I. Pursue an inheritance
Children are a heritage from the Lord, but this heritage is not primarily genetic: it is the heritage of a name. Primarily parents are to seek to raise up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord–to seek that they wear the name of Christ. This means through prayer, witness, and education parents are to seek the salvation of their children. The name of Christ is the basis for adoption of children and the reason that adopted children and step-children are to be loved in the same way as biological children. Through Christ we have been adopted by God the Father.
Secondarily it is the continuance of the family name: not just the name itself, but the family’s reputation and character. This is a gift from God, as are the children themselves. This is based on Deuteronomy 7:9 which promises blessings to a thousand generations for those who love God.
Lastly, it is pursuit of a financial inheritance for children and grandchildren. John Wesley’s admonition to gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can is pertinent here. This means careful planning, work, and avoidance of debt. It also means seeking the avoidance of debt by local, state, and federal governments.
II. Educate the children
The Lord places the responsibility to educate children squarely on the shoulders of the parents, particularly the father. The primary purpose of this education is that the children should know the Lord, His doctrine, and His works. The secondary purpose is to teach the children to think and communicate biblically, righteously, clearly, and logically. Thirdly, the education should teach them to be godly citizens of the nation they are in. Lastly, it should prepare them for a vocation and a calling.
This responsibility to educate the children can be delegated by the parents. But it is still the responsibility of the parents to make sure that the goals of a godly education are being met. In most cases they are not being met–this is because the only goal sought by most is preparation for a vocation. This is a continuing disaster in our nation.
III. Image the Lord and His Church
A husband is to image Christ in the marriage. Just as Christ presents His bride, the church to God unblemished and spotless, so too a husband is to seek the salvation and sanctification of his wife. He is to love her as Christ loves the church–this is an image of perfect love–it is a higher standard than that of his wife. A wife is a gift from God and is to be loved and cherished as such. When Peter speaks of the wife as the weaker vessel, he is giving a picture of something beautiful, strong, and yet fragile. Someone who must be approached with gentleness and great care. Someone to be protected and uplifted. Christ sacrificed himself to pay the dowry for his bride, the church. Men are likewise to sacrifice themselves, their time, their effort, their comfort, their lives in order to love their wives.
A wife is to image the Church in the marriage. She is to respect and reverence her husband. This is not a standard of perfect love as with the husband, but it is a high standard nonetheless. Her primary goal is to minister to her husband. This is not some slavish doting on the husband. It is helping him accomplish his calling in the kingdom. In pursuit of this she has great freedom and responsibility. Witness the example of Proverbs 31: she orders the household, again this does not put forth the drudgery of housework, but that she sets up and oversees the “law of the household”; she has business that ranges worldwide to provide for the household–so a housewife is neither necessarily, nor primarily in view here; she organizes the finances of the household and its charity; she is a trusted teacher; she is her husbands most trusted adviser, constantly seeking his welfare; she rejoices in the future. This is a glorious image of the Church.
The reality of the Church being the bride of Christ is the theological foundation for marriage. One Lord, one Church is pictured by one husband, one wife. All sexual sin is a perversion of the image of marriage.
IV. Guard the marriage and the children
A husband is to be jealous for his marriage. Jealousy is often confused with envy or overweening control. Yet God is described as being jealous for his people. To be jealous is to zealously defend what is entrusted to you by love and covenant. A husband must guard his eyes from wandering, his heart from following, and his lust from consummating. He must guard himself from being harsh and overbearing or weak and apathetic. He must lead, protect, provide, and teach his family. He must be alert to dangers of all sorts, most particularly to those which manifest in the slow calcification or rotting of his relationship with his wife and children. Temptation and trials come in many ways and it is only through the Word and prayer that a man may successfully overcome them.
A wife too, must be jealous for the marriage. She has to guard herself in the same manner as her husband–not letting eyes or heart wander. She should watch her husband for signs of hubris or quiet despair–both are common to men, and her children for anger and rebellion. Yet not let encouragement and admonition devolve into carping. Again it is by prayer and the Word that she will overcome temptations and trials.
In so doing the husband and wife will become more and more sanctified to each other as time goes by, just as a Christian is sanctified unto the Lord.
Righteousness that exalts a nation is manifested in the family by:
- Pursuing an inheritance
- Educating the children
- Imaging Christ and the Church
- Guarding the marriage and the children