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The Assurance of Faith

The following is a chapter taken from the writings of particular Baptist minister John Brine (1705-1765) pastor of coventry and later cripplegate. In his day, next to John gill, brine was considered one of the major leaders in the baptist faith. in this particular work brine highlights of one the theological distinctives which separates baptist faith from others in the same theological vein. in idea of salvation being an objective reality for all of Gods elect, while the assurance of that reality being subject to conditions met by the elect.

Assurance may be considered objectively and subjectively. The former relates to the objects on which faith is supposed to act. This is a firm persuasion of the truth and existence of those objects. For instance, that the Son of God came into our world, and that by his obedience and sacrifice, he secured the salvation of some men, or obtained eternal redemption for them. And this is necessarily supposed in all acts of recumbency and dependence on him for deliverance from sin, and the penal consequences of it. By the latter is intended a persuasion in the mind of a poor sinner of his particular interest in Christ, and in his salvation.

II. This latter is not essential to that faith, which is of the operation of God, as I apprehend. Several reasons induce me to think that true faith may be, and is sometimes acted, where this assurance is wanting. 1. Faith is sometimes expressed by such phrases as do not necessarily include it, viz. seeing of Christ coming unto him, hoping in the Lord, and “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” An assurance of the object is plainly supposed in all these; but not the assurance of an interest in him to whom application is made for help and relief. 2. There is little or small faith, which is attended with fears jealousies, and doubting. “O! thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” 3. There is a strong and a weak faith; the latter cannot be well thought to include this assurance in it; for if it does, it will be difficult to shew wherein the difference lies between the strong and feeble acting’s of this grace. 4. In Christ's family there are different classes of Christians. All are subjects of the same grace in kind, but not in degree. Some are babes, not grown up to any considerable pitch of knowledge, experience, and spiritual strength. And in his fold, there are some lambs, who are to be dealt very tenderly with; it does not seem very likely that these, at present, enjoy that strong consolation, which carries the mind above all discouragements and fears. Yet,

III. This favor may be enjoyed. 1. This may be argued with very strong evidence, from the nature of Divine promises, relating to salvation. A conditional promise of benefits neither ascertains the enjoyment of them, in fact, nor is a proper foundation for an assured persuasion of receiving them; but absolute promises ascertain the possession of that good they express, if the promiser is faithful to his word, and in promising exceeds not his power; and are a firm bottom for an assurance of the reception of it. All divine promises relating to salvation are absolute; I will, and they shall, is the form wherein they run; and therefore, they ascertain salvation in fact, and are a solid basis of a steady assurance of it. Since their nature is suited to ingenerate and support such a persuasion; God doubtless had this gracious end in expressing them. And if he had such an intention, that must respect either the world, or the church. Not the world certainly, and, therefore, the church. Again, the church is triumphant and militant. These promises are intended then, either to confirm and establish the faith of the church triumphant or militant. Not the church triumphant, and consequently, this must respect the church militant. And as all generals consist of particulars , every particular is included in the general ; hence it follows , that all the saints have right to that strong consolation which the promises of God are fitted in their nature to produce ; and it is possible , in the nature of the thing , that they all may , and not to be doubted but some do , at least at some seasons , enjoy it .

2. God, in confirming his promises with his oath, had this gracious end in view, that “those who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them,” might have that strong consolation, which attends or arises from an assurance of his favor to them, and their security in consequence thereof. Two things are clearly expressed in those words. (1.) An act of faith on Christ, fleeing for refuge to him; and this is supposed to be done antecedent to the enjoyment of that strong consolation. True faith, therefore, may be without it. (2.) That they should enjoy strong consolation, who thus flee to Christ for safety and salvation from sin

3. The witnessing and sealing of the Holy Spirit evidently prove, that an assurance of an interest in the love of God may be enjoyed by the Saints, Rom. viii. 17, Eph. i. 13. The latter text evinces the precedency of faith to sealing, as well as expresses this holy persuasion, through the influence of the Spirit upon the mind, as a witness after believing. And the very same point of doctrine is deducible from his operations, as the Spirit of adoption. He enables believers to address God, as their father, with boldness, liberty, and confidence, through Jesus Christ: and this he doth at some seasons, wherein they have the greatest sense of their guilt, pollution, and unworthiness.

