Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 5:22-24 on the subject of the roles and responsibilities of the wife—as designed by God. In our previous sermon through Ephesians, I took an overview approach to Ephesians 5:22-33 in order to set the stage for the each section that would be covered in the family section.
In this section, the wife is the focus. What is a “wife” and why is her role of such great importance in the family? The first time we see the term “wife” used in Scripture is in Genesis 2:24 where God commands a man to leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. God instituted the family and designed it in such a way that it brings honor to Him and organization to our society. As the Proverb states, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Prov. 18:22).
The Command to Submit
Although submission is an ugly word in our culture, it’s a biblical concept that must be followed. In fact, if we can’t practice submission in our homes, how will we be able to submit to God, to employers, to rulers of the land, or various other hierarchies? The word “submit” is carried over from verse 21, and must be taken in the imperative form. In fact, if you look at Colossians 3, you will see that Paul does intend to communicate to the wife that her role is to submit to her husband.
Submit = “ὑποτάσσω” – A Greek military term meaning to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader. In non-military use, it was a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden.
Although submission is something that our culture resists at all levels, the Christian—and especially the Christian home—should exemplify what it means to live in submission to God and His commands. One of the most practical ways that a wife can put her Christianity on display is by being a faithful submissive wife who aligns herself under the leadership of her own husband. R. C. Sproul has stated:
It is the Lord’s will that the wife be submissive to her husband, and if she wants to honour Christ, then one of the concrete ways she does this is by being in submission to her husband. If a woman is contentious and refuses to follow the leadership of her husband, she is in rebellion, not simply against him, but also against Christ. 
The very word “submit” has become a very nasty word in our culture. Employees don’t like to submit to their bosses. Children don’t like to submit to their parents. Wives don’t like to submit to their husbands. In a culture filled with anti-authority attitudes, often times that spreads beyond the border of culture and invades the life of the local church. This type of rebellion has become a normative aspect of what it means to be an American. However, that type of attitude and rebellion is not what it means to be a Christian. Peter O’Brien writes, “The idea of subordination to authority in general, as well as in the family, is out of favour in a world which prizes permissiveness and freedom.” 
Just as Peter and the apostles were to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29) when they were commanded to stop preaching the gospel, so must the wife be in total submission to Christ. If she is asked to violate God’s Word and live in disobedience to her Savior, she is to refuse to submit to the leadership of her husband in that particular area of her life. If she is married to an unbeliever, she should remain married to him as long as he will have her as his wife (1 Cor. 7:13-14). Who knows what her faithful submission will lead to in their marriage? It could very well lead to her husband’s salvation as he watches the faithfulness of his godly wife.
The Roles Explained
In verses 23-24, Paul explains the roles of the wife and illustrates it by using Christ and the church. The role of the wife is to be under the authority of her head—her husband. The word translated “head” is the Greek term, κεφαλή and it is a direct reference to an authoritative position of leadership for the husband. Our culture has reversed the roles of husband and wife for many years now, and this reversal has given birth to many problems. Those same cultural problems are visible in the life of the local church as well.
It is God’s will for the husband to be the provider, the worker, and the leader of the home. Although both the man and his wife are equal intellectually and both are created in the image of God, it is God’s design for the wife to submit to her husband as her leader and for the husband to take the primary responsibility as the breadwinner. Unfortunately, that is not the way the American dream is achieved, and therefore, a large number of wives leave their homes everyday for corporate America. In 2015, 69.9 percent of mothers with children under age 18 were in the labor force, representing over a third (34.2 percent) of working women. 
With this type of lifestyle, we must ask a serious question—who will raise the children, disciple them for God’s glory, and love their children and their husbands for God’s glory? If the wives abandon their homes for other jobs, who will perform the work of the wife in the home? Titus 2:3-5 provides us a helpful look at God’s designed role for the wife:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
Notice the short phrase, “working at home” in Titus 2:5. It is God’s will for the wife to make her home the center of her life and labor. Even the Proverbs 31 woman is pictured as working diligently, but it’s obvious that her labor was centered on the wellbeing of her home and she put her love on display for her family through her labor. She was not neglecting her family in pursuit of a career.
