A Family Covenant—Part 1
“My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.” (Proverbs 5:1-2)
“Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise…we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:28, 31)
We live by agreements. We make plans through agreements with others and drive our children to their activities because we have agreed to help them. We agree to go to church, serve in the church, in a particular ministry, and fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, in agreement with Scripture. Most of the agreements we make are more like promises and casual contracts, subject to change. Even the marriage contract, which was once considered to be a binding covenant is now viewed as a casual promise based on feelings and circumstances, for a large percentage of married couples. However, God’s biblical covenants are immutable, dependable, and secure; they will never change.
One way for a family to honor God is by creating and using a family covenant. There are many benefits to parents and children who have worked through and agreed to keep a gospel-centered focus within their family (depending on the age of the children). Rather than having to repeat basic doctrines of faith and their application, as if it is new instruction, a family covenant provides a means to remember them, with the responsibility on all parties, not only the parents. Our “children of the promise” can benefit from a gospel-centered covenant on which to base their choices and decisions as they grow up. Parents who have babies or very young children can begin with a covenant for the two of them as it regards their growing children. Christians are called to provide gracious, forgiving, loving, and teaching home environments where the application of the gospel and its attendant doctrines is not only understood but practiced as a lifestyle.
Some ideas for the family covenants have been taken from Dean Blevins article “Faithful Homes,” and other resources listed at the end of this post. (1) Blevins suggests a covenant with three parts: a preamble, a purpose statement, and covenant practices. I like this particular order because the preamble is the basis for the family’s faith, and if the gospel is clearly enunciated, it describes Scripture’s calling for every believer. Your covenant preamble might be a confession or creed, such as the Nicene Creed, Apostle’s Creed or even a question and answer from the Westminster Confession of Faith, The Westminster Catechism, or The Heidelberg Catechism. The benefit of using a known creed or catechism is that is has been developed by the fathers of our faith with tremendous care, the help of the Holy Spirit, and has been confirmed to be biblically accurate and true. Making up a preamble is also an option, but may lacks historical references for further study by family members.. You may want to think of it as you would a once-in-a-lifetime wedding vow that expresses the truth—of the gospel, God’s character, and Scripture’s teaching—not feelings or opinions. The goal is to have a vision for your family that is teachable for your children.
Our Christian mission is not something we have to invent, since God has called every believer to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Romans 8:29). You may want to use such a passage as this as your preamble, being ready to teach and explain the meaning of “calling” and “baptism” (of the Holy Spirit at regeneration).
Would you consider using a covenant with your family? If no, why not? If so, will you start working on the preamble, with prayer and discussion together? What obstacles might you face? Will you handle this as the beginning of your consistent instruction for your children?
* Blevins, Dean G., “Faithful Homes,” http://www.faithfulhomes.org (this article may no longer be available online)
* OtherResources for family covenants: