The covenant family was created by God in His infinite goodness and perfect wisdom to be the ideal institution for the nurture of the children. However, marriage and the family were deeply corrupted and troubled by the fall. What God intended to be a place of order, peace, happiness, and love has been ruined by self-seeking, pride, violence, lust, adultery, and the treachery of ungodly men. Many of the world’s marriages are torn apart by the great evil of divorce. It is no wonder that such homes can no longer be the ideal place to nurture children, where order and structure can be given to their lives, and where they can be taught all the important principles that are absolutely foundational for living.
Even in Christian homes, there can be trouble and conflict. Nowhere in this sinful world is there an ideal Christian home. Our own sin and foolishness and irresponsibility can do great damage to our marriages and grievously trouble our families. We still have such a small beginning of the new obedience. It takes much wisdom and effort and care and diligence to maintain what God intended our families to be.
There are many respects in which the family, as God designed it, is the ideal sphere where children must be nurtured. We receive our children as helpless babes from the Lord. According tothey are formed in their mother’s womb. There God shapes every part of their unique personality. He has determined the purpose for their life in this world and planned perfectly the course of their whole life.
God commands us to take care of the children who belong to Him before they belong to us. They need to be clothed and fed and sheltered with great compassion and love because of who they are. They must be tended to when they are sick, protected from the enemy, and supported in the many trials and fears of their life in this ungodly world.
But there is much more to the nurture of children than this. Children’s unique personalities must be developed. Godly principles must be established in their minds and hearts. A pattern of life has to be established for them. Moral and spiritual discernment must be instilled in them. In the home, children must be brought to spiritual strength and maturity and prepared for the time of their independence. They need to be prepared for responsible Christian living as adults. In our Christian homes our children need to be trained for their calling to be citizens of the kingdom of Christ in an ungodly world. Children must be equipped and trained in the Christian home for the great spiritual battle of life. They need to be instructed in the love of the truth and prepared to be faithful and steadfast members of the true church of Jesus Christ. In fact, they must in this life be prepared for their place in eternal glory.
It goes without saying that no worldly institution can perform this task, no worldly day-care center, no humanistic public school. Only devoted, God-fearing parents and the influences of a truly Christian home can accomplish the tremendously important task of the nurture of children. Children, from the beginning of their life, must know that they are deeply loved by their godly parents and that these parents have a great interest in their future development.
God in His Word has very much to say concerning marriage and the family. His truth and His commandments must be the perfect guide of our Christian marriages and of how we raise our children.
Not all married couples receive children from the Lord. Even when God does not give children to a marriage, God’s purpose in their Christian marriage can be fulfilled. God intended marriage to be an intimate relationship of friendship and fellowship between husband and wife, and a lifelong relationship of service and faithfulness to each other. This relationship is in the Bible called a great mystery. It is a mystery because of the intimacy of life in marriage between husband and wife. Especially in this aspect marriage is a reflection of God’s covenant.
One of God’s great purposes for marriages is the bringing forth and nurture of covenant children. These children are born from the act of marriage, which is intended to be an act of intimate love. God has not made celibacy the ideal for man. Those who forbid marriage, even for the clergy, are teaching the doctrine of devils. Those who willfully refuse to bear children resist the purpose of God for marriage, and the heart of their marriage will often become self-centeredness and worldliness.
We bring forth our children in our own image. They come forth from the union of our flesh and blood in marriage. The bonds of blood ties between parents and their own children are very deep and very strong. These bonds, through sin and wickedness, can be turned into bitter hatred and strife and division in families. There are few things more ugly in this world than family strife and hatred. But when the bonds of the family are sanctified by the Spirit of Christ and the truth of His Word, these bonds can become a very powerful influence in the nurture of our children.
Where there is faithfulness, honor, and the love of God between husband and wife, there is the excellent sphere where children can best be nurtured. When these children are taught the fear of the Lord, the keeping of His commandments, and the love of His truth, there is the spiritually healthy sphere for the raising of covenant children. There our children are sheltered and protected from the world and its devilish ungodly influences. There they are made strong in the truth and they experience the favor and blessing of God from childhood on. The home of the God-fearing, where husbands and wives are faithful to serve one another, and where children learn to honor and obey their parents, there is order and stability and peace, and there is godly love and joy, which are all so vital for the healthy spiritual nurture of children.
Each member of the family was created by God for his or her unique and important calling in the family. Both Adam and Eve were created in the image of God, and in this respect they are equal before God. But each of these was also created uniquely for his or her God-ordained role in marriage and the family. Man was created to be the head of his wife and his family. He must rule his family well. He must not be some sort of cruel tyrant in his home, ruling according to his own selfish purposes and pride and unrestrained sinful passion. He was created by God to be a faithful and diligent, responsible and loving, wise leader and guide and protector of his wife and family. He has the calling to discipline and to admonish his children, and to lead and guide and protect them both by the instruction he gives in the family and by the example of his own life.
God has created the woman’s body in such a way that she is able to give birth to children. What an astounding wonder this involves! She was created with a womanly nature according to which she can feed her children at her own breasts and hold them close in her arms. She was created with a special kind of tenderness for children. She will spend much time with these children, especially in the early years of their life. Supported by her godly husband, she will complement him in her tender compassion for her children and intimate protection of them through the years of their life. Who can comprehend the mighty influence of a godly mother on her children? Her role requires self-denial and a great deal of personal sacrifice. She has a place of great honor in the sphere of the covenant home because of the important role she has there in nurturing her children. In the ideal home, her husband greatly honors his wife and supports her in her calling. He trusts her with the most precious of the possessions that God has given to their family, the children. When this godly mother performs her calling well, her children will arise and call her blessed.
The ungodly men of this world have wrecked God’s holy institution of marriage. Their sin and wickedness destroy the family. The role of women in the home has been degraded. The women of the world have abandoned their calling in the home for the imagined glory of independent lifestyles and self-seeking careers. Some insist that they are such super women that they can handle a busy career in the world and at the same time devote the time and energy required for properly maintaining the home and nurturing the children God has given to them. In spite of all their boastful pride, they usually fail miserably, and that failure has very serious consequences for their family.
From the broken, wretched situations in many American families comes forth a stream of juvenile delinquents who in their later life fill our cities with violence and ungodliness. Many of the young people from these families are, already in their youth, filled with anger and bitterness and hopelessness. They have little if any sense of direction or purpose in their lives, and many end up doing drugs, or seeking to drown their miseries in alcohol, or getting involved in crime.
Because of the utter failure of the home and family in our modern-day world, attempts are made to build institutions of man, professional day-care centers for the nurture of children, and public schools for the humanistic education and nurture of the children. The family, it is said, has become obsolete and irrelevant in our modern-day world. These public institutions have their professional educators, child psychologists, and counselors who are, in their own imagination, better equipped to nurture children. Billions of tax dollars are spent on these institutions, for magnificent buildings, for the latest educational equipment, and for training of teachers in modern educational philosophy. Elaborate sports programs and extracurricular activities are promoted. It is imagined that all of these things will keep the children of this world out of trouble. Through all of these, children will be made responsible citizens with humanitarian concern and they will be nurtured to be the gifted leaders of our modern world. Yet America has one of the most dismal records of academic achievement and success at preparing the youth of our land well for their life careers and responsible living in society. These institutions cannot solve the great problems created by the failure of the home to accomplish their God-ordained calling.
All of this I mention as the dark background against which we as covenant parents must realize the great and urgent calling that we as parents have to maintain God’s ideal order and purpose in our Christian families. We want to go into some detail in a few articles to speak of the various ways God’s ideal of the covenant home serves for the great benefit of the nurture of our covenant children.