How Would you Explain Justification by Faith to a 5-Year-Old?

How Would you Explain Justification by Faith to a 5-Year-Old?

Justification is undoubtedly a familiar word to most churchgoers and especially those who grew up in church. But how many could explain its meaning and significance accurately? And how many could make what they know about justification understandable to a class of 5-year olds? How would one teach the class something so magnificent and yet simplify it in a way that makes sense to little ears?

First, defining the meaning of justification would be a good place to start. We can summarize justification by faith as being “a legal (forensic) pronouncement by God in which he declares sinners to be righteous in his sight. This happens when they, claiming not a shred of any righteousness of their own, have put their faith alone in Jesus Christ alone as their representative and substitute; thus by grace alone God credits Christ’s righteousness in life, and the payment for their sins by his death on the cross, to their account”(Adventure Club: The Truth About Man, Sin, and Salvation, page 236). With this said, we can say that justification is an act of God by which he pronounces the sinner legally justified from the punishment of sin. This is in contrast to what others teach about justification. For instance Roman Catholicism teaches that in justification the sinner is literally “made righteous,” but the Protestant and reformed churches teach that we have been declared (reckoned as, counted as) righteous by Jesus’ holy life, satisfactory death, and resurrection.

Second, we would want to gather Scripture verses that talk about justification. Below are a few that can help you get started:

Matthew 5:48 — "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Romans 3:21–28 — But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Ephesians 2:8 — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

2 Corinthians 5:21— For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Third, it is helpful to think through object lessons that can visually represent justification. For example, bring in a judge’s gown and gavel. One would wear the gown while explaining the lesson and strike the gavel on a table. Then one could explain how the gavel is used after someone has been deemed “not guilty” for the crimes committed. Another option is to have some of the children do classroom chores and the others just watch. Once the chores are complete declare the ones who did no chores as justified. Explain how those who place their faith in Christ are made righteous without any works.

When in doubt we can find value in defining the topic, locating scriptural supports, and having a few carefully crafted object lessons to illustrate what we have taught. For more object lessons, see our website for free videos:

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