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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 7:14


Children of the Covenant!
1st Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

We have looked at Paul’s endorsement of Christian marriage as the very foundation of society, and we have noted that Christians who are single should be able to exercise self-control and restraint, or else they should seek a marriage partner. Then we saw that Paul fully endorsed the Lord’s teaching on divorce, and laid down some principles for those who were living in a pagan society, with regard to mixed marriage relationships. To those who were singles, he advises that they should not marry outside the faith. That is, that a Christian believer should only marry another believer, for to do otherwise would create an unequal yoke. He then speaks to those who have been converted after marriage, and he counsels them not to initiate a separation from their unconverted partner, but rather to stay within the marriage, and he gives four reasons why this should be the case. He argues that a Christian partner can bring a Godly influence within the home, that they may in fact be instrumental in winning their partner for the Lord, and that marriage itself is a divinely appointed ordinance, binding on all men, not just on Christians. The other reason is given in this particular verse: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
It is this teaching of Paul’s which I wish to consider in this study.

Our Children Contrasted.
There is one thing that unites all children. We are all born as SINNERS. Now there are evangelical Christians who refer to a so-called ‘age of innocence’ in children. The Bible knows nothing of this. On the contrary, the Bible tells us that Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Cf Genesis 5:1-3, Genesis 4:8. There is never a time when we suddenly cease being innocent, and suddenly become sinners. There may, however, be a day when we understand that we are sinners who need to be saved, but that is not a universal thing, for only the wakening of the Holy Spirit can achieve that!

This applies to all children! They are born as sinners, and they need to be saved from that sin!
But, having said that, Paul makes a difference here between the children of a believing parent (or parents) and the children of unbelieving parents. In fact they are starkly different and Paul, as usual uses very strong language to define those differences.

He says that children of unbelievers are ‘unclean.’ How can Paul say that? In what sense could little children be considered to be unclean? Let me use an illustration of one of the attitudes of pagan Corinthian society to help us to understand this. The Roman world had a very cold attitude toward children. While Greeks were generally good parents, in comparison with other heathen people, their parenting skills left a lot to be desired. Remember that Corinth was a licentious city. Prostitution was everywhere. But in 1st Century Corinth there was no contraception! Quite literally, these women would give birth to an unwanted child, and then just abandon it somewhere on the hills where it would die of exposure or at the hands of animals. In Rome, this practice was considered quite acceptable. Unwanted children in the city were thrown into the River Tiber. When a man got himself into debt, he would arrange to sell his children into slavery, to raise funds so that his debt could be paid off. FOR THE CHILDREN OF PAGANS THERE WAS NO PROTECTION FROM THIS CRUEL WORLD! They were in that sense unclean!

But in many ways this is still true today! The Children of unconverted parents are exposed to the awful influences of this present world. They learn about sexuality far too young, from TV programmes and magazines. Family planning clinics etc are queuing up to offer them contraception. They are exposed to the influences of Satanists, they read horoscopes, are bombarded with advertisements for alcohol, cigarettes, they encounter anti-biblical attitudes, like evolution, euthanasia and abortion. Like the ancient Romans we still kill children for contraceptive purposes, only now we do it before they are born! We do it in hospitals instead of on a hillside or in a river. But we still do it! We pride ourselves on our love and our care for our children, but our civilised society murders millions of inborn babies every year, and often just because someone does not want their lives disrupted, or their careers or their lifestyle…


Do you remember that verse in the Bible that is so often quoted, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?” It was a merciful law, to prevent progressive retribution by aggrieved parties. But look at the context in which it was given in Exodus 21:22-24 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. The law of measured retribution was given in the context of AN ABORTION! NOW JUST THIS ONE EXAMPLE CAN SHOW YOU THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CHRISTIAN’S ATTITUDE TO CHILDREN AND THE ATTITUDE OF THIS PAGAN WORLD.

In contrast to Paul’s perception of the children of unbelievers, he argues that Children of believers are ‘holy.’ Again this is something that needs further examination! For example, the Jews had a different attitude to children than the attitude that prevailed in pagan society. To the Jew, children are a gift from the Lord! Psalm 127:3-5 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Now it is this attitude that informs the Christian attitude to children. Paul tells us that our children are holy! He does not say that they are Christians, or that they are saved. But he does say that they are holy. The meaning is not too difficult to determine. He has already argued that an unbelieving wife will bring a measure of Godliness into an ungodly home. He or she will introduce a measure of sanctification. The whole basic principle of sanctification is separation and holiness – cleanness! So it is with the children of a Christian parent. The children will be kept clean from the filth of this world! They will be, as far as possible kept separate from the influences of this world, they will be Holy!

