Biblical Literacy—What Will our Students Need?

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Imagine doing the following exercise with a classroom of 16-year-old students:

Summarize and explain the main meaning of Romans 3:21-26. How does this text apply to your own life?

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (ESV)

How do you think those 16-year-olds would do? What type of skills would be necessary in order to rightly read, interpret, and apply the text? Consider the following:

  • There are big words that must be understood—righteousness, justified, redemption, propitiation, forbearance, to name a few.
  • There are Old Testament concepts that must be identified and connected to their New Testament fulfillment.
  • There are important doctrines about God, man, Jesus, and redemption.
  • Essential truths about the Gospel and salvation are being proclaimed.
  • “…to be received by faith” calls for a specific personal response.

This might be a difficult exercise for a 16-year-old, but as parents and teachers we should long for our students to be able to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) by the time they leave our homes and classrooms. This will not happen by accident, but by careful and intentional instruction of the whole counsel of God.

To that end, it’s important that we give our students all of the following :

a chronological, story-based presentation of both Old and New Testament that highlights the character of God, and the major people, themes, and events

  • biblical theology that explores the “meta-narrative”—the historical/redemptive storyline of the Bible
  • systematic theology that teaches the essential doctrines of the Christian faith
  • an explicit presentation of the Gospel
  • the Bible’s moral and ethical instruction
  • inductive Bible study skills

Granted, biblical literacy cannot be measured merely by a student’s ability or inability to rightly read and interpret Romans 3:21-26. However, it is important to remember that genuine faith comes about and matures through a right knowledge and understanding of the Word (Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:14-17). So let’s be committed to pressing our students forward, encouraging them to…

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Children Desiring God.

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