WHY THESE DISTINCTIONS MATTER
All this may seem like splitting theological hairs, but I assure you these distinctions are crucial. Confusing what the gospel produces with what the gospel requires will lead either to a sterile works-righteousness on the one hand or to lawlessness on the other.
For example, if we work toward getting our unbelieving children to do that which only the gospel can produce in the life of a believer, and fail to point them to the undeniable truth that there’s nothing in and of themselves whereby they may obey in a manner that will satisfy God’s righteousness, then we’re essentially telling them they can please God on their own—something the Bible says is impossible (Rom. 8:8).
On the other hand, if we merely throw up our hands in surrender, never calling our children to repentance and never holding up to them the mirror of God’s unattainable standard of righteousness, then our children will think themselves safe and secure when in fact they stand condemned before a holy and righteous judge. They must know that in the Lord’s sight, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isa. 64:6).
Thus, we must teach our children to view the law as “our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24). Only then does the gospel have its full impact.