To Whom Do They Belong?

This post is part of the to whom do they belong: children in the covenant series (click to view the other posts in this series).

This series was born out of questions asked by members of the congregation where I serve as pastor.  I serve in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  One of the distinctives of Presbyterian and reformed theology is our understanding of children in the covenant and therefore, as a consequence of that, our practice of covenant baptism.

While covenant baptism is not the particular subject of this series, the fundamental theology that undergirds this practice impacts how we view the church, our families, and our children.  Our confession (Westminster Confession of Faith) states in chapter 25.2, “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.” 

We believe the children of believers are part of the house and family of God.  This was the reality in the time of Abraham, as God said to him, “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you” (Genesis 17:7).  And this is the reality today as Peter echoes this same truth in the first sermon after Pentecost proclaiming, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39). 

So what does this mean for the church and for parents as we seek to minister to these young ones in our midst?  Do we view them as wolves among the sheep or do we view them as lambs within the fold?  Do we view these children of believers as weeds in the garden of the Lord or flowers in need of growth and pruning?  Do we view them as children of God or children of Satan?   How we answer these questions affect how we minister to our children.  It affects how we teach our children about faith, about eternity, about God’s sovereignty, about their responsibility, about trusting in the Lord Jesus, about calling on the Name of the Lord, about conversion, and about a host of other deep, spiritual subjects. 

These are important questions for the church because we are dealing with important matters.  The issue of children was important to our Lord Jesus as is demonstrated by the way He Himself received them.  In Luke 18, there were those who were “bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’” (Luke 18:15-16).  Some will say that Jesus’ treatment here of the infants has nothing to do with covenant baptism or covenant inclusion but He is simply, yet profoundly, making the point that anyone who enters the kingdom of God must do so like one of these children.  It is agreed that Jesus isn’t explicitly teaching either one of those things, but we do certainly see Jesus’ clear desire for children to be in His presence and His rebuke of those who would keep them from coming (and even more correctly, being brought) to Him.  And not to make too much of this but is it not interesting to consider the full impact of what Jesus is saying here?  How do we receive the kingdom of God like a child?  In the very picture Jesus gives, these infants didn’t come on their own accord but were brought into His presence that He might touch them.  Who would hinder them from coming?  And more than that, who would even forbid them to come when Jesus commands, “Let the children come to me”? 

This is the weighty subject and wonderful questions to which I will seek to give some wisdom, biblical insight, and godly perspective in the next several posts in this series...  stay tuned!  

This post is part of the to whom do they belong: children in the covenant series (click to view the other posts in this series).