Thankfully, the blood of Christ divides and unites families. “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. . . . They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother” (Luke 12:51-53). “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). This is good news. It means that coming from an unbelieving family is no sure curse. A family may be graciously broken by the belief of a child.
When Paul said to Gentile converts, “You were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), he knew that the blood of Christ had broken a family line of unbelief. If you are the offspring of unbelievers it is good news to hear Paul say, “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:8).
Biology seals no curse and guarantees no blessing. That is a warning against despair for the offspring of pagans and against presumption for Christian parents.
But did the blood of Christ purchase no privileges for the children of believers? Did the blood of Christ not unite families across generations? What about Acts 2:39? “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” What about Psalm 103:17-18? “The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.” Or Exodus 20:5-6? “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Yes. Christ did purchase privileges for the children of believers. But he did not guarantee their salvation. Each of those three texts makes clear that the blessing which comes to the future generations of believers comes only to those who are “called by God” (Acts 2:39), “keep his covenant” (Psalm 103:18), and “love him” (Exodus 20:6). Do all the children of believers love God and keep covenant with him by faith in Christ? No. There are enough examples of believers in the Bible whose children did not believe to show us that a parent’s faith does not secure a child’s.
The point of Romans 9:7-13 is to show that Isaac not Ishmael, and Jacob not Esau, received the full blessing of being born to believing parents. The blood of Jesus divides not just when parents are unbelieving, but also when children are unbelieving. This is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “A person’s enemies will be those of his own household. . . . Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” A Christian parent may face this choice: allegiance to Christ or allegiance to child?
But I say again, yes, Christ did purchase privileges for the children of believers. It would seem to be pointless to say, “The promise is for you and for your children” (Acts 2:39), and to say, “His righteousness is to children’s children” (Psalm 103:18), if there was no more significance to a Christian ancestry than a pagan one. There is a good that comes to the children of believers.
God says in Jeremiah 32:39, “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.” This “good” is not the guarantee of faith, but the gift of God’s word (Deuteronomy 6:6-7), the restraint of God’s discipline (Ephesians 6:4), the demonstration of God’s love (Colossians 3:21), and the power of prayer (Job 1:5). God has ordained, regularly and normally, to work through these means for the salvation of the children of believers.
For this Christ died. Christian parents honor the blood of Jesus when they follow his ways for the sake of their children.