A Defense for Child Evangelism – Part 2

In addition to the historical accounts of Jesus in relation to child evangelism found in the Gospels, we also see many other passages both in the Old Testament and in the Epistles that provides a Biblical defense for child evangelism. It is good that we examine these additional passages that we may understand the full counsel of God’s Word in our defense for child evangelism.

            The first passage to consider is Deuteronomy 4:1-10. The context of this passage is the preparation of the children of Israel to enter the promised land. It is in that context that Moses is giving a farewell speech as he prepares to hand over the reigns of leadership to Joshua. “After rehearsing the history of the nation (Deut. 1–3), Moses reminded the people of the character of the God of Israel and how they should respond to Him.”[1] In verse one the people are encouraged to ‘hearken’ or ‘listen’ to things that they are taught. Here we find the Hebrew word ‘Shama’ which means to hear or understand things that are heard.[2] This carries the idea of obedience. The children of Israel were to listen and obey the things they were taught. The word ‘teach’ is also seen in verse one which is the Hebrew word ‘Yada’. Which essentially means to teach. Verse two gives the instruction not to add to the word that is taught and do not take it lightly or diminish it. The people were to obey all that God gave to them and not add to or take anything away from it. They were to obey exactly as they were taught. In verses 3-6 Moses spoke concerning the results of obedience versus disobedience. It is concluded that obedience would result in God’s blessing and in other peoples coming to know the Lord. However, disobedience would result in discipline and God’s judgement. As we come to verses 9-10, we find attention placed upon the children. Emphasis is given on passing down what they learned to their children. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “Deuteronomy lays great stress not on the priests or other religious leaders, but on the parents as the ones responsible for their children’s spiritual education.”[3] We gather from this passage that children are to be taught the Word of God from an early age. It is to be a regular part of their lives. Christian education begins in the home, and it is to be supported by the church. The scripture’s emphasis on educating children in the things of God substantiates a theology of child evangelism and conversion.

            Another Old Testament passage to consider is Deuteronomy 6:1-9. This is a classic passage in the defense of child evangelism. The children of Israel are reminded to obey the commands that they were given. The word ‘teach’ in verse one is ‘lamad’ which means to teach so that you learn it and do it. It also means to exercise or to put into practice.[4] The emphasis given is on obedience. We are not to simply hear the word taught, but we are to put it into practice, we are to obey what we have been taught. There are several reasons seen in this passage as to why the children of Israel were to obey what they were taught. These are the same reasons for our obedience as well. Obedience is necessary in order that future generations may learn to fear God. If we are not living in obedience to the Word then how can future generations know God? Long life is also promised to those who obey. There is a blessing given to those who live in obedience. The children of Israel were also told that there would be an increase in their number if they obey. Abundant multiplying blessings await those who live in obedience. In verses 4-5 we have what is known as the great ‘Shema’. This is the foundation of the Jewish faith. The ‘Shema’ is a declaration that there is only one true God, and He is to be loved with all heart, soul, and might. “The fundamental nature of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel consists of the recognition that God is one and that His people, if they are to enjoy the benefits of His promises to the patriarchs, must give Him undivided allegiance and unswerving obedience.”[5] In verse six the command is given to teach the ‘Shema’ and the commandments of the Lord to the children. The term for children in this context is the Hebrew word ‘ben’. It literally means your children and your children’s children.[6] Israel was instructed to teach the commandments of the Lord to every generation. Verses 7-9 describes how the Word was to be taught. They were to teach the children diligently. This is the Hebrew word ‘Shanan’. It gives the idea of ‘sharpening.’[7] Children are sharpened or strengthened and equipped for life as they are taught. Every opportunity should be given to teach the children the Word of God. As a parent lives life with their children, constant consideration of opportunities to teach the children should be given. Parents should look for ways to teach children the Word of God as they go about their daily life. If the children of Israel were instructed to constantly teach their children the commands of the Lord and to demonstrate a life of obedience, would this not give credibility to the necessity of child evangelism?

            Deuteronomy 11:18-21 is another passage to consider in a defense of child evangelism. Emphasis is given here to seek God with all your heart. Encouragement is given to ‘lay-up’ the Word in our hearts. The Word of God should in the heart and mind of every true believer continuously. God’s Word should always be in front of us. In verse 20, the phrase: “write them on your doorpost” is the Hebrew word, ‘owth’. This means to make a mark or a remembrance.[8] God’s Word should be in constant view. When families live in such a way with the Word of God constantly in view promoting obedience, there is a blessing in store. Verse 21 gives a blessing to both parents and their children as they live in obedience to the Word of God. The encouragement to keep God’s Word in the forefront of our minds and hearts and to teach the Word to our children is additional evidence affirming the importance of a proper theology of child evangelism and conversion.

            Another important Old Testament passage in our defense for child evangelism is found in Deuteronomy 31:9-13. Every seven years the children of Israel were to gather together in one place and listen to the law of God read. Included in those who were to be present was the children. The entire community was involved in hearing God’s Word read publicly. As we saw in the acceptance of children by Jesus and including them in the gathering of adults, so did the entire community of Israel. The acceptance and inclusion of children gives even more substantial evidence to the importance of child evangelism.

