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K.C. Tsai—Toronto, Canada


The purpose of life is to seek God (Acts 17:26–27), to find the way back to Him (Jn 14:2–3, 6), and to prudently walk on this way. Our journey of faith is a life-long learning process where we are nurtured by God through our daily encounters. However, we tend to cling to the stereotypical impression of religious education (RE) as a passive process of classroom learning where the teacher imparts knowledge and dispels doubts, and the students receive what is taught. In fact, when teachers prepare themselves for their lessons by memorizing biblical stories, writing lecture notes, and conducting themselves in exemplary ways consistent with the Bible, these teachers are also receiving RE.

There are two key reasons why RE is particularly important in the twenty-first century: first, the increasing divergence between secular and biblical paradigms; and second, the potential lack of a home environment that is conducive to the cultivation of faith.

Differences Between World Views and Biblical Principles

Secular principles—be these common sense or accepted conventions—are not always consistent with biblical teachings (Jas 4:4; 1 Jn 2:15). The purpose of RE is to instill faith and the right beliefs in students so they can discern between worldly concepts and biblical teachings.


Box Story 1: Man’s Way vs. God’s Way

There are numerous disparities between worldly and biblical concepts:

  • People who do not know God and recognize His authority often turn to human rights. Some may take this to the extreme by advocating absolute individualism, which allows every man or woman to do whatever is right in his or her own eyes. This is exactly what Moses warned the Israelites against before they entered the Promised Land (Deut 12:8).

  • From the world’s perspective, a man who works hard can take all the credit when he achieves a goal. But the Bible teaches us that chance and opportunities are provided by God (Eccl 9:11); so we ought to give glory to God.

  • Modern man values personal opinions and ideas over the search for the will of God. Society encourages us to fight for things that we think are right (Deut 12:8). But things deemed right in human eyes are not necessarily biblically correct! God wants His people to always do what is good and right in His sight (Deut 12:28). The Bible also exhorts us to do nothing through selfish ambition or conceit; instead, in lowliness of mind, each man should esteem others better than himself (Phil 2:3).

  • Apostle Paul taught that one should not avenge himself, for God says, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay" (Rom 12:19). Yet in movies and media, we often see heroes taking things into their own hands.


Lack of a Home Environment Conducive to Religious Education

The time that our children spend attending church RE classes is limited. Hence, their actual learning of the precepts of their faith takes place at home. The effectiveness of such learning would be highly dependent on their parents’ values, faith, and lifestyle. If parents are to successfully raise a generation of godly offspring, they themselves must first have good RE.


Box Story 2: Children Learn What They Live

A child’s attitude towards his faith is shaped by the adults around him:

  • When a child grows up to be uncertain of whom he has believed, and eventually chooses to leave the church, look at the family. Although friends and the environment influence a child, the uncertainty or disillusionment usually stems from the foundation of the family.

  • When we see a youth who is pessimistic, full of grievances and unwilling to forgive, the family is likely full of criticism and grumbling. He lives in a home that lacks thanksgiving.

  • When we hear a young person often talking about values that deviate from biblical principles, one can surmise a family life inclined towards the world instead of rooted in God’s love and word.



You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you. (Deut 8:5)

Throughout the Bible, God’s emphasis on RE is clear. He allowed His people to journey in the wilderness for forty years, eating bland and tasteless food (Num 11:4–6), and living in a harsh and difficult environment (Ex 15:22–24, 17:1–3), in order to educate them. As Moses said, “you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deut 8:2–3). The forty years of wandering in the wilderness were the consequence of the Israelites’ sin of infidelity (cf. Num 14:33—they did not believe in God’s promise and were unwilling to enter Canaan out of fear). However, when the journey was drawing to an end, Moses told them it was God who used those forty years to train them, providing them with the most comprehensive RE.

In those forty years, they learned to live on God’s word and His providence. From the tabernacle, Moses brought out the word of God to transform God’s people into a holy nation, a kingdom of priests.

Today, religious education is to cultivate spiritual priests.


Cultivating Priests

The Israelites’ exodus from Egypt was a highly eventful process. Before reaching Sinai, they had been pursued by the Egyptians, challenged by the Red Sea, attacked by Amalekites, and for three days, had no water in sight. It was indeed a close shave. But God said that He bore them on eagles’ wings and brought them to Himself. He removed the Egyptian soldiers, opened a path in the Red Sea, eliminated the Amalekites, and provided water from the rock. It was only at Mount Sinai that they realized how God had protected them throughout their journey. God wanted them to be a special treasure to Him above all people, to be His kingdom of priests, His holy nation (Ex 19:4–6).

There was a purpose to God’s education of His people. It was for them to be a people dwelling alone, not reckoning itself among the nations (Num 23:9) but conducting themselves in accordance with the principles taught by God. They were trained to abide by the law regarding cleanliness and to differentiate between holy and secular things.

The book of Leviticus provides a guide on how to be a priest, as well as how to establish a society of God. It charts the transformation from slavery to priesthood, from the lowly people in Egypt to a holy nation. As such, this God-given textbook of priestly conduct is also applicable to us today.

Making Offerings

In the Old Testament, priests offered burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering (offered in thanksgiving, to fulfill a vow, or to offer up willingly, cf. Lev 7:15), sin offering, and trespass offering. In Jesus’ new covenant, His followers offer spiritual sacrifices. They are to examine themselves daily and offer up prayers of repentance to maintain a harmonious relationship with God.

