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June 2006, Volume XI, Issue 2


Holy Children

I Corinthians 7:14 asserts that the children of one believer (or the children of two believers) are not "unclean" but "holy" (Greek: hagios). But what is meant by the holiness of the children of believers here?

Some argue that this means that these children are not illegitimate (i.e. since their parents were validly married), while others reckon that holiness here means only that the children of believers are formally, externally, outwardly and legally in the instituted church and so have access to Christian teaching and influences.

We believe that the holiness of the children of believers is real, inward, infused, spiritual holiness or sanctification (also from hagios) whereby they are cleansed from sin and consecrated to God by the Holy Ghost. Thus adult believers and their elect seed share in a creaturely way in the holiness of God (I Peter 1:15-16). Our "holy" children (I Cor. 7:14) are sanctified by the Triune God (Jude 1), in Christ (I Cor. 1:2, 30; Heb. 2:11) and through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:16; I Peter 1:2). Like us, our spiritual seed were chosen in Christ to holiness before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4) and sanctified through Christ’s offering Himself for us on the cross (Heb. 10:10, 14). As members of the church, Christ loved and gave Himself for our elect children in order to "sanctify and cleanse" them and, at the last day, to present them "holy and without blemish" to Himself as part of His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church (Eph. 5:25-27). Thus by God’s sovereign, irresistible grace in regeneration, our "holy" children are "created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:24).

But why do we believe that the holiness of the children of believers (I Cor. 7:14) is real, inward, infused, spiritual holiness? First, this is the usual meaning of "holy" (hagios), as the previous paragraph indicates. Second, and conclusively, this fits with the Bible’s teaching concerning the children of believers. Consider: (1) They are in the kingdom of God and under the saving rule and blessing of Christ (Mark 10:13-16). (2) They are saints (or holy ones) and members of the church of Christ who are called to keep the fifth commandment, as a rule of gratitude (Eph. 1:1; cf. 6:1-4; Col. 1:1-2; cf. 3:20-21). (3) They are in the covenant of grace and so the Triune God is their God and they are His people—in all that this entails (Gen. 17:7). (4) God promises that His covenant, Holy Spirit and words are with them (Isa. 59:21)—a promise that clearly obtains in the New Testament (Isa. 59:20; cf. Rom. 11:26). (5) God’s promised Holy Spirit (and the blessings of Messianic salvation which He brings) is not only to believers but also to their children (Acts 2:39). (6) Thus we read of the infant regeneration of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5), John the Baptist (Luke 1:15, 41, 44) and the "children," "babes" and "sucklings" in the temple on the day of Christ’s triumphal entry—for how else could God perfect praise from them but through regenerating them (Matt. 21:15-16; Ps. 8:2)?

But some may object that since I Corinthians 7:14 says that the unbelieving spouse is (externally and positionally) sanctified by the believing spouse (see News X:24 [April, 2006]), the sanctification of the children can not be real, inward, infused, spiritual holiness. First, whereas the text states twice that the unconverted spouse is "unbelieving," nothing prejudicial is said regarding the spiritual condition of the children. Second, the (external, positional) sanctification of the unbelieving spouse and the holiness of the children are not placed on a par. Instead, the latter is the ground or basis for the former. Two believers in marriage have holy children; two unbelievers produce unholy children; but what about the children of a believer and an unbeliever? Our text explains that they are holy and since this is so the unbelieving spouse must be (externally and positionally) sanctified. Third, whereas the (external, positional) sanctification of the unbelieving spouse must be proved, the holiness of the children is assumed. Why would it be assumed in this inspired epistle and by God’s people, unless the holiness of the children of believers is something clearly taught in the Word of God. For, as I have shown above, they are members of God’s kingdom, church and covenant who are saved and blessed by Christ and regenerated and sanctified by His Spirit.

This inner, spiritual holiness of our elect children is taught in the Canons of Dordt 1:17 (as part of the truth of unconditional election), the Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 74 and "The Form for the Administration of Baptism" (cf. the many quotes at

This is vital for our understanding of Christian marriage (the subject of I Cor. 7). How are believers in mixed marriages (or believing couples) to view their children? Not as unholy, little vipers but as "holy by supernatural grace" possessing "the new spiritual life" (Calvin, Institutes 4.16.31). For God sovereignly makes a difference between the children of believers and the children of unbelievers by His eternal covenant of grace (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39). Yet unconditional election and reprobation even effect the physical children of believers. Some are the elect "children of the promise;" others are the reprobate "children of the flesh." "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:6-13). Rev. Stewart

(For the book, The Covenant of God and Children of Believers, by David J. Engelsma (£15 inc. P&P) or for free pamphlets, "The Children of the Promise" by Herman Hoeksema and "The Covenant of God and Children of Believers" by David J. Engelsma, write to the CPRC Bookstore, 7 Lislunnan Road, Kells, Ballymena, N. Ireland, BT42 3NR.)

