A Biblical Perspective on the Generations

Manuscript 1998
Tags: Christianity and culture; Ministry; Generations
Excerpted from A Christian Perspective on the Generation Gap
Related Resources: Proverbs on Parenting

The Bible has much to say about generational issues. The terms generation and generations occur numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments, and truth relevant to generational issues is to be found even where the specific terms do not occur. While it is not feasible to present here a comprehensive assessment of biblical teaching on the subject, it is necessary to offer an introduction. The book of Psalms provides a useful sample of texts for analysis.

The Psalms offer a number of insights concerning generational issues. Two themes are dominant: First, it is emphasized that there are spiritual realities that remain permanent across generation gaps. Second, members of older generations are instructed to convey their spiritual values to the young.

The Permanence of Spiritual Values

Some things remain unchanged in the face of social and cultural shifts. The Scriptures reveal that there are absolute, non-negotiable truths and values that are to be honored regardless of time, place, personal identity, social status, or cultural norm. This reality has a definite impact on the study of the generation gap. The Christian does not approach the subject as a moral relativist. The beliefs, values, and behaviors of various generations may be judged by the unchanging standards of the Scriptures. Just what are these spiritual values that remain constant from generation to generation? The Psalms respond to this question with the following answers:

  • God’s instructions for life
    Psalms 33.11
    The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
  • God’s refuge-giving character
    Psalms 90.1
    Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
  • God’s attributes of mercy and truth
    Psalms 100.5
    For the LORD [is] good; his mercy [is] everlasting; and his truth [endureth] to all generations.\
  • God’s covenant and revealed word
    Psalms 105.8
    He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word [which] he commanded to a thousand generations.
  • God’s name and remembrance
    Psalms 135.13
    Thy name, O LORD, [endureth] for ever; [and] thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations.
  • God’s kingdom and dominion
    Psalms 145.13
    Thy kingdom [is] an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion [endureth] throughout all generations.

The Transmission of a Spiritual Heritage

It is clear that God has ordained that certain spiritual realities be upheld by all people in all places at all times. This being the case, it is necessary that godliness be transmitted from generation to generation. The Psalms address the subject of spiritual heritage with the following insights:

  • The law of God was established with the intent that its precepts would be passed from one generation to the next.
    Psalms 78.1-8
    Give ear, O my people, [to] my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
    I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:
    Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.
    We will not hide [them] from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
    For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:
    That the generation to come might know [them, even] the children [which] should be born; [who] should arise and declare [them] to their children:
    That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
    And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation [that] set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.
  • The Jews were instructed to use the architecture of Jerusalem to teach the younger generation about God.
    Psalms 48.12-14
    Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
    Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell [it] to the generation following.
    For this God [is] our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide [even] unto death.
  • Godly men demonstrate a desire to convey spiritual values to all generations.
    Psalms 45.17
    I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever.
Psalms 71.17-18
O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto [this] generation, [and] thy power to every one [that] is to come.

Psalms 89.1
I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

Psalms 145.4
One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.

In summary, the Scriptures teach us that there are spiritual absolutes to be observed by all generations, and that the transmission of values from generation to generation can only occur through serious commitment to intergenerational communication.