4. Many of the people of God have expressed their persuasion of an interest in his love, and the glorious benefits springing from that fountain. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall, I fear? The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Who loved me, and gave himself for me?” It would be too tedious to multiply testimonies of this kind, which might be done, for they are very numerous in the scripture. Nor is it to be apprehended, that this was peculiar to persons inspired; for the apostle John expresses this matter in the name of Christians in general. " We have known and believed the love that God hath unto us. " If it is not one main design of that epistle to prove this point, it must be allowed, that many things are therein delivered, which abundantly confirm it. And this cannot be peculiar to prophets, apostles, or inspired persons, nor arise from inspiration; because some have been inspired who had no faith at all, as Balaam, for instance, and holy persons have not always enjoyed it when under inspiration. Inspiration, and this holy persuasion, therefore, are distinct things, and the latter does not necessarily attend, or arise from the former.

5. I am humbly of opinion that this great and glorious privilege might be more commonly enjoyed than it is, if professors were wisely cautious in behaving themselves. It is by no means to be thought, that this jewel is to be attained, without the diligent use of those means, which God hath appointed for our increase and growth in grace: greater self-denial, watchfulness against sin, and carnal pleasures, mortification to our worldly interests; with the assiduous practice of religious duties, viz. prayer, reading the word of God, instead of vain plays, idle romances, and empty novels, the fashionable books of our times; meditation, and a frequent review of our spiritual experience, and a conscientious attendance on the worship of God, are the appointed means of our advancement in heavenly knowledge. These are things to which many professors discover but little inclination. Let not such, who doubtless must be destitute of this assurance whereof we speak, dream of attaining it in their present frame of mind, and course of behavior, for if they do, their imaginations of this sort will certainly prove deceiving dreams indeed.

6. All believers have a proper and certain evidence within them, of their interest in divine favor. Grace in the hearts of the saints, is an effect of God's love to them, and his gracious purposes concerning them. And, therefore, from the grace in their souls, they may safely infer, that they are objects of Divine love, and interested in all those blessings which take rise therefrom. ··

7. Some through causeless fears and jealousies are prevented enjoying this assurance. They are afraid , because sin is in them as an active and restless principle , that they have no contrary principle of holiness ; and because , in part , they are still carnal , that they are not spiritual persons ; because grace is but feebly acted in their minds , that they are void of it ; and because , for a season , they enjoy not strong consolation , that they have no title to it , or any spiritual blessings . These jealousies and fears, at least, evidence a desire of grace, which certainly springs from a gracious principle, for the desire of grace is proper to grace. The want of skill in these persons, to distinguish between the motions of the flesh, and those of the Spirit, or of attention to both, within themselves, and of a consideration of the new covenant, according to whose nature, God will always proceed towards them, are the occasions of their distressing fears.

