This morning I would like to discuss some of the ramifications covenant theology has on being a father and mother with regard to raising our children. In doing so I would like to begin at a place where we all should agree, and move out from there to less often charted territory.
The Bible tells us that Adam, whose name means ‘man,’ was representative of all mankind and when he sinned we all sinned in him (Rom. 5: 15-17; 1 Cor. 15:22). The Bible also tells us that Adam was a type of one to come (Rom. 5:14). So Adam was a precursor for one who would come later and undo the things he did. And that is what we find the Bible teaching when it says:
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:15-19
The free gift, as it turns out, was the death of Jesus on a cross. Adam’s trespass caused everyone, who is in him, to die; and Jesus’ death gave life to everyone in him. This is why the Scriptures say, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Adam is our leader in sin and Christ is our leader in righteousness. They represent two worlds or kingdoms. Usually, the Bible distinguishes between the Kingdom of God and the world (Mt. 13:38ff; 24:14ff; Jn. 18; Jas 2:5; Rev. 11:15).
Justice and Headship:
Many have wondered how our salvation could come because someone died in our place. After all, the Bible says that the soul who sins shall die (Ez. 18:4. See also 2 Chron. 25:4; Jer. 31:30). This means that it is just for us to die for our own sins, so how does it make sense for God, who is just (Deut 32:4), to allow someone else to die in our place? And to top it off how is it just for someone who has no sin of his own, to die in our place when we fully deserve that death?
The Creation Order:
God created the whole creation to interact with itself in this way. Romans 8:22 tells us that all of creation is groaning as it awaits the final end of the eschaton, when the sons of God are revealed, exalted, glorified, justified, sanctified, and finally redeemed. This is because everything is in this with us and under us (Gen. 1:28). God has created the whole universe to be in a covenantal relationship: representative, federal, and interrelated with one another. When men do something in creation all of creation is affected by it: either for good or for evil.
Not only is creation in subjection to mankind because of this covenantal relationship, but men and women are in this same kind of relationship with one another with regard to governments and nations. When the king of Assyria boasted about how great he was when he destroyed the nation of Israel in Isaiah 10, God destroyed not just the king, but the king’s whole nation. The people died because of the king’s pride. On the other hand, when God lifted up the king, the individual people were lifted up as well. This is the kind of relationship that God created in all things. It is called covenantal relationship.
Some would see all of this simply as an application of common Grace and it is, but it goes deeper than that. We are connected to one another and we are created in the image of the triune God (every part connected to every other part, in a harmonic relationship) and so we pour out God’s love on one another. If you see a drunk in a ditch, you are responsible to love him and take care of him because he is part of God’s created order and thus part of you. If he hurts, all of humanity hurts. It is this understanding of the created order—covenant—that should motivate our evangelism and missionary service.
In a more formal way, God enters into his people’s lives and calls them to a relationship with him. The relationship in the Garden of Eden was assumed to be a covenantal relationship for two reasons (one more major than the other): First, it is referred to as such in Hos. 6:7. Second, that is the only kind of relationship God has with anyone. We are either in covenant with God or we are in really big trouble.
When we enter into the covenant with God in a formal way this includes his calling on our lives, our confession of our rebelliousness, our need for his saving hand, and our humble request for healing and rescue. For his part God saves us, adopts us, and transforms us into the image of his son Jesus Christ. He gives us his presence through his Holy Spirit and he creates in us, shows his presence in our lives by producing fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, and self control.
But the way it works is much greater than this. He not only saves us as individuals, he also places us into his redeemed community the church and into families that are being redeemed. Within these social groups there are hierarchies of submission to one another. We are called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21), wives submit to husbands as unto the Lord (Eph. 5:22), congregants to submit to elders because they keep watch over your souls (Heb. 13:17), Church leaders serve their congregations (2 Cor. 4:5), and citizens to governmental rulers because God has placed them there to serve him (Rom. 13:1). Everyone is tied to everyone else in a loving, serving, submissive way. So that instead of fighting for our rights, we fight for the rights of one another. In short we lay down our lives for one another (1 John 3:16).
With this in mind then let us look a little more closely and specifically at how the covenantal relationship with God should affect our families. First, you parents need to know that who you are as people are who your children will become. Jesus says that the student is like his teacher (Luke 6:40) and because you are their primary teachers they will be like you. So men love the wife of your covenant (Mal 2:15), treat your children’s mother with tender love, respect, and courtesy. Nourish her and cherish her, honor her above all else. Parents treat your children as fellow heirs of the promises of God. Know that they will be spending eternity with God in glory and how you treat them today will affect generations to come. Second, you need to know that the things you say to your kids will come true for them, so bless them and do not curse (Gen. 49). Like Job, pray for them, offer sacrifices of praise for them, intercede for them, cry out to God on their behalf. Third, God tells parents to teach their children these things when you celebrate a feast (Ex. 12:26-27), as you talk to your kids around the dinner table, when you walk along the way, when you lie down at night, and when you get up in the morning (Deut. 6:7-9). God wants godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). This is what covenantal living is all about. You can’t get away from it. It is the way God made the world. You can fight it, or you can submit to it and love God for it.