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HBC Sermon Podcast

Biblical Fatherhood


Eph. 6:4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Please note again that the title for the message is Biblical Fatherhood. Our first concern as Christians should be that our lives reflect godly wisdom and godly ways, and the only sure guide we have in such matters is the Bible. All parenting is done from one of two perspectives, either a Biblical perspective or a worldly perspective. The first point of view begins with creation. In the West, at least, the second begins from an evolutionary perspective.

The creation perspective says we were created by a Personal God who gave purpose to His creation. It teaches us that we were originally made in God’s image, and that means our outward connections are primarily above us—we look to Divinity for a behaviour model. We relate to God, therefore we look up to God. From the creation perspective we should raise our children with the image of God planted firmly in their minds, and the restoration of the image of God uppermost in our minds. This restoration of God’s image should be the guide and goal for all our parenting. The creation perspective also accepts that a Creator knows His creation best, and is to be consulted for guidance on every area of life. That’s why I’m speaking to Biblical Fatherhood, etc.

The evolutionary perspective is exactly the opposite. It begins with the assumption that we are primarily related downward, toward the animals; not upward, toward God. Our beginnings were impersonal, says the evolutionist, and much of what we think and do is mere holdover from the instinctive behaviour that guides the rest of the animal kingdom. I don’t know if you have noticed this strange paradox or not, but I think it’s laughable that today’s socio-biologist will say in one breath that man is the most intelligent animal, and then spend the rest of his life observing the beasts of the field in order to write a book that tells us we should behave more them—like the bonobo chimpanzees, or the meerkats.

Biblical Fatherhood in brief

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

This verse is consistent with all we’ve seen elsewhere in Scripture. The Biblical norm is for a family to have a father who is a man, a mother who is a woman, and the father is designed by God to be the leader in the home, especially in Spiritual matters. He is to be the chief priest, or the high priest in his home. If the Bible teaches anything about Fatherhood, it certainly teaches this.

Text and context

I Cor. 11:3 But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, 23 for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.

Eph. 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word.

Without going into detail, do you not see how the New Testament consistently hands the husband primary responsibility for the spiritual well-being of the home? He is to love his wife sacrificially. He is to help her live a holy, Christlike life. There is no equivalent Scripture where the wife teaches the husband, or is responsible for the husband’s spiritual well-being. And just as the husband is made responsible for the wife, so he is also to take the lead in raising the children.

Back to today’s text

Eph. 6:4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

What this verse teaches

  1.          Balance is crucial in reaching your children.
    1.          Children must be disciplined (“instruction” first meant admonition, words of criticism and correction)
    2.          Dad, you are to talk with your children, correct your children, teach your children, even preach to your children.
    3.          But you are to do so in a way that doesn’t anger them, but instead reaches their hearts, in a way that bends their hearts toward an appreciation of God’s authority over their lives, and that will ultimately break their wills so that they accept God’s authority in all its delegated forms.
    4.          In the main, children idolize their parents early on, in the main they want to feel their parents are pleased, which makes it crucial that they be made to feel it when their behaviour has not been pleasing.
    5.          None of this precludes corporal punishment, especially in the youngest years (one cannot overemphasize how important it is that this training start young). A well-placed slap on the bottom does not harm the child and may instead save his or her soul.
  2.          Two ways to produce rebellion in your children’s hearts
    1.          Overly strict legalism—hardly a problem today
    2.          Overly laissez faire approach: a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering; no rules, no restrictions, no discipline, no forcing the child to reflect on the meaning of rebellious, sinful behaviour

David was a bad father

I Kings 1:5 Adonijah son of Haggith kept exalting himself, saying, “I will be king!” He prepared chariots, cavalry, and 50 men to run ahead of him. 6 But his father had never once reprimanded him by saying, “Why do you act this way?” In addition, he was quite handsome and was born after Absalom. 7 He conspired with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest.

3.  Notice the ways that David failed Adonijah.

  1.          He failed to produce in him a humble spirit. (Self-esteem as the world defines it is a bad thing in the Bible)
  2.          He failed to teach his son that his energy and abilities were to be dedicated to God, not to his own advancement.
  3.          He failed to teach his son the necessity of godly reflection, of second thought in regard to his inclinations and feelings. In other words, David failed to teach Adonijah to understand his own sinful heart and why it is absolutely necessary that we bring our thoughts and feelings to the judgment bar of God’s Holy Word.
  4.          He failed to teach his son that handsome is as handsome does.
  5.          He failed to teach Adonijah to love his brother.
  6.           He failed to teach his son to discern the true thoughts and motivations of others, to understand that not everyone who agrees with you is your friend.
  7.          He failed to teach his son that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (I Sam. 15:23), and that rebellion against your father is like rebellion against God.

Back to today’s text—again

Eph. 6:4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

4.  In the original language of the NT, “training” has in it the thought of seeing to it that qualified people teach your children the things you don’t know. Fathers, you are responsible for what your children learn, but you don’t have to do it all.

Reformation begins with family worship

5.  Dad, if you are the high priest of the home, and you are, then you need to lead in daily, family worship.

  1.          The records show that in the early church families began and ended their day with hymns, prayers and scripture reading.
  2.          Tertullian (c. 160-225) wrote how Christian families worshipped by not merely reading, praying and singing, but by exhorting one another, and even “striving to see which one … will chant more beautifully the praises of the Lord.”
  3.          John Chrysostom (c. 349-407) “urged that every house should be a church, and every head of a family a spiritual shepherd, remembering the account he must give even for his children.”
  4.          Luther, Knox, the great Reformation confessions of faith, Jonathan Edwards, and a host of others have all written and taught on the necessity of family worship if the church is to have any strength at all.

Elements of family worship

6.   Read the Bible together

  1.          Tailor the reading to the capacity of the younger children
  2.          Read narratives first
  3.          Read with feeling (let everyone read as they become able)
  4.          Read from an understandable translation
  5.          Explain things, teach the children, have the children explain a passage to you

7.  Pray together

  1.          It is a great tragedy for any Christian home that a child should reach adulthood without ever hearing dad pray.
  2.          Let everyone pray, dad, mom, each child, again, to their capacity.
  3.          Pray the scripture you read, pray for family needs, pray for your children’s concerns

8.  Sing together

  1.          As with everything else, sing what is comfortable, a hymn, a contemporary Christian song
  2.          Don’t be afraid to sing with a cd or a youtube video if that helps keep in tune
  3.          Nothing locks in the truth of God’s word like singing!

9.  Other things you can do (time permitting)

  1.          Catechize
  2.          Memorize
  3.          Read other helpful material

10.  Three key elements for success in family worship

  1.          Brevity
  2.          Regularity
  3.          Flexibility

How this works in real life

I’m going to ask one of our dads, Sean Schnell, to come now and share with us the impact of family worship in his home.

Closing exhortation

Psalm 78

A Maskil of Asaph

1 My people, hear my instruction; listen to what I say. 2 I will declare wise sayings; I will speak mysteries from the past—3 things we have heard and known and that our fathers have passed down to us. 4 We must not hide them from their children, but must tell a future generation the praises of the Lord, His might, and the wonderful works He has performed. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and set up a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children 6 so that a future generation—children yet to be born—might know. They were to rise and tell their children 7 so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep His commands. 8 Then they would not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not loyal and whose spirit was not faithful to God.