            Psalm 78:1-8 provides additional insight in our defense of child evangelism. This Psalm was written as a reminder of Israel’s history and to warn future generations of past failures. Warren Wiersbe says, “The leaders of Israel abandoned the faith of their fathers and established a religion of their own making, while the people of Judah sought to be faithful to the Lord. In this psalm, Asaph warned the people of Judah not to imitate their faithless ancestors or their idolatrous neighbors and disobey the Lord. He admonished them to know the Scriptures and teach them to their children.”[9] In the first few verses of this Psalm there is a call to listen. The Hebrew Word ‘Naba’ is used as a reference to gushing water.[10] The attitude described here is one of excitement and enthusiasm in proclaiming the Word of the Lord. The main takeaway we receive from this Psalm is that parents cannot be neutral when it comes to teaching their children the things of God. The things of God must not be hidden from the children so that they will grow up believing and praising the Lord. There are some today that will shy away from teaching children God’s Word for fear that they cannot understand it. Yet, the consequence of children not knowing God’s Word is far too dire to keep the Word from them. Child evangelism is essential in protecting future generations from the mistakes and failures of past generations.

            Now that we have seen a substantial defense of child evangelism in the Gospels and in the Old Testament, let us now turn our attention to the Epistles. We begin by examining Ephesians 1:1-3 and 6:1-4. The book of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Paul addresses the saints at Ephesus. It is important to note that Paul is not referring to saints as a sinless person, but rather, as a saved person. Fast forward to Ephesians 6:1-4. Here we find Paul addressing children and encouraging them to obey their parents. The word for children in this context is ‘teknon’.[11] It means, small son or daughter. The children are encouraged to obey their parents. They are to ‘hupakouo’[12] which means to submit to and obey. The children are to do this ‘in the Lord.’ It is the Christian duty of a child to obey their parents. Doing so is the right (‘diakaion’) or righteous thing to do.[13] Keeping with the context of the whole we can conclude that the early church practiced child evangelism. How do we come to this conclusion? Paul included children as saints or saved ones. He then directly addressed children and instructed them to obey their parents ‘in the Lord.’ The children Paul was writing to in chapter six were young children that were saved. They were counted in the number of the saints in the church at Ephesus. This proves that the early church actively evangelized children. If the early church evangelized children and included them in their membership, should we not also evangelize children?

            A similar conclusion can be made from the book of Colossians. In Colossians 1:1-2, Paul declares he is writing to the saints and faithful brethren. In Colossians 3:20 children are once again given a direct command. They are commanded to please the Lord by obeying their parents. “There is something especially pleasing in the behaviour of a lovingly obedient child, that wins “favour” both “with God and man” (Luke 2:52).”[14] If children are given instruction by Paul in his letter to the Colossians that is addressed to the saints, is the children Paul is instructing not also the saints mentioned at the beginning of his letter? Certainly one must conclude that child evangelism was an essential practice in the life of the early church.

            We could continue page after page with exposition of Biblical passages that gives a concrete defense of child evangelism. However, for the sake of not being too exhaustive allow me to give you one more crucial passage in our defense of child evangelism. In Titus 1:5-9 we find the qualifications for a man to serve in the office of pastor/elder/bishop in the church. Within that context we find that the children of such man are to be faithful and not unruly. This is a reference to a believer verses a nonbeliever. The believer is one who is faithful, and the unbeliever is the one who is unruly. The children of a pastor/elder/bishop that have reached an age of understanding or accountability must be believers. “If the children remained pagan (unbelievers), the father’s ability to lead others would be thrown into question.”[15] The children of such a man must fulfill the ethical requirements of a Christian life. Since such a requirement given for a man to serve in the high office of the church is placed on his children being believers, we have here a demonstration that children can indeed come to faith in Christ and therefore child evangelism is paramount.

            There is a consistent thread through the pages of scripture that solidifies the credibility and necessity of child evangelism. It would be very difficult for one to argue against child evangelism using the Bible as their source. Over and over we are faced with the conclusion in scripture that children do have the capacity to make a decision to trust in Christ as Savior and to live the Christian life. With such a conclusion, how will we respond? Will we engage in child evangelism?

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1999). Be equipped (p. 25). Chariot Victor Pub.

[2] Logos Bible Software Word Studies

[3]J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 269). Victor Books.

[4] Brown-Driver-Briggs. Hebrew/English Lexicon

[5]Merrill, E. H. (1998). The Pentateuch. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 65). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[6] Logos Bible Software Word Studies

[7] Brown-Driver-Briggs. Hebrew/English Lexicon

[8] Progressive Methods of Child Evangelism Class Notes. p. 22

[9]Wiersbe, W. W. (2004). Be worshipful (1st ed., p. 253). Cook Communications Ministries.

[10] Progressive Methods of Child Evangelism Class Notes. p. 23

[11] Progressive Methods of Child Evangelism Class Notes. p. 19

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14]Spence-Jones, H. D. M., ed. (1909). Colossians (p. 156). Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[15] Progressive Methods of Child Evangelism Class Notes. p. 20

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