The Reformed Baptism Form: The Author

Our Reformed baptism form has a glorious history sealed in the fires of persecution. Most church historians agree that the father of the form is Petrus Datheen, a Dutch reformer who lived from about 1531 to 1588.[1] Despite the oppression he and many Reformed believers faced from the Roman Catholic Church, including threats of terrible persecution at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition, Datheen worked tirelessly for the cause of those who loved the Reformed faith both of his own time and those in the generations to come.

As we celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the Synod of Dordt this year, we focus our attention on one aspect of Datheen’s extensive work as a reformer: the Reformed baptism form, which was approved for use in the Dutch Reformed churches by the great Synod of Dordt.

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Instruction with a Goal

Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (10): Instruction with a Goal

The instruction of covenant children is the rearing of royal children of King Jesus. In this blog, we have treated several passages of the baptism form that deal directly with Christian education. Now we come to the goal of that education. Wielenga concludes his commentary on the form with a section on the glorious prayer of thanksgiving. The prayer in the form is that our Triune God will govern our royal children to the end that they may eternally praise and magnify him who is king of kings and lord of lords. Let us look at several phrases of this thanksgiving prayer as we conclude our treatment of “Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form.”

The first goal of pious and religious education is that the child “increase and grow up in the Lord Jesus Christ.” The figure is that the child is like unto a living plant that must mature in the grace of Christ. Wielenga states that the “Christian and godly rearing. . . is not a self-creating, not a giving-oneself-life, but only a developing of a seed of life that is already within. The purpose and fruit of the rearing of a child of the covenant is not to make a bad child good, but to cause a child who is good in principle to mature in the good” (p. 405). This is humbling to the parent and educator. We do not “have to give or apply something, but take away and improve something” (p. 406). Indeed as regards to parents, “the pure life, the good principle in your child is not your work but God’s work. Under the blessing of the Lord, your rearing can at most serve that your little child grows and increases in the Lord Jesus Christ” (p. 406). All of the education given by parents, educators, ministers, and the church is because the covenant children are living spiritually. Wielenga exclaims to parents: “What a wonderful principle! Your child is not a withered cutting but a living little plant. Not a piece of dead wood but a living seed. That is your hope!” (p. 409).

The second goal is that covenant children acknowledge God’s fatherly goodness and mercy. We desire that the children “one day awake to the realization, to the wealth of knowing God, if baptism will reach its goal. The seed of faith is in the regenerated child, but that seed must develop into the act of faith. For such a child, believing would mean becoming aware of the fatherly good that God has already showed to him” (p. 410). Christian rearing has the purpose that our children become mature Christians who take their place as confessing members of God’s church.

The third goal flows out of the second goal in that we want our children to mature in their faith so that they consciously live in the three-fold office of all believer. Namely, that they “live in all righteousness under our only Teacher, King, and High Priest, Jesus Christ.” Wielenga sums this up this way: “Through the head, wherewith man thinks, he reveals himself as prophet. Through the heart, wherewith he loves, he reveals himself as priest. With the hand, with which he fights and labors, he reveals himself as a king” (p. 415).

As the Christian young person grows in his or her faith, they are called to live the antithesis. In the form we ask God to govern our children so that they “manfully fight against and overcome sin, the devil, and his whole dominion.” The idea of battle is prevalent in this petition of the form. The commentary states: “Wherever opposing forces meet each other, a battle is ignited. In life the Christian meets enduring forces that are hostile to his principle, his ideal, his God” (p. 417). In this battle of the antithesis, the mature believer has a goal. That Christian warrior loves life (p. 419). “For him the fight is never the goal, but always the means. The reason that during this time he is not fainthearted is surely because the hope lives in him” that he will receive the crown of life (p. 421).

What a blessed hope that we pray for with regard to our covenant children. We end with the beautiful phrase of the form: “to the end that they may eternally praise and magnify Thee, and Thy Son Jesus Christ, together with the Holy Ghost, the one only true God.” We praise Triune God, under whom our children receive the sign of baptism. What a blessed goal for all of their instruction! Our children are reared by parents, ministers, teachers, and the whole covenant community, not only that they may live as mature Christians on this earth but also that they may eternally praise God. Covenant instruction in the Christian day school must have this as its goal! Otherwise Reformed Christian instruction is a worthless cause.  We have a goal for Christian education that is very high. That goal humbles the educator. We pray to our Triune God that all of the education of our covenant children may be to his glory alone!

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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 a Christian school in Indiana. If you have a question or comment about this blog article for Mike, please do so in the comment section on the blog.

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Instruction that is Governed

Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (8): Instruction that is Governed

The instruction of covenant children is governed by God himself. In the thanksgiving prayer of the form for baptism we pray for the covenant children “that they may be piously and religiously educated.” This rearing was first mentioned in the form at “the end of the doctrinal part, where it was said, ‘parents are in duty bound to instruct their children further herein while they grow up.’ This was the confession of the congregation regarding the obligation of rearing” (Wielenga, p. 404). The second time was during the baptismal question to parents where they promise to take up the duty to instruct (p. 404).

Why mention rearing a third time? Wielenga explains that the church prays in thanksgiving for a blessing from God and for a “providential and gracious governance of the Lord” (p. 404). In this blog post, we look at Wielenga’s insightful comments on that gracious governance of the education of the covenant child.

In the world, education of children is governed for earthly and carnal goals. The rich and elite of this world make sure that their heirs are properly trained so that they can have prestigious positions among men. Sports stars desire that their sons follow in their footsteps to “stardom.” Among men, parents control and guide the future of their children by education. The children have a governed path to the goal that their parents have for them. The goals of the wicked are always profane because God is not in all of their thoughts. The opposite is true for the righteous in Christ. We have a Governor of the education of our children of the covenant!

Wielenga aptly states, “If the rearing of the child is a matter that, in most cases, decides the entire future of the child, and if that instruction is in no part dependent on the choice or worthiness of the child, we see here an election, according to God’s good pleasure” (p. 403). What election is spoken of here? Certainly we must believe that election governs the covenant and that it is an unconditional election unto salvation. However, Wielenga focuses on the aspect of election as it has to do with the governance and path in the appointment for how the covenant child will be instructed. He states that God decides the following questions: “Who rears the child, where and how is he reared? (p. 403). The direction of a child’s education is chosen by parents (and should be done christianly to the utmost of their power), but we must remember that it is God who directs that exact path of education. That is of great comfort to the Christian parent. These children are privileged and blessed children of the great king of kings and they are heirs of the covenant.

In that path of education, there are many milestones. We ask in the thanksgiving prayer that at each milestone, the instructors chosen be appointed by God so that the child be piously and religiously educated (or in a “godly and Christian way,” pp. 403–405). This is humbling to the Christian educator because they are mere instruments and appointees to teach covenant children on their God-governed path of education at that particular time in a child’s life. The parent of that child is chosen by God to be a steward of the whole of the child’s education. Wielenga even warns parents against laxity in this regard in that they do not delegate the entire task of education to parents and ministers (p. 404). We pray that God will bless the instruction given by faithful parents, teachers, ministers, and fellow saints, and that that instruction will bear fruit. We pray to God that he govern and appoint the path of the instruction of covenant children so that they will be instructed in a Christian and godly way to his glory.

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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 a Christian school in Indiana. If you have a question or comment about this blog article for Mike, please do so in the comment section on the blog.

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Govern this Child



Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (8): Govern this Child 

Our covenant children are royal children of King Jesus and as such we ask God to govern them. The prayer at the end of the baptism form explains all of our instruction as flowing out of this governance: “We beseech thee, through the same Son of thy love, that thou wilt be pleased always to govern these baptized children by thy Holy Spirit.” In The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary, Bastiaan Wielenga explains why this is “implored for this child from the almighty, merciful God and Father….Namely, that thou wilt be pleased always to govern this child by thy Holy Spirit. All that is further requested is made dependent on this petition by the little word[s] so that” (p. 399). Thus we begin our treatment of the prayer’s petitions as they flow out of the main request that God govern baptized children.

