Well, it’s wonderful to be with you again on this Sunday night. We’ve been doing a number of different things since we’ve been unable to gather as a church. And last Sunday morning I addressed the issue of the family and God’s wisdom for the family, and I thought it would be helpful to maybe continue thinking along that line since we’re all together with our family for, perhaps, a few more weeks, and draw you into the Word of God with regard to what the Bible says about the important critical responsibility that we have as parents to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. So at least tonight and maybe again next Sunday night we’re going to talk about this wonderful divine responsibility of raising children that become a joy to their parents and a blessing to the world and useful to the kingdom of God.
I think all of us are aware, we don’t need statistical proof that parenting has fallen on dire hard times. Marriage is dead in America. Every year less and less people get married, more and more people stay single; they cohabitate. The majority of children now born in our country are born outside marriage, outside the home which God designed for them to be nurtured and cared for so they could flourish and keep society sane.
But we’re in a culture where basically all taboos have been abolished. There’s virtually nothing wrong unless it’s the abuse of someone else. Abuse seems to be the popular and operative word for all crimes that raise any kind of reaction from our society. But apart from that, there doesn’t seem to be any moral requirement for anybody, certainly in the sexual area or in the category of raising children. You can look up spanking and you’ll find out that the Internet would be happy to tell you that it borders on child abuse, if not child abuse, and should be designated as a crime. Biblical morality, however, is taboo. Biblical morality is to be rejected. It is onerous. It is too much pressure. It is legalistic. It thwarts people’s freedoms and cuts into their desires and their will. And so biblical morality has no place in this society.
Fornication, sexual sin, adultery, sexual sin in every form right down to commercials. You cannot escape sexual sin being portrayed in front of you, including homosexuality. Gender confusion, homosexuality, transgender behavior – all of that strikes a deadly blow at the issue of human sexuality, which then corrupts marriage and also, obviously, raising children.
The rejection of male leadership – there’s a taboo in our society. There’s a crime of all crimes for a man to assume that he is the head of the family, the head of the house. Men have literally been assaulted for a generation now and stripped of any societal expectation for leadership in the family. Women have gone to work. We have rejected the home as the locus for a woman to live her life and flourish. She is now out in the workplace. So you have the familiar latchkey kids which has to be part of the discussion right now when the leaders of our country are talking about opening up everything. If they don’t open up all the schools at the same time they open up all the workplaces, there are going to be children in school with parents at home, which would be a bizarre reversal of the past. If they don’t provide for children at school when they send the adults back to work, then you’re going to have kids at home all day. Who’s going to take care of them? This is a kind of macrocosm of the alienated family, the alienated husband and wife, and the alienated children now brought to an extreme level.
Dominant media, dominant social media, pornography in everybody’s hand on a cell phone; abortion – ten million kids will be slaughtered in a given year; and the ubiquitous pornography. Children are being drugged. I was talking to a gentleman who runs a Christian camp, Christian camp for churches to bring their young people. He said seventy-five percent of all the kids that come are on medication – junior high, high school kids.
Now the culture really offers no solution to this. The only hope is the church. We are the only hope for civilization really, for any kind of normal culture, any kind of safe culture in the future. Only the church offers any answers to the chaos of sexuality, sexual sin, marriage, divorce, and the corruption of the family. Only the church and only that church which offers up the Word of God, salvation for individuals and obedience to God’s Holy Word. If people are in Christ and if they follow the Word of God, they flourish personally in their marriages and in their families.
So we need to go back to biblical principles. And that’s what I want to do, talk to you a little bit maybe on a more personal note, not so much preaching a sermon but just giving you some counsel from the Word of God. And last Sunday morning we talked about wisdom as laid out in the book of Proverbs, and I want to follow up on that a little bit today and just to think about parenting with a couple of very basic foundational realities. So let’s kind of work our way through them.
Number one, marriage is the grace of life. Marriage is ordained by God as the normal pattern for life, and it is called by the apostle Paul the grace of life. Marriage is the topping on all that life can be, it’s the best that life has to offer. So we start with recognizing that marriage is the grace of life. Marriage is such a magnificent grace that it is the very symbol of the relationship between the living Lord Jesus Christ and His redeemed church; and that’s what we see, obviously, in Ephesians chapter 5. So we begin with marriage as the best of all human relationships: the most sacred, the most fulfilling, the most beautiful, the most productive, the most satisfying, the most enriching, the most joyful, the most meaningful.
Second thing to think about: Children are a blessing from the Lord. Children are not accidental. They are not conceived in the womb to be snuffed out in the womb as if they were merely a human choice. Children are from the Lord. Listen to what it says in Genesis 1:28 regarding Adam and Eve: “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it. Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.” This is a command from God. And God was involved in the fulfillment of that command.
Later in the book of Genesis in chapter 29 we begin to get the picture that God was involved in every birth. Listen to chapter 29, verse 31: “The Lord saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb,” – God opened her womb – “but Rachel was barren. Leah conceived and bore a son, named him Reuben, for she said, ‘Because the Lord has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.’ Then she conceived again and bore a son and said, ‘Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also.’ So she named him Simeon.” She recognized that children were not accidental, they were from the Lord.
In the next chapter, chapter 30 of Genesis, “Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or else I die.’ Then Jacob’s anger burned against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’” Jacob recognized that she hadn’t had any children because God had not given her any children.
Then later in that same thirtieth chapter of Genesis we read, “Then God remembered Rachel, and God gave heed to her and opened her womb. So she conceived and bore a son and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ She named him Joseph, saying, ‘May the Lord give me another son.’” They all recognized that children came from the Lord, that it was the Lord who was designing them in the womb. It was the Lord who allowed pregnancy. It was the Lord who created every child.
In Psalm 127, it is explicitly stated – and I’ll just read you a couple of verses from that short psalm, starting in verse 3: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.” Children are a gift from the Lord.
So first of all in looking at the foundation of the family, marriage is the grace of life, children are a gift from the Lord. That leads to a third very foundational reality and it is this: Parenting is a blessing. Parenting is a blessing. If marriage is the grace of life, and since children are a gift from the Lord, they constitute a heavenly blessing. Listen to Proverbs 29:17, “Correct your son, and he will give you rest; yes, he will give delight to your soul.” In the tenth chapter of Proverbs we read at least three times that children make a father’s heart glad. Children are a blessing from the Lord. Seems today that people are more likely to have a dog than they are a child. They prefer a dog, I guess, because they don’t get any backtalk from a dog, and they don’t have the challenges of parenting that come with children. But children are a blessing from the Lord.
There’s a fourth principle that has to be considered and it is this: Parenting is the married couple’s primary responsibility. Parenting is the married couple’s primary responsibility. And our parenting is measured by our children, how we raise our children. If a child is raised correctly, he will be a joy to his parents and a joy to everyone else.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he’s old he’ll not depart from it.” That’s axiomatic. That’s simply saying, “Hey, you get the raw material and you have the opportunity to raise the child, and what that child becomes is what you raised.” That’s a biblical truism. And it doesn’t assume that you’re going to medicate the child to get control, it assumes that you’re going to do all the necessary biblical things and all the actions and reactions that are driven by love to bring that child to a healthy wholesome adulthood.
In Luke 6:40, Jesus said this: “Everyone, when he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” That, too, is axiomatic. That is to say it’s a self-evident truth. Everyone, when he has been truly trained, fully trained, will be like his teacher. Jesus says that, of course, in a discipleship context, but it certainly fits a parenting context as well.
Now nothing you do is going to necessarily guarantee the child’s salvation, that is a separate work of God; but the truism is the same. Children become what their parents raised them to be. Your child will be a reflection of your life and your parenting.
Another principle that’s very important then, building on that: Parenting is the child’s most powerful influence. Parenting is the child’s most powerful influence. In this culture, you have to fight ubiquitous other influences that encroach on the parenting process, which means you have to guard and police the minds and souls of your children along the way, or they will wind up being parented by some external wretched, corrupted, sinful culture.
Listen to Ephesians 6:1, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your Father and Mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers,” – or parents – “do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Bringing them up is a parenting issue; and the father leads in that issue and, of course, the mother comes alongside in a vital capacity. This is your most critical role not only in the culture, but even in the kingdom, to bring up your children in the nurture or the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Consequently, parenting is a full-time responsibility. If you go back to the very earliest section of the Old Testament you come back to the Pentateuch and you come to the book of Deuteronomy and you read in chapter 6 the mandate from God for parenting. It says this, verse 5 of Deuteronomy 6, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
In other words, you put the Word of God everywhere. You put it on the entrance to your house – that’s speaking metaphorically – so that everything in the house is consistent with the Word of God. You put it on your hand so that everything your hand does reflects a devotion to the Word of God, to the truth of God. You teach it to your children all the time: walking, standing, lying, sitting. You’re always communicating to them the Word of God. And by the way, the history of Israel is the historical object lesson about the dangers of neglecting that responsibility.
One generation later in the book of Judges, chapter 2, we read in verse 7, “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the Lord which He had done for Israel. Then Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten.” During the era of Joshua, all the people served the Lord. Verse 10 says then, “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.”
What happened to that generation? Verse 11: “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger. So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel.” Joshua’s generation, children were raised to serve the Lord. One generation later, as I said, that had disappeared in idolatry.
Later in the book of Judges in chapter 21, we read in verse 25, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Nothing new, that’s where we are today. That’s what happens when you have a generation of people who reject the Word of God, who ignore the responsibility to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
So what are we saying? Marriage is the grace of life. Children are a blessing from the Lord. You have the responsibility to raise your children to know the truth of the Lord, to know who He is and what He requires and what He offers: all of His threats and all of His promises. Your responsibility to parent is the primary responsibility of your life as a married couple, and you have the most influence on your children. And if there’s any other source of influence coming in that overpowers your influence, you need to get rid of it, you need to get it out. You need to be the one using the Word of God, father and mother, dad and mom, who are the primary influence in your children’s lives. That might mean in some situations that you have to think about whether you want your child even in a public school exposed to non-biblical, non-Christian ideologies six hours a day. And then when you compound that by working moms who aren’t there to balance that out because they’re busy and don’t have time in the evening to teach, or fathers who don’t because they’re worn out, you have a formula for what is really tragic.
So in the end, parenting is God’s plan for passing righteousness from one generation to the next. That’s God’s plan: be fruitful, multiply, have children. After the flood, God came right back in Genesis 9, said the same thing: “Be fruitful, multiply, have children.” That is how righteousness is passed from one generation to the next. Family then is the building block not only of society, it is that in a temporal sense, but it’s the building block of the kingdom in a spiritual sense. Over 80 percent of the people who are Christians became Christians under the influence of their parents before they were 18 years of age. That is the primary mission field.
So the assault on the family is not surprising. The assault on the family is to be expected. That’s where the first assault came. Satan cornered Eve and got her to reject the headship of her husband and act independently, broke into the order of the family, and took down the entire human race.
Some interesting statistics are appearing all the time about how people view marriage. I read one recently. The question was, “Is the ideal home a marriage where the husband provides and the wife cares for the children?” Yes, thirty percent. Thirty percent of people thought the ideal was a providing father and a mother who cared for the home and the children.
A follow-up question was, “Do you want to get married?” This is asked of this generation of young people. Yes, forty percent. No, sixty percent. Marriage is dying. Every year less people are getting married. The majority of all babies born in America, the majority of them are born to a couple who is not married.
Now it’s not new to be sinful. It’s not new to commit fornication. It’s not new to sin at such a level that you disregard the purposes of God, the law of God, and disregard marriage; that’s not new. God once destroyed the whole human race. Back in Genesis 6 the flood came because they all did evil and only evil continually. So this is not new. And in Acts 14 it says, “God has watched as the nations all have gone their own way.” And Romans 1 says it is the constant cycle of nations and peoples that they reject God, they turn against God, and the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against those who reject God. And that wrath comes and they are turned over to their sin. And what is the sin? Sexual sin, homosexual sin, a reprobate mind. So that’s the cycle of history: rejecting God, falling under divine judgment; and it leads to sexual perversion and the devastation and destruction of the family.
Everything in our society works against godly dads, godly moms, and raising godly children. Satan has devised every conceivable and inconceivable avenue to intrude into the life of a family to twist and pervert the process of raising godly children. Parents are fearful of what the society and the culture is doing to their children behind their backs. They know the exposure is beyond what they think it is – and they’re right. Again, this generation of young people, the statistics about junior high young people having become familiar with pornography are literally stunning. High school students, even higher statistics. It’s virtually universal. The exposure to wickedness in vivid terms is fighting a war against parental leadership. So we go back to the Word of God and we ask the question, “What has God commanded us to do in raising children in a permanently cursed world dominated by sin and corruption delivered to children in ways that no generation prior to this one has ever, ever seen?”
So what are we to teach our children? Let me start with a bit of a list. This is a good place to start. You can be reading books to your children. You can be reading the Bible to your children. But here are some pinpoint truths that your children need to know.
Number One: God is holy, and He demands holiness of all of us. God is holy, sinless, righteous, and He demands holy and sinless righteousness of all of us.
The second thing you want to teach them is, “We can’t be what God demands that we be, so we are under the judgment of God.” Because He is holy, He hates sin, and He must punish it. And because we are sinners who can’t be perfect, we’re under the threat of God’s punishment. Children need to know that. The contemporary Christian church today doesn’t even want to tell that to adults, let alone children. Children need to fear the judgment of God on sinners.
You need to teach your children that sinners, as we all are, will never stand before God in heaven unless something is done about our sin. Your children need to know that their sin separates them from God, their sin makes it impossible for them to have peace with God, and their sin not only makes it impossible for them to have peace with God, but essentially true peace with people. Your children need to know that all have sinned and are worthy of divine punishment. They need to know they can do nothing to earn salvation. They can do nothing to be reconciled to God. They can’t change their nature. They can’t stop their sinful desires and deeds, so they are helpless and headed for eternal hell. And then they need to know that God loves them so much, He has provided a way to change all that, to rescue them from judgment, and He’s done it through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, who was perfect, whose righteousness is exactly what we all need, and who died in our place on the cross, was punished for us, and all children understand punishment. Talk about Jesus being punished for them. They are sinners, but Jesus took the punishment. They understand that. And because He took the punishment, and because He is a perfectly righteous person, He paid the penalty for our sins, and He provides His righteousness to cover us. They need to know that.
They also need to know that Jesus Christ is eternally God and Lord of all, that He became a man that lived a sinless life, died in the place of sinners, that He was the sacrifice that God required and accepted so their sin is paid for. He rose from the dead as God validated His sacrifice by raising Him from the dead. And He provides the sacrifice for our sin, and He lives to give us eternal life. The children need to know that this is all received by faith. By faith, if they believe the good news, they can be forgiven all their sins. They can be reconciled to God; He will never judge them. He will bless them forever and ever.
You need to personalize that with your children. You need to teach your children repentance. You need to teach your children that it’s important to repent, and a good way to start doing that is to repent yourself when you need to repent, when you’ve spoken unkindly to each other as a couple or unkindly to your children, or you’ve spoken unkindly about someone else who wasn’t even there, or when you’ve had an outburst of anger. Or when you’ve committed some other sin that is obvious, your repentance becomes the model and the pattern for their repentance. You need then to teach them not only to repent, but to turn from all that dishonors God, from all that dishonors God.
I remember after one of my little grandchildren had prayed to receive Christ, I was there, Patricia and I, along with the parents. The prayer was heartfelt and sincere. And if you asked, “Are you a Christian?” the answer would be, “Yes, I’m a Christian.”
Soon after that, that same child was disobedient. And a wise mom said, “That’s not how Christians act,” at which point the little child broke into sadness. They need to know that that is not how God expects them to act. That’s not how Christians act. That means you’ve got to model that as well.
So you teach them to repent. You teach them to turn from all that dishonors the Lord, and you teach them to trust that even though they fail, the Lord their Savior will never ever let go of them. You can illustrate that by telling your children, as a dad, “I’ll always be your dad no matter what you do. I’ll always be your dad. We may have some trouble we have to deal with because of sin, but I’ll always be your dad, and Jesus will always be your Savior.” And then you need to teach them this: “Follow Jesus no matter the cost. Follow Jesus no matter the cost.” I think that’s what’s in mind in Deuteronomy 6 when it says, “Teach your children diligently,” not just general Bible stories, but specific truths related to the gospel – and I’ve gone over some of them for you.
Now there is much more to teach children, but certainly this is a great foundation to teaching them the things that bring about the discipline and instruction of the Lord, as Ephesians 5 says. Teach your children. Beyond that, all the wisdom of God – and we covered that last Sunday morning. Beyond the gospel there are vital biblical truths about character, about integrity, about justice, about kindness, about mercy, about forgiveness, about virtue, about discontent, about thankfulness, about relationships, about work. All the practical wisdom of Scripture you need to teach your children. And that takes me back to what I said last week from the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is the source, the biblical source for all that collective wisdom.
So at all costs, fathers, you need to be the leader in this: teach your children divine wisdom for holy living and heavenly blessing. Proverbs 29:15 says, “Children who get their own way are a shame to their mother.” Proverbs 22:15 says, “The foolishness” – the foolishness that’s ubiquitous that’s in all of us because of our sin – “is bound up in the heart of a child; it must be driven out.” You have a little reprobate there. You have a sinner. Sin has to be addressed and dealt with. And children who get their own way are a shame to their mother.
We saw in the first few chapters of Proverbs last Sunday morning how frequently the Scripture says, “Listen to the teaching of your father. Listen to the teaching of your mother. Follow their instruction because they’re teaching you wisdom. When you hear it, bind it to your neck. Keep it, hold it deeply in your heart,” – why? – “because out of it are the issues of life.” As fathers go, mothers go. As mothers go, children go. And as children go, so goes the next generation: society.
So obviously, Satan is attacking the family, attacking the family in very overt ways with abortion, which just kills children, murdering them; with divorce, which shatters the home; with hostility, abuse, going back and forth between the parents and sometimes the children. Satan is after the home. There may have been some generations in which this responsibility would have been a little more supported by the culture, but it’s not now. You’re really going against-the-grain; and to do it right, we need to hear the instruction of the Word of God. So for a few moments I want you to look with me at Ephesians chapter 6, and let’s look at that passage and break it down.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” You don’t have a lot of commands in the Bible to children. But here is really the only one in the New Testament, and it’s drawn out of the Old Testament from the book of Exodus and Deuteronomy.
“Children, obey your parents.” The first thing we see here in this parenting picture is the submission of children. And you see some words there: “obey,” in verse 1, and “honor” in verse 2. “Obey in everything.” Wow, covers the ground. “Obey in everything.” Simple command. The only command given to children in the New Testament: “Obey your parents.” That’s it. “Obey your parents.” That’s the action.
Behind that is, “Honor your father and mother.” That’s the attitude. And why do you do that? Why do you do that? “Honor your father and mother. Obey your parents.” Why? Because it pleases the Lord. “Obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
There is something that is actually right. There is right, and therefore, there is wrong. “This is right.” This is pleasing to the Lord. This is what you do in the Lord, and that is to say in harmony with His divine will.
So the command: Obey and honor. “Obey” speaks about your actions. “Honor” speaks about your attitude. That’s a simple way to look at your life. All of you children who are listening, that’s what God’s asking of you. Obey your parents and honor your parents.
There’s a promise connected to that, by the way, in verse 3, taken from Exodus chapter 20 and verse 12, “so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” So there are two things there. “It may be well with you,” that’s a quality of life, “and live long on the earth,” that’s a quantity of life. You want to live a fulfilled and long life? Obey and honor your parents. It’s essential to teach children those responsibilities and reinforce that teaching because that’s the pathway to blessing and a full life.
I know parents today are worried more about the economic future of their kids than they are the moral future. Parents are worried more about the reputation of their children in terms of success and finance and achievement – grade achievement, athletic achievement, whatever – than they are about whether or not they honor the Lord. If you think the key to your child’s long life and satisfaction, joy and happiness is a job or a reputation or a career or fame or notoriety or influence, you’re wrong. Both the quality of life and the quantity of life is related to the obedience and the honor that a child gives a parent.
Now this is not natural to a child. Children don’t do this on their own, that’s why Proverbs says this: “You need to teach them to do that. How do you do that? Well, you instruct them. And then when they deviate from that course, you use a rod; that’s what the Bible says.
Over and over in the book of Proverbs – and I won’t go through all of the passages, but there are several dozen passages that speak about the discipline of a child and its essential character. The rod breaks pride. The rod humiliates, humbles. The rod generates pain connected to doing wrong. The rod, according to God, is a very important tool for righteousness. Without the rod, Proverbs says, you’ll have a rebel who grieves, saddens, humbles, and disgraces his parents. You’ll have a disaster for a child, a child that will not enjoy either the quality of life or the quantity of life available to an obedient, honoring child.
Proverbs 4:10 says, “Hear, my son, and accept my words and the years of your life will be many. Listen to me, son. Listen to me, daughter, as I teach you the Word of God, and the years of your life will be many.” It’s so practical.
Just going back for a moment to Proverbs, back to that fourth chapter – we looked at some of it last Sunday morning. But just listen to. We can pick it up in verse 11: “I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I’ve led you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it, pass on. The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.
“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. Do not turn to the right nor the left” – the chapter ends – “or go in the way of evil.” When you raise obedient and respectful children, they have the promise of a full, rich life.
The tragedy of our society is that parents are more concerned that their children get public acclaim than divine acclaim. Character is secondary to accomplishment. But this passage not only addresses the necessity of children submitting, it also speaks to the necessity of parents submitting.
Let’s go to verse 4: “Fathers” – or inclusively, parents – “do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This is what we’ve been saying since the introduction. This is your responsibility as a parent.
What should a wife be? Back in chapter 5, verse 22, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” Submit. Submit to your husband. “Submit,” that’s a word the world hates. Only in Christ can a woman submit.
Back in Genesis 3:16 we learn that the woman is going to try to over power her husband; that’s part of the curse. She shall try to rule over you, and you’re going to have to subdue her. Only in the Holy Spirit through Christ can the wife submit. And to whom does a wife submit? Your husband. Your role, according to Titus 2:5, is to be a keeper at home.
Why do you submit to your husband? Because Christ is the head of the husband, as the husband is head of the wife. And to what degree do you submit? You submit in everything, in everything. In 1 Peter 3, Sarah calls Abraham lord.
What about the husband? Well, verse 25 of chapter 5, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
“So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord also does the church, for we are members of His body.” Love your wife. How? Well, as Christ loved the church. What kind of love is that? Sacrificial, all-pervasive, purifying love, a considerate love, a caring love, a forgiving love.
“Nourish your wife.” What does it mean to nourish? It means to provide for all her needs. “Cherish,” what does that mean? Literally means to warm with body heat. It means to provide for her secure affection, secure love, enduring love. And why do you do this? Because it is a sacred trust that becomes an illustration of the relationship of the Lord Jesus to His own bride, the church.
So the wife submits as to the Lord; the husband submits to his responsibility to be the savior, the provider for his wife, and together they pursue their own sanctification and the sanctification of their children. Teach them, then, the gospel, and make sure that while you’re teaching it you are illustrating it. Teach them about God. Teach them about sin. Teach them about the law. Teach them about grace. Teach them about repentance and forgiveness, and the cross and the resurrection and the person of Christ. Teach them about faith accurately and diligently. And teach them about the wisdom that sanctifies – we went over that last Sunday. Teach them to fear God, to guard their hearts, to obey their parents, to select their friends with care, to control their desires, to watch their words, to work hard, to manage their money as good stewards, and to love and serve people. This is the parents’ duty. This is the parents’ privilege.
