1 Corinthians 7:14

Sermon preached on November 20, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Someone once gave me a book with the title, "Everything the Bible Says About Infant Baptism". I was a little bit amused when I saw the title and realized that the book wasn't very thick. It was really rather thin. I was a lot more amused when I opened it to glance at it and noticed that there was no printing on any of the pages. They were all blank. The person who gave we the book was making a point with that little gift—that the Bible doesn't say anything at all about infant baptism and that our church shouldn't practice it.

That was funny but at the same time it was somewhat frustrating. Whoever thought of the idea for that book, with blank pages, had a very distinct view of how the Bible taught things. They obviously saw the Bible as a series of proof texts. The idea was that if you can't find a verse that directly teaches something, you shouldn't believe it.

But that's not a good way to view the Bible.

The Bible is not meant to be viewed as a series of proof texts.

The Bible teaches us things in various ways. Some doctrines can be proved by proof texts because they are clearly set down in Scripture. For example, 1 John 4:16 says,

"God is love."

It can't be any clearer than that. But what we should realize is that that's not the only way that God teaches us things in the Bible. If you think that that's the only way that God teaches us things in the Bible, you can go far astray and you'll find yourself involved in contradictions.

For example, does the Bible teach that God is changeable, that He changes His mind—or is God's way and plan perfect and without change? In 1 Samuel 15:11 God said to Samuel,

"I am grieved that I have made Saul king,
because he has turned away from me
and has not carried out my instructions."

Yet, later in the same chapter, we read, (verse 29)

"He who is the Glory of Israel
does not lie or change his mind;
for he is not a man,
that he should change his mind."

So which is it? If the Bible is just a series of proof texts either position is tenable—but they are both contradictory.

Another example is found in Mark 10:17-23. How are we saved? Consider what Jesus told the rich young ruler. The man came to Jesus and asked him this question, (Mark 10:17–23)

"Good teacher, what must I do
to inherit eternal life?"

Now, if you view the Bible as a series of proof texts, Jesus' reply can be problematic, in two ways. First, Jesus said,

"Why do you call me good?
No one is good—except God alone."

If the Bible is just a series of proof texts, someone could use that verse to teach that Jesus denied that He was God. But Jesus wasn't doing that. In light of other passages of Scripture we can safely conclude that what Jesus was doing was attempting to get the man to realize the deep truth of his words—that He was indeed God. But just taking that verse alone, some people might misunderstand the verse and think that Jesus was denying that He was God.

The second part of Jesus' answer is problematic as well. He said to the man,

"You know the commandments:
'Do not murder,
do not commit adultery,
do not steal,
do not give false testimony,
do not defraud,
honor your father and mother."

Is that how we are saved, by keeping the law? If you view the Bible as a series of proof texts and ignore other verses, you could conclude that.

But you see, there's a lot more going on that. The man didn't realize he was a great sinner. He then told Jesus that he had kept the law ever since he was a boy. Jesus then showed him that he had not been keeping the law by saying to him,

"One thing you lack.
Go, sell everything you have
and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me."

Jesus was showing the man that he was a sinner. One of the prerequisites for going to Jesus is seeing your need of Him. Jesus knew the man thought he was okay on his own. He didn't see his sin. So Jesus was teaching him the gospel in a way that was best suited for him. By telling him to sell everything he had, he wasn't telling him that he could purchase heaven, but was showing him that he had not in fact loved his neighbor as he loved himself—he had not been keeping the law.

We are not saved by keeping the law. Great parts of Romans and Galatians show that clearly. As we read in Galatians 2:16,

"know that a man is not justified
by observing the law,
but by faith in Jesus Christ.
So we, too, have put our faith
in Christ Jesus that we may be
justified by faith in Christ
and not by observing the law,
because by observing the law
no one will be justified."

So you see, the Bible is not a series of proof texts. It's much more than that. It is true that some things are expressly set down in Scripture. But other doctrines in the Bible are not expressly set down like that. They have to be deduced from it.

For example, where in the Bible does it say that
gambling is wrong? If you do a search for the word gambling or gamble looking for a verse that says,

"Do not gamble.”

You're not going to find it. I did a search for 'gamble' or 'gambling' in 8 or 9 popular English versions and I found the word 'gamble' in only one. It was referring to the Old Testament practice of 'casting lots', which was not forbidden in the Old Testament, but was often used by God's people.

So what does that prove? That gambling is okay for God's people? Some people think that. My friend S. once worked at a seminary. He told me that once that had a big problem with one of their students playing online poker. It came to their attention not because the guy was losing money and impoverishing himself or his family—but because he was winning. When they tried to show him that he shouldn't be doing it, the student responded,

"But I'm really good at it!"

He didn't see anything wrong with what he was doing. I'm not sure how the case turned out, whether they convinced him to stop or whether they had to expel him.

But if you were in put yourself in the position of the seminary, how would you try to convince him that gambling is forbidden in light of the fact that there are no proof texts that deal directly with it? If you're looking to show why gambling is wrong you need to look for a lot more than proof texts that contain the actual word. The Bible condemns greed. It tells us to be content with what we have. It warns us against wanting to be rich. It tells you to love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you're into gambling your violating all those commandments. Gambling is clearly condemned in the Bible even though you can't find a proof text against it.

Or what about
pornography? Again, the Bible doesn't literally say,

"Pornography is bad."

You can't find the word in most, if not all, popular English translations. To see that pornography is wrong you have to go to verses that deal with idolatry, with verses that tell Christians that they have to keep themselves pure, verses that show that lust is forbidden, verses like Matthew 5:28 and Job 31:1. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus said,

"But I tell you that anyone
who looks at a woman lustfully
has already committed adultery
with her in his heart."

Job 31:1 has Job saying,

"I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl."

Another example is the doctrine of the Trinity. It's a very Scriptural doctrine that begins to be taught in the first two verses of the Bible. But there's no one place where it's all laid out. You have to combine the teachings of many verses to come to an accurate understanding of the Trinity.

The point of all this is that some doctrines have to be deduced from Scripture. They are not explicitly stated in Scripture. As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, (Chapter 1, section 6)

"The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture:"

That's the way it is with infant baptism. The doctrine of infant baptism is not expressly set down in Scripture. But that doesn't mean that it's not biblical. It's very biblical. It's just taught in the same way that the doctrine of the Trinity is taught—not by proof texts, but different teachings of Scripture, which, when put together, show that it is what God wants His church to do.

Let's look at some of these things.

First, we should understand that

one of the foundations of the teaching for infant baptism is the doctrine of the covenant.

In the Old Testament God established His covenant with Abraham. It was a spiritual covenant based on Abraham's faith. Romans 4 makes this abundantly clear. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:3) The sign of the covenant was circumcision. Not only was Abraham to be circumcised, but also his male children. Children were given the sign of the covenant to show that they were in the covenant. God said to Abraham, (Genesis 17:7)

"I will establish my covenant
as an everlasting covenant between
me and you and your descendants
after you for the generations to come,
to be your God and the God
of your descendants after you."

Children under the old covenant, were included in the covenant. God promised to work through families. As God said in Genesis 18:17–19

"Abraham will surely become
a great and powerful nation,
and all nations on earth
will be blessed through him.
For I have chosen him,
so that he will direct his children
and his household after him
to keep the way of the LORD
by doing what is right and just,
so that the LORD will bring about
for Abraham what he has promised him. "

Children had an interest and a part in the covenant. When the covenant was ratified the people were told to bring their children to the ratification. We read about this in Deuteronomy 29:9–13. Moses said to the people when they had gathered together,

"Carefully follow the terms
of this covenant, so that you
may prosper in everything you do.
All of you are standing today
in the presence of the LORD your God
—your leaders and chief men,
your elders and officials,
and all the other men of Israel,
together with your children
and your wives,
and the aliens living in your camps
who chop your wood and carry your water.
You are standing here in order
to enter into a covenant
with the LORD your God,
a covenant the LORD is making with you
this day and sealing with an oath,
to confirm you this day as his people,
that he may be your God
as he promised you and
as he swore to your fathers,
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

In the Old Testament there was a discrepancy between the physical seed of Abraham and those who were actually saved. (This discrepancy exists in the New Covenant as well, even among those who practice believer's baptism. Not everyone who confesses Christ and is baptized goes to heaven. Some are hypocrites and are not really Christians. Some eventually forsake Christ and get involved in great sin and never repent. They perish.) Not every child who received the sign of the covenant was saved. Circumcision did not save them. God told the Israelites that they needed to circumcise their hearts, that physical circumcision did not save them. (Jeremiah 4:4, Deuteronomy 10:16) They needed to have the same faith that Abraham had.

Nevertheless, all male children were to be circumcised. It is true that many who had the sign of the covenant perished. As the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:6

"For not all who are
descended from Israel are Israel."

All the male children of Abraham were to receive the sign of the covenant. Even though it was through Isaac that the promise was to be fulfilled, Ishmael was also to receive the sign of the covenant. God knew that Esau was not elect. God said,

"Jacob have I loved,
Esau have I hated."

Yet it was God's appointment that Esau receive the sign of the covenant. All the children were in the covenant. They had all been brought near to God and were all under obligation to obey and serve Him. They were given great privileges. As the apostle Paul said about his countrymen, (in the context it refers especially to the Jews who had not believed) in Romans 9:4–5,

"Theirs is the adoption as sons;
theirs the divine glory, the covenants,
the receiving of the law,
the temple worship and the promises.
Theirs are the patriarchs,
and from them is traced
the human ancestry of Christ,
who is God over all,
forever praised! Amen."

Everyone in the covenant had these great privileges. They were greatly blessed.

Now, the great question is—under the New Covenant, have things changed?

Is there a different arrangement?

I think the first thing we should say in this regard is that if there is, it is something really remarkable, and that not in a good way. Donald Macleod writes, (p. 250)

"If there is, then it means that something happens here which never happens in any other connection as we move from the Old Testament to the New. Things get worse! We experience impoverishment! Under the Old Testament, parents had the privilege of hearing God say, 'Take your children, too, and put the sign on them: the sign that God's promise is to them as well. Put the sign of that promise on your child because your child is special.'"

John Murray writes, (Baptism, p. 49)

"Is the new covenant… less generous than was the Abrahamic?… Are infants in the new dispensation more inhabile to the grace of God?" "If infants are excluded now, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that this change implies a complete reversal of the earlier divinely instituted practice. So we must ask: do we find any hint or intimation of such reversal in either the Old or the New Testament?"

The answer is no. If we were to stop giving the sign of the covenant to the children—where is such a command? For such a drastic change we would expect clear teaching. But it's not there.

Not only that, but the evidence points to the fact that things were to continue in the New Testament as they had in the Old. The children of believers are included in the covenant.

When people brought children to Jesus his disciples tried to stop them, but Jesus rebuked them and told them to bring the children to him. He said,

"Of such is the kingdom of God…"

He welcomed children. He showed that they had an interest in Him as much as adults did.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jews, (Acts 2:39

"The promise is for you and your children"

In the book of Acts there are instances of household baptisms. If you look at the teaching of Ephesians 6:1, 4 and Colossians 3:20, 21, you'll see that God, at points, specifically addressed children. They were not considered outside the community of the saints, but were included in it. (Ephesians was addressed to the 'saints', Colossians was addressed to, 'the holy and faithful brothers in Christ'.)

Our text clearly teaches that the children of a believer, are not in the same category as the children of unbelievers, exactly the way it was in the Old Testament. In the context Paul is dealing with marriage, with those who came to believe in Jesus, while their spouses didn't. Should they divorce the unbelievers? No. Not if the unbeliever is willing to live with him. Paul says, (1 Corinthians 7:14)

"For the unbelieving husband
has been sanctified through his wife,
and the unbelieving wife
has been sanctified
through her believing husband.
Otherwise your children would be unclean,
but as it is, they are holy."

There was great hope for the unbelieving husband because of his close connection to his Christian wife. As Paul said in verse 16, (see also 1 Peter 3:-2)

"How do you know, wife,
whether you will save your husband?
Or, how do you know, husband,
whether you will save your wife?"