Who is being governed? The answer to this question is critical because there is much misunderstanding in the Reformed church world with regard to how teachers and parents are to approach the instruction of covenant children. On the one hand, we are not to view these children as unconverted, but neither are we to presuppose their regeneration.  Wielenga puts both of these false ideas to rest with patient and direct instruction on what the Reformed churches have always confessed about the instruction of covenant children: It is our prayer that God govern them, implying that our baptized children must be instructed as royal children of the light. Wielenga states, “Let us pause for a moment while pondering this expression. [The form] does not say convert or regenerate, but govern the child” (p. 399). It is also abundantly clear that Wielenga does not fall into the error of presupposed regeneration because he clearly states that the purpose of governance is that baptized children grow up in Christ (400). Further, the commentary lays out that election governs the covenant, and that this view is deeply rooted in the Reformed heritage. We do not presuppose our children are regenerated; rather, we believe by faith they are members of the sovereign, unconditional covenant of grace through the eternal election of God.

Wielenga then turns to a fascinating study of what it means that the Spirit govern these children. Wielenga points to Psalm 32:9: “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, else they come near unto thee.” He goes on to say, “You clearly see the difference. God does not will to force you as one forces an animal, but governs as one governs man” (p. 401). In Christian education, this study of governance is important. As parents and educators, we realize that all of our instruction is worthless without the work of the Spirit in the hearts of our covenant children; we teachers can teach the Word of God in every subject until we are blue in the face, but without the Spirit we must humbly admit that our work amounts to nothing. Yet, at the same time, when we see fruits of righteousness, we know that those fruits flow directly from God’s election of the children and his governance of them.

As an educator, I thank God for these fruits. It is a source of great encouragement to see former students take their places in the church, fulfilling their callings as mothers, fathers, teachers, ministers, and many other important roles in the church. As many have said, Christian educators may need to wait ten years or more to see the fruit of their labor. In other occupations, the Lord may give the fruit the same day or very quickly.

At the same time we educators often get to see glimpses of God’s governing hand in young children that parents do not always see. We see children of their own volition pick up a pencil without prompting and take notes during a chapel on a great Reformer simply because they want to learn about God’s grace through that man. At other times, we witness children helping a special needs child, not because they have to, but because God is governing them to want to.

We as educators and parents instruct children of the covenant, and we have two common goals: we want our children to graduate and serve the Lord their God on earth and in heaven, and we pray that God will guide and govern them to that heavenly goal. They are kingdom citizens of the Most High God. Wielenga even states, “Enemies one overcomes; only subjects are governed” (p. 400).  We give thanks to God for this beautiful truth: God governs his children in the way of our faithful rearing and instruction. In that way, they will listen and they will grow up in Christ. To God be the glory.  

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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 a Christian school in Indiana. If you have a question or comment about this blog article for Mike, please do so in the comment section on the blog.

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Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form: According to Ability

The book entitled The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary by Bastiaan Wielenga, is clear that the establishment of Reformed Christian schools is deeply rooted in the Reformed tradition. In the past few blog articles, we have treated this commentary in connection with the third question of the Reformed baptism form. In this installment, we will treat the words “to the utmost of your power.”

These are such powerful words—“to the utmost of your power.” When Reformed parents vow at baptism to teach their children, these words are humbling. We rely alone upon God our rock in all of the instruction of covenant children. Godly Hannah showed this when she prayed at the birth of Samuel: “My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God” (1 Samuel 1:1-2).

With Hannah’s prayer in our heart, let us meditate on the third question of the Reformed baptism form and specifically the words, “to the utmost or your power.” Wielenga includes in his commentary an interesting section on these words, and it would be good for us to read the quote in its entirety:

I need to point out one other phrase that one easily overlooks when reading and that yet contains an important lesson: according to your ability [to instruct], . . . or cause it to be instructed therein (I have omitted the words or help on previously indicated grounds). These words express the principle of Christian education. The father is the teacher ordained by God, and the mother is the natural teacher of the God-given seed. But where it is clear that their own ability is lacking, because of time or strength, they must look for an establishment or organization where these baptized children are taught in accordance with the said doctrine (p. 362).

Wielenga’s point here is that the phrase “to the utmost of your power” has the idea of “according to your ability.” In other words parents are called to instruct their children to the best of their ability. With all of the complexity of life in the modern age, few parents have the capacity to instruct their children in all subjects according to the light of God’s word. Therefore, Christian schools must be established to help the parents to keep their vows. The following are some examples of where I have seen this in my own experience.

