader (see Judges) or a prophet who would remind them what they learned in an earlier stage.


  • Check the appendix and choose three words which you feel describe your job most accurately. Discuss with your colleagues or fellow students. What are the differences?
  • How does the need for urgency apply to students you teach (with regard to their age and stage of development)?
  • At what moment do you feel the urgency for sound Christian teaching?
  • By which teaching activities do you contribute most to the growth of Christian understanding of your students?
  • For which parts of the subject matter are your students easy to motivate? For which parts is it hard to motivate them?


Hans van Crombrugge compares good teaching with ‘captivating’.
' To captivate someone is taking him and holding him in your grip, whether this person wants it or not (...) Captivating a student is taking him out of his own little world, offering him new horizons (...). A teacher captivates the pupil by letting the pupil enjoy (French: enjoy, enjouir) something that fascinates the teacher (..). You can only inspire a pupil through something you are enthusiastic about yourself. That's what used to be called authority.'
(‘Boeien is iemand vastzetten en meenemen of hij dat wil of niet (…) Een leerling boeien is hem wegvoeren uit zijn eigen wereldje, hem nieuwe horizonten bieden (…). Een leraar boeit door de leerling te laten genieten (enjoy, enjouir) van wat hem zelf boeit (..). Je kan een leerling alleen begeesteren door iets waar je zelf enthousiast voor bent. Dat is wat men vroeger gezag noemde.’)
Crombrugge, H. van (2007). De leerkracht als het na te volgen voorbeeld. In: Van Tongeren, P. & Pasman-de Roo (red.). Voorbeeldig onderwijs. Nijmegen: Valkhof Pers.
Key words: urgency, understanding, motivation, energy


55 - Popular teachers

‘…they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions’ (1 Timothy 4:3)
Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 4: 1-5; Jeremiah 26: 1-15
Suggestion for singing: Thy Kingdom come, O God!, Mission Praise, 949

When you ask students to name the teacher they like most, many can immediately mention a name. They will recall a teacher, for example, because of his excellent and clear explanation. Another teacher is said to be popular because he is young and speaks the language of the students. A third one may be chosen because he is often willing to affirm the wishes of the class. For example, when they ask for less homework, he will reduce the burden. In the latter case, the students run the risk of being spoilt.
In 2 Tim 4:3 Paul speaks about a phenomenon in a the Christian congregation that looks like the third reason I just mentioned. The people prefer to listen to future preachers who will adjust himself to the hearers, affirm the hearers in what they want to hear. The people have got ‘itching ears’ for what we would call ‘a soft message’. The preachers will be chosen by the people because the message ‘suits their own passions’. Paul is very critical about this. Choosing those preachers may be associated with longing for a liberal lifestyle: the people take it easy and they won’t be willing to be restricted. Liking preachers that suit your own passions can show the unwillingness to leave one’s opinions.
The process at stake here is called ‘the confirmation bias’. People, generally speaking, are inclined to seek support for the way they understand things and filter out what contradicts their convictions. This can happen consciously or subconsciously. You like to hear the underpinning of the feeling you have deep in your heart. I am thinking of the opinions about refugees in Europe. Many people have the feeling that refugees are a threat. They are afraid of strangers in their city because they could behave ‘strangely’. This gives a certain feeling of insecurity. Then a political leader stands up and gives reasons for keeping strangers away, or for restricting the amount of refugees. He underpins this with arguments: our jobs will be taken over by them, their religion will influence society in a certain way, and so on. People like to hear this leader. They are attracted to him because they hear reasons for what they feel deep in their heart.
How to apply this to education? Indeed: teaching in school is not the same as preaching in the congregation. Maybe students are more prepared to hear new things and are more familiar with behavior and opinions being corrected than adult believers in church. Yet there is an important similarity, namely that popularity cannot be the measure for proper teaching. Note that popularity in itself is not false. There can be good reasons for loving a teacher. But popularity can also be based on false grounds. When learning becomes a process of being confirmed in your ‘comfort zone’, nothing new is learned.
I think this point is important because nowadays there is a tendency that more and more teachers are being assessed by their pupils. It happens in higher education institutions (such as teacher training), but this assessment is increasingly being used in other types of education. The idea is that this can be informative as feedback for the teacher himself. But in my opinion, the use also sets the limit. The rating of the students may not result in a formalized standard for quality. What counts is the content. What is taught by the teacher may contradict the opinions, or feelings of the students, but is meant to bring their thinking to a higher level.
So far, this idea may be generally accepted. But when we look more closely at the context of this Timothy-letter, we find specific Christian directives for the teaching content. The passage gives a criterion that not only applies for preaching in church but also for Christian teaching in general. The criterion is whether the appearance and the Kingdom of Jesus is taken seriously (2 Timothy 4: 1). The content of good Christian teaching must be flavored by His appearance. Also, even though pupils do not ask for it themselves, the conviction for a Christian teacher is that Christ reigns throughout the whole world. This message will not always be at the foreground in a mathematics or a language class. But nevertheless at certain moments the students will experience that this teacher – they did not choose themselves – is a blessing. Specifically when he informs them about things they would not ask for by themselves.