IV. When this holy assurance is maintained in the souls of believers, it influences them unto a humble and close walk with God. Pride, carnality, and neglect of duty are not attendants of the assurance of faith. If lusts, either of the flesh or of the mind is indulged, and a man is careless and negligent in his conversation, let him not imagine that this favor is vouchsafed to him by the blessed Spirit; for when the Spirit of God operates as a comforter, he also does as a sanctifier. This strong consolation is never enjoyed without a heavenly constraint upon the mind to love God, and cheer fully obey him. It is probable, that some may mistake in this matter, and take a merely rational conclusion for this assurance, wherein the Holy Spirit has no concern, viz. thus, a man reflects upon his past experience of Divine goodness, as he thinks, in former seasons, and says, within himself , this must have been the work of God upon me ; I , therefore , am the subject of his grace , and interested in his love . But if he thus reflects , and thus reasons , when his condition , and the general frame of his mind call loudly upon him to the duties of humiliation and sorrow for sin , spiritual sloth , and criminal indulgences , he may assure himself , that in this the Divine Sanctifier has no concern , and that the conclusion he has drawn contains nothing of that holy assurance in it , whereof ' we now speak . There is , I think , such a difference between the merely rational acting’s of our own minds in this business , and the blessed guidance of the Holy Spirit , in our reflecting upon his work on our souls , as is easily discernible to the saints : and they are greatly wanting to themselves , with regard to their spiritual peace and solid comfort , if they neglect to attend to that difference , in this review of their past acts . In the former, only ease and quiet are sought after, in which consists carnal security. In the latter, strength against sin, and a renewal of the vigor of grace which has fallen under a decay. And present direct acts of faith are put forth in this latter, which are not in the former.

V. It is our duty to endeavor to obtain it. We ought to be thankful for the lowest measure of faith; but not content ourselves with a low degree of grace, because the being of grace in our hearts, though small, is evidence of our safety. As far as anything of this nature is found in us, so far, we have just cause well to examine ourselves, lest at last we prove mistaken, in cherishing hopes of a real conversion. This can be no sign of it. For it is in the nature of the new creature, to desire both its preservation and improvement. The neglect hereof can only arise from the flesh, its opposite and combatant. Nothing is more inculcated upon us, than this endeavor after an advancement in holiness and spirituality: " give diligence to make your calling and election sure; and add to your faith virtue, & c. and let us go on to perfection; " with various other exhortations of the same kind, which plainly prove that this is a duty indispensably incumbent on us. But, alas! we are very defective herein, which is the cause of that slow progress we make in the knowledge of heavenly things; and to this is owing very much, that want of the savior and relish of them, which too visibly appears in most professors at this day

VI. Great advantages attend it. Spiritual peace, which greatly differs from that carnal security, that usually is the concomitant of a back - sliding frame. Joy in God, which causes us to despise those low and évanid pleasures, wherewith our corrupt minds are too apt to be delighted. Freedom and boldness in our addresses at the throne of Grace. Thankfulness and gratitude to our heavenly Father for all the good and inestimable blessings he is pleased to confer upon us. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us,” & c. This strength of faith will enable us to give glory to God, even under such dispensations as are most trying to it. What difficulties will it not surmount, what afflictions will it not bear, with calmness, submission, patience, yea with triumph! Since such advantages arise to ourselves, and such glory to God from this faith, shall we think anything too hard a labour to attain it, or anything too dear and valuable to part with for its enjoyment? We are fools if we do.

There is no inconsistency at all between a persuasion of the necessity of a strict and regular attendance to duty, on our part, in order to the enjoyment of a sense of Divine favor, and a belief that our growth in grace entirely depends on the efficiency of the Holy Spirit. As to the acknowledgment of the latter, and a steady regard to it, as a precious and indubitable truth, I will not give place to any man in the world. But then, on the other hand, I am equally satisfied that it is only in the ways of holiness any have reason to hope for the benign influences of the Spirit of God, in order to the strengthening and increase of grace in their hearts. A careless, negligent, and loose walk will always be followed with dreadful effects. The bitter weeds, the briers, and thorns of corruption of one kind or other, will grow, and grace will decline. Sad instances of the truth of this our times abound with. All pretensions unto the present enjoyment of the assurance of faith in those whose conversation is unbecoming the gospel, are groundless, if they ever enjoyed that favor. In some, it is to be feared, that at last it will appear that they never were by the Holy Spirit sealed unto the day of redemption, notwithstanding all that confidence with which they have expressed themselves.

This is an observation not intended for any who are mourning under a sense of their sins and sinfulness, whatever their revolts may have been through the violence of temptation, and the strength of lust stirred up by it. Far be it from me to offer anything which hath the least tendency “to break the bruised reed and quench the smoking flax.” But the condition of some, “who are at ease in Zion,” calls for awakening reproof, that, at least, they may not have it to say, that they were suffered go down into the chambers of death,” without any warning given to them of their danger.

