How do you understand Paul’s statement that our children are holy? And what are the practical consequences? (Part 2)


In the previous Q&A, we discussed the fact that children of at least one converted parent are “sanctified” or “holy” in God’s eyes, which means that they can have a special and intimate relationship with God; that they CAN speak to God, expecting to be heard, and they can experience and obtain an answer from God. They are not cut off from God the Father, but they must make the decision of wanting to have continuing contact with God, by not neglecting or forsaking the Way of God.

We also discussed the blessing of little children and the fact that God assigns guardian angels to them for their protection, so that they can reach their potential of becoming baptized and ultimately born-again members in the God Family.

It is true, of course, that the teaching and conduct of parents can have an influence on the decision of the children to either become and stay loyal to God or to reject Him, but, as we will show, it is ultimately the decision of the child or teenager or young adult as to how to conduct his or her Way of Life and whether or not to maintain a relationship with God.

For instance, we read in 2 Kings 22:1–2, “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath.And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”

Josiah was eight years old when he became king. His mother is mentioned by name—Jedidah. Although the son of an evil father, Amon, he turned out to be one of the most righteous and outstanding kings that have ever lived (compare 2 Kings 23:25). It is obvious that his mother Jedidah had trained him up “in the fear of the LORD.”

When Josiah was 16 years old, “while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David” (2 Chronicles 34:3). Notice, it was he himself who made the decision; it was his decision—not the decision of his mother—prompting him to really seek the true God and to become more and more familiar with Him.

It is critically important to realize and emphasize the individual decision of the child. The righteousness of parents does not automatically mean that their children become and stay righteous; and the unrighteousness of parents does not mean that their children must become and stay unrighteous.

David was a righteous man who will be in the Kingdom of God. But his son Absalom rebelled against his father and God. David’s son Amnon violated his step-sister. David’s son Solomon departed from God’s Way of Life–at least temporarily.

Samuel was a righteous prophet of God, but his sons did not walk in God’s ways (1 Samuel 8:3).

Noah was a righteous man, but the Bible does not say that his sons were righteous. In fact, we read that his grandson Canaan, the youngest son of Ham, violated and sexually abused his own grandfather (see Genesis 9:20-27; it was Ham’s youngest son Canaan who had violated Noah, compare verse 24 in most translations, but Ham was not Noah’s youngest son).

Lot was righteous, but this cannot be said about his two daughters (Genesis 19:30-38).

There is even strong evidence to conclude that Moses’ grandson, Jonathan, was deeply involved in idolatry (Judges 18:30; other translations and commentaries say here that Gershom was the son of “Moses”; not of “Manasseh”).

The Bible makes it very clear that in the end, every person is individually responsible for what he or she is doing. To blame shortcomings on others is not an acceptable “excuse” in the eyes of God. In Ezekiel 18:4, God explains that the soul who sins shall die. He then describes a righteous father who begets an unrighteous son, and explains that the unrighteous son will die because of his unrighteousness, while the father will live because of his righteousness (Ezekiel 18:5-13). We read in Ezekiel 14:19-20:

“‘Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out My fury on it in blood, and cut off from it man and beast, even though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live,’ says the LORD God, ‘they would deliver neither son nor daughter; they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness.”‘

On the other hand, we also read in Ezekiel 18:14-17 that if an unrighteous father begets a son who sees and considers the sins of his father and decides to live a righteous life instead, he will “not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live.”

Exodus 20:4-6 does not contradict the foregoing. It reads: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image… you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

This passage does not say that the child will be cursed by God because of his or her parents’ sins, even though the child itself is innocent. Note that Exodus 20:5 speaks of those “who hate Me.” Soncino points out that the phrase applies to the children; i.e., God will punish those children who hate Him. Soncino comments, too, that the punishment will be brought upon the children, “when they retain the evil deeds of their fathers.”

The Companion Bible comments on Ezekiel 18:4, 20: “Descendants were not punished for the sins of their ancestors unless they persevered in their ancestors’ sins.” In addition, passages like Deuteronomy 24:16 state that children are not to be put to death for the sins of their fathers. The same is expressed in 2 Kings 14:6. Again, it depends on the child’s decision to either live righteously or unrighteously; to either be blessed or cursed by God. The child of a converted parent is “sanctified” or “holy”; that is, he or she CAN have a relationship with God, but the child must respond to God’s sanctification in order to ultimately receive his or her glorification. 

Rightly understood, Proverbs 22:6 does not teach that a child who has been trained by a righteous parent will continue automatically in God’s Way of Life. Proverbs 22:6 reads: “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Some claim, this passage implies that the child might depart for a while from God’s Way of Life, but later return to what he or she has been trained in. Some go a step further and claim that the correct rendering should be, “Train up a child in the way he should go, EVEN when he is old he will not depart from it.” They teach that this passage conveys the thought that the child will never depart from his way, throughout his life, including or even when he or she is old. Most, though, reject this rendering and interpretation for good reasons, as this understanding is clearly not biblical.

