children

Family 101: The Children

We have covered the creation of the man, the creation of the woman, and creation itself. Now, we need to turn our attention to the subject of children. Although no children were created, or conceived, in the garden “pre-fall,” we have all that we need to know about children, how to raise them, as well as why they even exist, from the early chapters of Genesis, particularly the garden narrative. This will only be a summary, but will be much to think about.

One of the least developed theologies of the modern church, or historical church for that matter, is the theology of the Family, particularly, as it relates to children. I believe that if we can develop a theology of children from Scripture, and let Scripture instruct us concerning the glorious position of children, much in the family, and in the church, would be corrected. My desire is to introduce this theology here for your consideration.

To begin, I want to consider Jesus’ terms in Mark 10:13-16:

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.

14  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

15  “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

16  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

Without going into a full detail on this passage, it is enough for us to look at Jesus’ reference to children here as those to whom belongs the kingdom. That phrase delineates for us all that we need in order to understand your child. Yes, that is right. It was enough for Jesus, and, when understood, it is enough for us. The result of this understanding will be the action of Christ here-He took them in His arms and began blessing them!

Imagine seeing children as a blessing again to the extent that you express that to them! It stems from the kingdom purpose of children.

To say that to children belongs the kingdom, is to say that children are heirs of the kingdom. That is, the kingdom is for, and made up of, children (John 1:12-13). The Greek here is instructive, obviously. It literally reads, “…for of these kinds of ones is the kingdom of God.” This is not good English, but is good Greek. In other words, the children are pictures, or examples, of those who exist in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is all that God has created. It has been infiltrated and overrun with tares and goats. Yet, it is still the kingdom and one day Jesus will remove all these stumbling blocks from His kingdom (Matthew 13:41). Until then, they coexist with us. So, because of God’s original design in the garden, which began His eternal design for redemption, the kingdom is (made up of) those who are not only like children, but are children. That is the key to understanding your children from God’s perspective.

Some will look at this and say, “Yes, we must enter the kingdom like a child: humble, meek, helpless,” etc.… These things are true in a sense. To enter the kingdom, you must be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). However, that is not the point here. The point here is a comparison between biological children and spiritual children such that biological children become the comparison for spiritual children. That is, when God created Adam, He made him to be His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Adam was called a “son of God” (Luke 3:38) and as such was in the kingdom. When he fell, he was thrust from God’s kingdom and submitted to Satan. Once returned, He was in God’s kingdom once again, however the kingdom had taken on a new component-futility resulting from God’s curse (Genesis 3:17ff.; Romans 8:18-22). That condition exists in the kingdom now and will be purged at the coming of Jesus Christ to reign (Matthew 13:41).

Now, when the man and woman were created, they were given the privilege of procreation. By that would come children. Once born, these unique creations, then, would exemplify what it means to be in God’s kingdom. They were a real-live, physical, examples of the truth of being a son to God. Remember, all of God’s children were predestined to become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 8:28-30). That was not simply the goal of redemption, but the original creation goal of the Father (Hebrews 2:9-15). This is a theology of sonship that is true of children. They are unique because they are born infants and grow, mature, and develop into a man or woman, who themselves bear the image of God. It is only unique to children that a boy can go from being a son to a father who then can bear sons. That dynamic, it seems, also replicates the glory of God in that He is a Son to a Father, and a Father to a Son. So, in a tremendously unique and distinctly profound sense, children are really the picture of the triune nature of God.

Therefore, children are heirs of the kingdom. To deny them access to Jesus Christ, as the disciples had done, was infuriating to Jesus for this very reason. Your children are pictures to you of the entire purpose of God in creating the kingdom in the first place-to give to the Son sons of His own to enjoy forever (Revelation 21:7)! So, please, treat your children accordingly.

Matthew 25:34

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

The Gospel Stage Is Set. The Father’s Announcement Is Made.

Last post, we considered Paul’s statement in Ephesians 3:11,

11      This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

If we stop and contemplate what this says, we come up with some very interesting conclusions. One conclusion that we must admit is that since the plan and purpose of God is eternal, and since God is absolutely sovereign, and since Jesus Christ actually did come to the earth, die, and was raised again, then there must have been some preparatory work ahead of the arrival of Jesus Christ in order to carry out His work. This is a staggering thought. In order for the complexities of the purpose of God to be accomplished, the “stage” had to be set. There had to be some pieces put into place. And since that is true, then we conclude that all of history and time marches on toward one thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the setting of the stage is not what the fullness of time is. The historical components into which  Messiah was born is not the catalyst for His coming. 

I want to consider a couple things along these lines. First, we need to realize that time is fixed by the Father. Second, we need to see that Jesus’ arrival was not determined by anything other than the Father’s announcement.

It would be easy to look to history in order to see the pieces of the puzzle being put together for such a time as Christ’s arrival. Afterall, Paul did write in Galatians

4      But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (Galatians 4:4).

Oftentimes, writers take this verse and dive into history and point out the unique world into which Jesus was born. A world most conducive to the spread of the gospel. Whether it was the Roman empire that allowed for ease of travel because of their extensive road system, or the common language of Koine Greek which allowed for the writing of the NT in a popular language, this is often the route we take. However, this is not Paul’s point in Galatians 4:4. I don’t believe that Paul sat back and considered all the historical trappings of the time and thought to himself, “My, what a perfect time for the Messiah to be born.” What did Paul mean by this phrase in Galatians 4:4? What was his thought? He tells us.

Notice the context. Paul is referring to the practice of the time when a boy becomes a man and takes on the inherited responsibilities, and privileges, of manhood as given to him of his father. If you follow the terms referring to time in this section (i.e. vv. 1-9), you begin to see Paul’s thinking unfold.

The first mention of time is found in v.1, “As long as the heir is a child.” Paul is speaking of the time-frame of childhood. In time, the child will become the owner of his father’s estate. However, for now, he is treated no better than a slave-one who has no rights or privileges but is expected to only do what he is told. Then, v.2 states that that child is kept under guardianship until such a time as the father says, “He is mature enough to handle my affairs.” At that point, the child is no longer a slave, but a son-on the same level as the father himself over the estate.

Paul takes that true, historical, practice of families and uses that as an analogy to the gospel. The overarching point Paul is trying to make to the Galatians is found in v. 9 when he asks why, when they have been made sons through the gospel, the Galatians would go back to slavery under bondage to the master of the “elemental” things of the world. Why would one want to throw away all the privileges, and responsibilities, of sonship and go back to being a slave? It doesn’t make sense!

The timing of the coming of Christ is compared to the announcement by a father of the son’s arrival to competency. Verse 2 states that the date of transition out of slavery into sonship, at least as it relates to handling the affairs of the father, is set by the father. That is, the father has complete authority to make that call. No one tells him when to do it. He, of his judgment and for his own purposes, announces the maturity of his son to adulthood.

And that is the answer. The “fullness of the time” equals the date set by the father. To say it another way, The Father announced the date of the Son coming to earth. It was the fullness of “the” time, not because everyone was speaking Greek. It was the fullness of time because the Father said so. And, at the moment of God’s announcement that it was time, Messiah was born to an unwed mother, into an impoverished family, lead by a godly, but poor carpenter. All of this was during the time of the Law.

The Law, being compared to the “guardians and managers” of v.2, was left behind when a slave became a son, an heir. In a very real sense, we go from slavery into sonship also by the announcement of the Father. We do not appoint ourselves as heir of the kingdom. The Father must do it since it is His ‘estate.’ We cannot approach the Father and demand the inheritance, as the Prodigal did. We only receive the kingdom from the Father when He has decided it is time.

This is not unlike the discussion that the resurrected Jesus had with His apostles in Acts 1:6-7. The apostles wanted to understand when the coming of the kingdom of Israel would be. Jesus asserted that the Father of the estate, i.e. the kingdom, has fixed that time by “His own authority.” That says it perfectly! God determines the times and epochs of everything and we have no right to that information. We are children. The Fatherhood of God demands that He is sovereign because of His ownership and wisdom, at least.

So, the next time someone refers to Galatians 4:4 as a reference to historical components of God’s plan, please remind them that God is not compelled by anything, especially history, to accomplish His plan. All time is fixed by His own authority.

Are Children Made In God’s Image?

 

It is significant to me that God created a man and a woman to be His image and likeness. It is significant also that that man and woman would, by God’s power, procreate. This phenomena is the power of God and has a very significant meaning and profound reality to it.

This will likely become a little series, so I want to state my main thought up front. Children are a creation of God in which the realities of the Triune God and His kingdom are on display unlike anything else in our lives. It is important to explain this fully, thus I will attempt to do so over the next few posts. Because of the importance of such a series as this, I encourage you to think about this very carefully and be a “Berean” and search the Scriptures.

Let’s look at some introductory passages to begin our thinking in the right direction. In Mark 10:13-16 there is a little event that each of the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) includes and thus indicates its importance in the life and ministry of Christ.

Jesus is in the Judean region, after having left the region of Galilee (Mt. 19:1f.). He comes to this region and immediately, during one of His teaching times, He is asked a question about divorce and remarriage in order to test Him and get Him in trouble since John the Baptist was also killed after confronting Herod about his unlawful divorce (Mk. 6:14-29). Further, divorce and remarriage were, as they are today, hot topics. So, if they could just get Jesus to slip up here, the crowd would most likely turn on Him in some way, or they might have legal right to accuse Him and punish Him. Either way, it was a ‘set-up.’

In this section, Jesus reiterates the original design and mandate of God from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24. In doing this, Jesus is saying that God knew exactly what He was doing, He is God, and we do not reserve the right to alter what He created. Therefore, Jesus said, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Mk 10:9). Therefore, a man and a woman who divorce and remarry commit adultery against their previous spouse. In Matthew 19:9 Jesus apparently stated that an exception to this hard-and-fast rule is sexual immorality on the part of the husband or wife. Once that occurs, divorce may be an option. However, Paul goes on to teach that it needs to be the final option after all other avenues of peace and forbearance has been pursued (1 Corinthians 7:15). The issue of divorce in the Scripture is informative and fascinating as it helps us to understand how to deal with people in this area. However, this is not the place to delve into that topic. Besides, no matter what you might think of divorce, it is still God’s original mandate and created design (from which we should not waver) that a man and a woman maintain their marriage for life to the glory of God.

What is interesting, however, is that Mark enters into the narrative of Jesus’ perception of children. Both Matthew and Mark have this section after the passage on divorce. Luke does not include the passage about divorce at all. But, he does include the passage about children. So, all three Synoptics have this highly important narrative, and for good reason.

All three passages indicate that “they were bringing children (Luke-‘babies’) to [Jesus] so that He might touch them (in blessing which included prayer for them); but the disciples rebuked them.” The components of this are that “they” were bringing young children, even babies, to Jesus for a blessing. The disciples of Christ attempted to rebuke those bringing the children. I would assume that those bringing the children were either parents or close relatives. It is possible that they might have even been neighbors. It simply does not say who they were. However, they were interested in the children receiving a blessing. My assumption is that they were parents.

Jesus did not refuse them, but the disciples did. Why? Why didn’t Jesus refuse the children? The answer comes out in the rebuke of the disciples, so we will look to the disciples first. The disciples began rebuking them. Who were they rebuking? The parents? The children? If they were rebuking the parents, the children heard it so it essentially had the same effect on both.

As a sidenote, remember, Jesus’ response to the disciples demonstrates God’s perspective on children, as well as those who mistreat them. Jesus responded to the disciples exactly as the Father would and the Spirit would if they were present. Therefore, this interaction gives us a very clear picture into the nature of God as it pertains to His relationship with children.

The texts do not overtly indicate why the disciples refused “them.” It could be that they felt the children and parents were a bother. Or perhaps the children were getting underfoot and they were perturbed by that. However, if you consider vv. 1-12, you get an interesting contrast to vv. 13-16. Notice that v.1 states that crowds were gathering around Jesus and the response was that Jesus began to teach them. That is what He always did. Even some Pharisees came up to Jesus and asked a question in order to pin Him down. No response by the disciples as of yet. When Jesus gets in the house, the disciples then asked for explanation concerning His teaching about divorce. This indicates that, for the most part, the disciples were quiet. However, when the children come, the disciples immediately speak out and rebuke the parents and children. In the next narrative, once again, you see Jesus being approached and asked about spiritual matters from the rich young ruler. The disciples, again, did not have a problem with that. It was only when the children came did they get uptight. Why? We have to be careful to read into the white spaces. However, it is appropriate to pull together the pieces of the puzzle we do have and paint a picture.

Children are not adults. Easy. Children lack all that adults (think they) have attained. Further, children appear to be ignorant oftentimes of even the simplest of facts that we adults understand. We could say that all of this indicates why the disciples rebuked the children. The children have no contribution to the society at large and therefore they are to be ignored. Although I think that most people feel this way, I don’t think that is the issue here, at least as far as Jesus is concerned. For Jesus, and thus in reality, the issue pertained to the relationship of children to the kingdom of God. The disciples’ failure to comprehend this enraged Jesus. This was more than simple displeasure. I believe that this treatment of the children incited fury, albeit under control, in Jesus. Why? Because of the importance of the kingdom of God. How many other things are said to own the kingdom of God?

The children, according to Jesus’ response, are a picture of the kingdom of God in some way. Jesus wanted the children to come to Him because, it appears, they were dear to His heart. But that does not seem to be simply because they were really cute. It appears to be more than that, considering His indignation and rebuke of His disciples.

Next time, we will delve into this further. But for now, just know that children mean more to God than we might think. However, is that the case in your heart? Do you see in children something of the kingdom of God as Jesus did? Or, do you see them as the disciples did, in the way and unimportant? Our view of children may well unveil some interesting things in our hearts.

A Wise Son Is The Reflection of God

 

The book of Proverbs is a book that is written very clearly for the sake of parenting. No doubt parents often think, “If only there was a guidebook to parenting!” Well, whether they know it or not, Proverbs is that book. However, it is a book that is far from rules and formulas. In fact, it is widely understood that Proverbs is not only a book that gives wisdom, but it is also a book that requires wisdom to understand. So, if we put two-and-two together, we realize that raising children and running a home require supernatural wisdom and that wisdom is available and required by Proverbs.

Parenting, therefore, needs to be understood as demanding the most exacting wisdom. It needs to be understood that the bar for parenting is extremely high in Proverbs, since the tools of raising children require the wisdom that only comes from God. To rely on gut instinct or worldly standards with a Christian twist is not good enough since it cannot produce what God desires. Paul summarizes centuries later what God desires, which is the backdrop of all of Proverbs, indeed all of Scripture. God’s desire is to make people who are conformed to the image of the Son of God (Romans 8:28-29). Whether it was the elect of the time prior to the cross or the elect after the cross, God’s intention is to make sinners into sons/daughters. The only example that we have is the Son, Jesus Christ. His discernment, wisdom, righteousness, understanding, and obedience to the Father is the only example we have. In fact, if you consider all that Scripture says about parenting, what you will eventually realize is that what is the only pattern there is, the only relationship after which parenting was designed to follow by creation, is that relationship between the Father and the Son. The more you comprehend that relationship, the better parent you will become. We are made in the image and likeness of God and God is the relationship between the Father, Son, and the Spirit. Therefore, since God’s original design has never been annulled, we see that the original design is the picture of a son and a Father (cf. Genesis 1:26 w/Genesis 5:3). The gospel of Luke picks up on this by calling Adam a “son” of God (Luke 3:38). He is not only a son by direct creation, but a son because he was made in the image and likeness of God. Likewise, Jesus Christ is the image and likeness of God (2 Corinthians 4:4b; Hebrews 1:3).

With that in mind, it is important, then, that we see parenting as the work, and I mean work, of making sinners into sons. That is, we work in the lives of our children through their hearts to train them toward obedience to their earthly fathers as the Son is to His Father. This is Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 6:1. Children obey your parents. Why? Because parents are to be honored. Why? Because parents are to children as the Father is to the Son. And, obviously, making our children into disciples of Christ is the only goal as that is the only path to making them true sons.

This reality is tremendous. I confess that I have been working through these issues theologically and hope to publish these things in time. But for now, I have found it hard to contain myself. Every time that I hear of some new method of raising good kids, or some new success story of another program, I almost become nauseas. Why? Because, in the end, the product is far lower than what the Scripture demands. The consummate picture of children in the Scripture is that of the Son toward the Father. Proverbs tells us what that relationship looks like in many passages. But one of the more conclusive ones is Proverbs 23:26, “Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.” The Son, Jesus Christ, delighted in the ways of the Father which evidenced itself in the life of obedience that Christ exhibited (John 4:34; 5:30). And the heart of Christ was given to the Father (John 14:31). The life of Jesus Christ demonstrated an absolute love for the Father. He clearly loved His God with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength. And that is the pattern after which a father and son relationship is to be patterned. This is a fundamental concept in the original intra-Trinitarian conversation that occurs as recorded in Genesis 1:26-“Let us make man in our image, according to Our likeness…” That image and likeness most certainly included the relationship of the Father to the Son as pictured (‘imaged’) in a man to his children.

Further, at the completion of all redemptive history there is left a glorious reality that is described in Revelation 21:7. John writes, “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” That is more than anthropomorphism. That is more than trying to communicate in a way that we will understand. That is an eternal relationship that was God’s original design in the garden and the substance of that shadow is the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. Thus, Paul writes, “…those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). And earlier, Paul writes that all of creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19).

