Our question this time is: "Can we say to our children - 'God loves you,' i.e., to covenant children of believers?"
The answer to this question, very simply, is "No." Scripture does not teach a universal love of God (Ps. 5:4-5, 11:5, Rom. 9:13) in any case. Nor is God's love "universal" in the families of believers. No more than we may say to the ordinary man in the street, "God loves you,” may we say it to our children.
To suggest that God loves all children of believers would conflict with Scripture's teaching concerning a sovereign, discriminating love of God that is revealed in predestination, in the atonement, and in the work of the Spirit. Notice:
(1) The doctrine of predestination, first of all then, forbids saying "God loves you." Election and reprobation run through the families of God's people and in the lines and generations of the covenant. The family of Isaac and Rebekah is the most notable example in Scripture. God loved Jacob, but hated Esau (Rom. 9:13).
Where Isaac and Rebekah would have been telling a lie to say to Esau that God loved him, we might very well be doing the same. We, of course, do not know as Isaac and Rebekah did, the eternal destinies of our children, but exactly because we do not know we may not say "God loves you."
(2) Nor does God reveal His love in sending Christ to die for every child of believers. Christ died only for the elect and as we have seen, not all the children of believers are elect. The cross, therefore, forbids our saying it also.
(3) Nor does God give salvation to every child of believing parents. Such is often the sad experience of godly parents - even those who have been faithful in bringing up their children in the fear of the Lord. So the Spirit's work also forbids our saying it.
All this is best summed up in Romans 9:6-8. These verses make it abundantly clear that both in the Old Testament and in the New, not all the children who are born in the families of the covenant children are children of God, i.e., those whom God loves.
Some who believe in sovereign predestination and limited atonement think that the Reformed doctrine of the covenant means a belief in the salvation of all children of believers or a love of God for them without exception. They then reject the Reformed doctrine of the covenant and baptism on this basis.
We do not believe that a universal love of God or a love of God for all covenant children is the ground for infant baptism or for calling children of believers covenant children. How could it be, when it is not even the truth?
That leaves us with the question: What may believers say to their children?
They must tell them that those whom God loves are those who in turn love God and obey Him. They must tell them that as covenant children they have an obligation to love, fear and obey the Lord - that their condemnation will be the greater for not doing so. And they must tell them of God's great love, with which nothing can compare.
So too, they must show them that love of God in all their dealings with their children. They must love them not only with a love born of flesh and blood ties, but with a love that is in every respect like the love of the Father for His children - a love that calls them to repentance and faith, that forgives and receives them when they are repentant, which keeps fellowship with them in the truth.
- Volume: 5
- Issue: 7
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
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