Matthew 19:13-15 Blessing covenant children

Whatever the crisis, it is usually the children who suffer most.  Whether in times of famine or in war and civil unrest, many suffer directly as victims or may be part of families that are torn apart.  We are also acutely aware of the abuse of children and the scars left by domestic conflict.  Throughout Scripture there is great concern for children and a high value put on them.  Consider Matthew 19:13-15 Blessing covenant children.

1. Parental concern for covenant children

Very different attitudes are evident in the disciples and those bringing children to Jesus.  The parents act out of faith, seeking his blessing and prayers (v13).  The children in question are very young (see Luke 18:15).  There is no rebuke from Jesus.  The parents’ concern is perfectly proper.  The disciples, however, ‘rebuked those who brought them’.  Perhaps they thought that children were beneath Jesus’ concern or they may not have wanted their discussions with Jesus interrupted.  Jesus in turn rebukes the disciples – ‘Let the little children come to me’ (v14).  The parents’ concern reflects his concern, and should be the concern of all of the Lord’s people.  Such loving concern is both a duty and a privilege.

2. Spiritual privileges of covenant children

These are the children of God’s people – covenant children.  The OT shows clearly that God’s covenant embraces the children of his people (Genesis 17:7).  Believers in the NT are in the same covenant and their children enjoy the same privilege.  Note Jesus’ statement, ‘the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’ (v14).  2 great privileges are included:

  1. They are citizens of the Kingdom.  At least some of these children were regenerate, the Spirit having implanted new spiritual life in them.  Such was John the Baptist (Luke 1:15, 44).  The Lord is not saying that this is the case with all of these infants.  Regarding the faith that saves, where new life has been implanted, the response of faith will become evident as the child grows up.  The sin they are born with needs to be forgiven.
  2. They are members of the Church.  All covenant children are to be counted as within the circle of the covenant – only through time will it become apparent if they have not experienced the saving grace of God.  They are to receive the sacrament of initiation – circumcision in the OT and baptism in the NT.  We baptise covenant children because of what they are, not in order to make them something.  They have the responsibility to accept the obligations of God’s covenant by faith in Christ and make profession of faith.

3. Loving ministry to covenant children

Jesus ‘placed his hands on them’ (v15) – symbolic of blessing them.  The Church, as well as parents, has the duty and responsibility of ministering to covenant children:

  1. Prayer, seeking that they will come to faith and will lovingly serve the Lord.
  2. Teaching, supplementing parental instruction, grounding them in God’s truth.
  3. Example, providing consistent models of living out God’s truth in daily life.

These are great tasks that should drive us to prayer for the Spirit’s enabling and grace.

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