“You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Acts 3:25)
“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.” (Galatians 3:19)
Families today are not generally known for a regular time of instruction and devotion unless parents are homeschooling their children. But the Bible’s commands for Israelite parents are also for us. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7) Why would parents not teach their children who God is, what he has done and is doing, and how they should relate to him? Perhaps it is because parents feel insecure or incompetent about how to begin.
We begin in the beginning, with the Old Testament, with creation, and with covenants since that’s where God’s revelation of himself starts, for our instruction. We must teach Christ from the whole Scripture, not just the New Testament if we want our children to understand the need for the gospel given the sinfulness of humankind. There are two great covenants: the law and the gospel. But the promise of grace, fulfilled through the gospel began not with Jesus Christ but with Abraham, an unbeliever, called by God to be the Father of Israel. And the covenant God established with Abraham was gracious, initiated by God, and unconditional. Even in the summary form of the covenant in Acts, there is no restriction on God’s part relating to the obedience of Israel—they would be his great nation, no matter how they acted. However, God, being sovereign and omnipotent had the power and wisdom to deny access to the Promised Land of the Covenant until those who were rebellious had died; only Joshua and Caleb would enter the Covenant Promised Land. (Numbers 14:14-24). The Covenant of Works was a gracious gift to Israel to see her sinfulness, repent, seek God’s steadfast love and forgiveness, and desire the mercy required to remain in fellowship with him.
There is a spiritual progression in the work of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit as God used his sacred covenants to teach his people about holiness, sin, worship, sanctification, purity, obedience, the sanctity of life, and our creatureliness. There is a radical divide between God, the creator and the people, his creatures. It is the separation that only the gospel can bridge, by the New Covenant of grace in Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. Understanding that the Law in the form of the Ten Commandments is a gift of truth and love—to bring us to our senses, to see the reality of our sin and its consequences—to take us all the way to Jesus Christ, our Savior is necessary for our children’s well-being, as it is for ours.
If you have any confusion or regrets about your understanding and appreciation of God’s Law, will you work them out so you can teach your family members about this critical aspect of God’s historical work? If you haven’t started teaching your children from the Old Testament, and the Law, when will you begin? Don’t they need help to understand the Old Covenant view of works, so their understanding of the New Covenant gospel is clear?