Sunday, January 30, 2011

Children of Obedient Parents Turning Out for God--Certainty or Mere Possibility? Part 1

Does the Bible teach that godly parents who raise their children as they ought have a Divine promise that their children will be saved and live for Him, or is such only a possibility? If they do what is right, can they be certain that God will save their children and lead them to follow Him, or must they fear that, despite doing everything that they ought to do, their children could end up tormented in fire and brimstone for all eternity, so that it would have been better for them to have never been born (Mark 14:21)? A number of texts of Scripture relate to the question.


The locus classicus for the doctrine that parents have a Divine promise that their children will be saved and live for God if they are raised properly is Proverbs 22:6:


Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.[1]


The natural and obvious reading of this passage is that the verse is a promise—if one obeys the command[2] to train up a child in the way he should go, in the way of spiritual and ethical righteousness, then when the child is old,[3] he will not depart from it. The meaning of the verse is accurately rendered in the Authorized Version.[4] Proverbs 22:6 is exemplified, with very significant linguistic parallels,[5] in other books of the Bible:


“And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD.” (1 Kings 22:43a)[6]

“And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:2)

“And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 20:32)

“And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left.” (2 Chronicles 34:2)[7]


Proverbs 22:6 therefore states that a child trained up in holiness will not depart from that righteous way. But is the verse a promise, or only a principle that can—and will—fail at different times? The verse is unquestionably a promise, a certainty guaranteed by the omnipotent and faithful God. Every time “will not depart,” the future tense of the verb in question,[8] appears in the Old Testament, and God is making the statement,[9] certainty, not mere possibility, is in view.[10] Thus, Proverbs 22:6 means exactly what it appears to mean to one who simply takes the verse at face value—a child who is trained up in the way he should go will not depart from that right way.


-TDR



[1] :hÎ…n`R;mIm r…wñsÎy_aáøl Ny#Iq◊zÅyŒ_y`I;k M¶A…g wóø;k√råd y∞IÚp_lAo rAoÅ…nAlœ JKâOnSj

The Targum reads: :hynym yfsn absn dk ald hyjrwa lybql aylfl jkwa

[2] “Train up” (JKâOnSj) is an imperative: “Train [thou] up,” not a future indicative, “If thou shalt train up.”

[3] Nothing in Proverbs 22:6 breathes the slightest hint that a child that is trained up properly may reject Christ and go into the world, but when he reaches old age he will repent and turn to the Lord and the way of righteousness. The verb rendered “when he is old” in the verse, a Hiphil of Nqz, means “to grow older” (The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, trans. & ed. M.E.J. Richardson). As the child grows older year after year and decade after decade, he will continue in the way of righteousness, not reject it and then repent decades later when he has dishonored God, destroyed his life, filled his parents with shame and grief, and become an old man. Compare the continuity of development in the only other Hiphil of Nqz in the Old Testament, Job 14:8.

[4] y∞IÚp_lAo means “according to” (cf. Exodus 17:1, h¡DOwh◊y y∞IÚp_lAo, “according to the commandment of the LORD”). The Hebrew wóø;k√råd y∞IÚp_lAo, rendered in KJV margin as “in his way,” means “in the way he should go.” The idea of the text is a moral command—the way of righteousness—not some sort of other training, such as training a child in job skills. This is evident because the verb Knj, “with Vl to train up Pr 22:6,” (HALOT), means, in all the other texts where it is found, “to dedicate” (ibid.) or consecrate to Jehovah (Deuteronomy 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles 7:5). The verb is related to the noun h;Dk¨nSj, which is always used of a believer’s dedication or consecration of an object to his God (Numbers 7:10–11, 84, 88; Psalm 30:1; Daniel 3:2–3 (here of an idolator dedicating something to the false god in which he believes); Ezra 6:16–17; Nehemiah 12:27; 2 Chronicles 7:9; cf. JKwønSj, “Enoch,” the holy man whose name means “dedicated [to God],” Genesis 5:24. Thus, Proverbs 22:6 speaks of a training up that is a consecration to God, not to an ability to lean how to farm or to engage in building construction. That training in “his way” (wóø;k√råd) is in “the way that he should go” in the sense of the way of holiness, rather than in some morally neutral way or way of professional skills, is likewise evident from a consideration of the entire verse. Every time the verb “depart” (rws) in Proverbs 22:6b is found in the book of Proverbs, it is related to spiritual or ethical departing, never to a morally neutral departing (Proverbs 3:7; 4:24, 27; 5:7; 9:4, 16; 11:22; 13:14, 19; 14:16, 27; 15:24; 16:6, 17; 22:6; 27:22; 28:9). The righteous “depart from evil” (3:7; 13:19; 14:16; 16:6, 17) and “from the snares of death” (13:14; 14:27) and “from hell” (Proverbs 15:24) and “depart not” from righteousness (5:7). Furthermore, every time the verb “depart” controls a clause with the word “way” (JK®r®;d) in Scripture the departure relates to spiritual and ethical matters (Exodus 32:8; Deuteronomy 9:12, 16; 11:28; 31:29; Judges 2:17; Psalm 119:29; Isaiah 30:11; Lamentations 3:11; Malachi 2:8; cf. Job 21:14; 34:27; Proverbs 16:17). Thus, the “way” from which the child that has been trained up and consecrated to Jehovah will not depart is the way of holiness and spiritual righteousness, the way of the faithful people of God.

[5] Proverbs 22:6; 1 Kings 22:43; 2 Kings 22:2; 2 Chronicles 20:32; 34:2 all contain the verb “depart” (rws) negated with the same particle (aøl) connected to the verb with a maqqef, and the same word “way” (JK®r®;d) as in Proverbs 22:6. The texts allude to each other.

[6] Note that the failure of 1 Kings 22:43b is not one of Jehoshaphat’s personal piety, but took place because “as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers” (2 Chronicles 20:33).

[7] Compare the positive instances of not departing from righteousness in 2 Kings 18:6; 27:2; and the instances of not departing from evil in 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2, 6, 11; 14:24; 15:18, 24, 28; 17:22.

[8] Technically, the imperfect form of rws when the verb is not conveying an imperatival force or some idea other than a simple affirmation about the future and is not connected to a waw-conversive, or when in the perfect tense rws refers to a simple future idea because of the context and the presence of waw­-conversive.

[9] That is, a text such as Judges 9:29 does not count. Gaal the son of Ebed is not infallibly faithful in his promises—but Jehovah is. Similar instances to Judges 9:29, where a man is making an affirmation about the future, appear in Judges 20:8; Job 15:30; 27:5.

[10] The forty verses in the category in question are: Genesis 49:10; Exodus 8:11; 23:25; 33:23; Deuteronomy 2:27; 7:4, 15; 31:29; Judges 9:29; 16:17; 1 Samuel 17:46; 2 Samuel 7:15; 12:10; 2 Kings 23:27; Is 3:18; 5:5; 10:27; 11:13; 14:25; 25:8; 31:2; Jeremiah 32:40; Ezekiel 11:18–19; 16:42; 23:25; 26:16; 36:26; Hosea 2:17; Amos 6:7; Zephaniah 3:11; Zechariah 9:7; Job 34:20; Proverbs 22:6; 27:22; Daniel 11:31; 12:11; 1 Chronicles 17:13; 2 Chronicles 30:9; 33:8. Isaiah 18:5 might also fit. None of these texts can be proven to be anything less than a promise, while the overwhelming majority are clearly infallibly certain promises. The burden of proof is on the advocate of the view that Proverbs 22:6 is merely a principle that will fail at times to find a text where his weakened sense of the verb in question unquestionably appears. His position fails to meet that burden of proof. Even if texts where the verb was a principle instead of a promise appeared in the Bible—and there are no clear instances—the person who would deny that Proverbs 22:6 is a promise would need to prove that the “principle” sense is not just found somewhere in the Bible, but is the actual idea in Proverbs 22:6, against the overwhelming majority of instances where the verb conveys an actual promise—and this also cannot be done.


19 comments:

Don said...

As the father of a failed child, I can tell you that before and after our tradedy, the Lord showed me from His Word very specific sins that contributed to my daughter's rebellion. For instance, I justified a 'little righteous indignation.' The truth was, I was just plain angry with my kids many times. Anger in parents, which results from pride or impatience, provokes our children. And, even when I finally saw this as a problem, I did not drop all that I had to do to fix the problem. Other things had priority in my life. I didn't feel that it was 'that serious.' BIG MISTAKE!

I believe if I had corrected it early enough, we could still say we had 'successfully' raised our children. Now we have to concentrate on that being true of the other four that follow.

Incidentally, my daughter has repented and is being restored. What helped her in part is that her parents humbled themselves before her also and asked her forgiveness. We are falling in love again as a family.

At the same time, churches need to understand that pastors and missionaries are under extreme attack through the weakest of their family. A lion looks for the weakest that is straggling behind.

d4v34x said...

