Skip to content

The Christian Day School

1926 Synod Convention Essay

Introductory Paper

Justin A. Petersen

The committee for the cause of our Christian day-schools is grateful to the Synod for a place on her program. We know that Synod week is a most busy and valuable time, surely a poor time for the discussion of questions of little importance. In this respect, too, we should bear in mind that we are only stewards, who will once be called upon to give an account of the way in which we have used God’s golden hours of time. Now were the Christian nurture of our children of little importance, this committee would have acted presumptuously in asking for a whole session for its consideration, and at the same time our synodical officers would have proven unfaithful to the best interests of our Church by the granting of this time-allotment.

Surely none of us consider the feeding of Christ’s lambs of little importance. But do we all regard this part of our church work as of prime importance? Brethren, is not the danger lurking unpromisingly near to look upon this branch of our Christian work with questioning eyes and faintheartedness, if not downright disinterest, and — am I sinning against charity when I add — with hidden hostility? Yes, but is it not possible to have “zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” in this matter too?

Can we not also here go to absurd extremes? In reply we need only ask: Are any of us too enlightened and too concerned about the shepherding of Christ’s lambs? Can it with a show of right be charged against us, that our zeal for the spiritual welfare of our children “hath eaten us up?” No, as little danger as there is of becoming too spiritual — I mean truly spiritual — just as little danger is there that we shall become over zealous in nurturing our children. Friends, does not all the danger rather lie in the other direction? Oh, that our zeal might here know no bounds, for then we would come close to looking upon our little ones through the eyes of our Savior! And in the hope that our zeal in this respect might be increased, we have chosen as text for the spiritual character-building of our children one of Christ’s most heart-searching commands of love, “Feed my lambs.” But we shall read the whole verse: “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” John 21:15.

The setting of our text is so familiar that it scarcely needs repetition. We at once recall Peter’s deep fall in the court of the High Priest’s palace. In spite of his carnal boastings to the contrary, Peter had shamefully denied his Savior thrice. But though Peter had denied his Master, Peter’s Master did not deny His disciple. While Peter in shame perhaps never would have dared come to Christ again, still the Savior in His compassionate love turns again to Peter. Though Gethsemane lay just behind Him, and Gabbatha and Golgatha just before Him, nevertheless the suffering Savior turns to His disciple, not in reply to a plea for mercy, as was the case with the thief on the right a few hours later; no, entirely unsolicited the Savior turns His weary head, and looks at Peter. What a look it must have been! It pierced his heart, and sounded His soul, for “he went out and wept bitterly.” Later, too, it was none other than Peter who was the object of Christ’s most tender “sjælesorg.” Were not the ladies at the grave to bring a special message to Peter, the very one who had cursed Him? Oh, what a heart our Savior had, and still has, especially for His weak, fallen disciples! No wonder even Moses of old was moved to exclaim: “Yea, he loved the people.” Truly He loved His people; He loved them first, and He never ceases to love.

And here in our text we find the resurrected Savior in earnest conversation with repentant Peter. Hear His heart-searching question, which He repeats thrice, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” And thrice the humiliated Simon unhesitatingly answers, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Then, upon the disciple’s assurances of love, but not before, the Chief Shepherd solemnly charges His under shepherd, “Feed my lambs.”

We cannot but notice that Christ is no longer satisfied with mere word-assurances of love. Peter had used big words before, but they had meant nothing. Now the Savior wants, not words only, but also works, not lip-service merely — how entirely too much of such service we find among His disciples even today — but love-service, real service. Nor can we but notice the nature of Christ’s command to His disciple. The Savior does not ask Peter to erect a magnificent memorial to His memory, to institute a crusade or drive for Him, or to spend his life in prayer and meditation in some secluded spot, or to expose himself to self-sought persecution, nay not even to die for Christ’s name’s sake. No, none of all these things. Our Savior simply says, “Feed my lambs.” Fellow disciples, what a lesson! — also for us. We take then as theme:

Christ’s Clear Command to His Christians: Feed my Lambs.

