Family,The Family,Theology

Covenant Children and the Sacraments…

At Church of the King we believe that covenant children born to believing parents are to be admitted to both the Sacraments of the Church:  They are to be baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and brought to the Lord’s Table when they can partake of the bread and wine.  Their baptism reminds them, and their parents, that they belong to Jesus and participating at the Table teaches them that they are part of the Body of Christ which was saved by the death of Jesus on the cross.  This makes our Baptist friends nervous because we baptize babies and many of our reformed friends nervous because they want an adult examination before entrance to the Table.

In defending this I often tell people to consider how God always related to His people and their children which the Apostle Paul reminds us of by calling our children ‘holy’ at I Corinthians 7:14  and that they are in Christ at the beginning of chapter ten.  Many who turn to the end of I Corinthians 11 to exclude children do not explain how they get around the earlier teaching of Paul regarding the fact that children are in the covenant and ate and drank Jesus in the Old Testament. [I Corinthians 10:1-6].  Those who do not consider our children to be in the covenant until an adult profession of faith can be made must also explain how Paul can give covenant commands to children in both Ephesians and Colossians when these Epistles are clearly addressed to the Saints:  Those who are in Christ.  And when you reach the end of Paul’s discussion of the Lord’s Supper in chapter eleven, we must ask how we can properly discern the Body of Christ if we are excluding the children

I would also encourage them to look at how Jesus regards children in Matthew chapters 18 & 19.  In a recent Facebook discussion I was asked to expound on why I focus on those chapters [something I learned from Pastor Steve Wilkins] and  I would encourage anyone who is interested in our practice to consider what is taught in these important chapters.:

These chapters follow the transfiguration after which Luke tells us that Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem to be THE Sacrifice for sin. After these chapters Matthew gives us a long series of parables and sermons from Jesus that speak of the judgment of Jerusalem and the final judgment so these chapters come in the middle of the final warning by Jesus to Israel. In between we have some final instructions from Jesus about the Kingdom for His disciples and it begins and ends with contrasting pride and children.  This is a contrast that spans both chapters.

Chapter 18 begins with the Disciples wondering what the Kingdom is going to be like, asking who will be the greatest?  Jesus responds by setting a little child [the word means an infant or young child] in their midst saying, “unless your are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom.”  So saving faith should be a child like faith and yet we often try to raise our children up to adult standards of faith. We should ask:  Is that a problem?

And Jesus continues in verse four saying we must humble ourselves AS this little child if we want to be great in the Kingdom.  Again, child-like faith is our example. Now I think it is important to note that Jesus is NOT talking about childish faith, but the sincere simply faith that we see in children who of course would be expected to grow and mature in the faith as would any new convert coming as an adult.

In verse 5 Jesus says whoever receives one such little child in His name receives Him.  I personally think that is one of strongest arguments you could have for infant baptism, and if someone agrees, I would challenge them to think about what keeps those same covenant children from the Lord’s Table.

In verse six comes the first severe warning to not offend one of the little ones lest we get a millstone hung around our necks to drown us in the sea. To my fully reformed brethren I would again  ask whether that offense could come as we pass by covenant children at the Lord’s Table?

Verses 7-9 give the famous warning about not letting our eyes or hands offend, but it must remain in the context of children because in verse ten Jesus again says, “take heed that you despise not one of these little ones” and also teaching that they have angels in heaven looking to the Father.

Verses 11-14 give the parable of the lost sheep and verses 15-20 speak of church discipline and forgiveness and then in verse 21 Peter asks how often we must forgive.  Jesus answers seventy times seven and gives them the parable of the unforgiving servant. Chapter nine opens with Jesus leaving Galilee for the final time and then verses 3-12 discuss His confrontation with religious leaders over marriage and divorce.

At verse 13 Matthew again turns to the treatment that Jesus gives to children: People are bringing their infants to Jesus for a blessing and the disciples rebuke them. Notice that Jesus neither says He has no time for them, nor that they are not ready for His blessing: Instead He says, in one of the most famous verses that is largely ignored in American churches today, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the Kingdom of heaven” relating back to what He said at 18:4-5.  Jesus then puts His hands on them as the parents requested giving them His blessing.  Is this not what we do at their baptism?

Verses 16 to 30 take us back to the discussion that started at the beginning of chapter 18 about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom with the exchange with the rich young ruler and Peter’s question about what would happen to those who followed Jesus and Jesus ends with another very famous verse: “But many that are first [in context referring to the religious leaders and the rich young ruler] will be last and the last [referring in context to the children and His disciples] will be first.

When you read those two chapters in that way it should make you very nervous about how we treat those with much head knowledge verses those with child-like faith!

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