Christian parents, don’t you try to protect your children from this world? You try to keep them from evil influences. You keep them away from alcohol and from drugs and from false cults. You teach them to be obedient and thankful and respectful to others. You teach them good manners and you are careful what films they watch and what videos and games they buy, and you monitor their use of the internet. All of these things are, of course, just good parent-craft. But there is an extra dimension, for in addition to all of these you covenant with the Lord for household salvation! You PRAY FOR THEM and you WITNESS TO THEM and you have FAITH IN GOD, that one day they will be truly His! There is, of course a biblical and a theological basis to all of this!

Our Children Covenanted
We derive this theological doctrine from our understanding of THE COVENANT OF GRACE. Of course this doctrine does not mean that they are already saved! Look very carefully at Romans 9:8 They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. Now that verse well describes Covenant Children. They are not the children of God, but they are children of the promise! This teaching of Paul’s is part of that great overarching doctrine of the Bible, within which God chooses out for Himself a people, redeems them from slavery and sin, makes them His own, and promises them great blessing. The mediator of this Covenant, which God makes with His people, is the Lord Jesus Christ. His Covenant is summed up in these words, 2 Cor. 6:16 God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Everywhere that you see these words in the Bible, and they occur frequently in both Testaments, you are reading about the Covenant of Grace! Now this great promise, this great covenant was made, in Israel, with believers, and with the children of believers! There is a wonderful promise for the Christian parent! The PROMISE OF HOUSEHOLD SALVATION! These little babies, THE CHILDREN OF BELIEVERS are reckoned to be part of the great covenant promise that God gave to his people. They are ‘covenant children.’ Now there are two aspects of this covenant with the Lord which apply to us as Christian parents:-

We must have FAITH IN GOD, THAT HE WILL DO WHAT HE HAS PROMISED AND WILL BRING OUR CHILDREN TO HIMSELF! Abraham, when he received the Covenant Promise of God, was given that promise before he had any children! In faith he claimed the promise of God that his seed would be a great nation, and that they would possess a land! Romans 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Galatians 3:6 James 2:23 Genesis 45:10 And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast: Exodus 34:7 Proverbs 13:22 Ezekiel 37:25 Psalm 132:12 If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore. Joel 1:3 Acts 2:39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. In the Old Testament, the sign of the covenant was circumcision, which was administered to children, on the basis of the faith of their parents. In the New Testament, the sign of the Covenant is Baptism, and the same principles apply. In covenant baptism we see the sign of the covenant, a visual aid, showing all who would see, that the child is separate, holy, different, and the parent at baptism covenants with the Lord, having faith as Abraham did, that one day God’s promise will come to fruition, and that little child will be saved!

In every covenant there are stipulations laid down upon the signatories to the covenant. In this Covenant of Grace, God makes us certain promises. He promises that we shall be His people, and He will be our God. We, for our part, must obey Him. In our lives and in our testimonies, we must be faithful to Him! Andrew Murray said, “Parents must be what they want their children to be! If we want to keep them from the sin of Cain who did not love his brother, let us beware of the sin of Adam who did not love the commandment of his God. Let his mother and Father lead a life marked by love to God and man.”

Our Children Cherished
Because our children are different, and because they are separate, and because we have covenanted with the Lord for them at their baptism, we wish to follow a biblical pattern in their upbringing and nurture. Ephesians. 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Practically speaking, how can we do that? Let us look at a six basic Biblical guidelines:-

Worship in the family. The Covenant Child will be taught to PRAY and will be PRAYED FOR. He will be taught to read the Scriptures in the home, and he will know that there is a time to switch off the TV and have the family altar.

Instruction in the way. Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Deut. 6:7

Fellowship in the church. Covenant children will be brought to the Lord’s House! They will be taught to attend, and to sit and to be at peace and at home in Christian worship. Illus. Tim & the spoon!

Discipline in the home. Children must be controlled! There must be effective discipline, something which is sadly lacking in today’s society! 1 Tim. 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity. Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 22:15

Example in the parents. A Good example is found in Lois! 2 Tim. 1:5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. A Poor example might be Eli, the Old Testament priest whose children brought shame and disgrace upon him. 1 Samuel 3:13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.

Love in the heart! Titus 2:4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. It will be Fatherly Love! Remember that our fatherly care for our children should reflect the fatherhood of God for us! How does God love us? He loved us when we were unlovable! He loved us, His straying children, so much that He gave up His most cherished possession for us! He loved us so much that even when we were straying far from Him, he waited patiently to receive us home! It will be Far-Reaching Love! That is Covenant Love! The OT word for love is ‘hesed’ – it means covenant love!

We are called to be an influence on our children. What sort of influence will we be? As Christians, living within the Covenant of Grace, we bring our children to the Lord, and pray that He will keep them from the contamination of this world, and that in His Sovereign timing, He will redeem their souls from destruction!

From → Sermon Notes

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