Therefore, because of the profundity of the theology involved, the building and establishment of a household demands the wisdom of God. This wisdom is not intuitive. It is divine. Moreover, it is contained in only one volume, the Scripture, so that we might “know wisdom and instruction, discern the sayings of understanding, receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity;  give prudence to the naive, the youth knowledge and discretion” (Proverbs 1:2-4).

Wisdom-The Replacement for Legalism

In the last post I had discussed the need for wisdom in building a home. I had asserted that wisdom is not learned, but given. This is because wisdom has as its source God. He is the originator of wisdom. He is the embodiment of wisdom. Moreover, wisdom is dispensed by Him as He alone desires. Therefore, when Proverbs 24:3 states matter-of-factly, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches”, it is saying, “A house is only truly a house when it is established and built with wisdom, God’s wisdom.” Further, this wisdom is a treasure. Thus, being a treasure, it is rare. However, like treasure, it yields itself when sought after with effort, diligence, and determination. Outside of this, a home is not established. But in all our efforts, the reminder remains: wisdom is given, never discovered.

Having said all of that, there is a fundamental issue that I believe needs to be addressed at this early juncture. The topic of legalism in the home is heated and ongoing. Legalism is the cry of those who deny the need for God’s righteousness in the home. The reason, I have found, that some have this perspective is because they cannot rise above their own level of righteousness. Thus, the home becomes a hodge-podge of rules and abstract standards that really have no bearing in God. Thus, children are confused (and so is the other spouse). This especially hits home when this haphazard approach to managing a home causes pain or destruction. For the time-being, a level of righteousness kicks in, but it is not God’s.

Let’s examine a scenario. Little Johnny has thrown a rock through the front window. He was told that he should not pick up rocks and throw them. However, Johnny did not listen and now there is a broken window letting all the cold air in, and hot air out. What does legalism do? Legalism cries, “I told you not to do that! Why did you do that! Why can’t you listen when I tell you something?!” But, wisdom says, “What did daddy tell you? Why did you pick up that rock? Why did you want to do something that I said not to do?” And going through the mind of daddy is that his little Johnny is only exhibiting his true nature-a sinner. Johnny, at heart, is rebellious, foolish, disobedient, and loves unrighteousness. Johnny can’t help but do what he shouldn’t. He is unable to obey fully, think wisely, exhibit distinctions between good and evil. Little Johnny has almost zero discernment. But, that does not let him off the hook. A transgression has been committed. A penalty must be enacted. At the premise level, the legalist is self-righteous and expects others around him to be so also. A wise man, however, has jettisoned his own righteousness for the righteousness of God out of the fear of God. In short, a legalist does not submit to the righteousness of God for fear of letting go of his own righteousness (Romans 10:3). And, since our own righteousness is so low, it allows us to “get away” with things that God does not allow. Yet, wisdom seeks to maintain the high view of God and His righteous character no matter the cost. Thus, he will speak to little Johnny attempting to bring him to the realization of what sin is, and what is the consequence of sin. In doing this, Johnny will learn a little bit about God from the broken window incident.

So, in order to establish a home, it needs to be driven by wisdom, not legalism. A home is a place, most of all, where the glory of God should be on display in the people who live there. Therefore, daddy’s response to that broken window, mommy’s response to losing sleep to a sick child, the children’s response to instructions from their parents that are not at all what they want to do, are all opportunities to put God on display, and not ourselves. It is time to elevate the righteousness of God, and not our own. It is a time to learn wisdom, cry out for it, and be trained to discern between good and evil thus maturing in the Lord (Hebrews 5:13-14).

This is really the direction teaching about parenting and the home should go. Instead, however, you often hear ‘Christianized’ elementary principles of the world along with success stories of the common experiences of life. Anyone can identify with those things. However, what needs to be explained and taught is a fear of God, the need for righteousness, and the wisdom of God that builds a home.

Wisdom-The Building Block of the Home.

It is important that we understand that our homes are more than simply a place where some people live together. There is more to God’s creation of the home than what we typically understand or even expect. I would venture to say that if we gave the doctrine of inerrancy, or the doctrine of the church, or any other clear doctrine of the Scripture the same, superficial, attention that we usually give the home and the family, we would not even scratch the surface on these profound truths. Such is the case with the theology of the home.

You know the usual treatment of marriage and children, and topics surrounding the two. They are usually practical (Arminian) in nature and profoundly original, albeit shallow. Just like any other responsibility in a Christian’s life, if we do not have the doctrine understood first, our duty simply will not be what it should be. However, there are many from whom we never hear, whose marriages and families are wonderful and wholesome. But they are too wise to boast about it.

I would like to take opportunity to undertake a collection of posts on the issue of the Theology of the Home. As I have observed, although there are snippets of truth in a lot of teachings on the home, a full-orbed teaching is lacking.

 

In The Beginning…

It would seem to me that God knew what He was doing in Genesis 1-2 when He created the heavens and the earth. In this creation there would be animals, stars, water, and a myriad of others inhabitants and objects. But the crown of His creation would be a man and a woman. This man and woman would share in the likeness and image of God Himself. By His design, the man, being created first, uniquely reflects and represents God on this planet. The woman, being taken from the flesh and bone of the man, would derive her glory from representing the man who in turn represents God. Hers is a derived glory of God through the man. Thus, the man would be the image of God on this planet forever. His job? To rule. That rulership would be in wisdom and with the blessing and expectation of God. God would expect Adam to rule over the creation with skill, insight, and godly wisdom. Thus the man and his wife would give glory to God in their respective responsibilities together. This was a glorious and magnificent condition for this unique creation of God.

