To You and To Your Children

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).

A well-known and well-respected Bible teacher said in a sermon on I Corinthians 7 as to why a believing spouse should not leave an unbelieving spouse:

“Because you become the sanctifying instrument in the life of that non-believer and in the children of that union because you are the one receiving the grace of God that is being poured out on your life that will spill over to those unbelieving people and to your husband or your wife and your children.  Instead of the Christian, listen, being defiled by the unbeliever, the unbeliever is cleansed by the presence of the Christian.  We’re not talking about salvation here. We’re simply talking about the pure, wonderful blessings of God falling on a believer and spilling over to a non-believer and making a purer, cleaner, lovelier home. God pours out His blessings on His redeemed and on the children of His redeemed” (italics mine). 

One might think he or she was reading here a Reformed Presbyterian minister.  It might surprise one to know that this was taken from a sermon preached by Dr. John MacArthur from his pulpit at Grace Community Church (November 21, 2010) since he has been an outspoken opponent of covenant baptism.  I include this quote not to try to point out any contradiction in his teaching but to highlight the reality of covenant blessings even from one who would disagree with me on the application of the sign of the covenant.

In Acts 11, Peter was describing his vision to those in the Church in Jerusalem and he told them of what the voice had said to him concerning his vision, “What God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 11:5).  As Paul clearly teaches in I Corinthians 7:14, the children of believers are “holy.”  They are “set apart.”  He says, “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband.  Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”  There may be debate as to how this verse should or should not apply to the practice of covenant baptism (it certainly can’t be ignored) but there should be no debate as to what Paul is communicating concerning the children of believers.  They are “holy.”   And yet it seems that too many in the church today are more than willing to call that which God has declared clean, common; or that which God has called holy, unholy.  God Himself has spoken concerning the children of believers.  How, therefore, are we to view our children?  How are we to view the children of believers?  The biblical answer is this:  we view our children as holy.

We have no problem applying this principle to the church as a whole even though we seem to have difficulty doing so with our children.  When we gather for worship on the Lord’s Day, we gather as the people of God.  It is a congregation of believers.  As I plan, prepare, and organize the worship service, and as I preach, I am doing so with the people of God in mind.  The fact that there are, or may be, unbelievers in our midst doesn’t change this fact.  I do not preach to a gathering of unbelievers but to a gathering of believers.  It is a gathering of believers who are offering their worship to the Lord cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ in the power in the Holy Spirit.  And yet, neither am I assured as a pastor that all those under my teaching are regenerate.  Does this mean I gear my teaching toward them at the expense of the believers?  I believe this line of questioning actually reveals our misunderstanding of the Word of God and goes back to the subject of my previous post.  What is it that we all need?  What is it that has the power to change hearts and lives?  Is it not the Word of God?  Does not and can not the same truth that encourages and nourishes the heart and soul of a believer actually change the heart of an unbeliever?  Does the believer walking in Christ not need the same gospel that the, as yet, unregenerate need?  Can we not go back to the theme verse for covenant children, 2 Timothy 3:14-15?  “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Those in the Old Testament had no problem whatsoever calling their children to obey the commands of God as covenant members.  In Deuteronomy 6 as Moses is reminding the people of God of the law of God, he says in verse 2, “That you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.”  He continues in verse 7, “You shall teach them diligently to your children.”  Children were viewed, and are to be viewed, as covenant members.  And it doesn’t stop with the commands of God.  The law of God cannot save – it never has and it never will.  But praise God for the gospel!  As Paul says in Romans 8:3-4, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”  Listen to how Moses directs parents in the Old Testament as he continues in Deuteronomy 6:20, “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord your God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt.  And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand’”.  This deliverance from Egypt was typological of our deliverance from the bondage of sin.  When we call our children to walk in the ways of the Lord and they ask, “what is the meaning of these rules and statutes?” we answer them, “We were slaves under the bondage of sin and the Lord brought us out with a mighty hand.”  Egypt looks forward to our deliverance as Moses looks forward to the person and work of Christ.  Deuteronomy 18:15 says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to him you shall listen.”  Peter says in Acts 3:22 that Jesus is that one to come like Moses – not to deliver simply from the bondage of Egypt, but He has delivered his people from the bondage of sin.

We all need the Word of God.  We all need the gospel of Jesus Christ – those that do not know Him and those that do know Him.  All of us in the pews need the Word of God – even as we gather as believers, the people of God.  Our children need the Word of God – even as they are the children of believers; even as they are covenant children; even as they are holy - and should be viewed as such. 

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).