Object. Some perhaps will say, this doctrine of assurance of safety and security, or a firm persuasion of an interest in Christ and in his salvation, is not a likely method to promote holiness: for if a man enjoys a certain hope of being happy hereafter, what need he concern himself about the manner of his behavior? His sins are pardoned, he is justified, he is an heir of heaven, and his title to eternal life is unalienable; can it, therefore, be expected of him that he should watch, pray, and fight, since his future welfare is a thing certain in itself, and he knows it to be so?

Ans. 1. Such, who thus object, are of a different opinion from our Savior, who plainly told some that their sins were pardoned. “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.” And “her sins, which are many, are forgiven.” Besides, as he predicted to Peter his denial of him, he acquainted him with that interest he had in his prevalent intercession: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not,” and expressly mentions his recovery: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” This objection, therefore, is levelled against the wisdom of our blessed Savior; and if its force is admitted, it must be at the expense of his want of care about the suitable behavior of his followers. This is a consideration sufficient entirely to sink the objection, and to cause its authors to blush, if they had the least degree of modesty left. But,

2. Who are the persons, that from an assurance of an interest in Christ, and in his saving benefits, can be supposed, upon that assurance, will grow remiss and careless about the practice of their duty? They must be either unregenerate, or regenerate persons. The unregenerate cannot have this assurance, and, therefore, they cannot abuse it in the manner the objection supposes. And, consequently, if it is thus abused, it must be by regenerate sanctified men. From what principle in them can this abuse of so precious a favor spring? It must be either from the flesh, or from the Spirit. That it cannot arise from the latter is, I suppose, a truth evident to all. And what if the flesh is inclined to abuse this, or any other Divine truth, is that a sufficient reason for the rejection of it? Surely it is not. He who is insensible that there is that in him, which is - inclined to take occasion to sin from the commandment in the law, as well as from the promises of the Gospel, is a stranger to the plague of his heart. But is it proper, for that reason, to part with either the law or the gospel? Certainly, it is not. This is an undoubted truth, that, that man, which abuses the gospel, will also pervert and abuse the law: and therefore, if we admit this shameful objection, we can retain neither the law. nor the gospel.

3. Since it is only the flesh which can be guilty of thus abusing the doctrine treated of, how absurd is it to imagine that a man can enjoy this assurance, while he is pampering and gratifying the flesh? That man deceives himself who is confident of enjoying future happiness, which consists very much in a perfect freedom from all sin, who allows himself in the present practice of it. I utterly deny that that man desires to be free from sin hereafter, who does not desire to forsake it now. This assurance, therefore, cannot, in fact, give the least encouragement to sin. It is an act of the spiritual part in a believer, which never gives any advantage to the fleshly part in him.

4. It is a sacred truth, and as such it is passionately believed by us, that faith without works is dead. This grace purifies the heart, and it produces good works in the life of him who is the subject of it. How then can this excellent grace be, where the genuine fruits of it are not found? This objection is no better than mere calumny, designed to traduce and reproach a precious evangelical truth; but this is nothing new, nor strange. If some sort of men did not despise, reject, and slander Divine truths, it would be a strong temptation to me to think myself mistaken in esteeming them such: for the things of the Spirit of God will always be foolishness to some men.

