The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”

Consider for a moment what children can learn about the nature and character of God from the Old Testament:

  • There is only one God.
  • God is eternal and unchanging.
  • God is the Creator of everything.
  • God rules over everything and everyone.
  • God chooses a special people for Himself.
  • God makes special promises to His people.
  • God is faithful and always keeps His promises.
  • God is holy and righteous.
  • God is jealous and deserves all honor, love, trust, obedience, and worship.
  • God knows everything.
  • God is all-powerful.
  • God is everywhere all the time.
  • God is wrathful toward sin.
  • God is just.
  • God is loving, compassionate, patient, and merciful.
  • God is the Savior of His people.

These truths, taught to our children, lay the foundation for understanding the person and work of Jesus in the Gospel. Here is just one example of what I mean by this:

For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,—Colossians 1:19

All the “fullness of God” dwells in Jesus. The fullness of God—all His divine attributes. Providing children a robust doctrine of God provides the “antecedents” that J. Gresham Machen describes. The Old Testament serves to introduce our children to the nature and character of God and how He relates to mankind, laying the necessary foundation for the person and work of Christ.

For example, throughout the Old Testament we see God’s justice and wrath at sin—in the garden, the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Pharaoh and Egypt, Israel’s repeated rebellion…and we could go on and on. Recalling these events and what they reveal about God gives children a better and more sober view of the problem of sin—it’s a REALLY big deal! God’s wrath and judgment are real and terrifying, and man is helpless to save himself.

This serves to magnify the good news of the Gospel and the incomparable greatness and worth of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

Or think of the mercy of God as revealed over and over again throughout the Old Testament—covering Adam and Eve with animal skins, the ark, the provision of a ram for Abraham, the Passover lamb/the Passover blood on the doorposts, sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin…thousands of examples of God’s kindness to undeserving sinners. God’s mercy is truly amazing!

This serves to magnify the good news of the Gospel and the incomparable greatness and worth of what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

But this begs the question posed in yesterday’s post:

So, shouldn’t all teaching be Christ-centered and Gospel-focused—even when teaching from the Old Testament? Shouldn’t we clearly and explicitly connect every Old Testament story to Christ and the Gospel?

A hearty “Amen!” to the first question. Our goal in all we teach, even from the youngest ages, should be that children would come to know, honor, and love God through Christ, by setting their full confidence in Christ alone for their salvation.

The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

For the second question, I’d like to respond with an illustration: Imagine teaching a 4-year-old to recognize, sound out, and then practice writing the letters of the alphabet. It is a rather slow but necessary process. Now, suppose for a moment that during this formal teaching time, you repeatedly did the following:

This is the letter “A.” It the first letter in the word “abundance.”

This is the letter “B.” It the second letter in the word “abundance.”

The letter “C” is also found in the word “abundance”…etc.

Would taking that approach be necessarily wrong? Of course not. But at this age, this approach could also be somewhat confusing for the child, as it repeatedly draws their attention away from the basic foundational skills needed for first mastering the alphabet so that, in the future, they are able to understand why “abundance” contains the letters it does in the order they appear. This helps illustrate an important concern:

For younger children especially: Attempting to always directly and explicitly connect every Old Testament story to Christ and the Gospel may serve to inadvertently, over time, minimize the full depth of meaning and significance of Jesus and His saving work.

That is why the 64 Old Testament stories presented in our preschool curriculum He Established a Testimony do not directly and explicitly connect each story to Jesus and the Gospel. Rather, as each story in taught, basic foundational truths about God and His divine character are emphasized. The stories bring to light foundational truths regarding man and the fundamental problem of sin. In doing so, this intentional (albeit slower) approach is giving children a biblical alphabet that is Gospel-focused and Christ-centered as its basis and ultimate goal.

Also, remember the difference between and the importance of both formal and informal teaching in the classroom. Curriculum provides formal instruction. If you are using Children Desiring God curriculum, you are probably giving children 30–45 minutes of formal Bible instruction on any given Sunday. Even if the lesson does not explicitly and directly point to Jesus and the Gospel in a particular lesson, you can highlight Christ and the Gospel in your classroom singing and worship time, prayer time, conversation, and other activities.

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”
Read Part 4: The Gospel Alphabet—Who We Are in Relation to God
Read Part 5: The Gospel Alphabet—Sin

 

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 Children Desiring God.

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