Only a living example can teach morality
by Pastor David Cox
See also my tract G16 The Example of the Man of God
But the complaints burst forth, “All the teachers and staff at our Christian university are very moral people! We have the highest moral standards!” Yes, but the problem is that the Bible has established a certain protocol and principles, and by-passing them simply destroys everything.
Knowledge is not equal to Spirituality
The first grave problem that shows that Christian universities are working totally outside God’s framework, is that there is a presumption that knowledge is or gives spirituality.
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Satan’s astuteness is pointed at “educating” Adam and Eve with knowledge. Satan’s temption of Eve, the first sin committed among mankind, was over knowledge, getting an education was the thing that pulled Eve into sinning. God had a personal fellowship with man (walking en the evening of the day with God to learn of Him), and Satan deceived them into going off to get an education that would make them gods. There is nothing wrong with learning, but true spirituality and piety takes time and a lot of effort. Sitting under some great teacher under a compressed situation of intensive learning will not make you super-spiritual, super smart, not a better Christian. The process must take it course, over time, with the individual meditating on these spiritual truths of God’s Word, and then he must repent and respond to these truths, changing his life to make himself more Christlike through the working of God’s Holy Spirit in your life. A lot of facts and knowledge will not do this by itself.
We as Christians should not be ignorant, but neither should we be deceived into thinking that an education will make us more spiritual, or more obedient. But we must clearly separate spiritual obedience from spiritual knowledge. Knowledge “puffs up” but love pleases God. Search the Scriptures and find one haughty, arrogant, proud person identified as a believer. They don’t exist in Scripture. Humbleness, meekness and gentleness, are the requisites for drawing near to God. God’s threat is that He personally will throw down the haughty and arrogant.
Control Techniques of Exalting Titles
Job 32:22 For I know not to give flattering titles; [in so doing] my maker would soon take me away.
Matt 23:9 And call no [man] your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
The correct exposition of Matthew 23:9 understands that this is not being applied to a son and his biological father, but rather people who presume to take the position of a rabbi, or a spiritual guru over the lives of the brethren. The strictly condemns this haughty, arrogance, of exalting one believer over another because of his supposed “spiritual expertise”. The Bible sets our bilateral relationship within the body of Christ as being a family, and in that teaching, nobody is “papa” over the rest. Every Christian has to take issues to the Scriptures and only what God has clearly revealed is obliging upon the rest. A lot of Pastors of local churches don’t understand that their leadership style is set by God as being an example to the flock of God, not lordship and dominion (1Pet 5:1-5).
Gal 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Roman Catholics and many sects and cults do just the opposite of this. They use control techniques to control the spiritual lives of others, and God specifically commands us NOT TO ALLOW OURSELVES TO FALL UNDER THE CONTROL OF SUCH PEOPLE.
One of these practices or control techniques is the exaltation of the person of a Bible teacher. So many young and spiritually ignorant Christians want to exalt these famous Bible teachers and even preachers, evangelists, and pastors to a point of accepting whatever they say as being the same as the Word of God. Respect is due your pastor, but even then, you must gauge your respect based on how well he obeys the Word of God (and explains his life in the light of Scripture) and how well he actually lives what he preaches.
In Christian Colleges, there is a dual set of Christianity much like the clergy and laymen type problems that were created by the Roman Catholic church. When a lowly layman of a church says that something is wrong, and bumbling he gives a passage of Scripture which defends his position, most will laugh at him and not take him seriously. But let a Christian professor, with a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree in Bible, a Masters of Divinity degree, and several doctorates say, “I think it is so and so…” and everybody presumes that you cannot disagree with such a statement. His much studying and titles of exaltation make him untouchable.
Just pick up any Bible School catalogue. Look in the back at the list of teachers, and ask yourself, “What are these people’s qualifications for teaching the Bible to me?” You will find a list of alphabet soup, people’s names with their degrees after them. In the Bible, God tells us to demand and insist on seeing a godly, pious life in your Bible teacher, not other men’s recognition.
In contrast to this, the Bible puts forth a great importance on a living example of a faithful Christian life that gives biblical reasons for what one does.
Why single men cannot be pastors
Have you ever stopped and tried to understand why God gives the requires he gives in 1Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1? One of the requirements is that he be married, and another is that he have his children under control. Why are these even given as requirements for a man of God that teaches you the Bible, and in which you go under his “religious government” (a sheep is under the religious government of a pastor, and this is the only biblical example that we have of this)?
