Teaching Children Their Need Of A Savior

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” —Ephesians 6:4 KJV

By Charles H. Spurgeon; adapted from the sermon, “The Blood of Sprinkling and the Children.”

Let’s spend a short time looking at the institution that was connected with the remembrance of the Passover. “It shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? that ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover” (Ex. 12:26-27). 

Inquiry should be aroused in the minds of our children. Oh, that we could get them to ask questions about the things of God! Some of them inquire very early while others seem diseased with much the same indifference as older folks. We have to deal with both orders of mind. It is good for our children to observe often the Lord’s Supper, and for us as parents to explain to them the meaning of this ordinance for it shows forth the death of Christ. The Lord’s Supper should be placed in view of the rising generation that they may then ask us, “What mean ye by this?” 

Now, the Lord’s Supper is a perpetual gospel sermon and it dwells mainly upon the sacrifice for sin. You cannot explain that broken bread and that cup filled with the fruit of the vine without reference to our Lord’s atoning death. You cannot explain “the communion of the body of Christ” without bringing in, in some form or other, the death of Jesus in our place and stead. Let your little ones, then, see the Lord’s Supper and let them be told most clearly what it sets forth. Dwell much and often in their presence upon the sufferings and death of our Redeemer. Let them think of Gethsemane, Gabbatha (Jn. 19:13) and Golgotha; and let them learn to sing in plaintive [mournful] tones of Him who laid down His life for us. Tell them Who it was that suffered, and why. 

When attention is focused upon the best of themes, let us be ready to explain the great transaction by which God is just and yet sinners are justified. Children can well understand the doctrine of the atoning sacrifice; it was meant to be a gospel for the youngest. The gospel of substitution is a simplicity, though it is a mystery. We ought not to be content until our little ones know and trust in their finished Sacrifice. This is essential knowledge and the key to all other spiritual teaching. If our dear children know the cross, they will have begun well. With all their “gettings” may they get an understanding of this, and they will have the foundation rightly laid. 

This will necessitate your teaching the child his need of a Savior. You must not hold back from this needful task. Do not flatter the child with misleading rubbish about his nature being good and needing to be developed. Tell him he must be born again. Don’t bolster him up with the fancy of his own innocence, but show him his sin. Mention the childish sins to which he is prone and pray the Holy Spirit to work conviction in his heart and conscience.

Deal with the young in much the same way as you would with the old. Be thorough and honest with them. Flimsy religion is neither good for young nor old. These boys and girls need pardon through the precious blood as surely as any of us. Do not hesitate to tell the child his ruin; he will not else desire the remedy. Tell him also of the punishment of sin and warn him of its terror. Be tender, but be true. Do not hide from the youthful sinner the truth, however terrible it may be. Set before him the coming judgment and remind him that he will have to give an account of himself to God.

Labor to arouse the conscience; and pray God the Holy Spirit to work by you until the heart becomes tender and the mind perceives the need of the great salvation. Children need to learn the doctrine of the cross that they may find immediate salvation. Believe that God will save your children. Do not be content to sow principles in their minds which may possibly develop in later years; but be working for immediate conversion.

Expect fruit in your children while they are children. Pray for them that they may not run into the world and fall into the evils of outward sin, and then come back with broken bones to the Good Shepherd. Seek from the Lord that your children may by God’s rich grace be kept from the paths of the destroyer and grow up in the fold of Christ, first as lambs of His flock and then as sheep of His hand. 

One thing I am sure of is that if we teach the children the doctrine of the atonement in the most unmistakable terms, we shall be doing ourselves good. I sometimes hope that God will revive His Church and restore her to her ancient faith by a gracious work among children. If He would bring into our churches a large influx of young people, how it would tend to liven the sluggish blood of the inactive and sleepy! Child Christians tend to keep the house alive. Oh, for more of them! 

If the Lord will but help us to teach the children we shall be teaching ourselves. There is no way of learning like teaching, and you do not know a thing until you can teach it to another. More so, you do not thoroughly know any truth until you can put it before a child so that he can see it. In trying to make a little child understand the doctrine of the atonement you will get clearer views of it yourself. Therefore I commend the holy exercise to you. What a mercy it will be if our children are thoroughly grounded in the doctrine of redemption by Christ! If they are warned against the false gospels of this evil age and if they are taught to rest on the eternal rock of Christ’s finished work, we may hope to have a generation following us which will maintain the faith and will be better than their fathers.

Atonement – ExodusThe Old Testament sacrifices never removed man’s sin; it was “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4). The Israelite’s offering implied confession of sin and recognized its due penalty as death; and God passed over his sin in anticipation of Christ’s sacrifice which did, finally, put away those sins “previously committed” [in Old Testament times] (Heb. 9:15,26). 
Propitiation – RomansThe lid of the ark (mercy seat) was sprinkled with atoning blood on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:14), representing that the righteous sentence of the law had been executed, changing a place of judgment into a place of mercy (Heb. 9:11-15). Propitiation is not placating a vengeful God, but it is satisfying the righteousness of a holy God, thereby making it possible for Him to show mercy righteously.—C. I. Scofield