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The Christian Family: The Role of Husband and Father

This article was first published in the Standard Bearer (vol. 61, no. 20), September 1, 1985.

The Christian family is a wonderful creation of God. Its order was established according to the infinite wisdom of God at the beginning of the creation of the world. This order is fundamental to the order of both the state and the church. According to His wonderful covenant of grace the Lord has given a very central place to the Christian family. The Lord's particular blessing rests upon the Christian home where He is feared and worshiped. Husband and wife who live faithfully in marriage according to the holy ordinance of the Lord experience the richest blessing which God gives to man in this earthly life. The Christian home is a blessed spiritual haven in the midst of this wretched miserable world of sin. The blessedness of God's covenant is experienced there in the most wonderful way as husband and wife and children live in communion with the Lord the blessed God of salvation and in close warm blessed communion with each other. The Lord is pleased to continue His church chiefly from Christian families. He did that with the Patriarchs of old and continues to do that today in the New Testament era, realizing His covenant promise with believers and their children. Ideally the Christian family is the place where each new generation of the people of God are brought forth, taught the knowledge and fear of the Lord, and nurtured in the totality of their being, physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. According to the purpose of the Lord the Christian home trains the succeeding generation to become servants of the Lord in His church and kingdom. So the Lord prepares each succeeding generation of His saints to live with Him in eternal glory. What tremendous things these are. Each generation is conceived and brought forth in sin. They are brought forth into a wicked and evil world yet by the wonder of God's grace God raises up, saves, and preserves His people, and for this He uses especially the Christian home. 

The Lord has given us a tremendous calling and responsibility to establish and maintain strong and truly Christian homes. As Christians we must seek out God-fearing partners to marry. As Christians we must diligently search out the scriptures to learn God's principles for the Christian home. Since the Christian home is so extremely important God has given many directives in His word for how we are to live in our homes. We need no worldly psychologist or marriage counselors. We need to know and put into practice the word of God in our homes. Above all we need from the start to realize that the responsibility that is before us in the home is so great that we cannot fulfill it by ourselves. We are entirely dependent upon the grace and Spirit of God. 

God has created a certain order for the family, an order of authority and obedience. It is His purpose that this order be maintained. This is for the welfare of every member of the Christian family, the blessing of the Lord, and the glory of His name. It is not only foolhardy when men seek to overthrow that order but it is rebellion and great wickedness against the Lord. Doing this will only create confusion in the family, which will in turn bring forth rebellion and misery and confusion in the world. 

In God's creation order He has made man to be the head of the Christian home. Headship implies first of all authority. For there to be order and blessing in the Christian home there must be authority. God's authority must govern the home. The Lord Himself has given this authority first of all to the husband and father. This authority that the Lord has given to man does not give him the right to rule his house with tyranny and cruelty for his own advantage and glory. There is no doubt about it that fallen man has through the history of the world done this. He has sought to make a slave out of the woman that God has given to be his loving companion and help meet. He has used and abused her for the gratification of his own lust and the boosting of his own ego. He has often neglected or cruelly mistreated his children. This does not mean however that we should abandon God's order of things for the family and give authority to the woman and maybe even to children in the home, imagining that the more there is a sharing of authority the less evil there will be in the family. The man of the house must see his great responsibility to take up the authority which God gives him and exercise it. He may not let his wife or his children rule in his home. 

Of utmost importance it is that the husband and father exercise this authority in a right way according to the Word of God. This means in the first place that he recognize and acknowledge that all his authority is from the Lord. He has no authority in his own right. As the head of the home he must first of all be the servant of the Lord. He may not rule his home according to his own whim and fancy. He has no other authority than that which God has given to him. His authority must be exercised strictly according to the word of the Lord. He may not lead his wife and family in the way of his pleasure and only for his own advantage. He must lead his family in the nurture and admonition and fear of the Lord. 

The exercise of authority for the man in the home involves a grave responsibility. The man must always seek the welfare of his wife and children in his exercise of authority. The husband and father is responsible for the total welfare of his wife and children. He must lead and guide them, he must protect them, he must provide for them. This goes much further than merely providing for them physically, giving them the shelter of a home and protection from physical evils. The Christian man has especially the responsibility to be the spiritual head of his home. He must make the spiritual welfare of his wife and children his chief concern. He must be an example of godliness and righteousness to his family unto whom wife and children can look with respect. How many even Christian homes are grievously languishing because father does not take up the spiritual leadership in the home. The husband and father must lead the family in the worship and service of the Lord. He must lay down the standard and law of God for all that transpires in the home. He must insist on and maintain obedience to the Lord. The wife and children are dependent for their spiritual welfare upon husband and father. If they are spiritually unwell, depressed, or discouraged, if they are unfaithful to the Lord or wayward from His commandments, this must be the great concern of the husband and father. Any husband and father who neglects to pay attention to this is worse than an infidel. The Christian father must be able to direct the family according to the Word of God when decisions have to be made. He must be able to comfort his family with the comfort of the Lord in times of fear and distress and trouble. He must know how to bring his family to the throne of grace in times of need, in times of confession of sin, and in times of sickness and death. How many men are grievously lacking in this. When we as husbands and fathers think on what authority in the home really means, it ought to make us amazed with great fear and drive us to the throne of grace for help and strength. 

Everywhere the Bible calls the Christian husband and father to love his wife and children. In fact this is the great admonition given to the men of the Christian family. All of his exercise of authority will work for evil if it is not exercised in love. The love that God requires of men is not mere romantic love or natural affection, much less mere sexual passion. The latter is possible even in animals. The love wherewith husband and father must love his wife and family must be the love of God in Christ Jesus which can only be worked in his heart through the operation of the Spirit of God. Christian love always means that one seeks the good of others, even when these are in themselves wholly unworthy of that love. The Lord Jesus is the standard and pattern of that love. Paul in Ephesians 5 exhorts husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. What a tremendous thing that is. So great must the husband's love be that he is willing to sacrifice himself for the well-being of his wife. That is the greatest sacrifice that anyone can give. Few husbands however know that this is required of them by the Lord. Most of them refuse even to sacrifice small things such as their own pursuits and pleasures in life. They give themselves wholly to their careers, and their family soon becomes very secondary. The time and energy that he should be giving for his wife and family is instead given to other things. He imagines that he is justified in that he is providing well materially for his family. But in our age of materialism and advancement in one's profession many husbands neglect the real needs of their wife and family and are in actuality seeking their own glory and wealth in the world. Very often husbands would do far better to spend a little more time with their families. 

Fathers have the great responsibility to train and discipline their children. Everywhere scripture makes this chiefly the responsibility of fathers. Yet in this world and even in many Christian homes the men imagine that the matter of raising and disciplining the children is solely the responsibility of the mother. How many fathers in Christian homes today spend time giving formal spiritual instruction and guidance to their children. Discipline cannot be administered hastily and in frustration and anger when children get in the way of our pursuing our own ends or when they bring shame to our honor.

Fathers have the responsibility of maintaining the communion and fellowship of the Christian home. Marriage is first of all intended to be a communion of life between husband and wife. Peter admonishes the husband to dwell with his wife as a man of understanding. How easily communion breaks down in the busy and selfish world we live in. Husband and wife in the Christian home must live in close companionship one with another. They must share their life together. They must share their purposes and goals to serve the Lord. They must appreciate and have sympathetic understanding for one another. How many husbands today are cold and unsympathetic to the real needs of their wives. Their whole life is wrapped up with their own pursuits and they hardly have the time to have meaningful interaction with the one with whom they are to be living in closest covenant fellowship. Meanwhile poor wife and mother languishes, in the drudgery of the household chores and with the great difficulties and problems of raising the children. Husbands must see their urgent calling to dwell truly with their wives and fulfill their deep need of love and friendship and companionship in life.

Fathers must maintain the relationship of love and concern and fellowship with their children. Strong bonds between father and children which are so absolutely essential for instructing and disciplining children can only be fostered when father spends time with his children, finding out their concerns in life, sharing their experiences, their joys and sorrows. How little time fathers in many homes spend with their children. This is very serious and will contribute to the decline of the Christian home. Being too busy at work is a very poor excuse. Soon the children will be grown up and all opportunity to give them guidance and to enjoy the blessing of having them in the home will be gone forever. 

The great calling of husbands is to be faithful. It is simply a fact that many more men than women are unfaithful to their partners. How many evil men of this world have sought after other sexual partners after their wives have become old and unsatisfactory. What a dreadful evil this is. How man's pride is aroused if he can get a younger girl to be interested in him. How many yield to the many evil temptations of this world. How many continue to live in loving devotion with the wife of their youth all their lives? Even among so-called Christians unfaithfulness is becoming more and more common. The Lord abhors it and we as Christian husbands ought to abhor it. What dreadful consequences unfaithfulness has for children and for Christian homes. The truly Christian husband will be constrained by the love of Christ for his wife and children to remain faithful to them all his life long. He will be an example of love and godliness to his children. That will make a lasting impact upon them and give them the strongest impetus themselves in turn to build by the grace of God truly Christian homes.

Last modified on 30 June 2016
den Hartog, Arie

Rev. Arie denHartog (Wife: Sherry)

Ordained: October 1974

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1974; Foreign Missionary, Singapore - 1979; Randolph, WI - 1987; Redlands, CA - 1990; Minister-on-Loan, Singapore - 2001; Southwest, Grandville, MI - 2005; emeritus, Dec.31, 2016


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