Isn't it wonderful to teach the stories in Scripture to children? Many of us who are parents, Sunday school teachers, VBS leaders, or elementary school teachers know that "David and Goliath" and "Israel Crossing the Red Sea" is more exciting for 8 year olds than teaching them "justification by faith alone" from Romans 3:21-28 (as vital as the latter is). My ten-year old finds a vivid telling of Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones more exhilarating than a treatise on the doctrine of the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15! Most kids' imaginations are more captivated by the thought of Noah and his family being rescued through the cataclysmic flood waters of judgment, than learning abstract (yet essential) truths like sanctification. After all, most of the Bible is written in narrative story form, as the drama and plot of salvation history unfolds from Genesis to the Gospels and the book of Acts.
Did you notice what I called Biblical history in the prior sentence? It is salvation history, also called redemptive history, because it is the infallible record of God's one unfolding story of salvation fulfilled and accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is safe to say that the resurrected Christ taught His disciples to understand that the stories of the Old Testament find their ultimate meaning in the person and work of Jesus (see Luke 24:27, 44). After all, Jesus told the Pharisees, "Moses wrote about Me" (John 5:46). It's no wonder then, that when Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration, they were speaking with Jesus about His exodus that He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31), referring to His death and resurrection that would set His people free from sin, death, and Satan. It is no wonder that our Lord interpreted David's defeat of Goliath and his stripping of his armor as a preview for the Son of David's overthrow of Satan and his demonic kingdom (Luke 11:22). Jesus even calls the signpost pointing forward to His resurrection on the third day, "the sign of the prophet Jonah" (Matt. 12:39). Thus, all the prior events of God intervening to deliver His people were in some way prefiguring the ultimate salvation accomplished by Christ' in His first and second coming.
In fact, the God-breathed Old Testament narratives actually serve to put "skin and bones" on Christian doctrine, which can help our kids learn the essentials of the Christian faith. The Lord removing Joshua's filthy garments and replacing them with clean robes of righteousness provide rich imagery for the doctrine of justification by faith alone (Zech. 3, Ps. 132:1-9; 2 Cor. 5:21). Isaac being rescued from death with a ram slaughtered in his place is a striking picture of the substitutionary death of Christ, "the Son of Abraham" (Gen. 22:1, John 1:29, Rom. 8:32).
This begs the question: "When I teach the stories in the Bible to children, do I primarily make them a moral example for the kids to follow, or do I help the children understand how the people, places, and events of Scripture 'are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ' (Col. 2:17)"?
If I do not connect the dots of the Bible stories that I share with kids, to the gospel of Christ, can I really call my lesson "Christian"? If the way I teach Daniel and the Lion's den is not different than it would be taught in a Jewish synagogue where Jesus is denied as the Messiah, my Bible lesson is not really Christian---even though the author and fulfiller of that story is Christ! (See 1 Peter. 1:10-12).
There is much value in helping children become more familiar with the various details of the stories in the Bible, even apart from pointing out the "redemptive-historical" connections of each story to the gospel of Christ. We should teach our children about the character of the Triune God, but His glorious attributes shine brightest in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4-6). And we must not fail to teach our kids about the wickedness of sin. Neither do we have to remove all moral examples from our lesson (James 5:11, 17). Yet the way we teach children the stories of Scripture can help provide a much needed road map and big picture understanding for them of how the whole Bible fits together as "the Word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). Since the "gospel is the power of God for salvation for all who believe" (Rom. 1:16-17), may we never hinder the children from coming to Jesus by failing to show them Jesus as the fulfiller of each story. To that end, Jonathan Gibson and I wrote The Acrostic of Scripture: a Rhyming Biblical Theology for Kids as a resource for parents and children to learn that salvation HIS-story is their family heritage, in Christ.
Rev. Timothy Brindle (ThM, MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the Associate Pastor of Olive Street Presbyterian Church, and is the co-author with Jonny Gibson of The Acrostic of Scripture: a Rhyming Biblical Theology for Kids. Timothy is also the author of The Unfolding, a book and hip-hop album that seeks to show how the Bible is God's one unfolding story of Christ. He and his wife, Floriana, have 9 children --- including one in heaven --- and they reside in Coatesville, PA.
Purchase the hip-hop album, The Acrostic of Scripture: a Rhyming Biblical Theology for Kids by Timothy Brindle.