Who is regulating your marriage and home? Who is determining the number of children that you will have? Are you leaving that matter to God or are you trying to take those matters into your own hands? These are difficult and vexing questions that married couples often face.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9) We confess God’s sovereignty in our salvation. The truth of God’s sovereignty extends to our marriages and the begetting and raising of our children. The struggle every child of God faces is between the sovereignty of self and the sovereignty of God. It is my prayer that God will use this pamphlet to assist married couples as they sacrifice their own desires in order to be faithful to God.
This pamphlet is the revised text of a speech that was first given in Edmonton, Canada at a Family Conference sponsored by the First Protestant Reformed Church of Edmonton in July of 2003. I was requested to give it again at Peace Protestant Reformed Church in Lansing, Illinois in the fall of 2006. At the request of the Peace Protestant Reformed Church Evangelism Committee the speech was prepared into this pamphlet.
Allen J. Brummel
South Holland, IL
A tremendous challenge faces parents in this day and age. We are called by God to train up our children to seek the things of God’s kingdom. This is a tremendous challenge primarily because we are so sinful ourselves. We are selfish, greedy and covetous. We live for the things of this earth. It is only by God’s grace that we can be His friend-servants, can seek first the things of His kingdom and can train our children to do the same.
The focus of this pamphlet is not on raising children. The rearing of children is an important issue that could be addressed also under this title. I am writing specifically on the topic of bringing forth children. But there is a connection. We must realize that it is only when we parents overcome our own selfishness that we are able to train up our children to do the same. If we are living selfishly, it will be extremely difficult for us to teach our children otherwise. The most important lesson that we can teach our children is that they seek not their own will, but learn to submit to the will of their parents, for God’s sake. They must sacrifice their own will in order to submit to God. We parents must first learn that lesson.
Children of Believing Parents
What does the Bible say about bringing forth children? What place do children occupy in marriage? We start by answering the question: What does the Bible say about the children of believing parents?
Mark 10:13-16 sets before us the fundamental principle of all of Scripture regarding God’s attitude toward the children of believing parents: “Of such is the kingdom of God.” Children are included in the church and kingdom of Jehovah. Not every child of believing parents is included. That is not what Jesus says. But, of such is the kingdom of God. This was not a new teaching. That infants of believers are included in the covenant and church of God is taught in the very beginning of the history of the covenant of grace, as it is recorded in the Bible. The history of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel and David demonstrates repeatedly that God caused His covenant to develop in the line of continued generations.
From the beginning, there was always a two-fold seed present in the church. Not all the children of believers showed themselves to be truly in the covenant. The multitude of those that trampled God’s covenant under foot and were destroyed was great. Scripture makes clear that believers and their children are still to be called “the church, the congregation of Jesus Christ.” They are called “saints in Jesus Christ, the beloved.” There is an elect kernel and a reprobate shell. God will be merciful to whom He will, also within the sphere of the church. The church of believers and their seed may not be named or treated according to the name of the reprobate shell. They must be called by the name: “Israel.” It is scriptural to call the whole organism of the congregation according to the name of the elect kernel, the remnant according to the election of grace. When we have a field of tomatoes or corn and that field is filled with weeds, we still call it our tomato or corn field. Our focus is not on the weeds but on the crop we are growing. Similarly, Jehovah God establishes His promise with believers and their seed. The focus is not on every child, head for head, but on the spiritual seed with whom God is pleased to continue His covenant.
We view our children as children of God, called to show forth the praise of God in all their lives. We do not view them as a mixed multitude of elect and reprobates. We view them as those who are totally depraved, in need of God’s regenerating grace and those who are called to live as God’s children in this world. We can answer the questions at baptism because we think of our children organically, in terms of the promise of God. We do not presuppose the regeneration of each of our children. We do not presuppose that each child is a spiritual child of the covenant. We lay hold of the promise of God that He has established His covenant with us and with our children and we view our offspring in terms of the spiritual children that God is pleased to give us. God is using not only the mission labours of the church, but also Christian parents to bring forth covenant seed, so that all the elect are brought into this world, brought to repentance, so that Jesus Christ can come again.
Blessing for Believing Families
God makes children a blessing for believing families. Psalm 127:3,“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” Blessings are not automatically found in things like sun, rain or even children. But, God is able to make all things a blessing for His people. God makes rain, sunshine and children a blessing to His people through His grace. God blessed Job in Job 42:12 by restoring his wealth and giving him ten children. All the children of believers are a blessing, even the rebellious ones. How are children a blessing? They are a blessing because they drive us to our knees in prayer. They humble us. They cause us to see how desperately we need God’s grace every day to discipline and instruct them. They force us to be consistent, disciplined and to live as spiritual examples for them. They force us to teach and in teaching we grow in our knowledge of God’s Word. They are a blessing even when we see our own sins reflected in them because then we are driven to the cross.
