Here are a few questions to ask your children and students (elementary age and older):
Why did Jesus die on the cross?
Why would it be wrong for God to simply pretend that your sin is no big deal?
How does Jesus’ death on the cross show that God is right in punishing sin and forgiving sinners?
What did Jesus experience on the cross? Why is this important to know?
Why is it also important that Jesus gives His people His own perfect righteousness?
If you were to appear in a courtroom today in which God was sitting as the judge, what verdict do you think He would pronounce over you, “Guilty” or “Not guilty”? Why?
Why are these questions important to ask? Because our children and students need to see and understand the uniqueness of Jesus’ death on the cross. They need to be taught the meaning of justification. No justification = no Gospel. While it may be age-appropriate for a preschooler to simply learn and recite that “Jesus died on the cross to save sinners,” as our children age and mature they need reasons that provide a biblical foundation for understanding the necessity of Jesus’ death and what it accomplished. If students hear over and over again simply that “Jesus died for sinners,” will that encourage them to be more or less amazed by His death? Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here—that simple statement is glorious beyond measure. But…
…consider for a moment: Throughout history, we can find thousands of heroic examples of men and women who willingly died for the sake of others. Some were Christians, but many were not. Even now we hear the heart-breaking stories of soldiers, firefighters, and police officers who die in the line of duty. Students know this, and hopefully appreciate these great sacrifices…but one death in history stands apart from all others—the death of God’s holy and righteous Son, Jesus. Why? It stands apart for many reasons, the main one being that Jesus’ death alone brings about the justification of God’s sinful people. Therefore, our students must be taught this essential doctrine. Salvation itself hangs on the truth and meaning of justification.
Therefore, look carefully at the materials you and your church are using. Do they truthfully, clearly, and compellingly communicate the deep significance of what actually happened when Jesus died on the cross, and why it matters to each and every one of us today? For example, do these materials strive to communicate the following truths?
- All people are guilty before God and deserve God’s just punishment.
- Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice for sin in order to satisfy the justice of God.
- On the cross, Jesus received God’s wrath so that the just punishment of sin is completely satisfied.
- God will never pour out His wrath on His chosen people who are trusting in Jesus, because He has already poured it out on Jesus.
- Justification is a legal act whereby God forgives sin, gives His people Jesus’ righteousness, and declares them righteous—“Not guilty”—so that they can now inherit eternal life.
- Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone.