Family: The Paideia of the Lord


At the time when Paul wrote of the Paideia of the Lord (the formation of individuals into the image of Christ, resulting in a Christian culture) (Eph 6:4), he knew that the church was at the very beginning of bringing a new culture to the world. Therefore, if one did not already exist, the father along with other fathers in the church would soon have one, if indeed they led their families according to the commands of God.  The home was a place of education, work and the worship of God, the family knew what it meant to be productive in a world where nothing was handed to them on a plate. The work involved in building a Christian culture did not come easy due to the internal conflicts which existed, resulting from different interpretations of God’s Word. Since the purpose of the paideia of the Lord is the formation of an individual into the image of Christ, it would lead to a Christian culture if all were committed to this command. Therefore, the education and formation of a particular child, children and adults alike cannot be separated from the education of the Church as a whole.


A God-centred education is an education that operates under, reflects and teaches the Lordship of Christ. It will recognise that the fear of the Lord precedes the kind of wisdom, knowledge and understanding we need to live skillfully and faithfully before God and therefore, education without this is not sufficient to prepare people to live and work in God’s creation. Both the teacher and the learner understand that what is being taught and therefore learnt, happens with both participants being conscious of the Lordship of Christ. This influences all subjects thoroughly so that those who are learners, are able to make their own mind up once they have been given the skills to do so and received the conviction to repent of their sins.

A Christian culture will be formed by individuals who are formed into the image of Christ and the grace of God which teaches us to say yes to God and no to sin, will inform parents who should teach their children if they themselves are not particularly skilled in that area. There is nothing wrong with parents delegating the education of their children out to others, but they cannot overlook who those others are. Within the church, there is probably every God honouring profession, but given the absence of the paideia of the Lord, it leaves the door wide open to depend on the world for what should be happening amongst God’s people.

Grace and inequality

Children do not share the same interests or abilities and they will soon learn that life is not fair and it never will be. Education involves work and therefore it’s important to teach why learning is a good personal investment for the future. When the same thing is to be accomplished by two different children, it might be tempting to think that the same amount of effort was used, but some children find some things easier than others. If we are only looking at the result, we miss the amount of effort that has been put in. When one parent finds something easier, due to training, how they were brought up, how adaptable they are and a list of other reasons, compared with another parent who has accomplished the same, but who took twice as long, we can miss the amount effort made by only looking at the result.

When we read, that God’s grace is sufficient, it seems that it must be sufficiently given (in terms of quantity/effectiveness) so that we can do what God requires of us as written in His word. If the standard is the same for all who follow Christ, all husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, sons and daughters, it follows, that if we are to be the husband and father that God wants us to be then His grace is sufficient for that to happen.

Children who are the same age and from different families will not share the exact same abilities or the opportunities which are available to them. Children within the same family will not always share the same abilities or opportunities. Therefore, if children are not learning what they should be at the stages that they should be, as they get older those lessons in most cases will not be repeated. There is a biblical expectation that a certain amount of learning will take place at the different stages of a person’s life. Consider these words in Hebrews: About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5:11-14). While this is speaking about biblical maturity (the lack of it), it demonstrates what happens when you have a child who will not listen, they remain unskilled.

Since Christians know what people are for, they will be the best educators. They will take into consideration a child’s ability to sin and show them grace when they do, while at the same time calling them to repent. Children don’t stop being sinners in the classroom or around the dining room table or wherever they are taught. Therefore, we understand that the education of children is important and difficult, yet, it’s clear who will do it faithfully under the Lordship of Christ.

Build or Borrow

Education is hard work because of the spiritual battle which is involved. After Paul has spoken on the household and the building of a Christian culture, he moves on to the Armour of God because of the spiritual battles involved in such a work. The world does not favour one profession over the other and having the right education and the right job does not mean that such a person will be able to proceed unhindered. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it and His will is being done on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, what does education look like when this is taken into consideration and we’re not speaking about a bible study here, we’re addressing how this truth shapes such subjects as biology, architecture, gardening and the many other subjects and professions.

When education is not shaped by the will of God it will be shaped by the agenda of others. The work involved in the formation of a Christian culture is hard, and the work of convincing Christians to build their own rather than borrow the worlds is even harder, but we mustn’t give up. Everything we do we ought to do for the glory of God, therefore all of our work is included, even the work of education.

The purpose of education

The purpose of education must be to serve the purposes of God on earth, that we may bring glory to Him in everything we do. Therefore, we must understand that education will guide and produce in line with the education received, in the same way, a tree will bear fruit consistent with its nature. Education cannot solve all the problems in this world because ignorance is not the biggest issue, it is our sin against God. The call of Scripture is to bring our children up in the paideia of the Lord because God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven and education must reflect this truth.

Education and Eschatology

God’s Word teaches us about the future and our view of the future will determine many of the decisions we make in the present, including the education of our children. When a child grows up understanding that God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven, the world becomes a place where they can invest for the long term. We know that the Lord will return and when this happens our works will be seen for what they are. For “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” 1 Cor 3:13-15). Therefore, our education is not about learning what I can do until the Lord returns, rather it is about investing properly in order to bring glory to God.


By Daniel Ralph

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