by E. Calvin Beisner
Reformed Christians take comfort from Acts 2:39: “the promise is for you and for your children.” God’s promises are multi-generational. Paul’s assurance that children even of just one believing parent are “holy” (1 Cor. 7:14) reinforces our confidence, as does his statement: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).
We find the root of this comfort in God’s covenant with Abraham: “I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:7).
Yet simply being born of believers doesn’t guarantee salvation (Rom. 2:12–29). A child must also be raised faithfully in the covenant (Gen. 18:19; Deut. 6:6–9; Ps. 78:1–7), and he must believe (John 3:18). Only those “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” are children of God (John 1:10–13).
But if there is no blanket promise of salvation to the children of believers, is there no advantage to being born to Christian parents?
Yes! There is great advantage. Like the Jews, they are entrusted with the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2). That is a tremendous advantage, for “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23–25).
What other children hear the Word in the home, grow up in the church where they hear the preaching and teaching of the Word week in and week out, and where their friends and teachers encourage them to believe and obey? Where they learn the great hymns of the faith and soon have them in memory?
Yet the promise of salvation is to all who believe, and only to them. Far from unconditionally guaranteeing their salvation, the promises of Scripture to believers for their children establish Christian parents’ responsibility to evangelize our children.