ACSI — Vol 17.3
As an educator, I have always been especially intrigued that Jesus is the Master Teacher. As such, He as the Living Word is our divine source of pedagogical expertise. Likewise, when Scripture as the Written Word references “learning” or “knowledge” or “teacher” or “student,” I take particular notice. Several years ago in my personal study of the book of Titus, I saw that Paul specifically urged his son in the faith to teach, train, and encourage those he was called to minister to. As I studied Titus, I discovered something that I did not read in a commentary or from another author. It was one of those special moments in the Word when its power and relevance gripped my mind. Follow my line of thought here.
Teach. In Titus 2:1 Paul commanded Titus to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (NIV 1984, emphasis added). Paul used teach repeatedly in this passage. It is the Greek word laleo, which means “to utter a voice or emit a sound, to speak, to use the tongue or the faculty of speech,” or to use words “to declare one’s mind and disclose one’s thoughts.”* Paul literally commanded Titus to use words or his speech to declare and communicate sound doctrine. In verse 15, Paul uses the word again: “These, then, are the things you should teach” (emphasis added).
Whenever we stand before a class and use words or speech to communicate a concept, an idea, or a fact, we are teaching in this sense. It really is the primary medium by which we accomplish the formal content of what we do in education. It is pedagogical, didactic, or the specific curricular content and objectives of a given course or grade level. Think for a moment how much more challenging teaching would be if we could not use words or speech! Many times this is our primary method of teaching. It is also the most rudimentary. So Paul urged Titus to use much more than teach in his interaction with those he served.
Train. In Titus 2:3–4, Paul commands, “Teach the older women … Then they can train the younger women” (emphasis added). This word train is wholly different than teaching with words. The Greek word is sophronizo, which means to “restore one to his senses,” “to hold one to his duty, to admonish, to exhort earnestly,” “to moderate, control … disciple” (emphasis added).* The picture here is for one to model what has been taught as an example of a lifestyle that matches our duty as Christ-followers. Simply put, this is discipling.
It is sobering when we consider what Jesus said in Luke 6:40: “The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (NIV). This is exactly what Paul was emphasizing to Titus. The idea that our life is on display as a teacher and we are role models and examples is consistent throughout Scripture. It matters who we are and how we live in front of our students. One of the pioneers in Christian schooling in North America, Dr. Roy Lowrie, described this idea by saying that we are the “living curriculum” before our students. Yet Paul urged Titus even further.
Encourage. In Titus 2:6, he tells Titus, “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled” (emphasis added). This familiar Greek word parakaleo is used over 100 times in the New Testament. It simply means “to call to one’s side” or to walk alongside.* The picture here is to walk next to the one being taught to assist and encourage that student her in that walk as he or she matures into independence.
What occurred to me in my word study in Titus was that Paul really communicated our responsibility in teaching as a progression of techniques that build upon one another. Said another way, we are to do the following:
• Teach—tell them
• Train—show them
• Encourage—walk with them
My prayer is that we as Christian school educators purposefully and intentionally take full advantage of the opportunity God has given us to teach, train, and encourage the next generation. This responsibility is both sobering and daunting. May God give us the grace to be effective at all three.
*Transliterations from Greek and definitions are taken from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance online, www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/strongs-exhaustive-concordance or www.blueletterbible.org.