The first example is special education. I give thanks to God that parents today see the amazing benefit of having special needs students (as well as children with learning disabilities) as belonging in the regular classroom. As one parent noted to me, “The parents are accepting the fact that teachers can’t just teach with one lesson plan. The teachers must teach all the children. Now if the parents accept this, then the children will also accept these children.” As a teacher, I have seen this idea develop over the last fifteen years. All glory be to God! At present, many of our Christian schools have invested in special education support systems. These educational systems provide special needs children with countless opportunities for academic growth that parents can’t supply at home. In this way, the school helps the parents to instruct the special needs child to the best of their ability.

A second example is high school education. In the past ten years, I have seen great interest in high school education among our parents.  It is evident that in order for a young person to live as a Christian in our modern society, the parents need the assistance of teachers. Just think of the math that our young people must know in order to proceed in their education. Few of us could instruct our children in that discipline. We thank God for our high school teachers. Their ability is put to use as servants of godly parents. What a great blessing.

We give thanks to God for he alone is willing and able to provide us all our needs. We have no ability as parents and teachers to teach these covenant children. Day after day at our grade schools and high schools, the Lord is faithful to provide parents and teachers with the ability to instruct covenant children. As 1 Corinthians 12 instructs us, we are all part of a covenant community that works together to provide Christian instruction to our covenant seed. All praise and thanks be to him.
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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 a Christian school in Indiana. 

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Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (6): Causing to Instruct Children with Sola Scriptura

The third question of the Reformed baptism form states that parents are called to “instruct” their children in the “aforesaid doctrine” to “the utmost” of their power.  The aforesaid doctrine is comprised of the teachings of the Bible and the Reformed Confessions. This year we celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the great Reformation. One of the five “solas” of the Reformation was sola scriptura or “Scripture alone.” Glory to God alone (soli Deo Gloria) that at this late date in history we can still establish and maintain Reformed Christian schools based on the Bible!

My purpose in these blog articles has been to highlight the new book entitled The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary by Bastiaan Wielenga. In our study, we have focused on the sections of the form that treat Christian education directly. As Wielenga writes, “The foundation and preservation of the school with the Bible is the causing to instruct, to which the parents have committed themselves with an oath” (p. 363, my emphasis). Today, let us take the time to thank the school associations, boards, and teachers—the founders and preservers of our Reformed Christian schools—for their work in  “causing” our children to be instructed in the truth of the Bible and the Confessions.     

First, we are thankful to God for past boards and associations who had the foresight to found Reformed Christian schools with clear mission statements that include the Bible and the Confessions as the basis of instruction. It is a comfort to know that our teachers create Biblical, confessional unity among our children by fulfilling the promise they made when they signed their teaching contracts: to teach the same truths that are taught in the home and at church.  For those boards which are starting new schools, I encourage you to press on in the difficult work of establishing curriculum and hiring teachers. There are often difficult setbacks. Teachers may move away early in the formation of a school, or there may be difficulties with establishing a firm mission for the school. Pray to our heavenly Father for strength; your work will have fruit by his grace.      

Second, we thank our current boards who work tirelessly not only to found new schools, but also to “preserve” them in the truth of God’s word. Men who work on the boards, we teachers, and parents are aware that you sacrifice your time in the preservation of covenant schools. As a teacher, I have seen your late nights at school, working without any remuneration. We are aware of the countless hours that you spend approving curriculum on Saturdays, hiring godly teachers (at a time where there are few teachers), and fielding difficult disciplinary questions, faithfully using scripture as the guide for your labors and decisions. Your hard work has been used by God in the preservation of covenant education about our Triune God.  

Third, I want to thank my colleagues who diligently infuse all of their teaching with the Bible and the creeds. Ours is a great task to teach the covenant children in the truth of our Triune God. I write this blog post after the annual Protestant Reformed Teacher’s Institute Convention. At this convention, we heard the keynote speech by Prof. Barry Gritters about the importance of the scriptures as a means of grace alongside the chief means of grace, the preaching. Truly our Reformed Christian schools are preserved when all of our teaching is based on the Word!

Above all, we thank our heavenly Father because he alone forms and preserves the Christian School with the Bible at the center. In this five-hundredth  anniversary year of the Reformation, let us parents, teachers, and supporters of Christian education be inspired in our resolve to have sola scriptura firmly before our minds in the instruction of covenant children in this school year!

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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 a Christian school in Indiana. 

