Children – God’s Gifts Entrusted To Our Care
By Jerry Marcellino
"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord…" (Psa. 127:3). The psalmist teaches us that our children are literally gifts to us from the Lord Himself. This explains why God condemned the people in Jerusalem during Ezekiel’s time for sacrificing their children to idols. In so doing, they had destroyed His own precious possession. Listen to His words in Ezekiel 16:20-21:
"Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire?"
Do not miss this important truth: Our children belong to God. And we are the divinely appointed stewards of these souls that will live forever. We will be held responsible for what we do with the children whom God has placed under our care. This means we should use every means that God has given us to reach them with the Gospel (2 Tim. 4:2).
Such efforts will always be accompanied by a sense of spiritual responsibility to perpetuate the faith unto the next generation (Psa. 78:1-8). Professor Neil Postman captured beautifully such a perspective when he said, "Children are living messages that we send to a time we will not see." Our children will usually outlive us. What kind of message are we sending to a future realm we will never see?
It is God alone who grants us this stewardship for only a short while with the expectancy that we will be good stewards of these precious little gifts (1 Cor. 4:2). It is our responsibility to raise them within a context of gospel influence so that they might come to know Christ, and then make Him known, even to the generations yet to be born (Psa. 22:30). Thus, God intends for us to propagate His kingdom, from generation to generation, primarily through godly families (Mal. 2:15). Such families are those who visibly make it their aim to give Jesus Christ the pre-eminence from daybreak to sundown (Col. 1:18).
Our hearts’ desire toward our children ought to be as Paul’s was toward the Galatians, whom he addressed as, "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you" (Gal. 4:19). Paul was speaking here about those in the church – those who are regularly under the hearing of the preached Word (1 Cor. 1:21). We should be like Paul with our own children: exercised to the point of experiencing labor-like pains until we see Christ formed in them (Deut. 6:4-9).
If Christ is our life (Col. 3:4), then in every breath that God gives to us we will be seeking to bring Christ home to our children through the examples of our own lives as well as through the words that proceed from our lips (Psa. 150:6; Matt. 5:16). Such a lifestyle will require that we deny ourselves daily and aim to no longer live only for ourselves, but, to strive to live for the generation to come (Luke 9:23; Rom. 14:7-9; Psa. 102:18).
Our Children Are Placed in Our Home by Sovereign Design
We must recognize God’s good hand upon our children by virtue of His having placed them into our believing homes. In fact, even if it is an unequally-yoked home in which only one of the parents is a believer, God’s blessing is still upon that home. First Corinthians 7:12-14 explains:
"...If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy."
Your child cannot somehow "catch" salvation by osmosis or through the bloodlines. Rather, he is the recipient of a sanctifying influence from heaven above by virtue of his being placed within the sphere of gospel influence. Therefore, because of God’s sovereign grace and His providential design, some children are placed in a home where the Gospel is lived and taught, which should give every believing parent good reason to hope that God intends to save them (John 5:34). In other words, they should not raise their children in the Lord with a passive and unscriptural presumption that they will one day be saved, but with a pro-active and God-centered Scriptural expectation that God intends to save their children!
Paul continues in First Corinthians 7:16, "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?" That is, if your unbelieving spouse consents to live with you, do not send him or her away – be glad for the opportunity you still have to influence them. And if a believing spouse can influence an unbelieving spouse, then it is certain that a single believing parent can also influence his or her children.
Timothy is a good case in point. He was raised in an unequally-yoked home, having an unbelieving Greek father (Acts 16:1), and yet, his believing mother and grandmother successfully taught him the Scriptures that were "able to make [him] wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15). Timothy became a powerful minister of the Gospel, and was greatly used by God, despite his having an unbelieving father.
Now we must not simply acknowledge God’s sovereign orchestration in our homes, but we must also use every God-ordained means to reach our little ones by creating an atmosphere, environment, climate and culture at home which consistently speaks normally of the reality of God. This is done by seeking in a responsible way to initiate and consistently cultivate the daily worship of God through intercessory prayer, Bible-reading, and by having spiritually-fruitful discussions at other times in the home that end with God: children should be constantly exposed to godly people and families of all ages, both at home and at their church (for opportunities to observe and receive godly instruction and engage in spiritually healthy conversation).
Indeed, God commands this ideal. He says in Ecclesiastes 12:1, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth." How else is a child going to know his Creator in his youth apart from his parents daily bringing Christ near to him? God desires for parents to use every available means to reach their children while they are young and when they are tender and most naturally influenced by their parents, especially through their natural affections toward them.
– Taken from "A Theology Of Children" in the August 2006 issue of The Gospel Witness. Used by permission.