Thursday, October 24, 2013

Teaching and Instruction - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"Since, then, we have shown that all of us are by Scripture called children; and not only so, but that we who have followed Christ are figuratively called babes; and that the Father of all alone is perfect, for the Son is in Him, and the Father is in the Son; it is time for us in due course to say who our Instructor is." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
Many of the early Christian writers had a propensity for thoroughness, almost to the point of "OK I got it, now lets move on!" Having taken great pains to show that, no matter how old we are or how long we walk with the Lord, we are still His children and still in need of His instruction, he now turns to identifying for us who our instructor is, and it should not surprise us that our instructor is Jesus.
"He is called Jesus. Sometimes He calls Himself a shepherd, and says, 'I am the good Shepherd.' According to a metaphor drawn from shepherds, who lead the sheep, is hereby understood the Instructor, who leads the children—the Shepherd who tends the babes. For the babes are simple, being figuratively described as sheep. 'And they shall all,' it is said, 'be one flock, and one shepherd.' The Word, then, who leads the children to salvation, is appropriately called the Instructor (Pædagogue)." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
Jesus is our instructor not because He teaches us, although He does, but because He leads us to salvation and life eternal. Growing up I had many teachers that taught me many things but I had few instructors that lead me to where I wanted and needed to go. Even today there are many Bible expositors that can teach us many valuable things about the scriptures and the message they contain, but what use is learning if we remain uncertain about our destination or the path we need to take to arrive at our desired destination. We need more than a teacher, we need an instructor.
"With the greatest clearness, accordingly, the Word has spoken respecting Himself by Hosea: 'I am your Instructor.' Now piety is instruction, being the learning of the service of God, and training in the knowledge of the truth, and right guidance which leads to heaven. And the word 'instruction' is employed variously. For there is the instruction of him who is led and learns, and that of him who leads and teaches; and there is, thirdly, the guidance itself; and fourthly, what is taught, as the commandments enjoined." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
The end result of instruction looks like piety. Webster defines piety as that which is "marked by or showing reverence for deity and devotion to divine worship." However, Clement defines piety as having learned how to serve God, having trained ourselves to obey the truth, and having followed the pathway to salvation. The more we attain in these three areas of our lives, the greater is our piety before God. Similarly, there are many aspects of instruction; there is the learning of who we are, of who God is, the path to take from here to there, and the specific commandments that are taught to lead us along the way. However, regardless of the form it takes, what matters most is not information, but direction.
"Now the instruction which is of God is the right direction of truth to the contemplation of God, and the exhibition of holy deeds in everlasting perseverance." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
The goal of God's instruction in our lives is first to know God and second to imitate God through "holy deeds." True education is not just learning but it is also the assimilation of what we have learned into our lives. It is not enough just to know God but we are to also imitate God in and through our lives. We are to be "conformed to the image of His Son." (Romans 8:29)
"As therefore the general directs the phalanx, consulting the safety of his soldiers, and the pilot steers the vessel, desiring to save the passengers; so also the Instructor guides the children to a saving course of conduct, through solicitude for us; and, in general, whatever we ask in accordance with reason from God to be done for us, will happen to those who believe in the Instructor. And just as the helmsman does not always yield to the winds, but sometimes, turning the prow towards them, opposes the whole force of the hurricanes; so the Instructor never yields to the blasts that blow in this world, nor commits the child to them like a vessel to make shipwreck on a wild and licentious course of life; but, wafted on by the favouring breeze of the Spirit of truth, stoutly holds on to the child’s helm,—his ears, I mean,—until He bring him safe to anchor in the haven of heaven." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
God instructs and directs us because He cares for us. He has taken upon Himself the care and salvation of all of mankind making it is aim to deliver as many as possible from the condemnation of hell. Just as the general directs his solders having concern for their safety, and just as a pilot steers his ship with the lives of those on board in mind, so does God direct our lives through His solicitude for us. However, as a good instructor, God does not always give us what we want but He always gives us what we need. Even as parents we sometimes give our children what they need rather than what they desire and so does God. When God forbids some behavior and encourages others it is because He knows what is best for us and has our best interests and salvation at heart. What a beautiful picture Clement paints of God being firmly in control of our lives, directing us into the ways of salvation  and eternal life. What more could we ask for from our Instructor?

David Robison

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