No More Gaps: Giving Children the Whole Counsel of God

It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized I had huge gaps in my theological education. I had had minimal exposure to the entire content of Scripture and a very limited grasp of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Some doctrines were minimized, skewed, or missing entirely. Although a believer for 10 years, I was very immature and this immaturity tainted every aspect of my daily life, including my marriage and parenting. Theological gaps make a big difference in how we will think, feel, speak, and live!

At Truth78 we are earnestly and deeply committed to giving our children and students a theological education that equips them to become mature disciples of Jesus. We believe that involves acquainting them with both the breadth and depth of Scripture—teaching them the whole counsel of God.

In Acts 20:27 Paul writes, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

D. A. Carson makes the following observation about this text,

What [Paul] must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively.

[Paul’s teaching] embraced:

  • God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
  • an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope),
  • the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
  • the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).[1]

Acquainting children and students with the Scriptures in this manner will involve exposing them to the actual content of Scripture while also emphasizing a core set of essential truths (doctrines) regarding the Christian faith. In conjunction with this there must be a focus on a call to personally respond to those truths (relational). Both are important so we must stress both the doctrinal and relational aspects of the Christian life. Our teaching resources are designed to emphasize and carefully balance these two.

One way to evaluate whether or not we are teaching our children and students the whole counsel of God is to see if they can answer these crucial questions, with increasing biblical depth, as they grow and mature:

  • What is in the Bible? Who is the Bible about?
  • What is the main message of the Bible?
  • What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?
  • Why do we need to be saved? How are we saved?
  • How are we to live?

We have identified and incorporated the following five elements (theological disciplines) into our curricula scope and sequence and other teaching resources. We believe that these five elements, interspersed at different ages and emphasized to varying degrees throughout these ages, comprise an appropriate breadth and depth of Scripture needed for teaching the whole counsel of God.

  1. Bible Survey—a chronological overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In our curricula this is first introduced in the preschool years, by a story-based presentation that introduces children to the key people, places, events, and themes of the Bible. Most importantly, it emphasizes God as the Author and main character of the Bible. This provides children with a fundamental biblical foundation upon which the other elements will be built. Addresses: What’s in the Bible? Who is the Bible about?
  1. Biblical Theology—introduces students to the main storyline of Scripture, whereby God progressively reveals His redemptive purposes, which come to their complete fulfillment in the person and work of Christ, for the glory of God. Students are taught to see that the Bible’s many diverse stories, written over time, all serve to communicate one main unified message. Addresses: What’s the main message of the Bible?
  1. Systematic Theology—a topical approach in teaching the foundational doctrines of the Christian faith. Systematic theology presents the Bible’s teaching on various subjects, one at a time, and summarizes each topic based on the entirety of Scripture. Addresses: What are the essential doctrines of the Christian faith?
  1. Gospel Proclamation—an explicit and comprehensive presentation of the essential truths of the Gospel, leading to a clear understanding to the person and work of Christ and what it means to respond in true repentance and belief. Addresses: Why do we need to be saved? How are we saved?
  1. Moral and Ethical Instruction—acquainting students with the nature, role, and importance of God’s laws and commands, the wisdom literature, and the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus and the apostles. This instruction is necessary for understanding God’s character and standards and our need for the Gospel, and for guiding believers in righteous and godly conduct. Addresses: How are we to live?

For further reading on the importance of teaching the next generation the whole counsel of God, I highly recommend two chapters from our book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, “Declaring the Whole Counsel of God—What’s at stake for our children” by Mark Vroegop and “The Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God—From grand story to grammar, it all matters” by Bruce Ware.

You can also watch their corresponding presentations from our 2016 National Conference here and here.

[1] Preach The Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 177-178.

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 Truth78.

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