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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Day 42: Matthew 18:1-20 & Psalms 42-43: How Does Jesus View Children in the Kingdom of God?

Today's Reading: Matthew 18:1-20 & Psalms 42-43

Get the full reading plan

How Does Jesus View Children in the Kingdom of God?

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying,
“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said,
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
- Matthew 18:1-4, ESV

As a PCA pastor, I know that whenever I baptize a baby in worship, some of the members of our church and some of our visitors will not understand or fully agree with what we are doing. Over the past few hundred years, the Baptist understanding of baptism has become so dominant in the evangelical world that the baptism of infants now seems strange and unbiblical, though it was the sole position of the church for most of her history. 

For me personally, my journey from Southern Baptist to Calvinistic Baptist to Presbyterian took place in my early-to-mid 20's, and the final step in the process for me was understanding how Jesus and Paul both viewed children within the kingdom of God and the church. Here we have a classic text on this topic. Jesus will later say that the kingdom of heaven belongs to young children (Matthew 19:14), but here in today's passage, he makes several comments about children.

Jesus calls a child to him, The word used here, paidon, is most commonly used of a very young child., an infant or toddler. Of these children, Jesus says:

1. Unless you become like them, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (v. 3)
2. Whoever humbles himself like a little child will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (v. 4)
3. Whoever received one such little child in the name of Jesus receives Jesus Himself. (v. 5)
4. Whoever causes a small child who believe in Jesus to fall into sin will face severe consequences (v. 6)
5. Their angels in heaven always see the face of God. (v. 10)
6. God does not want any of these little ones to perish. (v. 14)



Now, building a case in favor of covenant child baptism in infancy is bigger than simply understanding Jesus' view of the children of believers. [If you want more on this topic, you can get my e-book on baptism from Amazon here.]  However, the central issue comes down to whether or not the children of believers belong in the church and should receive the sign of inclusion among God's people in the church. Jesus' teaching in this passage are very helpful.

Clearly, Jesus sees children as belonging to the kingdom of heaven. They are precious in the eyes of God, worthy of being fully received, protected, taught, blessed and loved. The faith a child shows is the Lord is not something to be dismissed, minimized or ridiculed but is to be cherished, nurtured and encouraged. Indeed, we can see clearly in today's passage the Jesus loves the little children!  

Prayer Based on Psalms 42-43:

Psalms 42-43 probably form one whole Psalm in the original Hebrew, tied together by the wonderful refrain, which is a great example of how we can preach the Gospel to ourselves:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Here's how we can pray this Psalm:

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while unbelievers mock my faith, saying to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

O Lord, I remember when going to worship with Your people
    would fill my heart with joy and satisfaction.
I long to be content, satisfied, joyful in Your praises.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
even as I live my life in the midst of unbelievers
   in a God-hating, Gid-denying culture that can suffocate me at times.

Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?"
I confess that I do sometimes feel abandoned, O Lord,
   lonely and forsaken.
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?
Why do You allow Satan to oppress me and my flesh to ensnare me.
   Deliver me from them, O Lord!

As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    the world mocks and taunts me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!

For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?
Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

[Personal Note: The first Puritan Paperback I ever read was on this Psalm, A Lifting Up for the Downcast by William Bridge. I highly recommend it!]

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