Gordon D. Fee writes that here, (The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 301-302.

"Paul is setting forth a high view of the grace of God at work through the believer toward members of his/her own household (cf. 1 Pet. 3:1)…"

Geoffrey W. Bromiley writes, (Children of Promise, p. 8)

"In relation to the unbelieving spouse the apostle's meaning seems to be that in virtue of the other's faith he or she is separated to God, enjoys a status within the covenant, and comes into the sphere of evangelical action and promise with the hope of future conversion. But the same is true of the children."

They have a status, a condition of 'holiness' that the children of unbelievers do not have.

Now this doesn't mean that they are elect, or that they have already been saved or that they in the future will all be saved. Nor do we believe that baptism saves them. We do not believe in baptismal regeneration. Baptism does not save anyone. Donald Macleod writes, (A Faith to Live By, p. 252)

"Why do I baptize children? Is it because I believe that the infants of all believing parents are elect? No! Is it because I believe that the infants of believing parents will all one day be born again? No! It is because God gave me an ordinance: Put the sign of the spiritual covenant on the physical seed. At the very beginning of this arrangement God put Ishmael and Esau there to remind us that we were not to do this on the ground that we knew theologically how the thing worked. We were to do it because God said it… It was to be done (and still is to be done) on the ground that God said, 'Put the sign of my promise not only on yourselves but also on your children.'"

Now, what does this mean in practical terms?

First, you parents have a great obligation to your children.

You can't change the heart of your children. Nor does their salvation depend ultimately on how good a job you do. Their salvation depends on God's election, on God's choosing them before the foundation of the world, on God's love, on God's good pleasure, on God's work in Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, you are to seek to do your duty of bringing up your children in a godly manner and urging them to have faith in Jesus. God employs means in saving people. Sometimes it's someone reading the Word. Sometimes it's hearing the Word preached. Sometimes it's through a stranger witnessing to them. Or it's a combination of those things. But it's sometimes because of the life and teaching of Christian parents. God uses that to bring His elect into the kingdom. Teach your children. Pray for them. Discipline them. Love them. Spent time with them teaching them about our wonderful Savior.

Secondly, we can have great hope for our children.

Perhaps you have a child that hasn't accepted Christ. They seem to be forsaking the covenant. That's not a good sign. They really need our prayers.

Yet, you can still have hope. You should not give up on hope. You don't have to read very many Christian biographies to see that some covenant children don't come to the Lord when they are young—but they do it when they are much older, sometimes after a period of great rebellion against God.

It was that way with Augustine of Hippo, one of the earliest church theologians. His mother Monica was very godly. In his Confessions Augustine tells that whenever one of her sons went astray,

"She acted as if she was undergoing again the pangs of childbirth."

Yet Augustine often gave her such pains. He rejected Christianity. For a long time he lived a very immoral life, living for 15 years with a woman who was not his wife. For a time he became involved in a cult. While he was a heretic his mother wouldn't even let him in her house. Yet, when he was 32 years old, the Lord opened his heart. He became one of the most revered Christians ever.

John Newton, of Amazing Grace fame, is another example. His mother was a very godly woman. She brought him up in church and prayed often and diligently for her son. Yet she died just before his seventh birthday. Newton then rebelled against God and everything that was holy. Read a biography of Newton and you'll see what he meant by the line in Amazing Grace that said, "that saved a wretch like me'. It was not until he was 23 did God open his heart to the gospel. Newton was later to say that,

"even in the darkest days of his depravity he could not forget the hymns, Scripture verses, and catechism his mother had taught him."

There are countless stories like that.

While it is true that not every covenant child will come to the Lord, we can take hope from the promise that God has given us, that He will be our God and the God of our children. Don't give up hope. Keep praying. Keep being a good example. Keep teaching.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, this has implications for you. Our text is about only one of the means that God uses to bring people to Himself.

Being raised in a covenant family and coming to Christ is not the only way to come to Christ.

The gospel is for you too. No matter what your background, the gospel is for you. Jesus loves sinners and if you're a sinner you're in the exact category of people that He came to save. Go to Him today. Find life in Jesus.