A Biblical Theology of Children
What We Believe About Children at Grace Life Church
At Grace Life Church, we purpose to glorify God by obediently making and equipping disciples of Christ both in the Shoals and throughout the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe that this purpose and task begins in a person’s life when he/she is born into this world. We desire to minister not only to the adults of our congregation, but also to labor and beseech God to raise up a generation of young people who ‘put their confidence in God’ (Psalm 78:7). For us to faithfully carry out the task and responsibility of teaching the coming generations ‘the praises of the Lord’ (Psalm 78:4), we must know what the Bible teaches concerning children, their parents, and the role the church plays in the life of a family. The following truths will serve to anchor our ministry to children and families in the truth of God’s word:
CHILDREN ARE A HERITAGE FROM GOD
1. Contrary to what the world often teaches about children, we consider young people to be a blessing to the families. We choose not to look upon children as mere nuisances, but rather to look upon them as ‘olive plants’ around the table of their families. In ancient Israel, an olive plant was a valued commodity, and we purpose to look upon children in the same way. (Psalm 128:1-4)
2. We not only look upon children as ‘valued commodities’, but also as ‘gifts of the Lord’ (Psalm 127:3). Scripture teaches that ‘the fruit of the womb is a reward’ and that the blessed man is one ‘whose quiver is full of them’ (Psalm 127:3, 5).
3. We also value children before they are born. We believe that God is the one who fashions a child in the womb of his/her mother. God’s eyes are upon one as He sees even the ‘unformed substance’ of a child upon conception. We give thanks to Him, because He is the One who faithfully and wonderfully makes each and every child (Psalm 139:13-16) (Job 31:15).
4. With the above statements in mind, we unashamedly value the children and young people in our church as much as we value any other age group. We desire to diligently minister to them in a way that glorifies God and recognizes their need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself ministered to children during His earthly ministry, and we desire to follow His lead at Grace Life Church in ministering to them as well (Mark 10:13-16).
THE NATURE OF CHILDREN
1. Children have a sin nature
- Children, like people of all ages, are born with a nature that is totally depraved and polluted by sin. We believe that children are ‘born in iniquity’ (Psalm 51:5) and that sin is spread to all of them as a result of Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12-19).
- We believe that this same depraved nature and pollution has spread to all men and as a result each person is ‘by nature’ a child ‘of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3). It is also true that children are born ‘dead…in trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1) and completely unable to do anything in and of themselves to bring about reconciliation with God (Romans 5:6-10).
- Thus, since it is ultimately the reality of sin in the life of a child that is his or her biggest problem, we choose not to address this problem with mere man-made solutions and gimmicks. Rather, we pray that the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Gospel, would regenerate (Titus 3:5) the hearts of young people and cause them ‘to be born again to a living hope’ (1 Peter 1:3).
2. Children are full of folly and immaturity
- Even though children are made in the image of God, the Scriptures point out that they are less mature than adults and have a tendency to drift toward the folly that is bound in their hearts (Proverbs 22:15).
- The Scriptures use the idea of childishness in a variety of ways. In so doing, they teach us that a child’s thinking is immature (1 Corinthians 14:20) and that to be a child is to exhibit childishness rather than maturity (1 Corinthians 13:11).
- Scripture also teaches us that the mind of a child is fickle at times (Ephesians 4:14) and demonstrates this trait through their inability at times to make decisions that consistently show forth true wisdom and mature thinking (Matthew 11:16-17).
- These Scriptures and statements are not meant to be used to undermine the value of children or cause one to look upon them with disdain (Matthew 19:13-15), but rather to teach us that children have a need to be disciplined, instructed, and nurtured as they grow and mature in this life (Proverbs 22:15, Deuteronomy 6).
- These truths also teach us to be wise and patient when counseling our children concerning conversion. If we know children can be fickle, immature, and unable to make consistent decisions, then we must take great care in making sure that the Holy Spirit has truly regenerated their hearts before simply baptizing them after a sinner’s prayer or emotional experience at church.
3. Children are in need of discipline, training, and instruction.
- Since children are full of folly and immaturity, we recognize that the Scripture teaches they are also in need of loving discipline from their parents. This discipline is what God has ordained for parents to use in driving out folly from their children (Proverbs 22:15). The Scriptures teach that ‘stripes that wound, scour away evil’ and thus are profitable, not harmful, to the child’s well being (Proverbs 20:30).
- Discipline, contrary to what the world teaches, is not cruel or inappropriate but rather is a sign that parents truly love and care for their children. Scripture teaches that a parent that neglects to discipline his child actually ‘hates his son’ (Proverbs 13:24). The parent who is faithful to discipline his/her child demonstrates his genuine care and concern for his son/daughter (Hebrews 12:6-9 and Proverbs 29:15,17).
- Children also need training and instruction if they are to mature into men and women. Without training and instruction, a child will continue on in his folly and immaturity (Proverbs 22:6). The training of a child comes through both formal and informal times of teaching (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Ephesians 6:4).
- Children are commanded in Scripture to both obey and hearken their ears to the teachings and commands of their parents (Proverbs 6:20-23). Children are to submit to the authority of their parents in both obeying their commands and honoring them with their attitudes (Ephesians 6:1-3). Disobedience to the authority of parents is not treated lightly in Scripture and is often seen grouped with other types of sin that bring possible reproach upon the name of Christ (Romans 1:30 and 2 Timothy 3:2).