This article is about the importance of Christian schools for covenant children. The author also discusses Mark 10:13-16 and the education of the children of God.

Source: Una Sancta, 2003. 5 pages.

Why Our Own Schools?

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

Mark 10:13-16

The Free Reformed Churches of Australia have been richly blessed with a number of God-centered schools. At least up to Year 8 members of each congregation have the opportunity to send their children to a school built on the Word of God as summarized in the three Forms of Unity.

The question arises as to whether reformed education is really so necessary. The fathers in the fifty years past have poured literally thousands of hours in building up these schools, and much more money. Today these schools are given to young parents on a golden platter; without much effort today's parents can enroll their child and get quality service for the money paid. The danger is that we take the schools for granted.

Yet take them for granted we may not! To draw out how necessary these God-centered, Scripturally based schools are, I invite the reader to reflect with me on a well-known episode in Jesus' earthly ministry.


Jesus was one day busy, as always teaching the people. In the midst of His busyness, a number of parents approached Him with their little ones in tow, with the intent that Jesus touch them. Had Jesus in previous days and weeks not touched so many sick and healed them? Would it not then be desirable to have this Jesus touch one's newborn, one's toddler, one's pre-schooler, one's son or daughter?? The challenges of parenting are legion, and to have a touch from this famous Rabbi – it could only be for the good of the child…

But the disciples say No. While the parents seek access to Jesus, the twelve in their wisdom block their way. Did they think Jesus was too busy to bother with little children? Whatever the reason, the parents may go home again with their little ones – minus the desired touch.

Till Jesus saw what was happening. Our translation tells us that “when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased.” That translation puts it mildly. The word used to describe Jesus' reaction is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe fury, being livid.1 In anger Jesus told the disciples in no uncertain terms to “let the little children come to me, do not restrain them.” Then Jesus set the little ones on His knee, one after the other, and blessed each with His hands over the child. We understand: the parents went home satisfied, while the disciples had learned a lesson. It's that lesson we need to learn.

Why so Furious?🔗

Why was Jesus so furious with the disciples' attempts to keep the children away? Were the twelve not doing their best to help their Rabbi? Is teaching the crowds not more important than touching toddlers? Isn't there even something mystical, something superstitious in the mothers' wish for a touch?

Jesus explains why He was furious. Says He: “of such is the kingdom of God.” And the fact that He was furious with the disciples implies that the disciples should know that the kingdom of God belonged to such children.

“Of such is the kingdom of God.” What is meant by the sentence? Various commentators2 tell us that Jesus here refers to a child's innocence and emptiness. That is: Jesus – say these commentators – is teaching His disciples that only those who are like children can enter the kingdom of heaven. So: those who want to achieve in order to enter the kingdom can't get in, and those who receive grudgingly can't either. One needs to be like a child, empty handed, and ready to receive a free handout – isn't that what a child is like?!

Now, it's certainly true that none will receive salvation through striving to earn it. We certainly need to stand empty-handed before God's throne and be willing simply to receive. That's also Jesus' instruction in vs. 15: “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

That instruction, though, does not exhaust the meaning of the passage. Jesus does not say here that the kingdom of God is for grown persons who are like children. The comparative 'like' does not receive a mention here. The text says that the kingdom of God is “of such” children themselves. That is: the children themselves are possessors of this kingdom; the kingdom is theirs3 That's Jesus' point as He spoke to the twelve disciples standing around Him (and the parents of the children can hear it!); Jesus told the disciples that these very physical children standing there with their parents possess the kingdom of God, that kingdom is “of” them.

Reading the Old Testament🔗

How did Jesus know that the kingdom of God belonged to such children? He learned this by reading God's revelation in the Old Testament about children.

Note: Jesus does not say that all children are possessors of God's kingdom. He is speaking of that specific group who had been brought to Him to receive His touch. These were children of Israel, that is, persons who by birth had received from God a place in His eternal covenant of grace. It is not true that God has a soft spot for children as such. That little ditty I learned back in Grade 1, that 'Jesus loves all the little children of the world', is simply not true. Recall that in the flood the whole human race died, except for the eight in the ark. The whole human race includes the aged and the strong, includes also the infants of one day old and the toddlers just learning to walk. Recall too that the people of Israel were commanded, when they entered the Promised Land, to kill all the inhabitants, including not just the aged and the strong, but also the infants of one day old and the toddlers just learning to walk (cf. Deuteronomy 7:2; 20:17). It is just not true that Jesus loves all the little children of the world. That little song is a heresy.

What is true, though, is that God loves the believer, those who trust in Him, and loves also the family, the children of the believer4 In the flood God was sovereignly pleased to save not just the believer Noah, but also his family, including wife and sons and daughters-in-law (Genesis 6:17f).5 This love for the family – believers and their children – is enshrined into a normative pattern for God in the promise He voiced to Abraham. Said God to Abraham in Genesis 17:

I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. (vs. 7)

God claims as His special possession the children He gives to believers. In God's covenant with Abraham God promised that He would be God to Abraham, and in the context of God's revelation in the covenant this promise meant nothing else than that God imposed such a bond between Himself and Abraham that He would be Abraham's God forever, that God would care for Abraham, would forgive His sins, would reconcile him to God, yes, that God would be his Friend always. That wonderful promise, though, was not for the man Abraham alone; it was equally valid for Abraham's children!

When God, then, delivered a people from Egypt, God did not deliver the adults only, or the pious only; God – in faithfulness to the promise spoken to father Abraham – took out of bondage His people, older and younger alike. When God made His covenant with Israel at Mt Sinai, God made special mention of the children in Israel;

 I, said the Lord, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.Exodus 20:5f.

“Showing mercy to thousands”: that is, into countless generations of the faithful God would bless the children.

Since the children received from God the same promises as the believing parents, God also promised to bless the families, the children. In Deuteronomy 30 God gave this promise to the obedient and faithful in Israel:

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (vs. 6)

And again:

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. (vs. 19)

The children in Israel, that holy seed, was special to God, so precious in His eyes that He would bless the obedience of the parents into coming generations.

What God thought of the children in Israel is pointed up too through the words of the prophet Isaiah. In chap 40 he spoke of the Lord coming to His people in these terms:

He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young. (vs. 11)

The little ones, the lambs, are so precious to God that the Messiah will “carry them in His bosom.” These little ones, by God's sovereign decision, are the heirs of God's promises of life and grace, of forgiveness and mercy everlasting.

Shall the disciples then send away the little ones mothers brought to Jesus?! Given God's revelation in the Old Testament, it's so understandable that Jesus was seething at the audacity of the twelve! Had they not read the Scriptures? Did they not know from the Word of God itself what God thought of His children by covenant? Their Bibles were so crystal clear: of the little ones was the kingdom of God! Send them away? Deny them access to the Saviour of the world? No, a thousand times NO! God's revelation made so clear, so very clear that the little ones – those whom God in wisdom entrusted to believing parents – were precious, so very precious to God. God sent His only Son into the world not only for the mature, the adults, those who can think for themselves; God sent His only Son into the world for the salvation of the little ones also. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven! That's what the Old Testament taught, and so that's what the disciples should work with, should embrace, should believe. And so let the little children come to Jesus! “For of such is the kingdom of God.”

I know that in our day it is said that children do not really belong in the same sense as adults do, until they've come to maturity of years and made profession of faith. But please consider, then, that God in Gen 17 made no distinction at all between Abraham and Abraham's descendents; what He promised to Abraham He promised equally to Abraham's offspring – regardless of age. That's why Jesus – and He could read the Old Testament perfectly welcomed the little ones of Israel, welcomed them as heirs of the kingdom of God. It's simply wrong to say that children do not fully belong until they've come to maturity of years and made profession of faith. It's for us today, as Jesus did long ago, to accept what the Scriptures plainly say.