5. Those, who thus object, either express the part which they themselves would act upon such a persuasion, or they do not. If they do not, why is it that they object after this manner? If they do, and are in earnest, I am not afraid, nor ashamed to tell them, that they are strangers to grace and holiness; and if they have no other principle than what at present influences and determines them, nothing is more certain, than that they will descend into the bottomless pit, from whence there is no redemption. That man, to whom it would be a satisfaction to continue in sin, upon having an assurance of impunity, most certainly is in the broad road to destruction. He who desires not to be holy now, is dreadfully mistaken if he imagines that he desires holiness hereafter. The eternal ruin of such sort of persons, whose real principle this objection expresses, is inevitable, without sovereign grace and mercy work a change in their hearts; and their everlasting damnation will be just. If any pretend unto an assurance of the pardon of their sin, and of the salvation of their souls, by the blood and righteousness of Christ, who have no experience of hearty sorrow for sin, indignation against it, and against themselves, because of their transgressions, they know nothing at all what that holy assurance is. They undoubtedly are, “In the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity.” Some such bold pretenders, and impious boasters, it may be, there are but their condition is most dreadful, for death, eternal death in fact, can only be expected by them. I am sure that heaven is not their choice, and that they have nothing to look for, but the fiery vengeance of an incensed God. This I know is true, that assurance of pardon through the blood of the Son of God, never fails to produce in the mind the greatest abhorrence of sin, and the most earnest desires of its utter Destruction.

Talk is Cheap

Proverbs 14:23

In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury”

            The wise man, Solomon, in this portion of the proverbs, gives some vital instruction to his son to help him develop into a God honoring young man. There are two principles given which are meant to stand in contrast to each other. Both principles are true on their own but are best seen when set against each other. When a young boy understands these two truths, it will help to move from childhood to manhood.

The first of these is, “in all labour there is profit”. Children often tend to view labor as something to be avoided. Work is hard and requires effort, so it is something we don’t necessarily want to do. Often when a task is to be done, a child will think of all the things which he would rather be doing, therefore he views this task as a hinderance to his pleasure. Seeing the difficulty ahead and the pleasure that could be had by engaging in some other activity, the child will seek to put off the task rather than setting his hand to the work. The reason he pursues this course is because the child has failed to recognize the value of this life principle which Solomon has given. In all labor there is something to be gained, and it will add to your life something that you did not have before. For a child to understand this truth, he must understand two things about the nature of profit.

  First, not all profit comes in the way of money gained. When people typically think of profit, they think of being given money in exchange for service. This is certainly one form of profit, but profit isn’t limited to just money gained. Profit is when we gain something we did not have before. It is the addition of something which adds value to our lives. When we labor there is always something gained by our endeavors. This gain, however, isn’t always a growth of financial substance. Sometimes profit comes in the way of experience. When we work to accomplish something, we have never done before, upon completing the task, we gain the valuable knowledge of how to do something. We gain the knowledge of what to do and more importantly what not to do. Such knowledge saves us both time and resources by accomplishing the task the right way, rather than the wrong way. When we save time and resources, we can then use those in a way that is beneficial to our lives.

Another form of profit, which isn’t a financial gain, is the respect and recognition we gain from our peers. When we work hard and accomplish our task in the right way, people will take notice. They will recognize our diligence and honesty, and this will in many ways tend to our benefit. Hard work and honesty are something of value among men. Men carry very little respect for those that shy away from difficult task and will not trust those who cut corners in their work. People who respect you for your work ethic, will often show up in your life when you fall into a hard time. Others who see your diligence will be quick to recommend you for hire to those who need help. While respect from our peers is a profitable thing, gaining that respect should never be the motivation for our work. We labor hard because in doing so we bring honor to God (romans 12:11).

Lastly, when a man works hard, he gains a peace of mind that others don’t have. This peace allows him to have a good spirit, a clear mind and to live life at its best. Consider the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 5:12a, “The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much:”. Solomon rightly observes that a man that is diligent in his work can lay his head down at night and sleep peacefully because he has gained the satisfaction of a task accomplished. This man has something that those who avoid hard work does not have, the absence of which causes them much sorrow and restlessness. Notice, this man is able to be at peace even if money and food isn’t immediately gained from his endeavors.

The second principle a child needs to understand about profit is that not all profit comes immediately. When a child does some task, there is a desire within them to have a benefit from it immediately. If a parent tells a child finish your dinner and you can have dessert, the child will want to see a big bowl of ice cream as soon as he takes the last bite of his meal. A man, however, is someone who understands that not every benefit appears as soon as the task is accomplished. In fact, the most satisfying work can often take years to see a substantial gain. Take a farmer for instance, the farmer is one who works hard. He tills his land, rids it of weeds, plants his fields, waters the seed, feeds the plants, but will not see the fruit of his hard work until the plant is fully grown. Someone that expects immediate results will be prone to shy away from this work and will miss the great gain that would come if he set his mind to the task (Psalms 126:5). Farming is just one example of this principle. The same applies to things such as marriage, raising children or pastoring a church. In every one of these areas there is often very little profit seen immediately from hard work. However, if someone recognizes that if they are diligent and consistent, then eventually they will see a substantial gain. Their marriage will flourish, their children will grow to be stable people, and their churches will grow. Even the world recognizes this principle as true when they use the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

The next portion of this piece of wisdom is equally true. Those who simply talk of things they need or want to do will end up in poverty, both naturally and spiritually. Many people can talk of great things, but when you view their life, little is ever accomplished. As the saying goes “talk is cheap”. It is a characteristic of children to talk about what they want to do; it is a characteristic of men to do what needs to be done. It is wise to talk of what needs to be done and how it needs to be done for, “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” Proverbs 24:6b. After someone works out all the details of the task, it is necessary to immediately pursue its accomplishment. Any delay or procrastination will ultimately always end with the task going undone. To make promises to people and then to fail to make good on those promises, will always be a mark which will stain a man’s good name.

To recognize that all labor is beneficial in someway and at some point, and that doing rather talking about something is a key ingredient in moving from being a child to becoming a man which honors God in all that he does. If you follow this principle, it will eventually be said that like Joseph, “the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” Genesis 39:3.

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A Heritage Not Divided!

A Heritage Not Divided: from the playroom to the pew

Lo, Children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.”

 

                Children are truly a blessing to those who have them, though at times it may not seem like they are. When one is covered in flour from the pantry, and the other one has decided to completely wreck the living room, we may start to think we’ve been cursed. The truth is however, God has seen fit to give those children to us. They are as the scripture calls them a heritage, or an allotted portion. The blessing of children is truly a wonderful thing, but with that blessing comes a God given responsibility. The responsibility to nurture them, instruct them, correct them, and to lead them in the way of the Lord. The decisions we have to make as parents are not all that easy. Decisions such as where to send them to school, what groups to let them be involved in, and the places they should be allowed to frequent just to name a few. These decisions can be tough to make! We want our children to receive a good education, and schools differ from one another in how effective they are at getting the children to learn the material. These decisions are tough because they can have a far reaching effect and determine the future of our children. Knowing this, we will spend hours collecting information, and thinking on which course of action to take. That’s the way it should be because God has given us our children so that we can make good decisions for them.

While these decisions are important, it is more important for a follower of Christ to decide how their children receive their spiritual education. So how should we educate our children in spiritual matters? How are our children supposed to worship? What do we base that decision off of? Do we take what is popular at that time, or do we look to the scripture? I believe that as a Christian we are to look to the word of God to make those decisions. We should search the scripture to find what is instructed, to find the patterns it contains. So when it comes to the spiritual education and the personal worship of our children what does the scripture say? I guess a better question is, is Sunday school biblical or should children be a part of the worship and education of the church? These are questions I wanted answers to when I began my look into the word of God. I wanted to know what God says, regardless of what I had been taught, and what others said.

Children in worship

                When we look to the scripture we are looking for a pattern, or things which are consistently done the same way throughout. As I searched, the more I began to see a pattern emerge, something done the same way over and over. I began to see that children were present over and over again in the worship of the called out assembly.

The Old Testament

Deuteronomy 29:10-12 “ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Isreal, your little ones, your wives and thy stranger, that is in thy camp, from the hewer of the wood unto the drawer of thy water: that thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day:”

Joshua 8:35 “there was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.”

Ezra 10:1 “ Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.”

Nehemiah 12:43 “also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.”

2Chronicles 20:13 “And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.”

Further reference Nehemiah 8, Psalms 8:2, and Joel 2:15-16

It is clear from the scripture that any time Israel came together to perform an act of worship, or to receive instruction that their little ones, or children were present. It was just as important for them, as it was for the full grown adults. We never find where God told Israel to separate their heritage from him, but led them to include them in all their spiritual exercises. It is clear from the Old Testament that children from the time they were born, were very much a part of spiritual worship. From the beginning of life the children were to be circumcised which was a type of worship, it being a fulfillment of God’s commandment. They were included in Passover, the many other feast days and anytime the word of God was publicly read or expounded.

The ministry of Christ

Matthew 14:21 “and they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.”

Matthew 15:38 “And they that did eat were four thousand men, beside women and children.”

Matthew 18:2 “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them.”

Matthew 19:14 “But Jesus said, suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 21: 15-16 “And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, and said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?

                In the ministry of Christ we find that children are present during his teachings and miracles. In both instances where Jesus multiplied the food, men had brought their entire family to hear this man teach. In one of those instances the bread and fish were supplied by a young lad or young boy. Showing us that the ministry of Christ was not limited to just one age bracket, but encompassed people from all stages of life. When Christ was in the temple it tells us that the children were crying out anthems of praise. We know their age by the words Christ uses in the next verse babes and suckling’s (one still nursing) to describe those who were worshiping Him. Jesus valued having the little ones surround him, which is why he said “suffer the little children-to come to me.”

The early Church

Acts 21:5 “and when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore and prayed.

Ephesians 6:1 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.”

Colossians 3:20 “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.”

In Acts 21 Paul had stopped in the town of Tyre. When he found Christians there he decided to stay and minister with that body of believer for seven days. In verse 5 we find that the body of believers consisted of men, women, and children. In Ephesians and Colossians if you pay attention to the language, you will notice that Paul addresses the children directly. Knowing how Paul writes, if the children would not have been present during the worship service when this letter was read Col 4:16 he would not have worded it the way he did. He would have instructed the parents to teach their children to obey them. Paul’s address to the church in the manner that he did is a positive affirmation that children were present during the whole worship service.

Starting with the Old Testament and going all the way through, we see a continued pattern. Not only is there a pattern of children engaged in worship with their families, but God never instructs us to separate them from worship. Don’t you think the all-knowing God would tell us to separate the children from public worship, if he thought it best for them not to be a part of it? Not only is there a pattern of children in worship, but look for a moment at all the children God used to glorify Him. 1samuel 3 tells us of the very young Samuel who God spoke to and through when Eli’s house was not right. Look at 2kings 5 were God used a young girl to proclaim his power and grace. Read 2Chronicles 34 were God used a godly 8 year old boy to rule his people righteously, look at young timothy who heard the scriptures taught in the synagogue as a child 2Timothy 3:15.

Limiting Faith

                There are so many reasons one gives for separating their children from the central worship service. They attempt to justify their decision based on natural reason, which would make sense to most people. One natural reason that one gives to justify this position, is that children learn at different levels than adults do. While this may be true in a natural sense, it is not on a spiritual level. The moment one asserts that position, they have traded faith for reason and spiritual understanding for cognitive abilities. In one sense they have eliminated the main ingredient in faith, God himself! They claim that ones ability to understand God comes from something within the natural man. According to the scripture no man regardless of age has the ability to know, understand, or believe God unless God gives him that ability. We see this taught in 1Cor 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” and John 3:3 “Jesus answered and said unto him, verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Now we know from our English class that “can” means ability, so what these two passages are teaching is that no one regardless of age has the ability to understand, or perceive God, or His kingdom unless God Changes him from a natural man to a spiritual man. So unless God quickens your soul, gives you faith (spiritual eyes) and a spiritual understanding of the truth, you will never be able to cognitively rationalize God or His truth. For faith is something God gives Gal 5:22 and not something that comes naturally for “all men have not faith”2Thess 3:2. This biblical truth teaches us that if a child regardless of age has been born again, then they possess the ability to understand and believe the truth, which sounds from the pulpit. An example of this is John the Baptist in his mother’s womb, who when he heard the truth of Jesus Christ jumped for joy. So if God could bring the understanding of the truth of Christ to an unborn child, don’t you think He can cause our children no matter how young to understand His truth? We don’t believe in God because we are smart, but because God has shown us the truth in our hearts. So that old defense of Sunday school that goes “well the preacher will just preach over their heads and it’s pointless for them to have to sit through that”, is something that if the grace of God is poured out upon them, can never happen! We can’t preach over their heads! God is ultimately the one that causes everyone in the congregation to understand, old and young alike. To deny this is to leave God entirely out of the equation.

