The Father and His Family
What is a Christian Home?
It should be a matter beyond dispute among us that our homes ought to be Christian homes, and if we take our calling as parents seriously, we will daily seek the grace of God in order that our parental leadership may be such, that our homes may be Christian homes indeed. The question, which of necessity must be answered however, is, "What is a Christian home?" To eliminate any possible misunderstanding relative to this fundamental question, will first briefly consider what it is not, in order that the biblical answer to this question may stand out more clearly.
Perhaps there are those who would qualify a family as a Christian family if the following were true: faithful church attendance, daily Scripture reading after all meals, strict observance of law upon law and precept upon precept, and rigid adherence to tradition. I obviously do not wish to imply, that these matters in themselves are unimportant, but if our family life consists of nothing else beyond this weekly routine, then I fear that our family, which perhaps by others may be perceived as a model of orthodoxy, may nevertheless be a lifeless shell, in which the true fear of God is entirely absent. If such is the case, our home could possibly be qualified as a religious home, but if living Christianity is absent, it cannot possibly be qualified as a Christian home in the true sense of the word. Nevertheless, such homes our homes must be, and as a matter of fact, when our children were baptized, we promised with an oath that we would do everything in our power to make our homes Christian homes.
What then is a Christian home? The answer to this question is a very simple one, albeit with very profound and far-reaching implications. A Christian home is a home where the entire family unit functions in a Christ-like manner. In view of the well-established meaning of the word "Christian," we obviously cannot come to any other conclusion.
In order to make it perfectly clear what I understand by the word "Christian," let me briefly review what I shared with you in a previous article entitled "Christian Education by Example." The great purpose of Christ's official work as Prophet, Priest, and King in the hearts of sinners is the restoration of God's image in which we were created, but which we have lost in our tragic fall. As Prophet He restores the knowledge of God, as Priest He restores the righteousness of God, and as King He restores the holiness of God. Therefore, the fruit of the official work of Christ is that fallen sinners become Christians, human beings who again begin to manifest the image of God. For this purpose He was given of the Father, who made Him unto sinners "wisdom (knowledge), righteousness, and sanctification (holiness)" (1 Cor. 1:30). In other words, a Christian is a person who, in Christ, has been restored as God's image-bearer, which reveals itself in his/her life by the bearing of this image. The logical conclusion from all this is that for a home to be classified as a Christian home, it must in principle bear the image of God; in other words, in such a home the pursuit of the knowledge of God will have pre-eminence, the righteousness of God will characterize it, and the beauty of holiness will be evident in a genuine desire to be conformed and devoted to God's will.
It is especially the father who, as the head of his family, has the awesome, God-given responsibility to lead his family in such a way that his home may be a Christian home, a home which manifests the three elements of the image of God. In order to accomplish this, the father has a three-fold task in the midst of his family. He is divinely called to be prophet, priest, and king in his home – in order to instruct his family from the Word of God, to maintain his family in the way of the righteousness of God, and to rule his family according to the will of God.
With God's help, I wish to focus in a series of articles on each aspect of the father's three major responsibilities in his home, with the prayerful desire that it may please the Lord to bless this instruction, in order that our families by grace may bear God's image and be worthy of being called Christian families.
The Father as Prophet in his Family
A prophet in Israel was a divinely-called man who had a two-fold task. He was called to foretell future events, as well as to be God's spokesman to the congregation of Israel. It is obviously the second aspect of a prophet's task which is relevant to the duty of a father as prophet of his family. Webster's dictionary describes a prophet as "an effective spokesman for a cause.'' That is precisely what we as fathers are called to be in the midst of our families! We are called to be effective spokesmen for the cause of God and His kingdom. How clearly this is stated in Isaiah 38:19, where it is stated, "The father to the children shall make known Thy truth." How often we find this principle repeated throughout the Word of God, which indicates the great significance God ascribes to the father's duty to instruct his children. This is evident, for instance, in Exodus 10:2, where God speaks thus to Moses, "That thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son what things I have wrought." This direction is essentially repeated by Asaph in Psalm 78 when he reminds the fathers in Israel that it is their sacred duty to show "to the generations to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength, and His wonderful works that he hath done."
Fathers, Scripture makes it unmistakably clear what our prophetic responsibility is in the midst of our families. We are called to make Jehovah's truth known to our children in order that our families might truly be God-centered families, families in which God, His message, and His will, have daily pre-eminence.
After stating the general principle, I now wish to highlight some specific areas where fathers are called to exercise their prophetic calling.
The Father's Prophetic Duty to Lead his Family in Worship
Much has been published already in this periodical concerning family worship, and I do not wish to repeat what has been stated so well in the articles of Dr. J.W. Alexander. I merely wish to emphasize that especially in view of our hectic lifestyle, when so many family members have conflicting schedules, it is of the greatest importance that we find time each day to engage in worship as a family. As fathers we must place a premium on such time together, as family worship affords us with our primary opportunity to make Jehovah's truth known to our children.
To make Jehovah's truth known, obviously means more than merely reading a chapter of Scripture after the meal. It means that we have a holy obligation to explain Scripture to our children, to make known the particular truth(s) contained in the chapter which was read, as well as to apply these truths in a personal manner to our family. To facilitate this, it is my opinion that each of our children should have his own Bible to enable him/her to follow the reading of God's Word, and older children should be given the opportunity to read a portion of the chapter aloud. In addition to this, our children should be held accountable for what is read. As fathers we should ask penetrating questions to ascertain whether our children comprehend what is being read. Unless we do everything in our power to assure that our children comprehend the message of Scripture, we merely accomplish reading Scripture to them, rather than making it known to them.
This leads me to suggest that when we have young children, we should read John Vreugdenhil's Bible History Told to Our Children to them on a daily basis. I wish I could adequately stress how important this is. We cannot expect our little ones to benefit from family worship if we make no effort to share the message of Scripture at their level. If we expect our children to listen to Scripture as teenagers, we must train them to do so as toddlers! If we fail to do this, we will teach our children to tune-out during Bible reading and engage in day-dreaming instead, the consequence of which will be, that after years of Bible reading at the table, our children will still be Biblical illiterates.
Fathers, let us be diligent to make Jehovah's truths known to our children in order that they might be encouraged to seek the God of Scripture, who has made known in His Word that He has no desire in their death but therein that they would turn from sin unto Him, and live.
The Father's Prophetic Duty to Encourage Private Bible Study
How inclined we are to think that when we practice family worship we have then fulfilled our duty! We could not be more mistaken. As fathers, we also have the sacred duty to encourage our children to worship privately. We must urge our children, especially our older ones, to set time apart each day to prayerfully read their Bibles in the privacy of their rooms. In addition to this, we ought to encourage them to read sound literature, and the best way we can do this is by providing such literature for them, as well as show a genuine interest in what they are reading. By encouraging the reading of sound literature (which must obviously be suitable for the age-level of the child!) we indirectly, but nevertheless effectively, make Jehovah's truth known to them.
The Father's Prophetic Duty to Re-enforce the Ministry of the Church
How important it also is to re-enforce the ministry of the church in our homes! As fathers, what a unique opportunity we have to make Jehovah's truth known to our children by reviewing the sermons they have heard in church, as well as to encourage them to ask for clarification of that which is difficult for them to comprehend. In following up the church service with discussion at home, we will convey to our children the important unity between the prophetic ministry of the church and our prophetic ministry within our homes.
Must we not fear that some families gain little or nothing from the ministry of God's Word because the parents consistently criticize the minister, or the elder who read, rather than discussing the message that was heard? The Lord Himself instructs us that one of the specific purposes of hearing His Word is that we might pass the instruction on to our children. In Deuteronomy 4:10 God speaks as follows, "I will make them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children!" Fathers, may we be diligent in utilizing the preaching of God's Word in such a manner.
The Father's Prophetic Duty in Giving Biblical Guidance to his Family
In view of what I have previously stated, this duty may appear to be self-evident, and indeed it ought to be. The reason I wish to highlight it, however, is that I have a genuine concern for our teenagers. Teenagers, as they search for their own identity, tend to question everything as they seek to formulate opinions independent of their parents. Consequently, they will demand an explanation for every aspect of the religious environment in which they have been reared. Fathers, how important it is for us to be prepared for such questioning! We must take the questions of our young people seriously, even though at times they will make us feel uncomfortable and/or frustrate us. Do not silence your children by simply telling them that this is just the way it is, without giving them a reasonable, Biblical explanation. This means that especially fathers of teenagers need to do their "homework," and be diligent students of Scripture themselves, in order to be able to lovingly guide their children in the pathway of God's commandments. Fathers, do not shirk this often difficult task, for if you do not provide reasonable answers for your children, they will get them elsewhere, and you may discover to your dismay someday that your children will bid the truth farewell. When your children ask you questions, use this unique opportunity to make Jehovah's truth known to them.
Fathers: Are we Prophets in our Homes?
Fathers, let us face this question honestly. God demands it from us, for He Himself declares in Exodus 20:5, "For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity (=failure!) of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." God's judgment upon fathers who fail to instruct their children is severe and far-reaching. Without God's gracious interference, it will result in the condemnation of your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
May God give us grace to recognize where we have failed, and may we seek His all-sufficient grace to be faithful as prophets in our homes, in order that it may be said of us what God said of Abraham, "For I know him, that he will command his children after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord" (Gen. 18:19). Therefore, fathers, "Tell ye your children of it (Jehovah's truth), and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation" (Joel 1:3)!