Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (2): Heirs of the Kingdom of God
Reformed Free Publishing Association
Picture a glorious king seated on a throne in a royal palace with watchful advisors standing at attention and waiting for the bidding of the sovereign. Then in comes the royal children. They need not stand at attention, but they run joyfully into the lap of the king and are received with familial love. We as children of God are also received in God’s favor and love!
The children of godly parents are heirs of the kingdom of God. In the Protestant Reformed Christian schools the children are taught with this in mind. Parents willingly sacrifice thousands of dollars to pay for tuition. As an educator, I have witnessed that parents give up a vacation to a warm locale so that they can pay for Christian education. At other times, I have seen mothers work diligently school night after school night helping a son or daughter who struggles at school. These stories warm the heart of any Christian educator. Covenant parents see their children as heirs of the kingdom!
By nature covenant children do not belong as heirs! Our baptism form states at the beginning that covenant children, “cannot enter in the kingdom of God” except they are born again. We thank our God that the covenant children are baptized because they are born again: “Since then baptism is come in the place of circumcision, therefore infants are to be baptized as heirs of the kingdom of God and of His covenant.” As Wielenga aptly states, “The cherub threatens no longer with a flaming sword at the entrance, but in the Lord’s name the messenger of the gospel steers the covenantal child inside” (p. 177). What a wonderful scene when the covenant child of believers is received into the bosom of the King!
Wielenga then directs our attention to the phrase, “infants are to be baptized as heirs” (emphasis MF). He states, “Pay attention to the word as!”(p. 178). In a masterful section, he explains, “That the children are not baptized in order to enter into God’s kingdom or to be admitted to the covenant, but the other way around, because they are already children of the kingdom and of the covenant” (p. 178). The conditional covenant would have the children do something to enter into the kingdom. The Reformed Baptism Form is the exact opposite. The children of believers are already in the covenant, so they ought to be baptized. The instruction is not intended to get the child saved, but rather to teach an heir of the kingdom.
Protestant Reformed educators are very thankful for parents who confess the unconditionality of the covenant. Otherwise, discipline in the school is impossible. A child who is an heir of the kingdom will heed covenant discipline. A child who is not an heir will not! In my experience, parents and teacher are supportive of each other in how to discipline a covenant child most of the time. This is a joy to the parents and teacher alike. The reason for this is that both parties agree that the child is an heir of the kingdom. When parents and teachers are on the same page in discipline, the phone call or email discussing the situation is a peaceful experience. Often these emails and telephone conversations end with, “I support you and we are thankful for your work as a teacher.” Parents, we teachers hear these words and are encouraged by them.
Parents and teachers must continually hold before the children that they are loved by King Jesus. We must encourage them to live a holy life as kingdom citizens. The children must know that, “They do not stand on an equal footing with the children of the heathen, because they are born under the promise” (p. 178). The solemn institution of baptism is a sign to the world that covenant children are separate. They must be instructed separately from the world as heirs of the kingdom. Even in earthly nations, the heirs to the throne are given a higher education separate from other children. In the heavenly kingdom, it is demanded that the children receive royal instruction. The Church Order states in Article 21 that, “The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian school in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.” As parents and teachers, let us endeavor to maintain good Christian schools for the instruction of our royal children.
This post was written by Mike Feenstra, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois. Mike also teaches fifth grade at the Protestant Reformed School in Dyer, Indiana.