  • The Old Testament gives several examples of priests and prophets that were wanted because they could suit the desires, or were not accepted because their message didn’t suit the passions of the people. We find an impressive example of the first in Judges 17:1 – 18:31. A Levite is hired by Micah to assure that his house will be blessed. Later in the story the Danite want to have them as a companion, because he needs an approval for the desires. People like to have a God who affirms what they have chosen. For further study I recommend Tim Keller’s book Judges: The Flawed and the Flawless, chapter 6, pp. 37-43 (Centralia WA: The Good Book Company, 2013). Jeremiah is another example. He preached the word of the Lord, but the people, including priests and other prophets, threw him out. He did not confirm their ‘own counsels’ (compare Jeremiah 7:24). Jesus in the same way was thrown out of the city of Nazareth (Luke 4:29). The prophet Ezekiel warns at several places for prophets who prophesy out of their own heart and follow their own spirit (see Ezekiel 13:3, 13:17, 34;2-18).
  • Students most of the time can precisely say what kind of teachers they like. Popularity is not necessarily linked to teachers who are easy on students’ behaviour, but more often to virtues. Pupils like teachers that are confident and predictable in their behaviour, good in explaining difficulties and have structure and discipline.
  • When we say that the content counts and not popularity, school leaders should be critical on the use of student evaluations. The group can be led by one moment in which something unpleasant happened in the classroom. The group can also be led by group sentiments that are without ground. When a leader (a principal, a coordinator, a team leader) wants to improve quality of the teaching process of his/her staff, and he wants to use student evaluations for that, these should always be complemented by other sources, such as assessment by colleagues. For the teacher him/herself, ratings or evaluations are helpful sources of information. The real improvement of teaching, however, will come when colleagues support each other, for example through peer reviews (think about visiting each other’s classes or studying video-recordings of a lesson).


  • Who is the most popular teacher in your school? For what reason? How do the colleagues feel about this?
  • Do you agree with this statement: ‘Popularity can be helpful, because students will be willing to listen and willing to behave properly?’ Why and why not?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of teacher evaluations by students? How can they be made fruitful for teaching? What guarantees can be given to prevent scapegoating?
  • Study the whole chapter of Jeremiah 26. In verses 16-18 we read that the leader resists the pressure of the people not to listen to Jeremiah. Obviously in circumstances when one hears a message that does not suit the feelings of most of the people, testing is needed. There must be a critical inquiry by the leader to justify what is true. See also Jer 5:13, 14:14-15; 23;13, 16-17, 21; 29:8,15.
  • Question with regard to higher education: in Western Europe it was a tradition that students chose to go to a specific university because of a certain professor. They liked him or her because of his excellent teaching or because of his ideas. Thanks to the Erasmus program such opportunities have come again. What do you think about these facilities? Should Christian educators stimulate students to choose certain programs abroad?
Keywords: convictions, prejudice, evaluation, quality improvement

56 - Endurance: keep calm and carry on

‘As for you, always be sober minded, endure suffering….’ (2 Timothy 4:5)
Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 2:1-5; Isaiah 6 (or Ezekiel 2)
Suggestion for singing: Our Father which art in heaven, Mission Praise 661

In this study I am applying a passage from 2 Timothy to leadership. I am thinking about school leaders, but reflecting on leadership can be fruitful for all teachers, because they are leaders in their classes and they also have to understand the calling of their school leaders.
In some countries in the Middle east (Syria, Iraq), Christian leaders are enduring a lot of hardship. We hear from church leaders who remain in their place while most of the congregation has left. We hear from leaders of small groups of believers that continue to help other people in need, independent of the faith of those people. This kind of hardship comes as a result of an external force: hatred of Christianity.
Christian leaders, be it in churches or in schools, however, can also badly suffer from ‘internal forces’, for example when people in the congregation fight with each other about trivialities. Or when part of the community doesn’t agree with the style of preaching, or management style, or in the worst case when people don’t agree with the gospel. We can conclude from the context that the warning to endure here, is about suffering in the latter meaning. The message is to endure the afflictions. Timothy is urged not to leave his calling but to carry on.  
This is not easy in difficult circumstances. At least not for leaders with a vision. Maybe you have followed your initial calling with enthusiasm. As a pioneer you had the strength to initiate things in your school. But then setbacks come, or the work with the people becomes boring, or things happen that are not in your power, or your spiritual drive is declining, or your teaching does not have the effect that you would wish, people reject you….