The reason lies in the fact that you as a student MUST SEE HIS PERSONAL LIFE BEFORE ACCEPTING HIS SPIRITUAL TEACHING! Indeed I have seen situations where a man is extremely “extremist” in many points of his life, and when you actually do see his relationship with his wife and as parents their government over their children, it is nothing examplary. It is a disaster.
Everybody that gets married has some problems every now and then. Two people living together have these. It is not the existence of differences of opinion that is important, but the resolution of those differences (or the constant nagging problem of them) which speaks to the spirituality of the two, or the lack of it. Equally all parents have problems with their children, and it is important to God that these situations be worked out and resolved in such a way that they give testimony to the sprituallife of the pastor. This comes through very strongly in these requirement passages.
Studying the personal morality and piety of your Bible teacher
Why is it important that a student see the morality practically lived of their Bible teachers? It is because this is where they conclude that it is fully possible to live a good Christian life, or that a particular teacher is just a hypocrite (and this abounds in Christian Universities). Personally, I don’t put any estimation of good on any “Christian teacher” that isn’t personally involved in a local church, attending, teaching, participating, and especially going out every week witnessing. Schools require the students to do “Christian service” but never require the teachers the same thing, why? Is their example of no effect? No, it would be great to have their teachers out door to door knocking on doors and promoting God’s salvation.
The point is that the school puts so much pressure on these teachers that their priorities are all head knowledge, informaton that hasn’t been personally assimilated into their life, and practically there is little that can be grasped on a real level. They know well, but live little. This situation creates what is know as an actor (many Christian schools have great drama groups because the teachers are great “actors”). An actor is somebody that is an expert at presenting themself to be what they are not really. Think about that! Do you really want to learn morality from somebody who is an expert Shakespearean actor? Does that kind of go against your yea, being yea, and your no, being no?
The very same schools will tell you that 50% of a lecture is forgotten by the end of the day, and around 5%-10% is retained by the end of the week, and it is a miracle if anything is retained by the end of the semester. So why sweat the students with all this factual downpouring of information? This is the great fault of the Bible school system. They address the spiritual ignornace of God’s people by teaching facts and figures when they should concentrate on living what they know. This is the great spiritual chaos of Christianity, because we have never had so many experts before in the history of Christianity, and so little spirituality and holiness.
God’s way is slow, sure, but true.
Each week a couple of sermons or teachings are presented in the typical church where the person can comtemplate only a few basic, central teachings from the Bible, and during the week he puts them into practice in a practical daily way in his life. This is the way God has given us to learn morality. At the heart of this morality teaching is the pastor and the Bible teacher. These are men who dedicate their lives to obeying God’s word in their own personal life. I don’t know if my Bible professors at Bible College were godly men or not, because I was constantly prevented from any intercourse, conversation, or viewing of their personal lives. All I saw of them was them teaching in front of the class, and normally none of them allowed personal examples to come forth in their lectures. So how could I have know anything really about them? They don’t even tell us where they went to church or even if they went.
1Tim 3:6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
1Tim 3:7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
I wonder at this verse greatly. The Bible requires that a pastor (spiritual teacher) not be a novice because novices are always falling into the tendency and error of arrogance. (1) a “novice” is a person that does not have a whole lot of experience, and that may know a tremendous amount of “facts” but cannot handle the correct extraction of spiritual principles and application of those principles correctly to the situations of life. (2) The visual, seen reputation of the Bible teacher must be stubstantiated through public viewing of his life.
In Christian schools, the teachers have tremendous head knowledge of the Bible, but where is the practical extraction of principles that are applied to various situations. We would suppose that they have their own lives as living examples of Christ (we would have to say “suppose” because they are by rule sequestered from our view, and only the University supposedly knows their true life style). How would these people actually get the vast experience of applying Scripture principles to individual situations? Well a pastor of a local church does this on a massive basis constantly. He visits personally and individually his sheep, and discerns their individual problems, and goes to his study and prepares his sermons based on what he discerns from their situations and the Word of God. Again, sequestering the Bible teacher in ivory towers where they are kept from real contact with the world simply is not the example for teachers of morality that God has given us.
A Christian School proposes that they are the best solution for teaching morality to our people, when they are the simply outside of what God wants.
Following the faith and conversation (conduct)
Heb 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation.
The principle here is that we are to imitate the doctrine and spiritual example of those (1) who have the rule over us (our submission to a spiritual authority has to be on the basis of that authority living the biblical example), (2) who have spoken unto us the word of God, (3) considering what is the final result of their Christian life. God has established a spiritual principle which cannot be overlooked, which is that a person can only learn true morality through seeing a living example teach it (via theory and practice). This condition is very critical in the transmission of morality, and God has focused that the legitimate spiritual authority (humanly speaking) is the godly pastor of your local church. Hypocrisy is extremely damaging to the transmission of true morality from one generation to the next.
The entire setup of a Christian university is to isolate the teachers (and their personal lives, testimonies, etc) from the common view of the students. Students “are not to bother the teachers” in their personal lives. Few Christian universities seem to have much use for local churches except as a milk cow, from which they milk all the youth away. Where do the majority of the students sit beside their University professors on Sunday morning, seeing the professors “way of life” with their own spouse and kids? As a rule, the school separates the students from the “normal” lives of their teachers.
But that is the very essence of teaching morality according to the Bible. Here we have heard stupid declarations from even some pastors that are fanboys of the Universities. “We shouldn’t look at God’s servants, but at Christ. If you follow a preacher (pastor is their real intent), then he will always lead you wrong. You have to put your eyes on Jesus.” All that sounds pious, spiritual, and it “sounds” biblical, but it is completely wrong.
1Pet 5:1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
We find that the pastor-elder is the one who has spiritual oversight of the flock of God, and their oversight and teaching is via “being a personal example to the flock.” This clarifies Hebrews 13:7, as to whom the spiritual rulers over God’s people are. They are not Christian universities, but pastors of local churches who feed them and spiritual care for them. Acts 20:28 also links the elder-pastor as the spiritual caretaker of the flock of God. Moreover, God instructs us to “examine the fruit” of ministers’ lives to see what they spiritually produce through their life and ministry.
Matt 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
We can only discern the true from the false in some cases by seeing the spiritual fruit of that minister’s life. How does that work in a typical Christian university setting? I would understand this “fruit” that Jesus spoke of as being (1) the character of the Holy Spirit living within that person (like as in Gal. 5:22-23), (2) the fruit of saved souls, or (3) the fruit of their ministry, as in a man goes to a town and evangelizes and starts a local church. The personal character of a University professor is seldom seen. How is he with his wife, kids, neighbors, in non-formal settings? Nobody knows, and the false prophet will always be able to deceive for one joint “teacher-student” get together once a year. Seldom will the congregation not know the spiritual fruit of their pastor. They see him with his wife, his kids, at church meals, in counseling, sometimes they are even in informal kids’ type setting with him (soccer practice, basketball, community projects, etc). All of this establishes the pastor’s moral qualifications to teach. This is where the congregation can clearly see if what he teaches he practices, or not.
Instead of thinking that we need “x” amount of spiritual knowledge about the Bible, who wrote each book, in what century, in what town, where even Bible city mentioned is found, etc. we need to think, our young people and new converts need to live a godly life. That is spiritual education we need to give to them. For all the wonderful things that they teach you in a Bible college, 95% will be forgotten before graduation. So what are you left with (besides a big bill)? Supposedly the Christian university is giving their students an education in morality, but morality is only learned by seeing it practiced constantly and in daily examples as it is theoretically taught. If you ripe the theoretical and concentrate it in a Christian University, you don’t teach morality, but hypocrisy.
2Thess 3:7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power,but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.
Perhaps the typical congregation will not have the minute details that a Ph.D. graduating from a Seminary would have, but spiritually, they are not as proud and arrogant as the typical PhD either. Paul’s teaching in 2Thess 3:7-9 has that underlying principle that morality is only caught or taught by following a personal example of a highly moral person. When preachers and college professors understand that morality is something that is passed from one person to another separate from and apart from head knowledge, then we will have achieved something. This teaching of morality absolutely MUST come from a local, know and verified individual. This is why God has set up the divine pattern of a local church, with a man of God as the pastor-spiritual caretaker over the flock. This is how morality is passed from one person to another. You cannot cut this process short, and as much as we may think concentrating the theory in a classroom setting, God thinks otherwise.
Personally I have a Masters in Bible, and a Masters in Educational Administration and Supervision. My idea was to come to Mexico and start a small “Bob Jones University” here. Through a lot of thinking, meditating, and allowing God to change my ideas as He desires, I finally came to understand that this was wrong. The biblical method is a local church, not a school. So I concentrated my efforts in building a local church, but again the school mentality came in, and I wanted to make classes for my people. Again I had to “undo” my thinking. The slow methodical teaching of one precept over another each week by somebody who is living these precepts is how people learn morality. There is no other way. You fill a person’s head with theory, and they have no way of practicing all they learn. It must be like Isaiah writes,
Isa 28:10 For precept [must be] upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, [and] there a little:
The idea of Isaiah 28:10 is that morality is learned slowly. We can try to rush the process, but what happens is that the student gets haughty in his advanced “knowledge” of Scripture, and their education brings more problems that it helps. I have people here wanting to learn Greek from me. But what I see is that they want to use the fact that “they know Greek” to silence their opponents in their arguments. There is no real serious desire to understand better the Scriptures through knowing the original languages. The motive and actitud of the student is extremely critical in determining the benefit or damage an education will cause the student.
When we see Christian university professors that boast their advanced knowledge of Scriptures, what are they teaching by their example? Arrogance? This spiritual attitude is easily picked up by the majority of the students, and they “want to be like their professors!”
The entire concept of following Christ, being like Christ, imitating Christ is not found in the use of advanced spiritual knowledge, the deepened understanding of an expert teacher, nor the expert ability to debate. What we find in the example of Christ is humility, compassion, service. To serve instead of be served. This is what is the essence of morality, and unfortunately it is very lightly treated in “Christian education” of today. The emphasis is always on more knowledge, better use of ability to defend one’s position. That is good to some extent, but most of the time, it leads to the sin of arrogance which is just as bad as any error or heresy in God’s eyes.
Eph 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
1John 2:6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
John 13:15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
1Pet 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
The concept of following God by following good moral examples is definitely biblical. This is why God puts so much emphasis in a pastor being qualified. It (along with deaconship, or official church service) is one of the few ministries or positions that have a list of requirements as necessary before and during service. If God had the concept in mind of Christian universities being a viable and blessed ministry, won’t He have equally made requirements for Christian university professors?
There is a problem here, that of a false prophet. The false prophet is seen in Scriptures as a person of double standards, an actor, or a hypocrite. He makes one set of standards “for the flock” and another for himself. Sounds like the typical Christian university. The standards for the teachers and staff are “looser” than for the students. Why the double standard? This is part of the students’ “education”, that things are different for them so that they can learn. But what do they learn by going through the process of a Christian college? But the double standards of a Christian university are just “part of the system” supposedly.
What happened to following the example of a “man of God”? This is definitely not what Christian Universities teach, because (1) they hide the daily lives of their teachers and staff from the common student, and (2) they freely set up double standards all around the teachers and staff. When a Christian College Professor says he is a spiritual example to the students, in what way is that true? What does he mean? How can you imitate what you cannot see and do not know? I remember hearing a complaint against Dr. Bob Jr’s autobiography, and they said that as he related the most cherished experiences of his life, there were no “normal” church experiences. He doesn’t talk about attending Sunday School as a child or youth, nor church youth activities, etc. For that matter, do you see Christian college professors out evangelizing? No. Why not? The students are supposed to do this because all good Christians do this, but do the professors and staff go out with the students? They are exempt because they are an “upper tiered Christian”, a Christian with special privileges. It is a very interesting comparison to compare these spiritual leaders with the life of the Apostle Paul, Peter, or Christ. Peter and Paul were Christian teachers, but their teaching never took them out of their local church ministries of preaching and teaching. That was where they did they teaching and preaching.
Did Christ witness to people, common people? Of course he did. Did Christ teach people? Yes. But look at how he did it. He had his disciples with him almost day and night for the entire ministry so that they would learn their morality literally at the feet of (in the actual presence, witnessing first hand everything) of Jesus the master-teacher. Although this discipleship method isn’t very visible in the rest of the New Testament the other statements of learning by spiritual example come through very clear that this is the principle we should follow, and not some man-made construction.
1Cor 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Christ.
Phil 4:9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
1Cor 4:15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet [have ye] not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.
2Tim 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
Jas 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters (literally “teachers”), knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. 2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
Phil 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
Pages in this series: