Apropos to what we were saying last Lord’s Day evening about the various types of sermons, this sermon is a subject sermon. I don’t have a text to read to you. I am going to refer to a number of passages from the Bible this evening all of which bear in one way or another on the subject before us.
In this series of sermons I am considering features of our congregational life and testimony that in some way or to some degree distinguish us from other faithful churches, even churches in our denomination or presbytery. I wouldn’t want anyone to think that the fact that we are concentrating on these sorts of subjects means that we think that other churches are not committed to the gospel. The last thing I would want to suggest in a series of sermons like this is that we are committed to the gospel and all these other churches are not. I am not talking about those things that faithful congregations share, that they hold in common; the commitments that any faithful Christian congregation is going to have. We are talking about the things that distinguish us and the reason that we are doing that is because we are thinking about the future of the church at this particular time in her life and history.
In the first sermon we defined our commitment to “Reformed Catholicism,” an attitude or mindset composed in equal parts of a commitment to the teaching of the Bible and the theology of the reformed faith and, at the same time, a commitment to the unity of the Body of Christ. That is to say, we are going to be outspoken and confident in our commitment to the doctrines that we believe to be taught in the Word of God even as we are going to celebrate our unity with people who do not necessarily share our commitment to those same doctrines. Biblical theology and Christian unity at one and the same time. In the second sermon we considered the preaching program of the church, marked to a significant degree as it is by the consecutive exposition of books of the Bible. We wish to preserve these features in the next generation of the congregation both because we feel that they reflect the teaching or the pattern found in the Bible and because we believe them to be significant contributors to the kind of Christian life we want to foster in ourselves and in our children.
Tonight we take up another feature, important to us for the same two reasons: it is manifestly biblical and also fundamentally important to what every Christian should want for himself and for others. I am speaking of an emphasis on the Christian family and, in particular, the family as an incubator of Christian faith in covenant children. You know what “covenant children” means. It is a term that means our children, the children of believing parents or a believing parent. It is a distinctive feature in two respects. First, some congregations, even some prominent PCA congregations, would not be inclined to emphasize this particular biblical theme for the obvious reason that it isn’t as relevant to them as it is to us. Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, for example, a flagship PCA congregation and perhaps the best known of all of our church’s congregations, is a church largely composed of single adults, 80% or more of the congregation is single and among the married are several who have not yet begun to have children. They are, in other words, the kind of people who live in Manhattan. Once such people marry and have kids, most find it necessary to move out of Manhattan; it is simply too expensive a place for a young family to live. Tim Keller once told me that his wife hosted a mid-week morning Bible study for the women of the congregation – a congregation that numbers in the thousands – and five ladies came, all of them wealthy. They were the only ones who could attend a mid-week morning Bible study. All the other women in the church were at work. Providing a large enough nursery during services has never been a major challenge at Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
But more important, in the second place and for a variety of reasons there are many churches, even in our own tradition, even in our own denomination, who have only a vague concept of the Christian family and of the family as a nurturer of faith and salvation. I published an article some years ago that explained why so many Presbyterians had a poor grasp of the biblical doctrine that God’s grace is intended to run in the lines of generations and enumerated the implications of that doctrine for family life. The article proved to be somewhat controversial because, though I was only restating the historic Calvinistic consensus, it came as news to a number of PCA ministers and elders. More so years ago than today, but still far too commonly today, many of our Presbyterian parents still expect their children to have a conversion experience, to have a before and an after to their Christian life no matter that they have brought them to be baptized when they were infants. That is, they seem to think of their children as not yet Christians even though by baptism obviously they became members of the Christian church. Few of them would go so far as the late Professor John Gerstner, R. C. Sproul’s mentor, who refused to teach his children to recite the Lord’s Prayer because, in his view, they could not yet with integrity address God with the words “Our Father,” but they still think of their children as he still thought of his children as needing to be evangelized, as outsiders needing to be brought in.
