Our Children, God’s Children

In Reformed theology, children of believers are part of God’s covenant community and are regarded as such.  We do, of course, teach our kids about the mighty acts of God, the redemption that is found only in Christ, and the need for personal repentance, faith, and godliness.  But we don’t consider our children lost pagans who need missional parenting.  I appreciate how Chad Van Dixhoorn explains this Reformed teaching:

The church consists of ‘professors.’  It also consists ‘of their children’ [WCF 25.2].  Being part of a Christian household, whether a household with one Christian parent or two, is a great privilege.  God sets apart both the children and even the spouse of someone who is closely tied to him.  They do not automatically become Christians by virtue of this relationship.  The Apostle Paul, when he mentions this topic in passing, straightforwardly calls an unbelieving spouse of a Christian an unbeliever.  Nonetheless, Paul says they are ‘sanctified’ and ‘holy’ compared to other unbelieving spouses, or other children without a Christian parent (1 Cor. 7:14) whether they like it or not.  Perhaps a useful analogy is found in Romans 11:16, where Scripture says that ‘if the dough…is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.’

The reason for the inclusion of the children in the church finds its roots in the Old Testament, and it is a truth which God himself expressed passionately in the face of denial: children of professing Christians are God’s before they are ours.  In a dark chapter of Israel’s history people took their sons and daughters and offered them as burned offerings to pagan gods.  This was an outrage by any account, but the Lord describes it as an intense personal offense: the children which they considered theirs were ‘born for me’; they were ‘my children’ (Ezek. 16:20, 21).

God takes ownership of covenant children.  At the beginning of biblical revelation God promised to direct the future of Adam and Eve’s ‘seed’ or descendants (Gen. 3:15).  It is for that reason that he placed his covenantal ownership sign on all those who were under the instruction and authority of godly householders, especially their children (Gen. 17:7).  It is for that reason, as the church was initiated into a new age at Pentecost, that Peter not only stressed that the promise of the gospel was for all those ‘who are far off’ (meaning, the Gentiles), but also for ‘your children’ (meaning, our children! Acts 2:39).

Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith, p. 339-40.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI