Any institution that is going to attempt to raise children needs to have a firmly established order. The reason the family is the ideal institution is that the institution of the covenant family is built on God’s order. The world increasingly has abandoned and rejected the order of God. The result has been that the institution of the family in America is falling apart. Furthermore, the prevalence of ungodly divorce and remarriage in our society has destroyed many homes. It is impossible for the public schools in our land to repair the damage that has been done to the institution of the family, and worldly child psychologists can give little help.

The foundational principles of the covenant home are such truths as that marriage is to be a lifelong bond of love and faithfulness between a God-fearing husband and wife. A proper Christian home can only exist in this context. By His creation ordinance God made the husband to be the head of his wife and family and the wife to his helpmeet. He gave the mandate to the married not only to bear children but also to nurture them in His fear. The godly husband and wife have the joint responsibility to maintain their family. They are seriously wrong if they expect that some worldly institutions such as day-care centers or public schools can raise their children for them. They must be very careful not to tear down their home by the foolishness of their own sin or by substituting the philosophy of the world for the raising of children. Proverbs 24:3, 4 states: “Through wisdom is an house builded, and by understanding is it established: and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” When the foundational principles that the Lord has established for the covenant home are honored, there will be joy and peace and blessing in the home.

God places children under the authority and care of their parents. The children are not left to care for themselves or to determine the course of their own lives. Children are not able to do this. Permissiveness in their lives will be the occasion for a life of undisciplined ungodliness—and the judgment of God. According to God’s ideal order children are called to honor and obey their parents. They are called to submit to authority and to love and respect their parents. In doing this they have the promise of the favor and blessing of the Lord upon their lives, for in this way God says that it will be well with them.

When we consider these wonders of God in creating the covenant family, we immediately realize that our sins so often mar our homes. We cannot fulfill our calling perfectly because of our sin; we are greatly in need of the help and guidance of the Lord. Even our best efforts in our homes are very imperfect. The articles of this series that I am writing intend to set forth the ideal that we must strive with all our might to maintain through much prayer and humble dependence on Him.

The order of the covenant home is not that of cold, harsh military regimentation. The covenant home is not a place of law upon law and precept upon precept that makes the life of children miserable. It is not the place of unreasonable punishment for every disobedience to and overstepping of the iron-fisted law of the home. Ideally, the covenant home is the place where there are loving, personal relationships of care and concern. This home is the place of great concern and firm discipline to correct sin and failures in the lives of children. Children must not be allowed carelessly to continue in sin without repentance, for they will become hardened in their sin and rebellion. The covenant home is also the place where parents, by the mercy of God, forgive the sins of their children and seek to restore them to the right way. To have a truly covenantal home our children must be encouraged daily by the power of God’s grace in their lives. The covenant home is the place where children must be taught the good way of the commandments of the Lord. Learning always to keep the commandments of God will cause them to experience the loving favor of God in their lives. Children need daily instruction, counsel, admonition, and encouragement in their homes from their covenant parents.

The mother has a tremendously important role in maintaining the order of her home. She has a God-given, full-time occupation of being the ‘keeper of the home’ and the ‘guide’ of her home. The heroine of the covenant community is not the woman who by some supernatural ability and wisdom is able to balance a full-time career in the world with her calling as the mother. This is an impossible task, and anyone who tries this will see the sad consequences in the lives of the children. In the covenant home the mother is honored, respected, and loved because of the personal sacrifices she makes daily in her life of self-denial and humility and not in the way of self-exaltation and human pride.

The order of the covenant home is maintained by a mother who is always there for her children. In a very practical way the mother gives structure and stability to the lives of her children, which will be a great blessing for their future. She is the one who wakes them in the morning at the appropriate time for the planned events of the day. She is careful to prepare nutritious meals for her children. She has daily care for the physical health and well-being of her children. She makes sure that her children have proper clothing to wear for every season.

The primary education of the children is received on the knees of their mother. Values and principles, attitudes concerning right and wrong are taught to the children in their earliest years in the covenant home.

Even the surveys of the world often prove that the greatest influence and motivation of children from the earliest years of their education comes from a good mother in the home. She motivates them to do as well as possible even in education outside of the home. She teaches her children to be responsible in their lives; she gives them tasks to do in the home that serve as valuable lifelong lessons. She trains them in the first skills of their lives, and supervises other persons necessary to train them in the skills they will need for the future. She helps them to develop their God-given talents.

By her daily labors the mother in the home will determine the entire atmosphere of the home and maintain the order and beauty of this home. She will make the home a well-ordered, pleasant, and happy place for her husband and her children to live.

No less important, of course, is the God-ordained role of the father. He is set by God to be the head of this home. He is given the authority to exercise rule and discipline in this home. He must teach his children the fear of the Lord. He must teach his children the doctrines of God’s word that will be foundational for ordering their Christian life. The discipline that he gives to his children must be a balance of necessary firmness and seriousness, with tender compassion and concern for his children. He must be very careful not to provoke his children to anger or to discourage them through his own misbehavior and sinful anger against them.

The father has the great responsibility of providing for the physical needs of his children. With this in mind he carries out his daily occupation, often working long hours to be able to pay for such important things as Christian school tuition. He exhausts his energies for this purpose. If a father does not provide for his household, he is according to Scripture worse than an infidel (I Tim. 5:8).

Yet a father’s devotion to his career may not be for selfish pride and worldly success. He must think first about providing for the daily needs of his family and children. He does not keep back some of the earnings of his daily labor for his own personal pleasure and satisfaction and glory in the world.

The father has the responsibility to maintain the financial stability of his family. To do this he must have the wisdom to manage his money well and not to waste and squander what God gives to him. When the father is foolish and irresponsible in this area of his own life, he will create great tension in his home and make himself responsible for the suffering of hardship in his own family. The father does not need to make his family rich and provide every modern-day electronic gadget and all sorts of sports equipment that his children might want. He does not have to provide them with a car when they get their driver’s license. Doing this, in fact, often does more harm than good for the children.

In doing this, it is urgent that the father knows how to manage his time well. To maintain order in the covenant home of which he is the head, the father must have sufficient time for continual, meaningful interaction with his children. He must show his daily practical concern and love for his children by his interest and involvement in their lives. No amount of money he can earn in his daily occupation and then give to his children can make up for lack of sincere concern for and interaction with his children. As God is the covenant Friend of His people in amazing and wonderful ways, so the father must maintain covenant friendship and fellowship with his own children. He does not allow himself to become cold and distant from them.

Time management for the family also means that it is the father’s responsibility to be sure that he does not waste his time on useless pursuits of life. He must teach and discipline his children to keep them also from wasting their lives in useless activities. He must establish the proper priorities of the life of the family. He must train his children to be responsible and disciplined in their life.

Especially is it the role of the covenant father to teach his children the law of God. Of utmost importance for the order of the lives of covenant children is teaching them the absolute standard of right and wrong. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 gives important instruction. In this regard, the entire book of Proverbs has many lessons for godly fathers. Without strong moral and spiritual instruction our children will grow up wickedly following the dictates of their own sinful nature, led away by temptations of the world and the deceit of the devil.

With this in view, the father must be an example of real, practical godliness in his whole life. Failure in this will have the result of wickedness and ungodliness in the lives of his children. Many times irresponsible young people, who are careless and undisciplined in their lives and give themselves to a life of immorality, drunkenness, and drugs have learned this from the ungodly and worldly example of an unspiritual father in their homes.

To be an example of godliness, the father must also be the one who leads his family to church and to love the truth that is taught in the church. No one can have a truly ordered life of godliness separate from the true church of Jesus Christ. The father has the calling to give doctrinal instruction to his children. He does well to be very involved in the catechism instruction of his children. He maintains the order of his God-fearing family by teaching them by word and his own godly example to be a member of the true church and to be interested in and active in the life and ministry of this church.

Related to the faithful worship of God in the church and love for the house of God is the father’s calling to teach by word and example the proper observance of the Lord’s Day.

No institution of the world can establish such order in the lives of children. This should be obvious. Neither parent can raise his children alone. We all need the church and the means of grace God has given to her. Our children are greatly in need of the godly instruction and influence of the church of Jesus Christ. Even if a worldly man could succeed in part to establish order in the lives of his children, all of this would be utter vanity if these children grow up to be ungodly and leave the church.