1. Who shall be fed?

2. What shall Christ’s lambs be fed?

3. Who shall feed the lambs of Christ?

There can be no doubt about the answer to our first question; for Christ Himself answers so clearly, “Feed my lambs.” ’Tis true, He later speaks of sheep, He even mentions them twice, but He does not mention them first. And in that He mentions sheep, does He not thereby also include the lambs, just as we include infants in the general term “nation”? In reality then Christ mentions the lambs three times. He is above all concerned about them first; for the Good Shepherd knew very well that there would be very few sheep, if the lambs were not taken care of as lambs.

“Feed my lambs.” Our Savior here presupposes the new birth through the “washing of regeneration,” Holy Baptism; for by nature all of us, parents and children, sheep and lambs, are outside the spiritual fold. The Savior here then is speaking of the little children that have been made His lambs through Baptism. Then the Chief Shepherd in turn gives the lambs back to us — true, they are no longer ours by rights; they are now Christ’s lambs, entrusted to our care only. Therefore Christ’s clear command ever resounds: “Feed my lambs. I have thought of them from eternity, I have bought them in time, I have sought them and through the Means of Grace wrought the life of faith in their hearts. Feed now my lambs.”

The lambs of Christ are to be fed. Only life can be fed; but life must be fed, else it will soon cease to be life. Is it not true that all life, as we generally conceive of life, begins with a birth? And is not that life conditioned by the food and care that it receives? If this vitally fundamental law of life is only seen and admitted — for then we dare hope that some time it will be practiced — we can continue our discussion with joyful hope. But if this truth isn’t seen, or, if seen, suppressed, then there is little hope, then almost all is lost. We repeat once more, for it is so important: Oh, that we would only apply the simple laws of physical life to the spiritual life of our children! If we only would, but how many of us do? Verily, here too, “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”

Would not most parents feel terrible to hear that their children were being underfed physically? How quickly they would take effective steps to supply this absolutely essential condition for the bodily welfare of their little ones. But how often do we find mothers and fathers among our church people who are vitally concerned about the spiritual, eternal welfare of the immortal souls of these same children, flesh of their flesh, and blood of their blood? Verily, we are “of the earth, earthy.”

The feeding of life implies and demands repetition, and the younger life, the greater the need of repetition. The child must be fed often, not only once in a while, but again, and again, and again. Nor is this oft-repeated feeding to be done in a haphazard way. No, feeding also implies regularity. We don’t feed a normal child every hour one day, the next day perhaps only once, the next two or three days not at all, and then to make up for past neglect, gorge the child with food again for a couple of days. You are tempted to smile at such physical feeding; rather should we weep over our manner of spiritual feeding.

A distinguished doctor once made the significant statement that most of the stomach troubles that arise in later life may be traced back to malnutrition in the days of childhood. And may we not with like truth state that most of our spiritual and church troubles may be traced back to spiritual malnutrition in the days of childhood? Haven’t the brother pastors with a heavy heart often felt that the spiritual life created in Baptism had been starved out of the child’s heart even before it presented itself for Confirmation instruction?

“Feed by lambs.” The Greek word used here for lamb is the diminutive for lamb, little lamb. And the very word lamb at once suggests weakness, the most urgent need of solicitous care.

Let us not, therefore, delude ourselves into believing that surely there can be no haste here. Let us not give ear to this lie from the father of lies. The little lambs must be fed as lambs, and delay here may cause damage that never can be repaired in later life. Or is the late summer as favorable as early spring for the sowing of seed? Or can the blacksmith just as well wait until the iron has commenced to cool before shaping? Or the potter till the soft clay has set? In like manner, friends, we must in the spiritual feeding of our children make use of the golden hours of now, lest our hopes shall forever be buried in the graveyard of neglected opportunities. “The warp and woof of Christian character are necessarily wrought out in the school period of life, if at all. All know that ideas cannot become the permanent possession of the world, unless they enter through the doors of childhood.” “If we are to stamp the image of Christ on a child’s mind, it must be done in the early, susceptible years.”

Do not the words “feed” and “lambs” clearly indicate and select the proper schools for our children? Do not these terms place the true, spiritual evaluation upon the Sunday school, the summer school, or the one hour a week school? We do not say that these substitutes are entirely without value, but who among us can, in the light of God’s word, seriously and conscientiously maintain that such schools can properly and adequately feed our children, Christ’s little lambs? Peter never forgot this clear command, for he comes back to it again and again in his epistles. May we never forget it!