Bringing Forth Children
God created marriage for the purpose of establishing His covenant in the way of procreation. Genesis 1:28 is the Word of God to Adam and Eve who had just been joined in marriage by God and to whom God had given the sexual relationship: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” This command of God was repeated several times. One such time is after the flood in Genesis 9:1, where we read, “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” God repeats the command later in His words to Jacob in Genesis 35:11, “And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins.” In Matthew 19:1-9, Jesus admonishes the wicked Pharisees to go back to the beginning of time for their instruction regarding marriage and divorce. The same admonition applies to the purposes of God regarding marriage. Bringing forth children and raising them in the fear of God is the will of God for married couples. Those who have no desire for children ought not to marry. They try to separate the sexual union from bearing children, separating what God has joined together. Such is sin against the God of marriage.
Purpose of Sexual Relations
At the same time, it is important for us to note that the sexual relation is not primarily for the purpose of conception. The sexual relation is first of all an expression of the union and intimacy of the covenant relation into which God brings a man and a woman in marriage. God gave Eve to Adam because it was not good that the man be alone. Companionship and friendship lie at the heart of the primary significance of marriage. Companionship and friendship are a reflection of the intimate relation between Christ and His church. When there are no children in a marriage, the marriage of a man and a woman is yet complete. God’s highest purpose is achieved as the man and woman reflect the love of God between Christ and His bride, the church. The husband and wife without children have a high calling to live faithfully in marriage and to give their time and energy for the sake of God’s kingdom and church.
The second purpose of the sexual relationship is the begetting of children. Such is evident from the way that God created the woman. I don’t intend to give a biology or anatomy lesson here but a few comments will suffice. If God intended the sexual relation to be exclusively for conception, He would have made the woman like some of the female animals that are ready to conceive at any time. He did not. If sexual relations were just for conception, then couples would be bound by God to limit their sexual experiences to only those times of the month when conception is possible and would be called to abstain at all other times. Sexual relations would not be permissible during pregnancy nor after such a time when pregnancy was no longer possible. The Bible condemns such a notion when it teaches us to marry in order to avoid fornication, and teaches that sexual relations are a debt that husbands and wives owe to each other. We read in I Corinthians 7:2-5, “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” The fruit of this sexual relationship is ordinarily the conception of children.
Selfishness in Childbearing
“Suffer the little children to come unto me,” said Christ! Do not keep them from Christ! Allow the little ones to come! The disciples held the children at a distance. We live in a day when Christian parents seek to keep their children from Jesus in terms of keeping them from even being born! They don’t want children to bring to Jesus. They only want to bring one or two or three children to Jesus. They are not concerned about the gathering of the church and God’s promise to gather His church through the seed of covenant parents.“ Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not,” says Jesus! Don’t abort them! I just received a notice in the mail this past week stating, “You’d be shocked how many women in church pews have had an abortion and how many men in those pews suffer silently also.” The pressure is strong, even on Christian parents and young people to pursue abortion as a way out of an embarrassing and shameful situation. Don’t abort your baby! That is not the way to bring it to Christ. Don’t seek to keep from having children. Don’t keep them from Jesus once they are born! Parents claim that they love children and are just trying to decide how many children they can handle. In reality, parents are trying to find a way to get rid of children that God might be pleased to give them. They are trying to limit the number of children they will have to bring to Jesus.
This is the attitude of the selfish world in which we live. The people of the world enter into marriage for selfish reasons. God is not in their thoughts. Marriage and children are for their own pleasure. This selfish attitude enters into the church as well.
The devil has tremendous influence on our natures. Not only do we live in a selfish age but we are by nature selfish. Our flesh looks out for self. We find children a nuisance and a bother at times. Our flesh finds children an interference with our fun and games and our ambitions. Our flesh wants to be god! We will rule our own lives and we will determine how we should live. We will determine whether we want children and how many. Often, at heart is a financial struggle. We all know the extent to which money controls our lives. We would welcome the blessings that Job received in all his wealth, but would you want the ten children that came along with that wealth?
God’s Sovereignty in Childbearing
God is sovereign! Not only is He sovereign in salvation but He is sovereign in our families. He will determine the number of children we will have, despite our attempts to the contrary. He determines the size of our quiver. There are those who actively sought to keep from having children but the children kept on coming. There are others who did not want children and were more effective in their attempt at limiting the size of their families. How do we explain the fact that couples are able to plan the size of their families today with increasing success? Where the motive is selfish, this is evidence of the way in which God gives men and women over to their selfishness. God gives men and women over to their love of money and pleasure. You want only one or two children so you can have a bigger house and a nicer boat, and God gives you over to that selfish way. God gives men and women over to their vocations and their pursuit of earthly fame and glory. Is this positive? This is an expression of the judgment of God upon sin and sinners.