The Christian family must reject the harsh criticism of the culture regarding the biblical family structure. The culture laughs at the church, makes fun of God’s children, and suggests that we are all backward people who need to get up to speed with reality. What voice should we listen to—culture or Christ?
Are you a working mother? Is it out of necessity to take care of your family or is it out of a desire to live on a certain socioeconomic level? We live in a fallen world where at times, it’s absolutely necessary for a wife and mother to work outside of the home. However, that’s not always the case. If you stayed home and made your home your focus with your children under your care and love put on display in the home, would your family be more healthy? Would your children be more loved? Would your love for your husband be more obvious? Would you have less regrets in the years to come?
These are serious question that must be addressed. In the end, the eternal souls of your children and your husband matter. Make the biblical decision for how you structure your family. If you need to take less vacations, live in a different neighborhood, drive less expensive automobiles, and drop do a lower socioeconomic level in order to obey Christ—it will be worth it. The biblical family structure is not outdated or outrageous as the radical feminists try to suggest. The biblical family doesn’t need to be updated to fit into our culture. God’s plan doesn’t need to be revised, and interestingly enough, it works across the board in all cultures. Imagine that—a God who designs a family structure that actually works.
If you pay attention to the news and look at our culture you will see teen suicide, a rise in secularism and a pagan worldview, broken homes through divorce, and a massive number of people who are being treated by psychologists through medication for deep rooted depression. Could any of this be linked to a role reversal and altered family structure? It would be foolish to make adjustments to God’s design for the family. Not only will it harm your family, but the church will suffer as well.
How can all of this be carried out? Paul points to the relationship between Christ and the church as an example. Look to Christ and the church as an example of faithful submission and faithful headship and as the wife submits fully to God, she will learn to submit to her husband and follow his leadership in the home.
- R. C. Sproul, The Purpose of God: Ephesians (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 135.
- Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 412.
- Issue Brief, Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, June 2016.
This past week my family and I had the privilege to spend a week on the beach in North Carolina – a special place we’ve been visiting for many years. As you know, when you sit on the beach and play in the sand with your children, you often notice other people around you and what they’re doing. My children usually end up playing with random children around us building sand castles and splashing in the water.
If you’ve kept up with the news, you’re aware that this year has been a unique season on the North Carolina coast with several shark attacks. In fact, as I watched the water and ventured out with my children to ride waves with them, I couldn’t help but notice that people were not venturing out nearly as far as they normally do in the water. After playing in the water for a while, I took my seat in the shade. I noticed that one father followed his children out into the water and stood about ankle deep with his hands on his hips and watched every move his children made in the ocean surf. As he stood there watching, I glanced to my left and noticed that he was standing a few yards from a lifeguard stand where a professional lifeguard was standing on his post, but he continued to stand there for the duration of the time that his children were in the water.
That scene made me think about the spiritual duty of a father. Although a child may be under the direct care of teachers and pastors in the life of the church, the one who is to take the lead in protecting and caring for that child spiritually is the father. A perpetual problem in the church is the mindset that many families have on the beach. They view the protection of the children as the job of the lifeguard on the stand, so they sit under the umbrella with a book while their children play in the water. In many ways, parents are consistently guilty of that same mindset spiritually. Unfortunately, many fathers believe it’s the duty of the youth pastor, children’s minister, and Sunday school teachers to disciple their children through the gospel. Like that father I saw standing ankle deep watching over his children merely yards from an occupied lifeguard stand – we as fathers need to do the same with our children spiritually.
Family worship may seem like a strange concept to many who have never practiced it, but as Matthew Henry once wrote, “Here the Reformation must begin.” Take time each week, each evening when possible, to read the Bible, pray, and sing with your family. Have you ever watched teenagers sneer at church life and worship as if it’s strange and uncool? Perhaps it’s strange because what they see the church doing is never practiced in the home. Voddie Baucham, in his excellent book, Family Driven Faith, shares that 70-88% of all students walk away from the faith of their parents by the end of their freshman year of college. If sharks swimming in the water will cause parents to focus more on their children while playing on the beach, shouldn’t we care about the massive numbers of children who are walking away from the church after they graduate? What’s more dangerous – sharks in the water or sharks in our culture?
