Sermon: Godly Training and Admonition
Parenting of the Lord
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 27-Jul-13; 75 minutes
I will begin this sermon, which is a continuation and a response to the previous sermon I gave on July 6, 2013. There we went through Ephesians 6:4 but with the emphasis only on the first portion of that verse. So, I thought I would go ahead and do the last half of the verse today—and then I will sit down, and Ryan McClure will get up, and give his sermonette again (which was also on child training). I think God is making sure that get the message because by the end of today, we will have had three messages on the same theme this month.
What I would like to do is to begin this sermon with a brief history of childrearing over the past 150 years. I am going a bit further back than my dad did in his commentary today, and it goes over some of the same territory. I do this because to understand many of the problems that we are facing right now in this area of childrearing, it is necessary to realize just how much the popular trends in parenting have brought us to where we are today. As we just heard in my dad’s commentary (though he did not say this exactly), but these things have been designed, and have come from minds that are intent upon changing the way we do these things.
But, where we are now is that we have gotten to a youth-oriented—really more than an orientation—it is actually a laser-like focus on youth—and, today’s methods are “hands off,” and very permissive all throughout society. It is not just our childrearing, but that is also how we handle criminals, and many other sorts of people that come through—having kid-gloves measures that we take with everyone. So I guess in terms of childrearing the way that it is done these days, any kind of child discipline—any kind—is abusive, or nearly so. I mean that it has gotten to the point where even speaking harshly to a child is considered abusive; any physical contact; to the point where you cannot even look at them crossly; because their little egos might be dashed.
And so, we have gotten to the point from where we were, to this point, where we are, in that we are totally benign, totally hands off, totally permissive in how we handle our children. This is talking generally. Most of the people who are listening to me have not done this. I hope they have not done this. But that is the way the society around us is.
The post Civil-War era in America from about 1865 is known historically as the Victorian Era. Actually, this period overall in the English speaking world started earlier than this because it is named for Queen Victoria who was queen from 1837 all the way down to 1901—quite a long reign. This period is generally categorized as one of peace and prosperity among English speaking nations. It was the time of the Pax Britannia, which means, “The Peace of Britain,” where Britain ruled the waves. When there was trouble anywhere in the world, British troops or navy would arrive and they would solve matters in their own way.
But, it was not just a British thing, America was on the rise too, and so we had a lot of sway during this time as well, particularly in the western hemisphere. Our British and American interests were dominant. It was a time of great expansion. Britain was expanding its borders, and America certainly was expanding its borders out to the Pacific Ocean, and beyond.
There were also many new inventions that were being brought into general use, such as the telephone; advances in transportation; new technologies were coming out; so, things were in a great deal of flux. Even though it was a time of peace and prosperity, things were really happening. As we would say in the church, the band that had kept things from growing had been taken off, maybe around the turn of the 19th century, and the tribes of Joseph were just exploding all over the world; and their minds were able to come up with all kinds of things that was changing the world.
What eventually happened throughout this period is that science and “reason” started crowding out long-standing and eternal religious truths and standards. They were beginning to be set aside. Religion began to decline; a lot of religious people actually went into supernaturalism and mysticism, both in England and America. We saw the rise of psychoanalysis, and Freudian ideas. And Darwin’s ideas had come out just before the American Civil War, and they were really beginning to get a hold in the university and among the elite.
But this time was also one in the family of patriarchal dominance. This had not changed. Husbands and fathers were the kings of their castles. Their word was law. They would brook no argument—no sass; no rebellion; not even a bad attitude. What they said was law, and it had better be followed. They ruled their houses with an iron hand, and they allowed, or disallowed their wives and children to do this or that. If dad said “no,” that was the end of the matter. It was not to be brought up, he was not to be bothered by it again, he had made his decision; that was it. It was like the law of the Medes and the Persians—when he spoke from his throne, that was all. He could not even change it himself it seemed. But if a child dared to step out of line, watch out! The father had carte blanche in his reaction. So the child could be beaten for it quite harshly—a whip, a belt, or tree switch—the father was guiltless in terms of the law in how he disciplined his children.
That began to change in about 1880 or so when laws began to be passed that reined that in just a bit.
But, this was the childrearing of the time. It was very harsh, very brutal, and it was not just, “spare the rod, spoil the child,” but more like “apply the rod at every opportunity.” In many respects the father during this time was the family tyrant. “Children were to be seen, and not heard,” began in this era. They were to do what they were told, with alacrity. “When I say ‘Jump,’ you jump!” And they reply, “How high?” while they are already on their way up. That sort of thing was how it was supposed to be. They were to do what they were told, or face the consequences.
And not just fathers, but surrogates of the fathers, such as teachers or masters of apprentices or those others who were put in charge of children had pretty much free rein to beat their charges as they saw fit if they did not do what they were told.
My grandfather on my mother’s side who was born near the end of the Victorian era, about 1896 or so, used to say (in jest?) and probably learned it from his dad, “Spank your kid whenever you see him because he’s either coming out of trouble, or he’s about to get into it!” But, by the time he had children, the Victorian harshness had begun to relax. It was not quite so bad in his household as it probably had been in his dad’s household. But plenty of corporal punishment was still applied. This time period is probably about the late 1920 and early 1930s.
The relaxing had really begun in earnest after World War I. WWI was a watershed in American history. Things started going downhill right about that time. This is when the morals of America really began to decline and loosen. And, with it came a loosening of child discipline by the parents because a lot of progressive ideas had begun to come out of Europe, and these were being brought home by the returning doughboys—the American soldiers. Being young men, they would come home from the war, and go into the universities, and bring these ideas with them, and their teachers were also all for it, being the intellectuals that they were. They thought that they were seeing a good and new thing.
So these ideas began to trickle out of liberal American universities, and think tanks as well. One of the big ones was Princeton University, where our President Woodrow Wilson came from, who had been president there. He brought these things right into government. I am not saying that he was the only one, but his is just an example of when that began to happen.
So, these ideas that began to be seen in the heartland of America were things like evolution; Freudian psychology, and other such competitors of Freud; and also the beginnings of feminism began to take hold about this time.
As had been done earlier, but now with more velocity, they began to undermine long held ideas of divine order; the authority of Scripture; man’s evil nature. The new idea that man had a good nature and evolving to an even better nature—“We need to be careful with little Billy, because he has a good nature, and you shouldn’t try to make it into a bad nature by spanking him, which would be awful.” Then, of course, the idea of patriarchy was beginning to get a bad name. Patriarchy merely means that the father was the head of the home.
And then came along World War II. And it was WWI redux. The same things happened, and in 1946 Dr. Benjamin Spock published his famous handbook on childrearing. At that time it was called The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. Later, it was renamed as Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care. And get this—for the next 52 years it was second only to the Bible in sales figures. This tells you just how influential it was. This was the seminal volume that showed the swing in American ideas about childrearing. That 52 years was two full generations.
I found out today—I had forgotten—that we have a copy of it on our shelves! Sad to say that I helped the sales. It is like in just about every household in America. I do not know if we ever cracked it. We just wanted to have it on hand, I guess.
As I recognized it there in my bookshelf, it said to myself, “I don’t really know much about Dr. Spock.” So I thought I would chase him out. I went to Wikipedia just to find out the general idea of the man. But, I did not really want to know about his childrearing instruction, I wanted to know about what he thought about things. It was interesting that they had a fairly large section on him and his political beliefs, because he was a very political man. He was even the 1972 People’s Party presidential candidate. And earlier in the 1960s, he had been proposed as Martin Luther King’s vice-president, when they were trying to get MLK to run for president.
But, Dr. Spock was a full-fledged liberal. He was a socialist, because he was a member of the People’s Party, which is a communist organization. His platform in 1972, you will be interested to know, called for free medical care; the repeal of victimless crime laws including the legalization of abortion, homosexuality, and marijuana; a guaranteed minimum income for families—not just minimum wage, but minimum income for families; immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from all foreign countries. That is what he ran for president on. Richard Nixon trounced him.
Such was the thinking of the man that countless Americans trusted for advice on childrearing. Toward the end of his life Dr. Spock wrote what he called his spiritual autobiography. It is called Spock on Spock, a Memoir of Growing Up with the Century, because he essentially lived out the 20th century. He notes that his parents reared him, “with stern morals, even by New England standards.” So, he was pretty harshly raised. He admitted that throughout his teens and young adult years, he tried to free himself from these strict standards—meaning that he took the opposite road because of how he had been raised. He believed that in raising children a knowledge of biology, psychology, and sociology should offer sufficient guides for a modern man. No Christianity in there, no morality in there, and even ethics is not in there. It is just plain biology, psychology, and sociology—the ideas of man.