It is important to realize that the way that God created everything in the beginning was entirely sufficient to produce His glory. Everything that the man and woman needed for marriage, work, child-rearing, etc.. is all contained in the basic, consummate instructions and precepts of Genesis 1-2. It would all work out in the lives of the man, woman, and the children. However, with the fall, that wisdom and knowledge was lost. It was a wisdom that directed their lives and their relationships. This wisdom was sufficient for everything that the man and woman were required to do. But at the fall, the man and woman relinquished all rights to wisdom and rather gave themselves over to foolishness. It is important to understand this since these terms of wisdom and foolishness appear throughout Scripture.

To begin with, consider a few passages from the premier book on wisdom, Proverbs. Proverbs 3:19 states,

“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, By understanding He established the heavens.”

The tool by which God created the earth and the heavens was wisdom. Wisdom was instrumental in establishing the universe, with all its diverse and wondrous phenomena. Further, it is this wisdom that He must have made available to Adam and Eve as well.

““The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. “From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. “When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water. “Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I was brought forth; While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world. “When He established the heavens, I was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, When He made firm the skies above, When the springs of the deep became fixed, When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth; Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, Rejoicing in the world, His earth, And having my delight in the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:22–31)

Wisdom was the possession of God before, during, and after the establishment of the universe. This wisdom was present with the creation of the man and was pleased to see his creation. Inasmuch as this wisdom was present in the creation of the universe, it must also have been present in the man and woman as well. It was by wisdom they were created, and, apparently, the man and woman would have been created with this wisdom, to some extent, in them as well. The kind of thinking and understanding that would be required to create all that was created in six days is the kind of thinking and understanding that was in Adam and Eve as well, yet not as comprehensive. This quality of thinking is a kind of thinking that brings God glory. This wisdom is able to instruct Adam and Eve for eternity and this wisdom is able to instruct us as well (Proverbs 2:10-11; 6:22-23).

The source of all wisdom is God. His Word is wisdom (Proverbs 2:6-7), King Solomon was given wisdom from God (1 Kings 3:6-15), and in times of pressure and temptation, the church is urged to cry out to God for wisdom in order to live righteously in the midst of trial (James 1:5). Further, wisdom is to be the quality of our ministry in the church (Colossians 1:28; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6f.). Wisdom is able to lead us to faith in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:14-15), and, in fact, Jesus Himself is the embodiment of wisdom (Colossians 2:3; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:24,30). Therefore, to ignore wisdom is to do harm to ourselves (Proverbs 1:20-33).

 

The Home-The Display of Wisdom

This wisdom is most necessary in the home. This is the summation of Proverbs 24:3. To manage a home well takes the wisdom that existed at creation, was in the heart of Adam and Eve before the fall, has as its source God, and is made visible in Jesus Christ. This profound and extensive wisdom is what it takes to build a home. This is obviously not speaking of laying concrete, building 2×4 walls, and a roof. This is speaking of the act of building a home-a place in which the relationships that God ordained between a man and woman and their children exist. Thus, the home is not a place that “just happens.” Building a home demands diligence, effort and complete dedication. There are those who would disagree with that last statement. They say, “I don’t think that is true. My home is doing alright. The kids are okay. My husband and I get along. We have good times, and yes sometimes bad, but who doesn’t.” However, you have to ask yourself what you are aiming at for the goal of your home. What is it that is actually supposed to be achieved in a home? If God says that a home is only built by wisdom and that wisdom is only given by God and that after searching for it as one would a hidden treasure of immense worth, then what does He mean? Is He mistaken?

If a home is only built upon the wisdom that is only available from God for the upright, then that would explain why so many households are simply not what they should be. Even in the church, households are not much above the quality of the world. Husbands don’t know how to lead their wives and children, nor do they think they are supposed to. Wives would much rather pursue a career than remain at home and build a place for her to express her love for her husband and children. Children are rebellious and expect the parents to give them their space. It seems that even the best of Christian homes are missing something. Could it be that we are missing wisdom? After all, it is as rare as a valuable treasure.

In order to address this issue, there needs to be more than one post dedicated to it, and there will be. We will be considering what wisdom is, what it does, what it does not do, and how to gain it.

Introduction

For a few preliminary thoughts, consider this. Wisdom is given, never discovered. That is, we gave up our access to wisdom at the fall (consider Proverbs 3:18 as compared to Genesis 3:22-24. We no more have access to wisdom, inherently, than we have access to the Tree of Life. Thus, it must be given by God, as the Tree of Life will be as well-Revelation 2:7; 22:1-9). Wisdom is from God and He gives it, not to the foolish, but the upright (Proverbs 2:1-7). For the fool, wisdom is too high to attain (Proverbs 24:7). It is like the space station in relation to his plight on earth. He cannot see it nor know that it is there. But it is there.

How do we get this wisdom? If it is given by God, how do we get it from Him? Is there a mechanism in place that will generate wisdom in us from God? The answer is in Proverbs 1:7 and repeated in 9:10. The fear of the LORD is the starting place for this treasure called wisdom (it also has shades of meaning in ‘understanding’, ‘knowledge’, ‘discretion’ and so on). The fear of the LORD is understanding the nature of God in all His power, majesty, and glory, and our relation to Him in all of our depravity, weakness, and foolishness. In other words, Jesus said to be afraid of the One who can kill both body and soul in Hell (Mt. 10:28; cf. Hebrews 10:31; 12:28-29). By His very nature, God should instill in us a real fear. He is absolutely unlike us. We are absolutely unlike Him, although we are made in His image (which is all the more tragic). This fear is the reality that in all His holiness, God has the right and the power to kill us and judge us for eternity for our sins. If a person does not fear after contemplating that, then he has no hope of gaining wisdom. He is proud. He is a fool.

Children in the Worship Service-Do They Belong?

Introduction

As anyone in Children’s Ministries in a local church knows, there is a plethora of opinions when it comes to how to occupy the children while the parents attend worship. Some would advocate a Sunday School approach where the children learn Bible lessons. Some would take advantage of the time to teach a new Bible-centered craft. Some may even simply try to keep the children occupied by games or singing until Mom and Dad come to pick them up.