What the great Princeton theologian, Benjamin Warfield, admitted in a personal letter to the great Dutch theologian, Herman Bavinck, is still far too widely true. He wrote that many Presbyterians viewed their children’s baptism as more of a dedication than as a covenant sacrament for a covenant child. [R. Gleason, Herman Bavinck, 364] [By the way I hope you all can confidently answer the question: “What’s wrong with infant dedication?” The problem of course is that it’s hutzpah for you to dedicate to God something that already belongs to him. It’s like stealing something from his cabinet, wrapping it up and then giving it to him for Christmas. The child is not yours to give. It is God’s already. Ezekiel 16: “You took my children whom you bore to me and sacrificed them to idols.”] As another scholar put it, many in the Presbyterian churches practice infant baptism in “an unnatural manner,” that is, they continue the practice while virtually denying the theological foundation upon which the practice is based.
How this situation came to be is explained in different ways. Calvin had a robust doctrine of infant baptism and of grace in the lines of generation. He developed the concept of the “seed” of faith that exists in many Christian children in their earliest infancy, if not already in the womb. He based that teaching on some texts in Holy Scripture that are difficult to understand in any other way. David, for example, speaks of trusting in the Lord from his mother’s breasts; another Psalm writer declares that he trusted in the Lord from his infancy. What that means, Calvin taught, is that faith had been granted to them by the grace of God and the work of the Spirit as a disposition of the heart, even if they were and remained for some time too young to exercise their faith. It remains in them as a seed that God has planted. It will sprout; it will bear fruit in time. In that sense even infant children of Christian parents can be considered believers in Jesus, as seems to have been the case with, for example, John the Baptist, who responded joyfully to the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb when he was still in Elizabeth’s womb.
But Calvin’s doctrine, though embraced by many, was less thoroughly worked out in the English speaking Reformed church in the years and the centuries that followed. You find it in the Puritans and in the Westminster Assembly, but not as clearly and not as emphatically as it ought to have been found, and the reason in large part is that those were movements of conversion or of revival, and so they were less inclined to make a special place, at least laid no special emphasis on the different situation of the covenant child. In a culture of nominal Christianity, everyone, or so it seemed, needed to be exhorted to lay hold of Christ. Evangelism, not discipleship was the watchword. Nor was the doctrine thoroughly integrated into the theological system. If you pick up a Reformed systematic theology you will grasp this almost at once if you are alert to the issue. For example, in Reformed theology in the English speaking world the doctrine of justification by faith was almost always discussed as if everyone were converted in the middle of life. The particular case of covenant children was not explained and defended as it should have been. That perhaps explains why the great revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries seem so easily to have cast the doctrine and the status of the covenant child into the shade. Powerful experiences of conversion, especially among those who were born and raised in nominally Christian families and had been baptized as infants, taught new generations to expect that this would be the way that Christian children would be saved; in the same way everybody was saved; just as non-Christian people were. And so it is that for generations now there have been many, including folk in the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition, who have said that “if you don’t know when you became a Christian, you probably are not yet a Christian.” But that has never been true: wasn’t true of the men and women of the Bible, hasn’t been true of Christian experience in the ages since, and isn’t how the Bible teaches us to judge whether or not we have been saved. John, in his first letter, writes specifically to answer that question: “How do I know I have been saved?” and he says nothing about such experiences. He says nothing about a conversion experience. He says nothing about a before and after of the Christian life. He talks about your theological commitment, that is, what you believe about Jesus Christ; he talks about your commitment to the body of the Lord Jesus Christ; and he talks about your commitment to an obedient and holy life.
An interesting study of English seminarians conducted several years ago confirms the suspicion that children raised in a Christian home are most likely to have had a conversion experience only if their theological tradition expects or requires it. The study examined two groups of seminarians, both in Bible-believing institutions, all of the men committed to the gospel and to the Christian ministry. Most of them were the products of Christian homes. In the one seminary, a Baptist institution, it was expected that everyone would have a conversion experience and, no surprise, almost all of those students had had one. In the other, an Anglican divinity school, it was not necessarily expected that young men born and raised in Christian homes would have such an experience and, again no surprise, few of those young men had had one.
