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Biblical Parenting 5 June 2011 Dr Paul Ferguson

Bishop J.C. Ryle was one of the greatest evangelical leaders in England in the eighteenth century. He was a brilliant scholar but burned with a pastoral heart for his parishioners in Liverpool. He wrote many helpful and practical books for the Christian family. In his book ‘The Upper Room’ he wisely advised, “Take care what you do in front of your child. It is a true proverb, ‘He who sins before a child, sins double.’ Strive rather to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your families can read, and that plainly too. Be an example of reverence for the Word of God, reverence in prayer, reverence for means of grace, and reverence for the Lord’s Day. Be an example in words, in temper, in diligence, in temperance, in faith, in charity, in kindness, in humility.” However, sadly the three sons of Bishop Ryle grew up to be apostates and deniers of the evangelical faith. One son, Herbert Ryle became one of the leading advocates of Higher Criticism. In 1888 he was appointed Hulsean Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and in 1901 as the Bishop of Exeter. He believed verbal inspiration had been “irretrievably shattered” and labelled it “bibliolatry.” Of Ryle’s two other sons, Reginald and Arthur it was said of them that they “seem to have had no Christian faith at all” and his grandsons Martin, and the Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle were likewise, of whom it is said were “men of auspicious scientific accomplishment but no faith.” It is self-evident that most Christian parents truly desire to see their children walking well with the Lord. One of the greatest fears and greatest tragedies is for children to be born into a Christian home with a full knowledge of the gospel of grace and going out into eternity as rebels against God. Indeed, there are some notable examples in the Bible such as the sons of Eli or the sons of David. We would all like to imagine that this could not happen to our own children. However, these illustrations prove the possibility is a real one. It would be foolish of us to dismiss these inspired examples. The Bible is sufficient to equip us to be good parents (2 Timothy 3:15-17). While most Christians accept this doctrine theoretically, sadly many continually violate it in practice. We often give too much credence to the opinions of psychologists or other secular wisdom that we read in magazines, periodicals or newspapers. The Scriptures do not leave us ignorant of the dangers to our children’s spiritual welfare nor is it silent in counteracting them. It makes clear that there are a number of important principles that we need to heed when considering the subject of biblical parenting: (1) Problems of Parenting Parenting has never been easy in any age. The Bible never promises that it will be. It is not hard because it is merely time consuming or expensive but mainly because of the pressures of an ungodly society coupled with the sinful nature of our children. It is so easy to be frustrated and discouraged that the thought of giving up is not far away. In Ephesians 2:1-3, the Apostle Paul details some of the problems parents face when we consider our children – both internally and externally. The Bible explains that our children are not born good but are “dead in trespasses and sins.” They are “by nature the children of wrath” and the “children of disobedience.” So our children are born in sin and shapen in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). By nature, they are rebels against God, governed by the wrong kinds of forces, and they hate the light and love the darkness. Externally they are influenced by “the course of this world” and the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience”. Another problem in parenting is the failures of the parent. In Ephesians 6:4 the Apostle Paul selects one example that a father must particularly avoid. He warns, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.” The Greek verb here is interesting because it is a present continuous command. The syntax also reflects the fact that this was something that Christian fathers in Ephesus

were doing and should therefore cease from doing so. So Paul is effectively saying “stop provoking your children as you have been doing and don’t do it anymore.” In Colossians 3:21, Paul picks this up again and warns, “Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” So, even in carrying out the duties of a Christian father these can be abused. In the Roman culture of Paul’s day, fathers had absolute power over the lives of their children who could be sold into slavery or prostitution. Roman fathers were infamous for their indifference to their offspring. However, the Apostle Paul is instructing Christian fathers that they are to be different from the prevailing culture. There are many ways a father can provoke his children to anger and making them embittered or discouraged: (1) Favouritism (2) Criticism (3) Unrealistic expectations (4) Over-protection (5) Humiliation (6) Hypocrisy (7) Abusive Discipline (8) Dictatorial (9) Neglect etc. When was the last time you thought about what you did that provoked your child(ren) to anger? (2) Pattern for Parenting In Ephesians 6:4, the Apostle not only warns of the dangers in parenting, but gives a positive principle of how we can pattern in the up-bringing of our children. He says that fathers must, “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This is also a present continuous imperative indicating that this is a command to be the father’s habitual practice. These two expressions “nurture” and “admonition” are interesting. The word “nurture” is a more general word. It includes the idea of discipline and general upbringing of a child. The emphasis is more on actions. The second word “admonition” has more of an emphasis on words spoken rather than actions. It especially implies the teaching of the Lord’s ways through His Word. It is true that a Christian parent must use physical chastisement on their children when needed but the duties are far more extensive than this. A child is to be corrected, instructed, exhorted, and encouraged by the words of a father as well as by physical discipline. We should also note that a father is not to bring up his child on the ideas of: the latest parenting psychologist, his own parents, and even those of himself. Rather, Paul tells us that it is to be “the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs the parents of Israel thus, “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”. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) The order here is not without significance. God instructs the parents that they must know and put the Word of God into practice in their own lives. When that is done, they are then commanded to pass and teach these principles to their children. You cannot teach what you do not know or live out before others. Paul warns every believer to handle every conflict in a biblical way (Ephesians 4:2532) and to guard our tongues so that they edify our children (Ephesians 4:29). One of the things we often forget is that our example is a major part of training our children. Sadly as one writer puts it, “Your kids will learn far more from your life than from your lectures, especially if your lectures don’t back up your life.” God gives this charge to parents and to fathers in particular. Often Christian parents try to delegate this primary responsibility to the church. However, one hour on a Sunday afternoon is insufficient to counter six days of inconsistent example, ill-discipline, and lack of biblical instruction from Christian parents to their children. It is the parents’ duty to teach their children God’s Word; they are to bring them to Church; send them to fellowship groups and Bible studies to augment what has been taught at home. (3) Power for Parenting

With such a demanding and fearful responsibility, the question naturally arises: where does a parent get the wisdom and power to carry out such a charge? Ephesians 5 shows that all of our parenting duties must flow out of our relationship with God. Parents must be right with God, spouses must be right with each other, they must know God’s Word, they must do the will of God, they must live separated and holy lives, and they must redeem the time. Parents need to be filled with the Spirit of God and prayerfully seek God’s help in every circumstance of life. There are many things that parents may do for their kids and many things they must do. However, one thing is absolutely essential. Parents must pray for their children. I read a story recently of a godly father who when his children went to bed would stand over their beds praying for them. The children often noted this. Many years later after they had left home and went to university, he still continued with this practice. In a trip home during conversation the father mentioned to his children that he still prayed for them every night without fail. The children told him they knew. When he asked how they knew that, they answered, “We see the footprints in the carpet.” It is frankly startling that so many Christian parents think they can bring up their children without praying for them or studying God’s Word. The Prayer Meeting and Bible Study groups should be a settled appointment in the lives of every parent, especially the father. Conclusion For everyone involved, the eternal loss of a child is a catastrophe of infinite proportions, but the one who will suffer the most will be the child. Your child may have an IQ in the top percentile, he or she may obtain academic distinctions, he or she may be successful in the affairs of Singapore society, but if he or she dies without saving faith in Christ then there is NOTHING that can compensate for that. As a parent you can chase the money, prestige, and the honours of this world but it is too late when you have to confess like David at the end of his life in 2 Samuel 23:5, “….my house be not so with God…..” Eli also lived every Christian parent’s nightmare in his last moments hearing that his sons had gone out to eternity in open rebellion against God. There was not a single ray of hope to alleviate the gloom that descended upon his soul.

Is the tragedy of the family of Eli being re-enacted in your home today? How many Absaloms, Hophnis, and Phinehas, are there in our Sunday School classes this Lord’s Day? If you have failed the Lord as a parent, repent and return to the Lord, who will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7). Why not put God’s Word such as taught in Ephesians 6:4 into practice in your home from today? For a certainty, you will never live to regret it!