Every Christian leader may find him/herself sooner or later in those circumstances. The original Greek expression translated as ‘endure suffering’ holds just one word ‘kakpatheo’ which is an imperative that means ‘suffer!’, or ‘suffer the evil you are confronted with’ (as explained in KTSV). This seems to indicate that a Christian leader has to approach suffering as belonging to the job. You have to give it a place. Therefore most English translations put is as something you have to deal with: ‘endure suffering!’ (ESV), ‘endure hardship!’ (NIV) and ‘endure affliction!’ (KJV).
How can you endure suffering? Paul uses this call together with ‘be sober minded’. He means that you should remain calm. You have to be in control of your emotions. You have to force yourself to watch the situation from a distance. You have to be considered in order to judge impartially. And being in control of your emotions, you have to be ready to fulfill your job. Fulfill means that you stay at your post, also when the winds seems to be against you. Even if you don’t notice the presence of the Lord, like the disciples in the ship on the lake (Mark 4: 35-41).
To get a proper feeling as a teacher with the intended meaning, we could read the text also like this: Don’t have so much concern about the effect of your work. Some people do resist your message that is connected to the core of the gospel. In that case  you should be resistant to the critics. But one can also be very critical on your style of leadership. In that case, criticism may help to reflect on yourself and therefore you can be grateful for that.
But be aware that your mission does not depend on the effects, but on the power of the sender. Paul adds empathically: ‘do the work of an evangelist’, which means ‘be a bringer of good news’. When you are an ambassador, you have a very positive calling. So you have to orient yourself to that task. From that vantage point you have to deal with resistance. You have to practice a sort of independence. That should not mean that you have to give yourself the aura of authority (which is the trap of narcissism), but it means that you must carry on, be as a rock at your post. This is important because the people need you as someone who is ready to assist, who is, like the Lord, trustworthy and reliable.


  • The expression ‘endure suffering’ (‘kakapatheo’) appears only in four places: in 2 Timothy 4:5, in 2 Timothy 2:3, 2 Timothy 2:9 and in James 5:13. The word ‘suffering’ in 2 Tim 3: 1 is from a different etymological origin.
  • In the old Testament we meet - apart from Judges, Prophets and Kings - Priests and Levites as leaders. The prophet Malachi portrays the Levites, being the teachers of the law, as great examples for the people. In his book we find an Old Testament example of suffering for the Lord’s sake. They had the fear of the Lord. The testimony of the Levites is put by Malachi in the singular: ‘True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips.’ For the subject of this Bible-Study, it is important what is added in Malachi 2:5 ‘He stood in awe of my name’. This can refer to their zeal as described in Ex. 32:26 ff. Num. 25:7, 8, 12, but can also be read as ‘he (that is to say: Levi) was crushed for My Name’s sake, that means that he has endured all dangers and difficulties because of My Name’ (literally translated from KTSV).
  • The German Exegete Adolf Schlatter stresses that ‘sober minded’ in 2 Tim 4:5, referred to the need of being realistic. Having a calling could mean that you are full of zeal, full of fantasy about an ideal situation. To work as an evangelist, however means that you reckon with the reality of life, which can be in contrast to fantasy: 'The structure of fantasy produces a noise-like state in which a veil lies over the eye and the reality is veiled. The real service of the Gospel needs a clear look’. (‘Die Gebilde der Phantasie erzeugen einen rauschartigen Zustand, bei dem ein Schleier sich über das Auge legt und die Wirklichkeit verhüllt wird. Zum echten Dienst am Evangelium gehört ein klarer Blick’, Schlatter, 1964, p. 235).