However, all of these scenarios lack the Scriptural backing for their approach to occupying children during worship because Scripture indicates that children are not supposed to be separated from the parents during worship, but rather are to attend the worship service with their parents. I hope to show that the presence of children in worship service was the normal expectation for families in Israel. Further, it is also the same expectation for the church of Jesus Christ as well.

What Is Worship?

First of all, I want to define worship as used in this essay, as those times where the local church body meets corporately in order to pray, sing, preach, and otherwise fulfill the obligations of corporate worship. It is true that worship is primarily a personal thing in that worship is to be done from a heart that is sincere and pure (Mark 7.6-7). Exterior occupations do not make up the heart of worship. However, because the issue that is being developed deals primarily with corporate meeting of the church, that is the way that the concept of worship will be used in this essay.

Children and Their Inclusion in Israel’s Worship

I will review a number of passages from the Old Testament that illustrate an presence of children in the corporate worship of Israel.

There are a host of key texts that give indication, of the presence of children in the activity of worship within the nation of Israel. This may be explicitly stating that children are present, or by assuming they are present by what the children say.

The night before Israel was released from Egypt, the first Passover was held in obedience to the instructions given to Moses by God (Exodus 12). The Passover[1] would become a vivid reminder and illustration of the time of Israel’s stay in Egypt and the final of the ten plagues that came upon the Egyptians. This was a significant time in the life of the nation. It was the beginning of their existence as a nation, as indicated by the declaration that that very day marks the first day of their national calendar (Exodus 12.2). Further, the rite of the Passover was to be a perpetual ceremony meaning that the nation would celebrate it as the long as she exists (vv.14, 17). This ritual would be a memorial meant to call to mind the deliverance of Israel by the hand of God (v.17). However, what is significant for our study is that God concerned Himself with the children. In vv. 23-27, God foretells of the time when, upon returning home from the Passover feast as Israel is in the land God promised, the son would ask his father about what just happened. The sights and sounds of the slain lamb, the fire (Leviticus 23.8), the unleavened bread, and the overall solemn tone of the “holy convocation” (Leviticus 23.2-4) would all be a curious sight to a child (see also Joshua 4.6-7, 21-24). God gives instruction to Moses to pass on to the fathers. The fathers were not to tell their son to be quiet and keep walking, as fathers sometimes can do. Rather, the father is to take the opportunity to teach the son about the rite and the significance of it. Why? First, it was to teach the child about the Lord and His works (v.27). Second, it would lay the spiritual foundation necessary for the next generation of Israelites. As we will see later, this is critical to the spiritual health of the nation. Therefore, the fathers of Israel were to use the natural curiosity of the children as an opportunity to teach them. In fact, God even gave them the exact words to use.[2] Thus, we see that this corporate activity of worship of the highest order also included concern for the children as well.

In Deuteronomy 31, Moses assembled the priests, the Levites and the elders of the nation for a final exhortation from the book of the Law. He commanded them to make sure that at the end of seven years, during the Feast of Booths, the elders will assemble the people for worship (v.11-“comes to appear before the Lord your God”). That is a significant event. The whole book of the Law, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, is to be read aloud and heard by all. Notice that everyone within the nation is to be there; men, women, children, and foreigners. All are commanded to be there in order to hear the Law read. However, this is not just an exercise in oratory. This is to be the culmination of that holy convocation, the Feast of Booths. This is the highpoint of the worship of God for the nation. This is a solemn assembly. This is approaching God to hear His word. This is instruction from the Sovereign to His subjects. It is nothing to trifle with. It is significant, I believe, that the children are told to be there. Everyone who comes is called to be there in order to learn to fear YHWH (Dt. 31.12). However, there actually is a special emphasis placed upon the role of the children. In v.13, Moses says, “Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live on the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.” As mentioned earlier, it is assumed that the children are also there during the Passover, which is also held during that week of worship. In addition, the culmination of that week-long worship service is the reading of the Law of God. The impact of that entire time including the reading from the word of God is that the children would then learn to fear YHWH. That is significant for Proverbs 1.7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And wisdom is a prized possession and is the one thing that will protect a child from the consequences of foolishness (Proverbs 2.10ff.). The conclusion of this passage as well is that children were included even the most holy of times. The greatest times of worship included the children so that they too would be ministered to by the word of God.

These two passages seem to be the foundation passages for the rest of the Old Testament. We see the inclusion of children in times of worship for Israel in a number of other passages as well.

In 2 Chronicles 20.5-19 King Jehoshaphat is faced with the impending invasion of the Moabites, Ammonites along with some Meunites. They were coming via the sea (v.2) and were going to invade from the south in Engedi. They were bent on taking Judah captive. Jehoshaphat hears of it and holds a worship service, really a prayer meeting of a large scale. The whole of Judah (v.4) gathered to seek the Lord in order that He might not allow them to be invaded. Jehoshaphat prays a very profound prayer which indicates his understanding about who YHWH is (vv. 5-13). What is interesting is that included in this assembly were infants and children. What does that mean? It demonstrated complete consecration on behalf of Judah. The petition of the Lord was not simply an exercise that the heads of the household did, although that is a valid thing to do for them. However, because of the impending invasion and the dire need of the moment, there needed to be a demonstration of the unity and solidarity of Judah in their dependence upon YHWH. No doubt the infants behaved as infants do. No doubt the children behaved as children do. No doubt there was some bustling in the audience as Jehoshaphat prayed. Nonetheless, the seriousness of the times called for worship from the whole family.

A similar assembly of petition is also seen in Ezra 10. Upon realizing the level of their unfaithfulness to YHWH, i.e. mixed marriages with foreign women, Ezra was surrounded by “a very large assembly” (v.1). In that assembly were men, women, and children. This is a serious time, as indicated by the decision to divorce from the foreign wives with whom the Israel men, including priests (v.10.18), had married. And yet the children were all there watching. Again, no doubt, they would ask what all this meant. This would be an opportunity to teach them concerning the holiness of God and the complete obedience that He deserves.

