God Promised. Now Faith.

15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. - Malachi 2:15

9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations - Psalm 7:9

7 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. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. - Genesis 17:7-9

3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants. - Isaiah 44:3

21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” - Isaiah 59:21

6 And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. - Deuteronomy 30:6

 

 

Thank you Doug Wilson for bringing many of these Bible verses to my attention. The remaining verses are at the bottom of this post at the recommendation of my proof reader! :-)

As fair warning, those with a disposition against a Calvinist perspective on predestination might struggle to rectify or harmonize these concepts within their paradigm. Covenant child-rearing is essentially reserved for those of the Reformed faith and it shouldn't shock anyone that individuals opposing unconditional election will struggle with some of the words above and the application of them to follow.

 

Now as sympathetically as possible I say: I hate arguing for what the Scriptures clearly teach. Sure, let us debate the confusion that is eschatology. Let's have a go at debating whether or not King Saul was in fact saved, regenerated and/or justified. But with such a clear exposition of the Scriptures over and over, we should agree that the Scriptures are clear about covenant children.

Now many will want to argue from their "experience." Some, will protest that these promises did not come true in their lives and this somehow discredits the argument of these promises. Paul answers this argument for us in Romans,

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed...30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. - Romans 9:6, 30-32

Paul's point is clear: promises must be obtained by faith not some legal works (I'll discuss this more shortly). And when they are not obtained it is because of a lack of faith. How parental faith impacts this is not unlike Paul's argument concerning the proclamation of the gospel (Romans 10:14-17). But understanding those texts and their impact permit us to have a slightly different discussion about God's sovereignty. They also permit us to place solid faith in the promises of God.

Some will want to say that these promises don't count to New Covenant children. I understand that this is the primary view of Baptists and even some Lutherans. First, I'd be willing to argue some of the verses quoted can only been seen in light of the New Covenant. But setting that aside, am I supposed to believe that God made greater promises to the physical seed of Abraham than to the seed of the Church? Sorry but that just isn't going to pass the Scripture inspection. Our God is a God of promises. And our promises are greater (Heb 8:6).

Some at this point might be understanding the word "promise" differently than I am using it. And thus there might be a protest that I'm equating salvation with biological lineage. But I am not. I'm equating God's promise with lineage. And God's promises are received by faith (Rom 9:30-32). God's promise is salvation. And promises are not to be confused with the reception of that which is promised. The example of physical Israel is the example and reminder of this (Rom 9:1-6). They received the promises but did not receive what was promised due to lack of faith. So likewise, we are not assured our children will be saved because we give birth to them. That is an unholy concept. But we are given a covenant of promise (Eph 2:12) and our children are the true benefactors of this covenant and promise. We raise our kids with a promise that God desires to be their God and in fact save them. We raise our kids to have faith in this promise. This finds it's culmination in faith in Jesus Christ as most evidently manifested to them in their baptism.

So do kids fall away? Of course. They fall away from lack of faith. But that means we need a theology to explain that children fall away and not "refuse to come in." We need a theology that says God will honor His faithful through His faithfulness to His promises. And we must ask why the "falling away" of children seems so common currently. The answer is obvious though offensive: the church and parents haven't actually lived in faith of God's promises (some don't even believe in them) and we haven't raised our kids to be the recipients of that promise (aka to have faith in Jesus Christ). Instead with a "conversion focus," we've taught children God isn't God to them and its their choice/decision that changes that. And guess what? Some of them, not all, have grown up and "decided" to change their mind: reverse conversion theology.

Living in God's promises, true Biblical faith, means there is no magical formula to keep children from falling away. There is no special enchantment that can be laid over them to protect them from trials of faith. Likewise, we can be faulty parents and still expect our God to be faithful. Perfection is not required. But when we are unfaithful and unbroken, God's promises are made void. Our children may still come to faith in God. But not because of His promises to parents. Instead it will be because He is a merciful and sovereign God who works around us. But we also shouldn't be surprised that when our children are not taught to put their faith in God's promise (legalistic Christian-stuff is not good enough), they will find themselves short of what was promised. And now we have a robust and Biblical reason for why God's promises fail (return to Romans 9).

So there it is. God has promised His faithfulness. It's up to us to have faith and learn to deal. Parental faithfulness is not perfection. It is a broken and contrite heart (Psa 51:17). And for the sinful who are broken and respond in faith, God has made delightful promises. Promises likes Proverbs 22:6. Our children will not depart. They don't need to make conversion statements since God is already their God. God has promised to be faithful to our sinful souls and theirs and to work brokenness in His people through His Holy Spirit.

 

That's the God of the Bible. That's the God who made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That's the God I will teach my children to rely on since we are frail and imperfect. That's the God who works through my sinful and broken parent-soul and creates miracles of "Godly offspring" for His name sake. He gave me promises. I must have faith. That's gospel parenting.

 

9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. - Deuteronomy 5:9-10

25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you. - Psalm 102:25-28

17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children's children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments. - Psalm 103:17-18

22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their descendants with them. - Isaiah 65:22-23

21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord.

22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
    that I make
shall remain before me, says the Lord,
    so shall your offspring and your name remain. - Isaiah 66:21-22

48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation. - Luke 1:48-50

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 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 2:37-39

Joshua Torrey is the sole proprietor of Torrey Gazette (don't tell Alaina) and the fullness of its editorial process. That means everything wrong with TG can legitimately be blamed on him.