Now it is this mindset that influenced his book on childcare. Even so, he denied to his dying day (and if you see something on the Internet or an email that claims he recanted when he was old, it is not true) that his book promoted permissiveness in childrearing. He did realize that modern man’s belief in evolution lay at the heart of American's worst problems. Yet, he could not make the same jump, leap—judgment—to understand that there were evolutionary concepts behind his own childrearing instruction.
The upshot of all of this—trying to bring this up to now, because this is the sort of childrearing that we have out there in society—is that American society has been schizophrenic about childrearing. It has gone from one end of the spectrum to the other; from domineering family tyranny, all the way to the other side’s hands off permissiveness letting the kids grow up on their own with these huge narcissistic egos.
Most young parents, today, have no idea about how to raise their children. They do not have a clue. We have even heard people say that there should be classes for people before they get married, or at least before they have children so that they have some basic understanding of what to do. But, they are just simply confused. They do not know who to trust. They cannot even go to mom and dad because they do not have a clue either, even though they raised them for 18 or 20 years. They just were doing the best they could with almost no knowledge at all. And everything they learned they learned on the way up with the kid. Or, they learned it from Dr. Spock.
Now, I hope that we in the church are not confused about this. We have no reason to be confused. We can turn to the Word of God for answers because it has answers. It has the answers we need. This is such a foundational and important issue, that the Bible contains all the fundamental instruction that we need to raise our children well. Now, we have to do a bit of digging, it is not going to be easy to dig it out, but it is there, because God wants us to raise godly seed to Him as it says in Malachi.
This is not going to be a sermon in methods of childrearing. I do not want that at all. This is going to be an overview of principles, mostly. What I do want to tell you about discipline, which is what most people think of when they think of childrearing, is that the Bible actually takes a middle road between brutal punishment, and total leniency—which are the extremes that America has gone on over the past 150 years or so. The Bible takes a middle road in that. You do not need to beat your child senseless to make him listen. But on the other hand, you do not want to be totally hands-off because that will create a wild, rebellious child. So, there is a middle road in there we must find.
But the crucial factor—and this is why I am not going to talk about methods at all—that the Bible provides is the vital missing dimension that Herbert Armstrong always talked about—our parenting must be done “of the Lord.” That is the little kernel at the end of the verse.
Today, we are going to finish this verse in this sermon. But, I want to read the whole paragraph to get a good running start into the instruction and see once again how Paul laid it out for us by first going to the children, showing where their foundation needs to be, and then coming on to the parents and showing what they need to be doing.
Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
This paragraph, and particularly verse 4, has been our touchstone in these last two sermons. We could say from verse 4 that Paul’s instruction, here, is brief—one verse. We can call it concise, or even terse. It is not very much. All he gives the parents is one verse, made up of about 22 words. But if you would look at the previous chapter, he gave husbands and wives 11 or 12 verses. There was a lot more instruction there between the husband and the wife, and how their marriage is supposes to pattern Jesus Christ and the church. Even the kids get three verses to tell them what they need to be doing in obeying and honoring their parents. But, parents and fathers (being specific) get one verse. So, it is really very tightly written—very concise.
But it is sufficient.
God never overstates something; He never understates something. He always gives the right amount of words that need to be said. There is enough meaning here for us to understand what is to go on between parents and children in their childrearing practices.
It is sufficient if we think it through, and we apply the godly principles that are there, and that we learn also from other parts of the Bible. Paul never meant for this to stand alone. This was not the only thing he ever wrote about childrearing, and it certainly was not the only thing that had been written about childrearing throughout the rest of the Scriptures. I am sure that Paul, when he wrote this, did not think that his words he wrote down on paper would become Scripture. But, that is the way that God was working it out, and He knew that all He needed to do was inspire Paul to say just this much, because there was plenty more in Scripture to back it up, giving parents what they needed to make a good go of it.
My last sermon covered the first half of verse 4, and that was the negative part of the instruction. “You fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath.” Do not use parenting practices, he says, that stimulate negative, sinful reactions in your children. If you are, if you do, if your children are not reacting properly to your discipline of them, then you are doing it wrong. There is something missing, there is something lacking in your parental teaching and instruction methods.