There is an interesting example of children actually adding to the worship of God’s people in Nehemiah 12.43. In this wonderful time of rejoicing at the completion of the wall and the restoration of the Temple for worship, the people gathered to give worship and glory to God (v.45). In addition, when the choirs had sung and the sacrifices were made, the rejoicing gained momentum as the people of Jerusalem were heard in praise to God. Many were in the assembly that wonderful day. God gave them joy. God instilled in their hearts the joy of the Lord (Nehemiah 8.10). The women and their children were also among those rejoicing for what God has done in restoring the wall and Jerusalem. Apparently, God had given them joy as well! I believe that it is significant that the children are there as well as the women. God receives their worship. It is same as the praise of the children when Jesus entered Jerusalem on His triumphal entry (Matthew 21.15-16).

The normal inclusion of children in times of worship for the nation of Israel seems to have been the standard. There was a critical element to their inclusion in the worship of YHWH. The existence of the nation as a “holy nation” and a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19.6) actually depended upon the appropriate training of the children. This was not only training in the home from the Law, but the worship service itself became a teaching tool for the children as well. Psalm 78.5-8 captures it well. God has done what He did in Israel (“established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a Law in Israel” v. 5), in order to have the fathers teach the children. Why? “That the generation to come might know.” (v. 6a). It was critical to the nation of Israel that the upcoming generation, even the generation to come after them as well (v.6)[3], know who God is and what He has done in Israel.

By way of illustration, a case can be made that the failure of Israel in the land stems from a lack of proper instruction of the children in spiritual matters of the Law, which, as we have seen, was introduced and reinforced as children were exposed to worship events.

Joshua has taken over Moses’ position a leader of the nation of Israel. They have entered the land of which God has promised them. The commentary of the condition of the generation after Joshua is that they were faithful (v.7). However, there is one area that they apparently lacked faithfulness and that was the teaching of the children in the truths of YHWH. After Joshua and the generation after him, there arose another generation after them “who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.” (v.10). Why didn’t they know the Lord and His works? Didn’t their fathers tell them? How can there be a wholesale abandonment of the Lord by an entire nation? It seems the answer is that there was a failure to pass on to the children, who became the nation who did not know the Lord and soon after served Baals (v.11), the two critical elements that Moses had instructed Israel to teach to the their children: 1) who God is and 2) what He has done (see Exodus 12.23-27). These are the very areas that this generation seemed to fail to learn. A hint is given in the narrative in v.7 where it is said of the generation after Joshua that they had seen the great work of the Lord. It would seem that they had seen the work, but failed to describe it to their children. Before Judges 2.10, there seems to be a positive tone, even though there was evident disobedience (2.1-5). However, 2.10 seems to be the hinge pin that swings the door wide open for the evil and confusion that follows. What is obvious, but possibly needs to be remembered, is that children grow up to be the next generation. This generation of Israelites were not taught properly in the things of God and may indicate a lack of proper instruction stemming from not witnessing worship. This should serve as a reminder, and a frightening one at that, that God’s people are always one generation away from defection, if not instructed properly.

Children and Their Inclusion in the Church’s Worship

The previous Old Testament passages certainly do tell us that the normal pattern in worship gatherings for Israel included the children of the families of Israel. However, can that be said to be the norm for the church as well? Do we also, as the church of Jesus Christ, distinct from national Israel, have the same expectation as we have seen in the Old Testament? My answer to that question is a resounding ‘yes’.

The original proposition of this essay which I have been attempting to support is, “the presence of children in the worship service was the normal expectation for families in Israel. Further, it is also the same expectation for the church of Jesus Christ as well.” Therefore, since we have seen the presence of children in many passages in the Old Testament, the fairest question to ask is, “What passages in the New Testament also attest to the expectation of children present in the worship service of the church?”

The reader of the New Testament will not find a hard and fast passage indicating the presence of children in the New Testament worship service. However, you will find children present in the life and ministry Jesus Christ following Him and even ascribing worship to Him. We need to examine a few key verses in the gospels and the epistles to demonstrate this fact.

The earliest passage that deals with children in the worship service is actually concerning Jesus Himself. Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover (Luke 2.41). Obviously, they would bring their children with them. There is no reason to assume that the children were dropped off somewhere while Joseph and Mary went on to observe the Feast. In fact, there seems to be the expectation that even at twelve, Jesus would have some part to play in the Passover observance. Alfred Edersheim wrote, ““Rabbi Jehudah, the son of Tema, says: “At five years of age, reading of the Bible; at ten years, learning the Mishnah; at thirteen years bound to the commandments; at fifteen years, the study of the Talmud; at eighteen years, marriage; at twenty, the pursuit of trade or business (active life); at thirty years, full vigour; at forty, maturity of reason; at fifty, for counsel; at sixty, commencement of agedness; at seventy, grey age; at eighty, advanced old age; at ninety, bowed down; at a hundred, as if he were dead and gone, and taken from the world.””[4]

The child of Israel would not be left to himself or others to look after him while the parents went to worship. As the child grew, he or she was expected to understand and keep up with the activities surrounding the worship event.

Still this does not illustrate the presence of children in the worship of the New Testament church. However, it does illustrate a very important principle that should be recognized. It is safe to say that where the New Testament is silent, and other doctrines of the New Testament do not contradict, the church can and should adopt those practices of Israel within the worship service. The continuation of worship practices into the ministry of Jesus Christ which were not abrogated by His death and resurrection, may very well fill in the “white spaces” of the particulars of New Testament corporate worship.

Jesus Himself received the worship of children. The importance of this fact is found in that the worship service is not for our convenience and accommodation. It is strictly for the praise and adoration of the Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ from those who recognize who He is and remember what He has done.

