Dear radio friends,
Today the church of Jesus Christ celebrates one of the richest blessings that we have ever received—the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Fifty days after Jesus arose from the dead, and ten days after He ascended up on high into heaven, He poured out His Spirit, as He had promised, upon His church. The Spirit was the fullness of the blessings of Jesus Christ to live in our hearts, to guide us into the truths of the Holy Scriptures, to preserve us unto life eternal, and to indwell us so that we might now live as the temple of God in the midst of a sinful world.
We celebrate today, as the Christian church, the great blessing of Pentecost—the gift of the outpoured Spirit of Christ.
What is often overlooked in this great blessing is that the Holy Spirit is promised to the children of believers. Pentecost is a covenantal day; it is the day in which the Holy Spirit is not poured out simply upon adult believing converts, but is given also to the children of believers.
Peter, in the book of Acts (chapter 2), when he preaches on the day of Pentecost and when the people around are asking, “What is the meaning of all of this?” Peter, you might recall, quoted from the prophecy of Joel (chapter 2). He said that Joel had foretold that in the last days God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. And then he added: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” Joel’s prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a prophecy in which the promise of the Spirit to the children of believers was made.
Joel is not alone. The passage that I would like to consider with you today as we celebrate Pentecost is found in Isaiah 44:3-5. There we read the words of the prophet: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.”
What a precious and beautiful promise of Jehovah to believing parents. “I will pour out My Spirit upon your children as water upon dry ground—to infuse into their souls the blessings of Jesus Christ. I will give My Spirit to the children of believers in order that the Spirit may do what you parents cannot do—He will renew them with a heavenly life, He will open their heart, He will work faith within them, He will give them to grow up to live a holy life as willows by the water courses, and they will confess boldly, ‘I am the Lord’s’ and surname themselves by the name of Israel.”
The promise of Pentecost is to take the spiritually stillborn children of believers, whom we confess are conceived and born in sin and subject to all miseries, yea, to condemnation itself—to take these children and pour upon them the blessings of the salvation of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
Cling to this promise of God—this Pentecostal, covenantal promise to believing parents. He will bless also the children of believers. Cling to it at the beginning of the day when you begin your care and nurture of a child, and especially at the end of the day when you fold your hands and come to God. Believe this promise.
Reformed believers have a form that is used in the administration of Baptism for the children of believers. In that form we make the following confession: “In like manner, when we are baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit assures us that He will dwell in us and sanctify us to be members of Christ; applying unto us that which we have in Christ, namely the washing away of our sins and the daily renewing of our lives, till we shall finally be presented without spot or wrinkle among the assembly of the elect in life eternal.”
That is exactly what Isaiah is promising. He is promising the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon the children of believers, to saturate them with His grace, that they grow up to confess that they are the Lord’s.
The graciousness of God’s promise in Isaiah is found when we look just briefly into the context of Isaiah 44. In the face of His tender mercies, the people of God had transgressed against God and served God with their sins. And God had chastised them. In the midst of that chastisement, God promises a renewal. He says, “Hear now, O Jacob…whom I have chosen, I will yet remember My promise, My promise of covenant, and I will pour out My Spirit upon you. I will pour out My Spirit upon your offspring.”
Upon whom will the floods of the Holy Spirit be poured out as water upon dry ground? Who will be renewed unto godliness? Who will be given a fearless and loving confession? The answer is: upon “Jacob my servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen” (Is. 44:1). Those, says God, “whom I have formed and who were created by Me in the womb.” This blessing will be poured out upon the elect, upon those who are formed and redeemed out of the world of sin, upon God’s servants—and upon their offspring.
What a wonderful and gracious promise!
Believing parents’ greatest desire is the salvation of their children, that they grow up to live godly lives and to confess their Savior. But this is exactly what we as parents cannot do. And this is what makes the promise so precious. God says that He, by the Spirit, will work the blessing of salvation in the elect children born to believing parents. “I will pour out My Spirit upon thy seed…upon thine offspring.”
Now the text is using a very vivid figure or picture. The figure is of dry, cracked ground, baked under the sun, and of plants brown and withered. Seed placed upon the ground dies. And then there comes a flood of water—first rain, soaking into the dry clay, and then rivers, streams, beginning to flow, and grasses of all sorts sprout up, and birds and animals are in trees and willows near the pools of water and streamlets. Out of death comes life. The parched land becomes a meadow and a place of life.
This is the figure of the work of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of the church, using the creation, and springtime, and the bestowal of water upon a dry land, as the figure. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who is the breath of God; still more, the Holy Spirit who now has possession of all the blessings of Jesus Christ—this Spirit will be poured out upon the church as water upon dry ground. The promise is that the Holy Spirit will pervade the inmost recesses of our soul. He will open the closed, hardened heart. He will infuse new qualities into our will, rendering our will pliable. He will strengthen our will so that like a good tree we may bring forth the fruit of good actions. The Holy Spirit will bring the life of Christ to sprout out in faith and in our consciences.
The promise is, however, that the Spirit will be given also to the children of believers. “I will pour out my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” I will pour out my blessings upon your children. The idea is that the blessings will be abundant and copious. “I will pour floods of blessing upon your children. I will pour out the countless, priceless gifts of adoption and forgiveness, righteousness and eternal life. Everything that now is in Christ shall also be poured out upon your children.”
You will remember that this is exactly the blessing of Pentecost, as I pointed out, when Peter stood up before the wondering crowd and quoted from Joel 2 and said that the Spirit would be upon your sons and daughters. Peter, on Pentecost Sunday ( Acts 2), could as well have said, “This is that which was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah (44). God expressly said that He would pour out His Spirit upon your sons and your daughters.”
The gracious, wonderful promise is that God will pour out the riches of grace upon the elect, spiritual seed born to believing parents. The Holy Spirit, the author of faith, is promised no less to them—the children of believers—than to the adults.
The Holy Spirit, parents, uses means. He is gracious. But He uses means.
Raise up your sons and your daughters under the influences of the Holy Spirit, under those means that the Spirit says He will employ for the imparting of spiritual life. Many parents today hardly think of the importance of the spiritual training of their children. Many parents do not feel a sense and a burden to teach the Scriptures, to pray, and to instruct in a godly life. They do not exert themselves in providing a distinctive, religious, Christian education. Instead they want to leave it to the child. They think that their only calling is to provide physically—a roof and clothes, sports and fashions, and take them shopping. Many other parents are cold and worldly. That warm and loving confession of Jesus Christ is not heard from their lips. Family worship is let go. Attending the house of God on the Lord’s Day is let go. Teaching them to pray at their bedside is omitted. Walking a life that says that they are the Lord’s is not taught. A spirit of indifference is left in them.
Parents, the Spirit is promised to our children ,to work a living faith in them; but the Spirit works through means, through the means of fathers and mothers immersing them in the Word of God. How can they be filled with the Holy Spirit? How shall they possess the indomitable joy that frees them from the fear of sin? How shall they grow up to honor Jesus Christ and to live a godly life? Here is the answer: (II Tim. 3:14) “From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures.” By taking heed to God’s Word, meditating therein day and night. The full assurance of hope in Christ comes from meditating upon the Word of God. Teach them the Bible—at meal times, at Bible Story times. This is not a contradiction. It is the Holy Spirit who gives life. He is the divine author of spiritual life in the soul of everyone who is saved. But He does this through His own Word of promise. Spiritual life is not some vague notion that comes out of nowhere like a stomachache. It is given through the wonderful truth of God’s Word as it is brought to us by believing parents.
See that they are taught the Word of God. Provide them a Christian education that is saturated with the Word of God. Seek to establish with fellow parents a school where the “Thus saith the Lord,” the infallible Word of God, is the standard of all education. And be sure, be utmost sure, that your home is the place where they are taught the truth of the Word of God. The instruction of your child is your responsibility as a parent. Parental responsibility.
You are concerned, are you not, about what milk your little infant gets? If the formula or the bottle comes to you, you read the label, do you not? You do not say, “Well, a little arsenic doesn’t hurt.” You say to your husband concerning that little baby, “Don’t put that in his mouth!”
Now the life of the soul is more precious. And the life of the soul is the same. The life of the soul needs the pure milk of the Word of truth. Parents, husband and wife, work together to provide this nurture of your children. Live the Word of God also before them with a warm and living faith. A child will mirror his parents. Why should it be strange that a child believes what we say and lives as we live? God has made children that way, to learn through the example of their parents.
The wonderful result, says Isaiah, will be that children, by the grace of God, in a believing home, will grow up to a personal profession of faith and a godly life. And they, that is, thy offspring, says Isaiah, shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob.
Now, what can we expect from children brought up in the covenant of grace? What type of spiritual life should we look for? Dull, complacent? Are the children brought up in the church to be expected to live this way: “Well, we all know about that stuff, but we don’t care”? Do we expect that young people in the Christian church will sow their wild oats or feel awkward in expressing spiritual life together, or are unconcerned about spiritual realities, or are unable to pray? Is that what you expect? Well, it is not what God says. It is not what the Spirit expects. If the Spirit is poured out upon an adult, upon a first-generation Christian, one who is taken out of paganism, we expect, do we not, a life that is organized around spiritual things, excitement in spiritual things. But do we say, “Well, you know, the third, fourth, fifth, sixth generation—they begin to take things for granted. They are indifferent and superficial, but that is to be expected, right?”
God says, “No!” That is dead orthodoxy. That means that you are a branch that is withering up, about ready to be lopped off the tree of the church and promise.
Isaiah says that the result will be, first of all, a marked, noticeable, unashamed godliness of life: “And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.” To understand that, we must turn to the Psalms (92:7, 12), “When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever…the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree.” The wicked world is as grass. It grows up and apparently it flourishes until it is cut down. But the righteous are as a willow by the water course—they are as a tree, they are stable. The result is a stable life of godliness, a life sinking roots deeply into the streams of the Word of God. The result of being born in a Christian home and raised under the blessings of the Holy Spirit is not that spiritual life is a flash here, an excitement there. But it is a noticeable, godly, stable, mature life, to the glory of God, an enduring, steadfast, Christian life.
And, secondly, a profession of faith in God. We read, “One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” The Spirit so works that your offspring come forward to profess personal attachment to the Son of God and allegiance to His cause. The result of the outpouring of the Spirit upon the children of believers is that these children come to years and say, “I am the Lord’s.” They say, “I want to be identified with the Lord.” They subscribe His name. They say, “Write my name down in that list of the saints of God, in the book of God’s church. My last name, or my epitaph, let it be ‘the Lord’s friend.’” So the covenant child is Bob or George or Levi or Susan, the Lord’s friend—surnamed his name by the God of Israel.
The result is a spiritual life, a godly generation, a mature faith, a stable, committed, confessing Christian.
Parents, cling to this promise. Look to God to establish a consecrated home. Use diligently the means given by the Holy Spirit. Instruct your children to the best of your ability. Love your sons. Love your daughters. But remember that all that you can do is give them a depraved nature. You will see your sins in your child. You will see your failures, your impatience, your anger, and your lack of zeal. You raise them in a wicked world that wants them lost in the emptiness and vanity of this world. Now, hold fast to this promise: “I will pour out my Spirit upon your children.” And then use the means prayerfully for their spiritual nurture, and be encouraged. Pour the Word of God into them. Pray over them. Pray, “Lord, bless to their souls this precious truth of Thy Word. Make them to know, love, trust, obey, and serve Thee.” Be an example to them. Your life is more important than your words. Your actions, what you do, will teach them. They will catch on to how you live.
Draw near to God and say, “Lord, I believe Thy promise. Be pleased to use us as a channel of Thy grace to our children, that our children may grow, God willing, to be noble and strong Christians. That they may be ready to leave this life that is nothing but a perishing, vanishing world, and be ready always to say, ‘I am the Lord’s.’ And, Father, do this all by the Holy Spirit who has been poured out upon us according to Thy promise.”
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy precious Word. We pray that Thou wilt seal it by the Spirit even to our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.