Grasping Sin in Order to Grasp the Gospel

ID-100180663 One thing I always look for in reviewing Gospel resources for children—whether books, tracts, music, video, or curricula—is to see how the resource deals with sin, because if it doesn’t get sin “right,” it will probably have a distorted view of the Gospel. Overstatement? Here are some sobering words from D. A. Carson:

There can be no agreement as to what salvation is unless there is agreement as to that from which salvation rescues us. The problem and the solution hang together: the one explicates the other. It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is; conversely, to augment one’s understanding of the cross is to augment one’s understanding of sin.

To put the matter another way, sin establishes the plotline of the Bible…

Sin “offends God not only because it becomes an assault on God directly, as in impiety or blasphemy, but also because it assaults what God has made.” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 16. ) Sin is rebellion against God’s very being, against his explicit word, against his wise and ordered reign. It results in the disorder of the creation and in the spiritual and physical death of God’s image bearers. With perfect justice God could have condemned all sinners, and no one could have justly blamed him. In reality, the Bible’s story line depicts God, out of sheer grace, saving a vast number of men and women from every tongue and tribe, bringing them safely and finally to a new heaven and a new earth where sin no longer has any sway and even its effects have been utterly banished.

In short, if we do not comprehend the massive role that sin plays in the Bible and therefore in biblically faithful Christianity, we shall misread the Bible. Positively, a sober and realistic grasp of sin is one of the things necessary to read the Bible in a percipient fashion; it is one of the required criteria for a responsible hermeneutic.

(Excerpt from Fallen: A Theology of Sin, copyright © 2013, as republished on

Therefore, when reviewing a Bible resource for children, especially one that is presenting the Gospel, I ask questions, such as:
  • How is sin defined? Merely as disobedience? Or, also as horrendous rebellion against God?
  • What “weight” is sin given throughout the resource? Is it simply presented as a type of unfortunate prelude in the Fall that quickly and easily finds resolution? Or, is sin woven throughout the biblical narrative, giving the proper scope and depth of the problem?
  • How are the consequences of sin defined? Simply as a broken relationship with God that needs mending? Or, is there a proper understanding of God’s holiness, just wrath, and His righteous condemnation of sinners to eternal punishment?
  • Are children presented with the plight of their own sin? Are they challenged and encouraged to, with all seriousness and with an appropriate amount of time, consider their own standing before God?
  • Is the Gospel being explained in such a manner that children will be able to clearly see and understand how Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection save us from our sin?
  • Is repentance from sin being emphasized along with the call to believe in Jesus?

(Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at

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