WHAT shall Christ’s lambs be fed?

In this connection we are reminded of the famous actor’s reply to a foolish preacher’s question: “What do you consider the secret of your success as an actor?” he was asked by the preacher. At once came the reply: “The reason of my success as an actor is this, that I have learned to play a fictitious part as though it were real, whereas I have noticed that you preachers often play a real part as though it were unreal.”

Surely there can be no question among us Lutheran Christians as to what Christ’s lambs shall be fed. Have we in reality other food than the word of God, “the bread of life come down from heaven?” We have a saying that a man is what he eats. This applies also to spiritual life. In fact, spiritual life is conditioned by the word of God from beginning to end. Therefore our same Peter later urgently admonishes, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” And our Luther sums up everything in his clear, classic style by saying, “For to feed the sheep is nothing but proclaiming to them the word of God, that is, true faith.” As Christian shepherds, parents, pastors, and teachers, we shall lead the lambs and the sheep to the green pastures and the still waters of God’s word, and not only “place the food before them,” as Dr. Ylvisaker reminds us in his “De Fire Evangelier,” but “give them food, wholesome, nourishing food in pure word and sacrament according to the individual needs.”

And why is it that the word of God alone can feed the soul? Because His word is “spirit and life,” aye God Himself. In the 81st Psalm God says, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” I will be there in my word and speak to you. And does not Paul in the New Testament call the Gospel “the word of faith”? On the strength of this divine statement Laache strikingly says: “The glorified Savior is in the word — Christ Himself, not only His doctrine, and Spirit, and power; He Himself is there, and therefore He is in me, and I in Him.”

And friends, should it demand such deep spiritual insight to see the fundamental and vital necessity of a thorough indoctrination of our children in the word of God? Does not this belong to the very abc’s of Christianity? And do not the very terms used by God Himself to describe the word indicate this most clearly and emphatically? “Seed of life,” “bread of life,” “light of the world,” “word of reconciliation,” “power of God unto salvation,” “sword of the Spirit,” etc.

And did not the Son of God die on the tree for the sins of the whole world? And are not now all the merits of our Savior’s life and death brought to us in and through the word? And does not God the Holy Ghost through this self-same word open our hearts to accept the full and free salvation earned for us all by our Savior-Substitute? Or is not this true? But is not then the WORD our “all in all,” the center and circumference, the beginning, the continuation, and the crown of our spiritual life? And should now this word be left out, or at best given a subordinate place in the nurturing of our children, Christ’s lambs? When we do so, are we then playing a real part in a real way?

We remind you again of the doctor’s significant statement, that most of the stomach troubles of later life can be traced back to malnutrition in the days of childhood. Malnutrition, not caused necessarily by the lack of food, but by the lack of a proper balance. We hear much in our keenly sensitive materialistic age about a balanced food-diet for our children. But can we call this a balanced soul-diet for Christ’s lambs: Several hours of the week devoted to stocking your child’s mind with interesting knowledge concerning the geography of this world, and then on top of all this hurriedly crowd in a skimp half-hour at Sunday school for instruction in the geography of the land that lies above the skies? Several hours a week to the study of language, in order that our children might learn to master their mother-tongue — and perhaps other tongues — and then just a few minutes a week in learning to speak the language of grace, the only tongue that shall be spoken in heaven? As much time as possible, often years and years, to the study of the book of man’s mind, but as little time as possible to the study of the Book of books, the only revelation of the mind of God to our salvation? Can we as Christians call this a balanced diet for our children?

And can any other school but the Christian day-school offer such a balanced soul-diet to our children? While other schools may produce intellectual giants, or even moral masters — outwardly then — yet there is only one power that can produce true, spiritual character, and that power is the Word of God. Now parents as a rule are much concerned about good schools for their children, and it is not unusual to see parents moving from place to place, often at a material loss, in order to secure such school advantages for their children. Nor is it unusual, sad to say, to see the unspiritual spectacle of Christian parents passing by, or despising in their mental vanity the best school in the world, the school of the Word, where God the Father is the Superintendent, God the Holy Ghost the Instructor, and God’s Son, the Savior of the world, the Life and the Light thereof! Friends, we may be certain, that the schools that rank highest in the standards of the world, have no accreditation in heaven.

Yes, all you say sounds good and well, but we have at close range seen the workings of these schools that you in your zeal speak so highly of. We have observed some of the products of such schools, and so far from being a credit to their Savor and His Church, several of them have been disgraces. And nothing that you have said or can say shall alter the true condition of affairs. With sorrow we admit that there is truth, some truth, in what you say, but dare you follow your statements out to their logical conclusions. Would you, for example, urge the covering up of the cross of Christ to the eyes of a sinful world, because humanity in general crucifies the Son of God afresh? Or would you urge the converting of our churches into club-houses, because some church-members, and even pastors, live just like the world? Or because some people in later years take their own life by committing suicide, would you on that account discourage the future physical feeding of your children?

Instead, therefore, of criticizing God’s accredited schools of the Word, will you not rather reexamine the relation of your soul-life to this same word of God? Has not the word been the greatest power in your life? What was it that first brought you to see your helpless, lost condition, if not the word of the Lamb? And, then, what was it that brought you to see the glorious grace of God in Christ Jesus, your Savior, if not the word of the Gospel? Is not, therefore, the WORD your light in darkness, your comfort in sorrow, your strength in weakness, your sword in battle, your life in death? And what other plea will you urge before the judgment-throne of the Holy God in heaven than this same word of grace, which assures to you the merits of your Savior? Surely then you won’t want to deprive your children of a rich measure of this same treasure-word! For, as Luther urges again and again, “We can be assured of a certainty that the soul can be without everything except God’s word, and without that it has profit of nothing.”

As Lutherans, therefore, we must ever insist upon the thorough word-feeding of our children, whom we are to bring up, not for the kingdom of this world, but for the kingdom of heaven. When we cease to do this, we are no longer true Lutherans, no matter how much we may boast of that name. For Lutherans are word Christians, and when we cease to feed the word of God, we at once leave the very foundation and condition of our faith; then we deny in reality the way of salvation, and the efficacy of the Means of Grace; we become “sværmere,” who rely in the last instance upon the spirit of chance, instead of upon the Spirit of God, Who works in and through the word.

It does not surprise us, then, to find that Luther, our spiritual father, was an ardent champion of elementary Christian education. Hear how powerfully he pleads: “I would advise no one to send his child to a school where the word of God is not in supreme control, and is taught unceasingly, lest the child’s soul perish.” And in his zeal he even went so far as to urge the placing of the sign “a den of thieves” over every institution of learning where the word of God was excluded. But in spite of all this, is it not a fact of common observance to see those who glory, ’tis true in Luther’s name, people who in the heat of doctrinal warfare are apparently willing to sacrifice all things for the truth of God’s word, but who later on are not only unwilling to sacrifice anything to preserve that same truth, but even turn their weapons against those who are sacrificing and fighting for adequate instruction for their children in this word of truth? Is not that to begin in the Spirit, but to finish in the flesh? Cf. Gal. 3:3.

No, as long as there are true Lutherans, strong, mature, “erkjendelsesrike” Lutherans among us, so long will our God-given leader’s fervent, courageous, almost militant voice be heard above the dust and din of this earth: “I will speak and not be silent, as long as I live, until the righteousness of Christ shall go forth as brightness, and I want to tell you, my friends, with all boldness and confidence, that if you obey me in this matter (Luther is pleading for Christian Schools for the children) you undoubtedly are not obeying me but Christ, and whosoever will not obey me, does not despise me, but Christ.”


WHO shall feed the lambs of Christ?

Here too our text answers in no uncertain terms. “Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” Three times Christ asks, “lovest thou me?” But one conclusion can be drawn: Only Christ’s disciples, those who love Christ, shall feed His lambs. Christ has never commissioned the State — though we fully recognize the right and duty of the State to educate those who otherwise would grow up as illiterate, and therefore undesirable citizens, aye as Christians it is God’s will that we should implore Him to bless the State also in this work — but never has God commanded the State or any other institution to teach His lambs. On the contrary, His word abounds with clear commands and precious promises to His individual Christians, especially parents then, and to the gathering of His Christians into congregations. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deut. 6:6-7. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matt. 28:20. “And, ye fathers, … bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4. And our text, “Feed my lambs.”