  • What is the difference between internal and external suffering?
  • At what moments do you experience that your work is ‘ploughing into rocks’. What difficulties cause external suffering?
  • People can also suffer from other afflictions that differ from the internal and external ones mentioned. Think about an illness that you can overcome.
  • What strategies do you have with the call to endure? In what way are you an example for colleagues in this regard? What are your own examples of people with a proper ‘sober mindedness’?
  • Watch together with your colleagues a documentary about the evangelist Hudson Taylor or an interview with Joni Eareckson-Tada, who uses her handicap, an illness, to praise God and to encourage others. What can you learn from these life stories with regard to calling, suffering and enduring?
Related bible studies:53 (Leadership), 54 (Urgency), 59 (Evil)


‘And since struggles come to the ministers of Christ from the very moment when they begin to discharge their office faithfully, he also reminds him to be firm and immovable in enduring adversity’. (Calvin, Commentary on Timothy, p. 336)
Keywords: resistance, suffering, endurance, engagement, leadership

57 - Evaluation

‘I have finished the race...’ 2 Timothy 4:7
Scripture reading: 2 Tim 4: 6-8; 1 Cor 9: 24-27; Exodus  29: 38-46
Suggestion for singing: Will your anchor hold Mission praise: 770

On the basis of this passage, scholars have concluded that the second letter to Timothy is one of the final letters of Paul. He is about to be executed and feels an urgency to stress what is important to his friend and co-worker Timothy. At the end he wants to share the wisdom he has learned during his stormy career as an apostle. He is definitely positive and concludes that he fought a good fight.
When a senior teacher looks back at his/her career, he/she can reflect in a similar way: ‘the journey was not easy, but definitely it was good. At the end I can be content. I met many difficulties but I could carry on’.
Yes, there have been difficulties. Therefore a teacher can recognize his job as a ‘fight’. From the places where Paul uses the metaphor of the athlete fighting for the prize (I recommend studying them in detail, see note), we can learn a few characteristics he had in mind when speaking of a battle. I will summarize three. Firstly: an athlete has to compete according to the rules of the game (2 Tim 2:5). Secondly: he exerts himself heavily because there is only one who gets the prize. And every athlete has to fight for that prize (1 Cor 9:24). Thirdly: he is disciplined and exercises self-control (1 Cor 9:24-27).
When we take these characteristics as evaluation points, perhaps each teacher can check them off, one by one: I have played the game according to the rules, I have done my utmost and I have practiced self-control. The hard thing of the image of the battle of the athlete, however, is that it shows such a total engagement to the job, that hardly anyone can say: yes that is also how I experience it. In his farewell speech at the beach of Milete (to the elders of Ephesus) Paul referred to the course of the athlete in that total engaged manner as in the texts already mentioned above: ‘But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.’ Who can say this after Paul?
When we compare ourselves to this total engagement we can feel weak, and conclude that the battle was not as good as we wished for. That is, at least, what we would conclude from our own perspective. Paul’s message has yet another perspective. Let us look at how the total engagement is phrased just before the words about the athlete: ‘I am already being poured out as a drink offering’. Paul refers here to the daily ritual of offering a lamb every morning and every evening, as commanded in Exodus 29: 38-46. A hin of wine (about 3,5 liters) had to accompany the sacrifice next to the entrance of the tent. The offer at that place symbolizes the Lord’s promise that he would meet the people of Israel and live amidst them. Paul’s engagement seems directly connected to his mission to arrange an encounter of the God of Israel with other non-Jewish peoples. They are also privileged to come very near to God: ‘But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ’ (Ephesus 2:13).
‘I am being poured out’ is a passive phrasing, which means that God worked through Paul. Because he was called by the Lord he forgot what lay behind and strived for the prize (Phil 3: 13-14). So the sacrifice is not something he himself chose, but was a holy activity God initiated in him. It is like Paul confessed in 1 Corinthians 15:11: ‘It is not I but the grace of God that is with me’
We may also compare ourselves with this point in Paul’s unique account of his career. How did God work through me? Taking this point as decisive, we could perhaps shout with joy about all God has given to us. Perhaps it suffices when you see yourself as a drop of the sacrifice offered for the sake of the engagement with others. If your pupils have come in one way or another nearer to God, would the evaluation not result very positively?
Definitely, the battle was good. For those who are going to retire I would say: Do trust that God was doing his work through you. For those who have to run a shorter or longer track of the course I would say: carry on in the Power of the Lord.


