The doctrine of election and my children


Josh, who writes Unbound, asked for the input of several other mom-bloggers regarding the doctrine of election and one’s children. Personally speaking, I’ve struggled and thought through this doctrine quite a bit, considering its weighty implications for myself and for my family. Ultimately, my faith rests in God alone and in His goodness and mercy.

Here’s what this post is not: I will not be writing an apologetic for the doctrine of election. I will not argue with anyone about whether or not we choose Christ or God chooses who will believe. I do not wish to discuss the ins and outs of the words “foreknowledge” and “predestined.” This post is for moms (and dads) who believe that God alone is sovereign over all things, including salvation, and who struggle to come to grips with His power over their children.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s all assume that the Bible teaches that God has chosen (before any of us came to be) who His children are. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if God chooses who will be saved, then that means He must also decide who He will pass over and punish for their sins. He can’t choose one without also choosing the other. And that is the part that makes us mothers gasp.

It’s much easier to be a Christian mother who believes that as long as her children pray a certain prayer, then they’re in. Believe me, my heart wants so badly to put stock in “the dot on the timeline.” “They prayed!! They asked Jesus to come in!! Whew! Mark that off the to-do list.” But the Bible won’t let me do that…not even for assurance of my own salvation. So, what’s a mother to do?

First, we must understand that even though God chooses who will be saved, He has ordained that saving faith comes by various means. As a mother, I am to take advantage of those means. No, I have a responsibility! God has ordained that people come to faith by hearing the gospel. So, Moms, preach the gospel to your kids from the time their babes and all they can do it sleep, eat, and poop. Talk about Jesus in the morning at breakfast, at lunch, at dinner, before bed, during family devotions, during times of disciplining your kids, basically, anytime you have an open door. Sing songs about Jesus when you’re outside swinging. Talk about God when you’re walking outside and you see a spider’s web. ALL THE TIME. Make this kind of talk a normal part of your family’s life. Now, we’re human, and we aren’t going to take advantage of every single opportunity, so we also rely on another means by which God works to save men…

Prayer. We must pray for our children. Pray for ears to hear. Pray for soft hearts. Pray for God to SAVE. Pray for His grace to help us make the most of every opportunity we have. Pray for them to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Pray for them to see their sinfulness. Pray for them to see their need for Jesus to save them. Pray for God’s grace to cover those times when we blow it as moms. (Admit to your kids when you blow it. Ask for their forgiveness. It is important for them to hear us say we need Jesus, too.) God hears us when we pray! God works through prayer!

Read the Bible together. You don’t need a fancy curriculum or a program. Just pick it up and read it! And read it with some feeling and animation. It’s not a boring book! Depending on attention spans, read as much or as little as you need to. Talk about it for a few minutes, also depending on their maturity and age. Pray together.

All of these things fall under scripture’s instructions to parents to train their children in the Lord. He has revealed through scripture the responsibilities of parents to pray for, instruct, and nurture their children. But does God promise that if we do those things that He will save our children? No. I can do all of those things, but I am not in control of anything. But I pray to God, who is in control of everything.

He has given me four children. I believe He plans to use me (and my husband) to bring them into the fold. He gave them to me–a believer, who wants desperately to have her own children enjoying Jesus for eternity–knowing that I will bring them up according to the means He has provided for their salvation. Are they elect by virtue of the fact that they were born to me? No. But that fact does not lead me to a fatalist attitude that I can shirk my responsibilities because “He chooses, so it doesn’t matter what I do”. I think parents are a part of the appointed means for bringing children to faith. My actions matter. He works everything together for our good and His glory.

The other aspect of all of this that gives me great peace is an understanding of His power and His grace. I was not raised in a Christian home. And yet, God used my own rotten upbringing to draw me to Himself. If my children are His, then there is nothing (no person, no circumstance) that will stand in the way of their salvation. No good thing. No bad thing. Nothing can thwart the plans and purposes of God. I find immense peace and purpose in applying the knowledge that God’s calling is effectual, powerful, and certain. It doesn’t depend on me. Salvation is all of Him, so that no one can boast. He is sovereign over the end and every step along the way. His sovereignty is a good thing. It is not something that should cause us to dread and worry. It is meant to give us peace in all things.

This may seem really silly in light of the topic, but when it comes to salvation, I’m so thankful that the decision is God’s. Leaving it up to the smarts and good decision-making skills of my kids causes much more fear and doubt than election does. Praise God for His electing grace! Without it, how lost I would be!

And another thing: my kids are sinners. And so am I. My heart wants to say to God, “Look at my precious children. How can you not save them?” My heart wants to say that we deserve Heaven. But the truth is that we do not deserve an ounce of God’s grace and mercy. I am reminded of this truth every single day. We are sinful to the core. We are selfish, sin-sick, evil, hateful, angry, arrogant, prideful, lustful, covetous–and that’s just from today! As I was taking my kids to piano practice today, I started crying because God’s goodness to me hit me right between the eyes! We were running late, and I was angry about it. And I let everybody know it. I was shocked by my own depravity in showing my anger (I think I’m so good). I sat there in the driver’s seat crying because I realized again the depth of my sin and that I know I deserve to be punished for it for all eternity, but I can’t make God punish me. “Please strike me down now. You would be right and just to do it!” He didn’t. By His grace I’m still breathing and marvelling at His mercy and justice in Jesus on the cross. We do not deserve Him.

I do not think about “what if they’re not elect” as much as I used to. I have certain responsibilities as a Christian mother, so I focus on performing those the best I can. I don’t look at my kids and wonder, “are you?” I have had to stop myself from thinking that perhaps the very means for their salvation will be used to drive them away from Christ. Either way, I’m left throwing my hands in the air because God is God. His ways and thoughts are higher and greater and purer than I can even imagine. Some of His ways are forever hidden, and it is foolish for me to try and go there with my pea brain. The Apostle Paul couldn’t do it, and neither will I. As with all things in this life, my faith rests in God alone. So, I pray and sow seed and pray some more, believing that I will reap (with shouts of joy!) a harvest of good fruit one day.

20 Comments on “The doctrine of election and my children

  1. Leslie, This is something that I have struggled with. I want so badly to know that I can save my kids by teaching them what is right. But that’s not what God says. Like you say, I have a responsibility to teach them, and we need to submerge them in the gospel, but ultimately it is up to God whether or not they are his. And we must remember that He is a good God. ANd all His ways are just. I loved that post, thanks!

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  2. Thanks for tackling a sensitive subject like this. It was a great encouragment. Yours is a much better thought out version of my own swirling thoughts on the matter.

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  3. I had just finished posting to our blog about this subject and then did a search and found you’d just posted.I really appreciate what you had to say. You say it well!I would encourage you to read a book I just found, YOUR CHILD’S PROFESSION OF FAITH, by Dennis Gundersen. It is very encouraging and from a Reformed perspective.Blessings to you and yours,

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  4. I love your posts. I always learn something new from you. This is a tough topic and you explained it well. Thank you for this post!

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  5. Beautifully put. I can’t believe you posted on this. Just a couple of weeks ago we had a very heavy topic come up regarding our babies and their salvation. We came away realizing once again that we are not without responsibility but the end result will be from Holy Sovereign God and while He may use us, He will work *in spite* of us as well. (ex: your upbringing/my upbringing. Blessings!

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  6. LeslieThank you so much for taking the time to write about this. I’ve got four too and it DOES give me great comfort to know that God is there and He is in control of it, not some random circumstance or hope that the ‘decision’ sticks. Oh its a hard thing but so sweet…As with all things in this life, my faith rests in God alone.Amen sister and may God bless you richly as you continue to strive for those babies.Josh”…the word of God is not bound.”–2 Timothy 2:9

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  7. Sometimes the truth is painful. Thanks for saying what needs to be said even when it’s heartbreaking. And I’m with you on the “thank goodness their salvation is in God’s hands” How awful if their salvation was up to me! What if I said something wrong? What if I didn’t do it right? What if that one time….Thanks Leslie.

