connected. If a young couple were able to reproduce, they were expected, and they usually desired, to have children. This assumption, however, cannot be made today. There are two reasons.
First, through the technology of modern medicine, methods have been advanced that will allow a husband and wife to engage in sexual relationship without producing children. These methods have become widely publicized, and the necessary appliances or medication are easily accessible to anyone. As a result of this, having children has entered into the area of volition. True, this has been somewhat true in the past; yet marriage manuals of only a decade ago warn couples that any method of birth control is not entirely reliable, except to abstain entirely from sexual relations. Things are different today.
Secondly, social pressures are placed upon newlyweds not to have children, or at least to have very few. These pressures are many and varied. Under the influence of women’s liberation, many women consider bearing children an interference with their personal satisfaction in life. Who wants to get tied down with kids? Who can find fulfillment in doing dishes, preparing meals, changing diapers, getting up nights to feed a whimpering child? Freedom to these people means being free from children. Similarly, from the husband’s point of view, less children means more money for pleasures, more free time, less headaches (at least from the noise of kids). Parents face a great deal of pressure from ecologists and those concerned about the pollution problem, brought on in part from overpopulation. These pressures are tremendous. It used to be that parents with a large family would go shopping and people would smile, “My what a nice family!” Today you might get a scowl, or even the lip, from someone asking why you are contributing to the world’s woes with such a tribe. Government pressures are mounting along the same line. Thousands of tax dollars are being used to promote planned parenthood, sex education in the public schools, educating people about the patriotism of restraint. We may even see the day when legal action will be taken to control directly the size of families. Laws are seriously being considered today to grant the government power to take children out of a home that the government thinks cannot provide properly for these children. Why not logically prevent their birth in the first place? The pressure is on.
This general attitude helps us understand the horrible plight of the unwanted child. If married people become so selfish that they don’t want children because they are a nuisance, or they “righteously” are determined to prevent the birth of children in support of man’s survival upon the earth, what happens if these efforts fail? Suddenly a woman learns of the fact she is expecting a child; she forgot her pill, something went wrong. What about the child? The answer, “Kill it.” No, not him or her; kill it! They reason away life and extol the freedom of abortion. Some do not have the courage for that; they give birth. These children and many others, become the objects of abuse and neglect that is a shame to our nation. Doctors tell us that one of the worst demonstrations of our nation’s immorality and depravity is the unwanted child who is abused. Kicked, burned, starved, sometimes beaten to a pulp, the helpless and defenseless child bears the brunt of a generation of people who put that kind of value on children. This happens so often that anyone with a conscience cannot help but wince at the thought. Is it because some people are sick? Basically, it is because America is so depraved that the general value placed upon children, usually unwanted, is brought to its horrible conclusion that that which isn’t wanted can be abused as well.
MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN
Wherein lies the strength for covenant youth? If you are seriously dating, perhaps engaged to be married, you undoubtedly discuss at times what should be your attitude toward children? When you get married, will you want children? Will you determine ahead of time how many you will agree to have? If you seriously come to some of these conclusions, you will not be alone. This is very common, even among Christian young people. How much must the concern for overpopulation affect the church? Must the church leaders join planned parenthood? If so, the answer will be the usual, but I beg to differ. The reason is not that we laugh at the world’s problem of pollution, nor that we bury our heads in the sand as the proverbial ostrich and ignore the social implications of bearing children. The reason is that God tells us to bring forth children. The strength of youth is not in man’s judgment, but in God’s command. The title of this article is, “Commanded to Bear Children.” This is Scriptural.
Let’s consider four Scriptural principles that must help us reach a correct conclusion.
First, child bearing is the wifely role designated by God. Consider Gen. 3:16, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.” Paul in his letter to Timothy comments on this. “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety,” I Tim 2:14, 15. What does this mean, “She shall be saved in childbearing?” Some are quick to explain that this applies only to the Old Testament women who would find themselves in the line of Abraham and David, thus producing the seed which would ultimately produce Christ the Savior. This is, of course, true. Does this, however, exclude the New Testament women? Again the answer is No; it includes them, for Paul broadens out, “If they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” This he applies to the New Testament woman. This is true: God uses women as the means to bring forth the covenant seed, and by this activity Christ was born in the fulness of time and Christ will return at the end of time. For a woman to ignore or refuse this role is to reject her salvation and turn her back on God’s redemption.
Secondly, the Word of God commands wives to bear children. In Old Testament language, “Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it,” Gen. 9:1. This command came after the flood, and God willed to populate the world once again. We have the same idea expressed in I Tim. 5:14, 15, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan.” Timely exhortation, isn’t it? Notice carefully that Paul in the Holy Spirit is not saying that it might be nice to have children if you can afford it, or if you like children; but he says, “I will that younger women marry and bear children.” This isn’t man’s opinion, but it is God’s Word.
Thirdly, the beauty of marital harmony is demonstrated in the children produced through this union. It is God’s will that through the complete union of husband and wife, body, soul, and spirit, children be born as expressions of this true love. The important question is this: can it be called true love (according to the Word of God) if husband and wife want sex without being willing to accept the children God may be pleased to give them through that relationship? Scripture emphasizes that they two shall be one flesh through marriage, Eph. 5:31. This is realized through the complete fusion of life in those married not only, but in a very concrete way, in the children that are born through this union. How can husband and wife say before God that they love each other in the fear of the Lord if they do not want the fruits of this love, namely children? Only one conclusion is evident: refusal to bear children, whether on the part of husband or wife, is selfishness and cannot be construed to express obedience before God.
Closely connected with this is the term the Bible uses to describe the love-life between husband and wife. This is the verb “to know.” An example of this is found in Gen. 4:1, “Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.” Reference is made in Matt. 1:24, 25 to Joseph, “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son; and he called his name Jesus.” The Good News for Modern Man translates this text, “But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son.” This is, however, a wrong translation. For a husband to know his wife implies more than to have sexual relations with her; it implies all that love implies; and the sexual aspect is the physical side of it. This “knowledge” in the context of marriage means that husband and wife seek to conform their love-life to the will of God. For them it is not animal passion, it is a conforming of their whole life to the service of God. If it pleases God to grant children through such a union, a Christian woman joins Eve in saying, “I have gotten a man from the Lord.”
In the fourth place, the only time the Scripture allows for not having sexual relationship within marriage is not to avoid having children, but for spiritual reflection. It is interesting to observe that I Cor. 7:3-5 is the supposed Biblical support for the rhythm method of birth control. “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence; and likewise the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” If husband and wife mutually decide to abstain from sexual relationship for the sake of spiritual reflection, this is warranted; only it should not be of long duration. Notice the emphasis is on the spiritual, not the physical. The reason is for God, not to avoid having children.
In conclusion, we may summarize the Scriptural directive this way: if a young man and woman desire to be married, but refuse to bear the responsibilities of bearing children, they sin against God by getting married. Before God, marriage and children go together in the divine plan. Rather, they must desire to have children according to the will of God and seek His guidance upon their love-life.
This distinguishes us from the world. Our relationship to God determines for us our relationship to our fellow man. The children born to covenant parents are not just so many individuals that burden the whole human race; they are by the grace of God the children of the covenant. We place this value upon them, a value that the world of unbelievers and apostates cannot appreciate.
There are ways to deal with the pollution and social ills of our day, but forbidding the birth of covenant children is not one option for the Christian. His approach concentrates upon pointing man to his sin of covetousness and greed as man reveals himself an unworthy steward in God’s creation.
Married believers do not view having children as a human choice, rather a divine calling which they are willing to obey if God be pleased to give them the precious seed of the covenant.