Last week I tried to show that the Bible teaches that children in believing Christian families should be baptized while very young, and also should be taking communion while very young. Most Christians, unfortunately, balk at one or the other (or both) of these positions. I have no illusions that my own brief blog post will end all discussion on these issues. I am simply reporting my thoughts prompted by my own reading of the Bible. Read the Bible for yourself, and see what you think.
For the sake of argument, however, assume that I might be correct. If I am correct, it is strongly likely that there are practical advantages to early baptism and to early communion. Let’s try to determine what some of those advantages might be.
1/Well, any time we do what the Bible says to do, surely that is a practical advantage to us. We are showing ourselves to be teachable. And that means to be teachable by the Bible. Being teachable by the Bible is a good starting point for our living. Who knows, maybe God does things the way He does them because He has good reasons to do so, and the good reasons even benefit us. It’s a theory, anyway.
2/That God would have us baptize our children immediately is a strong reminder of the generosity of God’s covenant of grace. Our children, if we are Christians, are immediately His children also. He loves the children born into His family, just as a normal Christian family loves the children God gives them. With the difference, of course, that God’s love is always wise, whereas we in our foolishness often “love” our children in foolish ways.
And just as Christian parents don’t wait until a child makes a credible profession of being hungry before they feed it, God doesn’t wait until a child makes a credible profession of faith before He feeds the child on the Savior Jesus Christ. He feeds that young child who is in His covenant family, right away.
The more understanding we have of the covenant of grace, the more we are humbled, and the more chance that we will begin to be grateful. When we are humbled and grateful, we are more likely to be put to doing the work that we should be doing. When we are slow to understand that we are saved by grace, it hampers our ability to think clearly about how we should live.
That God takes such early note and care of the children born to us, by instructing us to baptize them and feed them at the communion table, is worth pondering at considerable length. It reminds us that God is a loving God with a very generous spirit. Our children are His children, and He cares about all His children. A normal Christian father loves his child before the child makes a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. God also loves His children before they make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
So as we contemplate God’s loving character, and contemplate how the covenant of grace is constituted, we are beginning to think God’s thoughts after Him. Ours might be a feeble beginning, but it is a beginning. We have to start somewhere, and to have a small inkling of the personality of God is a decent start.
3/A biblical understanding about baptism and communion will help us immeasurably as we try to evangelize the entire earth.
4/As we baptize our children and feed them on Jesus Christ in the communion meal, we have a chance to begin to understand that for a professing Christian, behavior is crucial. The Bible shows us countless people who worked themselves out of the covenant of grace. We think of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram of Numbers 16. We think of the murderer Doeg (1 Samuel 22:18-19). Countless more names could be added. Some names no doubt we would be unsure about.
We can teach our children and ourselves about the fact that we can desert the covenant of grace. If we insist upon it, we can remove ourselves from the covenant of grace. Right now many of our young people seem to be thinking something like this: “I’ve chosen salvation, I’m now baptized” [finally!], “I’m taking communion” [finally!], “I’m good to go for the duration.” There is no understanding (often if not always) among our young people that their future behavior is crucial. “I’m one of the people of God.” They don’t read the Bible to learn more about God and about what God requires of them. They can’t even be bothered to sing along when the hymns or psalms are sung.
Of course a biblical understanding of baptism and communion does not mean that we are going to be automatically alert to the fact that we can work ourselves out of the covenant of grace, or that we will be objective about the character of our children and grandchildren. Watch for a few years, or better yet for a few decades, and pretty soon it becomes clear that most parents and grandparents are self-deceived about the spiritual standing of the young people in their families. That is not going to change quickly or easily. Self-deception is the most powerful and most commonplace form of deception in the world.
Still, once we understand that children in the covenant can work themselves out of the covenant–at least we theoretically understand even if we don’t yet apply that to our own children and grandchildren–maybe we will have a chance to be slightly warned that behavior is crucial.
In fact, our children–leaving ourselves aside for the moment!–often work themselves out of the covenant of grace. This is a frightening fact, but it is a fact. The Bible shows it happening often. We can begin to be warned–if we put aside our self-deception. That is a big if, admittedly.
When we see young people working themselves out of the kingdom of God, we naturally ask ourselves why it happens. Here are three possible answers. A/Bad parenting. This is what happens quite often. Christian parents do a rotten job of raising their children. B/A child goes awry despite good parenting. This happens some of the time, if not often. C/A mixture of mediocre parenting and a child insisting upon leaving the covenant of grace. This may be the most frequent reason our children leave the kingdom of God. We Christians are often mediocre parents, and the Christianity in the family is not real enough to give the child something he wants for himself.
As stated above, even a biblical teaching about how the covenant of grace operates will not be easily accepted by us. It is too hard a teaching. We prefer self-deception–about our own behavior and about the behavior of our children. Still, let’s take the biblical teaching, believe it to the extent that we can believe a hard truth, and begin to apply it in the way we live. A beginning is a beginning. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10).
There is a famous phrase which says, “It is what it is.” Some people may not consider it very helpful in explaining life. After all, the phrase might be accused of stating only the obvious. Personally, I consider the phrase profound. Most of mankind spends a lifetime denying that “It is what it is.” Most of mankind live in self-deception so profound that they constantly deny that what is, is. So for someone to say, “It is what it is” seems to me to be a willingness to face reality. Perhaps Groucho Marx said it best: “I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”
Reality is that God’s covenant of grace impels us to baptize children born into the kingdom of God, and impels us humbly and gratefully to feed on Jesus Christ at the communion table with those children. After all, where better to get a decent meal than in the reality God has given us?