Reading the New Testament🔗

And lest anyone suggest that the New Testament operates on a different principle, listen to Peter on the day of Pentecost. Peter addressed the very crowds who had once crucified Jesus and cried out that His blood “be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). Said Peter to that crowd:

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.Acts 2:38

Now: why could Peter be so certain that this crowd of sinners could be forgiven, could receive the Holy Spirit? Because, said Peter in the next verse, “the promise is to you.” What promise? The one of Genesis 17, that God will be God to the believer. But, he adds, the promise is not only for you adults; the promise is also “to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” That's Genesis 17:

I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. (vs. 7)

Because the principle of Genesis 17 operates in the New Testament too, the apostle Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 7 that the children of the believing parent “are holy” (vs. 14). And when the Philippian jailer after the earthquake asked the apostles what he had to do, Paul told him to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Again, when Cornelius was told by the angel to send for Peter, he was assured that Peter would speak words “by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14). Lydia believed the preaching of the apostle Paul, and as a result she was baptised “and her household” (Acts 16:14f).6 You see, time and again the Scriptures of the New Testament confirm the principle of the Old Testament: the children of believers, no matter how little, are precious to God, are claimed by God as His.

It is, therefore, simply not true that our children need to make profession of faith before it can be said that they belong to Christ, before it can be said that they are possessors of the kingdom of God. That kingdom belongs to them already, because God has said so. Certainly, those little ones need to be taught Who their God and Father is. But it is not true that they don't really yet belong to God, or belong to God in a lesser sense, until the day they actually themselves believe in the Lord and profess the faith.

Jesus was furious with His disciples when they failed to understand and apply the plain and straightforward teaching of Scripture. Jesus insisted: of such children is the kingdom of God. Then He took these little ones into His arms and blessed them. And make no mistake: those whom Jesus blesses certainly are blessed!


What, then, should the disciples think of the children brought to Jesus? And what should the parents think as they walk their children home? It will be clear: disciples and mothers alike should know that these children are rich, rich beyond compare. God had claimed them for Himself, and so Jesus welcomes them, blesses them. It's now for the parents to treat these children with the same love and care that God has displayed to them by sending His Son. These parents, in other words, need to show their children Who their Father is. The royal identity of the children demands that the parents in turn give the children of God entrusted to them special training, special instruction. In the words of the apostle Paul: “…you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

And mothers, of course, under the leadership of the head of the family, have to help in that. God's children need to be brought up in the training and admonition of the Lord because the Lord is their Father by covenant, their Saviour and Master by God's decree.


From time to time we see baptism in our churches. We understand it now: God has claimed these children as His, and so they are rich, so incredibly rich. These little ones, like we all, are heirs to the kingdom of God! That is why parents promise that they as father and mother will instruct their child in this doctrine, and cause him/her to be instructed therein. The child needs to know what God said about him, needs to know her royal identity!

To give royal treatment to God's children is not only for parents to give, but for all of us as fellow heirs together. God's little ones, even when they become six feet tall, need to be instructed repeatedly in God's claim upon them, taught at home and in church and at school of the riches God in mercy has laid upon them. Shall we then, at home or outside, give them education that ignores or denies the God who claimed them? God forbid! From the data of Scripture it is clear that the children God gives to believing parents are special, and therefore need treatment befitting their royal identity. To forget that fact is to provoke the Lord's anger – recall Mark 10.

A royal identity necessitates royal treatment. That is why sending God's children to a God-centered school is for parents not an option but a duty – a duty rooted in the wonderful identity God has been pleased to give to the children He entrusted to us: theirs is the kingdom of heaven! To the extent that God gives opportunity to supply Scripturally faithful education (I think of sufficient financial means and sufficient competent staff), to that extent congregation members are bound before God to ensure that their children receive royal education.

Take for granted the schools we've inherited from our parents? May it never happen! The fathers understood the teaching of Scripture on the identity of their children, and so sacrificed much to treat them royally.

Do we understand the point?


  1. ^ Elsewhere only in Matthew 20:24; 21:15; 26:8; Mark 10:41; 14:4; Luke 13:14. This is the only passage where the word is attributed to Jesus.
  2. ^ For example: Lane and Hendriksen.
  3. ^ This point is well argued by John Murray, Christian Baptism (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1980), pg 60f.
  4. ^ For the following argument, I am indebted to Edward N Gross, Will my Children go to Heaven? (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1995), pg 19-41.
  5. ^ The first prayer in the Form for Infant Baptism mentions this point.
  6. ^ Cf. also Crispus (Acts 18:8), Stephanus (1 Corinthians 1:16), Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16; 4:19).

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