Substitution

                When someone substitutes something they are replacing what should be there for something else. Whatever is supposed to make up worship should never be substituted for anything else. If you want to know just how seriously God took this, just look at the tabernacle. God never allowed anything in that form of public worship to be substituted for the real thing. We find in Numbers 3:4 that the two sons of Aaron were slain by the Lord for substituting the proper fire on the incense for “strange fire”. We read in another place where Uzzah was killed, because David substituted Gods way of transporting the ark, for his own way. God does not like it when we substitute his way for our way. When we separate our children from us and place them in a room to be taught by someone else, we are substituting Gods way for our own. The Bible is clear that the only one to teach in the church is those he has called to the ministry. The pattern is clear that all age groups are to be present in the Lords house to engage in worship together. Worship is the heart of what the Bible calls unity, and the church will never be unified when it is divided into groups.

The biggest substitution we make when we separate our children from collective worship, is we trade praise for play and spiritual education for entertainment. By doing this, we are inadvertently teaching our children that church is a place to have fun instead of teaching them to fear and reverence God Deut 4:10. This is why attendance by collage age kids drops dramatically. When they get to that age church is no longer “fun”, so it loses its charm. Church is suppose to be about what we give, not about what we receive, and Sunday school all too often sends the opposite message.

Eliminating the Example

                Paul said in 1Corinthians 11:1 “be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” This should be the charge of every husband and wife to their children. Like it or not, they were given to you so you can be a good example for them. Children learn so much more by seeing what you do, than by hearing what you say. When we remove them from our worship services, we are eliminating the opportunity to lead them by example. They don’t get to see how important worship is to you. They don’t get to see the joy for the Lord you have when you worship. They don’t get to see your reaction to the message being preached. All the children in the bible learned how to worship by watching their parents worship. When Isaac and Abraham went up the mountain, Isaac noticed that there was no sacrifice. How did he know that if he hadn’t seen his father worship in that way before? It is necessary for our children to see us praise the Lord, to repent, to weep for sin and to rejoice in the grace of Jesus Christ. By allowing them to view us in this environment, if their hearts have being changed by grace, we are providing an example that they will be inclined to follow. They will see how important it is for us and begin to view it as important. The power of your example must never be underestimated! Especially when it comes to things pertaining to God and worship. Not just your example, but also all the mature men and women of faith in the congregation, that stand as good examples and mentors to our children.

Conclusion

                The pattern is evident from the beginning of the Old Testament through the early church that children have been an interregnal part of worship. God never regarded a person’s age when choosing to teach them or use them for His Glory. You will not find any justification for teaching children separate from the general congregation, it’s just not in the Bible. Trading faith for reason is to deny the foundation of faith itself. Substituting Gods way for what we think is best, is always a dangerous game. The example you provide for your children, by having them worship with you, is of paramount importance! We should never prevent our children from having the opportunity of having an intimate encounter with God in public worship. We should never keep them from platform through which God has designed to teach his born again children. In the words of God “Consider your ways” Haggai 1:5, to Him be the glory forever. Amen.

 

Elder John Burkett

 

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