NKJ Genesis 17:10-14 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.
NKJ Leviticus 12:1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.’”
NKJ Jeremiah 31:31-32 Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — 32not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.
NKJJeremiah 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
NKJEzekiel 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
NKJ Jeremiah 31:34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
First, unlike the Old Covenant, everyonewho is a member of the New Covenant community knows the Lord.
Second, unlike the Old Covenant, everyonewho is a member of the New Covenant has his sins forgiven.
NKJ Matthew 10:35-37 For I have come to “set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”; 36 and “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
NKJ Matthew 12:46-50 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
NKJ Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
NKJ Mark 10:28-30 Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” 29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time – houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions – and in the age to come, eternal life.”
NKJ Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
NKJ Ephesians 2:19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God ….
NKJ Ephesians 3:14-15 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man ….
All this being said, there are significant philosophical and practical issues raised by this movement that contradict a biblical ecclesiology and infringe on the rights and authority of the church ….
The church is not a collection of families, but a collection of believers. It is not an extension of the family, but a completely different and sovereign institution. The family was instituted at creation and is a creation institution, while the church in its present and final form was instituted after the work of redemption accomplished by Christ and is a redemptive institution. This means that the head of the household in virtue of his being the head of the household has no authority in the church. His rights and liberties as to church membership and as a church member are no different than those of his 20 year old son who lives at home but is also a member of the church. The family-based church idea makes some sense from a paedobaptist and Presbyterian standpoint. They often have held that only heads of households should vote in the church. They have always held that the membership in the church is family-based and composed of families. But family-based churches are a specific contradiction of a Baptist view of the church and make no sense within a Baptist viewpoint ….
When the church is seen as a distinct and sovereign institution under God, then its right and duty to fulfill the Great Commission in many ways beside the meeting of the church becomes clear. The elders of the church and their appointed delegates have the right to instruct the men, the children, and the women of the church in age-segregated situations. The Great Commission gives the church the right to evangelize and instruct the entire world and so certainly the children and wives of believers. It does not limit this instruction to church services. Only a specific, scriptural prohibition would warrant a man in refusing as a matter of principleto cooperate with the church in such attempts to evangelize and edify all those to whom the church is sent by the Great Commission. No such prohibition exists. In principle the choice to join a church is a choice to subject one’s wife and one’s children to its instruction. This is what church membership means—subjection to the authority of a specific, local church to fulfill its commission with regard to one’s children and one’s wife. In principle refusal to allow this in one’s absence represents a misconception of the nature of the church and her authority.
To sum up the church does not exercise authority over its members through the mediation of heads of household or as families, but as individual believers. Its authority over the women of the church is not exercised, for instance, through the head of the family. Its authority is direct. While children are under the care and authority of the family, parents of children who are members ought to be grateful for and recognize the right of the church to evangelize their children with their consent. (Italics mine)
NKJ Genesis 1:27-28 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
NKJ Genesis 2:23-24 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”24Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
NKJ Deuteronomy 6:1-9 Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you– “a land flowing with milk and honey.” 4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
NKJ Malachi 2:13-15 And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. 14Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? [RecallGen. 2:23-24] And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.
NKJ Ephesians 5:25-6:4 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 6:1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3 “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” 4And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. (See also Col. 3:18-21; 1 Pet. 3:1-7.)
NKJ 1 Timothy 5:3-8 Honor widows who are really widows. 4But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. 5Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. 6But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. 7And these things command, that they may be blameless. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
NKJ Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 7:6-9; 32-35 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. 8But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion … 32But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord– how he may please the Lord. 33But he who is married cares about the things of the world– how he may please his wife. 34There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world– how she may please her husband. 35And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
Application of Principles
First, the local church should not shift its responsibility to evangelize and edify the saints to the family. The elders of the churches have a responsibility to teach and equip the body that supersedes that which is given to fathers with regard to their families. Although Christian fathers – as heads of their households – have been given a responsibility to evangelize and instruct their families, this must be done in submission to the elders of the church and in cooperation with their overall church family. And it should be done in a way that welcomes the involvement of the larger church family in the lives of their children. In fact, an approach that in effect does the opposite, and leaves one’s children with the impression that the biological family is the most important priority in one’s life – even more important than the family of God – fails to adequately “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Second, on the other hand, the church family should not seek to overwhelm the biological family such that these relationships are viewed as less important than Scripture teaches. It is a tragedy when a person’s commitment to Christ leads to the destruction of family relationships, a tragedy that is sometimes unavoidable (as we have seen above in the teaching of Jesus), and the church should seek to avoid such destruction whenever and wherever possible.
Third, as a part of their God-given task to teach the Church (e.g. Acts 20:17-32; Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-11) and to serve as examples to flock (1 Pet. 5:1-4), elders must model a strong family life and seek to help families learn to live according to Scriptural principles. But they must also stress the priority of one’s relationship to Christ and the implications of being members of the spiritual family that is His church.
But what does all of this tell us about the specific issue under discussion? In what way do these Biblical principles inform our decision regarding the practice of age segregated instruction of children in the churches? Well, we can assert at the beginning that the complaint in some circles that involving our believing children in age segregated Sunday school classes means that we are somehow undermining or dividing families is simply not true. When we bring our believing children to church and allow them to be instructed by other believers – in addition to, not instead of, our instruction of them – they are not being separated from their family because they are actually with the most important family they could ever belong to, their spiritual family, the family of God. It is really no different than when parents take their children to a large family reunion and allow a trusted uncle or aunt, or perhaps an older cousin, to take a group of children to play on the swings or to do some kind of constructive activity while the adults are catching up with one another. No one I have met would complain in such a case that the children are not with their family, or that the family was being undermined or divided, since the whole point is to introduce the children to their larger family so that they might get to know and appreciate them. The same holds for allowing one’s children to take part in an age segregated Sunday school class in the local church. When we allow our children to take part, we are not only introducing them to our spiritual family so that they may get to know them, but we are allowing them to be the recipients of the gifts and blessings God has bestowed on the various members of our church family. We are allowing our unbelieving children to be evangelized by others in the church who may be more gifted than we are, and we are allowing our believing children to be taught by others in our church family who may be even more gifted in teaching spiritual things to our children than we are. As a matter of fact, this is but one way in which we can fulfill our obligation as parents to our children to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Having said of all of this, however, I do not wish to imply that I think every parent must avail themselves of age segregated education for their children if offered by their local church. I am merely seeking to demonstrate that the practice is indeed a Biblical one, not that it is the only Biblical way to do things.