Through the years I have sat in many membership interviews of people joining Faith Presbyterian Church from Christian homes and from Reformed and Presbyterian backgrounds. We ask them how it was that they became followers of Jesus Christ. And often they have said something like this: a counselor at a summer camp challenged us to commit our lives to Jesus and I did when I was eight or ten or twelve. Or, they say, my mother asked me when I was seven if I had ever asked Jesus into my heart. I never had so that night, by my bed, I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I then asked them: “So, are you saying that before you went to camp or before you knelt by your bed, you didn’t believe in Jesus, didn’t believe that he died on the cross for your sins or that he was your savior, and you lived in rebellion against him; but after you came home from camp, or after you got up from your bedside prayer, you were a changed person and began for the first time to follow the Lord in loving obedience?” And they reply, “Well, no, I don’t mean that!” What they meant, though this was not clear to them at the time, was that it was expected, even required, that they have a conversion experience, that it be clear when it was they became a follower of Christ, and so such a moment, such an experience was found. But where do we find this expectation concerning the salvation of a covenant child in the Bible; where do we find it anywhere in the Bible?
I have no recollection of becoming a Christian. So far as I know, I have been a believer in Jesus as long as I have lived. And that is, in fact, the experience of a vast number, I would say the largest number of Christians who have lived and who live today in the world. It is what we are given to expect in the Bible and what, in fact, we find in the church. This is among those truths that seem to me so obvious, because they are so unmistakable in the Bible, that it baffles me that so many find it difficult to recognize them. I mean these truths.
- The first is that God has appointed the family as a channel or a conduit of his saving grace. As God created the human race in families, so it is his plan to re-create the race in families. True enough, many have been saved who were not raised in Christian homes, though many of those, once they became Christians, then created a Christian home of their own and in that home passed on their faith to their children. This is a commonplace of biblical teaching.
We have the reality of grace running in the lines of generations at the very headwaters of the Bible in the genealogy of the faithful given in Genesis 5: from Adam, to Seth, to Enoch, to Noah, believers all, among many others. John Stott called Genesis 12:1-3 “the most unifying verses in the Bible,” as they unfold God’s purpose as it is then worked out in the rest of the Bible. There in those verses we find for the first time the promise that through Abraham all nations on the earth would be blessed. But what that meant, of course, was that through Abraham’s descendants all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The promise of that covenant, later put more specifically as “I will be a God to you and to your children after you,” was fulfilled through Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Judah, David, and, supremely Jesus Christ, all members of the same family line.
And by this promise the intimate relationships of the family were made an instrument of divine grace and salvation in the rising generations. Nor is this a minor feature of biblical revelation; we encounter it everywhere and in every sort of biblical text. We find it in the Ten Commandments (showing mercy to thousands – in context that means “a thousand generations” – of those who love me and keep my commandments); we find it in the histories (Samuel and David were sons of believing homes, as were the good kings of Judah in most cases); we find it in the Psalms (Psalm 78:4-7: “We will…tell…the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and…the wonders he has done…. That the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and…keep his commandments.”); we find it in the prophets (Isa. 59:21: “And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord: ‘My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children,’ says the Lord, ‘from this time forth and forevermore.’”); and we find it in the wisdom literature (Prov. 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”). And we are going to find it in the New Testament in texts that I will mention shortly. Everywhere in the Bible from beginning to end God’s salvation embraces both believers and their children.
Now do not think we are unaware of the dark cloud that casts a shadow over this otherwise happy picture of families traveling to heaven together. We are only too aware of the painful reality of unsaved covenant children. We are having as a congregation, we are having as elders of this congregation to face this reality. In fact your elders have been thinking long and hard about this reality and I will address this subject and share some of our thinking next Lord’s Day evening. But we leave that subject for next week and concentrate tonight on the promise of God to be our children’s God and the reality of intergenerational salvation, for reality it is as it has always been, from biblical times to our own. That fact is my first point. God’s plan revealed in the Word of God many is that he will save generations in turn in the same family line.
- Second, we not only find the promise, we also find the accompanying instrument of its fulfillment, viz. a faithful parental nurture of the faith of the children of the covenant. That is, as with all the other promises of God, there are conditions attached and means provided to see to the fulfillment of the promise. No sooner had God promised Abraham that he would be his God and the God of his children, we read this:
“I have chosen Abraham that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” [Gen. 18:19]
And as soon as we are reminded of that promise of intergenerational salvation in the Law of Moses, we read:
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when your rise.” [Deut. 6:6-7]
The nature of that nurture is beautifully and practically elaborated in the Proverbs as you know and from the Bible, taken together, we are able to construct a definition of the nurture of faith in a covenant children’s heart that is equal parts instruction, discipline, example, and the atmosphere of a home in which the love of God and the joy of salvation are dominating principles. But, take note, it is everywhere this nurture of a faith already existing, not the evangelism of unbelievers that is the paradigm of child-rearing in a Christian home. The children of Christian homes are everywhere in the Bible considered to be Christians who need to be discipled, not non-Christians needing to be converted. Our task is not to get our children in, but to teach them how to live and love as the Christians they already are.