With a flamboyant agenda, the culture is interested in discipling your child with a secular worldview. Are you prepared to do battle? Are you standing guard? Are you seeking to practice in the home what the church practices together in order to normalize worship in the life of your family? Take time to consider the high calling of the father and mother as the prime influencers in the lives of your children. Deuteronomy 6 gives us the key responsibilities regarding family discipleship. The children of Israel were commanded to teach their children the Word of God and to instruct them regarding the redemptive history and purposes of God. As believers positioned on the other side of the cross, we must do the same thing. God has redeemed us, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and spot (1 Peter 1:19). When your children ask you about the lamb imagery, you can take them back to the Exodus and explain the whole scene that was a foreshadow of Jesus as the Savior of the world.
Don Whitney – Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home
Joel Beeke – Family Worship
Parents Are Responsible For Family Worship
Suppose you were in the midst of praying as a congregation as your church went through the tedious process of selecting the next pastor who would lead you each week in preaching and teaching the Word. If a man stood in the pulpit and had a pure heart and great zeal, but his ability to handle the Word was subpar and he couldn’t explain the Bible properly, you would not support him coming to lead your church. Why not? Although this man may have a great personality and you may connect with he and his family well, what you need is more than a good friend – you need a pastor. The main objective of being a good pastor consists in his ability to explain the Word of God. The pastor is expected to be capable of training and equipping people through his preaching of the Scriptures. That’s what is expected in the church, but unfortunately, this isn’t so much expected in the home in these days.
The Theological Calling for Parents
Did you know that God has called parents to be more than friends and taxi drivers for their children? In fact, we must go a step further. Parents are called to a greater responsibility than teaching their children how to be an all-star ball player too. It is the primary duty of the parent to be the Bible teacher for their children. That responsibility does not fall upon the shoulders of the Sunday school teacher or the children’s ministry leaders in the church. God did not design the youth pastor and other volunteers in the church to bear the burden of your child’s spiritual wellbeing. The church is to come alongside parents in the task of discipleship, but ultimately, it’s the role and responsibility of the parent. This is a sobering reality to consider.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
You may not be called to be a “professional theologian” in the sense of researching biblical truths and writing books, but as a parent to your child – you must seek to know the Word of God and lead your family in the footsteps of the gospel faith. You may never take once seminary class, but you’re called to the task of becoming a Bible teacher in your home. Family worship is the process of instructing your children from the Bible and praising God through prayer and song. Teaching involves different aspects – including prayer and praise. Joel Beeke defines family worship as “instruction in the Word of God, prayer before the throne of God, and singing to the glory of God.” Think of shrinking the main aspects of your corporate worship time into a small segmented time in your living room with only your immediate family. In Deuteronomy 6:20-25, the children respond by asking questions about the Scripture. It’s during those times that you have time to dig deeper and point to the cross of Jesus Christ and explain the story of our redemption.
Today, like no other day in history, parents have a massive amount of resources available to them. Family worship has really never been easier than it is today. With smart phones, iPads, and other sources of technology, it has never been easier to choose a passage of Scripture and a song to sing in the home with the family. Hymn books for the iPad and Bible apps make the work of preparation painless. Two really good resources to use in your family worship include the iPad app for hymns (Baptist hymnal) and Look at the Book from the ministry of John Piper. Even if you don’t want to use Look at the Book in your family worship, it can still be an aid to help you grasp the main point of the passage as you prepare to explain it to your family.
The Real Challenges
Jonathan Edwards once said, “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.” Quite honestly, there are many times when my family gathers for family worship and it feels more like a wrestling match than a worship service. We can’t read and learn about family worship from the lens of a sterile environment of peace and tranquility. Family worship is difficult at times and more so when the children are young (like my present situation as my four children range from 9 years to 1.5 years). Real challenges to family worship exist, but the challenges can be overcome with proper planning and organization.
The challenges to Bible reading may be met by more interaction with the text as opposed to straight lecture style. Reading and asking questions or involving the children in the story can be helpful. Additionally, choosing smaller sections of Scripture for the family worship time can be helpful – especially when you have short attention spans to consider.
