I LOVE discussions about the day-to-day nuances of Christianity. Not only has covenant theology been a recent hot topic of discussion/dissension (yes, there are erring people out there!), lately there has been a discussion in the cause/effect relationship inter-family on the salvation of individual members of said family.
Now, believe it or not, souls can be saved apart from attending church. This is because witnessing on behalf of one's Saviour can take place outside of church. Indeed, fathers in particular are called/ordained/appointed to take the LEAD RESPONSIBILITY in presenting the truth of the gospel to the family unit - at home. This will be disconcerting to some. Some would rather listen to voices from the pit of hell who would advocate that church is the place, the only place, where "biblical truth" can be presented and the ONLY presenter can be the "pastor" of such a group. Balls! Understand that the "primary" cause of salvation is the Holy Spirit, acting in accordance with the wishes/will/purpose of God the Father and Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit, believe it or not, operates globally and is not limited to a particular place, time or circumstance.
I want to look at a few Scriptures, particularly in the light of recent accusations directed at myself and my spouse that we somehow personally take responsibility for the salvation of some of our children, if not all. I do not understand where this accusation comes from, as to the best of my knowledge, we have always maintained the supremacy of Christ in all aspects. Nevertheless, I want to look at the Apostle Paul, who seemed in particular to present himself as the lead cause of salvation - in conjunction with the Lord. This Apostle seemed not to take offense at himself. Indeed, his call to action demonstrates a rebuttal to those hypercalvinists who would stress that "we" do nothing because it is, after all, the sole responsibility of the Holy Spirit to effect the new-birth. Do not misunderstand. It IS the Holy Spirit who initiates the new birth and ultimately brings it to fruition (this goes back to the ole' made in the image of God, in His likeness covenant promise God made to Himself before creation.) Yet, as we examine Paul, one can conclude the Holy Spirit does not, in normal circumstances, act alone.
Firstly, we all must be aware of the dangers of self-deception. This reminder is given us in 1Timothy 1:5-7 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,
7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
An additional reminder is given to us in Ephesians 4:14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Personally I think these verses reinforce the idea of "Shut up stupid, give yourself time to mature and gain understanding before you attempt your hobby of injecting (what you think is) biblical truth into any and all discussions."
The familial ownership of the Apostle Paul
Now, to return to the main discussion.
Consider 1Corinthians 4:4-17
14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
Notice the role Paul claims for himself. What does he mean when he says "I became your father in Jesus Christ"? Why would he take this title? Who is he considering when he talks about "countless guides in Christ"? Is he not also just a guide? Why claim the singleness of "father" instead of "fathers"? What does he mean when he says "Be imitators of me"? In what role? As admonishers? As writers? As imitators? As "father(s)"? Isn't it obvious, especially given his perceived relationship with Timothy? "I sent you Timothy", he says, "MY beloved and faithful child..." (See also 1Timothy 1:2) What kind of ownership is this? What does he mean "my ways in Christ" with the back-drop of the urging to be imitators of (not Christ) but himself, Paul? What does this speak to as far as an individual's purpose (perhaps the literal physical father and/or mother) in the gospel plan?
We MUST also consider the beginning of Paul's Christian journey by considering how he first saw himself. Have a look at Romans 15:16-17 where he sees himself 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
To me it is interesting to consider that, as he matured, Paul became aware of the true role he was given - as a "father" figure - and that, as a literal father, I must also become engaged in the presentation of the gospel to my children and others in my sphere of influence. No hypercalvinism here. No regarding my off-spring as burdens-that-the-Lord-will-spiritually-take-care-of-as-long-as-I-go-to-the-right-church-because-it-will-be-responsible-for-them-since-I-have-no-influence, but rather as offspring sent as blessings-to-be-trained-in-the-way-of-the-Lord-as-my-primary-function-as-father-and-provider.
Does this mean, using Paul's example, that I and/or my spouse can take "credit" (a poor word, I know) for the salvation of my physical children? Yes, of course! Do not my "physical" children at some point become my "spiritual" children, if perchance the saving grace of Christ falls upon them while they make their domicile under my roof and sit under my or my spouses's teaching? Yes, of course! Is it not my responsibility/calling/duty to pray for and take all necessary steps to "lead" (another poor word, I know) my physical children to being spiritual children as well? Yes, of course!
By the grace of God alone, I would say it has been my happy circumstance (along with my spouse) to say that at this point in time, my children (practicing and lively sinners that they are) have experienced salvation and that I and my spouse in Christ Jesus are proud of our work for God.