Some day our children will stand before King Jesus. Will they hear Him welcome them into everlasting joy or be condemned to eternal destruction? What will determine whether they inherit heaven or hell? Surely, there is no greater privilege or responsibility placed upon parents and teachers than to diligently and faithfully pass on the gospel to our children.
Therefore, we must ask: What biblical truths are essential in order to understand the gospel? How and when should these be presented? How can we guide and implore children to respond in genuine belief?
The fourth of the seven commitments featured in the book Zealous: 7 Commitments for the Discipleship of the Next Generation focuses on proclaiming the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
In this 7-part series, we're spotlighting each commitment with a summary, an excerpt from the book, examples of applications of the commitment, and recommended resources.
The gospel is simple yet amazingly profound, freely offered yet extremely costly, and should be communicated as such. While the gospel can be simply conveyed to children, our approach should not be simplistic. We are to lay a solid, deep foundation by clearly and patiently presenting the key essential truths of the gospel found throughout the Bible. Through repeating and explaining these with increasing depth, we hope to help children see the splendor, majesty, and holiness of God, the enormity of their sin problem, and the immeasurable love and grace of God in Christ, resulting in true repentance and genuine belief.
...it’s important to understand that the gospel is shaped and defined by essential doctrines found throughout Scripture. For example, all of God’s attributes including His triune nature are reflected in the gospel message. Man’s nature, the fall, God’s covenants with His people, the law and other essential truths, progressively revealed in the Old Testament are also key to understanding the gospel.
Therefore, we must be careful that our priority to communicate the gospel does not compromise our commitment to teach the breadth and depth of the whole counsel of God.
Yes, it is important that the Old Testament be understood and taught with the gospel in view. However, in recent years there has been an overemphasis on explicitly linking every Bible lesson to Jesus and the gospel. This topic came up in a recorded interview I had with John Piper, who raised an important concern about turning this perspective into a type of simplistic interpretative formula. He said:
The danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.
There is a time and place for presenting children and youth with a step-by-step summation of the gospel. But our greater goal is to lay a solid gospel foundation for our children by acquainting them “with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). As we faithfully instruct our children in the truth, may God make them wise for salvation and alive in the hope of the gospel.