The challenges to prayer often center upon keeping the children focused while the prayers are being prayed. I often lead the prayer time and seek to model how to pray before the children. I do allow them to pray too, and as they pray, I try to listen to how they articulate their needs and their praises toward God. In recent days, I’ve been trying to teach the children to address their prayers to the Father in Jesus’ name. While we pray by the power of the Spirit, our access to the Father is through Jesus Christ and I’m working to teach that truth to my children. Likewise, I’m trying to teach them to move beyond cyclical repetitions as they grow in their knowledge of God.
In our home, the main challenge to our singing together involves the choice of song and my lack of singing ability. This is where my wife plays a major part in helping lead us in song. I typically follow her lead to stay on key, and the children follow as we sing. At times I will choose a hymn and then allow the children to choose a song that we will sing together. This seems to work well for us, but each time we get together for our family worship I try to remember the importance of flexibility.
The Lasting Fruit
Voddie Baucham, in his book, Family Driven Faith writes, “70-88% of teens, who profess Christianity, walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year of college.” That’s a troubling statistic that should catch the attention of all parents. What are we as fathers and mothers doing to cause this trend? The answer….not much. The reason many children who grew up in the church walk away from the faith has to do more with what we aren’t doing rather than what we are doing. When a family focuses on their faith on Sunday morning and then closes up God in a little box until the next Sunday morning, that spells disaster for the faith of the children.
As we live out our faith during the week and have times of family worship where we get together and read the Bible, pray together, and sing praises to the Lord, it will leave an indelible mark upon the children. While Proverbs 22:6 is not a blanket promise, the general principle is true – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
What would happen in the home if a father and mother determined to have family worship each week with their children? As they press through the challenges each week, it will lay a firm foundation for their faith in their home. This will establish the truth in the hearts of their children and will cause them to see the reality of their parents’ faith. The fruit will be lasting! The aroma of Christ will permeate the air of the home. The gospel will be central, and the children will not be able to rise up and cry – hypocrite!
The children will not be able to claim that their parents didn’t take their faith seriously. No matter what challenges the children face on the university campus, they will remember the Bible being opened and explained in their home. As they’re forced to make decisions, they will remember the Word of God that came to them in Word and song. As they struggle to stand firm on their own, they will recall the deep moments of sweet prayer as their parents turned to the Lord for guidance, wisdom, and strength. During those moments when their children are figuring out life and making big decisions, they will look back and remember their father’s faith like the tree that was planted and rooted by the streams of water (Psalm 1). They will likewise recall their mother’s unwavering faith like that of the Proverbs 31 woman.
Perhaps not all stories end well, and tragically, we know this to be true. Some children walk away from the faith and never return. But we know when children walk away from the faith and a home that was saturated with the gospel, regrets are few in the hearts of the parents who consistently labor to make Christ known in the home. Likewise, the child who rebels has to walk away knowing the faith of his father and mother was the real thing! It was no Sunday morning faith – it was genuine.
This past week I read an interesting story about a spiritual awakening that swept through the mining villages of South Wales around the early 1900’s. According to historical records, entire villages turned to Christ. It was said that taverns closed their doors and churches filled their pews. The gospel had penetrated the hard hearts of miners and things drastically changed in their communities. However, if you were to travel to those same areas today, you would find that the taverns are doing a great business and the church pews are relatively empty.
What happened over the last 114 years? The problem is simple. The old hard miners became Christians at a late age. They didn’t understand the importance of passing on the truths of the gospel to their children and grandchildren. Perhaps they merely took for granted that they would follow in their footsteps. Tragically, they didn’t. Today in those areas the fragrance of the gospel has almost been lost.
We are currently between first and second Timothy in our Sunday worship time as a church. I am presently preaching through a series titled, “God’s Design for the Family.” I’m sure that God intended others to benefit from this series, but to speak quite honestly, I firmly believe it was intended for me. In God’s grace and kindness toward me, He has allowed me to study and review the great errors of Israel as a lesson for my own family life and ministry.
Psalm 78 records the tragic mistake of Israel. Although they had experienced the great power of God’s deliverance from Egypt, His provisions in the wilderness, and His victory in the battle field, the people failed miserably in carrying out what Deuteronomy 6 commanded. They were to speak to their children about God’s salvation in the morning, as they traveled on the road, and before they went to sleep at night. They were to have the Word of God in their homes and upon their gates. Somehow, over the years, the children who followed were not taught about the greatness and glory of God. Israel had veiled the gospel. Israel had turned the good news into “dark sayings from of old.”
When statistics tell us that 70-88% of all students walk away from the faith of their parents by the end of their freshman year of college – we can’t afford to play games with our style of parenting! We have only one life. We must make it count for Christ. Our children are being hit squarely between the eyes with a barrage of false doctrine, a buffet line of twisted ideas about the origins of life, open theism, modernism, paganism, and atheism. The God of the Bible has been relegated to the size of a fictional comic book character who can be tossed aside in pursuit of real truth and freedom. In this culture, we must take seriously the task of parenting and maximize our time with our children.
Statistics can be twisted and skewed at times, but sometimes simple statistics can speak great volumes of truth. For instance, the total number of hours that children spend in the seat of a public school classroom from K to 12th grade is 15,000. How can parents buy the idea that a couple of hours per week on the church campus will be good enough to shape the worldview of a child and cause him to look at life through the lens of the gospel? It simply will not work.
On the flip side of that coin is the reality that if parents will take 5 nights per week from age 3 to 18 and lead the family in Scripture, prayer, and song – that will total 3,900 opportunities to raise up the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Attach that to the teaching time that takes place on the church campus (approximately 2,500), and that will total 6,400 official teaching opportunities directed toward your child. If you seek to practice Deuteronomy 6 as a good rule in your home, you can easily add many other unofficial conversations about God and His saving grace over the years. As a busy father, the key is maximizing opportunities and being consistent. Carving out time is difficult at times, but we all have the same number of hours in each day. It’s about making wise decisions.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the Puritans but in these evil times hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship, no restraint upon growing sons, and no wholesome instruction or discipline. See how the families of many professors are as dressy, as godless as the children of the non-religious! How can we hope to see the Kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own sons and daughters?”
What Is Family Worship?
Family worship is not worship of the family! In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s teaching the family to tear down idols and worship the one true and living God revealed to us in creation (generally) and Holy Scripture (specially). Family worship is, as Joel Beeke defines, “Generally speaking, this includes instruction in the Word of God, prayer before the throne of God, and singing to the glory of God.” The point of family worship is fathers and mothers taking the responsibility laid upon them to teach their children about the good news of Jesus Christ. While it is the job of the pastoral staff to teach children the gospel, it’s the primary duty of parents.
Family worship, as Joel Beeke rightly states, involves Scripture, prayer, and song. Anyone who can read can prepare a short devotion from God’s Word. A good study Bible or trusted commentaries (pick good resources) can provide you aid in this task. In fact, you should consider consulting your pastor for good resources to use in your family worship (a starter list can be found below). If you or your spouse cannot sing well, consider the many online resources that provide good song choices that you can pick from to lead your family in song. Be creative!
What if the children don’t like family worship? Let’s face it, they probably will not at first (especially if you are starting in their teen years). Over time, especially as God works in their heart – they will come to appreciate it. We cannot afford to mold our parenting styles and adopt our convictions based on what’s considered cool by the peers of our teenagers. Far too many tragedies have been written down in history by parents who adopted that approach.
If you are faithful in your time of family worship, you will teach your children to value the corporate gathering of the believers. Jonathan Edwards once said, “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.” If you are having a good time of worship with your family, it will intensify the worship that takes place when the collective families assemble Sunday. Additionally, if you are praying with your family – it will not only teach you and your family to value the prayer service of your church, but it will radically alter the type of praying that occurs in those gatherings. This is essential for the health of the church.
Dr. Joel Beeke preached in our first G3 Conference (Questions & Answers Session – Start at 19:00 min.) back in January of 2013. I asked him to tell of his story of family worship and the benefits he experienced as a boy. He went on to tell of a really special and unique moment in his family’s life. It was the fiftieth wedding anniversary of his parents. All five siblings got together and planned to thank their parents individually for one thing – without consulting the other siblings on what they had planned to say. Without talking to one another – all five thanked their mother for her prayer life. Then, they turned to their father, and all five thanked him for leading them in family worship. Dr. Beeke’s brother recounted the many times that their father would lead them through The Pilgrim’s Progress on Sunday evenings and with tears streaming down his face – he would point them to Christ. Needless to say – it left an indelible mark upon their family. I venture to say, when you arrive in heaven, you could inquire of Joel Beeke’s father and interview him. Ask him if he had any regrets upon his deathbed for leading his family in worship and I can promise you he will say – no!