- A third related truth, or perhaps another way of saying the same thing, is that the children of believers in the Bible are members of the church and are to be considered and treated as Christians. Of course we don’t know the heart and we realize that in some cases that may not prove finally to be so – as, alas, it is not always so with converts, or those we take to be converts – but we are instructed to treat them and consider them as Christians. This is where we find the children of the church everywhere in the Bible: in the church! They were required to be at the original Passover meal and could be and often were participants in the great feasts even when those feasts became pilgrimage feasts localized at the tabernacle and then the temple. Those feasts, remember, were for members of the covenant community only. The children were likewise required to be at the national ceremonies of covenant renewal. When the church is addressed in the Bible, whether in the OT law or the letters of Paul, the children are always included. It is for this reason, of course, that the sign of their membership in the covenant community – circumcision in the OT and baptism in the NT – was given to them as infants.
I know, of course, that our Baptist friends would protest that there is no explicit example of an infant baptism in the NT. I am unimpressed. There is likewise no explicit example of the child of a Christian family being prepared for baptism or being given baptism in his or her adolescence, something we might, I think fairly, expect to find if, in fact, the practice of the ancient church of including the children in the community of faith was being overturned in the new epoch.
What is more, the simple fact is that Baptists don’t talk like the New Testament talks. They don’t say to seekers, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to those who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.” They don’t preach that God has made a promise of salvation to our children. They don’t teach Christian parents that their children have been born under the promise of salvation. They don’t say to those who ask what they must do to be saved, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved and your house.” That is what Paul said, that is what the Bible always says, but in my experience it is not what Baptists, and, for that matter, not what many Presbyterians say. They do not see the Christian family, as the Bible sees that family, as a divinely ordained instrument of saving grace; they do not see the children of Christian families as heirs of salvation by the explicit promise of God.
- This leads us to a fourth truth and one of immense practical significance for the life of the church in the world, viz. that covenantal nurture provides the largest number of Christians to the church. Always has; always will. The promise of the covenant is that God will be a God to our children. That, by the way, is the Bible’s shortest way of saying everything we mean by salvation. For example, what is the problem of the unbeliever? Paul defines it simply this way in Ephesians 2: he or she is without God. What is heaven? We read in Revelation 20 that heaven is the place where God is our God and we are his people. That promise, that God will be our God and the God of our children is the primary means of the growth of the kingdom of God in this world.
I certainly don’t wish to forget the many who have come into the kingdom from the outside through evangelism. It is the glory of the church to call the unbelieving to faith in Jesus Christ and through the ages it has called vast multitudes into the kingdom of God. In our own day millions upon millions have come into the kingdom in that way in Africa and Asia and South America and still in Europe and North America some still trickle in in that same way. They do not hail from Christian homes. They are converted in the middle of life through the witness of the church and believers in the church. The conversion of unbelievers, the entrance into the church by those who were born and raised in unbelief and outside of the church is a reality so indisputable, so wonderful, and so consequential and so necessary for the church’s health, that we cannot emphasize it enough. Some of you are converts from unbelieving backgrounds. You were not raised in a Christian home. You became believers in Jesus in the middle of life often thereby separating yourself from members of your own family. You are not like John the Baptist; you are like the Apostle Paul, or Lydia, or the Philippian jailer. But, and this probably doesn’t surprise you, you are a minority among us and, the fact is, in most Christian communities you would be a minority. Only in those communities into which the gospel has only recently made its powerful way would converts not be a minority of the Christians in a congregation.
I find it remarkable, given the success of evangelism in the early centuries following Pentecost – multitudes of unbelievers all over the Greco-Roman world becoming Christians through the witness of other Christians; the unbelieving world, as it were, being taken by storm – I say I find it remarkable that it is the case nevertheless that most Christians whose names a well-read Christian would recognize from the first four centuries of the church’s life in the new epoch were the products of Christian homes. Justin Martyr was a convert, he had no Christian background; so was Tertullian; so was Cyprian, the North African bishop; there were others, of course. But Polycarp, Irenaeus, Origen, Eusebius (the church historian), Athanasius, Chrysostom, Jerome, Gregory Nazianzus, Basil, Augustine, Gregory the Great, and so on, all of them were the products of Christian homes.
