Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV)
31So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.
Later in the service I have the privilege of baptizing several children. Believing that God welcomes not only them but their children into His church, they are bringing their children forward for baptism today. So why do we embrace this conviction?
As we consider this question, it is helpful to remember that throughout redemptive history God has dealt with His people both as individuals and as families or households. His covenants, His relationships with His people, are almost always generational. So, in the beginning of creation, God made a covenant with Adam and all those in him (Rom 5:18). At the flood, God covenanted with Noah and his descendants, rescuing his entire household from destruction (Gen 6:18). Similarly, God called Abram and his household out of Ur of the Chaldees and covenanted to bless all the families of the earth through his Seed (Gen 12:3). God made a covenant with David and his seed, promising that one of David’s sons would always sit upon his throne (2 Sam 7:12). Characteristically, God works not just with individuals but with families, with households. Hence, the final promise of the OT is that God will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers” (Mal 4:6).
It is no surprise, therefore, that this same feature characterizes the new covenant. Jeremiah prophesied that, in the new covenant, God would give His people “one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them” (Jer 32:39). Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones that come to life closes with the glorious promise, “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes and do them…. and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children forever…” (Ezek 37:24-25a). Similarly, Isaiah promises those who turn in faith to the Messiah: “Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9).
When we turn to the pages of the New Testament, therefore, we find our Lord Jesus at work not only among adults but among children and infants. He raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead; he cures a father’s son who suffered from epileptic seizures; He listens to the woman of Tyre who pleads on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter; he raises the only son of the widow of Nain; he blesses the little children and even nursing infants who are brought to Him; He welcomes the praise of children in the Temple as they cry, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Jesus ministers not just to individuals but to families.
Thus, the Apostles did the same. As Paul and Silas proclaim to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household” (16:31). The message they preached to him was the same they preached to Lydia the day before. So, having believed, “she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15) just as in our text the jailer “and all his family were baptized” (16:33). God deals with families and welcomes us and our children into His church through baptism.
So what does this mean for us? Parents, it means that your children are not your own. Your children belong to the Lord of heaven and earth and have been entrusted by Him to your care. So you are called, in Paul’s words, “to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4), a vow that these parents will be affirming later this morning. Children, it means that you are not your own but that you belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who has claimed you His own in your baptism. So you are called, in the words of the 5th commandment, to “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12).
And so reminded that God deals not just with individuals but also with families, let us confess that we have often neglected our responsibilities as parents and children alike – we parents have neglected to train our children as we ought, and we children have neglected to honor our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins.