Today’s Christians have been called to become teachers in tomorrow’s world. But in order to be a good teacher, one must first become a good student. To teach God’s word, we must be well versed in God’s word.
During Christ’s three-and-a-half-year ministry on the earth, the Apostles sought Him diligently, desiring to be taught. He was their Lord and their Master—and He was their Teacher. They recognized their need for what only He could give them. “Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (John 6:67–69).
Christ was bringing to His disciples the truth He had received from God the Father, as He expressed in His impassioned prayer, concerning His disciples: “For I have given to them the words which you have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that you sent Me” (John 17:8).
Jesus Christ—the Son of God, the Logos—came with the truth of God to teach His Apostles, disciples and followers. He continues to teach His people today. God is the perfect Teacher, but what can we do to be sure we are the best students possible? Let us consider seven key traits of good students.
Good Students Have the Fear of God:
Even before the lessons begin, there is a foundational trait without which our attempts at learning will be futile. We read: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). To “fear” God does not mean to live in terror of Him. Rather, it means to understand His awesome power and majesty, and to recognize our place in relationship to Him. It means to have such deep reverence, respect and awe of Him that we are willing to surrender ourselves totally in submission, obedience and worship.
How important is this attitude? God Himself explains. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2). Do we tremble at God’s word? Do we understand the benefits of fearing God? “My son, If you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1–5).
The fear of God is intimately connected to the knowledge of God. Every year, we travel to the Feast of Tabernacles, where one of the main lessons is to grow in the fear of God as we rejoice (Deuteronomy 14:23–26). Sometimes, events around us do not go exactly as we had hoped or planned. However, if we have the fear of God, nothing can shake us from our commitment to Him.
Good Students Love the Truth:
The scribes and Pharisees of Christ’s day were men of great education. Yet Christ sliced right through their hypocrisy and man-made teachings, openly ripping their falsehoods to shreds (Matthew 23:1–23). Christ’s rebuke demonstrated plainly the difference between the truth of God and the error of the scribes and Pharisees. Their teachings were upside down, and He was turning things right side up! It is no wonder that they so hated Him! They did not love God’s truth. Christ’s message was not popular among the “educated” classes. “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42–43).
The Apostle Paul explained graphically that condemnation and death would come to those who would not receive the love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:9–12). However, he gave hope to those who do value truth. “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 13–14).
Our Christian ideal should be that of the Bereans. Notice how Scripture describes them: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Good Students Have a Teachable Attitude:
Ancient King David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He wanted to be filled with the knowledge of God and His ways (Psalm 119:33–36). He was not satisfied with just a little. He was humble and teachable before his God. He had the attitude Christ described in the Beatitudes when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:3, 6).
We often encounter people who are proud of their scholarship and great knowledge. Is that the attitude Christ expects of His students? Consider how He responded when His disciples began to argue over who was greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2–4).
Good Students Study Diligently:
Have you ever “crammed” for an exam—tried to fit what should have been an entire semester of study into just a few days, or even hours, right before your test? If so, you probably noticed that you did not retain the knowledge for very long. Good students study regularly and diligently, knowing that consistent study helps us to internalize knowledge and gain greater understanding.
Paul counseled the same to young Timothy. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This is an ongoing process, as Paul explained. “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (2 Timothy 3:14). Also: “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).
Good Students Respond to Their Teachers:
What good is instruction if it is not followed? Scripture teaches us to “take firm hold of instruction, do not let go: keep her, for she is your life” (Proverbs 4:13). Do we take instruction that seriously? Do we recognize its value?
Paul reminded the Romans that, “for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified” (Romans 2:13). Similarly, the Apostle James told the scattered tribes of Israel to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul admonishes the brethren: “Obey those who rule over you and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17). Do you grieve your teachers? Or are you a responsive student, imitating them as they imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1)?
Good teachers should not only be obeyed; they should be appreciated. Paul told the Thessalonians, “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13).
Good Students Discuss the Material with Other Students:
As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). Good students deepen their knowledge by sharing with others what they have learned.
Scripture describes Apollos as “an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24). “Fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately” of what he knew (v. 25). However, despite these excellent qualities, Apollos had only received John’s baptism, and his knowledge was incomplete.
As a result, when Aquila and Priscilla heard Apollos’ preaching, “they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (v. 26). How did Apollos react? Did he reject what Christ’s students were sharing with him? Did he pridefully assume that he “knew it all”? No! He listened to his fellow students, and became a powerful preacher of the truth of Christ (v. 28).
God encourages His students to share their knowledge with one another. “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘on the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him’” (Malachi 3:16–17).
Good Students Pass the Tests:
After the lessons are completed, students know that it is time to be tested. Tests are not something to be feared; they allow us to demonstrate to the teacher—and to ourselves—that we have grown, and have internalized what we have learned. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2–4).
Jesus Christ Himself was tested, and He passed His tests with perfect scores (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 22:39–44; Hebrews 4:15–16). As Christ’s followers, we too are tested. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12–13). These tests are not popularity contests; Jesus warned His students, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). As Christ’s students, let us all accept this great challenge, holding fast to His teachings in obedience to Him at all costs! A great reward is promised to those who endure to the end. The patriarchs of old, the prophets, the Apostles and the faithful saints of God have endured and passed their final tests before us. Will we develop the traits of good students and pass our own final exams?