First of all, love for our children should prompt such feeding. And should it be so difficult for us to love our children, our own flesh and blood? “For no one ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” Eph. 5:29. In temporal things there is usually no need of inducements to love our children, but how slow and sluggish we all are in our spiritual concern for them. But powerful as the true love for our children should prompt us to feed Christ’s lambs, still more powerful a motive should the love of Christ be, our love to Christ, but even above that Christ’s all-constraining love to us, unworthy sinners.

“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” It is very significant that Christ here makes use of the word for love that indicates and demands strong, fervent love. Such love is needed if we are to really feed Christ’s lambs. Later, in speaking of the sheep, the Master uses a milder word for love, a word that indicates a desire, a longing to love, as much as to say, it takes less fervency of love to feed the sheep than the lambs. And what pastor doesn’t find it comparatively easier and more pleasant to preach to his flock on Sunday than to thoroughly instruct the children during the week?

“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” Christ hereby undoubtedly refers first of all to Peter’s boasted more-than-the-others devotion to the Savior. But are we stretching the application too far when we include also other things in the comparative “more than these?” “Lovest thou me more than” public opinion, be it scorn or commendation, “lovest thou me more than” goods and gold, “more than” success and sacrifice, “lovest thou me more than these,” then “feed my lambs.” Just you and no one else is to feed my lambs.

But all that you have urged throughout your whole paper can just as well, aye far better, apply only to the home. True, but what is a school but a number of families together? And what scriptural right do we have to entrust our children to any institution that does not continue to build on the foundation of our home, in other words, to a place where Christ’s lambs are not fed. If your home is not a Christian home — and we fear that there are all too many such within the very shadows of our churches — then we have little to say, then exhortation and admonition will be in vain; but if your home is a Christian home, and you still send your children to an institution where only the mind is fed, are you not continuing to build on the only foundation, “which is Jesus Christ,” “with hay and stubble?” 1 Cor. 3:11-12.

Christian mothers and fathers, Oh, that you would rise in your love and in your might, and, by the grace of God, resolve: “Our children shall at no cost be deprived of a full measure of what our Savior has called ‘the one thing needful.’ If we cannot leave them a piece of property, not a foot of ground, we will leave them the certain hope of the heavenly mansions in the land of eternity. If we can leave them no gold or silver, we will leave them that which is worth far more than fine gold, God’s word and Luther’s doctrine pure.” If we cannot leave our children a memory honored by the vain world, we will leave them that which is far better, the memory of a mother and father whose names are honored in heaven, whose works of love and sacrifice for the word of God do follow them. Cf. Rev. 14:13.

Oh, the glory of it! To minister in true love to Christ’s lambs, our own children, to feed their souls with “the bread of life come down from heaven,” to guide them on the perilous way to the promised land, to train them in the skillful use of “the sword of the Spirit,” that they might vanquish all their dread enemies with the victorious watchword, “It is written;” and then, at last, to meet them at the golden gates of the heavenly fold, where we can joyfully deliver them over into the loving hands of the Chief Shepherd with the exclamation of triumph, “Here am I, and the lambs which thou gavest me to feed!” What a meeting that will be!

— — —

What shall the lambs be fed?

L.S. Guttebø

Lambs must have milk. They can not do without it. There is no substitute for pure milk. It is easy to digest and contains all the food elements that are needed for the nourishment and development of a growing lamb. For the lambs of Christ there is only one food that will do: the unadulterated milk of the Word. As newborn babes long and cry for their milk and grow thereby to become strong men and women so the children of God, newly born in holy Baptism should have the pure milk of the Word set before them that they may grow thereby in knowledge and faith unto salvation. To feed the sheep, is nothing but proclaiming to them the Word of God, says Luther. By the “milk of the Word” we mean the chief teachings of God’s Word as we have them presented to us, for instance in Luther’s Small Catechism.