Matthew has a wonderful picture of children ascribing praise to Jesus Christ and Jesus receiving their praise. Jesus has just entered the city of Jerusalem riding on a colt. Upon driving out the money-changers and healing the lame, the priests and scribes become furious and indignant at Jesus. However, they specifically mention another segment of society who is praising Jesus, children. They were proclaiming the praise of God for bringing the Son of David finally to Israel (v.15). Had Jesus been indifferent or even outside of the praise of children, he would have had a perfect opportunity to say so at that time. However, just as He taught in Mark 10.13-16, do not forbid the children from coming to Me, so He here welcomes their praise! How the heart of God is open wide for children (Mark. 10.14) and their praise. Although this is not an example of a formal worship service and the inclusion of children in it, we can see, however, the heart of Jesus Christ toward children’s worship.

Further, Peter makes an interesting remark in his exhortation of the Jews in Acts 2.39. There he had just completed preaching to the Jews that were responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ and they were convicted by Peter’s preaching. They pleaded to Peter and he tells them to repent and align yourself with Jesus Christ, which is illustrated in baptism. Their sins, and they were great, would be forgiven and they would also receive the promised Holy Spirit. Then Peter makes a very interesting statement regarding to whom the promise of the Holy Spirit is given. The intended audience of this promise is “you and your children and for all who are afar off.” There are 3 categories of people here. There are the Jews to whom Peter is speaking. There are the Gentiles, who are characterized by being “afar off”. And then there are the children of the Jews. Again, it seems, God is concerned that the children are also able to learn of Him and receive His Spirit.[5] This reference to “children” in Acts 2.39 cannot simply refer to a future generation only, as those who would be able to be saved sometime in the future after they have grown to adulthood.[6] If that were the case, we would also have to add some condition on the other 2 categories of people as well. It is more consistent with a literal hermeneutic to understand this reference as “children” who are children at the time that they hear the gospel. Besides, salvation is a spiritual work of God primarily and He will “call” whom He will.

Further, the Apostle Paul may be making direct commands to the children of the congregations of Ephesus and Colossae when he commands them to obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossian 3.20). It is fair to assume that just as Paul is addressing the parents who are present in the assembly as well as the masters and slaves who are there in the assembly, it stands to reason that there are also children present in the assembly. Again, a continuation of Old Testament practices.

Beyond these references, there is not clear indication that children were present in the worship services of the early church.

Does This Have Significance for Today’s Church?

Given the information concerning the presence of children in the worship services of Israel, i.e. Passover, and the seeming inclusion of children in the New Testament worship service, and the fact that God has great endearment toward children and receiving their praise, it seems important that the role of children in the worship service of the church be addressed. A number of books written on this subject are from the perspective of a liturgical approach to worship and they endeavor to include the children in the liturgy so that they can learn about God in that fashion. However, these usually end up being nothing more than arts and crafts opportunities built upon the assumption that the children are not capable of understanding the truths of Scripture or sit still in the sanctuary long enough not to be a distraction to others around. Still, others have written of the presence of children in the worship service almost making them the focus of the service.[7] They have Christianized the New Age perspective of making the child the example to the adults of what the adults are supposed to be like-curious, innocent and carefree. However, that is far from the biblical norm for children who are supposed to be sober-minded, obedient, and wise.

The information in the Bible seems to indicate that children are capable of understanding biblical truth, they are capable of being attentive to the worship service being conducted, and most important of all, they are capable of giving worship and praise to God. Again, as stated above, that is really the main point.

If I were to address the issue of how to “reintroduce” children back into the worship service of the church, I would have to address how the child is trained at home. Is he taught the meaning of worship? Is he taught the importance of being quiet? Is he taught that God is holy and awesome and deserves worship from His people and that is why we are there? Do the parents take this seriously?

Conclusion

The families in ancient Israel worshiped together. The children were next to their parents observing and, sometimes, participating in worship. The opportunities for teaching the children as a result of worshiping together are crucial to the understanding that child gains of God, Jesus Christ and His church. It is my observation that the families of church of Jesus Christ are failing to train their children in the matters of the word of God and spiritual truth. The fascination with the separation of families into segregated age groups not only disturbs a family’s opportunity to worship as a unit before God, but it also tends to not allow for proper instruction in the things of God in the context that children are built to learn best-the family.

Based upon this study, it seems that our churches need to bring the children back to worship. Families need to worship together. Accommodations in church buildings need to reflect the importance of parents and children worshiping together.

To the degree that we fail to train up the children via the worship of the church, it is to that degree that the church will, most likely, reflect Israel who “did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2.10).


[1] A very good overview of the meaning and the history of the Passover is given in Alfred Edersheim The Temple, Its Ministry and Services as They Were at the Time of Jesus Christ (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2003), 208-248.

[2] I would understand this as the starting point of the conversation. A faithful father would develop other truths of God and His works, but the significance of the Passover rite is encapsulated in the passage of v. 27.

[3] This is really a way to indicate the perpetual nature of the instruction. The current generation teaches the next generation who is able to teach the generation which comes after them as well. Paul clearly had that in mind in 2 Timothy 2.2 as a pattern in the church. This appears to be a typical Jewish, or better biblical, pattern for learning and its roots are in the family.

[4]Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2003), 105.

[5] See Charles Spurgeon, Come Ye Children (Bibliolife: unknown, 2008), 21 for a convincing argument for the application of this passage in light of children.

[6] John B Polhill. Vol. 26, Acts. electronic ed. Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 1992. There the author understands “their children” as simply referring to a “future generation”. I Howard Marshall does not attempt to deal with the question, but rather refers to this as a false reference to infant baptism [Acts Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Intervarsity, 1980), 81-82. It seems the more popular perspective is that ‘children’ refers to the son and daughters prophesying in Acts 2.17. However, again, that seems inconsistent with the categorical reference to those who would be called by God.

[7] See John T. Carroll, ‘Children in the Bible’ Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology: April 2001, Vol.55(2), pp. 121-134.

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