Author Interview: The Promise of Life

What is The Promise of Life about?

The title is taken from Romans chapter seven verse ten where Paul says that the Law promised life but it resulted in death. The book itself is an overview for children of this important theme of Law found throughout the storyline of the Bible, and how this theme contributes to and shapes the Gospel message—namely, the promise of life.

Why do kids need a book on God’s Law?

At first glance, sure, it can seem to be a topic that kids are not really interested in! But I think it’s important for a number of reasons.

First, it’s a very important biblical theme, and one that is often misunderstood, and one over which there is still differing opinions among evangelicals. Often the Law is seen as a bad thing because it cannot save. But Paul makes it clear that the Law is a good thing. The problem is not the Law, the problem is that all people are born slaves to Sin. I wanted to teach children the goodness of God’s laws, while also show how good laws expose our slavery to Sin. This is an important biblical theme that children can grasp.

Secondly, the main goal of the book is to present the Gospel, not to have a monologue on biblical Law. Because all people are born slaves to Sin, we disobey God and are under God’s good Law and its punishment. The only way to be set free from being under the Law and its curse is by Jesus. Jesus came and fulfilled the Law, gave us His Law-keeping righteousness, died taking the curse of the Law for His people, and sets His people free from their slavery to Sin, so that they can now love God and love others. The biblical theme of Law is thus very important to the Gospel message.

And thirdly, because children are in fact surrounded by laws and rules from the get-go. Don’t touch, don’t put that in your mouth, say please and thank you, don’t jump on the couch, etc. And our children in their unregenerate state, are just like Israel, slaves to Sin and incapable of gaining life through obeying laws. Children need to be taught how to rightly understand their own slavery to Sin and how to understand and respond to all these laws around them. I hope that children can relate their own experience to the story of Israel and the Law. Children may try to be “good kids” others may be more prone to blatant rebellion, but both need Jesus to give them the gift of life. Young children can be taught about their slavery to Sin through their disobedience to what are good, upright laws that their parents give them.

This book is part of the series called The Bible’s Big Ideas, in which important biblical themes, teachings, and words are traced throughout the storyline of Scripture. This series seeks to show how the “parts” contribute to the “whole.” How does this theme of God’s Law, contribute to the whole message of the Bible?

God’s goal in creation and, since the fall, His goal of redemption has been to graciously give people eternal, blessed life with God. Having our sins forgiven is only part of the Gospel message. Our sins are forgiven for a purpose, that we might dwell in the house of the Lord forever. God’s Law promised this kind of life, it really did (Gal 3:21), but because of Sin it was ineffective to grant this life.

The story of the Gospel is the story of how God did what the Law could not do by sending Jesus into the world (Rom 8:3–4). God’s creation and redemptive goal—to create a people who dwell with God forever in a sin-free world—was promised through the Law but was accomplished through Jesus.

What do you hope to achieve with this book?

I want children to know and cherish Jesus. I want children to know that the Law is powerless to deal with their slavery to Sin and Law-keeping will not lead to life. I want children to see that Jesus not only pays the price for sin, but he gives eternal, blessed life-with-God to all who believe in him.

Moreover, I also want parents to see that, in raising their children and giving them laws—teaching about right and wrong—they also need to teach their children about their slavery to Sin and about the life that Jesus gives. Parents ought not be surprised that their children disobey nor exasperate their children by giving them laws upon laws seeking to produce obedience. Because of Sin, laws are impotent to save. Parents ought to seize the moments in which their children disobey to talk about their slavery to Sin and the freedom Jesus can give. I hope this book gives fresh categories and help for parents to think rightly about their children’s disobedience.

Children will never understand why they do the things they do unless they know about the Sin within them. And children will never find rest in seeking to do good, unless they receive life as a gift from God.

Jonny Atkinson was born and raised in Northern Ireland and moved to the US in 2010 to marry his sweetheart and study the Bible. He is now married to Janaye and holds an MDiv and a ThM from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They live together in Louisville with their five children, where Jonny serves as a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church.






The Bible’s Big Ideas: Series Introduction

Children love a good story. They are captivated as they are transported to other times and worlds, meet fascinating characters, hear new phrases, and experience new customs. They are gripped with plots of good versus evil as their innate sense of justice gets roused. And even when the story is over, the story often lives on with them, as they imagine themselves living in such a world, pretending to be such a character, and utilizing their newly expanded vocabulary.

The Bible is the greatest story ever told, itself chocked full of extraordinary places and exciting peoples, unique characters and strange customs, new words and novel phrases, memorable events and momentous battles, all within an overarching plotline, the greatest triumph of good over evil.

The central message, or The Story, of the Bible is the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ. However, the Bible is a Story made up of many stories, sub-plots to the Gospel Story, each with their own setting, characters, and plot. These stories highlight, develop, and illumine the various themes of the main plot, the Gospel Story. Therefore, knowing the parts well will deepen our understanding of the whole.

Rather than summarizing the whole, The Bible’s Big Ideas is a new series for children that focuses on these parts. Each book published within The Bible’s Big Ideas highlights an important biblical theme, teaching, or word and traces its development throughout the biblical storyline showing in its contribution to the Gospel message. The goal of this series is to help children see how the big picture is made up of many pieces and so deepen their understanding of the Gospel.

May this Gospel, the greatest Story, live on with our children as they enter in and embrace the world of the Bible, not in their imagination but truly, as the only way to make sense of their story.