God’s Word to Fathers
It is Father’s Day, and as such we will turn to the most explicit instruction given to fathers in the whole New Testament.
Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Writer Weldon Hardenbrook and a friend were traveling down a windy mountain road…
- That instance is an apt illustration of much of our society today. Many children are lying in desperate need of help, while mostly women struggle on their own to help them. And a number of men are either not present, or they are too scared to do anything.
- In his book “Discipines of a Godly Man” Kent Hughes said, “We live in a time of great social crisis. Whole segments of our society are bereft of male leadership. At the other end of the scale, there are strong men who give their best leadership to the marketplace, but utterly fail at home. We are the men! And if God’s purpose does not happen with the sons of the Church, it will not happen.” Pg. 47
- So what I want to do today is inspire the men of Main Street Church to be the difference makers in our families and in our church. If we do that, we will be the difference makers of the world.
- While this message is for fathers, that doesn’t mean it is just for men who have physically had children.
- “All men are called to be spiritual fathers, even single males and childless husbands. Men who are not biological fathers are still called on to devote time, effort, and energy to the guidance and care of the young people around them, comforting and counseling and instructing those who have no dads. There is a desperate need for the single men and childless husbands of our nation to imitate God, the Father of us all, who is described as a ‘father to the fatherless’ (Psalm 68:5).” Where’s Dad? Pg. 386.
- Perhaps you’re here this morning and you didn’t have a good father. Or maybe he wasn’t there at all. All the more reason for fathers in the church to take on the mantle of responsibility and rise to the occasion.
- John Wesley said, “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.”
Ephesians 6:4 can really be divided into two parts: a ‘do not’ and a ‘do.’ “Fathers, ‘do not’ provoke your children to anger, but ‘do’ bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” I like the way Kent Hughes divides this up In his book “Disciplines of a Godly Man” and I will share some of that with you today and commend that book to you.
There are many ways fathers can provoke their children. We can provoke our children by being overstrict, or by being inconsistent with discipline. We can do it by showing favoritism, or simply by making them think that they aren’t good enough. Colossians 3:21 repeats the same command here with one slight difference. It says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” We must not discourage our children or exasperate them in the way we raise them. But today I want to focus on the ‘do’s’ of the verse. “Fathers, ‘do not’ provoke your children to anger, but ‘do’ bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
There are three things in the second half of this verse that fathers are to do. Fathers are to raise their children with Tenderness, Discipline, and Instruction.
The words “bring them up” mean “to nourish or feed,” as in 5:29 which has the same Greek words describing how a man “feeds and cares” for his own body. Calvin translates “bring them up” as “let them be kindly cherished,” and goes on to emphasize that the overall idea is to speak to one’s children with gentleness and friendliness.
Jesus made a whip of cords that he used to chase extortioners out of the Temple, and he poured their money on the ground and flipped over tables. He called out the injustice of evil men. But he also held little children in his hands and blessed them. He touched the lepers of that day who no one else would touch. He spoke gently to the downcast and abused.
Kent Hughes said, “There is nothing manlier than when men are tender with children. Whether it is holding a baby in their arms, comforting their children, or hugging their teenagers and adult children.” (Pg. 48) Men are to be tender.
- I encourage you men, when you encounter little children, crouch down or get down on your knees in order to get down on their level. You’re big and scary to them. Use a soft tender voice. Be like the sheepdog that keeps the wolves at bay but gently shepherd the little lambs.
- Men are the ones responsible for keeping evil at bay, whether it be physical danger, or the more subversive spiritual danger. But that starts with being tender to our children.
- According to God it is men who are to “bring them up.” So men of Main Street Church, let’s commit to “bringing up” our children with tenderness. Of course that means fathers with their own physical children, but also you men in the church who are single or are married without children.
- We have a great example of this in our church with Jeff Breneman. He has been one of our elders, and he has served God with his wife faithfully for years. He is heading up a project with our brothers and sisters in India to provide for, protect, and teach over 50 little children in India. That’s a picture of masculinity. That’s a picture of manliness. That’s an example of what fathers do.
Next, the verse says fathers are to bring them up in “discipline.” This is a strong word which means “discipline, even by punishment.” Pilate used the same word when he said of Jesus, “I will punish him and then release him” (Luke 23:16). Discipline certainly includes corporal discipline as needed. But it encompasses everything necessary to help “Train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).
- The tragedy is that so many men have left this to their children’s mothers. Not only is this unfair to the mother, but it robs the child of the security and self-esteem which come from being disciplined by the father.3 Men, do you leave the discipline of your sons and daughters to your wives? If so, that is a sad breach of domestic responsibility. You are not living under God’s Word! Mom can help, but it is dad’s responsibility.
1 Samuel 3 tells us about Eli, who was a high priest in Israel. Eli wasn’t a bad man. He wasn’t full of malice or envy, but Eli failed to discipline his sons under the Lord.
- Both of Eli’s sons worked in the temple but they were wicked. When people would bring sacrifices to make to the Lord Eli’s sons would take the best of the sacrifices for themselves, stealing from the Lord.
- In addition to this they would sleep with the women who worked in the temple. They were desecrating God’s holy place.
- The result was this word from the Lord: “I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish (discipline) his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.”
- God punished Eli’s sons by putting them to death, but he held Eli responsible.
I want to take a moment to point something out to both moms and dads here. Look at the very first verses of Ephesians 6 before we even get to verse 4. It says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” And then it says, “Father’s do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
- This means it is the parent’s responsibility (primarily the Father’s) to require obedience of their children. If you do not require obedience of your children, then you are letting your children disobey God, and you are responsible for their disobedience.
