Tommy Thornhill

I closed last week starting to answer, why it is scriptural to have divided classrooms and classes in a church building to teach the Bible? I noted at the close, God has not limited where or how the word of God could be taught. Teaching His word is generic in nature, meaning He has not bound a specific method or means by which His word is to be taught, so how does this apply to a local congregation of God’s people?

We start with the question, “Is a congregation limited only to a certain arrangement or can it (a congregation) divide into various classes to accommodate groups according to their ability to learn?  In other words, is a local congregation limited in how it conducts its Bible classes? Remember, we have established the fact that teaching the word of God is generic in nature. This means any arrangement used that does not change the nature of teaching is allowable. It would be wrong for the church to teach something other than the word of God or to create another organization such as the denominational “Sunday school” arrangement” to do it, (to be discussed later). The church is the only organization God authorized to teach His word.  He decreed the church to be “the pillar and ground of the truth” 1.Tim.3:15. So, really the question boils down to the arrangement by which a congregation chooses to teach the word of God.

It is impossible to teach without some sort of arrangement. We have seen that God specified WHAT is to be taught (the word of God), but He has not specified what type of arrangement a congregation can utilize in doing so. Hence, the method of arrangement is loosed. Dividing into various Bible classes is simply a systematic, orderly arrangement or method to teach various age groups simultaneously in the same building.  When I say, “method” or “arrangement” I am saying it is a means or manner of procedure, especially, a regular or systematic way of accomplishing anything.  Those who would object to having separate Bible classes in the same building at the same time must find where the inherent features of the command to teach are restricted of limited by the word of God. I do not believe one can find in the scriptures where Bible classes are limited to one specific place.  

Some kind of arrangement is necessary to teaching so let’s note several things that are necessary in the arrangement. One cannot teach without (1) a teacher, (2) a student or students, (3) a time, (4) a place, (5) material. Divided Bible classes do not violate Bible principles of teaching. They are simply an orderly, systematic method of teaching, not another organization or addition. 

People in talking about Bible classes sometimes refer to them as “Sunday School” I prefer using the term “Bible classes.” The term “Sunday School’ conjures up the idea of Robert Raikes, who ca.200 years ago, in England, instituted the concept of having a school on Sunday for children who worked all week and were not receiving an education. What he instituted was an organization separate from the church. Many denominations have adopted his idea and today have their “Sunday Schools” existing as separate bodies from the church with their own treasuries, etc. This concept is wrong. There is no authority for any organization larger or smaller than the local church to exist and function in doing God’s work. The “Sunday School” organization is smaller than the local church, and the denominational bodies with which they are affiliated are larger than the local church.

In reality, those who object to a divided Bible class arrangement or method are seeking to bind the place of teaching rather than the arrangement. Let me illustrate. “Is it scriptural for four families, all belonging to the same local church, living in four different places to have simultaneous classes going on in their homes at the same time, with the permission of the church?” I do not believe anyone would answer, NO!” Now another question, “If we move these same classes into the meeting house, and put them in separate rooms with the same people in each, and the same teacher of each group, is it still scriptural?” The ones who object to simultaneous classes being conducted in the same building, at the same time would say, “NO! It is unscriptural.” But on what basis would they say, NO?” Each group is still the same. Each group has the same teacher. The arrangement is still by the permission of the church. All are still members of the same congregation. Can you see it? Those who object are binding the place, not the arrangement. According to their thinking it would be alright to have simultaneous classes as a method or arrangement, as long as they are not under the same roof. Who can believe that?

No one has the right to bind the place where the Bible can be taught, or the method used in teaching it. But some do so by arguing that when the church is assembled this is a “public assembly” and it cannot disassemble or be divided into classes for Bible study. But, are Bible classes with the church disassembled into groups the same as the church assembled to worship God? NO! Yet, the members are still part of the church whether assembled together or disassembled. The church is still the church even when the members are not assembled together at the same time, in the same place to perform  the same work. (This will be continued next issue).

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