Balancing The Law and The Gospel

I hope you now agree that the Moral Law still holds sway over those of the Christian faith by defining sin for us and showing us how to love God and other people.  And, of course, I hope you are teaching the children in your life how to use these commandments correctly.

  • Start with knowing the Ten Commandments. The first step is to recite them in their own words. Then memorize.
  • Talk about what they mean.  A good place do this is when watching TV or a movie.  Or after!  Or at the dinner table.  Or when you are on a family hike.  Or…….
  • Use the Confessions of Faith and catechism questions to reinforce what you are teaching and living before them.  (When I revamped the children’s ministry for our church, I recommended that the “First Catechism” (http://www.gcp.org) of 150 questions be memorized by the end of fifth grade.)
  • All along, they need to learn how to use those commandments to show them their sin and their sinfulness. Do this for them at first.  They will learn this by how you use the Ten Commandments when you are disciplining them.  Tell them which commandment they have broken.  Remind them that this is what sin is;  how it displeases the LORD who created the heavens and the earth– The One who loved them enough to die for their sins.
  • They will soon begin to understand what repentance is even if they do not do it!  But,  in the meantime, they will experience the power of the law to condemn as they feel their guilt. Let the guilt come from the law, not from you!  You would never use guilt as a way to manipulate others, would you?
  •  There will be some reverence for God developing in them as they come to fear the judgment and death promised to those who break God’s law.  This sounds harsh and mean, but if they experience a little guilt and fear, they will see their need of a Savior even if they do not acknowledge it now.
  • Never discipline them with the law without pointing them to how merciful and compassionate Christ Jesus is towards sinners. Encourage them to flee to their Savior and count on His sacrifice on the cross being enough to cover their sin.  Encourage them to think of  the Holy Spirit as a conquering hero to bring them to Christ Jesus.  He defeats every enemy of their soul.
  • Talk to them about your own sins.  Tell them how you came to face yourself as a sinner. Remember to be age appropriate here.  There is no need to tell a seven year old about your sexual impurity!
  • Your goal in all of this is to give them experiences that will confirm for them the truth of the Scriptures.  It is not their experiences that are truth, but their experiences of guilt, violation of the commandments, repentance, joy, renewed love for God, all cause them to agree with biblical principles when applied to their mind and heart by the Holy Spirit.
  • Don’t forget that you cannot bring your children to salvation no matter how much you try.  But, you can pray for them and show compassion on them as they struggle because of their slavery to sin, their blindness to the gospel, and the temptations of Satan.
  • My book, OLD PATHS FOR LITTLE FEET, has several chapters that might help you.  See the link at the top of my home page or go to www.cvbbs.com.

Go over and over these verses—and how they relate to the Moral Law and the Gospel:

For the LORD your God is a merciful God.  He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them (Deuteronomy 4: 33).

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

‘When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple….Salvation belongs to the LORD’

(Jonah 2:7,9b).

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound.  But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more (Romans 5:20).

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Galatians 5:16-18).

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy,…(Titus 3:4-5a)

And, of course, you know now that “you are not under the law” in Galatians refers to Christians not being under its condemnation and its curse.  That is the kind of thing you should teach the children.  Those without Christ are under that curse of death.

Naturally, I am assuming that you sit with your children in Sunday worship.  You are studying the Bible together at home.  You sing hymns and joyful songs with them.  They are studying the Bible during school, when possible, and with other children from church.

Remember, you always want to balance the law and the gospel.  Pretend they are on each end of a seesaw.  Teach one, teach the other.  Never overburden children with only the law without warming their hearts with the gospel and giving them hope and comfort.  And remember that you are not alone in evangelizing your children:

But when the helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me (John 15:26).

 

About Carol Brandt

I earned a B.A. in History from Florida State University and M.Ed in.Higher Education from Florida Atlantic University. I taught high school social studies before "retiring" to full-time homemaking and raising two daughters. Now I love being a grandmother to four boys and a girl. I have also raised five collies. My husband, John, was an optometrist, who worked tirelessly for his profession through private practice and as a consultant, and served on the Board of Trustees of Illinois College of Optometry for twenty years. Ernest Reisinger was my chief mentor in this warm-hearted application of Calvinism. He gave me many books! The Founders Journal and Founders Conferences, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Charles Spurgeon have been other sources of Reformed thinking as well as the other warm-hearted ones listed in my book, "Warm-hearted Calvinists."

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