The one and only purpose of Holy Scripture is to make us “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” This saving faith was engendered in the hearts of our little children through holy Baptism, but now it must also be nourished, strengthened, and preserved as they advance in years. That can not be done in any other way than by teaching them the Word of God. Most emphatically Holy Writ, again and again impresses upon us the paramount importance of teaching children the Word of God. In His last great commission to His church, Our Savior did not only say: “Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost,” but He also added these significant words: “and teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you!” Deut. 6.6,7: “And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and

Notice that Jesus says: “My lambs.” They belong to Him. He is their shepherd, their teacher, their guide, their leader. Therefore it is His office to feed them. But now Jesus comes to us and blesses us and feeds our souls only through His Word. Little lambs of Jesus can be properly fed only when they are brought to Him. Hence also the urgent request of the Savior: “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” He says of His sheep: “They hear my voice.” They must learn to know His voice. We can not feed them; we can only bring them to Jesus so that He may feed them by making Himself known unto them as their Shepherd and Redeemer. In order that they may thus be brought to Jesus, it is necessary that they be taught the law of God so that they be led to a knowledge of their sin and corruption and the divine curse under which it places them. “The law is our school-master to bring us unto Christ.” It’s main purpose is to show them their need of a Savior. But above all must they come to a knowledge of Christ as their Redeemer, who atoned for their guilt, imparted and sealed God’s favor to them in holy Baptism, daily cleanses them from their sins by His blood, and adorns them with the garments of His merits, so that they stand justified before God; a crown of imperishable glory being reserved for them in heaven. Thus they grow in the knowledge of Christ, so that He becomes more precious to them day by day; thus they have their faith nourished and strengthened and their hope of heaven confirmed. Thus they grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ. (Eph. 4,15). At the same time they learn to distinguish between truth and error, so that they are not carried about by every wind of doctrine. They will follow Jesus only: for they know His voice, “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” Grounded in the saving truths, they are prepared to give a reason of the hope that is in them and contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. The love of God being shed abroad in their hearts, they delight to live in prayerful communion with Him and to do what is pleasing to Him. Spurning the principles and the ways of the world and of erring Christians, they permit themselves to be governed by God’s Word alone and by word and deed reprove the works of darkness. Then little children are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; thus they are fed by their Good Shepherd.

And this feeding must not be done spasmodically. That will never do. A child that shall grow and develop normally must have frequent and regular nourishment. An irregular diet will soon show itself in the undernourishment of the body. And so the spiritual life of a lamb of Christ must receive constant and regular nourishment in order that it may continue to live, to grow and develop. A brief half hour on Sunday, a few weeks of intensive feeding during the vacation months, will not answer the purpose.

A lamb of Christ should constantly be with Him, be led by Him, hear His voice, be fed by Him. Never should it be allowed to stray away from “the green pastures and the still waters of His Word.” How can this be accomplished? Under our conditions the Christian day-school is without doubt the best means to this end. There is no institution which so well provides food for the lambs of Christ. For here the entire instruction, also that in the secular branches, is permeated by the Word of God. True, we desire our children to be fit for the duties and pursuits of this life, we do not intend our children to neglect the studies of the public school: arithmetic, geography, reading, etc. We want to develop their intellect and increase their knowledge. But above all we want them to solve the Biblical problem in profit and loss. “What is a man profited, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Gain the world, lose his soul. What is the profit? We would have them study geography, we would have them know about the mountains, the rivers, the oceans, the cities, but above all we would have them look to the hills whence cometh our help, the rivers, the oceans of God’s love in Christ Jesus, and we want them to know about Jerusalem, the Golden City, and the way that leads thereto. So while we give our children the instruction that they need for this life, we always want to bear in mind that the main thing is to feed their souls, and all instruction, also that in the secular branches, should be subservient to this object.

Our children are not only in need of knowledge; they must also be trained. They must not only learn to know the true way, but they must also be taught to walk in that way. They are constantly in need of reproof, correction, encouragement, admonition. “Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” says the Savior. Their old Adam must be drowned, their evil inclinations must be restrained. In other words, they should constantly he under Christian discipline which is nothing else than to apply to them the words of God according to their needs.

Oh, what wonderful fruits we would reap, if the lambs of Christ were thus brought up on the sincere milk of the Word; were constantly at home and in Christian schools under the care and guidance of their Good Shepherd to whom they were given in Holy Baptism.

You do not want to deprive your children of the food that they need for their bodily life. You would rather starve yourself than have your children starve. Should you then want to deprive their precious souls of the heavenly manna? Should you not be willing to bring the greatest sacrifices and to overcome the hardest obstacles in order that their Good Shepherd may make them to lie down in the green pastures and lead them beside the still waters and finally gather them safely within His heavenly sheepfold?

— — —

Christ’s Clear Command to His Disciples: “Feed my Lambs”

O.M. Gullerud

John 21,15.


Who shall be fed? Lambs. Christ’s Lambs.

Three times Jesus asked Peter: “Lovest thou me?” Three times Peter gave the earnest and sincere answer that He, the alknowing God, knew that he loved him. After the first answer Christ gave the command: “Feed my lambs.” After the other two: “Feed my sheep.”

Note this that the very first command He gave was, “Feed my lambs,” note this for this was a command given, not only to Peter but to you, to me, to every one who loves Christ. Our love to Christ shall spur us on to feed His flock, and we shall begin with the lambs as He teaches us here.

But who are the lambs? From John 10 we learn that His sheep are the believers He says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life.” His lambs, then, are the little children who have become His through baptism.

In Mark 10 Jesus also gives this loving command: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.”

a) These lambs are your children. Dear fathers, mothers, the most precious gift God has entrusted to your care, are your children. He has given you many other gifts. He has given you money and property, houses and homes. But all that will perish. All that you must leave behind when you die. But your children you will not leave behind. They will follow you into eternity. Your children, have not only a body, created most wonderfully by the almighty God, but they have a soul. A soul that is immortal. A soul that will continue to live when the body dies A soul that on the last day, the day of judgment will be reunited with their bodies. Your children, your boys and your girls, will on that last day be placed, either on Christ’s right hand, or His left. They shall then hear, either these joyful words: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Or these dreadful Words: “Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Yes, your children, your boys, your girls, will then depart either into “everlasting punishment,” or they will enter into “life eternal.”

You love your children with a most tender love. How does it not pain you when your children are sick and suffering! How does it not pierce your heart when they cry in pain. How do you not heartily sympathize with them when it happens, f. ex. that they come home from school or from play crying, possibly bleeding, because they have been mistreated by their playmates! Can you then bear the thought that any of these your children shall spend the endless, yes the endless eternity, in the place where there shall be eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth? In the place “Where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched?” Can you bear the thought that any of your children, when they die, shall, like the rich man, open their eyes in hell, where they everlastingly shall be tormented in that flame?

No, you can not. Would you not then do everything in your power to save your children from this most dreadful fate, that they instead may, during all eternity, enjoy the wonderful bliss of heaven? Would you not gladly offer up every cent that you have, if that was necessary, and suffer every inconvenience, if that was required?

Dear parents, — let me appeal particularly to you fathers and mothers in the second division. You will hear that this is something which concerns not only the parents, but the entire congregation, all those who love Jesus. Dear fathers, mothers, the main reason why God has entrusted children to your care, is that you shall care for their spiritual welfare, that you shall care for them in such a way that they will not be condemned, but saved. For the Lord says: “Our conversation is in heaven,” (Phil. 3,20), not on earth. For this reason He commands you to bring up your children in the “nurture and the admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6, 4). He says: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness: and all these things shall be added to you.” Matt. 6,33. Are you doing this? What is it that you first of all seek for your children? Is it their bodily or spiritual welfare? What is it that you first of all seek to prepare them for? Is it this life, or is it for the life to come? What is it you are spending the most money for? Is it for their bodily life, or is it for their spiritual life? Are you sending your children to the state schools 8–9 months of the year, where they are prepared for this life only, where they cannot be taught anything concerning the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Are you, possibly sending them to Sunday schools, where they one day in the week, and one hour or less during that day receive instruction concerning the one thing needful? Or are you sending them to summer school, during the vacation, during the hottest part of the summer, when it is exceedingly difficult for children and teachers to do their best? Is that to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Is not that to seek first the things of this world, trusting that the kingdom of God shall be added to you? Are you not also thereby leaving the impression with your children for them to carry through their life, that what one first of all shall strive to obtain, are things pertaining to this world, and that the kingdom of God shall be a side-issue?