  • Paul was very familiar with the image of the athlete. We can conclude this from the passages 1 Corinthians 9:24-26, Phillipians 2:16 and Galatians 2:2;5:7. Note that the practice of competition in our times is still very similar to that in ancient times. An athlete sets targets and strives to attain those targets. Because sporting is his/her passion, the training is not a punishment but a pleasure. The one moment to achieve the aim of getting the prize Paul refers to is also recognizable by twenty first century athletes. I am thinking of someone who at the end got the second prize instead of the first. He was exhausted and extremely disappointed. He had exerted in practice day by day, month after month, year after year for just one race, and at the end said: ‘I have given everything I had in me for that one moment.’
  • Many teachers finish their career earlier than the age of retirement. The turnover of teachers is  thought to be much higher than in other professions. http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/why-do-teachers-quit/280699/ retrieved 24th July, 2017.


  • When you look back at you career at this moment, no matter how many years you have worked, can you affirm that the journey has been ‘good’?
  • In what regard do you recognize your professional life as a battle in which you have to compete with others?
  • After returning from the Olympics in Rio de J, 19th August 2016, without a gold medal, the Dutch Athlete Daphne Schippers uttered very disappointedly: ‘I came here for ONE thing: and that was gold’. Disappointments belong to our human condition, because we are fallible and restricted. How do you deal with disappointments, misfortunes? Have you ever experienced ‘not getting’ gold in situations in which you have given all your efforts because you were convinced you were in the way of God?
  • Take a piece of paper and try to note a few words that come up in your mind next to each evaluation point mentioned above:
    • Worked according to the rules
    • Done one’s utmost
    • Worked with discipline
  • Assignment for every teacher, regardless of what stage of career he/she is at. What would you like to strive for in your professional life from now on, so that you would be content with your career at the end? What does this mean for the decisions you have to make right now? What to do, what to leave?
  • Assignment for teachers who are about to finish their professional career. Write a letter to a young teacher (think about someone you have worked with or someone you supervised/mentored as a practicing teacher). Write down what you have learned, including both a personal evaluation and a message for the young teacher. Write it in a way that the letter could be published, or read by a class of trainee teachers at university.
  • Assignment for teacher training, in a lesson about professionalism in the teaching job. Interview a professional athlete about his or her passion. What does he/she aim for? What does he/she need to restrain from? In the report of this interview, compare his/her passion with your own passion, your aims and efforts.


“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:12-14, ESV)
 Keywords: evaluation, review, good bye, senior, battle

58 - Unpredictable helpers

‘May it not be charged against them’ 2 Timothy 4:16
Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 4:9-18
Suggestion for singing: Who is on the Lord’s side, Mission Praise 769

In this section we meet Paul in a lonesome mood. He had a hearing in court without anybody to stand him by. All the people belonging to his inner circle had gone away. That was for different reasons: Demas deserted from the mission, Crescens, Titus, Mark and Tychicus were elsewhere for the spreading of the gospel. And maybe some people didn’t want to support Paul in his defense because they feared for their own safety.
Fortunately, after that particular session in court, Luke had come to him. His presence next to him would become very important because he was a well-educated man, not only a physician but also an expert in law, which would become very helpful during the process. But since, according to Jewish law, at least two or three people were needed in court as a witness, he painfully missed the people who left him. Perhaps that was the reason of Paul’s urgent call to Timothy to come to Rome (verse 9), if possible together with Mark (Van Houwelingen, 235-242).
Paul’s experiences resemble the abandonment of Jesus. In the years that Jesus walked around the country, great numbers followed him. And when they gradually left, the inner circle of disciples stayed beside Him (John 6:56-58). But at the end, when the trial proceeded, no one of that inner circle stayed with Him. Everyone deserted and fled (Mark 14:50). He was even betrayed by one of them.
Abandonment is one of the sufferings the followers of Jesus can also experience. This can occur in situations Christian teachers work in. Think about a teacher in a developing country who feels the mission to found a school in a rural area in Africa. He carefully builds on the project together with a team of enthusiastic other young teachers. But gradually he loses his supporters. One follows his calling to found a school in another area, a second dies from a severe illness, and one by one the others accept better paid jobs in the neighboring city. Another example I heard of, is a private school in Scotland where the teachers feel themselves abandoned by Christian parents in the neighborhood, because gradually more and more parents were sending the children to public schools. There was also little financial support from congregations with the result that salaries could not be paid on time.
To be alone in a missionary task is a terrible thing. Even when you understand that other friends or colleagues are following their callings, and are not able to support you: being alone is hard. You need support. Everyone needs the backing of people around to a certain degree, especially in tough circumstances. When Christians lack this basic need, there is just one thing left. S/he may take support in Jesus (compare verse 17). He was the one who was left. ‘He was despised and rejected by men’ (Isaiah 53:3). There is no suffering that was not experienced by Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16).
There is, however, another aspect in the discipleship we see here. Paul prays that the abandonment may not be charged against them. With the exception of Alexander (see note) he is very mild against the helpers who left him. He did not rebuke them. This is a wonderful but also very difficult aspect of discipleship. A more natural response to being left would be revenge. But Paul prays for the helpers like Jesus did pray for his enemies when he was on the cross (Luke 23:34). Maybe this prayer was strongly printed in his memory because Paul as a young man witnessed the stoning of Stephen and his prayer for his torturers (Acts 7:60).
Forgiveness is not an easy thing, but nevertheless it is a task. Jesus strongly urged his disciples to practice forgiveness: seventy times seventy (Matthew 18:22). Jesus himself is the one who has made it possible.


