Now, we are in a position to tie all of these foundational things together and apply what we have learnt to the family law or economics. God designed the family as the building block for civilisation. You cannot have a flourishing civilisation with weak, apathetic and lethargic families. What we are experiencing now is the crumbling of western civilisation all around us. Abortion, same sex marriage, euthanasia and all the other advances of secular humanism are the result of the church turning her back on the Word of God and fathers failing to be faithful with their duties towards their wife and children. The family unit has disintegrated over the last 50-100 years, divorce rates are high and the number of children who are raised by one of their two biological parents is skyrocketing. In fact I was reading an article the other night that sighted an OECD study. This study indicated that out of 27 industrialised countries surveyed New Zealand had the third highest rate of children living in a single parent home environement. 23.9% of all children in your nation live without both of their biological parents. That’s nearly 1 child in every 4. The average across the entire survey was 14.9%.
These are alarming facts. We are living in times where fathers are deserting their families. There is a great father hunger that is ravaging the western world. What we should realise though is that as Christians we are not pragmatists. Yes, we want children to have both biological parents involved together in raising them. But this is not all that we want. Ultimately we should understand that it is the gospel, the Word of God that will fix this nation’s fatherlessness and the resultant family breakdowns. Friends, hard work is required. Our duty is to rely on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) and to apply it to our lives as individuals, families, churches and societies. All of faith and life ought to be governed and informed by the Scriptures. Our desire ought to be for family units that honour Jesus Christ in their structure and household law or economy. God is not silent on the family. Neither is He silent on familial roles and associated responsibilities. As faithful followers of Christ we don’t just get to make up the rules as we go, our word or feelings are not on par with the Word of God. To think and do so would be to commit the same sin as Adam in the Garden. Friends, to quench the father hunger that our lands are experiencing fathers must repent, believe the gospel and then shape all of their family life per what is revealed in the Scriptures. Our duty is to disciple our family and to be showing an observant world what faithful fatherhood and family life looks like.
Family is the primary societal structure that God uses to bring about his purposes, His blessings and cursings in the world. It is the unit that God uses to fulfil His covenant promises. This takes nothing away from the church. She is the body of Christ; the structure or institute that God uses to baptise and disciple the nations. And each particular church is made up of families that carry out the tasks of discipleship, child rearing & training and many other things. It is important to note that the family unit is sovereign over its God ordained areas of responsibility, like discipling and education children, health care and various other things. Yes, families work on their own to advance the kingdom and they also do so together as the church. God has structured the family unit in a particular way to achieve His purposes in this world and reflect His character.
Again when speaking to draw theology exegetically out of Scripture it is important to go right back to the beginning, creation and the fall ought to provide the elementary theological platforms for. Adam and Even sin and God pronounces the curses for breaking covenant with Him, from Genesis 1; “15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; kit shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. 16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; land thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; pin sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it †bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
There are a few good relevant points that I want to draw out of this reading. Firstly, the proto-evangelical identifies that there is a historical familial war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Also note that the serpent (or dragon) was going to fight hard, he was to bruise the heal but the seed of the woman would ultimately be a dragon slayer. Note that when this Adamic covenant of grace was handed down it is in the context of two family linages. One of faith and another of not faith. The battle lines are filled with families under the command of the dragon and families under the command of the conquering King. Ultimately we know the end result of this war. But what I want you to note is that this language is couched in terms of the family. Jesus is the seed or or descendant of Adam; and He comes as our elder brother to crush the head of the dragon. So, the proto-evangelical draws the battle lines between two families. Now you should understand why the Christian family has always been under attack and scrutiny from every false religion. Satan has been waging a full scale assault on the very unit that has been designed to defeat his purposes. Family friends is thus important in the defeat of Satan and the discipleship of the nations.
Then as we move through the major covenants in the old testament we discover the central familial theme. God does not make covenant with only the head of a household, He makes covenant with the head and his family, his seed or descendants. The five major covenants in the Bible are all made with the covenant head and His descendants or family.
Noahic - Genesis 9:8-11; “8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.”
Abrahamic - Genesis 17:7; “ And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, nto be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”
Davidic - 2 Samuel 7:11-17; “Also the Lord tells you that He will make you a house. 12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, tI will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 wI will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the 4blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”’” 17 According to all these words and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.”
Mosaic - Exodus 19:5-6; “5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
New covenant - Acts 2:38-39; “38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.””
The Scriptures are consistent. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Word never changes. All of the major covenants are richly familial. In the Mosaic covenant God transfers the multi generational familial covenant blessing to Israel, who was the family of families. And the New Covenant follows this pattern. It is clear that the new covenant is familial, it is made with the fathers and the children. The church is the new Israel or the continuation of the true Israel and she is a family of families. In other words, the way in which God deals with man is o a family by family basis. Understanding that is the first key to appreciating and accepting what the Scriptures say of family structure.
Let’s work through the general characteristics of individual households. It is important to consider what the Biblical pattern looks like. It gives us the framework to apply to our particular situations. Which reminds me. I must make a brief statement about generalities and particulars. The particular framework for Biblical families or households has been clearly been revealed in Scripture. We will go through that structure. What the Bible does not do is provide commands for every particular situation. We are to take the general framework and apply it to our particular families. For example; husbands are commanded to provide for their families. Yes, but this does not mean that every husband must be a farmer. So, let’s run through a brief overview of the characteristics of a Biblical family structure.
Each family is a microcosm of the church, Matthew Henry called households or families little churches (Ephesians 5:22-33). The church is made up of families. It is the family of families. Those with no blood line family are to be brought into Christian families. All families within a church are interdependent, they need each other. The church has many parts and all the parts must work together to achieve the church’s objective to baptise and disciple all the nations to obey everything Jesus commanded.
A new household, with a new authority structure is created when a man leaves his home (father and mother) to cleave to his wife in marriage (Ephesians 5:31-32). The new family unit’s authority line is independent from the family authority lines of the husband and wife’s families.
Every family is structured with a head/ruler of the household (husband – 1 Timothy 3:4, 12) and a head of the home (wife – 1 Timothy 5:14, Titus 2:5), and the ordinary pattern is for obedient children who submit to their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3, Colossians 3:20). Children do not create the family unit. They are a result of a family unit being formed.
Every family must be given to hospitality (Romans 12:13), which is to be extended to the household of faith and strangers (Genesis 19:1-11, Exodus 22:21, 23:9, Leviticus 19:34, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8, Hebrews 13:1-2).
Is the head of the household, all things in the household are thus his responsibility (Ephesians 5:23). His rulership is to be patterned after Christ’s service/dying for the church (Ephesians 5:25).
Christ commands husbands to love their wife (and by extension children) as Christ loved the church , His body (Ephesians 5:25, 28). This means a husband’s preeminent full time gospel ministry is to his wife and children. Husbands you are to wash your wife in the Word of God through discipling her (Ephesians 5:26). Fathers are commanded to teach or disciple their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, without provoking them to wrath (Ephesians 6:4, cf.) This provocation would be not training them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. This includes adequately and justly chastising disobedient children (Hebrews 13:6-10, cf. Deuteronomy 8:5, Psalm 94:12, 119:75, Proverbs 3:11-12, Revelation 3:19). Father’s must always remember that chastisment is not vengeance. It is little church discipline with the ultimate goal of restoring the child back into right relationship for God and man. Thus love for God and the child’s soul (Proverbs 23:14) must always be antecedent to chastening (Hebrews 13:6). I know this is sensitive in this part of the world, but hey God’s Word is insensitive to tyrannical governments. I think it is really important to not just discipline your child with the rod. Father’s we ought not to chastise our children out of anger, but often we don’t know how to do it. Our process is to remove the child from the situation, ask the child to confess the sin - this is really important, you need to align bad behaviour with breaking God’s Law, we then ask the child what God says about the behaviour, then we discipline. I don’t think it is right to just leave it at that. We must have restoration in mind. It is important for the child to seek God’s forgiveness in prayer with you and then for the child to seek the forgiveness of man and make restitution when necessary.
Every husband must also provide for his own household (1 Timothy 5:8). This provision is both spiritual and physical food. Both are vital and important to the family’s health and wellbeing.
God requires a man to leave his father and mother (home) to join in marriage with his wife. The man’s duty is to leave and cleave (Ephesians 5:30-31). He comes out from Mamma’s apron strings and leads his new family.
I wholeheartedly believe that the single parent issue we have is the result of father abdicating their God ordained responsibilities. Repentance is needed. And we need to know what to do. So I want to take a few minutes to give an outline of how fathers can fulfil the duties I have just spoken of.
Fathers ought to be a prophet, priest and king to the family. Let me put some flesh on this.
Prophet – brings to bear the word of God on His people. We are to wash our wife in the Word and teach our children. How? Through daily family worship. Everyday lead your family in: reading the Bible, singing Psalms, memorising Scripture, prayer & teaching them a little about what you have read. All husbands and fathers should be able to find at least a starting 20 minutes a day to do this, preferably in the morning and the evening. This will not happen if you fathers are not in the Word. You need to rise early or stay up late and study the Scriptures. You need to memorise passages, read theological books and listen to sermons and lectures. It is hard but rewarding work.
Priest – a prophet brings the word of God to His people. The role of the priest is to take the word of the people to God. This means prayer. Men – you are to pray for you and your family, your church, your community and your nation. Daily prayer life on your own and in family worship is essential. But more is required. You need to teach your children how to pray. If you don’t know how follow the pattern in the Lord’s prayer. In prayer always: glorify God, bless His name, seek His forgiveness, petition Him to accomplish His will on earth as it is in heaven through the power of the gospel, ask Him to save the lost (particulars), to destroy His enemies and thank Him for all things.
King – the concept of kingship is not that you are the authoritarian ruler who has all his desires met. Your wife is not required to feed you grapes while you lie back and enjoy her fanning you with a palm frond. All kings are responsible for all in their kingdom. A good king is a protector, provider and servant to his subjects. Men, whatever occurs in your house is YOUR responsibility. As king you must take responsibility for all in your home. In other words, all things that occur in your house are your responsibility. They may not be your fault but are yours to teach through as prophet bring before the Lord as priest and correct as king.
Every wife is commanded to submit to her own husband, as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18). This submission is patterned after the church’s submission to Christ in all things (Ephesians 5:24). From this we understand that a wife has the Biblical prerogative to disobey her husband when he instructs her to sin – because Christ does not require sinful submission by His bride. Overall, this requires a wife to be faithfully obedient to her husband. But note carefully: a wife submits to her own husband, not to another man. This has many practical applications for family life. A father or father-in-law or other men do not have direct authority over another man’s wife.
Wives are commanded to respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33). A wife is not merely to obey her husband, she is to respect or honour him. Note that there are no disclaimers here. A wife respects and submits because she is a wife not because the husband is honourable. There are some very limited exceptions here: abuse by the husband is not to be tolerated. Wives have the blessing to approach the elders of the church if the husband is abusing her. This church court ought to discipline the husband and work with law enforcement authorities if necessary.
Scripture is clear that wives should ask their husbands, in their home, to instruct them in things they do not understand – so that wives can be quiet in church (1 Corinthians 14:33-35).
Wives must love their husband and children by being: obedient to their husband, a home maker (Titus 2:4-5) and raising her children (1 Timothy 5:9-10). This does not infer that a wife is not allowed out of the house (Proverbs 31)! Her major emphasis should be on homemaking, raising children and hospitality.
Are holy/set apart and sanctified by one believing parent (2 Corinthians 7:14). Thus children within a Christian household ought to be raised as young Christians with seed faith. The discipleship model is to raise them from a seed faith to being a fully grown, mature tree.
Must be obedient to and honour their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3, Colossians 3:20). This is to be done in all things.
There are two striking passages of Scripture that come to mind when thinking of family vision. Hosea 4:6; “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
Proverbs 29:18; “Where there is no vision the people perish.”
Vision is tied to divine revelation. The word vision in Proverbs 29:18 can also be translated revelation. Our family vision or goals must be rooted in the Scriptures. As the base, foundational building block our family vision must seek first the Kingdom of God. This can only be achieved if you men study the Scriptures and ensure your family vision is consistent with the teaching of God’s Word. Note that it is also the men, the husbands who are to lead. Men, it is your responsibility to ensure you family is being faithfully obedient to the revealed Law/Word of God. You have the responsibility to ensure that the Word of God is the Law of your household. You must then work with your vice regent, your wife, to implement your plan.
Training or discipling your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord must be a primary objective in your family vision. Stories shape children. They develop a child’s worldview without the child even realizing it. As Christian parents we need to stop and consider the implications this in light of Ephesians 6:4; “fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Our English translations don’t do the word “paideia” justice. It is translated “fear” or “training.” This looses the impetus of the word. Let’s consider what Paul is instructing us.
Children are provoked to wrath by fathers failing to raise their children in the paideia of God. Note the wrath has a specific cause. Paul is not talking about temper tantrums that lead to (or from) godly discipline. This wrath is the act of children rebelling from the faith. It is caused by fathers failing to educate/disciple their children faithfully. Sunday schools, youth groups, peer pressure and other secondary things are not the primary cause of children walking away from the faith of their parents. Under the sovereignty of God, it is a father’s actions that drive his children to wrath.
Paul used a common Greek word (paideia) to purvey a powerful worldview concept. Paideia was the word used to encapsulate the idea of raising Greek children as ideal members of the polis. Every aspect of parenting and education had the goal of shaping every child into a perfect citizen of the great democracy. It was an all encompassing concept; including formal educational subjects, child rearing philosophy, structured socialisation of children with particular members of the polis, physical training, moral training, poetry learning and music instruction. Paedeia is essentially worldview training.
Paul gives Christian parents no wriggle room. Fathers, if you do not ensure that your children are trained in a worldview that starts with the fear of God you are driving them to wrath. Every aspect of your children’s education must acknowledge the sovereignty of God. The stories that inform and shape your children, the story tellers, the materials used and those who your children rub shoulders with ought to shape them faithfully in the one true story of God and His world. The implications of Ephesians 6:4 are staggering. It is simply not ok to saturate your children in an ungodly paideia for 8 hours a day (i.e. non-Christian state schools). If you are doing this, please reconsider what a worldview is and its impact on your children. Pray and repent to God and your family. Then take the necessary actions. The paedeia of God is all encompassing. Storytelling knows no neutrality. Paul is saying that everything we saturate our children in must glorify God. Everything that influences our children in the informative years must shape them to fear God. We are discipling our children in the faith to be obedient worshippers of the Triune God. We must broaden our view of education. It is worldview training or discipleship. Fathers are to ensure that every square inch of their children’s rearing is within the framework of the fear of God. Our parenting philosophy, the formal education curriculum, our children’s friends, physical training, moral instruction, cultural activities and everything in between must be done in the context of recognizing the kingship of Christ. No area of our child rearing should tempt our children to think or believe that idolatry is right or normal. Nothing should be a stumbling block to those whom God has entrusted to us; not the curriculum, long term friendships, sport, or anything else (Matt 18:6). Education is a major part of discipleship and it is holistic, all of life. It is worldview training. And its entirety must be done in faithful obedience to the Word/Law of God (Eph. 6:1-3, Deut. 6:4-15, Ps. 1).
The stories that saturate our children’s lives must put man, creation and God in their proper place and order. Discipleship is the very heart of education. It is the very engine room of storytelling. Whoever is spending the most time with our children, telling them stories, is discipling them. Good character is the result of holistic training/discipleship (Eph. 6:4, Prov. 22:6). It springs from explicit and purposeful day-by-day (walking and talking with) discipleship (Deut. 6:6-7). Normality springs out of what we saturate our children in for the majority of their time (Ps. 1, Prov. 4:14-15, 13:20, 1 Cor. 15:33). A child saturated in an idolatrous story about God, man and the world is being discipled to accept and believe a lie. Any aspect of education that does not bow the knee to King Jesus indoctrinates children to accept the falsehood that the Messiah is not the reigning King who holds all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. A student will not rise above his teacher (Lk 6:40). Yes, God is sovereign. Children are saved out of terrible circumstances. And God requires Christian parents to give their children a education that glorifies Christ in all things, period. God requires us to provide our children with a gospel eduction. And a gospel education brings every subject, every area of life under the sovereignty of King Jesus and His Word. A Gospel education gets the storyline, the plot and the characters in right order.
As Christians we must stop, take stock and count the cost of who is discipling our children. Are we saturating our children in the story of the King? Are we being faithful stewards of the next generation of Christian men and women? Or are well selling our inheritance to fill our gut? There is a war raging. Secular humanists want to control the worldview of the next generation. They want to school Christian children because they know how to win the battle. They have designed the state funded, age segregated schooling framework to capture the hearts and minds of our children; to destroy the Christian family. What our nations need is the same thing as what the church needs, which in turn is the same thing families need. We are experiencing father hunger. Faithful men are needed. Fathers who will count the cost of not discipling their children. We need men who will seek first the kingdom.
