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The Doctrines of Grace for Kids – Part Two

October 25, 2011

See last week’s post on Total Depravity as well.

Unconditional election is potentially the stickiest of all the doctrines of grace. It works hand in glove with the first doctrine of grace. If you believe that mankind is totally depraved and unable to do anything good apart from the working of the Holy Spirit, then it naturally follows the man would not be able to choose God on their own but that He would have to choose them. This, much like total depravity plays to our idol of self-sufficiency. We want to believe that we are good enough on our own to choose God. However, when the Bible talks about our salvation it does not speak primarily of our decision but the work of God even before our decision to draw us to himself.

This idea is one known as predestination, which is affirmed by Jesus. John 6:40 may give us the idea that we make the decision in our salvation by saying, “…everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.” However, read in the larger context, John 6:44 says that, “No one can come to me (Jesus) unless the Father draws him.” In John 10:26, Jesus claims that there are those who are “not a part of his flock” and there are “his (my) sheep.” Finally, in John 15:16, Jesus states that, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” Thus, Jesus affirms the fact that the Father has foreknowledge of all who will come the saving faith. The action in salvation is the Lord’s choosing.

Paul affirms this in Romans 9 citing Exodus 33:19, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” In Romans 8:30, Paul also affirms predestination as the beginning of the order of salvation, “…those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified, he also glorified.”

Now, before we begin thinking that God is only full of wrath because he calls some but not all we should look at God’s tender mercy in calling some to himself. In Genesis 3, the fall of mankind produced terrible results. One consequence of Adam and Eve’s decision was spiritual death. God could have let all of humanity fall into hell from that point forward if he chose. However, he was gracious to say that one would come who would save his people. God could have destroyed all people in the Garden, the Flood, in the wilderness, and in the exile. However, he chose not to. The fact that he chooses to redeem some people for his own glory is a wonderful truth. In fact, Ephesians 1 celebrates this. There, Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace… (vv. 3-6).” Unconditional election is not a doctrine to thumb our nose at. It is not one that condemns, it is one that saves. All of us, as a result of the fall of Genesis 3 are unable to have communion with the Father apart from his drawing. It is true that God does not call everyone to himself and that some will spend eternity in hell. This is a part of what Ephesians calls “the mystery of his will.” We can reason all day about why this is so. However, it is important to major on the majors of what Scripture speaks to. God, as a just judge, must punish some who do not place their trust in him. The duty of the Christian is not to add to this judgement, but to rejoice as Paul does in Ephesians 1 that some are being saved.

So where does that leave us as Christians? Do we leave the work of evangelism up to God knowing that he will save those he wills? Not at all! We do not know all the mysteries of God and therefore are tasked with the great commission of Matthew 28:19. Go, therefore, and make disciples. We do not know who the elect of God are. Therefore, it is our responsibility to be about the task of evangelism to everyone. Our job would be made easier if we knew who the elect were. However, we don’t. Therefore, we tell everyone, trusting that God will draw those he has predestined to be called.

So now you are thinking…gee golly Chris! How in the world to I even begin to teach this to my children? I sympathize with you. The idea is an abstract one, but not altogether too complex for our children. The primary way you can model this doctrine to them is by loving them unconditionally. You will do this imperfectly, let’s get that straight from the start. You will need to ask for forgiveness a lot! However do your best, with the help of the Lord, to show your children that entrance into your family was not by their own doing. Likewise no matter what they do, you will always love them. They do nothing to deserve your love and acceptance except for simply being born. Likewise, we are children of God who are adopted by the Father and loved by him not by anything we do but by his free grace. Modeling this early in life will help lead to conversations later about the nature of God’s election.

Simple object lessons can also be helpful. Help your child pick out their clothes for the entire week. They will know exactly what they will wear everyday, but won’t get to wear certain outfits until the day they have been assigned. This is somewhat (although nowhere near completely) like predestination. God chooses us beforehand and knows the time when we will draw us to himself. This can also work with meals for the week and other scheduled items.

Another helpful lesson is to pray with your children for their friend’s salvation. Often Christian children will feel some of their friends are “beyond reach.” Spend time with your children explaining that nobody is beyond reach. We are all sinful, but God will call some to himself and we need to pray for those people and tell them about Jesus.

Overall when discussing this doctrine with your children, be sure to maintain the celebratory nature of Ephesians 1. It is easy to read parts of Romans 9 and get the sense that the doctrine of unconditional election is a holy hammer we can swing at people. However, Ephesians 1 keeps us focused on praising God for his love in electing us as his chosen people.

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