In particular, believers ought to present their bodies as a living sacrifice; holy and acceptable to God (Rom 12:1). The old covenant accepted animals as sacrifices. Those animals were offered against their will. They had to be slaughtered before they were laid on the altar. Such are dead sacrifices. In the new covenant, the believer does not offer up sacrificial animals. Instead, he offers up himself willingly, while alive.

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Pet 2:5)

A willing sacrifice means that we rid ourselves of our own will and that we are completely committed to give what the Lord requires. Today’s RE requires that the educator accompany those who are being nurtured in the offering of themselves as a living sacrifice and in the process of growing up in faith.

Using Holy Fire

The two sons of Aaron were priests, ordained to serve in the tabernacle according to the commandments of God. However, they each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before God, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from God and devoured them, and they died before Him (Lev 10:1–3).

In today’s context, the purpose of carrying out church work is to serve the Lord, not to fulfill our personal ideals or ambitions (Deut 12:8). If we are resolved to serve, we must first learn the proper way of service prescribed by God (Deut 12:28). This requires diligent study of the Bible and full submission to His word. What God requires of man is to fear Him by following His command (Gen 22:12; Deut 10:12), as well as to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him (Mic 6:8).

Instilling the Fear of God

God is love (1 Jn 4:8). His is a genuine love which may lead Him to refine His people through adversities in their lives. However, God is also a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). He demands purity and holiness from His loved ones.

In the third month after Israel’s exodus from Egypt, they reached the Wilderness of Sinai (Ex 19:1). There, God gave them the Ten Commandments: they were taught to serve God and to establish a relationship with Him (the first four commandments); they were also taught the principles of handling interpersonal relationships in order to be pleasing to God (the next six commandments). Later, in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus further expounded on the Commandments. With regard to the commandment “You shall not murder”, He said that whoever was angry with his brother without a cause would be in danger of the judgment (Mt 5:21–22). With regard to the commandment “You shall not commit adultery”, He said that whoever looked at a woman and lusted after her had already committed adultery with her in his heart. These Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus constitute the most fundamental content of RE and are every godly parent’s basic tools for raising children whom God loves.

The aim of Jesus’ RE is to implant the fear of God in the heart of man. God is in heaven and man on earth (Eccl 5:2). Man has to walk prudently before Him because He searches the heart of man and watches his daily handling of affairs (Ps 139:23–24). Other than honesty and sincerity in the fear of God, there are many other spiritual virtues taught in the Bible. All these must be integrated into our lives if we are to reclaim the image and likeness of God.

Nurturing Royalty

Apostle Peter addressed the congregation, which mainly comprised non-Jews (cf. Acts 13:44–49), of the various churches in Asia Minor as the elect according to the foreknowledge, the eternal wisdom, of God the Father (1 Pet 1:1–2). They were a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, holy unto God (1 Pet 2:9). Although recipients of his letter were the churches of Asia Minor, the message is meant for all who have been redeemed, namely, the believers of the true church. It is to tell them that they are a nation of priests. With the royal priesthood, they serve God and are redeemed to Him (Rev 5:9–10).

The objective of God’s election is to bestow the royal priesthood upon His people. Being royal is to have the dignity and majesty of a king, sovereign without constraints of death and sin (1 Cor 15:55–58). Those who have been redeemed by the Lord’s precious blood shall reign on the earth (Rev 5:10); they will triumph over the world (1 Jn 5:4–5), no longer under its bondage (Heb 2:14–15). They will not be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men or in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Eph 4:13–14). On the contrary, they will be able to transcend worldly trends through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the truth of salvation.

Knowing the Common Beliefs and Practicing Proper Exegesis

However, the Lord Jesus has warned that false prophets would rise up to deceive many before His coming and the end of the age (Mt 24:10–11). Many will also stumble due to their lack of the understanding of the truth. Believers’ ability to discern will thus be challenged as never before. Therefore, it is vital for all believers to be familiar with the common beliefs of the church. Furthermore, besides clearly explaining the common beliefs, RE must include training on hermeneutic principles so that believers are able to detect inappropriate interpretation of the Bible.

Mastering Biblical Passages

Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD (Deut 8:3). With the word of God, the Israelites survived the journey through the wilderness. Likewise, His words will enable us to make the right choices between life and death, blessing and cursing (Deut 30:19).

Everyone needs God’s word to build up spiritual values and concepts, enabling us to make Bible-based judgments for everyday decisions. Although mundane, memorizing key Bible verses is the most fundamental part of RE. Some may see this as “brain washing,” but we should be thankful that our brains are washed by God’s word, for His word sanctifies and cleanses (Eph 5:26).


In a world of Internet and online activities, we are constantly bombarded by information. We need the ultimate and immutable standard of morality and values by which we can examine everything that we see, hear or read. That standard can only come from the Bible. We have to be filled with biblical concepts and values if we are to continue walking upright. We need to be reminded of how the saints would have responded in a similar situation. This then is the essence of the lifelong RE that can help form our shield of faith (cf. Eph 6:16).

Lifelong RE may be a mammoth task, since biblical teachings may be challenged by secular values and beliefs: the fiery darts of the devil. Therefore, entrenching God’s word in our hearts is our basic, if not sole, defense to the diverse values and temptations dangled in front of us by the ruler of the world. In addition, we must always be mindful of our status as royal priests elected to fear, love, and serve the Lord. This status was purchased with the precious blood of our Savior and is available to our succeeding generations with the proviso that all of us play our part in conducting a successful RE beyond the classroom.