As we saw, wrath stands for a whole slew of negative responses that could be from depression to humiliation, to rage, but also rebellion, retaliation, or other negative reactions. So, we should not confine it only to wrath and anger, because there are a lot of other negative reactions that children have that are not good—that are sinful, setting them up for problems later in their relationships with others. So, we need to make sure that if our children are responding that way to us, we need to make some changes in the way that we approach them, the way that we approach discipline, and all of our interactions with our children.
We want to say more positively what this says. It says that parents must be self-controlled, and very thoughtful in their childrearing practices. They have to be watching their children, and seeing their reactions. If there is not true contrition when you discipline them, but instead there is anger and a desire to get back at the parent, this is not the right reaction. I have seen some kids try to turn around and hit their parents after they have been spanked.
When we are spanked by God (as it were), do we want to go off like Satan and charge the throne of God in heaven? This is not the way at all. It is not the right reaction that you want from your child. So if you discipline in one form or another, the child should understand that he has done wrong, and not take it out on the parent verbally, physically, or any other way. This includes sulking; it is not good.
If we see those things happening in our children, and I am going to tell you that you will see them, because they are carnal human beings too, and they are not going to always react right. But if these things are a pattern in your children, if they consistently do this type of thing, then we need to make substantive changes in our childrearing practices, because it is producing the wrong traits. And if they go on long enough, they become character. We do not want bad character in our children.
This sermon will focus on the last half of Ephesians 6:4, which is far more positive, and I hope that it is more encouraging. I do not want to spend a great deal of time on these various words, and the meanings of these words, but I do need to give you the essentials of them, so that we are all on the same page. First of all, I want to compare several translations and paraphrases. I intend to read them, without a lot of commenting on them. This should give us a good idea of Paul’s underlying intent. this is always a good Bible study practice when you are studying a certain scriptures, go get as many translations and paraphrases as you can so that you can get a good overall sense of what is being said. We do not have to accept all of them, but they are good to get an overall view.
Ephesians 6:4 IN OTHER VERSIONS
Let us start out with the literal—Young’s Literal Translation, and it is very close to what we have in our New King James Version Bibles, “But nourish them in the instruction and admonition of the Lord.”
A fairly good close to literal modern translation, the English Standard Version (they call this a dynamic equivalence version, I think) has, “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This is not too far off from what we have in the New King James Version.
Here is the Amplified Version. The Amplified Bible does just exactly that: It explodes the meaning within the verse. “Rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline, and counsel and admonition of the Lord.”
The Living Bible, which is a paraphrase, had, “Bring them up with the loving discipline that the Lord Himself approves.” You can see why it is a paraphrase. It interprets what the verse is saying.
The International Standard Version, a fairly recent version, “Bring them up by training and instructing them about the Lord.” This is not bad. It gives us an idea of the underlying thought of the verse.
Here is the Bible in Basic English, “Give them training in the teaching and fear of the Lord.” They are more of a paraphrase as well.
This one is from the Complete Jewish Bible, “Raise them with the Lord’s kind of discipline and guidance.” This is another paraphrase.
Finally, this is the Easy to Read Version, “Raise them with the kind of teaching and training you learned from the Lord.” That is easy to understand. This is very good.
Now, I do want to quickly go through each of these words just so we understand what we are talking about.
Bring Them Up:
In the New King James Version, “Bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” “Bring them up” is actually one word in the Greek, “ektrepho,” which means, “to bring up from,” or “to bring up out.” The prefix “ek” usually means out or from. This implies to bring up from infancy to maturity. Turn back quickly to Ephesians 5:
Ephesians 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
This same word, ektrepho, “bring them up” in Ephesians 6:4 is “nourishes” here in Ephesians 5:29. So, this has the idea of “giving sustenance to.” Now because they say that it means “to nourish,” some commentators believe that it implies, “to provide for physical and spiritual needs.” (Ephesians 6:4) That is an interpretation. It does not necessarily have to, because in typical Greek, it means to bring to maturity, just as the literal translation is, “to bring to maturity,” “to rear to adulthood.” I think that Paul was trying to say, “Bring them to maturity,” not, “nourish them physically and spiritually.” He is trying to get them to understand that it is the job of the parents to take this child, and make an adult out of him. So, “To bring them up,” meaning to bring them up from childhood, or to bring to maturity, seems to be the best way to look at it.
There is an underlying sense of gentleness, here—gentleness and tenderness. If you will remember what I gave you from the Amplified Version above, he said to rear them tenderly, in the training, discipline, counsel, and admonition of the Lord. The translators, there, caught that implication and used it in the verse.
So, it does not mean to rear them harshly. It is actually leaning on the other side of rear them tenderly. Be careful how you rear your children. Make it something that you do with a lot of wisdom, counsel; be not harsh, and do it for their good. This is, I am sure, what we all mean to do. But, Paul’s instruction, here, is that we should make it a point to rear them tenderly.
This is the Greek word, “paideia.” It is literally, “treating as a child.” So, if we are going to do this literally, we are to bring them up to maturity, treating them as a child—instruct them as a child. It is best kept general, and I think that the word “training” is very good. It could also be instruction, guidance, and teaching. He is saying that we are to train them with a plan. Normally, when you would train anything—a horse, or whatever—you are trying to bring something to fruition; reach a goal, so you have a method in which you bring that thing to fruition, or to the goal. Paul is showing that we are supposed to have a plan of instruction.
It can mean chastening, and discipline as it is used in Hebrews 12.
Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
This is the same idea. It is the same word. Chastening is training. It does not have to be discipline, it could be—ask an athlete who is trying to get into shape, and to know how to compete in his field, his training is not easy. Even though he does not get spankings every time he does something wrong, he still has to make sure that he disciplines himself to do what he is going to do; struggling to reach the goals that he wants to reach. Like Paul says here, no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous.
So, the training of our children will at times be a struggle. It will be grievous, and probably more so for them than for us, although we feel for them as they are going through it. But even so, that is okay, because good training sometimes takes a grievous turn just for a short while because it is designed—it is part of a plan, method—that brings the child to a certain point that has to be gone through. We will see as we finish this sermon that this was true in the case of Jesus Christ Himself.
So, this training that we see Ephesians 6:4 is training by means of rules and regulations, of rewards and punishments when needed; we are talking exercises, drills, routines, habits—things that are all part of a method. It is something we plan out, and think through—a goal toward which we are working. What Paul is getting at here is that we have to have a plan. We cannot just be haphazard. We cannot get things from all over the place, and just throw them together, because they probably not going to work. It is a good idea to have a systematic way of going about rearing our children.
He is speaking of a systematic regimen to produce a desired level of maturity.
Let us notice II Timothy 3. Now, Timothy by this point was still a young man (we think). He could have been in his early or late 20s. It appears, too, that Paul had stepped in as Timothy’s father figure. And this is what he told Timothy:
II Timothy 3:14-17 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and [Notice these things:] is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
So we have in the Bible a regimen—a plan, or at least a good outline—of how we are to raise our kids. And of course, Paul goes on in Ephesians 6:4 to say, “the training of the Lord.” He is very specific, here, that the training—the discipline, the plan, the regimen—that we come up with needs to be godly, from God’s Word, which is good for all of these things—teaching, instruction, reproof, and correction. It is great for admonition and edification, and all those things that we are taking spiritually, so then we can apply those things physically to our children, because they do not understand these things as well as we do. So we filter them down to their level, and bring them up, then, in the training and admonition of the Lord.
So, the discipline is the training in righteousness, essentially. But it is more than that, too. It is not confined to training in righteousness. But, that is the center.
One thing I want to mention about this word training: It is essentially and primarily teaching actions. This is because the next word refers to the other type of teaching. But, this word primarily covers teaching actions. It is what we do to and for the child. It is the drills that we put them through. It is the exercises that we do. It is the habits that we help them form. It is the things that they do, and we do with them. So, these are childrearing deeds.
This is the Greek word, “nouthesia,” which literally means “a putting in mind.” This is the noun form, putting in mind. So, when you put somebody in mind of something, you remind them of it. Or, you help them to learn about it.
So, perhaps Paul means for us to take this literally. If we put that into the verse, “Bring them up in the training, and bring to mind the Lord.” Or, “Put them in mind of the Lord.” This is one way we can look at it. But, most often this word means either warning or admonition or instruction. That is how it is taken mostly.
If training covers physical training, admonition then deals with verbal training and instruction. The words that we give them are teaching, warning, and encouraging.
I have been interested in this word, admonition, for quite a long time, because we tend to think of it wrongly.
Admonition has to do with warning. It is not necessarily a word where we teach somebody something. It has to do with seeing a fault, and warning that it is a danger. So, what Paul is saying here by using this word is that the teaching often has the sense of seeing something that the child is doing wrong, telling him that he is doing it wrong, and correcting it. But, it is all verbal.