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Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (5): Meditation at the beginning of a new school year

What is a world view? It is an overall guide for life. However, a world view is particularly interested in our life on earth before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is, our view of the creation. Prof. David J. Engelsma picks up on this point when he writes, "By world view, I understand a comprehensive, unified view of the whole of creation and its history, including the creation's origin, meaning, and goal and including my own life, in light of the triune, true, living God" (Standard Bearer, Vol. 74, no. 16).

As another school year is upon us, we pause in our treatment of the baptism form as an occasion to contemplate the Christian schools where our students are instructed in the "aforesaid doctrine" of salvation, that is, where they are taught the Reformed Christian world view. The need to instruct our covenant children gives the Christian school the right to existence. As the form says, we want our children to "eternally praise and magnify" our Lord. One of the most important places in which children praise and magnify the Lord is the Christian school where they are instructed in the Reformed Christian world view. There they are taught of the infallibility of scripture, the origins of creation, and the relationship between God and his redeemed, covenant people.

With that in mind, I would like to consider Engelsma’s definition of world view as taught in the Christian school. We teach our children that God is the only triune and living God. We teach them that he has revealed himself to us in his Son, the word. And because Christ reveals himself in his infallible and inspired word, we are to view all of creation through the scriptures. The world in which we live mocks and scoffs that the Bible is our only guide, especially regarding our belief of the creation of the world and man 6,000 years ago. The scriptures are the only guide and rule for our lives; they reveal the truth of God in every aspect of the creation.

We teach our children that God created man out of the dust of the ground and woman out of the rib of the man. God breathed into their nostrils the breath of life. That is, man is made up of body, soul, and spirit. This is an incomprehensible wonder of God. Moreover, we believe that God created man good and placed him in fellowship with himself. And as a rational and moral creature, man was created not only with the ability to fellowship, but also with the desire to fellowship with God. Man was created in the image of God, for he had true righteousness, holiness, and knowledge. In thanksgiving and service to God, man ought to serve him as prophet, priest, and king in his creation. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. However, man, by the instigation of the devil and his own willful disobedience, fell from his original state.  

The elect of God receive again the image of God in the new man in Christ (Col. 3:10). The reprobate bear the image of the devil, as Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8:44.

Let us teachers, parents, board members, and followers of Christian education resolve to instruct our covenant children in the truth of the Reformed world view. While a public school teaches only with this earth in mind, a Christian school must teach with both earth and heaven in mind. Our Christian schools must continue to equip our students to do battle against false doctrines like evolutionism. May we be given grace to train them up in this aforesaid doctrine.

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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 a Christian school in Indiana. 

 

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Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (4): Duty Bound

The Christian instruction of covenant children is a duty that is bound upon the Reformed parent. We read this in the third question asked of the parents in the Reformed Baptism Form. We now turn to this second section in the form that speaks of Christian education.  

In previous posts we have discussed that parents stand in the office of prophet, priest, and king with regard to their children. In this post, we look at the vow that parents take in the Reformed Baptism Form with regard to Christian education: “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?”  

To this question, the parents say a hearty, “Yes.” What happens here? Wielenga explains this on page 348 in his book The Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary. He writes, “The promise here also bears the character of a pledge that the parents are indebted to pay the Lord out of the gratitude for the kindness shown to them.”

The story of Samuel immediately comes to mind when one reads this part of the form. In 1 Samuel 1 we read of godly Elkanah and Hannah giving Samuel unto the Lord. After Hannah had poured out her heart unto the Lord and asked God for a covenant child, the Lord granted that request. This name Samuel means, “asked of the Lord.” Then, in a moving scene, godly Hannah presented Samuel to the Lord in 1 Samuel 1:27-28: “For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.” Thanks be to God for his gift of covenant children!

The purpose of this blog has been the encouragement of godly parents as they perform their vows taken at baptism. As teachers, we see the sacrifice that parents make to perform their vows.  The vows that they take are solemn and weighty. As Wielenga states, “When the parents take the child to the place of worship, there is in the “offer” of the child to the Lord something of what moved Elkanah and Hannah to bring the young Samuel into the temple” (348). When this happens, godly parents are showing that the child belongs to God and not to them.

This is a source of deep humility on the part of parents, teachers, ministers, and the congregation who bring up the covenant children. While the covenant child is under the authority of the parents and especially the father, nevertheless that child is often under the supervision of others in the church. Many of those hours are in the Christian school.