"despite doing everything that they ought to do"

How many errors are parents allowed, or do they have to make 100%?

d4v34x said...

Also, I hope part two will address Ezekiel 18 and explain how God can ensure that a person will chose Him if, as Arminian leaners would contend, He leaves the choice entirely up to them.

Charles E. Whisnant said...

The salvation of my four children and now adults is not a matter of my righteousness or holiness. The means whereby my children are or will be saved will be if the are "born again" by the Spirit of God. My prayer has been now for 40 years from my first child to the last one 26 years ago that God would open their hearts unto Himself.

Thomas Ross said...

Dear Bro Heinz,

Thank you for your moving testimony. I rejoice that your daughter has repented and is being restored, and for the growing restoration of family love. What a tremendous blessing! I am sure you are right that pastors and missionary children are under tremendous attack.


D4,

In part two, in the last footnote, I intend to comment on your question, Lord willing. What I would say now is that I don’t believe the text specifies an answer to your first question, so I don’t want to go beyond what is written. If somoene else commenting has more to say on this, and revelation from heaven for it, let’s all listen up. In relation to your second question, since, by the sovereign grace of God, I do not lean toward Arminianism, but repudiate it, just as by that same sovereign grace I repudiate Calvinism, I will let someone who actually believes in Arminianism answer your question. I prefer to stick to grammatical-historical exegesis, which demolishes both Calvinism and Arminianism (e. g., salvation cannot be lost, Romans 8:28-39; atonement is not limited, 2 Peter 2:1; election is based on foreknowledge, 1 Peter 1:2), and if I can’t put together in my tiny speck of a mind how the infinite God did everything in eternity past, I won’t get too uptight about it, but I certainly won’t change the results of grammatical-historical exegesis to adopt a more rationalistic system of doctrine that my mind-speck can understand better.

Anonymous said...

Thought-provoking. Assuming your premise to be correct, would we not then conclude that Solomon did not live what he preached (or wrote), since Rehoboam did not go the way he should have gone? Solomon's father David does not appear to have done much better in the matter of child-rearing, nor his father Jesse before him. Looking from Adam, Noah, the patriarchs, all the way through the Bible, do you think we have many clear examples of parents who trained their children in the way they should go and they, as you say, continued in the way, not rejecting it and repenting later? - Bob

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Hi Tom. Have and your wife been blessed with children yet? Just wondering if there are any little Thomases around yet :)

My comment is a little off topic, but it is not intended as an attack (as some would attack with this question). Just curious as to how the Ross' are doing.

Don said...

Anonymous, I think it is safe to say that Abraham is an example in this area with Isaac. Genesis 18:19 His home was not without all problems, but the LORD was satisfied that he did the job.

Thomas Ross said...

Dear Mr. Whisnant,

Certainly only the Spirit of God can regenerate a person. Scripture teaches that, John 3, so we believe it, and so we believe Proverbs 22:6 and all else in the Bible.

Bob,

One example that comes to mind of godly parenting is Zechariah and Elizabeth, who "were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless," Luke 1:6, and were parents of the first Baptist, one John, the greatest man other than the Son of Man who was ever born.

Pastor Voegtlin,

The Lord gave us one child, but took the baby to heaven about a month after conception, and so far He has not given us another one yet.

Anonymous said...

Don,

That is a good point about Isaac. The reason why I did not count Abraham was because of his failure to do Proverbs 22:6 with his first son Ishmael.

Bob

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ross,

Let me say first of all that you have my condolences on the loss of your child.

Secondly, I can't argue against that Zacharias and Elisabeth did right, nor against that John the Baptist turned out right. Amen and amen. Nevertheless, because of Luke 1:15 I am not sure that John the Baptist can be used as a true parallel to parents today trying to rear their children in accordance with the promise (as you say it is) of Proverbs 22:6. It seems to me that Zacharias and Elisabeth were unique parents in that there were some unique promises given to them about their unique son John. Do parents today also have the promises of Luke 1:15 for their children? But I certainly will grant you that John the Baptist turned out right under the parenting of Zacharias and Elisabeth if you will grant that he was filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb and that parents today do not have that circumstance to help them. But if that's the only example, then that's the only example.

But I just come back to my original point or thought. Solomon wrote, by divine inspiration, a promise (assuming that the premise of the original article is correct) that he had no basis for in his personal life. He did not live "the promise" of Proverbs 22:6 in his children's lives. He did not live "the promise" of Proverbs 22:6 in his own life. His father did not live "the promise" of Proverbs 22:6. His grandfather did not live "the promise" of Proverbs 22:6. But nevertheless Solomon makes this promise (assuming it is a promise). What do you think about that?