The Broadman Bible Commentary points out: “The ‘way he should go’ of v. 6 is not defined specifically, but in the context there can be little doubt that it includes the way reflected in the positive elements of vv. 1, 3, 4, 5, i.e., pious and properly prepared for life. However, this may well include vocational training as well. The training needed for life should be given in the early years, when habits and patterns of behavior and work are set.”

In light of the fact that the Bible emphasizes individual responsibility, it must be concluded that Proverbs 22:6 does not intend to impress the idea that the righteous teaching of parents will automatically lead to the conversion of a child. It is true, of course, that parents are to teach their children about God and His Way of Life (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). But this does not mean that converted parents can bring about the conversion of their children. They have their own responsibility in the matter.

Ultimately, a child who is “brought up” in God’s Church CAN make it into God’s Kingdom. Those who are called today for salvation have been foreknown and predestined by God to be called before they were born. This does not only apply to converted parents, but also to their children (Of course, many times those who were predestined to be called in this day and age were not even children of believing parents, but we are concentrating in this Q&A on those children who were and are being raised by converted parents.)

This means, God is willing to protect them, beginning with conception and birth and continuing throughout their growth until they reach the point where they can become baptized. (Of course, God will continue to protect His converted children.) The influence of their converted parent(s) can be of great help in this regard, but even if both their parents were to leave God’s Church and His Way of Life, this does not mean that the children must follow their bad example. If they have learned that it is God’s Will for them to keep the Sabbath, they can and must decide to continue to do so—even if they are the only ones in their family, in school or on the job. God looks at those who stand up for Him—no matter the costs and circumstances. This requires a strong will and great conviction—but God will give them the strength and the wisdom to continue in His right Way of Life, if they are willing.

It is also true, of course, that those children who are being taught and raised by their converted parents must come to the point where they prove for themselves that what they are being taught is true. They might have developed a “habit,” due to the teaching and practice of their parents, to “keep” the Sabbath by “going to church” that day and sitting quietly in services for two hours, but that alone is never enough. Rather, they must prove for themselves in due time that God demands of them the keeping of the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days; the abstention from unclean meat; and the rejection of observing Sunday, Christmas, Easter or Halloween—again, no matter the costs and circumstances.

The sanctified child, growing up, has a wide-ranging responsibility for making right decisions. Having been taught that it is wrong to smoke or to take drugs or to get tattoos, the child or teen must decide not to smoke or to take drugs or to get tattoos. The sanctified child had been taught that it is wrong to engage in pre-marital or extra-marital sex, and as a teen, he or she has to make the decision not to engage in such practices. The sanctified child had been taught that it is wrong to marry someone who is not converted; and as an adult, he or she has to make the decision not to even consider such a mixed marriage. The sanctified child had been taught that it is wrong to live an alternate lifestyle; as a teen, he or she will have to refuse to become and live as a gay or a lesbian; and he or she will certainly have to refuse to change his or her sex with which he or she was born.

A sanctified child had been taught to stay away from the bad crowd—not to “enter the path of the wicked” (Proverbs 4:14); as a teen or young adult, he or she will need to decide not to follow them or be a part of their company (compare Psalm 1:1). A sanctified child was taught about the Law of God; as a teen or young adult, he or she will have to decide to have “delight… in the law of the LORD” (Psalm 1:2; compare Psalm 119:97). He or she will have to appreciate that the law of God makes him or her wiser than his or her enemies and even his or her teachers (Psalm 119:98-99); and he or she will grow more and more in godly wisdom when doing what God commands (John 7:17; compare John 8:31-32).

As a sanctified child, he or she has been taught that it is wrong to cheat or to lie; as a teen or young adult, he or she will have to decide not to cheat or to lie, having convinced him- or herself that lying is of the devil (John 8:44). As a sanctified child, he or she has been taught that it is wrong to steal or to kill; as a teen or a young adult, he or she will have to decide never to steal or to kill, and his or her conviction will also prevent him or her from joining the army or the police force (compare Matthew 26:52; Revelation 13:10). This is not to say that a young child should ever engage in evil; but in many cases, he or she will behave “correctly”—generally speaking—due to the influence, direction and discipline of his or her parents; but the time will come for the teen or young adult to become thoroughly convicted and, based on this conviction, to decide doing the right thing irrespective of his or her parents.

As we pointed out before, King Josiah was eight years old when he became king. He did what was right, due, no doubt, to his mother’s influence, but when he was sixteen, he himself began to seek the true God, and when he was twenty, he had become convicted and bold enough to carry out what he, as the king in the service of God, was obligated to do (compare again 2 Chronicles 34:3). He started as a young boy and he became a strong man. Others started as young girls and became strong women. They had been sanctified by God, and they fulfilled their destiny (Compare Song of Solomon 8:8-10: When she was young, her older brothers protected her and took care of her, making sure that she lived the right way; when she grew older, she herself decided to live the right way).

It is a priceless privilege to be a “sanctified” child. Only very few children have this privilege today; and those who do should regard it as invaluable. It must never be belittled or neglected or treated in a lackadaisical way. Rather, a sanctified child is holy to God. It must be holy to us as well.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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