This generation has many spiritual problems, all of which stem from pastors rejecting the doctrines of lordship salvation; and preaching cheap grace antinomianism, and leaving churchgoers with the impression that the only thing God requires is forgiveness and love. Nothing could be further from the truth; love does not rejoice in evil (1 Corinthians 13:6). Also, because talk shows seem to preach pop psychology, parents buy into these concepts of love and family, rather than deriving their familial ideals from the New Testament or the Bible as a whole. Political correctness; diplomacy; and carnal tolerance seem to “hold families together” these days. But it is superficial.
We need a very clear Biblical picture of what a family is; and also what the Biblical father, mother, son, and daughter are supposed to look like. Let’s start there; and then move on to practical applications of family life today.
Father – A father is supposed to provide the family finances, teach economic responsibility (Proverbs), teach righteousness, train, discipline, punish, etc. (Hebrews 12). The father is the leader of the family; and is supposed to be an example of Christ-like righteousness for the wife and children to follow. The father must be a man of the Spirit, guided by the Heavenly Father like the father of the faith, Abraham (Hebrews 11). He should have a strong work ethic, being the primary breadwinner, but one that trusts in God as his Provider (Deuteronomy 8). He must not be a perfectionist, lest he exasperate his children (Ephesians 6:4); nor must he be morally lax, and lead his children to Hell (Matthew 23:15). He must be living a holy commandment-keeping life, one that grows in righteousness, but shows grace in light of the cross. Ephesians 6:4: “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” William Gouge said, “The second branch of good nurture is a training up of children unto a good calling (job; career). This charge [train up a child in the way that he should go (Prov 22:6)] directly tendeth to this purpose. This duty hath from the beginning of the world been performed by parents, and their performance thereof commended by the Holy Ghost. Adam brought up his sons to several callings: one was a keeper of sheep, another a tiller of ground (Gen 4:2). The like is noted of Jacob’s sons (Gen 37:12), Laban’s (Gen 29:9), and Reuel’s daughters (Exod. 2:16), and many others” (Domestical Duties).
Mother – The mother is under the headship or leadership of the father. As Eve was to Adam, she is supposed to be a “helpmate” (Genesis 2:18), not an equal…and certainly NEVER a superior to her husband. When important family decisions need to be made, the father has the final say; the wife is supposed to submit to such decisions, without griping and debating (Ephesians 5:22). For it is “better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife” (Proverbs 21:19). It is the mother’s responsibility to teach, educate, train, and care for the babies and children; to clean house and cook dinner (Titus 2:4). She should also do a work-at-home job to supplement her husband’s income (Proverbs 31). She is to be a female saint, and let Christ-like holiness influence her children and husband. Titus 2:3-5: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God.”
Son – A son is supposed to obey his father (Ephesians 6:1), so long as he is growing up and living in his house. As he grows, and even when he becomes an adult, he must do his best to say things and do things that would “Honor his father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2), so that God will add years to his life. In cases of abusive parents, the Bible seems to remain silent; we are not to love ungodly parents more than obedience to Christ (Matthew 10:37). Honoring such would be a challenge, and would require an honor that is very limited. Gouge said, “That undue, and unchristian-like respect of parents above Christ, is it that maketh so many young Catholics, young swaggerers, swearers, liars, deceitful persons, and lewd livers” (Domestical Duties). But “do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22): even if your relationship is strained, try to honor and help her as much as you have the capacity to do so. But with parents that are kind and godly, honoring comes easy, even for the wicked and foolish son. For the righteous and wise son, he is to be a support and boon for his parents, and would always defend his parents (Psalm 127:5). All the attributes of a godly father should be assimilated by him. Ephesians 6:1-3: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”” The Fifth Commandment of the Law on Sinai. But for those who have absolutely wicked parents: “Do not follow the statutes of your parents or keep their laws or defile yourselves with their idols” (Ezekiel 20:18).
Daughter – A daughter is supposed to obey her parents (Ephesians 6:1), and do most of the same things a son is supposed to; she is to imitate what is good and holy in her parents, especially her mother. “I wish that the older women would teach the younger women” (Titus 2:4). All the attributes of a godly mother should be assimilated by her.
In a day and age when “family” is defined in social or biological or cultural terms, we need to be careful. The Bible does not confine the concept of “family” to blood relations. It includes adopted orphans as well (Esther 2:7; James 1:27). The Biblical family involves more godly role-playing than just basic genetic descent or relation.
At Christmastime, the subject of family is highlighted. We should be careful to remember that the greatest example of a Father is God (Matthew 6:9). Capture for a moment the old-time spirit of a godly family gathering together in ethical love, mutual respect, and sincere generosity at Christmas. A time for joy and merriment and thanksgiving to God for the blessings of the year and our relationships with one another. Outside of Christ this impossible; I mean, really. Not just people who “go to church,” but families where the parents and grandparents are real Christians, and so fill up their house with the Holy Spirit of love, as in the times of old. When Christmas was no time of fighting and strife, but of warm, glowing hearts: happy, joyful, and godly. A mystical time and place when children are nourished by the visits of beloved, godly, loving, supportive grandparents. That’s the Christmas I want to remember; and pass on to my children and grandchildren. People say, “Merry Christmas,” as if they are not expecting their Christmas to be very merry at all; perhaps they will be visiting relatives they don’t like; and so they have to cheer them up, by saying, “Merry Christmas.” But you shouldn’t have to say that. Christmas should always be merry; and if your Christmas is not going to be merry, then why? Could it be that you are spending it with the wrong people? Proverbs 17:1: “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.”
Further Reading on the Biblical Christian Family
Richard Baxter’s Christian Economics (Family Duties) – Puritan family theology.
Larry Christenson’s The Christian Family
William Gouge’s Domestical Duties – Excellent Puritan theology of the family.