- The reason I spank my son is not because I want to control him, and it is not because I want him to do whatever I say. I don’t like doing it. It pains me. But I do it because I love my son too much to let him disobey God. Proverbs 13:24 says “Whoever spares the rod (of discipline) hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Parents, love your children enough to discipline them with control and consistency. Never discipline when you’re angry. You always make sure your child knows why they are being spanked, and you always make sure they know you love them. That is the tenderness.
- Fathers, we are responsible to discipline our children and require obedience of them. We must keep them within the circle of blessing and long life by disciplining them if they ever move outside of it by disobeying. Proverbs 22:15 says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.”
Last, there is “instruction”—verbal instruction, verbal warning. The word “instruction” literally means “to place before the mind.” Often this means to confront and is related to the previous topic, discipline.
The Greek word for “restrain” in the OT has the same root as “instruction” in Ephesians 6:4. Eli failed to confront his boys. He failed to instruct them about their sin. And because of this, they were destroyed.
Kent Hughes said, On discipline/strictness: “Rearing children is like holding a wet bar of soap—too firm a grasp and it shoots from your hand, too loose a grip and it slides away. A gentle but firm hold keeps you in control.” Pg. 48
Clear instruction, coupled with tenderness and discipline is necessary for bringing up our children. This means that fathers are responsible for the instruction of their children. Again, mom can help, but dad is responsible.
- One scholar said: “Over the course of 150 years, from the mid-eighteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, American men walked out on their God-given responsibility for moral and spiritual leadership in the homes, schools, and Sunday schools of the nation.” (Pg. 379 Where’s Dad?) What did he mean?
- When the industrial revolution began, fathers no longer worked at home but left the home to go work at a separate location.
- Shortly after that came the advent of the public school system that outsourced the education from the home into the classroom, with the majority of the teachers being women.
- Churches started modeling their Sunday schools after the public school, and again, most the teachers were women. The result according to one historian was this:
- “For the first time in the history of humankind the overwhelming majority of little boys and little girls continued under the direct domination and supervision of ladies until they reached maturity. This has never happened before in history. Crusades, wars, migrations, pestilence—nothing for a people as a whole ever before took so large a percentage of young adult and older adult males out of the family context for so much of the waking time of the children. Most of us have not even noticed this change, nor do we have any idea of its radicality.” (Quoted in Kevin Perrotta, “Why Bother About Modernization?” Pastoral Renewal, vol. 4, no. 11 (May 1980), p 90c-d.)
- What is he saying? He’s saying that most children nowadays spend almost no time with a male role model or influence in their life. In the morning before school they’re with mom. At preschool they’re with women. At school they’re with mostly women. And at church most of the children’s teachers are also women.
- Now friends, I don’t need to spend time convincing you of the significance of women in our lives, but what I am hoping to point out is that God has called men to an indispensable role in the lives of children, and we need to be intentional in the role we play in the instruction of our children.
A couple weeks ago we had family over to our house and we were spending some time together in the backyard. A while back I had bought a foam baseball bat for my son. So while we were out there my dad and brother-in-law and I were teaching my son how to swing the bat and hit the ball. My dad was tossing the ball. My brother in law was behind my son catching it if he missed. And I was adjusting his grip and moving his arms and getting him in the right position. All of us were helping instruct him how to do it.
As we were doing it I thought to myself how intentional we all were being in teaching my son this basic element of sports. We were taking specific time with this specific activity and showing him through demonstration and verbal instruction how to do this simple, but difficult thing.
Now if I want my son to be a great baseball player, could I just turn on some Cardinals games and have him watch and hope he gets the gist of it? Or maybe I could just occasionally give him some random baseball stats? Maybe just tell him some of the rules of the game. Or maybe I could even take him to Busch stadium every season where he could watch a game in person. Would that turn him into a great baseball player? Of course not. He needs hands on time with dad, coaching, practice, correction, and instruction.
Dads, if we know this to be true, then we can’t expect that just taking our kids to church on Sundays and parroting some biblical principles will be sufficient in making them great disciples of Christ. They needs hands on time with dad, coaching, practice, correction, and instruction. As one pastor said, “If I teach my son to keep his eye on the ball, but fail to teach him to keep his eyes on Christ, then I have failed as a father.”
What does that looks like?
Most fundamentally it means being involved in verbally instructing our children. We are to teach them what is right and what is wrong. We have to tell them what God’s word says.
Thank you, and Call for men of MSC to teach children’s classes
- Secondly, it means regularly leading your family devotions and prayer
- Monitoring and being responsible along with our wives for the input that enters their impressionable minds.
- Taking responsibility to help assure that church is a meaningful experience.
- Above all, we must make sure that the open book of our lives—our example—demonstrates the reality of our instruction, for in watching us they will learn the most.
Dad, you have profound influence.
Voddie Baucham, What He Must Be: …If He Wants to Marry My Daughter (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 22. Statistics: Fatherless American children are nearly four times more likely to live in poverty than those raised by two parents, and are far more likely to drop out of school, experience emotional and behavioral problems, and commit suicide.
- You are the answer. You are the solution. That is, if you be the man God calls you to be. Being a Dad means being like Jesus: A father can be measured based on how much he looks like Jesus
“As Adam was the father of a fallen race, so Jesus Christ is the Father of a new race. In fact, Isaiah’s accurate prophecy concerning Jesus shows that one of the titles to be given to the Son of God would be (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,) “Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6). John 14:9 “He who has seen me has seen the Father” Pg. 386
- Men of Main Street Church. Let’s rise to the occasion that God is calling us to. In time where people are confused about gender and masculinity, let’s reflect the manliness of Jesus Christ.
- God commands us in 1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” Let’s be those men and those fathers.