What I want to present here tonight is an introduction or a primer on trusting the Lord for the salvation of your kids. We do not have a bag of tricks or techniques which, if you use, your kids will magically “turn out.” There are certain parental principles which contain a lot of wisdom, but there is no power at all in parental principles. The trust comes first, and then as an outflow of that trust, the principles can be applied and are efficacious. But unless the Lord is building the house, they labor in vain who build it (Ps. 127:1).
Salvation by Grace
So let me lay the foundation first, reminding you of how you first became a Christian.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8–10).
“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3)
“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus, whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily” (Col. 1:28-29).
God promises us salvation through Christ, we look to Christ faith (plus nothing else), and we are saved. Not only so, we are taught that we are supposed to walk in Christ the same way we received Him—by grace through faith.
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
Specific Promises Within the Christian Life
This is not a talk on prayer, but I would like to use prayer as an illustration. There are two basic kinds of faithful prayer in Scripture. One of the prayer of submissive resignation, the kind of prayer that Jesus offered up in Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).
The other kind of prayer is implied in the stupendous promise that Jesus gives in Mark.
“Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24).
Now we all know that this promise does not mean absolutely everything, but let us agree that it does mean something. And whatever that something is, not all Christians receive it. And the condition there is found in that word believe.
And what this means is that there are Christians who have believed to the salvation of their souls who have not believed to the answering of whatever request it was. This is a promise in microcosm, but it functions the same way that the universal promise of salvation functions. Faith is the catalyst that activates the promise.
The Old Testament Problem
Many of these promises are found in the Old Testament, but we need to take care with this. Whatever lessons you take away from the Old Testament, the sterling example of multiple generations of faithfulness building on ever-increasing faithfulness is likely not one of them. And so we tend to assume that God over-promised and under-delivered in the OT, but this is radically false. God did not abandon His promises when we came to the New Testament. God began fulfilling them when we came to the New Testament.
“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them” (Psalm 103:17–18).
This is a most glorious promise, and notice how our Lord’s mother refers to it in her wonderful Magnificat.
“For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: For, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; And holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:48–50).
The new covenant is not the era where God abrogates His promises concerning our children. It is the time when the sun comes up—it is when He begins to fulfill them all.
A Cluster of Promises & Predictions
What I have now is a cluster of promises and predictions that I would like to just blow through, commenting here and there, and then coming back to point some things out if we have time.
“The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee” (Psalm 102:28).
“Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:9–10).
“Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
“And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations” (Genesis 17:9).
“For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13).
“And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezekiel 37:24–26).
“They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; For they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them” (Isaiah 65:23)
“As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever” (Isaiah 59:21)
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4)
“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).
Grace Is Attractive
Hard legalism is never attractive. Panicked insecurity is not attractive either. What you need to do is have a seat on the couch, and have your kids line up in front of you. And then you would say something like this: “Children, as you know, your mother and I are going to Heaven. What I wanted to do here is let you know that you are coming too.”
Christ Church Mini-Conference
February 26, 2021
You had me with you right up until the last line.
Yeah, the last line seems to be the whole point that needs to be proven. Kinda left us hanging there. I hope it can be proven, because it’s full of hope if it is true.
(To be fair, the scripture quotations were the proof, but they still need to be brought together into something cohesive.)
As far as “proving,” it’s a sermon, so the context is his church where he has made the case for this teaching previously. It’s intended to remind his congregation more than introduce a new idea.
But it would be useful for him to make the case here at some point (or reference where he has) for those not familiar with it.
That last line implies that the children of the elect are also elect. Am I misunderstanding you?
Is it not possible he is referring to worship, as in the traveling with Father and Mother to the heavenly city, the church? Hebrews 6 also tells us it’s possible to “taste the heavenly gift” without being decretally elect.
The last line is “Children, as you know, your mother and I are going to Heaven. What I wanted to do here is let you know that you are coming too.” Given the preceding verses, seems like it’s emphatically meant to be Heaven – not church, not worship.
“Decretally elect”? I’m not familiar with that term, so had to look it up, but not much wiser after reading a few definitions. Are the “decretally elect” those whom God has chosen for salvation? If so, then why not simply “the elect”? Why the qualifier “decretally”?
Great stuff. I have a friend who has twin daughters, now grown. One is a strong Christian and the other is a rebel. He asked in a meeting how they could be so different when they were raised in the same home. He questioned whether Christian parenting did anything at all. He was answered with a reference to Jacob and Esau. And also to the fact that a crop MIGHT fail, but if you don’t plow, sow, and water it will DEFINITELY fail. And finally, that God has his purposes. It seems that Esau came to repentance eventually. God brings… Read more »
BONUS: Regarding “those afar off,” the Jews across the empire who rejected the testimony of Paul and the other apostles. They were indeed gathered, but not by Jesus. Titus’ campaign against Judea, in a divine irony against those who claimed that they had “no king but caesar,” recapitulated the pattern of Jesus’ ministry—World, Land, Garden. He began in Galilee, where, instead of calling disciples as fishers of men, Roman soldiers cut Jews to pieces in the sea. The campaign continued through Judea until the siege of Jerusalem, where, instead of the Temple veil being torn and a centurion testifying concerning… Read more »
Amen! Those who follow the Lord in the obedience of believers’ baptism can heartily agree with everything that pastor Wilson has written here, while still not jumping to the illogical conclusion that we should baptize infants and tell them their whole life that they’re already in the covenant.
Even better, everyone was put into the New Covenant by Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is no boundary (just as it was before Abraham). Baptism is just the staff uniform for voluntary laborers, Jesus representatives.
“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them” God’s Righteousness is Jesus. Here, Jesus is promised to the children of those who keep His covenant. The parents are saved and the children and grandchildren will have Jesus’ righteousness if the parents are faithful. So the parents aren’t faithful so they, themselves can be saved, they are faithful so their kids can be saved. As with other aspects of our christian… Read more »
1st Corinthians 7:14 teaches that, if one or both parents are believers, the children are holy too. That does seem to imply, at least, that God has a special concern for children of believers, and that children of believers who die before they are capable of understanding the gospel, as well as most severely retarded ones, will probably go to Heaven, and it is conceivable that all children of believers who have not rejected the Lord outright, or disowned their parents and not repented of doing so, will be saved somehow, as all of Job’s children apparently were. There are… Read more »
That passage is actually about whether or not “mixed” marriages (only one partner is a believer) should be annulled. See Matt Colvin on this.
I’ve been reading from several dispensationalist authors lately, it is mighty curious how they speculate that many children of believers in the Millennium will be deceived by Satan and perish. But if the Millennium is basically the fleshed out time of those grand prophecies in Scripture…wonder what they make of these (attached) promises to children. I might be getting a whiff of more ammunition in my arguments with my disp friends.