Thursday, February 03, 2011

Children of Obedient Parents Turning Out for God--Certainty or Mere Possibility? Part 2

Other texts in Scripture confirm the fact that parents who train up their children rightly can rejoice in a joyful certainty that their children will be saved and serve God. Proverbs 29:17 states: “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” As Proverbs and the rest of the Bible—not to mention experience—makes clear, a wicked and unconverted child does not give rest and delight to godly parents. Proverbs 29:17 teaches, as does Proverbs 22:6, that a child who is properly trained will be saved and serve the Lord. Similarly, Proverbs 23:13-14 declares: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” This passage guarantees that a properly disciplined child will come to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and will not go to hell.[1] Other texts in the book of Proverbs make similar promises.[2] In light of these Divine promises, it is not surprising that neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament record a single example of parents who did everything they were supposed to do for their children, yet their children rejected God and refused to walk in holiness.

The fact that the New Testament requires spiritual leaders to have godly children also demonstrates that Proverbs 22:6 and similar texts are promises. The pastor, and every other spiritual leader,[3] must be “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5).[4] He must have “faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6),[5] because otherwise he is not “blameless” (Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 3:2).[6] The fact that every minister who has children that grow up to be unregenerate and unfaithful[7] is not qualified for office only makes sense if believers who properly raise their children can be certain that they will live for God—while ungodly children are certainly responsible for their own wickedness, such a tragic result also evidences a moral failure on the part of their unhappy parents, for the requirement that the bishop have faithful children is as much a moral qualification[8] as are being vigilant, sober, and of good behaviour, or not being a striker, greedy, or covetous. The fact that pastors are disqualified if their children go bad, no matter how old those children are,[9] also demonstrates that Proverbs 22:6 is a promise that even into old age children who are trained correctly will not depart from the way of righteousness. The New Testament provides further evidence that Proverbs 22:6 and other Old Testament texts promise that parents who raise their children correctly can be certain that they will have a godly seed.

Proverbs 22:6, other Old Testament passages, and the New Testament, harmoniously teach that parents who raise their children properly can be certain to have a godly family.[10] Christian parents should rejoice at the Divine guarantee that they can have saved and holy children, act in faith on such promises, and plead them before God in prayer. They should reject the false doctrine that it is possible for parents to do all that they ought to do and have their children reject Christ and live for the devil. They should also be soberminded and zealously, passionately determined that they will live lives of faith, love, and holiness before God themselves, since, while their children are certainly moral agents who are personally accountable if they reject Christ, parents with ungodly children do bear the responsibility, in every case, of having failed in their childrearing.


[1] It is outside of the scope of this analysis to deal with those who deny that lwøaVv actually does refer, with some frequency, to torment in hell, arguing instead that in Scripture Sheol refers only to the grave. It will merely be noted how incredibly inane it would be, if “hell” were merely the grave, to warn: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17), since then Psalm 9:17 could with equal accuracy have stated, “The righteous shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that remember God,” since all the godly people of David’s day went to the grave as did the wicked. It is also beyond credulity to believe that when David penned Psalm 86:13 (“For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.”) he was not rejoicing that God’s mercy had saved him from torment in hell fire, but he was looking forward to being buried in a shallow grave rather than a deep one.

[2] For example, Proverbs 29:15 guarantees that the rod and reproof will give wisdom, and thus a properly disciplined and trained child will not be a fool, but a wise man, which requires regeneration and a walk with God. Proverbs 22:15 promises that a properly disciplined child will not have foolishness near to him, and so he will not be an ungodly man, the fool of the book of Proverbs. Note also Proverbs 20:7.

[3] If the office of the deacon requires a godly family (1 Timothy 3:12), how much the more must evangelists, church planters at home and abroad, and other ministers, have a godly family to be qualified for office?

[4] touv i˙di÷ou oi¶kou kalw◊ß proiœsta¿menon, te÷kna e¶conta e˙n uJpotaghØv meta» pa¿shß semno/thtoß (ei˙ de÷ tiß touv i˙di÷ou oi¶kou prosthvnai oujk oi•de, pw◊ß e˙kklhsi÷aß Qeouv e˙pimelh/setai);

[5] te÷kna e¶cwn pista¿, mh\ e˙n kathgori÷aˆ aÓswti÷aß h£ aÓnupo/takta.

[6] Note the specific connection of the requirement of faithful children and blamelessness in Titus 1:6-7; the bishop must have faithful children, “for” (ga¿r) he must be blameless.

[7] The requirement that the minister have te÷kna . . . pista¿, “faithful children,” includes the fact that their children must be believers, not unsaved people, but it is not limited to belief—backslidden and unfaithful regenerate children also disqualify the minister, for such are certainly able to be “accused of riot” and are “unruly” (Titus 1:6) and are not in “subjection with all gravity” and well “rule[d]” (1 Timothy 3:4-5). The other references to pisto/ß in Titus signify “faithful,” not simply “believing” (1:9; 3:8). Note also that in the very large majority of the uses of pisto/ß by Paul in syntactical constructions similar to that in Titus 1:6, the word means “faithful”; out of 22 uses (1 Corinthians 1:9; 4:2, 17; 10:13; 2 Corinthians 1:18; Colossians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Timothy 1:12, 15; 3:1, 11; 4:9; 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:11, 13; Titus 1:6, 9; 3:8; Hebrews 3:5; 10:23; 11:11), only one possibly means simply “believing” (1 Timothy 6:2), and even this instance could reasonably be viewed as “faithful.” Likewise, either 90% or 100% (depending, again, on 1 Timothy 6:2) of the uses of pisto/ß in the accusative case, as it is in Titus 1:6, signify “faithful” (Acts 13:34; 16:15; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:12; 3:11; 6:2; Titus 1:6; Hebrews 3:2; 11:11; 3 John 5). In the very close linguistic parallel to Titus 1:6 in 1 Corinthians 4:17, employing both pisto/ß and te÷knon, “faithful” is the idea conveyed. The broader use of pisto/ß in the New Testament supports the truth established by the immediate context of Titus 1:6 that the children of overseers, elders, or pastors must be not only regenerate but also obedient.

[8] The clauses te÷kna e¶cwn pista¿ (“having faithful children,” Titus 1:6) and touv i˙di÷ou oi¶kou kalw◊ß proiœsta¿menon, te÷kna e¶conta e˙n uJpotaghØv meta» pa¿shß semno/thtoß (“one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity,” 1 Timothy 3:4) are adjectival, describing the elder or bishop in the same way that simple adjectives such as “blameless” (aÓne÷gklhtoß) do.

[9] The qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are not limited to the time that the children are in their parents’ house. The qualification is not limited to “young children,” “infants,” or the like; it simply says that the elder’s “children” must be walking in the way of holiness, without any limitation as to age. As long as the elder is a parent and his children are his children—that is, for the entire course of their lives—so long do the requirements of 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and Titus 1:6 last. The word employed for “children” in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, te÷knon, is employed in Scripture for those who are descended from their parents, without regard to age, and without a limitation to children still at home (cf. Matthew 23:37; 27:25; Luke 13:34; 19:44; Romans 9:8; Galatians 4:25). It is used in Acts 13:33 for the apostle Paul and for other “men of Israel” (Acts 13:16) for “men and brethren” (Acts 13:26), and even for one who grows up, becomes rich, rules a wealthy household, grows older, and is already dead (Luke 16:25). Furthermore, it is easy to hide the rebellion of children when they are very young and still at home; it is when they are older and their rebellion becomes obvious that parenting failures become public. It is entirely unreasonable to say that as soon as a pastor’s children become rebellious enough to reject his authority, run away from home, and totally give themselves to the world, the requirement of his office to have a godly seed comes to an end—and certainly it is very difficult to argue that a man with such children is “blameless” in his parenting (Titus 1:6-7).

[10] The exegetical analysis in this composition is sufficient to demonstrate the truth of the proposition that God has promised that properly trained children will be saved and live for God. Speculation about how such certainty is consistent with the freedom of the will, Divine sovereignty, and other such high and lofty topics may be worth pondering, but they do not determine what Proverbs 22:6 or any other passage of Scripture means. Far less does personal experience or the limited, fallible evaluation of the lives and families of other people determine the proper interpretation of Scripture. Whatever the Bible teaches is true, whether frail and finite men can figure out how to fit it into systems of speculative philosophy or not—and whether or not God’s infallible revealed truth matches the extremely limited and easily mistaken personal observations of mortal creatures has no bearing whatsoever upon proper Biblical interpretation.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for part two. A couple quick ones if I might:

Question One:

If you have no children to rear, are you qualified for spiritual leadership?

Question Two:

Could someone keep the promise of Proverbs 22:6 as you define and explain in your article and end up with grandchildren who do not know God or do not live for God? How would that happen?

Thanks for the time,


Thomas Ross said...

Dear Bob,

I think the point in 1 Tim 3 is that if you have kids, they need to be obedient. I don't think that if a pastor in a country with serious persecution has his wife or children killed he becomes disqualified all of a sudden.

I think that if parents train children rightly we can expect the godly seed to continue down generation after generation. In terms of the exegesis of 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1, I think the "faithful children" are the actual physical children of the parents, though.

Thanks for the comment.

d4v34x said...

Certainly there is a flaw in the following sentence:

The promise of Proverbs 22:6 indicates that a parent or parents, can, by maintaining consistent good works of biblical parenting, guarantee their children will accept God's free gift of salvation.

I'll even reword it:

God guaranteses to those parents who sufficiently obey biblical precepts of child rearing the salvation of their children.

d4v34x said...

Ezekiel 18-

5 But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right...

9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.

10 If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things...

13 Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live:

I don't think you can self-pronounce your exegesis sufficient until you deal with this passage.

1611 said...

Interesting articles...I guess my question would be should we assume Adam/Eve did something different with Abel that they didn't do with Cain?

If I could voice a couple concerns. First, this puts quite a yoke/burden on a parent--we're talking eternal damnation. How many times have we all sinned in parenting? (disciplined in anger, lost temper) or just plain provoked them to anger. How many mess ups do I get (being a sinner still toting this flesh myself) before my children are lost with no hope? Second, does this in any way rob God of His glory which he'll share with no other (I Cor 1:29--That no flesh should glory in his presence). Won't we be able to sit back in the millenium and think-- glad I did that right so my kids are in heaven...they would somehow be indebted would they not?

Thomas Ross said...


In relation to your first comment, I didn't see that sentence when I searched for it--is that one I said?

I think the point of Ezekiel 18 is that a saved person (just person) can still beget an unregenerate child--think Josiah. Unless it can be PROVEN that Ezekiel 18 specifically means that the parent trained up a child in all the ways he was supposed to do--rather than affirming simply what would be true of the regenerate in general--there is no contradiction. Thanks for the comments.


Children CAN turn out right with bad parents--and even with unregenerate parents children can hear the gospel and be converted. There just is no promise, but parents who obey Proverbs 22:6 have a promise.

d4v34x said...

No you didn't say it, but I see no reason, from these articles, that you should object to saying it, or object to anyone saying it as a one sentence summary of the promise you see in Proverbs 22:6.

Do you see any such reasons?

Anonymous said...

Greg / 1611,

I hear what you are saying about the heavy yoke or burden that Mr. Ross' article has put you under.

I think Don made a good point in the comments under Part One regarding Abraham. If someone were to ask us, "Is there an example of someone in the Bible who did not rear all of his children to know and to follow God, yet still received commendation from God for his parenting," we could answer them, "Yes, Abraham did not rear his firstborn son Ishmael to know God or to live for God, yet God gave Abraham the extraordinary commendation of his parenting as recorded in Genesis 18:19." Thoughts? --Bob

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ross,

I think you missed my point about grandchildren.

You said, "...pastors are disqualified if their children go bad, no matter how old those children are..." Can the pastor's character be finally determined before it is seen how his grandchildren turn out? If the pastor's adult children do not rear godly children who know and follow Christ, then the adult children are disqualified for having an ungodly family. If the adult children are disqualified, then the pastor who reared those adult children is disqualified. If your grandchildren turn out bad, is it possible to claim that you reared your own children to practice the "promise" of Proverbs 22:6? If a 1st generation Christian truly does his part of the promise of Proverbs 22:6, then his 2nd generation son could not disprove that promise by giving him a rebellious grandson in the 3rd generation. To do so would mean the 1st generation parent did everything he could but his children still turned out bad in the all important matter of family for God. The 1st generation is disqualified by their failure to influence the actions of the 2nd generation as revealed in the 3rd generation. That's my question about grandchildren. --Bob

Thomas Ross said...