Over the years of my teaching, I have had the honor of discussing Christian education with many parents. I have learned especially that the task of Christian school teaching is deeply humbling. For thirty-six weeks a year, six hours a day, we instruct the covenant children of godly parents. As one wise father told me, “You have my child six hours a day. You probably see my child more during a week than we parents do. I have to trust you that you will teach my child the truth.” Parents, we teachers know that we stand in your place for many hours and we are humbled that you trust us that we will teach your children the truth.

I write this blog as another year of covenant education has drawn to a close. The classrooms in school are bare of bulletin boards and the colors of education. I often wonder: “What keeps the children coming back each year for another year of covenant instruction?” The answer is that parents have made a vow which they willingly keep! When the form says that parents “promise and intend” to teach their children, the idea of “intend” is very strong. Wielenga states, “The text would be more in accordance with the original intention if it were to be replaced by, whether you promise and decide for yourself” (349).  The vow is intentionally taken by God’s grace. As parents and teachers we pray that God will bless our efforts in the godly instruction that is given in accordance with these weighty vows!

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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 a Christian school in Indiana. 

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Christian Education and the Reformed Baptism Form (3): Instructing the Children

Our covenant children are royal children. Once they come to years of discretion we are called to hold before them, “Do you know, my child, that when you were very small something solemn, something holy happened to you? You were baptized in the name of the triune God. You are not a heathen child, but a child of the covenant” (Wielenga, Reformed Baptism Form: A Commentary, 182). All instruction in the home and at school has that at its core: our children are separate as royal children. Added to that truth, the Reformed Baptism form calls parents to instruct their children “herein when they shall arrive to years of discretion”.

Parents can heed this calling only through the grace of God in his gospel.  By nature we have irretrievably lost the privilege that God should be our God (Wielenga, 180). To this the Lord answers, “I do not wish to be only your God, but also the God of your child” (180). This humbles the believing parent and gives them hope. As a priest and a prophet, the parent is called to pray for the child and teach the child.

As a priest, the parent is called to be as Job: “And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all” (Job 1:5a). As a prophet, the parent is one of the chief teachers of the children. The children must be taught their “misery that necessitates the cleansing signified by baptism, deliverance that is expressed in the promises sealed by the water of baptism, and also the life of gratitude to which the blessings of baptism urge” (Wielenga, 182). Here, the author of the Baptism Form commentary echoes the three divisions of the Heidelberg Catechism, which is the basis of all Reformed instruction in the home.

The instruction in the Christian home is essential for Christian school education to thrive. As this blog is a celebration of the work of our parents in the home, I want to take this opportunity to relate some wonderful highlights that we teachers see each day in the school.

Devotions at school are encouraging because teachers can discuss the Word with children who are well versed in the gospel. These children have the language of the Reformed faith on their lips. (At times, we hear “the speech of Ashdod” on the lips of the children, but then we instruct the children to cut out these evil words.) The teachers are very thankful for the instruction the children receive in how to pray. Instruction in prayer ought chiefly to happen in the home and not in the school. From their earliest years, the children ought to be taught to pray. Instruction in prayer takes years and years of work. Before a child even crosses the threshold of the kindergarten room, he or she already has five years of instruction in prayer. From the mere “Amen” a mother says over the child when the child is a week old, to the first full reciting of the Lord’s Prayer (which takes a long time in itself), to the full spontaneous prayer of a young person who is permeated by the Word, the prayer instruction of the child is arduous work. Parents, we thank you for this instruction. It is a delight for teachers to see its fruit. We stand with you and will work also with the children to continue it.

Class discussions concerning spiritual matters are the source of gratitude for teachers. The children often relate stories from their lives that illustrate the truth discussed. Take United States geography for an example.  In my class we do a report on a state within the U.S.A. Without any prompting, children often write about a true church that is located within that state. These children are aware of other fellow saints and want to have communion with them! They are always extremely interested in the people on the mission field. We can learn from these children! I often wonder, where does this excitement come from? The answer is that these children are royal children who are sanctified in Christ. They speak the speech of a child raised in a covenant home. 

Parents, we see the fruit of your work teaching these children in the home. Be encouraged that you are fulfilling your vows.

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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 (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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