Or do you besides sending them to the state schools to be prepared for this life, which also is of importance, teach your children at home concerning the kingdom of God and His righteousness? Do you do this every day, many times a day, regularly, constantly? Do you live up to the command of God in Deut. 6,6.7.: “And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them, when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest on the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Do you do this? If not, you need the Christian day-school where the teacher, in your stead, will talk to your children about these things many times a day, where your child’s entire education will be under the guidance of God’s Word.

But it costs money. It may be very inconvenient. You may incur the ill will and even persecution of many of your fellow men. What does that all matter when the question is to live up to the command of God regarding your children? What does it matter when the question is to save your child from spending eternity in the fire of hell that it instead may gain the eternal joys of heaven?

Would you not be willing to offer up all things to save your child? A brother pastor told me a short time ago of a father who had a wayward son. As the prodigal son, he had left his heavenly Father. All admonitions seemed in vain. At last the son landed in the state prison. My friend then went to see the father of this boy, expecting to find him bowed down in the deepest grief of sorrow. To his surprise he found him in good cheer, for now, the father said in explanation, I believe the Lord will find him. And he did. Behind the prison bars his wayward son, by the wonderful grace of God, returned to his Savior and became an instrument in bringing other prisoners to Christ. Now even the great dishonor and sorrow that the son was cast into prison, did not matter for the father, if only his boy was saved. This should be our attitude. Nothing should matter, if only we and our children become so grounded and rooted in God’s Word that we may overcome the temptations of Satan, that we may remain in faith, that we may be saved for heaven. How does a tree become rooted and grounded, strong and mighty, able to stand against all manner of storms? It begins with the seedling, with the twig. From the very beginning it must constantly, day after day, year after year, receive strength from the ground. Constantly it must be under the influence of sunshine and rain. So in spiritual matters. Now more than ever it is necessary that our children become rooted and grounded in faith that they may be able to withstand the many storms of temptations in the world. From the time they are little children they must constantly, daily, many times a day draw strength from the wonderful store­ house, the Word of God, and thus become rooted and grounded in their faith. Is it not, then, necessary to have a Christian day-school? What does it matter if it costs money. What does it matter if we suffer the ill will and persecution of the world. What does it all matter if only our children are saved!

b) But Christ says: “Feed my lambs.” They are not only yours. They are His. Yes, above all they are His. They have only been entrusted to your care. They are His, because He has made them: “Fearfully and wonderfully.” (Ps. 139). They are His, because He has redeemed them with His life blood. You love your children. It hurts you to see them suffer. You cannot bear the thought that they be cast into hell. God the Father in heaven has an only begotten Son. This Son He loves a thousand times more than it is possible for you to love your children. For God is love. And love that you have is only a tiny spark of that great flame of love in God. And still He gave that only begotten Son to live a whole life in suffering for your sake and for the sake of your children. The torments were so great, so dreadful that His sweat became as blood and fell upon the ground. He gave this His only begotten Son to be shamefully mistreated by His enemies, to be spitted on, to be hit in the face, to be mocked, to be crowned with thorns, to be nailed to the cross there, to die slowly the most painful death. God the Father gave His only begotten Son to suffer all this, and to die this painful and shameful death in order to save you and your children from eternal suffering. O, how He must love you and your children! What a world of meaning is not contained in this verse of the Bible, John 3,16; “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

By this His redemptive work that cost Him so much, so much pain, and such a dreadful death, He has procured full salvation for you and your children. Surely, you have been “bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6.20). And this salvation which cost Him his life blood, He gave to your children in baptism. They became His. He had bought them with a price. And now He gave them over to you, fathers and mothers and congregation, that you should take care of them for Him, to take care of them in such a way that they do not lose this precious gift of salvation which cost Him His life blood. He gave them over to you that you should feed these His lambs. If you neglect this duty, they may die of starvation, die the spiritual death. That means they will lose the wonderful gift of salvation. Christ will have died for them in vain. Their soul will be required of your hand.

But if you conscientiously, diligently, regularly give your children that spiritual food, if you partake of it yourself, if you, by the grace of God, remain steadfast unto the end, you can on that last great day, surrounded by your children, say with joy: “Here I am, and the children which God hath given me.” O may God give us grace to feed His Lambs. Amen.

Visit Us
Follow Me