Maximize opportunities in the life of your family. Make necessary sacrifices. This may mean that you have to say “no” to a sports league once in a while or that you may need to reconsider taking that promotion that could cost you more time away from your family. The key is keeping Christ at the center of your family rather than asking Him to come along for the ride.
May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lead a reformation of faithful Christians into our society from the living rooms of common men who take seriously the truths of Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Josh Buice
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Bible – Consider reading through a book of the Bible and taking it slowly and explaining the small sections. Sometimes the divisions in your Bible will help you choose a starting and stopping place as you go through the book. Sometimes slower is better!
Study Bible Recommendations:
- ESV Study Bible
- John MacArthur’s Study Bible
- The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
- Big Truths for Little Kids – Susan Hunt (in the chapter on baptism, you will need to alter it or skip it. The chapter is written from a Presbyterian position on baptism which we don’t embrace. A little time preparing will allow you to alter the story line and your children will never know the difference).
- Valley of Vision – A Collection of Puritan Prayers
- Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers – Joey Allen
- Big Thoughts for Little People – Kenneth N. Taylor
- Christian Biographies For Young Readers Series
- A Guide to Prayer – Isaac Watts
- The Plan: How God got the World Ready for Jesus – Sinclair Ferguson
- Puritan Catechism – Spurgeon
- Baptist Catechism – John Piper
- The Family Worship Book – Terry L. Johnson
Audio / Video / Media:
If you want to better understand how to sing and how to explain a passage of Scripture, make sure you are using trusted sources for your study. Below you will see some audio / video resources for you to use.
- Psalms – www.cgmusic.org
- Hymnals – www.nethymnal.org
- Sovereign Grace Music
- Grace to You – John MacArthur
- Desiring God – John Piper
- Ligonier Ministries
- Behold Your God – DVD / Bible Study on the Attributes of God
- Truth For Life – Alistair Begg
- Blue Letter Bible
- Tim Challies’ Blog – Challies.com
Creeds and Doctrinal Statements:
- Apostles’ Creed
- Baptist Faith and Message
- Nicene Creed
- 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith
- Abstract of Principles (the oldest doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention)
*In the Apostles’ Creed – references to the “Holy Catholic Church” is a reference to the universal church – not the Roman Catholic Church. Some people replace “catholic” with “Christian” – but that is not necessary. The term catholic is a direct reference to the universal church of all believers from all across the world – among the nations.
Books (such as The Pilgrim’s Progress): Read through a book and then take time to discuss the gospel implications that you can all learn in that chosen section or chapter.
Bible: Read a chosen passage and then seek to explain what it means. A good study Bible will be a great help to you in this area. See list above for recommendations.
TIP: If you or spouse are unable to sing well, consider using music from your iPod or computer to assist your family in singing. I highly recommend going through the hymns and teaching your children to sing the rich theology. The Baptist Hymnal is available as an iPad download and is very profitable in this area.
In his well known book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever writes, “The family is supposed to be our training ground in this loving authority. It is a ramping-up place that God has given us to learn love, respect, honor, obedience, and trust, in order to prepare us for relating to others and ultimately to God Himself.” The family is God’s ordained plan for our lives. God created Adam and presented him with his wife Eve. They were commanded to be fruitful and multiply. The plan of marriage and family is the foundation of civilization and was instituted by God. As we live life, we often become wrapped up in our culture and forget about the big picture. If we aren’t careful, we stop looking at life and culture through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When that happens – the culture invades our minds and our hearts. This invasion has lasting results. Sometimes the results are eternal. Below I have written an article with seven things you should know about your family. I’m sure you can add to my list. The list isn’t intended to be an exhaustive rule. If you are challenged by the points, know that I have written them with a healthy inward gaze.
1. Dad, your family has been entrusted to your care by God.
As we read the Bible, it’s abundantly clear, God has arranged the family and placed the man as the head of his home. Therefore, the man is in a place of physical responsibility as the provider, but the most important aspect of his role is the spiritual leadership that he must provide. It isn’t the job of the mother to be the spiritual leader of the family. Every father must see himself as the priest of his home. The house and automobile that the family owns will be directly connected to the provision of the father, but more important marks upon the family exist in the area of spiritual leadership.
