Beeke’s Book of the Month for August 2023 is Parenting by God’s Promises: How to Raise Children in the Covenant of Grace by Dr. Joel Beeke. Enjoy Dr. Beeke’s inspiring introduction to learn how the Covenant of Grace gives hope to Christian parents.
My dad claimed he would never earn a diploma for good parenting. I suppose most Christian parents feel that way. We all need help in parenting; the only “perfect” parents I know are those who don’t have children.
This book is written for Christian parents, who, in dependence on God’s promises, yearn to train their children in the way of holiness. It represents a condensed form of lectures given to the Family Living Class of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I am a pastor (the complete series is available at www.sermonaudio.com). My aim is to bring you a Reformed, covenantal perspective on parenting and to address a number of practical issues not commonly included in child-rearing literature.
This book differs substantially from typical parenting books, which emphasize techniques. This book stresses that parents may raise children with a strong hope based on the covenant promises of God—although this does not mean that parents have nothing to do.
When I speak of the covenant of grace, I mean the promises and commands of God to His people in Christ, binding them together forever (Gen. 17:18). We call this bond a covenant because it is sealed with God’s oath (Deut. 7:8–9). We call it the covenant of grace because it comes out of God’s eternal decision to show grace, stands on the accomplishment of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, offers salvation to people as a gift of grace, and implements salvation through God’s regenerating and transforming grace.
Thus, the covenant of grace is the promise by which God cements the relationship between Himself and His people in Christ. By the Spirit’s grace, God binds Himself as the God and Father of all who believe, trust in His promises, and rest in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ, as the only Savior. He promises to forgive their sins for Christ’s sake, to fill them with His Holy Spirit, and to grant them eternal life. Believers, in turn, are bound to this one true God, to trust in Him and to love Him, forsaking the world, crucifying their old natures, and walking in the way of godliness.
The covenant of grace is like a wedding vow that God will never break. The sacrament of baptism is the wedding ring, the outward sign of our union with Him. People broken by sin who have been taught by the Spirit to trust in the gospel are the bride. And Christ is the groom—indeed, the heart of the covenant.
This covenant of grace was first revealed in the promise of a Savior that God gave to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). It was more fully expressed in the promises God made to Abraham and his seed (Gen. 17:7). Finally, it was renewed, confirmed, and enlarged by the shedding of Christ’s blood at Calvary (Matt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 1:20). As in all the covenants God makes with human beings in Scripture, the covenant of grace is extended to believers and their children (Acts 2:39).
Children who are born to at least one believing parent are properly called covenant children (1 Cor. 7:14). As heirs of God’s covenant, these children are received into the visible church by baptism. The act of baptism confirms God’s promises to them and places them under obligation to seek His kingdom and the salvation offered to them in Christ. Growing up in the community of the church, they are nurtured by the prayers of believers and by the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, including its rich invitations and solemn warnings. Their parents are bound to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The congregation to which they belong is also responsible for their evangelization and instruction.
I have divided the book into four sections. Chapters 1–5 examine the theological foundations for parenting in the Scriptures and the Reformed view of how believers should raise their children in the light of the covenant of grace. Chapters 6–14 examine believing parents’ office-bearing responsibilities in child-rearing as prophets, priests, and kings in the home. These chapters provide the basic framework of parenting. Chapters 15–19 address practical areas, such as teaching children piety, how to listen, how to control their speech, and how to handle sibling relationships. In this section, I also summarize the extraordinarily helpful Puritan teaching on child-rearing for today. Chapters 20–22 focus on major issues in raising teenagers—helping them discern God’s will, resist negative peer pressure, and control their anger. In the conclusion, I explain how we can glean comfort from God’s thousand-generation covenant (Ps. 105:8) by preparing our children for marriage and for leaving home, and by preparing ourselves to be God-honoring grandparents.
Two appendices contain Cotton Mather’s resolutions on parenting and some thoughts on how churches should treat children. Finally, note that study questions for each chapter are included in the back of the book; these may prove useful for individual reflection or group discussion.
Though I have read a significant number of parenting books, I have not, for the most part, consulted them in preparing this book. I wanted this book to flow primarily out of my study of the Scriptures and my experience as the father of three children and a pastoral counselor to other parents. Hence, there are few endnotes in this volume.
I pray that God will use this book to assist you to parent in accordance with His promises and His covenant, and in dependence on Him and His wisdom as the perfect Father in Christ Jesus.