Remember economics means household law or stewardship. To get a group of people moving in the same direction you need to cast a vision. Everyone needs to know the rules and the objectives. This is where individual callings or vocations and family situations are important. God was no cookie cutter. He created with order and diversity. His creation copies or imitates His nature and being, there is one God with three persons in the Godhead. Unity and diversity matter. Not every family unit will or should look the same in terms of calling, objectives and vision. But every family is to glorify God and enjoy Him through applying the Scriptures as the only rule for all of faith and life. Every man, every husband must provide for his family. But this does not mean every man must be a farmer nor does it mean every man must work for himself. Every husband must have adequate time to disciple his family and must work towards a vocation that allows him such time. God is sovereign and He will provide.
A characteristic of a good, righteous man is that he leaves an inheritance to not only his children but also to his grand children. Hear Proverbs 13:22; “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Our family vision should be long term. Intergenerational thinking is Biblical thinking friends. Unfortunately many Christians have been raised on fast food, junket Christianity that revolves around instant gratification. But every picture of family growth and the expansion of the kingdom of heaven is through long term discipleship. God tkes the long view. He is in for the long haul. In a few moments man rebelled and sinned in the garden but God has been in the process of restoring all things for 2,000 years. We need the same long term thinking. Friends, the world is not going to end tomorrow. Jesus is building HIs church, the gospel will impact and reshape every nation before the return of our Lord and Saviour. It is time for us to snap out of short term thinking and put our hand to the plough. As fathers we ought to be thinking how we can provide an inheritance to our grandchildren. Men, the success of your parenting will be measured by the faith of not only your children but also your grandchildren. You are to provide both a spiritual and physical inheritance for both.
Multi-generational thinking focusses on the advance of the kingdom of God through household discipleship. It recognises that we are here for the long haul and must roll up our sleeves to get stuck into the long hard yards needed in the trenches. It recognises that discipling children is a long term endeavour; similar to growing trees. They don’t spring up over night and bear fruit. When we focus on the gospel we understand that God’s plan to redeem the world took some 4,000 years to be realised.
The final text I want to look at is the Second Commandment, Exodus 20:4; “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
In conclusion let’s consider two aspects to this text. Firstly, God works covenantally and in an intergenerational manner. What fathers and mothers do now impacts future generations. All of our thinking ought to be oriented not only to now but also to future generations. We must be asking how is what we are doing now going to grow the kingdom of God? How are our current actions shaping future generations in our families? Are we building for a faithful future or one of rebellion? Secondly, idolatry is serious. It is breaking the Law of God with generational consequences. We need to firmly check anything that may develop into idolatry. Everything should be up for scrutiny. Family economic laws should be based on direct commands or principles drawn out of the Scriptures by good and sound reason. Arbitrary laws or rules may be necessary when the children are younger but the household law should clearly be in subjection to and be drawn out of the objective Law of God.
Finally, we have worked through many different concepts. But I want to leave you with this: each family is a unit within the church. We need to build church integrated families. Our families ought to love the corporate worship with all the saints on the Lord’s Day. Our children should desire to be around God’s people worshipping God. If you desire revival or reform in New Zealand pray that God would raise up faithful men to lead homes and churches. Men who will work hard to know the Scriptures and apply them to all of faith and life.
Friends, we have seen that economics is important. It is the very heart or engine room of the family. It concerns the law or management of households. If we truly want our children and grand children to live in nations that are peaceful, prosperous and godly then we must take up our responsibilities as good stewards of God’s creation. And the only way that we can do this is to apply the Law of God to every area of our households. Our family economics must be based on and consistent with the revealed Word of God, the Scriptures.
Trevlyn McCallum presented this mini-series on Biblical Family Economics at a home education conference in Palmerston North New Zealand, 6-7 November 2015.
- The gospel of the kingdom
- The gospel and wealth
- The gospel and work
- The gospel and family economics
The audio for this mini series is available for free below. It is an introduction to Biblical Economics that gives you the Biblical worldview framework to examine your household rule or stewardship.