What this implies, here, is that there are faults in the child’s nature, which goes against modern thinking. But no, Paul is agreeing with Christ that nature of mankind is evil. And so, Paul is telling us that there are faults that we need to correct. We need to give the child warnings; we need correct behavior so their character turns out to be sound and good.
It also implies that a parent has wisdom to see the faults, and make corrections for the child. What we are seeing here is that the parent has to be wise in order to do this. They have to have some knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that they can apply to their children’s maturity. So, that puts the onus back on us quite a bit.
Now, this is a Hebrew way of childrearing. We are not going to go back to Proverbs today, but there are several sections in there that begin with, “My son.” They are instructions from either David to Solomon, or from Solomon to his sons about how to live properly. Ultimately, they are instructions from God to us. But, there are these sections in Proverbs that are wisdom, “My son, if you want to live a long life, avoid going to that woman down on the corner,” or “My son, get wisdom,” or whatever the thing is. They are listings of instructions from a father to his son that corrects a child that is going wrong, or giving instructions so that he will not go wrong when he is faced with a temptation like that.
So, we can see that we could actually go back to the book of Proverbs and get a great deal of instruction about how parents fulfill this admonishing role, but we do not have time today. You will need to do this yourself.
It is an important thing for us to understand that there are going to be lots of times when we just need to sit down with our kids and talk to them. If we do not talk to them, then we are cheating them out of a lot of wisdom. Hopefully we have gained enough wisdom in our own lives that we have some to pass on.
It does not have to be a formal thing; it could be while sitting on the bleachers at a ballgame and talking about things. Or, as happens in our family, we spend a lot of time at the dinner table talking about the things of the day. A lot of times when we do this, something pops up, and Beth or I will take the opportunity to give a little pearl of wisdom, or something to help the kids. And we do not care if they are not apparently listening, because we know they are. They are listening to the conversation between Beth and me, and they are picking up a lot. That was especially true when they were younger. Now that they are a little bit older, they participate in them, and it is quite good to see them not just learning it, but being able to agree with it, and add a bit here and there. It makes Beth and I feel good that we have taught them something that they have held on to.
So, training is childrearing deeds while admonition is childrearing words. They get from us both words and deeds.
Of The Lord:
Now, somebody could come across this verse, and read it, and think that “of the Lord” is just an almost religious afterthought. “Paul’s an apostle, so he just sticks in a Lord here and there, and makes it sound religious.” Well, you could think of it that way, but in reality, this is the most important element in the sentence.
This changes the spirit essence of all the other words in the sentence. And, it comes last because that is the thought that Paul wants to leave us with—the idea that the childrearing deeds and words that you use in bringing your children up to maturity are of the Lord. Really, if you want to take it down to its nitty-gritty, the methods are far less important than the essence—the spirit—of how we put those methods into practice. The essence is that those methods are of the Lord, that they are godly.
We can see that. Some people in the church might use spanking as a method of discipline. They are very good at it, in that they use it appropriately and it produces good results. But other people do not like to spank, and they will use a different method, whatever it might be. I personally do not like the time-out method, but some people can use it to good advantage. There are all sorts of methods we can discuss here and there, but are they of the Lord? That is the real question. It is not whether some psychologist, sociologist, obstetrician, or whoever thinks that it works, or went through some kind of study to find out that one works more than another. That does not matter a hill of beans to me.
Is it of the Lord?
This is what matters to me. We should not get all judgmental—“Sally uses this method, while Denny uses this other method.” It is not the thing we need to get interested in. What we need to get interested in is, “How does God do it?” What kind of things does God sanction for how we rear our children?
We know from Proverbs that He does sanction spanking, so this is a way that is supposed to work. But just like anything, it can be abused. It can be underused, and overused. It is a method that is fine as long as it is used of the Lord. And that is where we get into a bit of a problem.
This of the Lord is the most important element in the whole sentence. Everything that we do, all of our interactions with our children need to be of the Lord, whether they are deeds or words, because kids are always “on.” They remember everything. They always bring them up years later in embarrassing situations. If you say a foul word, those little ears are open, and “Hey, if mom or dad uses it, then it must be okay, and I can use it too.” And so, they say that foul word in the middle of the family reunion.
Everything that we do, actually—I have narrowed it down here to words and deeds—but really our job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And it is not just words and deeds, but our whole example. It needs to be our demeanor—the look on your face, the tone of your voice. Kids pick up on it. And these are elements of child training.
The parent has a really awesome and difficult responsibility in rearing their children, because they are little sponges that are going to absorb everything that you do.
I suppose I have told you this before—there is a picture of Prince Philip walking across some lawn with the young Prince Charles beside him, from probably the early 1950s. It is a still photograph, but Charles at the age of five did everything exactly like his father. I think they had their kilts on, and they were walking with the hands behind their back, and it was a really cute picture. But in terms of childrearing, it showed that Charles mimicked everything his dad did. By the time he was only a little boy, he was doing everything exactly like his dad. And you do not have to be a royal to do that. This happens with every kid and every parent.
It may not be the same thing; you might have two girls, and one girl does something the dad’s way, while the other one will do them the mom’s way. But they are still copying one of their parents. And they are probably a good mix of both. So, they are watching.
So, everything that we do, every time that we interact with them, we are teaching them either well or badly about something, which means that we have got to be mind our Ps and Qs all the time. And, it must be of the Lord.
It really makes you feel like you cannot do this, but we have to. God has given them to us to train.
So, what this says, here, “of the Lord,” is that our training and admonitions with our children must have Christ at its center. That means that the quality of instruction that we give our children should try to reach to the quality of Christ's instruction to us. It means that we should be giving them Christian training, and most of all, if nothing else, we should be giving the child a shining example of what a Christian life looks like in word and in deed.
So, we must make sure that when we are with our children, we are mimicking Christ in everything—speech, attitudes, and personal interactions; duties around the house; everything must be based in Christ and His teachings, and His examples. That is a hard thing, because we are not Christ yet. We are working on that. But, it really tells us that we need to be working on ourselves.
The best way we can train our children is to be converted, and continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we grow, those things will come out, and our children will grow and mature in the right way too.
So, the entire atmosphere of our childrearing must be a quality that God would place His stamp of approval upon. It must be of the Lord.
A French theologian named Adolph Monod, wrote, “Correction and instruction should proceed from the Lord, and be directed by the Spirit of the Lord in such a way that it is not so much the father who corrects his children, and teaches them, as it is the Lord through him.” In other words, we should be a perfect conduit of God’s own instruction to us, through us to our children. It sets up a very high standard, but it is something that we can do. It is in God’s Word. He would not give us an instruction that we could not live up to. So, we can do this. It just sets a very high standard.
Did you know that in the Bible there is no true standout example of childrearing? Now, there are a couple of places where it is said that somebody would do something, or was able to do something, or did do something. But we do not have any place where we could say that, for instance, there is three chapters on how King Josiah raised his sons. It is just not there. They are just hints instead. So, that means that we have to look all throughout Scripture to find all these little helps and advice, and bits and pieces about how to raise children.
The one that might be closest to this ideal would be God’s statement about Abraham's childrearing. We know Abraham did a pretty good job, because we have the example of Isaac. Isaac was a pretty good man. He was a type of Christ, just as Abraham was a type of God the Father. We know that what Abraham did with his son Isaac worked really well. It showed that Abraham was able to show Isaac a life of faith, and Isaac himself became a very faithful man. So, Abraham must have done a good job.
What we have here in Genesis 18 is God’s evaluation of Abraham.
Genesis 18:17-19 And the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing [speaking of Sodom and Gomorrah], since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him."
We find here that God Himself puts His stamp of approval on Abraham's parenting skills. He did a good job. Isaac turned out quite well. You cannot say the same thing about Ishmael, but after a while, Abraham did not have influence upon Ishmael in the way that he did with Isaac throughout this entire life.
But notice why his example is worthy of mentioning; it is said right in verse 19—it is the first few words, “For I have known him . . .” This is what made the difference in Abraham's childrearing practices. If God had not known Abraham, Abraham would have raised his kids just like anybody else raised their kids at the time. But, it was God’s intrusion into the life of Abraham, revealing the things that He revealed to that man about Himself, and about His plan for what He was doing. It was those things that made Abraham different. That is what gave Abraham the ability and strength and the foresight to do the things that he did, in bringing up Isaac the way that he did.
It was the knowledge of God given by God through their relationship that made the difference. And that is what made the difference in our lives too. If we had not had an encounter with God, if He had not called us out of this world, we would have, of course, stayed in the world, and continued to act like the world. The world does a horrible job of raising its children.