And so it has continued through the ages since. Most of the great figures of church history, most of the great evangelists, missionaries, theologians, preachers and pastors, and exemplars of the devout and consecrated life have been the product of believing homes. Of course there are many exceptions, very many. But think of evangelists from John Wesley to Charles Spurgeon to Billy Graham. Think of the missionaries from William Carey to David Livingstone to Amy Carmichael to Eric Liddell to Jim Elliot. Think of the theologians from Jonathan Edwards to Charles Hodge to Benjamin Warfield to Herman Bavinck to J. Gresham Machen to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Think of the pastors and ministers from Thomas Boston to Robert McCheyne to the Bonar brothers, Horatio and Andrew, to Alexander Whyte or, for that matter, my Uncle Jim, founder of Young Life. Again, there are exceptions aplenty, but the gospel has been carried forward for 2,000 years on the backs of the sons and daughters of the covenant!
More to the immediate point, when I arrived at Faith in May of 1978 the congregation numbered about 65 people, most of them older folk. Over the years the congregation grew to over 600, before we sent a number away to start Resurrection Presbyterian Church in Puyallup. The largest part of that growth through the years was from the addition of covenant children. We had some wonderful conversions, but far more were added by covenant than by conversion. And so it continues today and not in our church only, of course, but in most churches, indeed, most churches throughout the world.
Now, when the Bible teaches us that we must be born again and that the new creation is and must be the work of God’s spirit, when it teaches us that we are conceived in sin and that by nature we neither can nor will submit to God, very clearly we are being taught that the salvation of any person is a gift that God must give and a work that he must perform. But the entire Bible teaches us to believe that he gives that gift to and does that work in even very little children who are born to believing parents. Almost all Christians believe that in the case of children who die in their infancy God grants salvation to infants; but only we have a theology that can explain both how that happens and do so in a way that doesn’t introduce some distinction, unmentioned in the Bible, between little children who live and little children who die. What I am saying, therefore, is that this is not a doctrine that we must believe against the evidence of our eyes. This is a doctrine that we can observe everywhere we look in the Christian church, past and present. Believing parents who are faithful to God and to their calling as stewards of the children God has entrusted to them will produce believing children who, then, will grow up to produce believing children of their own. We have the evidence of that fact everywhere we look in this congregation. Salvation is a divine work – we are not talking about children becoming Republicans or kayakers because their parents were – but God does that work, as he promised, in the hearts of the children of his children.
And so it is that we have been and intend to continue to be a church that teaches and preaches God’s promise to be the God of our children, makes a serious effort to equip parents to undertake the demanding work of nurturing their children’s faith through the years of their childhood, and offers a ministry of discipleship for our children to encourage and to educate and to exercise their faith, from Sunday School to youth groups to Covenant High School and beyond. We want this to continue to be an emphasis in this congregation for these reasons.
- First, as we have said, it is the principal way the kingdom grows and we want to grow as a congregation. In a day when the number of Christians is declining in our land, it would seem very likely that growth through the covenant will be all the more the principal means of growing the church. Christians tend to have larger families than unbelievers – though that too, alas, may be changing – and if we continue not only to reproduce ourselves but to add to our number, and do so spiritually as well as physically, the church will grow. God’s promise ensures that it will grow. Surely it is part of a Christian spirit to want there to be more people who will love Jesus Christ, worship the triune God, and aspire to serve the gospel in the world. If so, to reproduce our faith in the rising generation must be a significant part of the church’s plan. The rising generation will always supply the majority of Christian adults.
- Second, Christians, like any parents and in a deeper way than unbelieving parents, love their children. Nothing is more important to them than that their children walk in the truth. Christian parents do not bring children into the world thinking that they are populating hell, whether or not they have a theology that provides for that confidence. They believe, because the Bible teaches them to believe that God operates with them according to the same principle he has taught his children to operate by in their dealings with others: “who loves the father loves whoever has been born of him.” [1 John 5:1] By that principle we are taught to love other Christians since they too have been born of God. But by that same principle we believe that God will love our children because he loves us. That makes perfect sense, of course. If God loves us, he will, in the nature of the case, want for us the pure and holy things that we want, and what is more pure or more holy than the desire to see our children grow up in the love of God and what is more important to us and so to God but that his promises be fulfilled in the world? How can God love us deeply if he does not love those whom we love more than life itself? That is the inexorable logic of 1 John 5:1. If, as a congregation, we are going to rejoice in the goodness of the Lord, if we are going to bask in the promises of God, if we are going to find fulfillment and satisfaction in our Christian life, if we are going to prove how blessed are the people whose God is the Lord, our children must follow us in the Christian faith. Who can deny this? So, to have a thriving church, we must have a church in which one generation follows another in the love of God, in commitment to the name of Jesus Christ, and in the service of his church and kingdom.
- Third, the experience of intergenerational salvation, as provided for in the promise of God’s covenant and as illustrated in the history of the church, empowers evangelism. You might not have thought about this. But how weak must our evangelism become if, at the last, what we are asking the unbelievers around us to do is to fill the vacancies created by our children who have deserted the faith. How insipid must be a gospel message that amounts to acknowledging that we have room in our sanctuaries because our children, who have grown up with the gospel, have no interest in it and would prefer to live in the world? On the other hand, how much more powerful must a message be when parents and children and grandchildren rejoice to embrace the same truth, experience the same joy in salvation, and live the same life of service to God and others? There is a very real sense, all the more in our day and time when the American family is disintegrating around us, in which the covenant family is to be one of the principle visible demonstration of the goodness of the Lord and the reality of salvation. How powerful must our witness be when unbelievers wonder how we can have such happy and united homes!
- Fourth, and finally – not that I couldn’t list further reasons! – the great value of covenantal intergenerational salvation is that it produces, or ought to produce, a very mature and seasoned faith in Christian adults. We all know the great blessing and public benefit of powerful experiences of conversion, an unbeliever suddenly, unexpectedly becoming a follower of Jesus. Such conversions are public and powerful demonstrations of the reality of God’s grace, of the working of the Holy Spirit, and of the nature of conversion and salvation itself as the gift of a new life. But there is also great benefit to be gained by growing up in a faithful Christian home. By the time one is an adult, he or she knows a great deal of the Word of God and its theology, has gained a great deal of experience in the life of faith, has formed godly habits of devotion, of witness, of obedience, and of service, and so on. The promise of God’s covenant answered by Christian parents’ faithful nurture of their children’s faith should produce ever new generations of practiced, mature, and very useful Christians. The church needs such Christians; the world needs them too. It takes time to form Christ in a person; how much better then if the process of doing so begins at the very headwaters of life.
Years ago it was common that students entering theological seminary were already very competent in Greek and Latin. The educational systems concentrated on the classical languages. So first year seminarians hit the ground running in their biblical studies; they already knew how to read the New Testament in Greek. Not so any longer. Greek is for most of them terra incognita. In those former days entering seminarians were also very familiar with the Bible. They knew its contents very well and had memorized significant portions of the biblical text. One of the realities of seminary education in our time is that entering seminarians are often largely unfamiliar with the Bible and its contents. They would struggle to put David, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah in chronological order. Well the Christian home ought to be providing the church with multitudes of young adults already thoroughly familiar with the Bible, less familiar but by no means ignorant of the history of the church, able to articulate in an intelligent way the Christian position regarding the creation of the world, the meaning of life, the nature of human beings, the way of salvation, and so on and able confidently to defend all of those convictions against the skepticism of the surrounding world. The promise of God’s covenant to be our children’s God should ensure that the next generation of believers is as well prepared to give an account of their faith, as well able to bear persuasive witness to it, as well able to detect theological error, as well able rightly to order its worship of God, and as well able to raise the next generation of the faithful, as the previous generation, if not more so.
We will, of course, rejoice in our single adults, and will hope to use their gifts and graces in ever more important ways. As the culture disintegrates, there may be more and more of them and it will be important for the church to incorporate them into its life and ministry in new ways. But like most every Christian church, our congregation is likely to continue to be largely composed of families with their children. This then is the third characteristic of Faith Presbyterian Church: it is a church committed to teaching the biblical doctrine of the Christian family as an incubator of Christian faith and life in the rising generation, a church committed to being a family of Christian families, raising her children to love and serve the Lord and his gospel.