Father’s authority in the Christian home is of greatest importance. God Himself has clothed parents with a sacred office to rule over their children, to guide their development and protect them from temptation and evil, and to instruct them in the way that they should go. Children need to be admonished and disciplined when they sin. They need often to be corrected. Especially fathers must nurture their children from childhood on in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Their authority must be exercised in the name of the Lord. Children must be taught obedience and respect for this authority. The failure to exercise and maintain this authority will have very serious consequences for the children. It will cause them to grow up confused, uncontrolled, and disobedient. Because of the sinful nature with which our children are born, the failure to teach and maintain respect for the God-given authority of parents will result in rebellion and wickedness later in the lives of these children.
The tragic biblical example of a home where the father was woefully weak is the example of Eli the priest of the Lord. Though Eli was a prophet of the Lord who was called to warn the people of God about sin and its consequences, he failed to do this in his own home. The result was that his own sons, Hophni and Phinehas, grew up to be wicked, rebellious, immoral, and grossly irreverent. This happened in the sphere of the covenant, in the home of one who was called to be a leader in Israel.
The establishing and maintaining of authority in the Christian family belongs first of all to the father. This is part of God’s order for the Christian home, which God established first in creation. Scripture repeatedly admonishes especially the father in this regard. When there is in children disrespect for authority, this can often be traced to negligent fathering. The Christian wife and mother must also, however, respect and support the authority of her husband. When the wife is herself rebellious and not submissive to the authority of her husband, she will be a poor example and have detrimental influence on her children. The mother normally cares for the children in the home for many hours every day when the father is absent. During this time she must serve her husband as a covenant mother in the nurture and discipline of the children.
In the law of God children are significantly commanded to honor both father and mother. There is no difference in regards to the honor and obedience that children owe to both their parents. The husband must support his wife in the exercise of discipline in the home. He may not leave the responsibility of raising the children solely to the mother. He may not imagine and act as though his role in the family is only to do his part in the procreation of children and to go to work every day to gain sufficient financial resources necessary to support his family. The father’s daily occupation, as important as it is, may not be the chief and only concern of his life. The husband who does not take on the responsibility of exercising godly authority in his family will make it very difficult for his wife. There are godly wives who have irresponsible husbands, and these wives really struggle to control the children and guide their development. In special cases where God has taken a father out of this life, the Lord gives special grace to godly mothers who must do the work of parenting alone, though this is difficult for single mothers.
Father must exercise authority in behalf of God in his home. He must teach his children the fear of God and what is right in the sight of God. There are two very significant passages in Scripture that instruct Christian fathers: Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:20, 21. In Ephesians 6:1 the inspired apostle of the Lord exhorts children to obey their parents, adding immediately, “for this is right.” This is absolutely right. Parents, especially fathers, must teach their children what is right and what is wrong in the sight of the Lord. Father has no choice in this matter. He has the solemn obligation to do this. God is the only absolute authority. He is the foundation of all authority in the world. “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Rom. 13:1, 2). Though this passage was written to teach Christians to be subject to civil government, the principles that it teaches must also govern the Christian home and the father’s responsibility in it.
Fathers must teach their children that God is sovereign. God exercises His sovereignty in all the universe. He does so in almighty power, in wisdom, and righteousness, for His own glory and according to His own good pleasure. This God must be feared and obeyed with loving reverence and humility. In the exercise of his authority in the Christian home, the father must teach his children these great principles. He does not exercise his authority in the home according to his own whim and fancy but for the sake of establishing God’s authority in the lives of his children. Father must teach his children what is right before God, what is therefore absolutely right. The Word of God must always be obeyed, even when this is difficult and even though it is beyond or contrary to our own human understanding. Ever since the fall, the world, under the instigation of the devil, lives in enmity and rebellion against God. Children are born with this rebellion in their hearts. This rebellion is perpetuated in the home, and strengthens and increases there, because of the influence of ungodly fathers.
In contrast to this, godly fathers must teach their children obedience and godly fear and reverence before God. Father must give daily instruction by the Word of God to his children. He must also do this by the daily example of his own life before God and before his children. There is little hope of teaching children obedience and the fear of God when father himself is disobedient, ungodly, worldly, and even immoral in his own life and corrupt in his daily business practices. Even if he tries to keep his sinful behavior secret from his children, they will soon discern his hypocrisy, and it will be difficult for them to honor and respect him as the Word of God requires. They will often follow him in his ungodliness and worldliness. This is unavoidable, and this will be the judgment of God. God visits the sins of fathers on the children unto the third and fourth generation.
Children must be taught obedience to God in love. They must learn and experience the love of God from the love of their human father and genuine concern he has for them. Love and discipline for the Lord’s sake are not opposites. Those who imagine that love is tolerance, softness, and permissiveness will find that they are grievously mistaken.
Father also may not behave as a cruel tyrant or dictator in his home. Love must be the motive for obedience to God, and father must teach this to his children. But also love must be the motive and perspective for the father’s correction and discipline of his children. They must be disciplined in such a way that they know and experience the personal warmth and affection and comfort of this love as a reality.
Insisting on obedience to God is not something cruel or harsh. It is love. It is good in the highest sense. When children learn obedience by the grace of God in their hearts, when they learn this from their God-given fathers, they will enjoy the love and favor of God. When father does not teach his children the authority of God in their lives, they will reap the fearful judgment of God. Where there is rebellion, trouble will continue to grow and increase as long as the children are disobedient and rebellious. And without repentance they will end in their everlasting just and holy judgment. Fathers must teach their children the great seriousness of sin and rebellion against God and warn them about the lie of the devil that disobedience leads to freedom and success in their lives.
Children are naturally dependent on their parents. They need to receive their food and protection from their parents. They need to be nurtured, taught, and instructed and guided in their daily lives. They are weak and helpless and lack knowledge and understanding as children. To observe this complete dependence in little children is a thing that is almost fearful for parents. Even though they are born with totally depraved sinful natures, there is within them a natural awareness of their own helplessness and dependence. They are fearful of the many threats and enemies there are in this world, and they will flee to their parents for protection. In the days of their childhood they will often almost worship their parents and boast of them to other children their age.
We believe that covenant children are generally regenerated at birth. Therefore they soon have the beginning of spiritual understanding by the Spirit of God in them. They have the beginning of spiritual understanding of their own helplessness and weakness and of their dependence on their parents. Their only comfort is that God is their heavenly Father and that their earthly father is their protector and spiritual leader in God’s behalf. This is a great advantage for the work of covenant parents. The childlike character of children is the occasion and time for their instruction and nurture and molding for later life. For this reason the inspired writer of Proverbs says such things as “Train up a child in the way that he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). In another place the inspired writer of Proverbs says “train up a child while there is hope.” The hope for such training is in the days of childhood and youth. There is sufficient time, in the providence of God, for the training of the child when he can best be molded and influenced by his parents for the whole of his later life. But the days will also come quickly when they are more hardened in their way of sin and when it is often too late to expect changes.
A child who is left on his own, without parental discipline, will seldom learn submission to authority in his life and will grow up to be hardened in the ways of sin and rebellion. The world is full of examples of juvenile delinquency, most of which must be attributed to poor parenting. This is the reason for much of the crime and violence of the world’s society. On the other hand, when children learn obedience to the God-ordained authority of their parents in their homes, this will benefit them greatly in later life. They will more easily learn obedience in many other spheres of their life on earth, such as in school, as citizens of the state, in the place of employment, and especially as members of the church of Jesus Christ. Those who learn this will by the grace of God be greatly blessed.
… to be continued.