Godly Manhood in the Home – As Prophet
John Paton (1824-1907) was a Presbyterian missionary to people in the islands of the South Pacific. He faced enormous difficulties and sorrows, but persevered in the name of Christ. One way God prepared Paton for his work was through his father’s example.
Paton’s father worked in a shop in the family home in Scotland. A small room in the house was used as a prayer closet. James Paton’s regular visits to that room deeply affected his son. He said,
Thither daily, and oftentimes a day, generally after each meal, we saw our father retire, and ‘shut the door’; and we children got to understand ... that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most High Place.
The Paton children often sensed their father’s fervency in pleading for them before the throne of grace.
When John Paton left his home to study theology in Glasgow, he had to walk forty miles to a train station. His father walked the first six miles with him. They spoke about the Lord and his father gave counsel. For the last half-mile, they walked in silence, but his father’s lips moved in silent prayer for his son while tears streamed down his face. When they parted, the father grasped his son, saying, “God bless you, my son! May your father’s God prosper you and keep you from all evil.” Overcome, he could say no more, but his lips continued to move in prayer. John Paton said as he walked the remainder of the distance,
I vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as He had given me.1
Oh to be a father like John’s! Christian fathers long to impart spiritual good to their children, but how can we do that when we are so foolish, so weak, and so corrupt in our own sins? We can only do it by walking in the anointing of Jesus Christ.
The Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 31) says Jesus is called the Christ because Christ means “anointed,” and He was ordained by God and anointed by the Spirit for His work as our Prophet, Priest, and King. What is perhaps more startling is the way the Catechism applies this to us in Christ.
After asking, “Why are you called a Christian?” (Q. 32), the Catechism answers,
Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing. I am anointed to confess his name (that is our prophetic anointing), to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks (that is our priestly anointing), to strive with a good conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity (that is our kingly anointing).
Jesus is our Mediator. He is our Prophet to teach us; our Priest to sacrifice, intercede, and bless us; and our King to rule and guide us. In union with Him, we share His offices in a limited but important way. If Christ is not yet your living Head, I beg you to be reconciled to God by trusting in Christ alone to save you. You who are in Christ, from the least to the greatest, are all office bearers by union with Christ.
This office-bearing has huge implications for leading our families. As God’s ordained representatives to our wives and children, we should serve them as prophet, priest, and king. The word father implies that we should be images of the Father of glory, whose brilliance shines fully in His Son. Similarly, if you bear the title of husband, God calls you to bear the image of our heavenly Husband who loved His bride, the church, and laid down His life to make her holy. We are to reflect all three aspects of Christ’s office-bearing to our family in our homes. Let us consider those roles to see how each relates to a man’s domestic life.
Prophet in the Home
After the Heidelberg Catechism asks why Jesus is called the Christ, or Anointed One (Q. 31), the answer begins,
Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief prophet and teacher who perfectly reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God for our redemption.
Most of us think that a prophet is someone who predicts the future. Many prophets predicted future events, such as the coming of Christ, but that was not their central role. The essential task of the word prophet is to be God’s spokesman to people. The Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles to speak and write God’s Word. God’s Son is the ultimate, omniscient Prophet. As a prophet to your family, you confess your own faith, and speak forth the counsel of God given in the Bible. You do not add to the Bible; your task is to make its truths known to your children. That is your prophetic task as a father.
The question we must address is: How should you teach as God’s prophet in the home? Let me give five guidelines.
1. Teach with Passion
Recently, someone left a message on my answering machine that sounded like it came from a zombie – the voice was cold and mechanical. What a contrast to the zeal of the prophet Jeremiah, who said,
His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.Jer. 20:9
The prophet tried to hold his peace, but God’s Word could not be kept in. He had to speak it forth.
Likewise, Amos, a farmer, felt compelled to speak when God called him to do so. He said, “The lion hath roared ... the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). Many times my dad wept as he taught us the truths of God. That was passionate teaching. My father was bringing us the Word of God not as dry, boring information, but as the living word of God, “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). Likewise, we must teach our children with passion.
2. Teach as God’s authorized steward
Part of our earnestness in speaking to our children comes from knowing that God has appointed us to teach them. Ephesians 6:4 says,
Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Our children need to understand that God commands us to teach them. We can say to them, “Children, God gave me this task of teaching you. I must follow His commands.” Churches and Christian schools may supplement our efforts, but the primary responsibility of teaching covenant children belongs to parents, especially the father. You cannot delegate all the responsibility to other teachers and consider the job done.
3. Teach by example
In addition to our chief Prophet, Jesus was the living Word (John 1:1, 14). He revealed God not only in His words, but also in His life. So did Paul, who wrote to Timothy, his dear son in the Lord,
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.2 Tim. 3:10-11
We are always teaching our children, whether we know it or not, for they are always reading the book of our lives. Besides the Bible, your lives are the most important book your children will ever read. In the book of your life, they will see how important your views on God are, whether worship is a delight or a duty, whether sin is a horrible evil or mere naughtiness, whether we really cherish our families or view them as a burden.
4. Teach by sharing your life
Paul openly spoke about his problems, afflictions, and weaknesses. He boasted in his weaknesses so that others could see the power of Christ in him and the sufficiency of God’s grace in all his trials (2 Cor. 12:9-10). He opened his life to others so that they would open their lives to him (2 Cor. 6:11-13). Happy are the children who can say to their friends, “My mom and dad are pretty neat; I can talk to them about anything.” That does not mean you act as their buddy – that would negate your authority over them as godly parents. But it does mean we should strive to become their confidants in a friendship that grows as they mature. Jesus called His disciples “friends” because He loved them enough to die for them and to share with them the whole counsel of God (John 15:13-15).
Moses said in Deuteronomy 6:4-7,
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
God gave us this great commandment. Jesus also gave the Great Commission to His disciples, commanding them to make disciples throughout the earth, beginning at home. Notice that the great context for all of this teaching is life. Consider your prophetic work not just as an event in your schedule but an aspect of sharing all of life with your dear ones.
5. Teach for holistic maturity
In addition to training their minds, train the souls and hearts of your children, so they may grow and mature in serving God. Luke 2:52 says, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Christ is our model of child development; He was born a baby but grew into an adult in all aspects of His manhood.
Train your children in social graces. A well-trained mind without basic manners or culture is a blunt sword. Our children should show respect to older people, kindness to their peers, and compassion to persons younger than themselves. If you expect your children to behave well, but have not taught them proper etiquette, you will set them up for failure in society. Furthermore, give them opportunities to enjoy fine art, great literature, and good music as gifts of God’s common grace. This too will mature them, and enhance their lives.
Train your children physically. Teach your children that their bodies are gifts from God, so they must respect the rules of health and treat their bodies with respect. They need a certain amount of sleep, a healthy diet, and plenty of exercise. Teach your children the facts of life, discussing openly the goodness, spiritual significance, and God-given boundaries of their sexuality. Do not leave that education to their peers. Guide them in matters of personal appearance so that they dress modestly and attractively, but not to draw attention to themselves.
Likewise teach them a balanced view of sports. Recreational sports are a natural part of a child’s physical development; children enjoy much-needed exercise, strength, and agility in playing them. Participation in sports also teaches them teamwork, leadership, and perseverance. But do not surrender to the sports mania that makes winning everything or allows sports to become a scheduling monster that eats up family time.
Brothers, our prophetic role in the home places great responsibilities upon us. How can we live up to such a calling? Instead of throwing in the towel because of our inadequacies, we should come before God in prayer and say, “I am a sinful human being, but Lord, help me confess my sin, my inconsistent walk, my ignorance of the Bible, and my failure to evangelize my children. Let me be grieved by these failures, turn to Thee for grace to realize my covenantal responsibilities, and take refuge in Thee, leaning on Thy covenant promises and looking to Jesus Thy Son as my Model, my Guide, and my Strength.” In the long run, the faithful father/prophet will marvel at God’s grace covering his sins and making his efforts bear fruit far beyond the limits of mere human power and wisdom. God is not setting us up to fail as husbands and fathers. He gives us the marvelous grace of being His assistants in teaching our families.