When Paul wrote all of this, obviously that was not how it was in the Roman world. There was a Roman principle called patria potestas. In Latin it means the Father’s power. And a Roman father, at the time this was written, had an absolute power over his family. He could sell anybody in his family as slaves. He could make them work in his fields, even in chains. He could take the law into his own hands. He could punish a family member, a spouse, or a child. He could even inflict death penalty on his child. And he had that power as long as he lived. There was no circumstance or no age in which that member of the family passed out of the father’s power. When a child was born, it was placed before its father’s feet, and if the father stooped to lift the child, it meant he acknowledged that the child should live. If he turned and walked away, the child could be thrown out.
Interesting letter from first century BC from a man named Hilarion to his wife Alis. He writes in very formal language; this has been discovered from that first century. Hilarion to Alis his wife: “Heartiest greetings.” You know you’re in trouble when your wife says, “Heartiest greetings,” to you. He goes on, “Know that we are still even now in Alexandria. Do not worry if when all others return I remain in Alexandria. I beg and beseech you to take care of the little child, and as soon as we receive wages I will send them to you. If good luck to you, you have a child: if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.” Unwanted children in ancient times were left in the forum, collected at night by people who would nourish them to make them into slaves, early forms of human trafficking, prostitutes. Seneca wrote, “We slaughter a fierce ox; we strangle a mad dog; we plunge the knife into the sickliest cattle. Children who are born weak and deformed we drown.”
So Paul was speaking to a culture like ours where children were killed. The only difference is we kill them before they’re out of the womb, or we kill them in a spiritual way by neglect and abuse after they’re born. The greatest abuse of a child may be to leave the child alone: the sense of not being loved, that which a child’s heart cries out for. So when Paul wrote these things in his day, the world was not unlike ours.
I guess we could sum it up by saying five things make for a good family: love, parents who love each other and their children, discipline, using the rod to break the propensity to sin, consistency where both parents – so important – are saying the same thing so that children are not getting mixed messages and can’t pick sides. So love, discipline, consistency: example, example. In healthy families, parents don’t expect children to live a more righteous life than they do, they expect to set the example.
I would add a final principle for healthy families: a faithful, loving husband and father as the head of the house. Where there is not that, you have chaos in the home. So many children born without a father and a mother who are married to each other and are left to sort their way out in the world. No wonder parents who have no idea how to make a relationship with each other, if they even have a relationship, don’t know how to make a relationship with a child, and think they can control the child by medicating the child. And that begins in our culture as early as the age of – are you ready for this? – three. Your child has a problem. It’s not ODD, it’s not ADD, it’s SIN. And the cure is not medication, the cure is loving, merciful, consistent discipline that connects sin with pain, because that’s a foretaste of divine judgment. May the Lord help all of us even as we’re gathered with our families these days to take a look at how we’re doing when measured against the principles of the Word of God and we’ve shared with you today. I hope it’s been encouraging.
I am so thankful for the families of Grace Community Church, so grateful; so many faithful folks; and we’re so blessed to have a thousand precious elementary children here on a Sunday, most of them, by far, under the influence of this kind of family, and junior highers and high school young people. We’re so blessed. So thank you for your faithfulness. We can all do a better job. That means more intentional, less cavalier, less off-handed, less casual, with the promise of God that their life will bear the mark of divine quality and divine quantity as well. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank You for Your Word, in particular coming to this very important subject. This is where we live and move and have our being. Lord, thank You for giving us so much instruction that we can’t possibly miss what You desire. We know what You want. Give us the strength, the consistency by Your Spirit to live out our lives as moms and dads and even grandparents, so that we set a pattern that obeying Your will in leading children we will one day be blessed by the fruit that comes from it. May our children be a blessing to us because we have been a consistent blessing to them. Empower us for that for Your glory, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
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