Two years ago, I must have struck a nerve with the article "Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children." It has proved to be one of our most visited resources.
In view of that, I thought it might be helpful to go behind that article, and give a deeper, wider biblical basis for rearing and disciplining children. My guess is that most of us parent by intuition and tradition. That's not all bad. Parenting is an art, not a science. And artists do not consult manuals as they paint.
But our human intuitions and traditions should be shaped by God's revelation. So think of this article as a short lesson about some things God has revealed in the Bible that give foundation and guidance for our parenting. We'll start with the very basics.
1. Marriage between one man and one woman for life is God's plan for the procreation and rearing of children.
The lifelong covenant of marriage between a man and a woman is God's original idea for the human race. It is modeled on, and rooted in, God's eternal plan to redeem a bride for his Son—the church.
"Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24).
"But from the beginning of the creation, God 'made them male and female.' 'For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, 8 and the two shall be one flesh.' So then they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mark 10:6-9).
"'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I am speaking about Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:31-32).
2. The covenant union of marriage was the way God planned to fill the earth with human beings who would reflect His glory by their faith and creative productivity.
God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth'" (Gen. 1:28).
3. Children were not to be conceived outside the covenant of marriage. For that reason—and others—sexual relations were denied to the unmarried, and adultery was forbidden to the married.
"Escape from sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18).
"You shall not commit adultery" (Rom. 13:9).
4. Children are a gift from God; they are not of our own making.
Job tells us that it was God who gave him his children. The psalmist says our children are a heritage from the Lord. And Ruth illustrates that, when a child is conceived, that conception is the work of God.
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked will I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
"Look, children are a gift of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Ps. 127:3).
"So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she bore a son" (Ruth 4:13).
5. Parents, therefore, are to provide for their children's needs.
Parents are to provide for the basic needs of their children, from their first nursing at the breast to their establishment of self-sufficient maturity. Paul taught the fathers of Ephesus to "nourish" or "nurture" their children. This is the basic meaning of the Greek ektrepho in Ephesians 6:4—"bring them up."
Paul modeled the providing father in his relation to his spiritual "children" in the church of Corinth:
"And I will not be burdensome to you, for I do not seek what is yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children" (2 Cor. 12:14).
6. Parents are to instruct their children in the basic skills of cultural life, the truths about God and His way of salvation and the path of wisdom in this world.
"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deut. 6:6-9; see also Ps. 78:5-7).
"Hear, O children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. For I was my father's son, tender and the only beloved in the sight of my mother. He also taught me and said to me, 'Let your heart retain my words; keep my commandments, and live" (Prov. 4:1-4).
7. Parents are to discipline disobedient children with proportionate and loving measures of punishment.
God teaches us this through direct commands in Scripture.
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