  • Paul shows feeling of forgiveness, but not towards Alexander. About him he says: ‘The Lord will repay him according to his deeds’. Here we meet him considering revenge as is done in Psalm 62:13, Psalm 58 and Psalm 109. I am not sure whether Paul says this with the conviction that the Lord ‘will render to each one according to his work’. He elsewhere warns not to take revenge oneself: ‘Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’ (Rom 12:19) (texts all mentioned by Van Houwelingen 214). Alexander most probably was the coppersmith of Ephesus, who caused the imprisonment (Acts 19:33-34). Obviously, he still was a threat for the spreading of the gospel, because Paul warns Timothy of him.
  • A good example of encouragement in the life of Paul is the moment he arrives in Rome and three brothers are ready to meet him: ‘On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage’ (Acts 28:15).


  • Have you ever been left by loved ones, by dear friends? What made it painful? And how did you cope with the pain?
  • Every human being needs support of others, not only in private but also in professional life. How are you supported in your work? How do you support others?
  • Many of our students know what it is like to be left by parents, friends or others (for example because of death, divorce or conflicts in the family). When they share their feelings, how can you empathise with them?
  • Do you think that it is possible to forgive people who leave you? Do you think there could be reasons not to forgive? Compare Paul’s attitude to Alexander. Are Christians allowed to pray for revenge?
 Assignment for teacher education
Can we teach our students:
  • to stay firm in lonesome situations?
  • to remain faithful to friends and other important people?
  • to forgive?
Give two practical examples for each of these of how you do this.
Keywords: leadership, loneliness, support, forgiveness education
Related Bible studies:
  • Number 56 – Endurance of suffering (in that study I am speaking more in general about suffering)
  • Number 59 – Rescued by evil

59 - Rescued from evil

‘The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed…’ (2 Timothy 4: 18)
Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 4: 9-18; Psalm 22: 14 and 22; Luke 21: 16-19
Suggestion for singing: When we walk with the Lord, Mission Praise, 760

Sometimes you hear people say: ‘Will all this evil never stop?’ Think about people having an illness, with the one complication following the other, or people enduring the consequences of an earthquake or a long war. For young people the impressive power of evil sometimes is a reason for leaving the faith in God. They reason as follows: God is almighty and God is said to be good, why doesn’t he use his goodness to free the world from evil? Or more personally: when God is good, why doesn’t He rescue me from this evil that overcomes me?
Those are feelings of impotence. If not overwhelmed by actual evil, perhaps one is fearing potential evil to come. This is what children and adolescents can feel about potential illnesses, accidents or social isolation. This is also how parents or professional educators can feel when young people grow up and are threatened by internet games, addiction or choosing paths they don’t agree with. 
Paul finds himself also surrounded by evil, the lion’s mouth is nearby. ‘The lion’s mouth’ is a common Biblical expression indicating the threat of evil (see Ps. 22:14,22; Dan 6:22 and Hebr. 11:33). The picture is very concrete. Imagine an opened big mouth, with sharp teeth and powerful jaws nearby. Paul feels the threat of evil like this. He is convinced that he will die after the trial. Nevertheless he states confidently that the Lord will rescue him from every evil deed. How can we explain such a belief?
This confidence cannot literally refer to a concrete salvation for Paul. When you are sure of your death, this is the end of earthly life. It must refer to something else (see first section in Bible study 57). From the context we can conclude that it most probably has to do with encouragement. Paul says in verse 17 that the Lord stood him by and strengthened him. Acts 23:11 tells that he experienced such an encouragement earlier when he was in trouble in Jerusalem (Van Houwelingen, p. 244). Because the Romans feared that ‘Paul would be torn to pieces’ they took him into a secure place. At night the Lord stood by him and encouraged him. Being rescued from evil thus means: to be helped through. You are secure within the troubles because the Lord is nearby.
This is the ‘nevertheless’ of faith. When you are surrounded by evil, you are sure that you will be safe. Ultimately, God has everything in his hand. He has the power over all powers, even over the power of death (Rom 6:9; Revelations 20:6). Even when death appears, the believer needs not to be afraid. Dealing with evil therefore means awareness of Jesus’s presence. He went through all powers of evil and death, and won.
In the words that follow, Paul expresses his trust that the Lord will bring him ‘in his heavenly Kingdom’. This is the secret of faith. Even if you are persecuted ‘not a hair of your head will perish’ (Luke 21:16). Many times this will not be literally the truth, but ultimately the hairs of your head are very safe, because the believer belongs to the Father. This is not just a bandage to stop the bleeding. This is a strong conviction that at the end you will be entrusted a place in full harmony and unity with God the Creator (Johns 14: 1-3). ‘To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.’