For instance, what church the family belongs to is connected to the father. The decisions made each day that have lasting spiritual consequences upon the family are directly connected to the leadership of the father in the home. If the father is lazy in his approach to the gospel, his family will suffer the consequences. God has rendered unto our care gold and He desires to receive gold upon His return. Men must take responsibility for the care of their family. Psychologist Harold Voth, in his book, The Castrated Family, argues that there will be nothing but chaos in a family where the father is not the head of the family. He points out that the father is responsible for the direction, character, family standards, and overall strength. Dad, your family needs you and God has placed them in your care.
2. The devil hates your family.
It’s true – the devil hates the Christian family. However, the devil hates the institution of family in general. That’s why unbelieving families experience divorce too. That’s why unbelievers turn to homosexuality. That’s why unbelieving homes have rebellious children too. The devil, like a roaring lion, is seeking his prey. Sometimes the attack will come upon the father. The devil will lure the family away from God by enticing the father’s love for sports, the lake, or a bigger house. In some cases, the devil will slither like a snake in silence as he attacks the mother of the home with the pursuit of more money and a promising career away from the home. The subtle devil will, in many cases, attack the woman with a need for fulfillment as he entices her into the trap of adultery. She may fall into this trap through a simple private message on Facebook just after making the kids a PB&J for lunch. The devil hates marriage. The devil hates your children. The devil hates the gospel and the covenant keeping promise of marriage.
If he is unsuccessful in his attempts, he will continue to attack. He may use an old method called divide and conquer. His plan of advancement may take place through technology devices. Through i-devices, he may create distance between the family, between the children, and between the parents. He will then wiggle his way into the home by creating space between the family and then attacking them when they are weak. The devil loves to watch a family crumble to the ground. The devil loves the ring of the last number of the divorce attorney being pressed on the cell phone. The devil hates your family. What are you doing about it?
3. Boundaries are necessary.
In our sinful heart, we are programmed to resist boundaries. The postmodern mind views boundaries as legalism and rigid rules that bind our freedom. If we are honest, we all need boundaries. This past week, Kari and I discussed some needed boundaries with technology in our home. Although we are not opposed to the use of technology in our home, we don’t want it to rule our home. We set aside two or three days each week to be unplugged days where no i-device would be used. Those boundaries are helpful for the health of our relationships in our home. Such boundaries guard the heart from idolatry. When we cannot go a day or two without a technology device – it speaks of massive problems in our heart. Have we found our joy in technology rather than Christ?
Technology isn’t the only area where boundaries are necessary. We could discuss food, work, exercise, recreation, relationships, and a number of additional areas where boundaries are necessary. We can categorize these boundaries under two main headings (personal and biblical). If the Bible doesn’t address the issue (directly or indirectly), we may have freedom to choose. If that’s the case, we can classify this as a personal issue. We are free to set the boundaries to a degree. If the Bible does address a specific issue, we are completely bound by the rules established in the Word of God. Although Israel often complained about the civil and ceremonial law which provided boundaries upon their dietary practices, it was for their own good and God’s glory. We must not reject healthy boundaries. It’s a good thing for your children to hear the word “no” come out of your mouth. It is possible to spoil your children to hell.
4. The gospel, not morality, is the key to success.
As a father, I often find myself repeating the phrase, “be good” to my children. While that is a good thing to teach children, I can fail them miserably by raising them to “be good” kids. Many good kids have grown up to be good rebels who live for self rather than Christ. As I grow as a father, I am constantly looking to reinforce the statement with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why do I want my children to “be good” for their mother when they go out in public? Why do I want my son to honor his mother during his time in school? These things matter, but they must be reinforced with the gospel. This is something that I often fail in and one area that I am praying for maturity and sanctification.