So, the knowledge of God, the way of life that we have learned, His character that He has put in us through a lot of experiences and trials that we have gone through, is the missing dimension in childrearing. That is what makes us so different—we believe God. We believe the things that He has taught us. And not only do we believe them, we show that we believe them by practicing them and they come through in everything that we do.
To put it another way, our model in parenting is the perfect parent—God Himself. This is who we must emulate in our childrearing practices.
It says in Hebrews 2:10 that He is bringing many sons to glory. And it is through His childrearing practices that He is doing that. He said in that verse, also, where Christ is our Archegos. He is the One who is leading the way, and we are to follow. He is the One who blazed the trail. And so, His way of bringing Christ up is one example that we can use to follow in our own childrearing practices, but really what it says is that if we follow Christ and His character, and the way that He works with the church, then we have a template on which we can base our childrearing practices.
As Christ works with us, so should we work with our children. The attitude that Christ brings to working with us and bringing us into the Kingdom of God, we should bring into our interactions with our children in bringing them unto maturity.
It is a step down, because we cannot do things perfectly like He can; we do not have the power and strength and depth of character that He does; but we are learning. We are absorbing it; we are in our relationship with Him; it is coming on us all the time. We should be turning around and first of all be implementing those bits of character that we are learning with our relationship with our spouse, and of course, because the family is a unit, it goes to our children as well.
So, we are to take the growing spiritual maturity, the growing toward perfection that we are doing ourselves through the help of Christ, and turning that into our childrearing practices, because His way works. His way is going to bring many sons to glory into the Kingdom of God, and they are going to have the same perfect character as the King—Christ Himself—and God the Father. We have to use that same pattern in the way that we develop our children.
I will give you an assignment, because I do not have any more time today. I want you to read Genesis 17:19 very closely. I want you to see the three overall goals of parenting that are mentioned in that verse. You should be able to see the overall things that Abraham did that made his parenting so good. I think the third one is a real eye-opener. But, I will not go into that. It is just something for you to look up and study and think about.
Also, please look up for yourselves, Colossians 3:12-17, 23-25. This first section is the characteristics of the new man. What I want you to do is to think about that list of characteristics of the new man and also the ones in the second section (23-25), and see just how that those spiritual traits that we are trying to develop in our lives can be transferred into helping our children with those same traits, because the things that God teaches us in growing spiritually are the same things that we can turn around and help our children with.
Let us conclude in Luke 2.
Luke 2:51-52 [This was after they returned to Jerusalem and found him with the priests, where He had to be about His Father’s business.] Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them [listening and obeying], but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
The gospels never say it explicitly, but I have got to believe that Joseph and Mary must have been pretty good parents. Of course, they were given the very best material to work with! But, they raised the best Man ever—the One with the best character. They must have been super parents. They must have known exactly what to do. I am sure that they were also inspired by God. They had to have been converted to have done the things that they needed to do to bring Him to His stature as our Savior.
The word “increased,” here, literally means, “Cut the way forward.” This gives you the idea of a man out in the middle of the jungle with a machete, and he is having to cut his way through the jungle to get to where he needs to go.
If you have ever tried to cut plants out of your way with a machete, it is not easy, especially if the forest is nice and overgrown, and there is not path to follow. It is not one little thing here, and a vine there. This is not what I mean. This is something where it is so thick that you literally must hack your way out. Well, what this shows is that Jesus Christ Himself in His path to maturity had to work at it. It was an effort. It was a struggle. If it was a struggle for Him, what kind of struggle must it have been for His parents as well, with Him every step of the way?
Parenting is difficult. That is what I want you to get out of this. We find in Hebrews 5:8 that Jesus Christ Himself learned obedience by the things that He suffered. He was not immune to the type of parenting that we are talking about that we need to give our children. I am not saying that He sinned, but He had to push through things, and work through things, just like we do. He came out spiritually mature.
But we find that in the gospels, with His parent’s help, He showed significant, balanced growth. That is what this passage is telling us. It said that He had intellectual growth—He grew in wisdom. It said that He had physical growth—He grew in stature. It says that He had spiritual growth—He grew in favor with God. And it says that He had social growth—He grew in favor with men.
He was the perfectly balanced Man, and He had a lot to thank in Joseph and Mary in the parenting that He got from them. And that increasing in wisdom and stature, and favor with God and men, is our goal with our children. We can do that successfully if we bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.