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When we consider what parents should look like, what first comes to our mind’s eye? Our tendency is to rush to some sort of a “works orientation,” and not to rest in faith.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealedfrom faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17 ).
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercyfor a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Dt. 7:9).
“Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent’” (John 6:28-29).
Godly parents are characterized by their faith—which means they are confident, trusting, quiet, and serene. Of course godly parents exhibit good “work,” but it is the fruit of their faith. Their works exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, but they would not dream of trusting in those works. Paul tells us in Philippians to work out our salvation, but God is at work in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12). We are to work out what God works in. In the work of parenting, we are to work out what God works in. And nothing else.
The heart of godly parenting is therefore faith, and it is faith from beginning to end.
THE WAY IT WORKS:
The human race is divided in two categories—covenant keepers and covenant breakers. Now when we make this division, we immediately tend to assume that the covenant keepers do so on the basis of their works. But covenants with God are kept in only one way—by faith from first to last. Trusting in works is how we break the covenant.
Now in the covenant of salvation, God has been kind enough to promise you your children. You do not appropriate this promise through what you might do—although if you have appropriated it by faith, then that will affect what you do.
Consider the parallel challenge of promises for answered prayer: “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). These promises are not obtained from a vending machine, but the promises do mean something.
First, covenant blessings are promised to whom?—God gives the promise to a thousand generations to those who keep his covenant. There are two aspects—those who are in covenant, and those who keep covenant.
Second, what do we do?—But what do we do to keep His covenant? What good things can we do? This brings us back to the words of Christ in John 6. This is the work of God . . . that you believe.
Third, real faith is the kind that gives way to constant believing—The trust and belief which we exhibit toward God is not a sporadic or momentary thing. This is what we see in the passage from Romans 1. The just shall live by faith.
Fourth, where does faith arise?—the Bible teaches that faith comes from hearing the Word of God. In the ministry of the Word, you hear God’s promises, and if the Holy Spirit gives you ears to hear that Word, then you will hear.
Fifth, what are we to believe?—we are to believe the Word of God, all of it, and with regard to this subject, you are to trust God at His word with regard to your children, and their children after them.
Sixth, when are we to believe?—as with other aspects of our lives, time and history matter. You cannot believe God’s promises for the salvation of a child if that child has already died in rebellion. This is another way of saying that there is a time of opportunity, and such a thing as too late. Now if a child is grown up and in rebellion as a direct result of how the child was brought up, God may still show grace and mercy. Pray that He does. But this grace would not be in ordinary fulfillment of covenant promises to covenant parents.
But the Question of Sovereignty Nags:
When parents panic, one of the questions they might ask is, “What if my children are not elect?” This question can be asked both by those who accept the doctrine of election, and those who do not, and who ask the question in order to illustrate a problem with it.
So remember the doctrine of means and ends—God does not ordain things willy-nilly. A good order and purpose attends all that He does.
Second, we all understand the principle elsewhere —if we consider the subject of evangelism, we understand that God is the final cause of everything, but that He ordains
the use of instrumental (secondary) causes to accomplish His purposes.
Third, we should simply apply this to our children—trusting God to keep His Word does not contradict His sovereignty. How could it? He made the promise as an expression of His sovereignty.