5. Adjustments are necessary.
Plan ahead and remain flexible. That’s what I have learned as the father of four children. By nature I am not the most patient man in the world. I have had to learn to make adjustments. At the end of a long day, I often think about how I have failed in my attempts to be a Christ exalting father in the way I disciplined my children. Those thoughts are God’s grace upon my life. Perhaps you experience them too. They allow me to go to bed at night and make necessary adjustments for the upcoming day. Sanctifying adjustments are a must in the life of any family. Children must learn to make them. Mothers must learn to make them. Fathers must learn to make them. As fathers make adjustments and his sanctification is visible in the eyes of the family – it will leave an indelible mark upon the life of that family.
6. Family worship will likely never be cool for your family.
Are your children learning about life through the lens of a television show or through the pages of the Bible? I remember watching a particular family closely as I was growing up. It seemed that the mother and father always made family decision in an attempt to be cool. Family worship is likely never to be a cool decision for a mother and father to make. Like any discipline, although it’s not fun or perhaps the popular choice among friends or family members, it will bear eternal fruit. I still recall Dr. Joel Beeke’s answer to my question in the 2013 G3 Conference during our panel discussion. He said, “God has basically instructed us to do four things with our children everyday.”
- Read the Bible
- Talk with our children about the Bible
- Pray with our children
- Sing with them
Dr. Beeke went on to urge pastors to preach on this topic and provide helpful resources for families to do this on a weekly basis. We often complain about how children are walking away from the church and the truth of the gospel as they grow older. The question remains, how much time did we spend instructing our children about the gospel, biblical manhood and womanhood, the importance of the church, and a host of other issues? If you organize a family worship time with your children a minimum of 5 times per week, starting at age 3 and ending at age 18 when they move out of your home, that totals 3,900 opportunities over 15 years to instruct your children with the gospel. Make the most of the limited time you have with your children. They will soon be gone. The devil is waiting on them at the end of your driveway. Will they be prepared?
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the Puritans but in these evil times hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship, no restraint upon growing sons, and no wholesome instruction or discipline. See how the families of many professors are as dressy, as godless as the children of the non-religious! How can we hope to see the Kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own sons and daughters?“1
7. Your family is not the church of Jesus Christ.
The family is extremely important and was designed by God. The family is to be a nurturing center for all of the members and a training ground for the children. While the father is the priest and worship must happen in the home, the institution of family is not the church. Although God has created the institutions of family, government, and the church – we see a special relationship between Christ and the church that transcends the other two institutions. Family as we know it here in this life will change drastically when we arrive in heaven. The government in this life will be replaced by the rule of God without the veil of time and space. God will no longer use the mediator of government to rule. Yet, we see that the church of Jesus Christ will be present in heaven.
Family time is important and we must guard it. We must nurture our family and allow love to permeate our home. However, we must never allow family to become an idol to us. We must never replace the church with our family. God has saved us and called us into His church. Fathers and mothers must learn to balance this wisely, but nevertheless, the responsibility of worship and service in the life of the church is not debatable. It is vital for our children to see us serve Christ through the church. If our children only see the fathers serve in the church while mothers nurture their children until they move out at age 18, we will likely raise unbalanced children who have not seen the importance of serving Christ as functioning members of the body. If we are not cautious, we will raise practical atheists who hear doctrine come out of our mouths but see a massive disconnect from word and deed. The book of James reveals this truth. Our doctrine must have legs and feet! Our faith must have action – in all seasons of life.
In closing, I want to make a clear confessional statement. I am a young father of four children and I have not figured out all of the answers to this thing called parenting. I fail often. I fail miserably. I know it and it hurts me to think of how I miss the mark on a constant basis. Here is what I do know. Life is short. Life is not a video game. We don’t have the luxury of a reset button. We do have a promised appointment before the throne of God. We must trust in God’s unending grace to get us through this life and in His divine sovereignty for the salvation of our children’s souls. In the end – we must fight the good fight of faith and persevere in the faith until we finish our course. Christ is worth it.
Paul David Tripp writes, “In the family, life is brought not only to our doorstep, but into our kitchens, bedrooms, and dens. In the family, life is happening all around us, and it begs to be questioned, evaluated, interpreted, and discussed. There is no more consistent, pregnant, dynamic forum for instruction about life than the family, because that is exactly what God designed the family to be, a learning community.”2
Pastor Josh Buice
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1. Only a Prayer Meeting, Christian Focus Publications, 2000, 12.
2. Age of Opportunity, P&R Publishing, 1997, 41-42