Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
— John 16:21–23 —
Few things in life are more terrifying or exhilarating than the final moments before a baby is born. When a wife turns to her husband and says, “It’s time,” that husband knows—or he better know—that everything he’s doing needs to stop. Now!
A few weeks ago, this scenario played itself out on national television, as Robert Griffin took a phone call and immediately ran from the field during the middle of the Fiesta Bowl. While at first his co-hosts questioned him for taking a call during the live broadcast, as soon as the reason was given, everyone understood and everyone cheered. Such is the celebration that comes when the long-awaited child is here and about to enter the world. (I share the clip with great pain for my Michigan Wolverines.)
Indeed, there is something wonderful about birth, even as it comes through immense pain for the mother and an immense sense of helplessness (not to mention adoration) for the father. Even more, childbirth is meant to picture something of God’s plans for salvation.
Like marriage, childbirth is a picture of the gospel, or at least the new birth, which comes when God grants life to his children. Explaining regeneration in John 3, Jesus indicates that this new birth—a birth from above—is much more than a metaphor. It is the very means by which God is going to save the world.
Likewise, as Jesus nears the cross, he returns to the imagery of childbirth, when in John 16:21–23, he says that the birth of pangs of salvation are here. As the bridegroom, Jesus says that “It’s time!” And importantly, he is not only saying that it is time for his cross, but he is also saying it is time for the bride (the church) to experience the pain of receiving her children.
In the Old Testament, especially in Isaiah, we discover that Mount Zion is a mother who will receive the children of God (cf. Psalm 87). And now that Jesus is going to be lifted up (on Calvary but also in glory), it is time for Mother Zion to receive her offspring. This is a key point in John 16 and one that we need to understand, if we are going to rightly relate childbirth to salvation and salvation to rearing children in the Lord.
On Sunday, I preached on this point and you can find the sermon here. Along the way, this sermon touched on appropriate and inappropriate ways to relate home and heaven, child birth and salvation—subjects that are on the forefront of Christian’s minds today.
As the moral fiber of our country continues to crumble, in large part because the family has been eviscerated, Christian Nationalism seems to offer a suitable solution. Yet, advocates of Christian Nationalism, especially those who are Baptist, should know that the foundations offered by the likes of Stephen Wolfe—see p. 217 in his The Case for Christian Nationalism—depend upon a view of the covenant that Baptists cannot affirm. For this reason and others, Baptists should be cautious of trying to reform America with his brand of postmillennialism. Instead, we should go back to Scripture to see how the new covenant informs the mission of the church, the way Christians can impact culture, and the way the law applies to the state today.
Long story short, more needs to be said on how child birth relates to salvation and how churches should foster Christian homes and influence nations with Christian truth. In the months ahead, Christ Over All will be addressing just this in two issues on the Christian Home (May) and Christian Nationalism (October). In our day, all of us need to think more carefully about how God is bringing light into the world and how the church plays a part in influencing the state. Stay tuned. Until then, however, I offer this sermon as entrée to the subject.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
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