Christianity 201

June 12, 2021

Different from the Rest

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God (Rom.1.1.NIV, italics added)

Consider the following scenario:

A child (teen, pre-teen, perhaps even younger) has grown up in a Muslim family. The family has converted to Christianity. It’s Ramadan. All of their friends and friends’ families are observing this special time. Their family isn’t. Their friends and extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins) that are not converted are encouraging them to continue attending mosque. What do they do?

It’s not a made-up story. It’s a fact of life for children and teens in Christian families with a Muslim background.

Now consider another one:

It’s the First Century and you are the child or young adult (the notion of teen did not exist back then) who has grown up in a Jewish family. Your family has converted to Christianity. It’s Passover. All your friends and friends’ families are observing this special time. Your family isn’t. Your friends and extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins) are encouraging you to join them for the seder. What should you do?

I pose this because while see the concept of household salvation played out in some of the narratives in the book, The Acts of the Apostles, it may romanticize the idea of an instantaneous conversion (followed by baptism) of an entire family, when in fact, salvation is an individual experience.

The website Got Questions? explains,

Household salvation is the idea that whole families or households are saved at once. The saving of the entire family is accomplished through the faith of the leader of the family. If the father or the head of the home declares himself to be a Christian, then he presides over a Christian household—the members of his family are Christian by default, based on the decision of their father/husband. According to the concept of household salvation, God saves the entire family unit, not just the individual expressing faith.

A proper understanding of the Bible’s teaching on household salvation must begin with knowing what the Bible teaches about salvation in general. We know that there is only one way of salvation, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:13-14; John 6:67-68; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8). We also know that the command to believe is directed to individuals and the act of believing is a personal action. Thus, salvation can only come to an individual who personally believes in Christ. Believing in Christ is not something that a father can do for a son or daughter. The fact that one member of a family or household believes does not guarantee that the rest will also believe.

Jesus Himself indicates that the gospel often divides families. In Matthew 10:34-36 Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” These words completely undermine the concept of household salvation…

This website then addresses instances where we do see a few examples of an entire family converting at once — a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit — but then concludes,

The Bible does not promise household salvation. But that does not mean that a godly father or mother does not have a profound spiritual influence on the children in that family. The leader of a household sets the course for the family in many ways, including spiritually. We should earnestly hope, pray, and work for the salvation of our families. There are many times when the God of Abraham also becomes the God of Sarah, and then of Isaac, and then of Jacob. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Though grace does not run in the blood, and regeneration is not of blood nor of birth, yet doth it very frequently . . . happen that God, by means of one of a household, draws the rest to himself. He calls an individual, and then uses him to be a sort of spiritual decoy to bring the rest of the family into the gospel net.” (emphasis added)

I would say that while we see household salvation in Acts, the scenario we described in the introduction might have been more common. (Return to the quote from Matthew 10 to see this use of the word “household” in that light.)

Bible translators in King James’ day chose some interesting wording for a verse in Peter’s first epistle, calling us a peculiar people. (2:9; more often rendered as, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.“)

Many times here at C201 we’ve looked at what the phrase “maintenance of a distinct identity” meant to the Jewish people and what it should mean to us. They were to be different from the surrounding nations. In scripture there is a progression moving from different → set apart → holy. They weren’t to be different for different’s sake, but because of how it would shape them as a people, as long as they obeyed. A modern example might be The Salvation Army. Salvationists don’t just take the uniform, but also pledge to maintain a life of holiness marked by, among other things, abstinence from alcohol.

This means separated from the world, but in the case of those early believers, separated from their Hebrew kin.

The challenge for believers in our times is to follow even in the case where immediate, close family members may believe differently; and I believe this challenge is just as great for people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, etc., as it is for the teens and children in our second scenario above.

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.NLT

Romans 12:2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.The Message

If you didn’t click the first internal link, check out this 2017 (and 2014) article: Maintaining a Distinct Identity.

The first story in the introduction was based on actual reports of overseas workers. Pray for the children of converted parents that they will be able to also affirm Jesus as Lord.

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