Teaching Children the Whole Counsel of God

A few years ago, we took some time to evaluate the scope and sequence of our curriculum in light of the "big picture." In other words, we wanted to see if we were including the "whole counsel of God" in our teaching. We made some interesting and helpful discoveries along the way. But our first challenge was understanding what Paul meant in Acts 20:27 where he states:
for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
We found these words by D. A. Carson, as included in Preach The Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughesand cited on The Gospel Coalition website to be very helpful: What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively. It embraced
  • God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
  • an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope),
  • the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
  • the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).  (2007, pages 177-178)
I believe this is a very accurate and helpful definition, and it also serves as a “workable” definition for planning and evaluating the scope of what we teach to our children. But clearly what Dr. Carson suggests is no easy task. It must be carefully thought through and strategically implemented. And this is where we found the inclusion of six basic elements or disciplines to be very helpful. Teaching the whole counsel of God should include...
  1. A story-based chronological overview of the Bible, which introduces children to the main character of the Bible—God—and acquaints them with key people, places, and events.
  2. A biblical theology that focuses on the main storyline of the Bible where God progressively reveals His redemptive purposes, which come to their complete fulfillment in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
  3. Systematic theology that teaches foundational doctrines, which summarize the Bible's teaching on various subjects.
  4. Moral instruction—the commands of Scripture, which communicate ethical instruction, guiding us in the righteous ways of God
  5. An explicit presentation of the essential truths of the Gospel leading to a clear understanding of saving faith.
  6. Bible study methods to provide the necessary tools for rightly reading and interpreting Scripture.
These elements may be may be taught at various ages, and many will "overlap" one another. For example, a curriculum that emphasizes biblical theology will likely include elements of systematic theology. But, in looking at the whole of what is taught from preschool to high school, are these elements all included? Are they in good "balance"? Have we ducked any "hard bits"? By the time our students are 18 years old, will they be able to articulate what is of primary importance? May we, like Paul, be able to say to the children under our care...
for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
See All

Encouragement for discipleship in your inbox

Get E-Newsletter