In the previous post I mentioned that I did not wish to tread on your belief system regarding the issue of the age at which young children can come to faith in Christ and be saved. We may differ doctrinally and still dwell in unity. However, in order to differ there must be some understanding of our differences. My system of belief regarding the salvation of our children hinges upon Covenant Theology. Now don’t go googling Covenant Theology because what you will find is subject to error. Wikipedia is all over the place on Covenant Theology. For our purpose, just understand that the key to this theology is God’s righteousness in and faithfulness to his promises. God is a covenant keeper.
God made covenants with various people in scripture. Most notably for our purposes, regarding the salvation of the children of believing parents, God made a covenant with Abraham. Paul explains the significance of this covenant in Romans 4. What is often described as the Covenant of Circumcision is laid out in Genesis 17. We in the Covenant Community believe that the promise to redeem a people for the Kingdom of God is signified in the sign and seal of circumcision before the crucifixion of Christ. Since the death and resurrection of Christ, the last bloody sacrifice, the sign and seal of this promise is signified in baptism. Therefore we baptize our infant children just as Abraham circumcised his. We believe that just as Abraham was saved by faith, his offspring for generations were saved by faith. Subsequently, as the promise, salvation by faith, was given to those of us outside of the genealogy of Abraham, the gentile, that promise includes our children also.
Once understood correctly, Covenant Theology is truly comfort food. We believe that our children will be saved. We even believe that our children can be born in a regenerate state. My pastor has one of the most beautiful expressions of this that he prays in his intercessory prayer during our worship. When praying by name for our expectant mothers and their unborn children he asks God, “May you grant these children their second birth even before their first birth.”
So if you are a Baptist, don’t click off. I don’t want to loose any by the wayside because we differ on baptism. Even the apostles bickered over similar issues. I hate bickering so I tend to avoid these differences when I speak to my Baptist friends. In fact, I refuse to debate the point anymore. I prefer to stick to the encouragement arena.
God’s plan of salvation for you, whatever you believe doctrinally, is not dependent upon your promise keeping ability. I think we can at least agree that we are pretty rotten promise keepers. Unless we see some advantage in or obligation to a promise we won’t keep promises. Therefore, we can safely assume that, your children will be fairly inept promise keepers as well. The foolishness bound up in the heart of your child is a constant reminder of their need for the same mercy God showed you for your foolishness. God has no advantage in or obligation to keep his promise. He just does it. It is inherent in his being. In fact some theologians would say that the summation of God’s attribute of righteousness is his promise keeping. I’m certainly glad that our righteousness is not determinate upon our promise keeping.
A text that I have chosen for assistance in this series of posts is a work by a 17th century preacher named Edward Lawrence (1623-1665). Lawrence began his pastoral ministry in the Church of England until he refused to submit to Parliament on the issue of using the Book of Common Prayer as the rule of doctrinal authority. In 1666 he was banished from his Parish under the Five Mile Act, where he had to move five miles from the boundary of the Parish and was labeled a nonconformist. He got a better deal than an ancestor of mine who was beheaded for the same thing. The Scots always got a raw deal.
Lawrence preached a series of sermons on Proverbs 17:25 “A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him.” Later he would compile a short book from the sermon notes specifically to give to his children, who apparently were unregenerate. Later he would publish the book titled “Parent’s Groans Over Their Wicked Children.” I told you I was not a fan of self-help books. I will make an exception for this one, reprinted and edited by Soli Deo Gloria publishing in 2003 under the title “Parent’s Concerns for Their Unsaved Children.”
In the next few posts I will draw out some key points Lawrence makes such as the nature of unregenerate children, God’s exceptions to the rule in growing his Church by natural generation, the calamity of parents having unsaved children, and playing Pollyanna in the face of this desperate situation. Some things never change. Children have always been fore most concerns for the godly parent. Lawrence shares some of his concerns and how to rightly bear those concerns.