Since I’m not watching the World Cup and just watching my Texas Rangers continue to struggle with injuries (it is still baseball season. I don’t know what I will be watching in October.), I wanted to say I just read Mark Jones’ latest blog post over at Reformation21. He asked “If you are a Christian parent with young children, do you consider your children to be Christians?” My initial answer is no. But then my second answer would be, “Can they and have they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ for justification?” Let me say at the outset I am a Reformed Baptist.
I do not hold to an age of accountability, yet I find it hard to believe that my 7 month old child could grasp and comprehend her sinfulness and my plea for her to believe and trust in the Lord Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, or to be as believing Thomas when he said upon seeing Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” That would be the simplest belief one would need to state in order to be saved. I know my daughter cannot say this and believe with any assurance at this point in her life, yet even now I call on her to repent. This is mostly so that I will be in the habit of leading her to Christ, and also to cultivate this in her from a very early age. Pastor Jones also states that when thinking about this issue the Presbyterians were “judging this to the terms of the covenant.” Again, as a Reformed Baptist, I whole heartedly agree. So I must ask the question: “Which covenant?” Jeremiah 31:31-34 says:
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (NASB).
The New Covenant in the blood of Christ says that God will be their God and they shall be my people. They will not teach…each man…to know the Lord, for they will all know Me…” This tells us that there will not be a mixed people. We shall not have to teach those in the covenant to know the Lord. They will know the Lord and be part of His covenant people. This is the foundation of the New Covenant. The Covenant promises will be found in those who have God’s law written on their heart because their sin is forgiven and not remembered for it was nailed to the cross of Christ. Knowing this, we can now answer Pastor Jones questions. He asks 5:
When my children sin and ask forgiveness from God, can I assure them that their sins are forgiven?”
Yes, the same way you would with an adult. Our justification is in Christ alone. Those who had the faith of Abraham are the ones who are the children of Abraham. Chapter 14, paragraph 2 from the Second London Confession quoting the Westminster states of the grace of saving faith the following, “By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself…acteth differently, upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come: But the principal acts of Saving Faith have immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life by virtue of the covenant of grace(italics are my emphasis and bold is added in the Baptist Confession).” If your child can believe in Jesus Christ for justification, sanctification and eternal life then you can tell them their sins are forgiven. When can they believe this? The earlier the better, and all Christians have the solemn obligation and command to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
When I ask my children to obey me in the Lord should I get rid of the indicative-imperative model for Christian ethics? On what grounds do I ask my three-year old son to forgive his twin brother? Because it is the nice thing to do? Or because we should forgive in the same way Christ has forgiven us?”
No. We instruct our children to “forgive us our debts as we forgive others.” Our forgiving others is to be based on the forgiveness found in the Lord Jesus Christ. All of this is a tool to evangelize our children. The way our children treat their siblings is an opportunity to show how we are rebel children in Adam and that reconciliation with God means reconciliation in our elder brother Jesus. Only when we have true forgiveness can we forgive others. We must tell our children to come to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ and only then can we forgive in the same way God has forgiven us.
Can my children sing ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’ and enjoy all of the benefits spoken of in that song? (‘To him belong…He will wash away my sin’)”
No. Unless they trust in Christ alone for the receiving of those benefits. Chapter 11 in the Second London Confession and the Westminster: “Those whom God effectually called, He also freely justifieth, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness, but by imputing Christ’s active obedience unto the whole Law, and passive obedience in His death, for their whole and sole righteousness, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God (bold section added by Savoy and Second London Confessions).” We should teach them the song, but they can only sing it with a true, saving faith when they’re resting on Christ alone.
When my children pray during family worship to their heavenly Father, what are the grounds for them praying such a prayer? Do they have any right to call God their ‘heavenly Father’? Do non-Christians cry ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom. 8:15)?”
Here is how one has the grounds to call out to the heavenly Father: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13; NASB). We must evangelize our children and yet instruct them to pray as Jesus instructs people to pray. One need only be born again to have the right to call God Heavenly Father. All people have an interest and command in calling out to God as He has revealed Himself. The only way one has the right if He has been born again.
Should I desire that my children have a “boring” testimony? (Though a testimony to God’s covenant promises can never be boring, of course). Is it not enough for them to simply say each day that they trust in Christ alone for their salvation?”
The only desire a parent should have regarding the testimony of our children is that they know God and are known by Him. This comes from an effectual call to God’s elect in Christ in the Covenant of Grace who receive and rest upon Christ alone whereby they become children of the Heavenly Father and can only then have assurance by loving Him and keeping His commandments.
Thank you Pastor Jones for asking these questions. Even as a Baptist I ask these questions. On the judgment of charity, I call upon my child (Lord willing my wife and I may be able to say children) to call upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Peter did to those who heard him preach and they will be saved and can sing and know for sure “Jesus loves me.” We both have become convinced of this position because we believe “for the Bible tells me so. We are weak and He is strong.” I’m thankful for your work. I don’t consider myself wiser than you. I am simply answering as a convinced Reformed Baptist how I deal with these questions. We still are brothers in Christ and long for the day when all is set right and we know finally who belongs to the Lord. Until that day, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus Come!
(In case all have forgotten, it is baseball season. I’ll be watching my Texas Rangers until the end of September. October looks like it may be out of sight.)
6 thoughts on ““Yes, child, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved.””
I am watching neither the World Cup nor the Texas Rangers, but that is beside the point. I think this is a great set of answers to the questions. What an encouragement it is that you and your wife have this grasp of the facts regarding the raising of your children (DV). It is good to start the habit of evangelism from the beginning, because the age of understanding has a way of sneaking up on you. I have a suspicion that children understand more than we often assume, especially with the firstborn. Not only that, the brain builds pathways on repetition. While none of this will save a child without the quickening of the Holy Spirit, they are the means we have been given for proclaiming the Gospel to our closest neighbors. Do not grow weary in doing good!
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Yes. That makes sense: that a Rangers fan would have more time on his hands than a soccer fan. 🙂
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The children of believing parents are covenant children, not in the sense that they are automatically covenant members or born sons of Christ rather than sons of Adam, but in the sense that they are born into the shadow of the covenant, so to speak–the sphere or community of God’s covenant people and grow up under its influence and receive many “overflow” blessings from their proximity to the covenant.
Don’t Presbyterians have to ask all the same questions of themselves and their kids? Even if they believe their children are born covenant members, they cannot believe they are born God’s blood-bought, called, and justified children. And those who are inside the New Covenant but outside of Christ (such people, Baptists know, do not actually exist. But for argument’s sake …) could not actually sing that they belong to Jesus or have their sins washed away any more than those outside the covenant. The same goes for addressing God as Father, or forgiving others as God has forgiven you.
P.S., the fact that the World Cup occurs during the baseball season pretty much negates my chances of watching the World Cup.
Where do you see in Scripture the idea that children of believers are “covenant” children? I agree that they are in a more advantageous position, if they repent. However, the argument could be made that they are in a less advantageous position, eschatologically, if they do not repent, because they have less of an excuse on the day of judgment.