Difficulties in Childbearing
It is difficult to have a large family. There is tremendous cross-bearing required of both the husband and the wife. There are many tears and sorrows and challenges. We may never minimize especially the pain and suffering of a woman who bears a child for nine months and is called to endure tremendous pain and labour to give birth. Never minimize the many years of struggle and prayer required to raise each unique child in the fear of God. The sorrow of motherhood is a heavy weight that mothers are called to bear. The mother must give her life away for the sake of her children. God blesses her, not in the way of removing the struggles, but in the way of giving her grace to bear those struggles and to know peace with God’s will. God gives that blessing in the way of prayer and submission to God’s will.
What is the solution for the believing mother? It is not in escaping this calling. It is not in seeking fulfilment outside of the home in other vocations. The American liberated woman is neither happy nor content. Contentment and happiness come only in the way of obedience and clinging to the grace and strength of Jesus Christ to bear the burden of motherhood. Though the fall imposed painful aspects on the woman, God sanctifies childbearing in the church, so that through it, women are saved (I Timothy 2:15).
The sorrows and struggles of giving birth and raising sinful children are very real. For the redeemed woman, they are not a curse but a chastisement God uses to sanctify us and draw us closer to Him. The church, sympathetic to the sorrows of motherhood, must strengthen and comfort such mothers with the Word of God. The answer is not the worldly wisdom of family planning. The answer is in Jesus Christ, our compassionate Saviour whose grace is sufficient to bear all our burdens. Jesus Himself came from a family of at least four brothers and two sisters (Matthew 13:55-56). He saw his own mother endure the sorrows of motherhood and He had compassion on her. He also has compassion on godly mothers today.
Be Fruitful and Multiply
We need to get at deeper questions. What are you and I here for? What is your calling on earth? Are you here for pleasure? Are you on earth for your own entertainment? Did God give you life so that you could have a good time? Hear the word of the preacher in Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Deuteronomy 10:12 states, “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Genesis 1:28 states, “Be fruitful and multiply.” “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (I Timothy 5:14).
The Bible never promises us that life will be easy, but the Bible does promise, in Joshua 1:8-9 and many other places, that God will never leave nor forsake us. God promises that He will always provide all the needs of His people in Luke 12:31, “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.” This truth is stated also by David in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old: yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” God promises that He will never require of us more than He will give us grace to bear in I Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Philippians 4:11, 13 states, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content ... I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Whatsoever state I am in, whether that be pregnant every year or weeping at that time of the month when it is evident I am not pregnant, I have learned to be content!
Finances—Not an Excuse
Some common excuses are given for preventing conception. Chief of all the excuses, though often not admitted, is financial concern. I hope that all of us realize that financial issues present absolutely no ground for birth control or attempting to space out children. God promises that when we seek first His kingdom, by marrying and bringing forth godly seed, He will provide our every need. You may say, “That is easy for a minister to say, when he knows that the church will provide for him!” True enough, but I base my comments not on my experience, but on the Word of God. A large family is a weighty burden upon the father from a financial perspective. He must have a good job not only, but be willing to sacrifice much for the sake of Christian education and rearing of his children. He is not going to have a lot of time for hobbies because his free time will be spent with his family. The answer is not to send his wife out to work. God will use the pressing needs to drive him to his knees to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” God will provide, whether that be through the work of his hands, the help of his family or the mercies of Christ. Who of us, even those of us with large families and significant school tuition bills, can say that we are praying to God for daily bread, as we ought? We have great wealth in our day. We all have the means to support many children. Are we living as dependent upon Christ as our parents and grandparents did? Even more importantly, are we living as consciously dependent upon God as God requires?
Newly Married—Not an Excuse
Others say, “I and my wife need a year or two to get to know each other before we should begin a family.” Where is that found in the Bible? Children are one of the greatest ways to get to know one another. No husband can take his wife for granted after watching her go through the pains of pregnancy and childbirth. If you think your relationship is not ready for children, you have greater problems that need to be addressed and resolved. You ought not to have married in the first place. Malachi 2:15, adding to the instruction we have already seen in Genesis, states that God made marriage for the express purpose of bringing forth His covenant seed: “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed.” I’ve read that in the early church, after the martyrdom of the apostles, the saints came across many who were living together without having been married. The early church developed two criteria for sanctioning or condemning the couple. On the basis of these two questions, they would either justify the relationship or condemn it as fornication. First, “When you came together was it with the intention of remaining together until death?” In other words, were you committed to the permanence of marriage? The second question was: “When you came together were you desirous to have children and did you not seek to prevent having children?” The couple was condemned as fornicators if they could not answer yes to both of those questions. The point was this: if you are together only for carnal pleasure and enjoyment, then you violate God’s will for marriage.
