Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (2): Heirs of the Kingdom of God

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.

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This post was written by Mike Feenstraa member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois. Mike also teaches fifth grade at the Protestant Reformed School in Dyer, Indiana. 

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Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (1)

We are excited to announce another writer who is joining the existing pool of writers for the RFPA blog. Mike Feenstra is a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Crete, Illinois, and also teaches fifth grade at the Protestant Reformed School in Dyer, Indiana. This is his first blog post.

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The existence of the Protestant Reformed Christian Schools is a testament to the covenant faithfulness of our Heavenly Father.  As an educator in these schools, I thank God for godly parents who faithfully carry out their vows according to our Reformed baptism form. Recently, the RFPA has published The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary by Bastiaan Wielenga.

Wielenga speaks in vivid language about the prayers of godly parents for their covenant children. In a moving section, he writes on the prayer used during baptism, “’Oh that thou wilt be pleased graciously to look upon this child, that is, do not judge this child according to his sins; do not look upon him in anger, but in mercy. Do not regard him with the eye of a judge, but with the eye of a father.’ This prayer has something of the publican’s cry of distress. ‘O God, have mercy on me!’”

This book has inspired me to write about the three sections of the form that speak directly on the education of covenant children.  

The first section is found directly preceding the prayer before baptism: “And parents are in duty bound further to instruct their children herein when they shall arrive to years of discretion.” Future blog posts will deal with our children as heirs of the kingdom and Christian parents’ duty to instruct their children.

The second section is included in the questions directed to the parents: “Whether you promise and intend to see these children, when come to the years of discretion (whereof you are either parent or witness), instructed and brought up in the aforesaid doctrine, or help or cause them to be instructed therein, to the utmost of your power.”  We will consider the aforesaid doctrine that parents are called to teach their children, and we will discuss the calling of parents to do this to the utmost of their power.

The third section concerning education is a lengthy section in the prayer of thanksgiving. We hope to discuss that our children are governed by the Holy Spirit; that they grow up in Christ; that pious and religious education must be given to them; that they are under the Teacher; that we must ask that God’s goodness and Fatherly mercy be upon them; and finally that our children will be militant until they enter into heavenly glory.

Dear reader, as we discuss the form of baptism and the education of covenant children, let us fix our eye upon our Heavenly Father. May we instruct these covenant children as children of light.

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The Reformed Baptism Form

The Reformed Form for the Administration of Baptism is one of the most important of all the secondary confessions of many Reformed churches worldwide.
The commentary sets forth the Reformed doctrine of baptism as sign and seal, the doctrine of the covenant of God with the children of believers.

Order your copy today!

 

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Who is Annemie Godbehere?

We thought our readers would like to see a picture of Annemie Godbehere, translator of our latest publication, The Reformed Baptism Form. This photo is of Annemie talking to Rev. Stewart at the British Reformed Fellowship Conference in 2012.

 

For further information on Annemie, see 'A Word About the Translator' in the new book, The Reformed Baptism Form.

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The Importance of the Reformed Baptism Form

The Reformed Form for the Administration of Baptism is one of the most important of all the secondary confessions of many Reformed churches worldwide. It is certainly the most read in the churches. In its original form dating from the late 1500s, soon after the Protestant Reformation, it received its present form and official standing from the Synod of Dordt in 1618/1619.

In various languages, including the Dutch, the Form functions at the baptism of adult converts and of the infant children of believers in many Reformed churches everywhere in the world. By virtue of its use to administer, solemnize, and explain the sacrament of baptism, this form is read in the worship services of Reformed churches more often than any other creed or form, with the exception of the Heidelberg Catechism.

Lacking has been a thorough, faithful, sound commentary on the Baptism Form in the English language.
    
This lack is now met by a translation into English for the first time of the authoritative, if not definitive, commentary on the form by the highly qualified and esteemed Dutch pastor and theologian, Dr. B. Wielenga, Ons Doopsformulier (in the English translation of the commentary, The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary. Kok of Kampen published Wielenga’s commentary in 1906.
    
The 448 page commentary includes chapters on “The Doctrine of Baptism in General”; “The Doctrine of Infant Baptism in Particular”; “The Prayer before Baptism”; “Admonition to the Parents”; and the “Prayer of Thanksgiving after Baptism.”

The commentary sets forth the Reformed doctrine of baptism as sign and seal, the doctrine of the covenant of God with the children of believers, and other vitally important truths related to the sacrament, including the relation of the covenant and election. 
     
It is also intensely practical, considering such matters as whether the officiating minister should sprinkle once or three times; whether it is proper to make of the administration of the sacrament an occasion for the gathering of relatives and friends; and, more significantly, whether parents and church are to regard and rear the baptized children of believers as regenerated, saved children of God, or as unsaved “little vipers”—in which (latter) case, of course, no rearing is possible. 
      
The author was determined to explain the language itself of the form, avoiding the temptation to introduce convictions of his own. Written clearly and simply so as to be of benefit to all Reformed believers, the commentary also gives the Reformed pastor deep insight into the sacrament of baptism and its administration. This is a book that will help all Reformed Christians, pastors, and churches to be Reformed in thinking and practice with regard to the sacrament of baptism, especially with regard to the baptism of the infant children of believing parents.
      
To order the book, visit our website, www.rfpa.org, or email us at mail@rfpa.org.

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The Reformed Baptism Form by B. Wielenga now published in English

Brought into English for the first time is this commentary on the Reformed baptism form by Bastiaan Wielenga, a prominent minister of the word in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN) in the early to mid 1900s. This commentary sets forth, defends, and applies the creedal Reformed faith concerning the covenant of grace—the foundation of baptism. This commentary will be especially helpful to Reformed churches, ministers, and other members in its explanation of the baptism form’s authoritative treatment of covenant and election in relation to the baptism of infants.  The faith of every believer concerning the sacrament of baptism will be expanded and enriched by the commentary. 

From the author’s preface: “The ardent desire of my heart is that by the publication of this writing many people reading this work learn to regard baptism more purely, appreciate it more warmly, and more zealously plead the covenantal promises on behalf of believers and their children, before the throne of him who calls himself I Am That I Am."

Click PDF icon to get a sneak peak!

 

                      

         Order your copy today!

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