God does guarantee to those parents who sufficiently obey Biblical precepts of child rearing the salvation of their children.


I think there is something to think about there with the grandkids. The requirement of "blameless" in 1 Tim 3 involves not having an obvious handle that people can point out, not perfect sinlessness, and sinlessness is not requisite in 1 Tim 3 or Titus 1 for childrearing. Perhaps that gap between sinlessness and "blameless" can account for grandchildren going bad, or perhaps not--I'm happy to believe that there is a promise to grandchildren as well, but at this point I'm not willing to commit to it, and there are certainly more steps required to the conclusion about grandkids than for children.


It seems to me that the heavy yoke is the idea that you can do all you ought to do and your children will serve the devil and burn in hell fire forever, not that God makes a glorious promise to obedient parents.

Thanks for the comments one and all.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ross,

I agree that that is the most awful burden to bear, believing your child has been eternally lost. There may be some reading or commenting who bear such a devastating weight. But I am still of the belief that it is a heavy burden for a parent to be told that their failure to keep their end of a promise may cost them their child's soul, especially when it is worded in terms such as, "doing everything they should have done." After all Mr. Ross, from what I can tell, you are the only one of us in the discussion who has not yet failed to keep the promise of Proverbs 22:6. Unless, of course, Mr. Brandenburg would speak to this in his own defense.

Anyway, I have enjoyed this. Though I remain unconvinced from Scripture, I hold that the discussion was profitable. I will leave you with a final question and a final thought, and the last word, as it should be, may be yours.

Question: It appears to me that Proverbs does contain statements that are merely precepts, or general rules to which there may be exceptions. Chapter 3:1-2 would be one that comes to mind without much thought. Certainly it was not true for Abel, John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus Christ, and others through history. Other examples in Proverbs may include instances of the retribution principle. So I ask, why such a strong promise with zero exceptions in the midst of a book that contains precepts with exceptions?

Finally, I thank you for your study and efforts to provoke thought on the part of your audience. I do not believe that any of us should hold it against you that you have taught on this subject having never reared children. Obviously some unmarried men have preached messages on how to have a good marriage. The wisdom of that can be debated another time. Nevertheless, I don't think you should be surprised that your audience, the members of it with children anyway, might be looking at you slightly sideways. It is only natural to wonder about a man who is making promises (I understand you are giving your own exegesis) offering something that he has not yet obtained. Should the Lord entrust you with children and grandchildren, it will be interesting to read your final edition of this article. --Bob

d4v34x said...

Brother Ross,

Going back and re-reading Ezekiel 18, the point seems actually to be that people cannot blame their parents for their spiritual state and the consequences thereof. The point is

3 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel.

4Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Thomas Ross said...


I have no idea what commenters here have or have not done with their children; Pastor Brandenburg (and others who I know read this) are definitely qualified.

In terms of the question of whether exegesis of Proverbs 22:6 should only be set forth and applied by those who have already raised children, rather than anyone who is part of the universal priesthood of believers (not that Anonymous was specifically stating this), what came to mind was the words of Pastor Roger Voegtlin, pastor of Fairhaven Baptist Church and college. When he preached the promise of Proverbs 22:6 and didn't have any kids yet, people said, "Ah, you can say that; wait until you have your own." When he had little children, naysayers said, "Wait until they are older; then you'll see." When they were grown up and all living for God, naysayers said, "In your day, decades ago, Proverbs 22:6 could be obeyed, but not now in our day; today the world is too wicked." So we had better just go with the grammatical-historical exegesis of the passage.

I am not prepared at this point to say that nothing in Proverbs is a principle rather than a promise, although if we consider the dynamic of partial and complete fulfillment, the godly will all inherit the earth, etc. in the Millennium, even if they have trouble now. As Solomon's son was the head of the theocratic nation of Israel, I don't know why Proverbs 3:1-2 wasn't an actual promise to Solomon's son which was certainly true, rather than only a principle.

Thanks all for the comments.