  • Because in Rome it was very common that sentenced criminals were thrown before the lions in the amphitheater, one might think that Paul very concretely feared the lions. However, because Paul was a Roman citizen, he could not be treated in that way.
  • Young children can already be afflicted by questions about evil. They pray for their ill grandfather, grandmother, brother or sister and observe that the loved one does not recover. This is not a matter of ‘not yet being grown up’, but a temptation of adult believers as well. See for example Hiob (Hiob 3) and Asaf in Psalm 73. Jesus in his struggle in Gethsemane asked his father to remove the cup of anger (Luke 22: 39-46).
  • The problem of the existence of evil is very much discussed by philosophers and theologians. Modern people can easily see evil as the evidence that a good God cannot exist. Basically the questions, mentioned in the first section of this Bible study, are the same for believers and non believers. (If you want to read the problem of the origin of evil and suffering (‘theodicy’), I recommend reading the chapter on this in James Smith’, How not to be secular, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pages 60-78). 


  • What powers of evil do you discern in your environment? Which are a threat for you personally? How do you deal with them?
  • What are threats for the students you are teaching or mentoring? How should we deal with questions of children and adolescents about the power of evil and the power of God?
  • After the German theologian Bonhoeffer heard the sentence of death, he wrote to his English friend bishop George Bell: ‘This is the end, for me the beginning of life’  E. Bethge (1986), Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Theologe. Christ. Zeitgenosse. p. 1037, note 54 München: Chr. Kaiser. How can you explain this expression? Would you also look forward to death in that way?
  • Assignment. Find three Bible verses by which you can console children and adults if evil around them occurs (think about children in your own classes, colleagues and parents of children).
  • Assignment for student teachers: From what age would you think children should be confronted with the questions raised in the ‘theodicy-problem’? How could you evoke insights in this topic?
  • Assignment for student teachers: prepare a lesson in which you think about ‘the problem of evil’ with your class. What example would you use? How would you come near to the experience of your age group? How would you avoid simply coming with ‘a bandage to stop the bleeding?’
Related studies:
  • 56 (about 2 Tim 4: 5 – Endurance of suffering). Number 56 is about the attitude against those around you that cause trouble. In contrast, this Bible study (number 59) is about the character of suffering, the Lion’s mouth and the emphasis is on the act of believing and on trust.
  • 58 (about 2 Tim 4: 16 – Unpredictable helpers) is about specific aspects of suffering: loneliness and disappointment.
Keywords: evil, suffering, endurance, faith

60 - Grace

‘The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you’ (2 Timothy 4: 22)
Scripture reading: 2 Timothy 4: 19-22
Suggestion for singing: May the Lord bless you, Mission Praise 464