Jesus’ Appearance to Mary Magdalene 

And as they [the women who came to Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning] went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him (Matt. 28:9). Jesus saith unto her [Mary Magdalene], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God (John 20:17).

A reader asks, "Why were Mary Magdalene and the other Mary permitted to hold Jesus feet in Matthew 28:9, while in John 20:17 Jesus forbids Mary Magdalene to touch Him?" The questioner is mistaken when he writes that Mary Magdalene was once refused to touch Jesus and was once permitted to do this. Mary Magdalene was not amongst the women who held Jesus by His feet (Matt. 28:9).

The sequence of events on that glorious resurrection morning was most likely something like this. Early Sunday morning, the women who had witnessed Jesus’ burial (Matt. 27:61) returned to the sepulchre (Luke 23:55-56). It seems as if they had forgotten that a large stone had been rolled across the sepulchre’s opening (Mark 16:3). Among these women were Mary, the Lord’s mother; Joanna; Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James, Joses and Salome; and the mother of Zebedee’s children (Matt. 27:56; Mark 16:1; Luke 23:55; 24:10).

When the women noticed that the rock was already rolled away from the door of the sepulchre (Mark 16:4), Mary Magdalene immediately concluded that someone had stolen the body of the Lord. So she ran to tell Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 20:1-2). She did not, therefore, accompany the women all the way to the sepulchre nor on their return to Jerusalem.

On hearing Mary Magdalene’s report that the body of the Lord was stolen, Peter and John ran to the sepulchre to investigate for themselves (John 20:2-10). Mary Magdalene returned to the sepulchre behind Peter and John and arrived at the sepulchre after they left (John 20:11ff.). Then the Lord appeared to her "first" (Mark 16:9), and later to the women returning from the sepulchre to Jerusalem.

The ten appearances of the Lord to His disciples and others during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension were wonderful events. Jesus used these appearances both to prove to His disciples that He had risen from the dead and to teach them the nature of His resurrection and the work that He would do when He ascended into heaven and sat at God’s right hand. Each appearance was perfectly adapted to the purpose for the appearance. Thus Jesus appeared in different forms at different times (Mark 16:12; John 21:4). The message which the Lord brought to those to whom He appeared was particularly suited to them and their needs at that time. This also explains why the women were permitted to touch Jesus, while Mary Magdalene was forbidden to do the same.

Jesus appeared to the women returning from the grave to show that He was truly risen from the dead, to make it unmistakably clear that He was not a wraith or ghost, and to commission them to tell His disciples that He was risen (Matt. 28:9-10). Thus the women were permitted to touch Jesus to be convinced that this was indeed the same Lord whom they had loved and served.

But Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene was for a different purpose. She was filled with a deep love for the Lord, for He had cast out of her seven devils (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9). She had found her life’s calling in caring for Jesus’ needs as He preached in Palestine (Matt. 27:55-56). To her Jesus’ death was so extremely painful because she could no longer minister to His needs, and was by His death deprived of her one purpose in life. Now she desperately wanted to give Him her last token of love by properly preparing His body for burial. Even this was denied her by those who had taken His body, and so she was broken-hearted.

When Jesus made Himself known to her, she was filled with a great joy, for she could now resume serving the Lord’s earthly needs. So Jesus had to tell her that such service was not possible, for He had not come back to this life and to another earthly ministry, but He had been raised with a resurrection body, adapted to live in heaven. In fact, He was about to ascend into heaven where He would be with her no more—although His abode in heaven would be of greater blessing to her than any earthly ministry could ever be (John 20:17). Thus she was forbidden to touch Him, for her motive was to resume her earthly ministrations.

We ought also to notice that Mary did not recognize the Lord by seeing Him, but by hearing His voice when He called her by her name (John 20:16). Today Jesus still calls His own by their names from His throne in heaven at God’s right hand. He calls them through the preaching of the gospel and by means of the Spirit in their hearts. He calls them, not by their earthly names, but by their spiritual names: those labouring and heavy laden, the poor in spirit, the meek, those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, etc. And when He calls His own by their names, they know Him—as Mary knew Him when He called her. Thus, through His cross and resurrection, Jesus’ own words are fulfilled: "But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice" (John 10:2-4). Prof. Hanko

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