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  8. Leslie,This is such a great post! You have put into words, in such an organized matter, the Truth of God’s sovereignty over salvation. Also emphasizing our responsibilities as parents. It is a much needed topic and we as parents can trust that whatever God does is right and just.A book I can recommend is John MacArthur’s book *Safe in the Arms of God*…I know I have mentioned this one to you…but other’s may like to read it. Kim

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  9. Great post, Leslie. This is an issue with which fathers who embrace the Doctrines of Grace also struggle. I’ll be linking to this post on my blog so that maybe both of the women who read it may gain some benefit. ;)Thanks again.

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  10. Leslie,What an articulate well thought out post. This is something I have thought much about too. Thank you for being so honest about your depravity. We really do deserve nothing and I need to be freshly reminded everyday. So grateful for the doctrines of grace…even this one that I can struggle with.I want to link to this post too…This is the third post in a week. I am really not stalking you I promise :o)

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  11. Leslie, it is obcious how much you prayed and thought out what you wanted to say. Very well put. This is such a hard topic. I think it is an issue that we will never completely understand. Thankfully, our God is Sovreign over all and we can trust in Him.

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  12. Thanks for a great post! You have such a great way of sharing your thoughts. This is sometimes hard for me to think about, but I trust that whatever God does is right. What a privledge it is to raise children for Him.

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  13. Being a parent has driven me to my knees with an urgency I never had before.It is my fervent prayer that His grace will be given upon our household and hearts will yearn for Him.What a duty and responsibility! What a privilege.

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  14. Nicely put Leslie. I am thankful for God’s sovereignty in this. I too am often overwhelmed by the responsibility to teach my children … but I am thankful for His grace in that too!

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  15. Praise God we can trust in His goodness and mercy and holiness. Interestingly, I just blogged about infant salvation and the assurance we can have that they are indeed in the arms of the Lord. In light of this assurance, Spurgeon urges us to let our weeping and greiving be for our living children as it is they who are in danger of eternal torment.

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  16. Leslie,I love the way you bring it all back to one thing…responsibility.Whether we believe elect or not, chosen or choosing Him, we as moms have a very large responsibility to bring our children up in the things of the Lord.Thank you for writing this.I will admit I have no idea where I stand on the “bigger issue” but I know that God is God, and I am not. He holds all the answers and I draw near to Him.Thank you sweet sister!

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  17. I don’t believe in this particular doctrine; but I do believe I am accountable before God as to how I raise my children. My hope is that they will find & trust in the wonderful Savior who saved me. Without Him, I am nothing. I really don’t worry about whether or not they are “elect”—I trust the Lord to draw them unto Himself; I can only point the way.

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  18. Excellent thoughts. The pastor of the church that we went to last Sunday preached a great sermon about God’s election. He pointed out several of the same things about our responsibility too. There is tension there and mystery too, but I am glad that God is sovereign. I can trust Him with my children.

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  19. Excellent post, Leslie. I am OH SO THANKFUL that it is the Lord Who does the saving!! If it were up to me and my futile attempts, all would be lost. God in His Great Mercy has let me have the joy of telling my Elizabeth about Him. I do talk of Him when we sit and when we rise, everywhere we go I talk about what the Lord has made and how His plans are perfect. I will talk about Him with all that is in me until my dying day. It is my greatest prayer that He would save her, but that is up to Him. I can only do my part and leave His part to Him. After all, His plans are WAY better than mine could ever dream of being!!His,Mrs. U

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  20. Excellent post! I am not a mother (yet), but I look forward to being an aunt this summer. My sister has asked me to be her child’s godmother. They are not Christians but he is a nominal Catholic, so I am delighted that I will be able to have some responsibility in the spiritual upbringing of their child.

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