We have had a couple of sermons on how to be a Christian kid as of late. And this sermon is designed to stay in a similar vein while coming at the matter from the opposite end. The kids among us need to know that they are Christian kids and what to do about that. Likewise, parents need to know their kids are Christians and how to raise them as such.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Paul tells fathers that they must not provoke their children to anger. Instead, they must go in the other direct entirely. That direction involves them raising their children in both nurture and admonition. But not just any nurture and admonition: the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
The first thing necessary in order to raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is to know that they are in it. That word “in” is an important preposition. It refers to location. Where are your kids, Christians? Well, they are in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They are not outside of it. They are not strangers, aliens, and exiles. Paul does not address them as such. This truth, however, of the insider status of the Christian’s children is not without controversy in our times. So, we need to examine the covenantal foundations of such a claim.
When God covenanted to Abraham in Genesis 17:7, He did only swear an oath of eternal life to the man Abraham. He also swore this oath to his household: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” God wanted His sworn oath to Abraham and his children to be so plain, He established a sign of that covenant: “This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you” (Genesis 17:10-11).
If we were to ask Abraham, “When God covenanted to be God to you and to bless you, were your children included as members of that covenant promise?” His answer would clearly be, “Why yes, indeed, they were.”
So it is with us, who are children of Abraham. As Paul says, our children are holy (1 Corinthians 7:14). They have been set apart into the realm of the holy people of God.
What are we to do given this kind covenant grace of God? That is a good question, and the answer is quite plain: We are to believe His promise. We are the just ones. And the just shall live by faith. Examples of this parental faith abound.
Consider Job, who sacrificed for his children. He did so by faith, looking for the blessing of God on his household. Then, there is Joshua, who announced, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This was not Joshua presuming upon God, as if he assumed God would do something for him and his household that God had not promised. No, Joshua had a promise. And it was not a special and individual promise that God made only to Joshua. Joshua was living by faith in the covenant promises God made to his father Abraham and his seed. We see that this covenant promise extends to Gentiles in the new covenant as Paul and Silas declared to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
This is the faith we exercise in covenant baptism vows when asked, ” Do you trust in God’s covenant promises on his/her behalf, and do you look in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ for his/her salvation, as you do for your own?
This faith in God’s promises must continually be exercised. We do not only exercise it once. And for this reason, we must have the fuel for this faith, namely the word of God.
It has been wisely said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” So it is with raising Christian kids. Imagine James stepping in at this point and saying, “Show me your parenting faith without works, and I will show you my parenting faith by my paddling of the hind parts.”
There are three directives embedded in the call to raise children in the Lord. First, fathers must not provoke their children to wrath. Quite simply, don’t frustrate them. Don’t be a wet blanket on their joy. This kind of thing happens when fathers forget the covenant promise God has made to them and their household.
Second, fathers must raise children in the nurture of the Lord. This means that fathers must nourish their children, teach them, show them the way. If you don’t feed them, they will be hungry. This takes time and effort, and grace abounding. So this is when you look to God for the manifestation of that glorious promise that God will “turn the hearts of fathers to the children, and the heart of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).
Third, fathers must raise children in the admonition of the Lord. That means that fathers must correct their children. They must not only teach them what to do. But they must teach them what not to do, what to avoid.
All of this teaching and correction must not be the father’s, although he is the one who must do it. But the training itself must be the Lord’s. This we can do because He has set His face toward them to bless them to a thousand generations.