With so much emphasis being placed upon birth control today, one may properly ask, where does God fit into this picture? Is it so that man has taken complete control of human reproduction and that God has nothing to say about it anymore? Is it so that in areas of the unbelieving world, man has over-populated the world and God is standing helplessly by? Is it so that in the area of the believing church, Christians are preventing child-birth and therefore man is curtailing the development of the covenant by not bringing forth the covenant seed? Where does God fit into this strange picture?
THE SOVEREIGNITY OF GOD AND CHILDBIRTH
The Word of God provides sufficient evidence that God is sovereign, To be sure, this is a Calvinistic term; it is such however, because it is Biblical. Three things are involved in the sovereignty of God. First, we recognize that God is the Author of life. This is true from the beginning of time, as Creator. The Genesis account makes this plain, as well asHeb. 11:3. This is also true for us today, God upholds and governs all things, our coming into the world is by His control and our existence is under His guidance. All of life owes its existence to God alone. The whole of Psalm 139 is a beautiful testimony of this truth. Secondly, it follows from the above that God has the right to do as He pleases with this life which He brings into existence. Here we touch upon the sovereignty of God regarding the future destiny of all men as determined by predestination. It also includes the daily events in the lives of everyone; God’s sovereignty means that He has the right to control our lives, so that everything takes place exactly as He wills. Look up Matt. 10:29, 30. Thirdly, God possesses all the power to accomplish exactly what He wills for every creature. It is not so that God has desires for mankind, but cannot accomplish them for lack of power. There is no power apart from our sovereign God. He controls all the power of nature, the power of the nations, as well as the power of His own sovereign grace to save His people from their sins. Everything is under the control of God.
This also includes bearing children. There is not one child born into this world without it being according to the will of God. This applies to the world in general; it also applies to the children born to believing parents.
The problem of over-population was not unforeseen by God. The Christian church should not take the attitude that we have to help God out of a situation that somehow puts His program of salvation into jeopardy. On the contrary, the entire problem of pollution of the earth, which is closely connected with a large population, is exactly under the sovereign direction of God. This is God’s way of judging man for His greed and covetousness. If we’ study the book of Revelation, we learn that the seals which are being broken, Rev. 6:1-17, the trumpets that are sounded, Rev. 8 and Rev. 9, and the vials poured out, Rev. 15 and Rev. 16, affect the whole creation and men living upon the earth. These constitute God’s judgments upon fallen man, who has been unfaithful in God’s earth. Before God casts the wicked into the everlasting torment, He will demonstrate to Him that all his dreams for worldly prosperity apart from Jesus Christ have failed. The entire creation will testify against man for his being an unfaithful king. Hence today, the so-called overpopulation of the earth and all the associated problems are God’s sovereign judgments upon man. God controls the population of the world for His own purpose in fulfilling righteous judgment.
As believers, this also applies to us in a personal way. The Psalmist David expressed it this way, “For thou has possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest part of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there was none of them,” Psalm 139:13-16. Each one of us was born into this world by the will of God. Before God there are no accidental childbirths. No children are added to the number that God eternally willed according to election, none are excluded. The sovereignty of God controls the exact number of children born to covenant parents. Believing husbands and wives must realize that in the final instance God has the absolute say as to when and how many children we may have the privilege to bring forth. This places the sovereignty of God in perspective; it controls our whole life. As believers this is of great comfort. If it is the will of God that we bear none or few children, this is not of our doing, but God’s, and this provides peace and confidence in our sovereign God. If it is the will of God that we bring forth many children, this, too, is of the Lord. He never over-burdens, He never expects the impossible, He provides us with these children and He promises that He will over-rule our whole life and strengthen us to fulfill our calling in training these children. We can appreciate the words of Psalm 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is His reward.” All our children are literally handed to us by God.
SOVEREIGNTY AND RESPONSIBILITY
We considered in our previous article the exhortation of Scripture to bear children. God’s command is clear; to the married He says, I will that the young women marry and bear children. Marriage and children are united in perfect harmony according to the will of God. This is the sacred calling and responsibility of every married person.
Besides this, we also recognize that God over-rules the whole of our lives. This is true in every instance. If God calls us to work as a farmer, the success or failure of this work is determined in the final instance by God. A farmer may work at plowing, planting, fertilizing, cultivating, and all the rest, but God gives the increase. The fruit of one’s labor is of God. It is true in marriage no less. The calling to be joined in marriage is of the Lord; every married person must be able to say, it is the Lord’s will that I marry this particular person. Once believing this, the calling within marriage is also clear. We considered this in connection with the exhortation concerning husbands and wives. This applies also to the desire and effort to bring forth children. God doesn’t come and spell out to us the exact details of our married life. He doesn’t reveal to us what His will is concerning how many children we should bear. No young couple can say at the outset of their marriage how many children it may be the will of God for them to bear. It is wrong to pre-determine this for ourselves; if we enter marriage and say, we will have two children and no more, we are revealing our pride by trying to play God. What if God gives us none, or three, are we going to say that is not of the Lord? You see the foolishness of such planning? One may ask, what should be the attitude of married people toward the number of children? Must we simply breed like rabbits? Is a wife just a baby machine manipulated by the husband? What is correct? Is there a correct view of birth control?
In answering this, we must realize that ultimately we rely upon God for the answer. Here, too, we must be within the will of God with our answer. How beautiful it is when husband and wife realize that through their love-life God provides children, and these children are of the Lord. Through the sharing of love and life, children are born. This is of the Lord. Believing parents have the privilege to live within the bonds of marriage realizing that each time a child is conceived and born, it is God’s work and such children are gifts of God. Without any human interference and control, such parents rely entirely upon God for the children so conceived. This must be considered the proper approach.
Suppose that through the normal relationship of husband and wife, children are born rapidly and husband and wife become concerned whether children are born too soon, or the family is becoming too large, then what? Here, too, we must be careful that we are not conditioned by the world in determining the frequency of childbirth and size of family. We have to consider these things before the face of God, and not our own selves or society. If one’s circumstances are such that a wife’s health is involved, if the ability to provide is of real concern, surely these things are also determined by God. God gives to husband and wife the physical, mental and spiritual strength to bear children and to raise them in the fear of the Lord. All do not have the same gifts. The Lord measures these out, and each married couple must evaluate the size of their family within this context. Does God provide the material means to provide for these children? (Here, too, consider the Scriptural standard of provision, not the standard of our lucrative age). Does God provide the physical strength to bear a goodly number of children? Does God provide the spiritual strength to add more children, (Here we must not simply say, I like more kids, but one must say that he or she is able to share their love with another child).
If we approach this subject with a sincere desire to obey the Word of God and consider the will of God regarding children, we will be in a spiritual state of mind to know what the will of God is concerning the number of children. Then we will not be selfish, but spiritual. We will not say first of all, I want to tell God how many children I want, but we will prayerfully seek His direction as to how many He wills that we bring into the world. Only in the way of obedience can we rejoice in the will of God.
CHILDREN OF GOD
Believing parents may trust that God, Who supplies us with the necessary strength to conceive and bring forth children, will also give the ability to train them properly.
From the foregoing, we may conclude that our children are also God’s children. They are not only born by the will of man, they are also born by the will of God. This means that God prepared them for us, they have a place in His eternal will of election, and even before they are born, they are known unto God.
True it is that not all children of believers are in the covenant. Romans 9:8 makes this clear. This, however, is not revealed to parents at the time of childbirth. Hence, our Reformed fathers assure us, Since we are to judge of the will of God, from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they, together with the parents, are comprehended, godly parents have no reason to doubt of the election and salvation of the children whom it pleaseth God to call out of this life in their infancy,” Canons I Art. 17. The same holds true for the living, so long as they do not reveal themselves as despising that covenant, as Esau.
This makes all the difference in dealing with our children. They are the children of God, though conceived and born in sin. They are included in the covenant, Gen. 17:7, Acts 2:39. They are entrusted to our care by God; not that we must win them for Christ, but rather that we may be the instruments in God’s hands to bring the faith which God has implanted in them to conscious expression.
This parental responsibility follows from the sovereignty of God’s direction in giving us children.