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Salvation by family?
- Jacob Ninan
Calvinists generally believe that if the parents are 'elect' of God, their children will also come under that category automatically. Is it possible that this, in practice, reduces the responsibility of the parents to share the Gospel with the children and pray for their salvation? A similar thing can happen when non-Calvinists believe that when a man comes to experience salvation by repenting from sin and putting their trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, his family members also will get saved. This is a false belief based on a misunderstanding of Ac.16:31.
To understand this properly, it is important to see what salvation really is. When Adam and Eve sinned, they 'died' instantly in their relationship with God (Ge.2:16,17). Sinful people cannot obviously have any connection with a holy God. Jesus paid the price for our sins when He died in our place on the cross, and opened the way for people to get back to God. But though Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1Jn.2:2), we come to experience this salvation or restoration of relationship with God only by 'receiving' it (Jn.1:12). How can we receive this if we don't see a need for it? If we see a need for it, won't we ask for it? We see our need for salvation when we see ourselves as sinners in God's eyes, and we ask when we believe that Jesus has taken our punishment so that God can righteously and justly forgive our sins. In other words, we receive this salvation through repentance and faith.
When someone receives this salvation, how can others in the family be saved automatically? Doesn't each one have to repent and believe personally?
In the light of this understanding of salvation we can see that Ac.16:31 cannot be taken to mean what it appears to mean from a mere look at the words. (This reiterates the fact that we need to understand the Bible as a whole and cannot take words out from here and there). What Paul means, obviously, is that the way of salvation is the same for everyone, through Jesus, for us as well as our family members.
A misunderstanding on this may make parents think that their children will 'somehow' come to salvation because they themselves believe. Especially when troubled with the behaviour of some child, parents may take this as a promise from God that He will take care of the children. So they stop worrying, and also begin to neglect the nurture of their children through teaching God's ways, disciplining them, praying for them, etc. When some of the children grow up and show no interest in God, they get upset with God!
Young parents, when your children are still teachable, do all you can to lead them to the Lord and to protect them from going astray into the world. Older parents, even if your child has gone astray, don't lose hope. Ask God to forgive you for neglecting your child's spiritual development, and keep praying for God's mercy to triumph in the child's life. Our God does miracles too, especially when we pray.