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Volume 14, Issue 6: Childer

God the Grandfather

Douglas Wilson

A common cliche in evangelical circles maintains that God has no grandchildren. What is meant by this (I think) is that we cannot receive our regeneration at second hand. If this is what it means, then we should treat it less as a cliche and more as a proverb. The new birth is not a hand-me-down—an old sweat shirt with holes in it.

But too many take it as meaning that there are no covenantal blessings poured out from one generation to the next, including the blessing of regeneration. Each generation has to start from scratch, so the thinking goes. If this is what is meant, then we should oppose the assumption every chance we get. And this is because the new birth is part of our promised inheritance.
If we review some of the promises contained in Scripture concerning the life of the covenant, we see that they extend "to a thousand generations" (Deut. 5:10; 6:4-9; 7:9; Ps. 102:28; 103:17-18; Ezra 37:24-25; Eph. 6:1-4). The Lord is the Lord of the covenant in history, over the course of time. This means that the same faith that dwelt first in Lois and then in Eunice can dwell in Timothy also (2 Tim. 1:5). And what we need to do is distinguish the difference between a hand-me-down and an heirloom. The principle difference is that an heirloom is understood and treasured.
So of course God is our Father, in the sense that Jesus Christ brings us to the Father (Jn. 14:6), and enables us to pray to Him as our Father (Mt. 6:9). The Holy Spirit works in us so that we cry out Abba, Father (Rom. 8:15).
But God is our grandfather in other senses. He is the Father of the one who is our Father (Is. 9:6). The Lord Jesus is the Bridegroom who married our mother the Church (Gal. 4:26; Eph. 5:23). The Church corporately therefore prays, if we may speak this way, to God as her Father-in-law. The Lord Jesus prays to His Father. We as individual Christians (distinguished from the Church, but not separated from it), think of Christ as our Father, the Church as our mother, and of God as the ultimate Father, from whom all forms of fatherhood derive their identity. In other words, He is the grandFather.
As we learn how to live our lives in our own families from the patterns and examples of Scripture, we should immediately see that there are lessons here for us.
First, Christ has brought us to the Father. This was the point of His mission. Therefore, we ought not to create unnecessary distance between grandparents and grandchildren. Where possible, we should look for opportunities to present children to their "ancestors," as we call them in our family. This is not because grandparents have the immediate authority of parents—after all, it says that a man will leave his father and mother. The son who leaves establishes his own household with the blessing of his father. But having done so, he should remember that he is to present grandchildren to the grandfather as a blessing and for a blessing (Gen. 48:1).
Secondly, while grandparents do not oversee the day-to-day operations of childrearing, they do have an important teaching role. They teach their own children so that they can teach their children in turn. Additionally, as the grandparents are still around as the grandchildren are learning, they have an important role in remembering the works of God in the hearing of their descendents. "For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments" (Ps. 78:5-7). The line between grandparents and grandchildren stretches a long distance in both directions. Thirty years from now, my grandson will be as far away from the close of the Second World War as I was at my birth from the close of the War Between the States. Children should be taught by their grandparents and make a point of telling their grandchildren what they learned.
We also learn from God the Father the giving nature of heavenly wisdom. God the Father pours out an inheritance upon us—the riches of His grace in all wisdom and prudence (Eph. 1:7-8). We are called to the same thing. Grandparents are called to imitate God in this respect also. They are to accumulate the blessing of God, laboring under His blessing, and they are to pass that wealth on to their grandchildren who walk in the faith. This is part of the Scripture's description of goodness. "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just" (Prov. 13:22).
Just as every father is privileged to model the love of Jesus Christ to his children through how he loves and sacrifices for the children's mother, so also every grandfather has the privilege of modeling the love of God the Father. He does this by being near, by adding his teaching voice in support of the parents, and by bestowing his wealth with wisdom and prudence. In all of this, we are involved in mysteries way over our heads, but God in His kindness uses us still.
And the blessing of God attends it. "Yea, thou shalt see thy children's children, and peace upon Israel" (Ps. 128:6). Or in another place, "Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers" (Prov. 17:6).

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