If God is not pleased to give you children, or if God gives you only a limited number of children, then of course the situation is different. You are to use your time and talents to help others. We need people in the church who are willing to help others. Take someone else’s children fishing, bring a meal, write cards or e-mails of encouragement to those who are suffering, visit the widows and help care for the children of others.
Evil World—Not an Excuse
Others say, “But this is an evil world we live in and we would not want to bring forth children or grandchildren who would have to live in such a wicked time.” That sounds pious. But let’s think about that for a moment in connection with the Bible. One of the most difficult times for the church in history was the bondage in Egypt. If ever there was a time when godly parents might justify not having children, it was then. Their children would be subjected to cruel, inhumane labour or be cast into the water to die. What do we read? They continued having children! The midwives refused to go along with the wicked king. And, significantly, God caused the nation of Israel to prosper under that persecution. Exodus 1:20 states, “Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.” During this evil time God dealt well with His people by causing them to multiply. Why would God do such a thing? Our flesh would say that God should have caused fewer children to be born during that hard time. But God gave even more children. What would seem to us a curse for those parents and their children is described by God as a blessing for His church. During the evil times in which we live, God deals well with His church in causing her to multiply. Such is not a curse but a blessing for godly parents, as well as their godly seed and the church. The church continues to be gathered in our day in preparation for the final return of Christ in judgment. How ought Christians be busy in the work of Christ’s kingdom during these last days? One way is to have more children!
Others argue, “But we need to use our heads and space our children.” Why? So that you can retain your figure? So that you can be better prepared financially? So that you don’t get so overwhelmed with a busy home? So that you can better provide for your children and have more time to spend with them? Some of these responses seem pious, but God gives us an answer in the Bible. At heart these concerns reflect our will not God’s. These concerns are selfish and evidence of a lack of faith. Proverbs 3:4-5 specifically instructs us, “Trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.”
Exceptions to the Rule
But, you say, is there no place for any kind of birth control? I would not rule out the possibility in the case of severe illness or life threatening difficulties on the part of the wife. We must not be legalistic. There are difficult circumstances and situations in which God’s people find themselves. Even then, however, I would want a second opinion from a doctor and it would be only after much prayer and searching of God’s will that such a decision would be made. A couple must stand together before God and be convinced in their own heart that they are not being selfish but are seeking God’s glory and His will through their actions.
The principle of God’s Word, however, is clear: Seek first God’s kingdom by marrying, living godly in marriage, and bringing forth a godly seed. This does not mean that God will automatically give you a dozen children. But God will give you the quiver full that He deems necessary for the gathering of His church and for your salvation.
What about those couples who are not able to have children in God’s good providence? God calls us to contentment and patience with the way in which He leads us. We never minimize the sorrow and the struggles, especially of wives who have the natural desire for children but are not given children. We must remember that all the children of the church are our responsibility as well. They are also ours to oversee, to nurture, to guide and to instruct. Is there a place for adoption or doctoring in order to bring about conception? I believe there is but as with everything in our lives only in the way of much prayer and searching to know God’s will. We are called to pray in all of life: “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” The chief question that a couple needs to ask and answer is this: “Is it my will or am I confident this is God’s will?” We may not seek children to satisfy our own selfish desires, for then we are no better than the world. We seek children for the glory and honour of God and for the good of His church. We seek grace to know and to do His will.
In conclusion, Christ uses our marriages to bring forth children and in this way He shows us the wonder of His grace. God has seen fit to call many sons and daughters to glory. From an earthly perspective, this was not easy. This sent the Son of God to the horror of the cross. Jesus Christ was willing to make tremendous sacrifices in order that His children might know the wonder of His grace toward us. He put away all selfishness in order to do the will of His heavenly Father. He gives us His Spirit to guide and sanctify us, in order that He might take us with Him to glory. The fruitfulness of our marriages is a reflection of the fruit of Christ’s work in realizing His kingdom and bringing His sons and daughters to glory. The Old Testament women eagerly desired a son in the hope that they might know the privilege of being mother of the Messiah. The New Testament mother desires children, knowing that every last one of the elect must be born before Christ will return. Who knows whether one of you will be given the privilege of bearing that last elect child?
May God give us grace to forsake the selfishness of our natures and humble ourselves before His sovereign, gracious hand, that He might be praised. “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not!”
Rev. Allen J. Brummel (Wife: Crysta)
Ordained: November 1995
Edgerton, MN - 1995; South Holland, IL - 1998; Missionary in Sioux Falls, SD - 2007; Heritage, Sioux Falls, SD - May 2010
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