Bob

Thomas Ross said...

Bob,

I don't think John the Baptist's parents were the only example; Caleb and Achshah are another example that comes to mind with only a little thought. Solomon did not live the promise of Proverbs 22:6--that is correct. What do I think about this? I think that Solomon wrote under inspiration, so he wrote what he didn't do himself. I don't know why this should surprise us. Thanks for the comments.

Thomas Ross said...

By the way, when John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb, that filling pertained to his prophetic office, not to his personal conversion or sanctification; it was like when Saul had the Spirit come on him when he was anointed king, and then had the Holy Spirit leave him when David was anointed king. John still needed to come a point where he placed his faith in the Messiah.

Don said...

Anonymous,

I don't think Abraham failed Ishmael. He failed God in having him, but apparently God did not hold him responsible for raising Ishmael, or He would not have been able to praise him as a man who would command his family in the way.

David said...

I am very much aware that this is an older post, but I am hoping to hear back from bro. Ross. I was having a discussion of this very topic this past week with a couple. They do not believe that this is a promise but is a general principle. The reasoning they gave is the exact same reason that I have had a hard time completely accepting Prov. 22:6 as a promise. God, who is the perfect Father, stated that He did everything on his part for Israel and yet they rebelled against Him and went astray. God pointed out their responsibility for their actions. God said in Isaiah 5:4, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?" God did 100% and yet they still went astray. How does this fit in with Prov. 22:6 being a promise instead of a principle? Thank you once again.
-David

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ross,

I was also wondering if God and Adam (Luke 3:38) would be an exception to Proverbs 22:6.

Thanks,

Bob

KJB1611 said...

Dear David,

Thanks for the question. I am thankful that at least this objection is one that seeks to use Scripture, rather than simply stating whatever one wishes.

Of course, there are various senses in which God is Father. He is eternally Father by nature of His eternal Son; He is the Father of believers by adoption, etc. Now God’s relationship with Israel is expressed in a variety of metaphors, from the husband of Israel His wife, to the farmer cultivating a vineyard (Isaiah 5), etc. The particular metaphor employed in Isaiah 5, if one reads Isaiah 5:1-7, is that of farmer/vineyard, not Father (whether by adoption or in any other sense) to Israel as a son. A farmer can do everything proper to his field and things still turn out badly because of the soil’s condition, the weather, etc. That is the idea in Isaiah 5:4. I don’t see a father/son image in Isaiah 5 anywhere, and, in fact, it must be recognized that the Father/son image for God and His people is significantly more prominent in the NT than in the OT in any case. Consequently, I don’t see anything in Isaiah 5 that would change what I believe is the grammatical-historical interpretation of Proverbs 22:6, even if one assmes there is a direct transfer from the way God relates to us to what He promises human families in their own raising up of their own children, which is a questionable assumption of itself.

Thanks for the question.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bob,

The sonship of creation that God had over Adam is different from the sonship parents have over their own naturally born children. Proverbs 22:6 is talking about children that one “trains up,” not about the creative power of God over creation and over Adam.
If we are going to say that, since Adam is called a “son of God” by creation, therefore Proverbs 22:6 cannot be a promise, we have to also say that there is no way that God could have made a promise to fathers that their children would turn out right in this world without contradicting His own nature. Any verse that would seem to be a promise must be re-interpreted because of God’s creative act over the world and the use of the word “son” in that very different relationship. I don’t believe that the two types of relationship are the same, and I think that grammatical-historical exegesis of Proverbs 22:6 should be accepted, and that Luke 3:38 is speaking about a different kind of relationship.

Thanks for the comment.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bob,

The sonship of creation that God had over Adam is different from the sonship parents have over their own naturally born children. Proverbs 22:6 is talking about children that one “trains up,” not about the creative power of God over creation and over Adam.
If we are going to say that, since Adam is called a “son of God” by creation, therefore Proverbs 22:6 cannot be a promise, we have to also say that there is no way that God could have made a promise to fathers that their children would turn out right in this world without contradicting His own nature. Any verse that would seem to be a promise must be re-interpreted because of God’s creative act over the world and the use of the word “son” in that very different relationship. I don’t believe that the two types of relationship are the same, and I think that grammatical-historical exegesis of Proverbs 22:6 should be accepted, and that Luke 3:38 is speaking about a different kind of relationship.

Thanks for the comment.