I know teachers who greet their colleagues every day two times by a handshake. When they meet in the morning the ritual says something like ‘glad to see you again’ and in the evening it symbolizes the desire to meet each other the next morning. Greeting – also when it is just done by words -  can become a ritual you would hardly think about its meaning. But the daily repetition doesn’t make the greeting meaningless. Think only of what happens if someone forgot to greet you. You feel there is something missing.
Greetings in letters are meaningful in the same way. In Timothy’s time you would have received a letter that would, usually, have started with the word ‘charire’, which means: ‘be glad’ (from the word Chara = gladness). Paul often starts his letters slightly different. He greets with the word ‘charis’, which means ‘grace’, and he also concludes with the words ‘grace be with you’ in the last sections of his letters. In the second letter to Timothy the ‘grace’ words in the last chapter are preceded by a couple of greetings to others and greetings from the Christians of Rome. Paul also arranges a few practical things, something which most of the time also belongs to a farewell. He orders Timothy to come before winter and to bring his coat and books (4:13). But then at the end it sounds as a final shout: The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you!
There are significant meanings in these short sentences, which teachers can keep in mind when they say good bye to each other at the end of a course. Generally speaking, ‘grace’ has to do with getting something for free. To get grace is like getting a present from your boss, without having made any extra effort. He gives it to you just to show his gratitude that you are his companion. Wishing each other ‘grace’ would mean that the other could do his work without stress, in a relaxed way, like you would say ‘my teaching job is a present that I receive everyday with joy’. Next, there is a somewhat deeper meaning in the word that has to do with the centrality of the concept in Paul’s theology. His letters to the Romans and the Galatians clearly explain that Christians are not saved by good works but by grace. So when mentioning the word grace, we are also reminded of our sinful existence outside Christ. It is only thanks to Christ self-giving love that we are being saved, and can live in new freedom (explicitly explained in Galatians 5). So, if we would greet each other with ‘grace be with you’, it would differ significantly from the meaning of ‘have a nice evening’ or ‘see you tomorrow’. We desire for each other a life in existential freedom.
Maybe it is culturally not fitting to greet with ‘grace be with you’. But isn’t the meaning – perhaps brought about with other words - not a magnificent desire to express when we say farewell!
The nice thing is that Paul uses the phrase in plural. He is aware that many others in the environment of Timothy would read or hear the words. What he is saying sounds like: ‘Grace be with you all’. The blessing for the individual must be spread to others. So when we would leave the school community with greetings of grace to someone, we would also mean that the other would be a bearer of the message of grace. We speak out that we wish that the whole community will continue to live in thankfulness for the grace of God. This is also my wish for the worldwide community of teachers, who aim to spread the blessings of the gospel: ‘Grace be with you!’


  • Grace is an essential category in the Bible. If you want to go deeper into the meaning of grace, I recommend studying Galatians 5 within the context of the whole letter. See also Romans 5:20, 6:14, and Ephesians 2:15. The discovery of grace has been a leading motive throughout Church history; think about Augustin, Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. During and after the protestant Reformation in the 16th century, much scholarly thinking was about the meaning of grace and its relation to mercy, which for example resulted in the distinction of common grace and particular grace. There have been many warnings of the risk of such distinctions. You could easily fall short in a dualism between the spiritual life and the daily life.
  • If you want to study about grace as related to gifts and to everyday life, you could study 1 Corinthians 4:2, 2 Corinthians 12:9, 1 Peter 4:10.
  • Ultimately, mentioning grace is a kind of referring to the character of God. He revealed Himself as a forgiving God in which we can find abundance of goodness. Some cultures have the references to God in their greetings: the word ‘salam’ in Arab and ‘shalom’ in Hebrew refer to the peace God can give. The French say ‘A Dieu’, the Swiss and Austrian people say ‘Grüss Gott’.
  • The way teachers welcome their students in a classroom expresses how the teacher views the relationship with his/her students. Stratman states that an essential characteristic of the hospitable teacher is that he is able to know all the names, even before they enter the classroom for the first time. (Jake Stratman (2015). What’s in a Name: The Place of Recognition in a Hospitable Classroom. International Journal of Christianity and education. 19/1, 27-37.)


  • Reflect for a moment on what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:7 ‘What do you have that you not have received’. Does the awareness that we receive everything by grace, have consequences for the shaping of our everyday lives? How could teachers encourage each other to practice daily thankfulness?
  • How do you welcome your students in the classroom? Is there a specific reason why you do it that way?
  • Which rituals do you have to greet your colleagues (when you enter the school and when you leave the school)? What do you see as the meaning of those rituals?
  • What habits do you have to conclude an e-mail, a letter, or perhaps also a text message or a whatsapp message? Do you think it is important to think about your phrasing?
  • When Paul addresses his greetings to both Timothy personally and the circle around him, he speaks in a context in which people are less individualized than in our times. But nevertheless we can ask: how can a wish, a blessing for an individual become a blessing for the community?
Keywords: greetings, farewell, blessing
Related Bible study: TfT number 1 (A blessing for teachers)

On the 29. of January 2013 David I. Smith was delivering  the main lecture  about ‘Believe in Christian teaching’ at Driestar educatief in Gouda. In this  film fragment Smith answers the following question: Is Christian teaching primarily formed by de character of the Christian teacher and the Christian believe and ideas? Smith explains that is not the case. It is also the structure and the process of learning and teaching.

Professor David I. Smith is director of the ‘Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning’ at the Calvin College in Grand Rapids.